Please can I have some feedback on this 16 marker attempt!?
(- Pearson Edexcel GCSE History Early Elizabethan)
The decline in Anglo-Spanish relations in the years 1569-85 was caused by Elizabeth I’, How far do you agree?
You may use the following in your answer:
- Drake’s Voyage to the New World
- The Netherlands
- You must also use information of your own. 
The decline in Anglo-Spanish relations in the years 1569-85 was caused by a number of factors, including Drake’s voyage to the New World and issues in the Netherlands. However, these were not the only causes, as some of the decline was due to Elizabeth and other factors or events which she was trying to deal with or solve. Because of this, I partially agree with the statement.
There are several examples of why I could agree with the statement that the decline in Anglo‐Spanish relations was caused by Elizabeth. One of these was that Elizabeth made it clear that she supported Francis Drake’s privateering and other actions against the Spanish. Drake was hired by Elizabeth in 1572 and he went to Panama where he captured £40,000 of Spanish silver which he brought back to England. In 1577 Elizabeth ordered Drake to sail around the tip of South America and bring back gold, silver and spices which would inevitably come from the Spanish. This was significant because Anglo‐Spanish relations had been improving but again worsened in 1577 and this could be directly linked to Drake’s actions and Phillip’s suspicions that Drake was under Elizabeth’s orders. Anglo‐Spanish relations became even worse by 1580 when Drake returned from circumnavigating the world with £400,000 of Spanish treasure. This became a significant problem because Elizabeth publicly knighted Drake on the deck of his ship. This made Phillip II angry because he saw Drake as nothing more than a pirate. It may have also contributed to Phillip’s lack of money to pay for war in the Netherlands which Elizabeth was also starting to involve herself with from 1570‐77 through her trying to encourage France to fight the Spanish in the Netherlands, and offer Dutch rebels a loan of £100,000 and potential future support. Therefore economic and political reasons caused by Elizabeth seem to have been significant in the decline in Anglo‐Spanish relations as Elizabeth sought to frustrate Spanish economic and political aims, but not so much to cause an actual war.
Although these economic and political reasons can be seen as Elizabeth’s fault there are some reasons why I would disagree with this statement and blame the Spanish, English Catholics and the Pope for worsening relations. Plots against Elizabeth increased after 1570 when the Pope excommunicated her. The Ridolfi and Throckmorton plots which were caused by this made Elizabeth more fearful of Spanish involvement in serious threats to her throne and her life. This in turn made her more determined to seek out plotters through her spy network and more determined to frustrate Spanish foreign policy and their economy, which could prevent the Spanish being able to invade successfully. This was probably her motivation for getting involved in the Netherlands against the Spanish and trying to use the French as a block to Spain’s aims, as well as promoting and supporting the actions of Drake. These actions were clearly Elizabeth’s but I believe they came from her increased desire to protect her throne because the Pope and Spain seemed more determined after 1570 to destabilise and remove her. I therefore think that religion was a key factor in the worsening of Anglo‐Spanish relations from 1569‐85 because both Phillip and the Pope believed Protestantism was heresy and therefore they wanted to remove her. The Pope and Phillip II of Spain both saw it as their duty to remove Elizabeth after 1570, therefore Spain was involved in supporting plots such as the Ridolfi plot of 1571. Such fears led Elizabeth to pass laws against Catholics in 1581 such as making attempts to convert people to Catholicism treasonous. I would therefore see religion as the spark for a rivalry between Spain and England which would get worse through economic and political means or events.
Overall I would mostly disagree with the statement that it was Elizabeth’s actions which caused a worsening of relations between Spain and England. There were of course many actions by Elizabeth which did this, but I believe that the religious problem and the determination of the Pope and Phillip to remove the heretic queen (as they saw her) intensified Elizabeth’s fears over her position and security which led her to increasingly want to frustrate Spanish ambitions to prevent invasion. If Spain and the Pope had not tried to remove Elizabeth and caused an intensification of the threat of plots, then Elizabeth’s more severe approach against Catholics, support for Drake and involvement in the Netherlands would not have been necessary as she would not have felt so threatened. Therefore it was other factors which led to her actions which were more significant.