What was the Spanish plan for an invasion of England in 1588?

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,107
#1
Who were they going to put on the throne or were they going to rule it directly? What was the invasion plan once they landed? While close to half of the population may have preferred Catholicism and maybe more of the aristocracy, it seems likely that only strong Catholics would have sided with Spanish invaders. Did the Spanish really have the strength to conquer England if they had succeeded in landing an invasion force?
 
Apr 2018
261
Italy
#2
The Invincibile Armada wasn't strong enough to conquer England. Alvaro De Bazan, the most expert spanish admiral of his age, asked 500 ships and 94000 men for a similar enterprise to be successfull.
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,178
Las Vegas, NV USA
#3
I believe they planned to land forces on the Isle of Wight and hold it as a base for further reenforcements until they had sufficient forces to march on London.
 
Last edited:
Nov 2011
8,865
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
#4
Who were they going to put on the throne or were they going to rule it directly? What was the invasion plan once they landed? While close to half of the population may have preferred Catholicism and maybe more of the aristocracy, it seems likely that only strong Catholics would have sided with Spanish invaders. Did the Spanish really have the strength to conquer England if they had succeeded in landing an invasion force?
Philip had been a King of England from his marriage to Mary on 25 July 1554 until her death in November 1558. Although the Parliamentary Act that made him co-Monarch with Mary and all subsequent Acts confirming his authority expired on Mary's death, it was common cause with Catholic Monarchs that Elizabeth was a bastard and a usurper and that the English throne was therefore legally vacant and laws could always be re-interpreted. At least this was the attitude when it suited them--Philip had proposed marriage to Elizabeth immediately on Mary's death and had been her supporter for a number of years. The leading Roman Catholic claimant to the throne, Mary Queen of Scots, had been executed the year before the Armada sailed, an event probably not unconnected as Spanish-English conflict grew and the next in line, Mary's son James was Protestant and his Scottish nobles violently so. But there were a number of other candidates who were religiously ambiguous who were descended from Henry VIII's other sister, Mary Tudor, who may have thought London worth a mass. Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby looks particularly suspect.
Spain was already ruling Naples, most of the Netherlands, Portugal, Naples, Sicily and Milan without a local sovereign, so a Governor and a puppet local figure would have been an obvious solution.

There were 20,000 troops (and 7000 plus sailors) on board the ships of the Armada and Parma had 30,000 troops (so we are told) assembled near Dunkirk awaiting the opportunity to cross the North Sea in barges under the protection of the Armada. As an epidemic was raging among Parma's troops, how many of those were ready to fight is anyone's guess. An army of 50,000 was enormous for that period and the Spanish were principally skilled and experienced soldiers, meanwhile the English Army drawn up at Tilbury numbered Just 4000 under Robert Dudley and, possibly a total of 10,000 makeshift militia scattered around Southern England with a large number of local peasants with billhooks and pitchforks making up the numbers. Theoretically the Spanish could have easily have besieged the forts at Higham, Gravesend, Milton, Tilbury and East Tilbury and still carved their way through to London on both sides of the Thames. However, one wonders if the Spanish generals had worked out how to get their heavy artillery ashore downstream of Tilbury as, in the 16thC, both banks of the Thames were marshland all the way to Tilbury and Gravesend and beyond.

It rather seems that the Spanish didn't have much of a plan--the idea of ferrying troops on barges from the Estuaries of Flanders to the deep water where they could gain protection from the Armada was a non-starter as the coastal shallows and river-mouths were dominated by the Rebel Dutch Navy's shallow-draught light warships where galleons could not venture--just in case, the Dutch had removed all the buoys and channel markers that would have allowed non-locals to navigate a passage.

Could the Spanish have conquered England? Traditionally whoever controls London controls the country, London was strongly Protestant so a successful capture of London may well have given administrative control of the Country (and lots of money) to the invaders. In a time where religion seems to have been more important than patriotism to many, there would have been some support for the Spanish and their priests in rural areas and the North of England, although in the run-up to the Armada crisis most important Catholic aristocrats and "Gentlemen", had been disarmed or detained. The Pope had given his blessing for the invasion and the renegade English Jesuit,
Cardinal William Allen, founder of the "English Mission" that trained priests for both infiltration into England and the expected eventual return of Roman Catholicism to England, was poised with 300 priests to take back the Church. His protege, Robert Persons, another Jesuit, who had spent years in England undercover, pamphleteering, spying and running plots against Elizabeth was attached to Parma's army, so they had a theological plan, if not a very good military one.
 
Nov 2011
8,865
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
#6
I believe they planned to land forces on the Isle of Wight and hold it as a base for further reenforcements until they had sufficient forces to march on London.
I think that you will find that there was an intent to anchor in the Solent, sheltered by the Isle of Wight until word that Parma's army was ready for embarkation was received rather than the more exposed position off Dunkirk, rather than wait for reinforcements. Invading England from the Isle of Wight made no more sense than invading from Plymouth as some of Medina Sidonia's commanders suggested.
 

funakison

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,381
Between a rock and a hard place
#7
Who were they going to put on the throne or were they going to rule it directly? What was the invasion plan once they landed? While close to half of the population may have preferred Catholicism and maybe more of the aristocracy, it seems likely that only strong Catholics would have sided with Spanish invaders. Did the Spanish really have the strength to conquer England if they had succeeded in landing an invasion force?

The invasion plan was quite simple, `God would help.`.
 

Willempie

Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
5,106
Netherlands
#8
The Invincibile Armada wasn't strong enough to conquer England. Alvaro De Bazan, the most expert spanish admiral of his age, asked 500 ships and 94000 men for a similar enterprise to be successfull.
I don't think that was their aim. Their aim was to remove Lizzie and put a catholic ruler in her place. For that they would only need to invade threaten London and see support for Elisabeth collapse.

In any case the plan they had looked decent at high level, but was ridiculous when on the ground. First, ferrying soldiers from Flanders to England in barges can be done, but is completely dependent on the weather and expert sailors. Not to mention the problems Geezer posted. Second landing a navy the size of the armada (and later on the barges) needs expert seamanship and knowledge of the coast. Last but certainly not least the whole plan was dependent on communication. Since communication by land already took days, you can imagine they kinda ignored that the armada needed to tell Parma when to take ship in order not to have him the victim of a turkey shoot.
 
Jan 2013
881
Toronto, Canada
#9
The plan was to transport the Duke of Alba's army from the Netherlands for the invasion.

It never seems to have occurred to the Spanish that they didn't control a deep-water port to make the transfer.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,107
#10
I suppose if they could have landed 30,000 men, they would have had a chance. They could have recruited some English Catholics and transported more men and equipment in later.

A problem would be that Elizabeth was popular and, although a large portion of the population was Catholic, most English would support her against of foreign invasion.