Elizabeth I (Foreign Policy)

  • Created by: Chanabix
  • Created on: 16-04-14 20:02


see timeline and maps

also see summary

1 of 40

Power ratings - military and wealth /7

England - 3. Defensive country (navy+military), looking for peace, lacking money for war, small population - incapable of conquering Scot. and holding onto Calais. 

Scotland - 1/2. MQS in France - minority government had lack of support, Mary of Guise not proper ruler and was French - religious disunity, 1559 Scot. Prot. rebellion against Guise - rebels' success welcomed in England (had access along boarder) - reinforcements sent from France and Cecil (anxious to reduce Fr influence in Scot - fear of Catholicism and wanted to secure Eng. boarders) worked hard to persude Eliz. to aid rebels to prevent Fr power restoration - reluctantly accepted and sent aid, military and navy but only after cecil threatened to resign. Treaty of Berwick 1560 - confirmed aid. SUCCESSFUL > Treaty of Edinburgh 1560 - Fr withdraw from Scot and new Prot gov't under Lord James Stuart - half brother of MQS.

France - 6. 4x greater pop. than Eng. Scot. alliance = threat to Eng. Claims of Kings of Eng. to Fr. throne. Was Catholic - supported MQS due to Fr. blood and marriage to Dauphin. Alarmed of Spanish control - Phillip and Mary as threatened Fr. communication with Scot. and increased Fr. fears of Span. encirclement. Calais lost to Eng. in Cateau-Cambresis - Fr. now dominated southern shore of the channel. 1559 - Henry II died jousting = Francis II (MQS husband) - puppet to Guise brothers - restore control of their sister in Scot. and advance MQS claim to Eng. throne. 

2 of 40


Spain - 7. Terriotorial strength - Spain, Netherlands, Franche-Comte, some of Italy and Spanish conquests in the New World. 3x pop. of Eng. Treasures and silver mines of Mexico and Peru = dramatic increase of income. Needed communication routes between Spain and Neth. - concerns of Fr. control of Scot.+/Eng. would threaten this. Most catholic king  but in 1558 perferred a heretic on the throne to a french puppet. Half-heartedly proposed to Eliz. and persuaded pope to stop her excomm. Cateau-Cambresis - Italy, Spain + Fr. at peace = no need to be dragged into war to defend Eng. against Fr. - watched Eliz. activities in Scot. with unease. Peace with Sp. + Fr. = upset balance of power - if went to Eng. to uphold Catholicism (two big Cath. powers) Eng. would lose its independence. Big link to Habsburgs.

Holy Roman Empire - 4. Under threat from within. Spain family allied - powerful and resourceful. Lack of land. Central European position. Lots of Nationalities - clashing/conflict - army required to sort problems internally = regular divison. Allied with, not themselves - power only.

Spanish Netherlands - 1/2. Trade connection to Eng., dependent on Spain/Phillip, want semi-independence - evolution and more power but with Phillip as overlord - at a distance.

Pope/Papacy - 1. Head of Catholic Ch. = support from Cath. countries, Fr.+Sp. enemies, on guard against eachother = both Cath., limited influence (maybereligion), easy to manipulate (no power).

3 of 40


see focus route question 1 

why was Eliz. vulnerable in 1558: inability to wage war for a long period, small pop. in comparison to Fr and Spain (big powers), lack of military, cateau-cambresis = peace between Fr. and Sp. and Eng. needed jealousy between them to remain indep. (fear of rising up for Cath,), Fr. and Scot. = close to Eng. boarders (back door into Eng.)- MQS and Fr. wanting her on Eng. throne (esp. 1558 = Henry II), vulnerable to attack: prot. settlement alienating Sp. the trad. ally, interests of counter-reformation = provoke invasion from Fr. and Sp. 
DANGER FROM FR. NOT SCOT. - had calais and kept through cateau-cambresis.  

4 of 40

Elizabeth's F.P. Aims

  • SECURITY - she was occassionally aggressive (Channel Port e.g. Dieppe) but this too was in aim to increase security. 
  • Defensive and looking to safeguard England and her prot. ch. 
  • Could not afford a serious war of expansion - Scotland was an exception in 1559 - Burghley had always opposed war on financial grounds. 
  • She never aimed to annex Scotland - sh was a pragmatist - different to her father and Somerset. Also she knew James I would on her death anyway. 

Exception of Scot. because MQS was a threat to her - claim to throne and Fr. was using Scot. as a back door to Eng. - if Fr. gained control of Eng. through MQS they would establish the old faith and remove Eng. independence/prot. settlement. 

Eliz. counted on a Habsburg-Valois rivalry to divert Sp. and Fr. interests away from Eng. - Cateau-Cambresis ended this. Eng. security was dependent on a Sp. alliance and Phillip's fears that Fr. would invade led him to support Eng. gov't - Half-hearted marriage proposal and postponing Excomm. 

5 of 40

The French Threat - 1558-67

Greatest danger in these years came from Fr.

