Year
1588

Spanish Armada sets sail

A massive Spanish fleet, known as the “Invincible Armada,” sets sail from Lisbon on a mission to secure control of the English Channel and transport a Spanish invasion army to Britain from the Netherlands.

In the late 1580s, Queen Elizabeth’s support of the Dutch rebels in the Spanish Netherlands led King Philip II of Spain to plan the conquest of England. A giant Spanish invasion fleet was completed by 1587, but Sir Francis Drake’s daring raid on the port of Cadiz delayed the Armada’s departure until May 1588. The Invincible Armada consisted of 130 ships and carried 2,500 guns and 30,000 men, two-thirds of them soldiers. Delayed by storms, the Armada did not reach the southern coast of England until late July. By that time the British were ready.

On July 21, the outnumbered English navy began bombarding the seven-mile-long line of Spanish ships from a safe distance, taking full advantage of their superior long-range guns. The Spanish Armada continued to advance during the next few days, but its ranks were thinned considerably by the English assault. On July 28, the Spanish retreated to Calais, France, but the English sent ships loaded with explosives into the crowded harbor, which took a heavy toll on the Armada. The next day, an attempt to reach the Netherlands was thwarted by a small Dutch fleet, and the Spanish were forced to face the pursuing English fleet. The superior English guns again won the day, and the Armada retreated north to Scotland.

Battered by storms and suffering from a lack of supplies, the Armada sailed on a difficult journey back to Spain through the North Sea and around Ireland. By the time the last of the surviving fleet reached Spain in October, half of the original armada was destroyed. Queen Elizabeth’s decisive defeat of the Invincible Armada made England a world-class naval power and introduced effective long-range weapons into naval warfare for the first time, ending the era of boarding and close-quarter fighting.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Anne Boleyn is executed

On this day in 1536, Anne Boleyn, the infamous second wife of King Henry VIII, is executed on charges including adultery, incest and conspiracy against the king. CATHERINE OF ARAGON King Henry had become enamored of Anne Boleyn in the mid-1520s, when she returned from serving in ...read more

Ohio Company chartered

King George II of England grants the Ohio Company a charter of several hundred thousand acres of land around the forks of the Ohio River, thereby promoting westward settlement by American colonists from Virginia. France had claimed the entire Ohio River Valley in the previous ...read more

Lawrence of Arabia dies

T.E. Lawrence, known to the world as Lawrence of Arabia, dies as a retired Royal Air Force mechanic living under an assumed name. The legendary war hero, author, and archaeological scholar succumbed to injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident six days before. Thomas Edward ...read more

Cynthia Ann Parker is kidnapped

During a raid, Commanche, Kiowa, and Caddo Indians in Texas kidnap nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker and kill her family. Adopted into the Commanche tribe, she lived a happy life until Texas Rangers recaptured her and forced her to return to live again among Anglo-Americans. Silas ...read more

Oscar Wilde is released from jail

On this day in 1897, writer Oscar Wilde is released from jail after two years of hard labor. His experiences in prison were the basis for his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898). Wilde was born and educated in Ireland. He studied at Oxford, graduated with honors in 1878, ...read more

The Da Vinci Code opens

Amid a firestorm of publicity and controversy, the director Ron Howard’s big-screen adaptation of Dan Brown’s mega-bestselling thriller The Da Vinci Code debuts in theaters on this day in 2006. Howard directed the $125 million film from a script by Akiva Goldsman; the pair had ...read more

Avian flu kills young boy

A three-year-old boy dies of avian influenza in Hong Kong on this day in 1997. By the time the outbreak was controlled, six people were dead and 1.6 million domestic fowl were destroyed. The young boy, the first victim of the flu outbreak, had been hospitalized six days ...read more

The early years of species protection

The colony of New York passes a law making it illegal to “gather, rake, take up, or bring to the market, any oysters whatsoever” between the months of May and September. This regulation was only one of many that were passed in the early days of America to help preserve certain ...read more

Battle of Spotsylvania concludes

A dozen days of fighting around Spotsylvania, Virginia, ends with a Confederate attack against the Union forces. The epic campaign between the Army of the Potomac, under the effective direction of Ulysses S. Grant, and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began at the ...read more