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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

In succession to Catholic Mary


Philip's

relations with England, in which the outstanding event was the defeat of the Spanish Armada, had elements of importance as affecting Spanish history, especially in so far as they concerned English depredations in the Americas. They were more important to England, however, than to Spain, and the story from the English standpoint has become a familiar one. From the moment of Protestant Elizabeth's accession to the English throne in 1558, in succession to Catholic Mary, there was a constant atmosphere of impending conflict between Spain and England. Greatest of the motives in Philip's mind was that her rule meant a Protestant England, a serious break in the authority of Catholic Christianity, but there were other causes for war as well. English aid of an unofficial but substantial character was helping to sustain the Protestant Netherlands in revolt against Spain. In the Americas "beyond the line" (of Tordesillas) the two countries were virtually at war, although in the main it was a conflict of piratical attacks and the sacking of cities on the part of the English, with acts of retaliation by the Spaniards. This was the age of Drake's and Hawkins' exploits along the Spanish Main (in the Caribbean area), but it was also the age of Gilbert and Raleigh, and the first, though ineffectual, attempts of England to despoil Spain of her American dominions through the founding of colonies in the Spanish-claimed new world. Incidents of a special character served to accentuate the feeling engendered
by these more permanent causes,--such, for example, as Elizabeth's appropriation of the treasure which Philip was sending to the Low Countries as pay for his soldiers: the Spanish vessels took shelter in an English port to escape from pirates, whereupon Elizabeth proceeded to "borrow," as she termed it, the wealth they were carrying. Hard pressed for funds as Philip always was, this was indeed a severe blow.

[Sidenote: Why a declaration of war was delayed.]

Nevertheless, a declaration of war was postponed for nearly thirty years. English historians ascribe the delay to the diplomatic skill of their favorite queen, but, while there is no need to deny her resourcefulness in that respect, there were reasons in plenty why Philip himself was desirous of deferring hostilities, or better still, avoiding them. In view of his existing troubles with France and the Low Countries he drew back before the enormous expense that a war with England would entail, to say nothing of the military difficulties of attacking an island power. Though he received frequent invitations from the Catholics of England and Scotland to effect an invasion, these projects were too often linked with similar proposals to the kings of France, the leading European opponents of the Spanish monarch. Philip wished to break the power of Elizabeth and of Protestantism if possible, however, and gave encouragement to plots against the life of the English queen or to schemes for revolutionary uprisings in favor of Mary Stuart, a Catholic and Elizabeth's rival, but none of these designs met with success. Many Spanish leaders urged a descent upon England, among them Juan of Austria, who wished to lead the expeditionary force himself, dreaming possibly of an English crown for his reward, but it was not until 1583 that Philip viewed these proposals with favor.


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