  • Eng. was technically still at war with Fr.
  • Fr. now controlled Scot. through MQS
  • Fr. had Calais - insisted on keeping it in Cateau-Cambresis 1559.
  • MQS great granddaughter of Henry VII and was only serious alternative monarch to Eliz. 
    1558 - Henry II declared Mary legit. queen of Eng. and she displayed the Eng. coat of arms.
  • Between July 1559 (death of Henry II) and Sept. 1560 (death of Francis II) MQS = queen of Fr. as well as Scot. and she claimed Eng. - Fr. had every excuse to move against Eng. WOULD RESTORE OLD FAITH IF GAINED POLITICAL CONTROL OF ENG. THROUGH MQS.
    Mary's uncles, Duke of Guise and Cardinal of Lorrain intended this and dominated her husband - young Francis II.
  • Eliz. counted on Habsburg-Valois rivalry in Europe to divert Sp. and Fr. interests away from Eng. - Cateau-Cambresis ended their war 1559.
6 of 40


  • Eng. security was dependent on Sp. alliance - Spain's political fears that Fr. under Guise would attempt a conquest of En. through Scot. led Sp. to prop up Eliz. gov't in early years. Spain discouraged Excomm. which delayed it until 1570 and Sp. feared creation of Fr. empire ... Guise control of Eng. and Fr. would close Channel to Sp. ship and threatened Spain's position in Neth. 
    Eliz. used her prospective marriage as a diplomatic tool to encourage Phil.'s support during the critical winter of 1558-59 when Prot. settlement was being introduced, Eliz. was politically the best match in Europe and she exploited this to Eng. advantage.
    1560 marriage to Archduke Charles was encouraged by some councilors to use Habsburg influence against Fr. rather than Eng. intervention in Scot.
  • 1559 - menacing position of the Fr. in Scot. MoGuise assumed regency and since 1554 the Fr. had been consolidating their control over Scot. Fr. ministers were advising her and Fr. troops were in the main fortresses of Scot.
  • 1550s - Cath. marriages had linked Fr. to Scot. and Sp. to Eng. but the situation had now changed: in political interests of both Eng. and Sp. to stop Fr. invading Eng. through Scot. and to Fr. the British Isles were the only chink in the Habsburg circle surrounding them - Eng. was leaning towards Spain - if Scot. were lost then Fr. would be completely encircled.
7 of 40

Threat From Scotland - 1559-1562.

How successful was Eng. intervention in Scot. 1559-1560?

  • Eliz. intervened in the interests of Eng. security - 2 prongued attack (navy to Firth of Forth/army to blockade Leith) - seige failed but Fr. position was weakened (Fr. fleet sank in storm, Huguenot rising in Fr. (Tumult of Amboisie) in March and Mary of Guise died June 1560 - so Fr. and Eng. = settlement). 
  • Treaty of Edinburgh, July 1960 - Fr. and Eng. withdrawn from Scot., Scot. prebyterian lords = provisional gov't of Scot. 
    Mary refused to ratify treaty unless the Eng. Parliament accepted her as Eliz. heir - out of the question and did not affect carrying out the settlement. 
  • Important early successes of the intervention: closed invasion gate from the North (postern gate) removing the immediate threat from the Fr. King on Eng.'s northern boarder. Achieved this without interference from Sp. Eng. more secure by 1560.
  • Eng. won peace even though not militarily successful in expelling Fr. from Leith. 
8 of 40

Significance of Eliz. failure in Fr. 1563?

  • wanted a channel port in compensation for calais loss.
  • invasion gate into fr. = advantage diplomatically in European affairs.
  • Aggression was a mistake - new Fr. gov't = moderate and didn't want conflict with Eng. with a minor on the throne. 
  • Hugeunots reacted against a forein presence on Fr. soul and joined Cath. - took Rouen and Dieppe and the Eng. were eventually forced out of Le Havre.
  • By 1563 - Eliz had given up regaining calais - would be more cautious in future about an active F.P - national defense was now to be her priority and not dynastic gains
9 of 40

Threat from Scot. and MQS 1560-67

  • Scot. problem not solved in 1560 - Francis II died in Sept. and Dec. = MQS return to Scot. 
  • MQS did not attempt to interfere with Prot. in Scot. or remove Scot. lords - Fr. influence at these years was low ebb.
  • August 1567 - Scot. Prot. lords rebelled against Mary - Scot. crisis resolved itself in favour of Eng. without open intervention from Eliz. - MQS deposed and discredited - removed challenge of only Cath. heir to Eliz. Prot. faction wanted friendship with Eng. and not Fr. - James VI was to be brought up as Prot. albeit a presbyterian. 
10 of 40

Continuing threat from Fr., Scot., MQS 1568-86?

