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Spain declares war against Great Britain

Spain declares war against Great Britain

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On June 21, 1779, Spain declares war on Great Britain, creating a de facto alliance with the Americans.

Spain’s King Charles III would not consent to a treaty of alliance with the United States. For one imperial power to encourage another imperial power’s colonies in revolt was a treacherous game, and he was unwilling to play. However, French Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, managed to negotiate a treaty with Spain to join their war against the British. As the ally of the United States’ ally, Spain managed to endorse the revolt at a critical diplomatic distance.

The American Revolution had already spawned a world war between the two international powers of Britain and France. Spain’s entry into the imbroglio ensured that the British would have to spread their resources even thinner. King Charles wanted to reclaim Gibraltar for Spain and secure Spanish borders in North America and the Spanish immediately laid siege to Gibraltar at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea. The British managed to drive the Spanish from Gibraltar on February 7, 1783, having constructed an 82-foot-long tunnel into the north face of the rock of Gibraltar, known as the “Notch,” in order to supply it with cannon. However, King Charles succeeded in his North American goals. The Spanish took West Florida by force and attained East Florida by cession when the War for Independence ended; they were also able to secure the Gulf of Mexico.

16 June 1779: Spain declares war on Great Britain

The Great Siege of Gibraltar, the longest siege ever endured by the British Armed Forces, began after Spain officially declared war on Great Britain on 16 June, 1779.

The siege was an unsuccessful attempt by Spain and France to capture Gibraltar from the British during the American War of Independence (1775 -1783). The war began as a conflict between Great Britain and its North American colonies, but by 1779 both Spain and France had offered their allegiance to America.

France had already declared war on Britain in 1778, and in April 1779, they, along with Spain, signed the Treaty of Aranjuez.

Spain declared war on Great Britain in 1779 and, together with France, set about recovering lost territory. Spain's main goal, as it was in the Seven Years' War, was the recovery of Gibraltar and Minorca, the latter they took with relative ease.

Gibraltar, which was crucial in Britain's control of the Mediterranean Sea, would prove impossible to conquer.

The Rock had been a British Overseas Colony since 1704, and its defence during the siege was down to the expertise of George Augustus Eliott, a British officer who had served in three major wars during the eighteenth century.

Eliott had been appointed Governor of Gibraltar in 1777 and during the assault he used his engineering skills to good effect in improving the fortifications. He was a self-restrained man - his diet comprising vegetables, biscuits and water - who rarely slept for more than four hours at a time.

Spain expected the capture of Gibraltar to be relatively quick, but the British had anticipated an attack for some time, and a number of ships had sailed to reinforce the Rock.

Although the Spanish deployed a blockade of Gibraltar in order to starve the garrison, the British were able to hold out in the fortress, receiving occasional supplies that were smuggled in by sea.

The Siege of Gibraltar was to last three years and seven months, yet despite the greater strength of the besieging Franco-Spanish forces - around 33,000 - the British managed to defend the Rock under great duress. In September 1782, the Spanish and French armies initiated a grand attack, involving 48 ships, but the garrison held its position and by 1783, the siege was over. The British Parliament sent their official thanks to Eliott and he was nominated a Knight of the Bath, an honour invested on him at Gibraltar on 23 April 1783.

Eliott returned to England in 1787, where he was given the title Lord Heathfield, Baron Heathfield of Gibraltar. In recognition of his outstanding achievement, many statues and portraits were produced in his honour. A portrait titled The Installation Supper, which resides in the National Portrait Gallery, was painted by the British caricaturist James Gillray in 1778.

Eliott died in Germany while returning to Gibraltar in 1790. There is a bust of Eliott in the Botanic Gardens in Gibraltar.


