Spanish Armada lesson

Try this interactive Spanish Armada lesson

Before we can discuss the Spanish Armada, we need to set a few ground rules for this history lesson. A few hundred years ago there was a great upset in the balance of the world. The formerly very Catholic King Henry VIII decided he wanted a divorce to marry a new woman he was sure would give him a son. That didn’t quite turn out as planned, but he did have a daughter.

Queen Elizabeth art history lesson

Elizabeth was called the English Rose, and after a few of her siblings were sovreign of the realm, it was finally her turn.

Upon Elizabeth becoming Queen the Spanish King thought, “I know what to do! It was so much fun being married to her sister and being King of England too, I’ll ask Elizabeth to marry me, and then I’ll get to keep that title and the power, and I’ll be able to convince all of England to go back to being Catholic. This is a great idea!”

But that didn’t work out so well because Elizabeth had no intention of marrying her sister’s husband, or marrying at all. She’d seen how poorly marriage went for her mother, and subsequent step-mothers, so marriage was off the table. King Philip really had his feelings hurt and he was really quite sure England really should be Catholic again, not to mention his intense dislike of the English privateers messing with his shipping and trading.

And that is the setting for our history lesson today, the Spanish Armada.

What is the Spanish Armada?

Hands on History Spanish Armada lesson

King Philip 2 was really kind of tired of Elizabeth and England constantly messing with his ships, and the English were just messing with his plans for the New World in general, and like I said, he was really sure it was time to show that Protestant upstart the what for, so he put together the biggest armada ever.   Over 100 ships set forth to attack England. They bore over 25,000 men, and had plans to pick up more.

England had about 200 ships, mostly small ships pressed into service, they were not war ships. Their ships were smaller, and had less gun fire.

Disaster struck the Spanish Armada in the form of a storm, and several ships had to turn back for repairs, and that is when our hands on history lesson starts.

Our Spanish Armada lesson

Referencing Junior General’s Spanish Armada scenario and the Mystery of History 3 textbook, we started acting out the battle.

comparing ships for Spanish Armada lesson

First off, we compared the size of the Spanish galleons versus the English cutters. The Spanish ships were much bigger, and slower moving. The English ships were able to sail circles around the Spanish ships, and more quickly evade debris or other ships.

The other weakness of the Spanish was their fighting style. They were built to fire once, close with their enemy and board the ship. But the English just sailed away after they were fired at, and the Spanish marines didn’t know how to fight them.

Spanish Armada lesson

We saw these weaknesses in real life as we acted out the battle. The smaller more nimble English ships were able to evade being ensnared by debris and flit away before the Spanish ships could board. As our battle scenario played out more and more Spanish ships sunk from being pulled down by other broken ships.  All in all, it was an amazing scenario to see played out.

Spanish armada lesson ships sinking

After the primary battle took place, the Spanish fleet attempted to sail away, but weather, winds, and worn out ships conspired against their plans, and the vast majority of the Spanish ships sunk or barely limped back to Spain with a skeleton crew.

This battle broke the Spanish empire. Or I should say, it was the beginning of the end of Spain’s dominance on the seas, and the rise of English dominance. History would have played out very differently if the weather and technology hadn’t conspired against Spain.


Find some more information about sailors and important battles


One response to “Try this interactive Spanish Armada lesson”

  1. We are watching Horrible Histories now, where Henry VIII is one of the stars of the show, so to speak, for obvious reasons of being horrible to his wives. We did learn a lot more about British history from this show than we know so far about American history 🙂

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