  • Situation turned dangerous for Eng. 1570. Regent - Earl of Moray (James Stuart, MQS half brother) assassinated. Civil war between Cath. supporters and MQS and Prot. who supported James VI. 
  • Eliz intervened in Scot. 3 times in 1570 - counter the threat of Guise, encouraging the Marian faction - Guise wanted to use her against Eliz and aimed at a Fr. Scot. invasion of Eng. 
  • While Catherine De Medici was in control of Fr. for Charles IX, Eliz. was happy to avoid any clash with Fr. over Scot. - CDM unsympathetic towards Mary - protecting her sons from them in Fr. When CDM influence wavered during the Fr. civil wars Eliz felt under threat.
  • End of 1570 - Eliz. achieved the destruction of the power of the boarder lords and their support for the Eng. rebels who had been forced to flee Scot. She came to agreement with Fr. on non-intervention in Scot. to prevent war.  Increased Eng. security.
  • Eliz helped establish the Prot. Pro-Eng. Earl of Morton as regent in Scot. and between 1572-79 events in Scot. were stable until Morton's fengineered fall by Esme Stuart (pro-Guise Fr.man who influenced James VI until 1582 - presby. lords forced him out of Scot.)
  • Negotiated pension with James VI - relations more secure. Not interested in annexing Scot. as knew would happen on her death anyway.
11 of 40

Threat of MQS to Eng.?

  • If Fr. were backing her - why Eliz. intervened in Scot. in 1560, prop up presby. lords whose gov't was dependent on Eng. support.
  • Become more immediate in 1568 when she fled to Eng. - great granddaughter of Henry VII and strongest claim to throne after Eliz. 
  • At first Eliz. wanted to help MQS against Scot. lords - deposed a queen who knew she had to Eliz. believed to be lord's annointed (divine right) - believed this was wrong but was a realist and knew she had to reject restoration of MQS by force - unnecessary quarrel with de facto presby. gov't in Scot.
  • Eliz. attitude to MQS, attempts to negotiate her return to Scot., refusal too execure her in Eng. - kept alive Marian faction in Scot. and provoked Cath. Sp. plots to remove Eliz. in Eng.
  • Mary focus of discontent in Eng. - Northern Rebellion 1569, Ridolfi Plot 1571-3 - resulted in the execution of Norfolk. Parry, Throckmorton and Babington plots of 80s also contributed to her execution in 1587. 
  • Execured because of Sp. war 1585 and the threat that Sp. posed after Excomm. 1570. 
  • Always an alternative monarch to Eliz. but Spain never seriously looked to follow up her claim to Eng. and in the 60s and 70s CDM and her sons were never secure enough in Fr. to use MQS against Eliz.
12 of 40

Eng.'s relations stable with for. powers by 1571?

  • Scot. intervention in 1570 had successful political results and the subsequent events in Scot. she had no reversed as important to Eng. security.
  • Feared Guise faction and their link to MQS.
  • Scot. provided Fr. with a gateway to invade Eng. and Eliz. successfully closed gate.
  • Prot. gov't needed the Eng. alliance.
  • MQS was ongoing threat but Sp. did not attempt to invade Eng. until 1588 when MQS was dead and Phil. could claim Eng. throne for himself.
13 of 40

Individuals who influenced her F.P so far.

Eliz. - aim = defensive to protect ch. settlement, 1558-59 = marriage card with Phil. to protect Eng. whilst Ch. settlement introduced, stop Fr. invading Eng. through Scot. - 1559 Prot. lords rebelled against Guises in Scot. led to financial support of £2000 - 1560 Scot. unable to gain control of port of Leith (Edinburgh) = Eliz. sent army to blockade to prevent more Fr. troops arriving in Scot. PURE LUCK - Fr. withdrew because huguenot uprising 1560 and death of MoGuise 1560 - RESULT = eng. more secure from Scot. threat.

Cecil - usually opposed war on financial grounds, 1559 favoured Eng. support for Scot. prot lords who rebelled against MoGuise.

Phil. II - 1558 ally with Eng. against Fr. in Scot., delayed Excomm. until 1570.

MoGuise - 1554 regent for MQS and Fr. ministers advised her, 1560 died - aided Eng. settkement with Fr. in Treaty of Edinburgh 1560 - Eng. and Fr. troops withdrew.

MQS - legit. heir to Eliz. although not recognised by her, 1560 Queen of Fr., 1560 claimed to be Queen of Eng., Dec. 1560 - returned to Scot. as Queen and accepted presby. gov't, 1567 prot. lords rebelled = abdication = James VI King at 13 months old with Regent = Earl of Moray

14 of 40


Catherine De Medici - Anti-Guise Fr., Cath. regent for Charles IX 1560 and then Henry III, didn't want war with Eng. during minority gov't and didn't support MQS in Scot.

John Knox - Scot. prot. reformer and leader of presby. ch. in Scot., Scot. presby. lords formed provisional gov't of Scot. under Treaty of Edinburgh July 1560, Prot. lords wanted friendship with Eng. and not Fr.

15 of 40

England and Spain 1560-74

  • Early 60s = reasonably friendly. Importance of the Netherlands to well being of Eng. (trade) and owned by Phil., Guise suspicion from both - MQS seen as a Guise tool and Phil. thought better a heretic than a Fr. puppet = delaying Excomm. until 1570.