  • History of Sea Power one of contest between nations, therefore largely military
  • Permanence of the teachings of history
  • Unsettled condition of modern naval opinion
  • Contrasts between historical classes of war-ships
  • Essential distinction between weather and lee gage
  • Analogous to other offensive and defensive positions
  • Consequent effect upon naval policy
  • Lessons of history apply especially to strategy
  • Less obviously to tactics, but still applicable
  • Naval strategic combinations surer now than formerly
  • Wide scope of naval strategy
  • The sea a great common
  • Advantages of water-carriage over that by land
  • Navies exist for the protection of commerce
  • Dependence of commerce upon secure seaports
  • Development of colonies and colonial posts
  • Links in the chain of Sea Power: production, shipping, colonies
  • General conditions affecting Sea Power:
    • I. Geographical position
    • II. Physical conformation
    • III. Extent of territory
    • IV. Number of population
    • V. National character
    • VI. Character and policy of governments
      • England
      • Holland
      • France
      • Its weakness in Sea Power
      • Its chief interest in internal development
      • Danger from blockades
      • Dependence of the navy upon the shipping interest
      • Accession of Charles II. and Louis XIV
      • Followed shortly by general wars
      • French policy formulated by Henry IV. and Richelieu
      • Condition of France in 1660
      • Condition of Spain
      • Condition of the Dutch United Provinces
      • Their commerce and colonies
      • Character of their government
      • Parties in the State
      • Condition of England in 1660
      • Characteristics of French, English, and Dutch ships
      • Conditions of other European States
      • Louis XIV. The leading personality in Europe
      • His policy
      • Colbert's administrative acts
      • Second Anglo-Dutch War, 1665
      • Battle of Lowestoft, 1665
      • Fire-ships, compared with torpedo-cruisers
      • The group formation
      • The order of battle for sailing-ships
      • The Four Days' Battle, 1666
      • Military merits of the opposing fleets
      • Soldiers commanding fleets, discussion
      • Ruyter in the Thames, 1667
      • Peace of Breda, 1667
      • Military value of commerce-destroying
      • Aggressions of Louis XIV. on Spanish Netherlands
      • Policy of the United Provinces
      • Triple alliance between England, Holland, and Sweden
      • Anger of Louis XIV
      • Leibnitz proposes to Louis to seize Egypt
      • His memorial
      • Bargaining between Louis XIV. and Charles II.
      • The two kings declare war against the United Provinces
      • Military character of this war
      • Naval strategy of the Dutch
      • Tactical combinations of De Ruyter
      • Inefficiency of Dutch naval administration
      • Battle of Solebay, 1672
      • Tactical comments
      • Effect of the battle on the course of the war
      • Land campaign of the French in Holland
      • Murder of John De Witt, Grand Pensionary of Holland
      • Accession to power of William of Orange
      • Uneasiness among European States
      • Naval battles off Schoneveldt, 1673
      • Naval battle of the Texel, 1673
      • Effect upon the general war
      • Equivocal action of the French fleet
      • General ineffectiveness of maritime coalitions
      • Military character of De Ruyter
      • Coalition against France
      • Peace between England and the United Provinces
      • Sicilian revolt against Spain
      • Battle of Stromboli, 1676
      • Illustration of Clerk's naval tactics
      • De Ruyter killed off Agosta
      • England becomes hostile to France
      • Sufferings of the United Provinces
      • Peace of Nimeguen, 1678
      • Effects of the war on France and Holland
      • Notice of Comte D'Estrees
      • Failure of the Spanish line of the House of Austria
      • King of Spain wills the succession to the Duke of Anjou
      • Death of the King of Spain
      • Louis XIV. accepts the bequests
      • He seizes towns in Spanish Netherlands
      • Offensive alliance between England, Holland, and Austria
      • Declarations of war
      • The allies proclaim Carlos III. King of Spain
      • Affair of the Vigo galleons
      • Portugal joins the allies
      • Character of the naval warfare
      • Capture of Gibraltar by the English
      • Naval battle of Malaga, 1704
      • Decay of the French navy
      • Progress of the land war
      • Allies seize Sardinia and Minorca
      • Disgrace of Marlborough
      • England offers terms of peace
      • Peace of Utrecht, 1713
      • Terms of the peace
      • Results of the war to the different belligerents
      • Commanding position of Great Britain
      • Sea Power dependent upon both commerce and naval strength
      • Peculiar position of France as regards Sea Power
      • Depressed condition of France
      • Commercial prosperity of England
      • Ineffectiveness of commerce-destroying
      • Duguay-Trouin's expedition against Rio de Janeiro, 1711
      • War between Russia and Sweden
      • Death of Queen Anne and Louis XIV
      • Accession of George I
      • Regency of Philip of Orleans
      • Administration of Alberoni in Spain
      • Spaniards invade Sardinia
      • Alliance of Austria, England, Holland, and France
      • Spaniards invade Sicily
      • Destruction of Spanish navy off Cape Passaro, 1718
      • Failure and dismissal of Alberoni
      • Spain accepts terms
      • Great Britain interferes in the Baltic
      • Death of Philip of Orleans
      • Administration of Fleuri in France
      • Growth of French commerce
      • France in the East Indies
      • Troubles between England and Spain
      • English contraband trade in Spanish America
      • Illegal search of English ships
      • Walpole's struggles to preserve peace
      • War of the Polish Succession
      • Creation of the Bourbon kingdom of the Two Sicilies
      • Bourbon family compact
      • France acquires Bar and Lorraine
      • England declares war against Spain
      • Morality of the English action toward Spain
      • Decay of the French navy
      • Death of Walpole and of Fleuri
      • Characteristics of the wars from 1739 to 1783
      • Neglect of the navy by French government
      • Colonial possessions of the French, English, and Spaniards
      • Dupleix and La Bourdonnais in India
      • Condition of the contending navies
      • Expeditions of Vernon and Anson
      • Outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession
      • England allies herself to Austria
      • Naval affairs in the Mediterranean
      • Influence of Sea Power on the war
      • Naval battle off Toulon, 1744
      • Causes of English failure
      • Courts-martial following the action
      • Inefficient action of English navy
      • Capture of Louisburg by New England colonists, 1745
      • Causes which concurred to neutralize England's Sea Power
      • France overruns Belgium and invades Holland
      • Naval actions of Anson and Hawke
      • Brilliant defence of Commodore l'Etenduere
      • Projects of Dupleix and La Bourdonnais in the East Indies
      • Influence of Sea Power in Indian affairs
      • La Bourdonnais reduces Madras
      • Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748
      • Madras exchanged for Louisburg
      • Results of the war
      • Effect of Sea Power on the issue
      • Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle leaves many questions unsettled
      • Dupleix pursues his aggressive policy
      • He is recalled from India
      • His policy abandoned by the French
      • Agitation in North America
      • Braddock's expedition, 1755
      • Seizure of French ships by the English, while at peace
      • French expedition against Port Mahon, 1756
      • Byng sails to relieve the place
      • Byng's action off Port Mahon, 1756
      • Characteristics of the French naval policy
      • Byng returns to Gibraltar
      • He is relieved, tried by court-martial, and shot
      • Formal declarations of war by England and France
      • England's appreciation of the maritime character of the war
      • France is drawn into a continental struggle
      • The Seven Years' War (1756-1763) begins
      • Pitt becomes Prime Minister of England
      • Operations in North America
      • Fall of Louisburg, 1758
      • Fall of Quebec, 1759, and of Montreal, 1760
      • Influence of Sea Power on the continental war
      • English plans for the general naval operations
      • Choiseul becomes Minister in France
      • He plans an invasion of England
      • Sailing of the Toulon fleet, 1759
      • Its disastrous encounter with Boscawen
      • Consequent frustration of the invasion of England
      • Project to invade Scotland
      • Sailing of the Brest fleet
      • Hawke falls in with it and disperses it, 1759
      • Accession of Charles III. To Spanish throne
      • Death of George II
      • Clive in India
      • Battle of Plassey, 1757
      • Decisive influence of Sea Power upon the issues in India
      • Naval actions between Pocock and D'Ache', 1758, 1759
      • Destitute condition of French naval stations in India
      • The French fleet abandons the struggle
      • Final fall of the French power in India
      • Ruined condition of the French navy
      • Alliance between France and Spain
      • England declares war against Spain
      • Rapid conquest of French and Spanish colonies
      • French and Spaniards invade Portugal
      • The invasion repelled by England
      • Severe reverses of the Spaniards in all quarters
      • Spain sues for peace
      • Losses of British mercantile shipping
      • Increase of British commerce
      • Commanding position of Great Britain
      • Relations of England and Portugal
      • Terms of the Treaty of Paris
      • Opposition to the treaty in Great Britain
      • Results of the maritime war
      • Results of the continental war
      • Influence of Sea Power in countries politically unstable
      • Interest of the United States in the Central American Isthmus
      • Effects of the Seven Years' War on the later history of Great Britain
      • Subsequent acquisitions of Great Britain
      • British success due to maritime superiority
      • Mutual dependence of seaports and fleets
      • French discontent with the Treaty of Paris
      • Revival of the French navy
      • Discipline among French naval officers of the time
      • Choiseul's foreign policy
      • Domestic troubles in Great Britain
      • Controversies with the North American colonies
      • Genoa cedes Corsica to France
      • Dispute between England and Spain about the Falkland Islands
      • Choiseul dismissed
      • Death of Louis XV
      • Naval policy of Louis XVI
      • Characteristics of the maritime war of 1778
      • Instructions of Louis XVI. To the French admirals
      • Strength of English navy
      • Characteristics of the military situation in America
      • The line of the Hudson
      • Burgoyne's expedition from Canada
      • Howe carries his army from New York to the Chesapeake
      • Surrender of Burgoyne, 1777
      • American privateering
      • Clandestine support of the Americans by France
      • Treaty between France and the Americans
      • Vital importance of the French fleet to the Americans
      • The military situation in the different quarters of the globe
      • Breach between France and England
      • Sailing of the British and French fleets
      • Battle of Ushant, 1778
      • Position of a naval commander-in-chief in battle
      • D'Estaing sails from Toulon for Delaware Bay, 1778
      • British ordered to evacuate Philadelphia
      • Rapidity of Lord Howe's movements
      • D'Estaing arrives too late
      • Follows Howe to New York
      • Fails to attack there and sails for Newport
      • Howe follows him there
      • Both fleets dispersed by a storm
      • D'Estaing takes his fleet to Boston
      • Howe's activity foils D'Estaing at all points
      • D'Estaing sails for the West Indies
      • The English seize Sta. Lucia
      • Ineffectual attempts of D'Estaing to dislodge them
      • D'Estaing captures Grenada
      • Naval battle of Grenada, 1779 English ships crippled
      • D'Estaing fails to improve his advantages
      • Reasons for his neglect
      • French naval policy
      • English operations in the Southern States
      • D'Estaing takes his fleet to Savannah
      • His fruitless assault on Savannah
      • D'Estaing returns to France
      • Fall of Charleston
      • De Guichen takes command in the West Indies
      • Rodney arrives to command English fleet
      • His military character
      • First action between Rodney and De Guichen, 1780
      • Breaking the line
      • Subsequent movements of Rodney and De Guichen
      • Rodney divides his fleet
      • Goes in person to New York
      • De Guichen returns to France
      • Arrival of French forces in Newport
      • Rodney returns to the West Indies
      • War between England and Holland
      • Disasters to the United States in 1780
      • De Grasse sails from Brest for the West Indies, 1781
      • Engagement with English fleet off Martinique.
      • Cornwallis overruns the Southern States
      • He retires upon Wilmington, N. C., and thence to Virginia
      • Arnold on the James River
      • The French fleet leaves Newport to intercept Arnold
      • Meets the English fleet off the Chesapeake, 1781
      • French fleet returns to Newport
      • Cornwallis occupies Yorktown
      • De Grasse sails from Hayti for the Chesapeake
      • Action with the British fleet, 1781
      • Surrender of Cornwallis, 1781
      • Criticism of the British naval operations
      • Energy and address shown by De Grasse
      • Difficulties of Great Britain's position in the war of 1778.
      • The military policy best fitted to cope with them
      • Position of the French squadron in Newport, R. I., 1780.
      • Great Britain's defensive position and inferior numbers.
      • Consequent necessity for a vigorous initiative
      • Washington's opinions as to the influence of Sea Power on the American contest
      • Objectives of the allied operations in Europe
      • Spain declares war against England
      • Allied fleets enter the English Channel, 1779
      • Abortive issue of the cruise
      • Rodney sails with supplies for Gibraltar
      • Defeats the Spanish squadron of Langara and relieves the place
      • The allies capture a great British convoy
      • The armed neutrality of the Baltic powers, 1780
      • England declares war against Holland
      • Gibraltar is revictualled by Admiral Derby
      • The allied fleets again in the Channel, 1781
      • They retire without effecting any damage to England
      • Destruction of a French convoy for the West Indies
      • Fall of Port Mahon, 1782
      • The allied fleets assemble at Algesiras
      • Grand attack of the allies on Gibraltar, which fails, 1782
      • Lord Howe succeeds in revictualling Gibraltar
      • Action between his fleet and that of the allies
      • Conduct of the war of 1778 by the English government
      • Influence of Sea Power
      • Proper use of the naval force
      • Neglect of India by the French government
      • England at war with Mysore and with the Mahrattas
      • Arrival of the French squadron under Comte d'Orves
      • It effects nothing and returns to the Isle of France
      • Suffren sails from Brest with five ships-of-the-line, 1781
      • Attacks an English squadron in the Cape Verde Islands, 1781
      • Conduct and results of this attack
      • Distinguishing merits of Suffren as a naval leader
      • Suffren saves the Cape Colony from the English
      • He reaches the Isle of France
      • Succeeds to the chief command of the French fleet
      • Meets the British squadron under Hughes at Madras
      • Analysis of the naval strategic situation in India
      • The first battle between Suffren and Hughes, Feb. 17, 1782
      • Suffren's views of the naval situation in India
      • Tactical oversights made by Suffren
      • Inadequate support received by him from his captains
      • Suffren goes to Pondicherry, Hughes to Trincomalee
      • The second battle between Suffren and Hughes, April 12, 1782
      • Suffren's tactics in the action
      • Relative injuries received by the opposing fleets
      • Contemporaneous English criticisms upon Hughes's conduct
      • Destitute condition of Suffren's fleet
      • His activity and success in supplying wants
      • He communicates with Hyder Ali, Sultan of Mysore
      • Firmness and insight shown by Suffren
      • His refusal to obey orders from home to leave the Indian Coast
      • The third battle between Suffren and Hughes, July 6, 1782
      • Qualities shown by Hughes
      • Stubborn fighting by the British admiral and captains
      • Suffren deprives three captains of their commands
      • Dilatory conduct of Admiral Hughes
      • Suffren attacks and takes Trincomalee
      • Strategic importance of this success
      • Comparative condition of the two fleets in material for repairs
      • The English government despatches powerful reinforcements
      • The French court fails to support Suffren
      • The fourth battle between Suffren and Hughes, Sept. 3, 1782
      • Mismanagement and injuries of the French
      • Contrast between the captains in the opposing fleets
      • Two ships of Suffren's fleet grounded and lost
      • Arrival of British reinforcements under Admiral Bickerton
      • Approach of bad-weather season Hughes goes to Bombay
      • Military situation of French and English in India
      • Delays of the French reinforcements under Bussy
      • Suffren takes his fleet to Achem, in Sumatra
      • He returns to the Indian coast
      • Arrival of Bussy
      • Decline of the French power on shore
      • The English besiege Bussy in Cuddalore by land and sea
      • Suffren relieves the place
      • The fifth battle between Suffren and Hughes, June 20, 1783
      • Decisive character of Suffren's action
      • News of the peace received at Madras
      • Suffren sails for France
      • His flattering reception everywhere
      • His distinguishing military qualities
      • His later career and death
      • Maritime struggle transferred from the continent to West Indies
      • De Grasse sails for the islands
      • French expedition against the island of St. Christopher, January, 1782
      • Hood attempts to relieve the garrison
      • Manoeuvres of the two fleets
      • Action between De Grasse and Hood
      • Hood seizes the anchorage left by De Grasse
      • De Grasse attacks Hood at his anchorage
      • Hood maintains his position
      • Surrender of the garrison and island
      • Merits of Hood's action
      • Criticism upon De Grasse's conduct
      • Rodney arrives in West Indies from England
      • Junction of Rodney and Hood at Antigua
      • De Grasse returns to Martinique
      • Allied plans to capture Jamaica
      • Rodney takes his station at Sta. Lucia
      • The French fleet sails and is pursued by Rodney
      • Action of April 9, 1782
      • Criticism upon the action
      • The chase continued accidents to French ships
      • The naval battle of the Saints, April 12, 1782
      • Rodney breaks the French line
      • Capture of the French commander-in-chief and five ships-of-the-line
      • Details of the action
      • Analysis of the effects of Rodney's manoeuvre
      • Tactical bearing of improvements in naval equipment
      • Lessons of this short naval campaign
      • Rodney's failure to pursue the French fleet
      • Examination of his reasons and of the actual conditions
      • Probable effect of this failure upon the conditions of peace
      • Rodney's opinions upon the battle of April 12
      • Successes achieved by Rodney during his command
      • He is recalled by a new ministry
      • Exaggerated view of the effects of this battle upon the war
      • Subsequent career of De Grasse
      • Court-martial ordered upon the officers of the French fleet
      • Findings of the court
      • De Grasse appeals against the finding
      • He is severely rebuked by the king
      • Deaths of De Grasse, Rodney, and Hood
      • The war of 1778 purely maritime
      • Peculiar interest therefore attaching to it
      • Successive steps in the critical study of a war
      • Distinction between "object" and "objective"
      • Parties to the war of 1778
      • Objects of the different belligerents
      • Foundations of the British Empire of the seas
      • Threatened by the revolt of the colonies
      • The British fleet inferior in numbers to the allies
      • Choice of objectives
      • The fleets indicated as the keys of the situation everywhere
      • Elements essential to an active naval war
      • The bases of operations in the war of 1778
        • In Europe
        • On the American continent
        • In the West Indies
        • In the East Indies

