Launch of Fire Ships against the Spanish Armada, 7 August 1588

Image credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

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A contemporary Flemish interpretation of the launching of English fire ships against the Spanish Armada. As Spain and England were in conflict, English piracy against Spanish ships was a continuing grievance for Philip II. The English were aware that Spain was amassing a fleet so, by the mid-1580s, it had reconstructed its own fleet to meet the threat. In the summer of 1588, England knew the Armada was on its way and knew its exact size and firepower. The 'battle' of the Armada was in reality a series of inconclusive engagements during which the Spanish fleet struggled up the English Channel. This campaign was the first occasion at which the great gun played the chief part in naval warfare. Although the English captured three flagships, their success was not decisive and the Duke of Medina Sidonia, in charge of the Spanish fleet, arrived safely at Calais with his fleet not seriously depleted.

National Maritime Museum



Launch of Fire Ships against the Spanish Armada, 7 August 1588




oil on canvas


H 99 x W 172.5 cm

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