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Today in History – 19 April 1587
Sir Francis Drake Destroys the Spanish Fleet in Cadiz, Spain
War had broken out (Anglo-Spanish War of 1585 to 1604) between the Spanish and English – between Roman Catholic Spain and Protestant England. But it was more than just a religious war, for there were also political and economic agitations. English privateers were having a major impact on Spanish shipping. English support for the Netherlands in their fight for independence against Spain and also their support for an alternative Portuguese ruler (Portugal were in league with Spain) were a constant annoyance to the Spanish Empire. England saw Spain as a major threat to their security. Soon it was war, with Spain determined to invade England and crush Protestantism in its infancy.
Sir Francis Drake had been one of the thorns in Spain’s side, acting as a privateer in the Spanish Indies and taking many a Spanish ship as a prize. He was given command of an English fleet and set out to attack the Spanish on the 12th April 1587. On the 19th April 1587, Sir Francis Drake carried out what he described as having ‘singed the beard of the King of Spain,’ by sinking the Spanish fleet at harbor in the Bay of Cadiz, Spain. Up to 33 ships were destroyed and four were captured. This occurred the year prior to the sinking of the Spanish Armada during the attempted invasion of England.
When the fleet returned to England on the 6th of July, they had sunk over 100 enemy vessels and suceeded in setting back the planned Spanish invasion of England by a year. Drake had already sealed his place in history as one of England’s heroes, but his work had only just begun.