The failed invasion of the English Armada into Spain, often referred to as the “Counter Armada” of 1589, is a less celebrated but crucial episode in the maritime history of...
Category: English Armada
The English Armada, often referred to as the “Counter Armada” or “Drake-Norris Expedition,” was a campaign launched by England in 1589 as a retaliation against the Spanish Armada of 1588.
Here are the major facts about this failed endeavor:
- Background: The English Armada was seen as a counteroffensive following the defeat of the Spanish Armada, a fleet sent by King Philip II of Spain in 1588 to invade England. England, which at the time was ruled by Queen Elizabeth I, was in a bitter war with Spain.
- Leadership: The expedition was led by Sir Francis Drake as admiral and Sir John Norreys as general.
- Objective: The primary goal of the English Armada was to destroy the remaining ships of the Spanish fleet, support the Portuguese rebels against King Philip II (who was also the King of Portugal at the time), and capture the Azores.
- Size and Composition: The fleet consisted of about 180 ships, over 27,000 men, and 1500 brass guns and iron cannons. It was larger than the Spanish Armada that had tried to invade England a year earlier.
- Corunna Attack: The English fleet first attempted to attack the port city of Corunna (or A Coruña) in the northwestern part of Spain. While they managed to cause significant damage to the city, the English failed to capture or destroy the Spanish fleet anchored there.
- Lisbon Siege: The English then sailed to Lisbon, Portugal, intending to join forces with a Portuguese rebellion against Spanish rule. However, the expected uprising in support of Dom António, a claimant to the Portuguese throne, failed to materialize. A direct assault on Lisbon was repelled, and the English were unable to capture the city.
- Heavy Losses: The expedition faced many challenges, including disagreements between commanders, logistical difficulties, and outbreaks of disease. By the time the fleet returned to England, they had lost around 40 ships and 15,000-20,000 men, many to diseases like dysentery and typhus.
- Financial Impact: The venture was a financial disaster. The campaign’s failure to capture treasure ships or colonies that could be held for ransom meant that the investors in the expedition suffered significant losses.
- Strategic Implications: The failure of the English Armada gave Philip II of Spain an opportunity to rebuild his naval forces, which had been severely damaged the previous year. This meant that the naval balance between England and Spain remained largely unchanged, with both nations continuing to pose significant threats to each other.
- Legacy: Historically, the English Armada is far less renowned than the Spanish Armada, even though it was a pivotal event in the long-running conflict between England and Spain. The failure of the expedition shifted the momentum back to Spain, revealing the challenges of mounting a large-scale naval invasion.
In summary, while the English Armada was an ambitious attempt by England to capitalize on the weakened state of the Spanish navy and support continental allies, it ultimately failed due to a combination of military miscalculations, poor planning, disease, and the lack of local support. The endeavor resulted in significant losses for the English in terms of both men and resources.