        This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


        In the 1560s, Philip II of Spain was faced with increasing religious disturbances as Protestantism gained adherents in his domains in the Low Countries. As a defender of the Catholic Church, he sought to suppress the rising Protestant movement in his territories, which eventually exploded into open rebellion in 1566. Meanwhile, relations with the regime of Elizabeth I of England continued to deteriorate, following her restoration of royal supremacy over the Church of England through the Act of Supremacy in 1559 this had been first instituted by her father Henry VIII and rescinded by her sister Mary I, Philip's wife. The Act was considered by Catholics as a usurpation of papal authority. Calls by leading English Protestants to support the Protestant Dutch rebels against Philip increased tensions further as did the Catholic-Protestant disturbances in France, which saw both sides supporting the opposing French factions.

        Complicating matters were commercial disputes. The activities of English sailors, begun by Sir John Hawkins in 1562, gained the tacit support of Elizabeth, even though the Spanish government complained that Hawkins's trade with their colonies in the West Indies constituted smuggling. In September 1568, a slaving expedition led by Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake was surprised by the Spanish, and several ships were captured or sunk at the Battle of San Juan de Ulúa near Veracruz in New Spain. This engagement soured Anglo-Spanish relations and in the following year the English detained several treasure ships sent by the Spanish to supply their army in the Netherlands. Drake and Hawkins intensified their privateering as a way to break the Spanish monopoly on Atlantic trade. Francis Drake went on a privateering voyage where he eventually circumnavigated the globe between 1577 and 1580. Spanish colonial ports were plundered and a number of ships were captured including the treasure galleon Nuestra Señora de la Concepción. When news of his exploits reached Europe, Elizabeth's relations with Philip continued to deteriorate.

        Soon after the Portuguese succession crisis of 1580, English support was provided to António, Prior of Crato who then fought in his struggle with Philip II for the Portuguese throne. Philip in return began to support the Catholic rebellion in Ireland against Elizabeth's religious reforms. Both Philip's and Elizabeth's attempts to support opposing factions were defeated.