The Netherland's rebellion 1566 

  • Causes - resentment at Sp. King's attempt to run the Neth. like a colony of Sp. (Eng. wanted semi-autonomous Neth. as trade - Eng. woolen cloth from Antwerp). Sp. officials undermining traditional importance of great nobles at the council of state - policy making body in the provinces (angry and undermined).
  • Worrying to Eng. - Phil. sent a Sp. army under the Duke of Alba to suppress the rebellion (1567) - Sp. troops, Neth. ports, military commander with an impressive rep. and a remit to destroy heresy = worried Eliz. councillors. It was too close to Eng.
  • Aims of Eliz. and her councillors - important that Sp. authority was not backed by an army of occupation - Eng. wanted Neth. to maintain its traditional semi-indep. - recognise legit. rule of the Habsburgs whilst at the same time limiting it. Eliz. was realistic - although seek influence in events in the Neth. = no position to direct them and her councilors less so. Not prepared to commit Eng. forces to rebel cause - distaste for rebellion and Eng. lacked military muscle to face a commander such as Alva in open battle (learnt from Fr. disaster 1563-4). Policy of harassment seemed wise - politically damaging to Sp., possible to dissociate Eng. gov't from it if necessary and may yeild a profit.
16 of 40


  • Seizure of the Sp. loan Nov. 1568 - CONFRONTATIONAL:
    storm-battered Sp. ships chased by privateers and sought shelter in Devon+Cornwall - 400,000 florins on board > queen took advantage (property of Genoese financers - took over loan, not yet Sp.). Dangerous, pointless and piratical, creating all the difficulties she could for Alba = risk of offending Sp. Cecil saw it as an advantage to Eng.
    Eliz. didn't want conflict with Phil, but to make things difficult for Alba. Queen only did it after the decision was made to speed ships on to Alba - not seizing and stopping them to cause trouble. Elizabeth couldn't afford war or a military to battle Alba. Seizures of shipping were not uncommon - queen didn't expect major repercussions from her action. De Spes overreacted (Phil. new ambassador) = urged Alba to seize Eng. ships and property in Neth. before Eliz. even took the loan - Eng. retaliated by taking Sp. lands in Eng. 
  • Treaty of Blois 1572 - mutual defense treaty (NOT AN ALLIANCE) signed by Eng. and Fr. - help the other if attacked by 3rd party. Increased tension (esp. as secret) with Sp. who hate Fr. Eng. ordering Sea Beggars to leave Eng. ports and their return to Neth. = Revolt = Fr. army under Huguenot Admiral de Coligny prepares to help Dutch against Sp. = possibility of Fr. control of channel = Aug. Coligny shot and thousands of Huguenots killed at Henry of Navarre wedding to King's sister in Paris - applaued by Cath. and horror to Prot.  
  • Convention of Nymegen - negotiations with Alba = trade resumed with Neth. + Eng. Eng. withdrew support from raids on Sp. ships in Indies and Eliz. changed F.P as neutrality was best in circumstances. Fr. was busy so best policy to Eng. 
17 of 40


  • The position of William of Orange - When William of Orange and the Sea Beggars took Brielle and Flushing in 1572 the Netherlands was in open revolt (defeated by Alba but England = distaste for rebellion and lacked military power = Elizabeth resist pressure from Walsingham and Leicester who offered to help him BUT DID AGREE TO UNOFFICIAL HELP – SHE DIDN’T WANT HIM DEFEATED - lack of trust). 
18 of 40

England and Spain 1575-78

Eliz. motives in orddering mediation with Sp. and Neth.

  • selfish - restoration of 'liberties' of provinces in return for rebels' acceptence of Habsburg rule - make Eng. feel more secure and pamper Eliz. dislike of rebellion in any form.
  • Response to change in political and military situation - new Sp. offensive would smash rebels or force them to seek military assiastance from Fr. - worrying to Eng.

Pacification of Ghent - Unpaid Spanish army sacked city of Antwerp and brought the whole of the Netherlands against Spain – estates general of Netherlands duly met and called for removal of Spanish troops and restoration of provinces ‘liberties’. Elizabeth wanted a signed application and offered £100,000 loan if Spain refused to leave – Don Jon approved and signed perpetual edict. SHORT TERM: removed the Spanish troops from the Netherlands in 1577. BUT Elizabeth did not react immediately, situation was not right for intervention because England was not strong enough. Also the Spanish weakness was temporary and suspicion occurred among estates (divided by religion and faction) which were permanent. By mid-1577 the Spanish army was back in the Netherlands to restore order over religion (Calvinists). 

19 of 40


  • Anjou Expedition - Anti-Span. although Cath. = significant part in Neth, struggle, mediator between Sp. and William of Orange. Better source of help than Eliz. who was hesitant. Closer relations with Medici regime (France) - both felt threatened by the Spanish army in the Netherlands and the Guise backing for MQS in Scotland – encouraged Elizabeth to marry Duke of Anjou; control his behaviour in the Netherlands and use him as a threat to negotiate a settlement with the Netherland’s provinces – free them of Spanish troops. BUT failed - unacceptable to the English council (He was French and Catholic, insisting on being able to worship freely). But Elizabeth did accept that he was independent = changed policy to finance him to check Spanish power BUT she sent German Mercenaries rather than English troops – half-measure and they were unskilled, showing her limited commitment (she didn’t want real conflict).
  • Successful in achieving objective? - wanted to prevent major continuental poewr from gaining complete control of Neth. as may be used as base for Eng. invasion (she didn't want war - she couldn't afford it in men or money). Nothing she did was successful resolution for Eng. interests - alienated Sp. without earning Neth. trust and unhappy prospect of a Sp. victory loomed. Spaish power increasing. 
20 of 40

