The Spanish Armada: all at sea

The defeat of the Spanish Armada has long been celebrated as one of England’s greatest naval victories. But was the Spanish campaign doomed to fail from the start? Charlotte Hodgman speaks to Dan Snow, presenter of a three-part BBC series on the attempted invasion, to find out more

A painting showing the defeat of the Spanish Armada

One popular belief is that England’s victory against the Spanish Armada was won against all the odds. Do you agree with that view?

Not at all. When the Spanish Armada set sail from Lisbon on 28 May 1588 it was almost certain to fail. Philip II was a complete control freak who refused to allow his commanders the autonomy to make their own decisions. It was probably the most rigid campaign plan with which any force has ever gone to sea or marched.

It was the worst of both worlds for Philip’s commanders – particularly the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who didn’t want to assume command of the fleet in the first place. One of the documents we look at in the new series is a letter written by the duke that makes it clear just how reluctant he was!

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