England, America, and The Invincible Armada English Literature Essay (100 Level Course)
The zest for adventure, exploration and colonization actually reached a peak in the reign of Elizabeth; in 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh founded a colony in North
America, which he called Virginia in honour of Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen. (Raleigh was also the first to import tobacco to England from Florida in 1565. A few years later, the potato also reached England after being introduced into Spain from America in 1570, after the Spanish conquest of Peru).
But since the 15th century, the monopoly of colonization and commerce in Africa, Asia and America had been in the hands of Portugal and Spain.
In Tudor times, however, the English seamen realized that they too could follow the ocean routes and reach fabulously rich lands, or at least attack and sack the Spanish ships sailing from America. As it was not possible to attack the Spanish ocean-going vessels openly, it was necessary to fight a private war, in which English sailors were pirates and merchant-venturers at the same time (the so-called sea-dogs).
The greatest of the privateers were Sir John Hawkins, who dealt above all in the slave trade, Sir Martin Frobisher, who searched for the Northwest Passage, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who established in Newfound land the first English colony in North America, and Francis Drake, who attacked Spanish ships with cargoes of precious metals. In his lawless war, he was supported by Sir Francis Walsingbam, one of Queen Elizabeths counsellors, who maintained that only by boldness and aggression could England hope to win a share in the colonial and commercial wealth of the time. It was he, not the more prudent counsellor William Cecil, who persuaded the queen to finance Drake secretly, in exchange for a share in any plunder from his expeditions, thus increasing her meagre revenues. Following his advice, Queen Elizabeth bought a share in Drake’s expedition to the coast of the Spanish do minions on board a small vessel, the Golden Hind, with a crew of about a hundred men. After three years, in 1580, Drake returned to Plymouth across the Pacific Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope with a booty of more than 300,000 pounds. Elizabeth, who had secretly sponsored Drake, took a large share of the booty, and the following year she knighted him. The greatest English privateer had become Sir Francis Drake, and was ready to become the greatest of the English admirals in the open war against Spain.
Relations grew worse and worse between England and Spain until the execution of Mary Stuart. At the end of 1588 the Spanish Invincible Armada, made up of heavy ships armed for the old type of boarding warfare, sailed for England, and was met by the English fleet. Inferior in number, hut faster, easier to handle and equipped with large cannons able to fire at long range, the English defeated the Spanish fleet, which was then finally scattered and destroyed by the stormy winds of the Scottish and Irish seas. About half of the Armada was lost. The war with Spain continued till 1603, but it was by this victory that England preserved its independence and assured its future as a great naval power.