Dec. 1584 - Treaty of Joinville

Spain to drive Protestantism out of France and the Netherlands (remove Henry of Navarre as heir to French throne) and intervening in French affairs to manipulate the succession was a problem for Elizabeth – wanted a semi-independent Netherlands and so could not allow the Netherlands to be crushed or Henry III of France to be defeated (Spain was threatening to dominate Europe and make France a client state, also building an Atlantic fleet under Santa Cruz for the invasion of England and because the Spanish Navy was so strong this was a direct threat to England – Spanish threat was imminent). Phillips decision in Spring 1585 (Seizure of all English ships and goods in Spanish ports) = wide support for war against Spain, influenced reluctant English merchants to support the war – Fall of Antwerp further so. 

Spanish military success in the Neth. = cause of war (and assassination of William of Orange 1584) - Sp. = tip balance of power and dominate Europe and if the Neth. were invaded Eng. was next in the Cath. Habsburg armies stamping out of heresy. Eng. helping Neth. = defensive gesture to preserve Prot. and Eng. indep. (security).

21 of 40

1585 - Treaty of Nonsuch

Elizabeth sent 5000 troops and 1000 cavalry to Netherlands under an English commander (defensive gesture rather than an act of aggression – stem territorial ambition of Spain and preserve independence of Protestantism). Netherlands would pay the cost of war back to England and in meantime surrender deep water ports e.g. Flushing to English garrisons as a guarantee but rejected the offer of sovereignty over the provinces as she saw it as God given and believed that subjects had no right to offer it.
Fleet was sent under Drake to raid Spanish shipping in the Caribbean and release English ships held by Phillip – tensions rising.

BUT Elizabeth concluded because she was not prepared to commit to war with Spain – in contact with Parma in the hope of compromise and she was indecisive on giving English help to the Netherlands. 

22 of 40

Expedition of the Netherlands - why did it fail?

     Elizabeth was indecisive, she had spent considerable sums of money (and not enough for success), she had chosen the wrong person to lead (Leicester – lacked military experience and accepted governor-generalship against Elizabeth’s orders = looked aggressive and controlling – recalled Leciester) and she failed to support him properly (giving brief orders and not giving enough money – meant the Dutch didn’t trust him either), her on-off negotiations with Parma ended in no results and the Spanish making military preparations for English invasion, Sir William Stanley was a bad appointment by Leicester (his popular background made him less ideal, he was a catholic who had fought for Alva before as a mercenary) – asked to command the newly captured town of Deventre in 1587 – mistrusted appointment by the Dutch and he did hand over the land to Spanish. Increased tension = ARMADA. WAS NOT IN HER INTERESTS TO COMMIT HER MONEY, LAND OR MEN TO NETHERLANDS handing back to Spain or France.

     HOWEVER – Spain turned attention to France – army sent from Netherlands into Northern France to support the Catholic league. ALSO Elizabeth’s men remained permanently in garrison at Bergen, Ostend, Flushing and Brielle – vital coastline where Spanish armadas may take refuge and refit in safety – Phillip needed to move against England and he did not have it = ARMADA WOULD FAIL. 

23 of 40

The Armada 1588 - motives?

  • Phillip = resentful of Eliz. challenges to his sovereignity in Neth. (Eng. troops there) and of Eliz. reaction of his acquisition of Portugal in 1580 (assisted Portugese pretender Don Antonio and supported his attack on Azores 1580-81 - Phil. saw as becoming a vital base in Sp. communications with New World and fear of Eng. settlement there - destroy basis of Sp. trade with Americas (stop off point). 
  • Eliz. = increasingly offended by Sp. involvement in plots against her. Also under increasing pressure from both members of her P.C and puplic opinion to be seen to be taking action to defend Eng. interests from Sp. threat.
  • 1584 = relations worse (war not inevitable though) - Joinville and Nonsuch = both sides anxious to pull back from the brink. 
  • Phil. decision in 1585 = seizure of all Eng. ships and goods in Sp. ports and Eliz. persuit of an alliance with the Shariff of Fez. (modern Morocco) - Phil. = direct threat to Sp. territory.
  • Eng. troops in Neth. increased cost of supressing revolt - required decisive military action - Drake's ships 1585. ENGLAND INTERFEREING! 
  • ***-for-tat relationship that excalated continually.
  • Eliz. actions created a virtual state of war - better to seek decisive victory than risk long-term conflict in the Caribbean and Neth.
24 of 40

The Armada 1588 - why did it fail?

