Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs and Their Effects on Spanish Armada

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In the book of The Influence of Sea Power upon History, Alfred Thayer Mahan emphasizes sea power not only military but also politic (Mahan, 1890). The most important factor of trade is sea and if a country’s international economy is strong, it will be got politic and diplomatic power. Sea power made England the empire which the sun never sets. So, “the history of the United Kingdom is the history of the Royal Navy.” (Royal Navy History, n.d.)

Because Britain is an island and it’s all borders are open to the sea. Most of all her enemies used the sea routes in order to conquer, invade or loot her in the history and herself used to the waterways with the aim of trade, war, etc. Like in the 897 A.D, King Alfred’s fleet found some ships raiding the south coast of England. In the reing of Henry VII, he went France with his Mary Rose ship that its name was her daughter’s. (Royal Navy History, n.d.) In the Henry VIII’s period navy took on the significant tasks to protect interests in France and to achieve new gains. Thus, he laid the foundations of the Royal Navy. Then, sea power was getting better and stronger. Elizabeth I. also attached importance to the navy, and she got on with the seamen even pirates and supported them. Dou to the support of her, the seamen did not stand up to their Queen and country. These illegal marines called as Sea Dogs. They protected and defended patrioticly, instead. Elizabethan era’s Supreme triumph was the war of Spanish Armada. So, with the help of the Sea Dogs, Britain showed its power by firing the Invisible, Great or Spanish Armada and this paper will examine the effects of the Sea Dogs on Spanish Armada.

Henry VIII understood earlier importance of sea than most people, and he spent money on building ships. He believed that the future of England depended on her own fleet. His first ships were to trade. (McDowall, 1989, p. 73) Then, Queen Elizabeth I. crowned head, and she also knew the significance of the sea and developed the strategy that she would support who else in the sea even privateer, so they would work for her. This naval strategy was ‘supplementary navy’, and it meant bringing piracy under her control. I think this was so subtle thought because seamen had already their own equipment so Queen did not have to provide any equipment for them. Now, her seamen were going the voyages.

When they turned back, they gave the nearly all of what they found to their Queen. This is an advantage and cheap way to fill the public purse. In the mid-Elizabethan period, she recognised Spain as her main enemy. “As Anglo-Spanish relations to deteriorate during her reign, Elizabeth went one step further in authorising a branch of privateers – the Sea Dogs – as a way to bridge the gap between the Spanish and English navies.” (The History Press, 2018) Sea Dogs were English adventurers as well as traders between the years of 1560 – 1605. (Kostam, 2000, s. 4) They were under the control of the Queen but acting as if they were not. Sea Dogs were the defenders of the Spanish Armada and they had notable leaders; Francis Drake, John Hawkins and Martin Frobisher.

Drake, Hawkins, and Martin Frobisher are important names because of developing the naval in their country. Although their works were illegal, Queen was at their back because of that Elizabeth did not want them as her enemy since they were so powerful separately or together, have their own fleet and men. For instance; Frances Drake who was called as a `monster` among the Spanish was in cooperation with Queen. If he had done whatever she said, he would have been allowed to steel colonies of Spain. On this basis, he attacked Spanish colonies at America. Actually, Drake was a real pirate but when he arrived home by crossing from the Pacific Ocean to end of Africa, Elizabeth entitled him as a Chevalier.

Another significant name was John Hawkins who sold hundreds of the black slave to Spanish colony in America and started to the first slave trade in the Britain. (Editors, Francis Drake, 2009) This case was for the benefit of Britain because it’s meant heavy workforce and low wage. Queen was employed these poor slaves as cheap as dirt in mines and cotton industry, and in heavy conditions. This was sadly for humanity but not the government because the ruling class liked cheap labour while the country was in the war. Thus, Elizabeth supported Hawkins and encouraged him to another voyage. But he faced with attacked of Spanish when he was at his third voyage and he turned back barely. Elizabeth did not ignore Hawkins and made firstly him paymaster general of royal navy, then supervisor. In this job, he always worked for the navy to make it better. Walter Raleigh was also a considerable man of the Queen. They had an interrogable relation. Even if not exact sources, they were being thought as they were flirting. Elizabeth had cared him for the first time when he went to Ireland reason of fighting against Irish. Then, he found fame in the Royal Palace. He was interested in voyages which arranged in order to explore unknown lands. Raleigh embarked on an expedition to America and he tried to establish the settlement called Virginia representing Elizabeth I. This may be thought as the first movement of colonialism. Although he could not be successful and turned back with Drake`s ships, he achieved introducing potato and tobacco to Britain. These clever men and others helped Elizabeth. Thanks to their wit, Britain had power on the sea. Seadogs did not leave Queen in the lurch. If they had not existed ever, Elizabeth could not have created a naval to fight with Spanish Armada.