        In 1584, Philip signed the Treaty of Joinville with the Catholic League of France to stop the rise of Protestantism there. In the Spanish Netherlands, England had secretly supported the side of the Dutch Protestant United Provinces, who were fighting for independence from Spain. In 1584, the Prince of Orange had been assassinated, leaving a sense of alarm as well as a political vacuum. The following year was a further blow to the Dutch with the capture of Antwerp by Spanish forces led by Alexander Farnese, the Duke of Parma. The Dutch rebels sought help from England, which Elizabeth agreed to as she feared that a Spanish reconquest there would threaten England. [3] The Treaty of Nonsuch was signed as a result – Elizabeth agreed to provide the Dutch with men, horses, and subsidies but she declined overall sovereignty. In return, the Dutch handed over four Cautionary Towns which were garrisoned by English troops. Philip took this to be an open declaration of war against his rule in the Netherlands.

        The Anglo-Spanish War broke out in 1585, following the seizure of English merchant ships in Spanish harbors. In response the English privy council immediately authorised a campaign against the Spanish fishing industry in Newfoundland and off the Grand Banks. [4] The campaign was a huge success, and subsequently led to England's first sustained activity in the Americas. [5] In August, England joined the Eighty Years' War on the side of the Dutch Protestant United Provinces, which had declared their independence from Spain.

        The Queen through Francis Walsingham ordered Sir Francis Drake to lead an expedition to attack the Spanish New World in a kind of preemptive strike. Drake sailed in October to the West Indies, and in January 1586 captured and sacked Santo Domingo. The following month they did the same at Cartagena de Indias and in May sailed North to raid St. Augustine in Florida. When Drake arrived in England in July he became a national hero. In Spain however, the news was a disaster and this now further buoyed a Spanish invasion of England by King Philip. [6] Thomas Cavendish meanwhile set out with three ships on 21 July 1586 to raid Spanish settlements in South America. Cavendish raided three Spanish settlements and captured or burned thirteen ships. Among these was a rich 600 ton treasure galleon Santa Ana the biggest treasure haul that ever fell in English hands. Cavendish circumnavigated the globe returning to England on 9 September 1588. [7]

        Dutch Revolt (1585–1587) Edit

        Robert Dudley, The Earl of Leicester was sent to the United Provinces in 1585 with a dignitary party and took the offer of Governor of the United Provinces. This, however, was met with fury from Elizabeth who had expressed no desire for any sovereignty over the Dutch. An English mercenary army had been present since the beginning of the war and was then under the command of veteran Sir John Norreys. They combined forces but were undermanned and under financed, and faced one of the most powerful armies in Europe led by the famed Alexander Farnese, the Duke of Parma. [8] During the siege of Grave the following year Dudley attempted its relief but the Dutch garrison commander Hadewij van Hemert surrendered the town to the Spanish. Dudley was furious on hearing of Grave's sudden loss and had van Hemert executed, which shocked the Dutch. [9] The English force then had some successes – taking Axel in July and Doesburg the following month. Dudley's poor diplomacy with the Dutch however made matters worse. His political base weakened and so too did the military situation. [10] Outside Zutphen an English force was defeated in which notable poet Philip Sidney was mortally wounded, which was a huge blow to English morale. Zutphen itself and Deventer were betrayed by Catholic turncoats William Stanley and Rowland York which further damaged Leicester's reputation. Finally Sluis with a largely English garrison was besieged and taken by the Duke of Parma in June 1587 after the Dutch refused to help in the relief. This resulted in mutual recriminations between Leicester and the States. [11]

        Leicester soon realised how dire his situation was and asked to be recalled. He resigned his post as Governor – his tenure was a military and political failure, and as a result, he was financially ruined. [12] After Leicester's departure, the Dutch elected the Prince of Orange's son Count Maurice of Nassau as the Stadtholder and Governor. At the same time Peregrine Bertie took over English forces in the Netherlands.

        Spanish Armada Edit

        On 8 February 1587, the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots outraged Catholics in Europe, and her claim on the English throne passed (by her own deed of will) to Philip. In retaliation for the execution of Mary, Philip vowed to invade England to place a Catholic monarch on its throne. In April 1587 Philip's preparations suffered a setback when Francis Drake burned 37 Spanish ships in the harbour of Cádiz, and as a result the invasion of England had to be postponed for over a year.

        On 29 July, Philip obtained Papal authority to overthrow Elizabeth, who had been excommunicated by Pope Pius V, and place whomever he chose on the throne of England. He assembled a fleet of about 130 ships, containing 8,000 soldiers and 18,000 sailors. To finance this endeavour, Pope Sixtus V had permitted Philip to collect crusade taxes. Sixtus had promised a further subsidy to the Spanish should they reach English soil. [13]

        On 28 May 1588, the Armada under the command of Duke of Medina Sidonia set sail for the Netherlands, where it was to pick up additional troops for the invasion of England. As the armada sailed through the English channel, the English navy led by Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham, and Francis Drake fought a battle of attrition with the Spanish from Plymouth to Portland and then to the Solent, preventing them from securing any English harbours. [14] The Spanish were forced to withdraw to Calais. While the Spanish were at anchor there in a crescent-shaped defensive formation, the English used fireships to break the formation and scatter the Spanish ships. In the subsequent Battle of Gravelines the English navy inflicted a defeat on the Armada and forced it to sail northward in more dangerous stormy waters on the long way home. As they sailed around Scotland, the Armada suffered severe damage and loss of life from stormy weather. As they approached the West coast of Ireland more damaging stormy conditions forced ships ashore while others were wrecked. Disease took a heavy toll as the fleet finally limped back to port. [15]

        Philip's invasion plans had miscarried partly because of unfortunate weather and his own mismanagement, and partly because the opportunistic defensive naval efforts of the English and their Dutch allies prevailed. The defeat of the Armada provided valuable seafaring experience for English oceanic mariners. While the English were able to persist in their privateering against the Spanish and continue sending troops to assist Philip II's enemies in the Netherlands and France, these efforts brought few tangible rewards. [16] One of the most important effects of the event was that the Armada's failure was seen as a sign that God supported the Protestant Reformation in England. One of the medals struck to celebrate the English victory bore the Latin/Hebrew inscription Flavit יהוה et Dissipati Sunt (literally: "Yahweh blew and they were scattered" traditionally translated more freely as: "He blew with His winds, and they were scattered".)

        English Armada Edit

        An English counter armada under the command of Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Norreys was prepared in 1589 to torch the Spanish Atlantic navy, which was refitting in Santander, Corunna, and San Sebastián in northern Spain. It was also intended to capture the incoming Spanish treasure fleet and expel the Spanish from Portugal (ruled by Philip since 1580) in favour of the Prior of Crato. The English fleet departed from Plymouth on April 13 but was then delayed for nearly two weeks by bad weather. Drake, as a result, had to bypass Santander where the majority of the Spanish fleet were being refitted.

        On May 4, the English force eventually arrived at Corunna where the lower town was captured and plundered, and a number of merchant ships were seized. Norreys then won a modest victory over a Spanish relief militia force at Puente del Burgo. When the English pressed the attack on the citadel, however, they were repulsed. In addition, a number of English ships were captured by Spanish naval forces. With the failure to capture Corunna the English departed and headed towards Lisbon, but owing to poor organisation and lack of co-ordination (they had very few siege guns) the invading force also failed to take Lisbon. The expected uprising by the Portuguese loyal to Crato never materialised. With Portuguese and Spanish reinforcements arriving the English retreated and headed North where Drake sacked and burned Vigo. Sickness then struck the expedition, and finally, a portion of the fleet led by Drake headed towards the Azores, which was then scattered in a storm. Drake then took the best part of the fleet and plundered Porto Santo in Madeira before they limped back to Plymouth. [17]

        The English Armada was arguably misconceived and ended in failure overall. In the end, Elizabeth sustained a severe loss to her treasury.

