For the next fifty years, and until the commencement of the reign of Elizabeth, violence and bloodshed were so common that the population barely maintained its own. In 1588 the whole number of people in England and Wales was estimated at four millions, about one third of the population of Spain.
But England possessed two elements of strength her people, although differing in creed and often warring with one another, were intensely patriotic, and were united as one man against a foreign foe; and the ships of England, manned by English crews and commanded by her great captains the legitimate successors of the old Vikings dominated the seas. No enterprise was too hazardous for these hardy mariners to undertake, and no disparity of force ever induced them to pause. Philip was often wrought to frenzy as he saw these bold corsairs capture his treasure-ships and ravage his coasts in sight of his invincible but impotent armies.
The mode of attack which Philip determined upon consisted of two distinct but co-operative movements. A formidable army of invasion, under the Duke of Parma, the most experienced and skillful commander in Europe, was stationed at the several ports of the Low Countries, opposite the British coast, from Dunkirk east. Innumerable transports were provided to convey this host across the Channel, and, once on English ground, an easy and triumphant march to London was expected. The second part of the grand expedition consisted of an immense fleet of the largest vessels ever built, under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, which was to drive away the English ships and convoy the army of Parma to the English shore. This fleet was christened by the Spaniards "The Invincible Armada." "Philip hastened his preparations with all the energy he could command. In every port resounded the axe and hammer of the ship-builder; in every arsenal blazed the flames of busy forges. All Spanish Europe echoed with the din of arms. Provisions were amassed in a thousand granaries; soldiers were daily mustered on the parade-grounds, drilled, and accustomed to the use of arquebus and cannon.
Carts and wagons were built in hundreds for the conveyance of stores; spades, mattocks; and baskets were got ready for the pioneers; iron and brass ordnance were cast, and leaden shot melted in enormous quantities; nor were the instruments of torture--the thumb-screw and the 'jailer's daughter'--forgotten."
In 1587 the preparations were nearly completed, and the Armada was about ready to sail, when a knowledge of its destination became known to Sir Francis Drake, the great English commander. Without considering the disparity of force, the old sea-king, with a fleet of swift-sailing vessels, made a sudden descent upon the port of Cadiz, where the ships of the Armada were at anchor. Many of the larger vessels escaped by taking refuge under the guns of the forts, but the city was lit up by the blaze of one hundred and fifty burning ships, and the great enterprise was delayed for another year.
Interesting Facts and Information about the Elizabethan Age and The Spanish Armada