  • Spanish strategy fail – Parma said not enough control of the coastline for fleet to land in the Netherlands effectively and put Parma’s army on board – Dutch exploited this problem and Vessels under Justin of Nassau blockaded the route of Parma’s troops to their ports of embarkation. LACK OF COMMUNICATION, NOT LISTENING TO PARMA, POOR TACTICS AND PLANNING.
  • Death of Marquis of Santa Cruz = loss of leader. His replacement, Duke of Medina Sidonia, experienced naval admin. But lacked experience of command at sea. BUT EXAGGERATED – aware of his limitations and capable of appointing officers with ample experience. No decisive outcome to naval engagements who fought in channel 30 July-6 August. England’s men were more experienced.
  • England’s benefit from Spanish vessels being fired at from fire ships – anchored near Calais (7 August) – exploiting favourable winds and tides to maximise disruption - armada was driven from its main anchorage – dispersed, lost vital anchors and cables due to prevailing winds, forced away from Calais – reduced chances of meeting Parma and underestimated armada’s whole strategy.
  • English skill – made most of disruption by engaging Medina Sidonia and several of his ships directly (8 August) – 3 ships sunk and 2 driven ashore, taken by waiting Dutch. 
  • English ships had greater manoeuvrability and superior long-range gunnery.
  • N/W winds (LUCK) – threatened to force rest of fleet around and Medina Sidonia was obliged to head into North Sea = no chance of meeting Parma. Remaining ships had no choice but to return to Spain by hazardous route of sailing towards Scotland and then back south to the west of Ireland – cost more ships. 
25 of 40


see shp p244/45 - visual aid of Armada

26 of 40

The War Against Spain 1585-1604

see shp review 26

What were Eliz. war aims and how did she intend to fight the war?

  • national security - to defend the independence of England through a ‘fortress England’ policy (she would use England’s insularity to her advantage - small military expeditions with Neth., Fr. and some naval expeditions against Sp. and her colonies), control the channel coastline, Elizabeth wanted to bring Spain to favourable terms for the Netherlands and so balance power in Europe and to avoid war with Spain as she did not have the resources (men or money) to fight a full-scale land war. It was never her intention to crush Spain or her empire because it was never within her power to do so. Also, a powerful Spain was a counter-balance to France. 
  • Primarily defensive - controlled naval defense in home waters, backed up by defensive arrangements on S+E coastal countries.
  • Minimal aims so easily satisfied but ... minimal aims!?
27 of 40


The Netherlands - why and with what success a defensive war? Limited man power and money - didn't want tax criticism - abroad = lack of volunteers

  • Parma able comander and most experience army in Europe - Eliz. = 20,000-25,000 men constantly in the field to have a chance of defeating. Difficult to raise an army of this size:
    More soldiers died of disease than in battle (e.g. Sept.-Dec. 1589 N. Fr. - Willoughby 4,000 reduced to 1,000) England didn't have the manpower for an offensive war.
    Problem of recruitment - englishmen defending home countries = reluctant to be sent abroad. 
    Finance - Leicester's 6,000 in Neth. (1585) = £126,000 p/a - half her ordinary revenue. Debates over taxation 1593 in parliament - she couldn't afford a tax rebellion so Burghley borrowed as little as possible. She sold crown lands to finance war.

  • Conquest of Neth. = not her aim, little point in financing this if to hand back to Sp. or Fr. - couldn't defend any land she seized on the continent so it was not in her interests to commit her resources.

  • Limited commitment to European war - coastal area of Flushing and mouth of Scheldt didn't fall to Spain - armada against Eng. would fail.

28 of 40


  • 1585 = need to prop up Dutch. 6,000 men under Leicester & 1,000 enforcements to hold Brielle and Flushing as pledges for eventual repayment for her expenses as well as securing control of the coast. Leicester mishandled relations with the Dutch - accepted governor-generalship of Neth. against Eliz. orders because it made her campaign look aggressive and that her aim was to control - Leicester recalled as questioned Eliz. authority.

  • 1589 - Henry II assassinated - Phillip turned his attention away from Eng. to Fr. - Sp. army sent from Neth. to N. Fr. to support Cath. League. Relieved pressure on Neth. ports and put Sp. on defensive against Dutch. Between 1589-95 = Maurice of Nassau (son of William of Orange) was able to expel the Sp. from the N-E provinces and make the Rhine and Meuse the Southern defense line.

  • 2/3 Eliz. troops committed to the Neth. remained premanently in Garrison at Bergen, Ostend, Flushing and Brielle guarding the vital coastline where Sp. armadas might take refuge and refit in safety. Phil. needed this to move against Eng. and he did not have it.

  • She had defended Eng. by taking coastline Sp. needed but luck - e.g. Dutch defeated Sp. due to problems in Fr. - down to other things/luck and not her strategy!

29 of 40


Why and with what success did Eliz. fight in Fr.?