        Dutch Revolt (1588–1595) Edit

        Soon after the defeat of the Armada, the Duke of Parma's force stood down from the invasion. In the autumn Parma moved his force North towards Bergen op Zoom and then attempted to besiege the English-held town with a substantial force. The English in a ruse however managed to repel the Spanish and forced Parma's retreat with heavy losses which boosted both Dutch and English morale. [18] The following year Bertie under orders from the Queen left for France with a force to help the Protestants in their fight against the Catholic League. Sir Francis Vere assumed command of English forces thereafter – a position he retained during fifteen campaigns, with almost unbroken success. [19]

        In 1590 an Anglo-Dutch force under Maurice and Vere respectively launched a campaign with the aim of taking Breda. In a remarkable feat, a small assault force hid in a peat barge before a successful surprise assault that captured the city. With Spanish forces in France supporting the Catholic League as well as in the Low Countries, Maurice was able to take advantage, and thus started the gradual recapture of the Netherlands. This was known by the Dutch as the 'Ten glory years'. Soon after Breda the Anglo-Dutch retook Zutphen and Deventer which restored English prestige after their earlier betrayals. After defeating the Spanish under the Duke of Parma at Knodsenberg in 1591 a new confidence in the army took shape. English troops by this time composed nearly half of the Dutch army. The reconquest continued with Hulst, Nijmegen, Geertruidenberg, Steenwijk, and Coevorden all being taken within the next two years. [19] In 1593 a Spanish attempt led by Francisco Verdugo to recapture Coevorden ended in failure when the Anglo-Dutch under Maurice and Vere relieved the place during the Spring of 1594. Finally, the capture of Groningen in the summer of 1594 resulted in the Spanish army being forced out of the Northern provinces which led to the complete restoration of the seven provinces. [20]

        After these successes, Elizabeth could view the high confidence in the army and renewed the treaty with the States in 1595. English troops having been given high praise by the Dutch were kept at around 4,000 men. They were to be paid for by the States and the Queen would also be repaid on the Crowns expenses in instalments until a conclusion of peace was made.

        In 1595, Maurice's campaign was resumed to retake the cities of the Twente region from the Spanish. This was delayed after Huy was besieged in March but Maurice was unable to prevent its fall. When Maurice did go on the offensive an attempt to take Grol in July ended in failure when a Spanish force under 90-year-old veteran Cristóbal de Mondragón relieved the city. Maurice then tried to make an attempt on the city of Rheinberg in September but Mondragon defeated this move at the Battle of the Lippe. Maurice was then forced to cancel further planned offensives as the bulk of his English and Scots troops were withdrawn to take part in the attack on Cadiz. The Spanish under the new commander Archduke of Austria took advantage of this lull and recaptured Hulst the following year which led to a prolonged stalemate in the campaign and delayed the reconquest. [18]

        Naval War and Privateering Edit

        In this period of respite, the Spanish were able to refit and retool their navy, partly along English lines. The pride of the fleet were named The Twelve Apostles – twelve massive new galleons – and the navy proved itself to be far more effective than it had been before 1588. A sophisticated convoy system and improved intelligence networks frustrated English naval attempts on the Spanish treasure fleet during the 1590s. This was best demonstrated by the repulse of the squadron that was led by Effingham in 1591 near the Azores, who had intended to ambush the treasure fleet. It was in this battle that the Spanish captured the English flagship, the Revenge, after a stubborn resistance by its captain, Sir Richard Grenville. Throughout the 1590s, enormous convoy escorts enabled the Spanish to ship three times as much silver as in the previous decade.

        English merchant privateers or corsairs known as Elizabeth's Sea Dogs however enjoyed more qualified success. [21] In the three years after the Spanish armada more than 300 prizes were taken from the Spanish with a declared total value of well over £400,000. [22] English courtiers provided money for their own expeditions as well as others, and even Elizabeth herself would make investments. The Earl of Cumberland made a number of expeditions and a few did yield profit – his first being the Azores Voyage in 1589. Others failed however due to bad weather and his 1591 voyage ended in defeat with Spanish galleys off Berlengas. Cumberland with Sir Walter Raleigh and Martin Frobisher combined financial strength and force that led to the most successful English naval expedition of the war. Off Flores island in 1592 in a naval battle the English fleet captured a large rich Portuguese carrack, the Madre de Deus, as well as having outwitted a Spanish fleet led by Alonso de Bazán. The expedition's reward equalled nearly half the size of the Kingdom of England's royal annual revenue and yielded Elizabeth a 20-fold return on her investment. [23] These riches gave the English an excited enthusiasm to engage in this opulent commerce. [24] Raleigh himself in 1595 went on an expedition to explore the Orinoco river in an attempt to find the mythical city of El Dorado in the process the English plundered the Spanish settlement of Trinidad. Raleigh however exaggerated the wealth there on his return to England. Supporting Raleigh with his expedition was another led by Amyas Preston and George Somers known as the Preston Somers expedition to South America notable for a daring overland assault that saw the capture of Caracas.

        Many of the expeditions were financed by famed London merchants, the most notable of these being John Watts. An expedition Watts financed to Portuguese Brazil led by James Lancaster saw the capture and plunder of Recife and Olinda – which was highly profitable for both. [25] In response to English privateering against their merchantmen, the Spanish monarchy struck back with the Dunkirkers devastating English shipping and fishing in the largely undefended seas around England.

        By far the most successful English privateer was Christopher Newport who was backed financially by Watts. [26] Newport set out in 1590 to raid the Spanish West Indies and in the ensuing fight saw the defeat of an armed Spanish convoy but Newport lost his right arm in the process. Despite this Newport continued the ventures – the blockade of Western Cuba in 1591 was the most successful English privateering venture made during the war. [27] Both Drake and Hawkins died of disease on the later 1595–96 expedition against Puerto Rico, Panama, and other targets in the Spanish Main, a severe setback in which the English suffered heavy losses in soldiers and ships despite a number of minor military victories.

        In August 1595, a Spanish force on patrol from Brittany, led by Carlos de Amésquita, landed at and raided Cornwall, burning Penzance and several nearby villages.

        During the summer of 1596, an Anglo-Dutch expedition under Elizabeth's young favourite, the Earl of Essex, sacked Cádiz, causing significant loss to the Spanish fleet, leaving the city in ruins and delaying a projected descent on England. The allies were unable to capture the treasure, as the Spanish commander had time in order to torch the treasure ships in port, sending the treasure to the bottom of the harbour, from where it was later recovered. Despite its failure to capture the treasure fleet, the sack of Cádiz was celebrated as a national triumph comparable to the victory over the Spanish Armada, and for a time Essex's prestige rivalled Elizabeth's own. [28]

        The Crown instead of controlling and taxing its subjects, competed with them for private profit, a race it failed to win, as the great naval expeditions were on the whole unprofitable. [29] The last of the great English naval expeditions took place in 1597, led by the Earl of Essex known as the Islands Voyage. The objective was to destroy the Spanish fleet and intercept a treasure fleet in the Azores. Neither was achieved and the expedition ended in failure, and Essex on his return was scolded by the Queen for not protecting the English coast.

        In the final years of the war, English privateering continued despite the strengthening of Spanish navy convoys – Cumberland's last expedition in 1598 to the Caribbean led to the capture of San Juan, and had succeeded where Drake had failed. Newport struck at Tobasco in 1599 while William Parker successfully raided Portobello in 1601. [30] Finally in 1603 Christopher Cleeve struck at Santiago de Cuba and in the last raid of the war Newport plundered Puerto Caballos. [31]

        By the end of the war English privateering had devastated the Spanish private merchant marine. [32] The most famous pirates lauded by English literature and propaganda tended to attack fishing vessels or boats with small value for the Spanish crown. [33] Spanish prizes though were taken at an attritional rate nearly 1,000 were captured by the wars end, and there was on average a declared value of approximately £100,000-£200,000 for every year of the war. [34] In addition for every Spanish prize brought back, another was either burned or scuttled, and the presence of so many English corsairs even deterred Spanish merchantman from putting to sea. [35] This all later resulted in Spanish and Portuguese commerce being carried on Dutch and English ships which in itself created competition. [22] Nevertheless, throughout the war Spain's important treasure fleets had been kept safe by their convoy system. [1]

