King Philip II of Spain, a Catholic, wanted to topple Queen Elizabeth of England, a Protestant. In 1586 he conspired to assassinate her. When that failed, he readied his navy, the largest and strongest on earth, to invade her land. It was a critical hour for Protestantism. Elizabeth’s defeat would mean ultimate disaster for Protestants in England and everywhere in Europe.
Philip was trusting God, he said, to send him favorable weather, as he would be fighting a divine cause. On May 30, 1588 he fell to his knees before his “Invincible Armada,” prayed for victory, and watched it disappear over the horizon.
But providence sided with the English. The Spanish Armada was quickly hurled in every direction by a violent storm. The beleaguered fleet regrouped, pressed on, and was spotted by the British on July 19. Winds turned against the Armada, slowing its progress. When the battle was joined on July 21, weather again aided the English. Heavy winds favored their smaller, more manageable ships. The English outmaneuvered the Spanish, and at just the right moment the weather shifted, always in England’s favor.
By July 31 the Duke of Parma had informed Philip of likely defeat: “God knows how grieved I am at this news at a time when I hoped to send Your Majesty congratulations. I will only say that this must come from the hand of the Lord, who knows well what He does. … ”
On August 8, 1588 Elizabeth visited her military headquarters at Tilbury and was told there that the danger of invasion was past. The relieved queen addressed her forces, saying: I know that I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king.
Philip’s tattered ships, limping back to Spain, were caught in another deadly squall. Less than half the vessels and a third of the troops survived the storms and battles. But back in London, the queen went to St. Paul’s Cathedral and “with her own princely voice, she most christianly urged the people to give thanks unto God.” England and Protestantism were saved.
Have you been to the places where I keep snow and hail,
Until I use them to punish and conquer nations?
From where does lightning leap, or the east wind blow?
Who carves out a path for thunderstorms?
Who sends torrents of rain? (Job 38:22-25)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). August 8.