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King Philip II was the head of Spain. He had colonies at America, Cuba, and even India after exploring by Christopher Columbus. Spain was the king of the seas, and trade was in his hands. But England was a small country and in her own world. She had some enemies as much as friends. She realized the power of Spain and saw it as her enemy. Because Spain was planning about being the king of England. It’s reason was marriage to Scot’s Marry who was Elizabeth’s half-sister. She was a heavy Catholic and had no sympathy for Protestant so that Catherine of Aragon was Mary’s mother, and she lived his youth in France. Charles V planned this marriage but there was no love; however, Mary liked him when she saw his picture. Mary’s people did not want this ally. They also rebelled. She asked parliament, and members accepted unwillingly Philip as their king during Mary’s lifetime. Despite the fact that this matching was so wise to make England again Catholic (because Henry VIII had made the Reformation and accepted Protestantism), it was unfortunate that they had no children.

Therefore, Elizabeth was Mary’s next to kin to be crowned. Queen imprisoned her but could not decide to kill because she was afraid of an invasion of Spain after Mary’s death. She was right, Philip did not give up for dethroning the Elizabeth I. He insisted on to be king there. Until 1588, there was a cold war between them. Nearly in the 1580s, before 8 years of the war, Elizabeth charged Francis Drake for attacking Spanish ships carrying treasures from America to Spain. Drake fulfilled successfully this task. Queen apologised to Philip but he was also crafty as much as Queen was. King of Spain did not believe in her.

Throne struggle and games of the Queen were two of the important reasons, but Philip had a falling out with Elizabeth when the independence revolts of Holland appeared in the Netherlands. Rebellions wanted to break away from Spain and be free about religion choices. Philip wanted heavy taxes and forced Ducth to be Catholic. England was nearby Holland and rebellions fled in England. Although Elizabeth tried and wanted to be seen impartial throughout her reign, she wanted to go against this cruelty. Actually, she had a sympathy about Protestant, inwardly. We can see her tendency in Protestant rebel in England when Mary was Queen. She was the leader of the group of Protestants but did not want to reveal clearly this for her diplomatic strategy. Then she used her wit and decided to support rebellions indirect way. She agreed with English pirates that they called as Sea Dogs at Spanish Armada in order to attack Spanish ships going to Holland. They were English as pirates as, and this was enough to Philip for having a spite against Elizabeth. Her support against him and also Catholics made him angry, and he began to worry about the future of England. So, the main reason was this; Catholic and Protestant struggle; same religion but different sects. Philip made himself responsible for making England again Catholic and Philip began formulating an “Enterprise of England” to remove Elizabeth from the throne (Editors, Spanish Armada, 2018)

Spain prepared a great fleet and called it ‘Invisible Armada’. Finally, Armada arrived in England in 1588. As Spaniards passing the Armada through the English Channel, the British navy blocked them. In the war, English fire ships caused that Spaniards wasted a large number of ships. (Black, 2017) For Philip, this was a holly task so that he fulfilled the armada with Catholic religious men. When England won the war and Catholics died, Protestantism began to be seen as God’s favour in the island. So, what did Sea Dogs do that they could return such a powerful navy?

This was maritime warfare and it would be the winner who had better navy and wit. They were other commanders but essential effort belonged to the Sea Dogs. They create a navy from scratch. This navy’s shipbuilder was John Hawkins, heart of the war was Francis Drake and advisor was Walter Raleigh. Elizabeth trusted Francis Drake and gave him a fleet including 35 ships. He assaulted the Spanish navy and destroyed their supplies. This caused Spaniard’s being late for one year. Thereby, English prepared well in one year. Drake had not role not only defeating Spaniards but also starting the war. Because he was the attacker of Spanish ships carrying gold and silver. This was a substantial reason for this war. John Hawkins was the commander of Elizabeth’s navy. But he had not taken into with Spaniards in Invisible Armada for the first time.

Hawkins had fought with them twice; at Battle of Vera Cruz and, in Mexico. He was also an achieved shipbuilder. Hawkins knew well what English navy needed against Armada. He rebuilt old ships and made them faster and quicker to fire. When Drake repulsed Spaniards, thanks to these new ships, British soldiers could fire faster and have sunk to the most of Spanish fleet. Before Hawkins ships, English navy could not damage how much they want, so I think that Hawkins’ this achievement based on his old wars with Spaniards. He realised their tactics and abilities of ships then he could make better ships. Hawkins was not alone while he was making these ships. Sir Walter Raleigh helped him. He was a rich man. Raleigh did not directly pay attention to the war. He built a warship that he called it ‘Ark Raleigh’ and gave it to Elizabeth then she changed its name as ‘Ark Royal’. Ark Royal became the flagship of the fleet because of its deathly damages to the Spanish ships.

Some sources say that the destiny of Armada is an unluckiness, but I do not agree on this. Because Elizabeth had better soldiers than Spain. Philip’s fleet was damaged only while they were turning back to their country. But I can say that Elizabeth was lucky to have Sea Dogs especially Drake, Hawkins and Raleigh. From beginning to the end, Sea Dogs were in front of the war. They were both reason and conclusion. Drake’s plain gave England time to be prepared and with the help of the Raleigh, Hawkins made smaller but more effectively ships, and they turned upside-down the Spanish fleet. When the importance of sea power appeared newly in England, and there was no navy, it would have been impossible to defeat called Invisible fleet, if there had not existed the Sea Dogs.

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