  • Security of Eng. relied on survival of N. Fr. and Neth. - Fr. channel ports and Brest (atlantic) could not be allowed to Spain or League to be used by armada as a base. 
  • Didn't commit Eng. to Fr. until after assassination of Henry III (1589) - before she gambed that the huguenots would be able to defend themselves and Henry III would split with the Guise and League - what happened.
  • 1588 - Armada tried to use calais as a base in their intended invasion of Eng. but channel ports of Calais, Dieppe and Boulogne had remained in King's hands and were not taken by the Guise who were in alliance with Sp. 
  • After July 1589 - committed herself to helping to Huguenot Henry IV - Sp. armies moving from Neth. into N. Fr. to help league. N. Fr. sympathetic to League = direct threat to channel ports and brittany.
  • 1590 = Phil. = protector of league and secured control of N. Fr. as a step towards invasion of Eng.
  • Henry IV support = Huguenot W+S - N. Fr. of no strategic value to him except as an excuse to recieve Eng. aid - Eliz. had to defend herself for Eng. security. 
30 of 40


  • Between 1589-94 = considerable military and financial aid - Willoughby 4,000 troops against League to relieve seige of Dieppe and 7,000 troops to relieve Rouen 1591-92.
  • Nov. 1593 = H IV Cath. accepted by warning Fr. parties. Eng. troops withdrew but between 1591-95 = 11,000 troops protected brittany from possible Sp. invasion. 
  • Eng. aid necessary due to H IV weakness - couldn't have kept army in field after Sept. 1589 if it had not been for Eliz. financial and military aid - paid for his swiss mercernaries. 
  • Aim to protect Eng. achieved but expense - Sp. was going back but Eng. had committed significant troops and money.
31 of 40


The War at Sea - aims and strategy?

  • Safety = controlloing channel ports of France and the Netherlands. 
  • The defence of England was always going to rest in the last resort on her navy. Was = defensive and this is what determined her naval strategy. The navy had to keep in home waters to defend England against a Spanish armada (criticised for not striking at Spain - against war).
  • Cost of war = enormous and shaped the character of war BUT Eliz. made it pay for itself - joint-stock companies, private individuals invested on expedition and took profits - ulterior motive - why they often didn't achieve their military target (did not follow what she wanted - economical but risky). WHY SILVER BLOCKADE WAS ATTRACTIVE.

Why was 'silver blockade' used and how successful was it?

  • Cut off the steady flow of silver from the American mines to Spain and this would therefore disrupt Spain’s war finance and restrict their activities, particularly in the Netherlands, causing problems if armies were not paid. It would also provide war finance for Elizabeth and profit for joint-stock investors - good idea and antisipated future for Eng. strategy in fighting European wars in colonies - 2nd front against enemy. 
32 of 40


  • Hawkins believed that the silver blockade could win the war if relays of six ships could be kept constantly in the Azores but Elizabeth did not have the resources to achieve this and protect England at the same time.
  • English ‘Sea Dogs’ were successful so that in 1590 Phillip II had to start the convoy system to protect the seizure fleet on its Atlantic crossing.
  • 20 Spanish war ships were sent against the 5 English ships (not enough ships to challege) in the Azores and this was too strong for England. 
  • 1585 and 1595 Drake was sent out to damage Spanish bases in Spanish America and these were only temporary setbacks for Spain – Phillip had too much of a powerful navy and was too wealthy. 
33 of 40


How great a failure was the Portugal Expedition 1589? (Secure Azores, intercept Sp. vessels bound from America laden with treasure, Place Don Antonio on Portugese throne and reassert Protugese indep., destroy left Armada).

  • Eliz. had the money to launch an attack on Spain due to 1589 defeat of Armada and assassination of H III. Possibly the best opportunity to attack Sp. and end war in 1589.
  • Elizabeth ordered the destruction of the remaining 50-60 unrigged, unmanned and ungunned ships in Santander and San Sebastian (been there for 1 year), and the Spanish fleet could not have recovered from this. 
  • Eliz.failed to secure Azores and destroy remainder of armada because of her lack of authority and war leadership. Financed by a joint-stock company including the Queen and it was their desire for profit that ruined the expedition. 
  • Drake and Norris sailed in April - 137 ships and 19,000 soldiers disobeyed orders and made for Portugal, failing to take Corunna (N. Sp.) to hold as a base and Sp. waiting by the time they got to Lisbon – if had taken Lisbon this would have protected English ships against Azores and the treasure fleet but failed. 
  • Disease reduced her forces as well as the bad weather which hampered their trek to Azores.
  • Sacked Vigo (N. Sp.) to make profit then straggled home in June.
  • July 1589 = H III dead - Santander galleons made their way to Corunna and during the winter the silver shipment came safely from America.
  • Privateers financed fleet expected a profit and it was Navy's job to make sure they got it - Eliz. 'sea dogs' were motivated by greed and no alturism (high principles, fighting for their country).
34 of 40


How great a threat was Ireland?

  • From 1597 Eliz. resources concentrated on Ireland, rebellion there since 1593 - Ulster where Earl of Tyrone rose up against Eliz.
  • At first Eliz sought a truce but rebellion spread beyond Ulster with aid of O'Donnells and Magiores. Sp. tried to exploit situation in 1596 by including an Irish contingent in Armada - unsuccessful but showed Sp. intent to exploit troubles in Ire.
  • Battle of Yellow Ford - Aug. 1598 made situation worse when Tyrone beat English force and became in control of Ulster, O'Donnells in control of Connaught and O'Mores in control of Leix-Offley. - Most of Ire. 'Beyond the Pale' = out of Eng. control = on verge of Indep. and Cath. Ire. = threat to Eng.
  • Eliz. sent Earl of Essex as Lord Lieutenant 1599 - DISOBEYED HER (instead of going to Ulster her stayed in Leinster then Munster and made a truce instead of confronting Tyrone - defied her orders before returning to Court). 
  • Sp. help in 1601 (exploiting rebellion to get Ire. as base to attack Eng.) = minimal and disappointing to Irish. 3000 Sp. troops under Aguilla = secure Ire. as a base to attack Eng.
35 of 40