        Dutch Revolt (1597–1604) Edit

        By 1597, Spanish bankruptcy and the war in France gave the Anglo-Dutch an advantage. At the Battle of Turnhout a Spanish force was surprised and routed – Vere and Sir Robert Sidney, 1st Earl of Leicester, distinguished themselves particularly. With the Spanish distracted by the siege of Amiens in France Maurice launched an offensive in the summer. This time both Rhienberg and Greonlo were finally taken. This was followed by the capture of Bredevoort, Enschede, Ootsmarsum, Oldenzaal, and finally Lingen by the end of the year. The offensive's success meant that most of the Republic had been recaptured and a significant barrier had been created along the Rhine river. [36]

        In 1598, the Spanish under Francisco Mendoza retook Rheinberg and Meurs in a campaign known as the Spanish winter of 1598-99. Mendoza then attempted to take Bommelerwaard island but the Dutch and English under Maurice thwarted the attempt and defeated him at Zaltbommel. Mendoza retreated from the area and the defeat resulted in chaos in the Spanish army – mutinies took place and many deserted. The following year the Dutch senate led by Johan van Oldenbarneveldt saw the chaos in the Spanish army and decided the time was ripe for a focal point of the war to be concentrated in Catholic Flanders. Despite a bitter dispute between Maurice and van Oldenbarneveldt, the Dutch and a sizeable contingent of the English Army under Francis Vere reluctantly agreed. They used Ostend (still in Dutch hands) as a base to invade Flanders. Their aim was to conquer the privateer stronghold city of Dunkirk. In 1600 they advanced toward Dunkirk and in a pitched battle the Anglo-Dutch inflicted a rare defeat on the Tercio-led Spanish army at the Battle of Nieuwpoort in which the English played a major part. [37] Dunkirk was never attempted however as disputes in the Dutch command meant that taking Spanish-occupied cities in the rest of the Republic took priority. Maurice's force thus withdrew leaving Vere to command Ostend in the face of an imminent Spanish siege. [38]

        With the siege of Ostend underway, Maurice then went on the offensive on the Rhine frontier in the summer of 1600. Rheinberg and Meurs were thus retaken from the Spanish yet again, although an attempt on s'Hertogenbosch failed during the winter months. At Ostend in January 1602 after being reinforced, Vere faced a huge Spanish assault organised by the Archduke and in bitter fighting this was repelled with heavy losses. Vere left the city soon after and joined Maurice in the field, while Albert was replaced by Ambrogio Spinola. The siege there dragged on for another two years as the Spanish attempted to take Ostend's strongpoints in a costly war of attrition. Around the same time Maurice continued his campaign, Grave was retaken but Vere was severely wounded during the siege. An attempt by the Dutch and English to relieve Ostend took place in mid-1604 but the inland of port of Sluis was besieged and captured instead. Soon after the Ostend garrison finally surrendered, after a siege of nearly four years and costing thousands of lives – for the Spanish, it was a pyrrhic victory. [39] [40]

        France Edit

        Normandy added a new front in the war and the threat of another invasion attempt across the channel. In 1590, the Spanish landed a considerable force in Brittany to assist the French Catholic League, expelling the English and Huguenot forces from much of the area. Henry IV's conversion to Catholicism in 1593 won him widespread French support for his claim to the throne, particularly in Paris (where he was crowned the following year), a city that he had unsuccessfully besieged in 1590. However, in 1594 Anglo-French forces were able to end Spanish hopes of using the large port of Brest as a launching point for an invasion of England by capturing Fort Crozon.

        The French civil war turned increasingly against the hardliners of the French Catholic League. With the signing of the Triple Alliance in 1596 between France, England, and the Dutch, Elizabeth sent a further 2,000 troops to France after the Spanish took Calais. In September 1597 Anglo-French forces under Henry retook Amiens, just six months after the Spanish took the city, bringing to a halt a string of Spanish victories. The first tentative talks on peace had already begun before the battle. The League hardliners started to lose ground and popular support throughout France to a resurgent Henry. In addition, Spanish finances were at breaking point because of fighting wars in France, the Netherlands, and against England. Therefore, a deeply ill Philip decided to end his support for the League and to finally recognize the legitimacy of Henry's accession to the French throne. Without Spanish support, the last League hardliners were quickly defeated. In May 1598, the two kings signed the Peace of Vervins ending the last of the religious civil wars and the Spanish intervention with it. [41]

        Ireland Edit

        In 1594, the Nine Years' War in Ireland had begun, when Ulster lords Hugh O'Neill and Red Hugh O'Donnell rose up against English rule with fitful Spanish support, mirroring the English support of the Dutch rebellion. While English forces were containing the rebels in Ireland at great cost in men, general suffering, and finance, the Spanish attempted two further armadas, in 1596 and 1597: the first was shattered in a storm off northern Spain, and the second was frustrated by adverse weather as it approached the English coast. King Philip II died in 1598, and his successor Philip III continued the war but was less determined.

        At the end of 1601, a final armada was sent north, this time a limited expedition intended to land troops in southern Ireland to assist the rebels. The Spanish entered the town of Kinsale with 3,000 troops and were immediately besieged by the English. In time, their Irish allies arrived to surround the besieging force but the lack of communication with the rebels led to an English victory at the Battle of Kinsale. Rather than attempt to hold Kinsale as a base to harry English shipping, the Spanish accepted terms of surrender and returned home, while the Irish rebels hung on, surrendering in 1603, just after Elizabeth died.

        The new king of England, James I, was the Protestant son and successor to the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, whose execution had been a proximate cause of the war. James regarded himself as the peacemaker of Europe, and the ultimate aim of his idealistic foreign policy was the reunion of Christendom. [42] Therefore, when James came to the English throne, his first order of business was to negotiate a peace with Philip III of Spain.

        End of the war Edit

        With the end of the war in France, the new King of Spain Philip III sought peace with England. By 1598 the war had become long and costly for Spain. England and Dutch Republic too were war-weary and both sides felt the need for peace. [43] At the peace of Boulogne in 1600 however Spanish demands were adamantly rejected by the English and Dutch. Nevertheless, diplomatic routes were open between the Archduke of Austria and his wife Infanta Isabella (Philip's sister) who differed in their policies to Philip's. Philip wanted to preserve the hegemony of the Spanish empire, whilst the Archduke and Isabella sought peace and friendly relations. [44]

        Soon after victory in Ireland the following year the English navy under Richard Leveson conducted a blockade of Spain the first of its kind. Off Portugal, they sailed into Sesimbra bay where a fleet of eight Spanish galleys under Federico Spinola (brother of Ambrogio) and Álvaro de Bazán were present. [45] Spinola had already established his base at Sluis in Flanders and was gathering more with an intent on a potential strike against England. In June 1602 Leveson defeated the Spanish which resulted in two galleys sunk and the capture of a rich Portuguese carrack. Months later in the English channel Spinola's galley fleet gathered more galleys and sailed through the English channel once more but was defeated again by an Anglo-Dutch naval squadron off the Dover straits. The result of this action forced the Spanish to cease further naval operations against England for the remainder of the war. [46]

        The treaty restored the status quo ante bellum, and the terms of the treaty were favourable both to Spain and England. [1] [47] For Spain the treaty secured her position as a leading power in the world. [48] [49] Spain's upgrading of the convoy system had allowed it to defend its treasure fleets and retain its New World colonies. English support for the Dutch rebellion against the Spanish king, the original cause of the war, had ended. The Spanish would then concentrate their efforts on the Dutch in order to bring them to their knees with a knockout blow. [47] [50] A complete abandonment of the Dutch cause however was not promised in the treaty. [50] The English held cautionary towns in Holland on the other hand were not surrendered despite Spanish demands. [51] The sieges of Ostend and Sluis were allowed to continue until the end of those respective campaigns. [52] The Dutch by 1607 had in fact prevailed - the Spanish did not deliver their knock out blow they had hoped for the Twelve Years' Truce formally recognized the independence of the Republic. [53] [54]

