The Spanish Armada was a fleet of many ships that were involved in an important battle that helped to shape the history of Europe and the world. England at the time was a tiny country without much power or influence. Spain was a powerful force in the world with many lands under its control. The English defeat of the Spanish Armada was the beginning of what would become the British Empire.
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The main players in the Spanish Armada were King Philip II of Spain and Queen Elizabeth I of England. Other important people were Sir Frances Drake, a pirate who had attacked many Spanish ships and had stolen their treasure. King Philip was angry that Queen Elizabeth had not punished Drake for the thefts.
In the year 1588, King Philip decided to invade England by sea and he sent 130 ships that held 30,000 soldiers and 2,500 guns. England was taken by surprise and Queen Elizabeth was forced to try to defend her little country with much fewer and smaller ships.
The Spanish Armada sailed from Lisbon, which was part of the Spanish empire and is the modern-day capital of Portugal. The ships sailed to the English Channel on the southern coast of England. There the small English ships met them.
In addition to being angry over Sir Francis Drake, King Philip was angry with Queen Elizabeth over religion. England had been a Catholic country, but Elizabeth's father, King Henry VIII had ended that, breaking ties with the Vatican in Rome. Elizabeth followed in her father's footsteps, passing a law that all English people must attend the Protestant Church of England. King Philip wanted to force England to return to the Catholic faith.
The tiny English navy defeated the massive Spanish Armada by lighting 80 ships on fire and sending them out into the English Channel among the Spanish ships. The Spanish were forced to flee so their wooden ships would not catch fire. When they turned to flee, the Spanish headed right for more waiting English ships that starting shooting at the Spanish.
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