Spanish Armada, naval fleet from Spain that attacked England in 1588. At that time the Catholic monarchy of Spain, under King Philip II, wielded great power through its wealthy colonies in the Americas and its control over Portugal and the Netherlands in Europe. Philip wanted to invade and control England, a Protestant country under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I. Sir Francis Drake, encouraged by the Queen, successfully raided Spain and Spanish holdings, which provoked Philip II to attack England from the English Channel. The smaller, swifter ships of the English navy drove the larger Spanish boats away from the coast, sunk 2 Spanish vessels, and damaged many others. Bad weather conditions also wrecked many ships of the Armada as they fled the English coast. Only about half the ships of the Spanish Armada returned to Spain.