©National Archives

Sir Francis Drake and the Armada, 1588 Ever since Henry VIII's break with the Church of Rome in 1533, England had been under threat of invasion from the Catholic countries of Europe to re-establish papal authority. As the most powerful Catholic country in Europe at this time, Spain needed little encouragement to lead the proposed invasion.

In 1588, the King of Spain, Philip II, launched his great Armada against England. The Armada was made up of 132 ships. It set sail from Lisbon on 29 May 1588 and reached the Lizard, off Cornwall, on 19 July. The English fleet avoided a major battle and instead shadowed the Spanish ships up the Channel.

Sir Francis Drake, Vice-Admiral of the English fleet, wrote this letter to Walsingham after the Battle of Gravelines on 29 July, which proved to be the decisive engagement of the ten-day running fight with the Spanish Armada. He observed: 'This dayes servis hathe much apald the enemey and no doubt but incoraged our armey.'

Enlarge on linked site

See item in the collection's timeline