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History in the Making
The Spanish Armada

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The Spanish Armada

The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 has come down through history as one of the most significant moments in British history; it has been read as providing evidence of everything from God’s defense of a Protestant nation under siege by Catholic enemies to the supercession of an old imperial power (Spain) by an emergent one. At the time, however, the defeat of the Armada was not universally seen as the decisive blow it was later taken to be, and many in England feared both future attacks from Spain and, more generally, other attempts by allies of the Catholic Church to destroy the Protestant nation.


In the House of Lords, the defeat of the Armada was commemorated by a set of ten vast hangings (right), commissioned around 1596 from the Dutch painter Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom (1563-1640), who specialized in marine scenes. Vroom's remarkable images, which gave various bird's-eye views of the sea-battles, hung in the Lords from 1650 until 1834, when they were destroyed in a fire. Happily, we are still able to see his work, albeit secondhand. In 1735, the engraver John Pine obtained an exclusive right to copy the tapestries, and four years later finished work on his series of engravings. Philip Morant supplied the text.

Philip Morant. The tapestry hangings of the House of Lords. London, 1739

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