English merchants watched in envy as Spain grew rich from her new colonies. Queen Mary I (1553-58) attempted to restore Catholocism. She also married Phillip II of Spain. She demanded correct relations with the Spanish. With the accession of Princess Elizabeth (1558), however, this changed. Queen Elizabeth no longer prevented English merchats from tradeing with Spanish colonies which was a violation of Spanish law. And one of the commodtes most in demand was captive Africans who could be enslaved to work in the Caribbean sugar plantations. Elizabeth also secretly authorized privateers to prey upon Spanish treasure ships. This was a natural development from trade as English ships in the Caribbean became targets of the Spanish Navy. The privateers not only seized important quantities of gold and silver, but accumulated increasing information about navigation and ocean seafaring. The English Sea Dogs (Drake, Hawkins, Raleigh, and others) were the bane of Philip's existence and a major factor in his decesion to send the Great Armada in an expedition to invade England.
Privateering was a recognized military practice. It developed at a time when European countries did not have well-established navies. Privateering was a wartime convention in which a belligerent nations would authorize citizens to operate privately owned ships to interdict enemy shipping. Privateers were motivated out of both patriotism and the monetary award from the prizes (captured ships) taken. Privateers were not pirates, although they seemedmuch like pirates to the countries whose ships ere attacked. The principal difference was that privateers were issued "letters of marque and reprisal".
These were legal documets officially authorizing the campaigns. In return, the privateers would share some of their bouty with the monarchs issuing the letters of marques. Privateering was give a huge impetus in the 16th century after Spain conquered Native American empires and began shipping vast amounts og gold and silver bullion back to Spain. Spanish efforts to destroy the Reformation in the Netherlands and England provided further motivation for privateeing. Eventually some of the privateers crossed the line and began engaging in open piracy. They were unable to resist taking a rich pize jst because it did not fly an ememy flag. This was the origins of Caribbean piracy. There was also extensive privateering in the Mediterranean by the Barbary States, but they were more pirates than privateers.
Privateering became important to small countriesnations with weak navies. The fledgling United States sucessfully engaged in privateering during both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
The practice of privateering was finally outlawed by the international community by the Declaration of Paris (1856).
Spain and Portugal at the time had colonized or claimed much of the known world and huge quantities of gold and silver flowed into Spain from its American colonies. The quantities of bullion were staggering and resulted in inflation throughout Europe. The governing economic theory of the day, Mercantilism, saw bullion as an esential element of national power. Thus nations througout Europe attached considerable importance to aquiring bullion, especially gold. Modern economists view this very differently. Some believe that the reversing fortunes of Spain date from the arrival of the American gold. One aspect that is certain is that this bullion financed the construction of Philip's Great Armada. English merchants watched in envy as Spain grew rich from her new colonies.
Queen Mary I (1553-58) is one of the least popular British monarchs. She was the Catholic daughter of Henry VIII. The Queen is known to history as "Bloody Mary" for her efforts to supress Protestantism and reinstate the Catholic church. She is particularly remembered for burning Protestants at the stake. Queen Mary was married to Philip of Spain, but they failed to produce an heir who potentially could have returned England to the Catholic church. She demanded correct relations with the Spanish. This not only included no attacks on Spanish shipping, but also no tradeing with Spanish colonies. This trade could be very lucrative and English merchnts chafed at the restrictions. England at the time had no colonies of its own.
With the accession of Princess Elizabeth (1558), however, this changed. Queen Elizabeth no longer prevented English merchats from tradeing with Spanish colonies which was a violation of Spanish law. And one of the commodtes most in demand was captive Africans who could be enslaved to work in the Caribbean sugar plantations. Elizabeth also secretly authorized privateers to prey upon Spanish treasure ships. This was a natural development from trade as English ships in the Caribbean became targets of the Spanish Navy. The privateers not only seized important quantities of gold and silver, but accumulated increasing information about navigation and ocean seafaring.
English audacity and technology at sea laid the groundwork for the Royal Navy and command of the seas.
The swashbuckling English sea captains of the Elizabethan era were known as "sea dogs". They were a breed apart. They were adventurers who combinined considerable maritime and military skill they allowed them to sucessfully seize Spanish treasure. Francis Drake, John Hawkins, Walter Raleigh, Martin Frobisher, and klesser known names for four decades fought a private war with Spain, the great naval power of the day. Queen Elizabeth was a secret partner, but well known to King Philip. The Queen loaned ships and took her share of the loot from privateering expeditions aimed at Spanish or French shipping. The long conflict with Spain was rooted in an English hunger for Spanish treasure and a commercial and maritime rivalry. The depredations of the Sea Dogs convinced Philip that he must act against England. There best known achievement is defeating the Great Armada and with it the threat of Spanish Catholic absolutism. They bedeveled the Spanish treasure fleet and thus gained for England a share of the Amrican bullion flowing into Europe. The English then formed overseas trading companies and very modest colonization attempts were made in the Caribbean and North America by Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Walter Raleigh. One of these colonies was Jamestown, one of the foundation stones of the future United States.
Not only were the English plundering his treasure fleets, but they were Protestants. Philip had married Queen Mary I and they hoped to return England to the True Church. They filed, however, to produce an heir and Mary's methods alienated a wide swathe of the English people. She almost executed the Princess Elizabeth. Mary's untimely death brough Elizabeth to the throne. Elizabeth's Protestantism meant that as along as she reigned there would be no Catholic revival. Religion was a powerful influence in Philip's world view. His response was the Great Armada. The defeat of the Armada (1588) opened the way for more intensive English exploration and the founding of colonies. It was also the begininning of England's naval dominance.
King Henry VIII is often credited as the founder of the Royal Navy. Quuen Elizabeth's support for privateers, however, played a major role in establishing English naval power. For the next four centuries has played a central role in modern history. It is no exageration to say that Royal Navy was the critical force in the creation of the modern world. The Royal Navy is common seen as an instrument of British colonialism and the suppression of many Asian and african peoples. This is certainly true. It is also true that the Royal Navy helped establish the modern world trading system. It broke up the closed international system established by Spain and Portugal and replaced it with a much more open system. The Royal Navy impact on the modern world is extensive and pervasive. The Royal Navy chartered sea lanes around the world. There are few ports and sea coasts that have not been touched in some way by the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy played an important role in the Indistrial Revolution. It helped to defeat series of opponents for the most part countries goverened by authoritarian or dictatorial rulers (Philip II, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Hitler). Thus the Royal Navy played a key role in establishing parlimentary democracies in the modern world. It was the Royal Navy that ended the slave trade. Although the Royal Navy played a major role in the Revolutionary war, it is also true that for much of the early history, the Royal Navy provided a shield from European interference behind which the American Republic developed. The prestige of the Royal Navy by the 19th century was such that the uniform of the British enlisted sailor became a standard outfit not only for British boys, but also for boys throughout Europe and North America.
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