THE RAID OF 1596 WAS NOT THE FIRST TIME THE SPANISH PORT HAD ATTRACTED THE ATTENTION OF ENGLAND
Cádiz had been attacked by an English force earlier in the war, when Sir Francis Drake had led an expedition in 1587, attempting to prevent the build-up of an invasion fleet. The raid was a stunning success, with plans for the armada pushed back a year. Drake’s raid was notable for the decisiveness of his actions. Upon reaching Cádiz he launched an assault immediately, quickly sailing his vessels into the harbour and causing panic among the Spanish defenders. Only one of his ships was lost, while more than 30 Spanish vessels were destroyed.
Despite the success of the raid, Drake himself accepted that he had done nothing but postpone the plans of Philip II, referring to the action as merely “singeing the King of Spain’s beard”.
The financial damage inflicted in 1596 was more substantial and pushed the Spanish towards one of their regular declarations of bankruptcy. However, as in Drake’s raid, the 1596 expedition was not enough to halt Spanish plans for an armada. A second mighty fleet of ships was ready to attempt an invasion of England just four months later, but was destroyed by autumnal storms.
Sir Francis Drake, architect of the devastating raid on Cádiz in 1587