The Evolution of the Navy – Part Three

In part two of our running series, we looked at the role that King Henry VIII played in developing our naval defences, and how he became known as the Father of the English Navy. Today, we shall unfold the next part of the story and discover what happened after the death of the King in 1547.


In the 11 years following the death of Henry VIII, England saw three monarchs come and go – Edward VI, (1547 – 1553) Lady Jane Grey (10 July 1553 – 19 July 1553) and Mary I (1553 – 1558). During these years, the developing English Navy was largely ignored, and definitely not developed. However, in 1558, after the death of Mary I, the throne fell into the hands of her half-sister Elizabeth I.

The reign of the ‘Virgin Queen’ brought the English Navy out of the shadows and back in business as she made naval strength a high priority. This further focus became essential when Prince Philip II of Spain launched the Spanish Armada in an attempt to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I and restore Catholicism to England.

The might of the English Navy was no match for the Spanish Armada, and they were able to defeat the Spanish for many reasons. Before the battle began, the Spanish fleet had been weakened by Sir Francis Drake, an English explorer and sea captain. Drake was already known to the Spanish and thought of as a pirate due to the fact that he made a habit of attacking and looting Spanish ships.

One of the clever moves by the English Navy was the creation of 8 ‘Hell Burners’. These old ships were loaded up with anything that would burn, and set alight. They were then set off in the direction of the Spanish Armada, which was moored up waiting to pick up more Spanish soldiers. As the Spanish ships saw these burners approaching, they broke out of their crescent formation, which had protected them till this point. This allowed the English to attack, destroying nearly half of the Spanish fleet.

The Spanish Armada saw the English Navy progress into a cunning and mighty fleet and developed the relatively young navy into a force to be reckoned with.

Sadly, that is all we have time for, so we’ll have to pick the story up again next time! Meanwhile, if you have a fleet of your own to kit out, and you’re in need of supplies, contact us. As boat chandlers, we are equipped to take care of all your chandlery needs. Call us today on 01524 862011 for more information.