English Ships and the Spanish Armada, August 1588

Image credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

How you can use this image

This image can be used for non-commercial research or private study purposes, and other UK exceptions to copyright permitted to users based in the United Kingdom under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and revised. Any other type of use will need to be cleared with the rights holder(s).

Review the copyright credit lines that are located underneath the image, as these indicate who manages the copyright (©) within the artwork, and the photographic rights within the image.

The collection that owns the artwork may have more information on their own website about permitted uses and image licensing options.

Review our guidance pages which explain how you can reuse images, how to credit an image and how to find images in the public domain or with a Creative Commons licence available.


Add or edit a note on this artwork that only you can see. You can find notes again by going to the ‘Notes’ section of your account.

The painting may have been a design for a tapestry, or if not is laid out like one, and is dateable to the years immediately following the event. The composition appears less like a painting than a formal design in a mannered style but no other contemporary image of the Armada conveys a comparable sense of the drama and colour of the confrontation between the two fleets. The emblematic foreground arrangement of a Spanish galleass flanked by two English warships suggests that the picture was intended primarily as a symbol of the Armada campaign as a whole, although it is a symbol edged with satire. The galleass flies the Papal banner and the arms of Spain but her complement includes a number of figures – many portrayed as sinister zealots – led by a preaching monk, and a death's head or skeleton in a jester's costume. This renders her a 'ship of fools'. The quietly humorous anti-Catholic invective is heightened by a representation of a distraught Spaniard – perhaps meant for Phillip II or the Armada's commander, the Duke of Medina Sidonia – in a boat near the stern.

National Maritime Museum



English Ships and the Spanish Armada, August 1588


late 16th C


oil on poplar panel


H 112 x W 143.5 cm

Accession number


Work type



This artwork does not have any tags yet. You can help by tagging artworks on Tagger.

National Maritime Museum

Romney Road, Greenwich, London, Greater London SE10 9NF England

This venue is open to the public. Not all artworks are on display. If you want to see a particular artwork, please contact the venue.
View venue