In July 1588 beacons were lit across England to warn of the arrival of the Spanish Armada. Elizabeth I's darkest fears had come true. Having successfully avoided open war for 20 years, she found herself bound up in a costly and desperately unpredictable conflict. Elizabeth also loathed war because, as a woman, she couldn't lead her own armies. Instead she had to delegate command to hot-tempered men, who disobeyed her orders and even turned her own forces against her. Despite the difficulties, it was war which provided Elizabeth with her finest hour.
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