        For England the treaty was a huge diplomatic triumph as well as an economic necessity. [55] English public opinion however showed that the peace treaty was highly unpopular - many considered it a "humiliating peace" [56] [57] [58] Many felt that the King had abandoned their ally the Netherlands, in order to appease the Spanish Crown and it also made James I "monumentally unpopular". [55] The deal, however, made sure the Protestant reformation there had been protected, and James and his ministers refused the Spanish demand for Catholic toleration in England. [50] After the defeat at Kinsale in 1602, the Treaty of Mellifont was concluded the following year between James I and the Irish rebels. In the subsequent London treaty Spain pledged not to support the rebels. [51]

        The agreement was well received in Spain. [59] [60] Big public celebrations were held at Valladolid, the Spanish capital, [61] [62] where the treaty was ratified in June 1605, in the presence of a large English ambassadorial delegation led by Lord Admiral Charles Howard. [59] Some members of the Catholic clergy however questioned Philip III's arrangements with a "heretical power". [63]

        The provisions of the treaty authorised merchants and warships of both nations to operate from each other's respective ports. English trade with the Spanish Netherlands (notably the city of Antwerp) and the Iberian peninsula was resumed. [50] Spanish warships and privateers were able to use English ports as naval bases to attack Dutch shipping [64] or to ferry troops to Flanders. [65]

        The war had also diverted Tudor colonial efforts, [66] but the English who had invested in privateering expeditions during the war garnered enormous windfall profits leaving them well placed to finance new ventures. [34] As a result the London Company was able to establish a settlement in Virginia in 1607. [67] The establishment of the East India Company in 1600, was significant for the growth of England (and later Great Britain) as a colonial power. [68] A factory was established at Banten, Java, in 1603 while the Company had successfully and profitably breached the Spanish and Portuguese monopoly. [69] [70] While the incipient illegal trade with the Spanish colonies was brought to an end, there was deadlock over English demands for the right to trade in the East and West Indies, which Spain adamantly opposed. Eventually the complications resulted in the treaty avoiding any mention of the matter. [50]

        For Spain there was hope that England would eventually secure tolerance for Catholics but the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 destroyed any possibility of this. [71] As a result, it put to rest Protestant fears that a peace with Spain would ultimately mean an invasion by Jesuits and Catholic sympathisers as the Elizabethan Recusancy laws were rigidly enforced by parliament. [72]

        What If Franco’s Spain Had Entered the War?

        It is June 12, 1940. France is on the verge of defeat. Hitler appears certain to conquer Great Britain and win the war outright. Pleased with this development, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco rejects neutrality and announces a tacitly pro-German policy of nonbelligerence, modeled after that of Italy before its entrance into the war just two days earlier. On October 23, he signs an agreement committing Spain to join the Tripartite Pact—which Germany, Italy, and Japan concluded the previous month—at a time to be agreed upon by the four powers. Its terms assure Spain of badly needed military and economic assistance from Germany and Italy, and the restoration of Gibraltar, which Britain had seized from Spain in 1713. It also promises an expansion of Spanish territory in Morocco at the expense of Vichy France.

        Spain does join the pact. Then, on January 10, 1941, it declares war on Great Britain, a step timed to coincide with the start of Operation Felix, the Nazi plan to capture the British fortress at Gibraltar. Sixty-five thousand German troops cross from occupied France into Spain, and by February Felix gets seriously under way. At that juncture, Hitler curtly informs Vichy France that Spain will receive a portion of French Morocco. Spanish troops occupy the expanded territory without firing a shot.

        The tiny Gibraltar peninsula—less than three square miles in size—comes under intense pressure from German infantry and armor, as well as relentless bombardment from heavy artillery and near-continual air raids. Within a month, the British garrison of 30,000 capitulates. The loss of Gibraltar closes the western Mediterranean to the Royal Navy, although British forces in the Middle East can still be supplied via the Suez Canal. Franco had urged Hitler to preempt this with an offensive to seize the canal, but Hitler, unwilling to adopt a Mediterranean-oriented strategy, declines to do so. His primary purpose in capturing Gibraltar was to strike a blow to British morale furthermore, Franco’s entry into the war has made it possible to base German U-boats in Spanish ports.

        The seizure of Gibraltar, however, fails to shake Britain’s resolve to continue the war. The United States, its foreign policy increasingly tilted toward Britain, ends trade relations with Spain, thereby forcing the diversion of substantial Axis economic resources to that country. Spain has planned to invade Portugal, but is incapable of doing so on its own. Hitler is uninterested in helping. Focused on Eastern Europe, he does not want to invest troops in a theater peripheral to German interests.

        On June 22, 1941, Hitler invades the Soviet Union. The Falange, an organization of staunchly anti-Communist Spanish fascists, recruits a division of volunteers for service on the Eastern Front. Known as the Blue Division, its battlefield performance wins Hitler’s admiration its commander, Maj. Gen. Augustín Muñoz Grandes, receives the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, an honor rarely bestowed on a non-German. As many as 45,000 Spaniards serve in the Blue Division, which suffers 13,654 casualties during its two years of service.

        The above scenario closely fits the historical record. Spain did indeed declare nonbelligerent status, and did sign an understanding that it would eventually join the Tripartite Pact. As late as December 1942, Franco believed that at the right moment, Spain would join the war on the side of the Axis Powers. A Falangist Blue Division did serve on the Eastern Front until mid-1943. The number of casualties it sustained during that period is historically accurate, as is the name of its commander and the award he received.

        The sequel to Spain’s entry into the war is more difficult to imagine, but one possible scenario is the following:

        In November 1942, the British Eighth Army defeats the Afrika Korps at El Alamein and gradually pushes the Germans toward Tunisia. That same month, the British and the Americans launch Operation Torch against the southwestern coast of Spain, partly in order to satisfy President Roosevelt’s insistence that U.S. troops begin combat operations against Germany before year’s end, and partly to retake Gibraltar as a prelude to operations aimed at containing the Afrika Korps in Tunisia. With comparatively few Germans still in Spain—most have redeployed to the Russian front—the western Allies have little difficulty gaining a foothold, and recover Gibraltar in January 1943.

        In May 1943 the British and the Americans land in northwest Africa. They easily seize Spanish Morocco, as well as the Vichy French ports of Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers. Although Hitler reinforces the Afrika Korps, British and American forces overrun Tunisia by October, capturing some 230,000 Germans and Italians.

        The Allies then weigh their options—to expand their foothold in Spain, or invade Sicily. Since Italy is the more dangerous foe, they decide upon the latter course, followed by an invasion of southern Italy. They anticipate, correctly, that the stress of this disaster will result in the collapse of the Mussolini regime.

        Franco believes himself certain to meet the fate of Mussolini if the war continues. Accordingly, he enters into negotiations with the western Allies, but to his consternation the Allies demand Spain’s unconditional surrender, as well as his own resignation. The Spanish officer corps, never enthusiastic about Franco’s adventurism, forces him to accede. Franco is soon afterward assassinated, whether by pro-Communist Republicans or Falangist diehards no one can say. The Spanish pretender to the throne, Don Carlos, is restored as monarch.

        Although the above scenario is speculative, three things are virtually certain: Spanish belligerency would have yielded disaster for a country already ravaged by civil war the Franco regime would not have survived and the monarchy would have been restored—as some Spanish generals actually urged during the war and as did in fact occur upon Franco’s death in 1975.

        Historically, both Germany and the Franco regime fully expected Spain to enter the war at some propitious time. But Spain required too much economic and military aid, while Germany demanded that Spain cede to it the Canary Islands and Spanish Equatorial Africa to support its submarine offensive. This Spain refused to do, though the disagreement might have been resolved simply by granting Germany basing rights. More serious—and ultimately a deal breaker—was Spain’s desire for an expanded colonial presence in Morocco. Germany agreed in principle to allocate part of French Morocco to Spain at the war’s conclusion. But Hitler’s refusal to offer specifics gave the Franco regime considerable pause.