  • 1602  Lord Mountjoy and Carew (Lod Lieutenant) - Eng. commander. Reinforced and pushed Tyrone back to Ulster and Carew scared Cork, gradually  recapturing most of Munster. TRIUMPHANT AT BATTLE OF KINSALE - Forced Sp. to flee whilst Tyrone negotiated peace with Mountjoy March 1603. DECREASED THREAT.
  • Ire. always a threat to Eng. security which Eliz. couldn't afford to ignore - diverted resources away from other activities but was necessary. Mountjoy = strong enough in end to expel Sp., whose help was minimal = limited threat.
  • Last action of war - Eliz. died in March 1603 and James I made peace with Phil. III 1604, treaty of Westminster (Phil. II died 1598).
36 of 40

How successful was War against Sp. after 1585?

Importance of Sp. war:

  • Not just a war at sea - whole of western Europe had been fighting to keep the balance of power and stop further expansion of Sp. power - significance see in 1620s when Habsburgs made attempt to impose full control on the HRE in the 30 years' war (1618-48).
  • Eng.'s part in the struggle had been vital - successfully controlled Channel coast, helped preserve the independence of Fr. and Neth. and above all her own indep. Desensive war and was a success.
  • Not and offensive war - not a war for empire by Eliz. Sp.'s strength was on land that had been the immediate danger - Eng. troops had seized all areas vital to Eng. security and the Southern Coast of the Channel. 

Not all aims achieved:

  • Only half Netherlands remained under Spain 1648 but enough to check the expansion of Fr. The United Provinces (N. Neth.) was a natural ally of Eng. 
  • Sp. colonies in Asia, Africa and America remained closed by international law to Eng. traders.
37 of 40


  • Eng. merchants through joint-stock co. had made vast profits out of raiding Sp. America, Sp. Treasure ships and Sp. ports. Helped Eliz. to finance war without running up huge debts or provoking internal unrest. Wealth they accumulated from the war enabled them to set up East India Co. in 1600 and the Virginia Co. in 1606. Eng.'s prosperity rested on her trade.

Length of the war?

  • Acquisition of wealth had undermined military success of expeditions such as Portugal which had helped to prolong the war. Rare opportunity to win the war.
  • Eng. did not have resources to finish the war which is why her strategy had always been defensive even when she had sent troops to Neth. and Fr.
  • Sp. could not subdue the Neth. which had been its aim in the first place.
  • War as prolonged because of the failure of Sp. Armada in 1588 - Eliz. then agreed to expeditions of Fr., Portugal and in the Atlantic when she had the money. She had not just looked to hold out against Sp. in the hope of achieving her aims - she had been willing to take them on. Sp. had been unable to defeat Eng. Defeat of Armada in 1588 had extended war and subsequent Armadas had also been defeated because of the weather.
38 of 40


Doran - Eliz, objectives achieved, Sp. was bloodied but undefeated. S. Neth. restored to Sp. on a semi-autonomous basis whilst N. remained free. Fr. emerged from civil wars with a monarch sufficiently strong to resist Sp. and Fr. Cath. Prot. and national indep. were safeguarded from foreign threats. Policies did not achieve all this by theirselves; external factors were important but policies undoubtedly helped.

[Throughout 70s Eliz. aimed to avoid war which Sp. = her F.P cannot be viewed as successful, esp. as meant a second rate power taking on most powerful country in Europe. Eng. was ultimately successful = doesn't mean war itself was conducted successfully - 1589, 1591 and 1596 = Eng. believed a peaceful settlement was at hand but each time Eliz. failed to press home her adv - length and cost makes it a failure. Successful completion of the war was not necessarily due to Eng. F.P - LUCK and EXTERNAL FACTORS = equally if not more significant.]

39 of 40


MacCaffrey - Initiative passed to Phil., Henry IV and leaders of new Dutch state. Queen's deficiencies as a ruler apparent - reluctance to make decisions or to give her commanders leeway to act on the spot. H's triumph over his enemies was his own doing - Queen benefitted but could claim little credit for the outcome. In Holland she could claim a larger role - infusion of Eng. men and money substantial and essential contribution to state's ultimate success BUT military initiatives were their. No naval enterprises to which the Queen gave her reluctant consent realised its stated goals and two of them triggered off ill-considered responses by which Phil. finally laid the ghost of another Armada.

[Criticising Eliz. for not taking on Sp. in 1570s assumes she could forsee the events of 80s - Phil.'s acquisition of Portugal, murder of Henry III, accession of Huguenot to the throne of Fr. and the assassination of William of Orange. Also ignores Eliz. central belief that Sp. defeat would leave the way open for Fr. expansion and that Eng. security was best guaranteed by a balance of power between Fr. and Sp. Given situation that Eliz. was in = difficult to see how she could have acted differently.]

40 of 40


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all British monarchy - Tudors and Stuarts resources »