        With that said, Hitler was initially willing to grant Spain the territorial concessions Franco desired. He reversed himself when a combined force of British and Free French attempted to seize Dakar, a strategic port in French West Africa held by Vichy France, between September 23 and 25, 1940. Though the expedition was a fiasco, it convinced Hitler of the importance of retaining good relations with Vichy France as a bulwark against potential future Allied incursions. Had this minor event not occurred, it is likely that the Franco regime would indeed have entered World War II—with little effect on the conflict’s outcome, but with cataclysmic results for Spain.

        A Guide to the United States’ History of Recognition, Diplomatic, and Consular Relations, by Country, since 1776: Spain

        The Continental Congress of the United States of America sent John Jay to Spain in 1779 in an attempt to convince the Spanish Court to recognize the new nation. Jay spent two years there to no success. Madrid was unwilling to risk relations with the Congress in Philadelphia until it became apparent that Britain and the United States were actually going to sign a treaty to end the war and recognized U.S. independence. Since 1783, when Spain did eventually recognize the United States, the two countries have broken relations just once, when they went to war against each other in the Spanish-American War of 1898. Currently Spain is a constitutional monarchy, a member of the European Union and NATO.


        Spanish Recognition of U.S. Independence, 1783 .

        Spain recognized the United States of America when Madrid officially received William Carmichael as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim on February 20, 1783.

        Consular Presence

        U.S. Consulate in Barcelona, 1797 .

        The United States opened a consulate in Barcelona on December 29th, 1797. It served briefly as the U.S. Embassy in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.

        Diplomatic Relations

        Establishment of Diplomatic Relations, 1783 .

        Future Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court John Jay was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary on September 29, 1779, and proceeded to Madrid shortly thereafter. However, he was never formally received by the Spanish Court due to the intricacies of Spanish involvement in the war against Great Britain at the time. The Spanish did not officially establish diplomatic relations with the United States until the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires ad interim , William Carmichael, was officially received at the court in Madrid on February 20, 1783.

        First Spanish Envoy in the United States, 1785 .

        The United States received Spanish Chargé d’Affaires Don Diego Gardoqui in June 1785.

        Establishment of the American Legation in Madrid, 1783 .

        William Carmichael was officially received by Madrid as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim , February 20, 1783, though he had been in Spain since May 1782.

        Severance of Relations, 1898 .

        Spain severed diplomatic relations with the United States on April 21, 1898, and U.S. Minister Stewart Woodford closed the legation in Madrid on that day. The United States declared war on Spain as of that date by an Act of Congress approved April 25, 1898.

        Reestablishment of Relations, 1899 .

        After the Spanish-American War, the United States appointed Bellamy Storer as Minister on April 12, 1899, and he presented his credentials to Spain on June 16, 1899.

        Elevation of American Legation to Embassy Status, 1913 .

        Joseph E. Williard, though originally appointed as Envoy, was made Ambassador on September 10, 1913, and presented his credentials on October 31, 1913.

        American Legation Moves During the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39 .

        During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), the American Embassy moved briefly to the U.S. consulate in Barcelona and then to St. Jean de Luz, France , where U.S. Ambassador to Spain Claude Bowers spent the last part of his assignment. The Embassy was re-established in Spain on April 13, 1939, when H. Freeman Matthews was received at Burgos as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim .

        Treaties & Agreements

        Treaty of Friendship, Limits, and Navigation, 1795 .

        Treaty of Friendship, Limits, and Navigation, 1795. On October 27, 1795, Spain signed a Treaty of Friendship, Limits, and Navigation with the United States.

        Blockade and the peninsular campaign

        As Napoleon could no longer think of invading England, he tried to induce capitulation by stifling the British economy. By closing all of Europe to British merchandise, he hoped to bring about a revolt of the British unemployed that could force the government to sue for peace. He forbade all trade with the British Isles, ordered the confiscation of all goods coming from English factories or from the British colonies, and condemned as fair prize not only every British ship but also every ship that had touched the coasts of England or its colonies.

        For the blockade to succeed, it had to be enforced rigorously throughout Europe. But, from the beginning, England’s old ally Portugal showed itself reluctant to comply, for the blockade would mean its commercial ruin. Napoleon decided to break down Portuguese opposition by force. Charles IV of Spain let the French troops cross his kingdom, and they occupied Lisbon but the prolonged presence of Napoleon’s soldiers in the north of Spain led to insurrection. When Charles IV abdicated in favour of his son Ferdinand VII, Napoleon, seeing the opportunity to rid Europe of its last Bourbon rulers, summoned the Spanish royal family to Bayonne in April 1808 and obtained the abdication of both Charles and Ferdinand they were interned in Talleyrand’s château. After the bloody suppression of an uprising in Madrid, insurrection spread across the whole country, for the Spaniards would not accept Joseph Bonaparte, king of Naples, as their new king.

        The subsequent defeat of his forces in Spain and Portugal were sensational blows to Napoleon’s prestige. Soon the Iberian Peninsula, up in arms, became a bridgehead on the Continent for the British. Under the energetic Arthur Wellesley (later 1st duke of Wellington), in command from 1809, the Anglo-Spanish-Portuguese forces were to achieve decisive successes.

        At the Congress of Erfurt (September–October 1808), a conference with Alexander I, Napoleon assembled a great concourse of princes to impress the Russian emperor in an attempt to extract promises of help. Whether impressed or not, Alexander would make no definite commitment. Alexander’s refusal, furthermore, was partly prompted by Talleyrand, who had become dismayed by Napoleon’s policies and was already negotiating with the Russian emperor behind his master’s back.

        By early 1809, however, with most of the Grand Army thrown into Spain, Napoleon seemed on the point of overcoming the revolt. Then, in April, Austria launched an attack in Bavaria in the hope of rousing all of Germany against the French. Napoleon once again defeated the Habsburgs (July 6) and by the Treaty of Schönbrunn (October 14, 1809) obtained the Illyrian Provinces, thus rounding out the “Continental System.”


        Beerman, Eric. España y la independencia de los Estados Unidos. Madrid: Editorial MAPFRE, 1992.

        Boeta, José Rudolfo. Bernardo de Gálvez. Madrid: Publicaciones Españoles, 1977.

        Caughey, John Walton. Bernardo de Gálvez in Louisiana 1776–1783. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1934.

        Chavez, Thomas E. Spain and the Independence of the United States: An Intrinsic Gift. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002.

        Cummins, Light T. Spanish Observers and the American Revolution. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991.

        James, James Alton. Oliver Pollock: The Life and Times of an Unknown Patriot. New York: Appleton-Century, 1937.

        Morales Padron, Francisco, ed. Participación de España en la independencia política de los Estado Unidos. Madrid: Publicaciones Espanolas, 1952.

        Reparaz, Carmen de. Yo Solo: Bernardo de Gálvez y la toma de Panzacola en 1781. Barcelona: Ediciones de Serbal, 1986.

        Ruigómez de Hernández, María Pilar. El gobierne español del despotismo ilustrado ante la independencia de los Estados Unidos de América: una nueva estructura de la política internacional (1773–1783). Madrid: Ministerio de Asunto Exteriores, 1978.

        Starr, J. Barton. Tories, Dons, and Rebels: The American Revolution in British West Florida. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1976.

        Yela Utrilla, Juan Francisco. España ante la independencia de los Estados Unidos. Lérida, Spain: Gráficos Academia Mariana, 1925


        Beaulac, Willard L. Franco: Silent Ally in World War II. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986.

        Cortada, James. Two Nations Over Time: Spain and the United States, 1775–1977. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1978.

        Edwards, Jill. Anglo-American Relations and the Franco Question 1945–1955. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

        Hayes, Carleton J. H. The United States and Spain: An Interpretation. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1951.

        Little, Douglas. Malevolent Neutrality: The United States, Great Britain, and the Origins of the Spanish Civil War. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985.

        Rubottom, Richard R., and J. Carter Murphy. Spain and the United States: Since World War II. New York: Praeger, 1984.

        Whitaker, Arthur P. Spain and Defense of the West: Ally and Liability. New York: Harper, 1961. Reprint, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980.

        ———. The Spanish-American Frontier, 1783–1795. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1927. Reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1969.

        Watch the video: On This Day.. - April 24th - Spain Declares War on the United States (August 2022).