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The POD falls during the days before the battle between the Spanish Invincible Armada and the English fleet in The Channel.
The conquest of England
The execution of Mary Stuart ripened anti-English designs in the Spanish Empire, which complained about Elizabeth I’s interferences in the Low Countries sustaining its revolt. Her impatience with Elizabeth only grew thinner due to English privateer attacks on American and European costs, the most notable being committed by Drake. It was thus that Philip II ordered the Invincible Armada, an enormous fleet, with 220 ships and 50,000 soldiers embarked, to be sent against England.
Each ship carried soldiers and 20 cannons. The Armada came as a surprise against the English fleet, sailing near Cornwall, with the help of a big storm, which seriously damaged some English ships before the battle. After the English fleet was destroyed, the Spanish army landed near Bristol. Here an English garrison fought uselessly against Spanish men, as Spanish ships bombed and occupied Clevedon, to gain its harbour as an operative centre.
Some days later a new Spanish fleet, which was quickly built with massive loans from Genoan and Portuguese bankers, arrived with a further 30,000 men. The army stocked up in Clevedon and nearby villages and thus marched toward Bristol and then Oxford. Cities and villages were occupied and the countryside sacked. Three weeks after the second landing the Spanish army reached London, moving along the river Thames. Elisabeth I fled London toward the northern cities, while the English militia tried to resist and defend the city.
It had been during this period of time that the Spanish formally surrendered her claims to the Netherlands, recognising the immense difficulty in maintaining an army and continuing to supply it there. Instead, a peace was made with the Dutch offering them independence from Spain on condition that Catholicism would be tolerated and in the event of a war, she "would strive to her fullest in supporting his Majesty's forces in the event of war with France". A month later, the forces under the command of Spinola, one of Spain's greatest generals, was moved from the Netherlands and transported by the armada to London itself which had fallen to the Spanish invaders. It was by this time that the entirety of the south-east of England was under Spanish control. Elizabeth I meanwhile had retreated to York where a general levy had been called throughout England, even withdrawing troops from the Scottish border where relations had grown frosty after the execution of Queen Mary.
One week after the 30,000 troops under the command of Spinola had arrived in London and assumed full command, the army of roughly 80,000 was divided into three parts. The first, numbering some 40,000 men was to march north and put down the assembled English army at York. The second consisted of 30,000 men and was to secure the south-west and south. The final numbered 10,000 and was to garrison London and ensure the valuable harbours and ports remained under Spanish control.
After two long months of fighting, the plan devised by Spinola had been a total success. Spinola with his men had marched and besieged York with the Queen trapped inside the city. After a short siege the city had fallen and the army assembled there had been put down with relative ease, Queen Elizabeth herself had been captured. The second army experienced little resistance and had marched straight up to the Welsh border where they were forced to stop after supplies began to run low.
After the siege of York, England was run under direct rule of Phillip II. A standing army of 50,000 men remained in England enforcing religion. The nobility in particular were punished heavily as many lands confiscated from the monasteries and the Catholic Church had been granted to them. It wasn't long before many of them lost their titles and their heads! The Protestant religion was banned throughout England and many churches were restored to their original looks.
In 1592 Spain sent a dignitary to Scotland whose King, James VI, had recently experienced a religious civil war between hardline Protestants and his own royal forces. He was offered the crown of England in exchange for the same promises as Philip had gained from the Dutch only four years ago, to assist Spain in the event of war with France. In the meantime, he was to convert to Catholicism and "never again let a false religion penetrate England's most holy shores."
With that, many of Spain's forces returned back to her native land where they were based on the French border where the French wars of Religion had recently come to an end, leaving Henri IV, the leader of the French Protestants (Huguenots) had taken power.
England under new pro-Spanish government
England was a ruined country after the Spanish invasion. The cities, which had not surrendered, were sacked and mostly devastated, the fields were destroyed and the whole English fleet had been sunk. Much of the nobility had fled after the siege of York from England before the Spanish troops could reach the northern regions and immigrated in France (where the French wars of religion had ended in favour of the Protestants), Germany and mostly in American colonies, which became the new centre of English administration.
In England, people began to rebuild their country and their lives, but, during the three years of direct control by Philip II, they suffered a very high fiscal pressure. When James I was crowned, followed the advice of Philip II and his Scottish advisors and cut links with Europe and focused on rebuilding England.
James began the reconstruction of the country and the re-establishment of economy grounded on agriculture and wool production. He encouraged the development of a self-sufficient economy, and rebuilt London, calling the English population to live in the new capital city. Many guilds which had prospered originally under Elizabeth I and had seen their power reduced under Philip II were once again built up and granted monopolies in exchange for paying tribute directly to the treasury based in London.
After the treaty had been made with Philip II, James I was now politically tied with Philip II. Even so, England's own domestic policy now consisted of expanding the power of the new administration from London into the rural areas, many of whom were still deeply Protestant and resented the re-emergence of the monasteries and Catholicism in general. It wasn't long before religious terrorists began to emerge from these rural areas, attacking Catholic Churches and even capturing and burning Catholic Priests and monks! Many of these attacks on churchmen were quickly met with reprisals against the remaining English nobility who quickly found it in their best interests to work with James I.
The English Parliament by this point was nothing more than a toothless beast. Many of Parliament had either fled, died or been stripped of their titles. By contrast, the power of the Monarchy only increased. James I tried to rule his nation moderately. In 1623 Spain and England were brought closer together by the marriage of Prince Charles and the Infanta Maria of Spain. Their marriage was said to be an happy one with very love blossoming between the two. Even so, by 1625, two children had already been born to the pair ensuring the succession of James' bloodline and the security of Catholic England.
Overall, James I reign was based around recovery of England and trying to unite Scotland and England which was finally accomplished near the very end of James life in 1624, just a few months before he died.
New conflict with France
After the Spanish army returned from England to the Empire, Philip II, whose life was coming to end was beginning to consider a French invasion of France who under Henri IV had embraced Protestantism. Tensions between the two European powers began to rise as each side began to seem increasingly threatening towards the other. However, until 1600, two years after Philip II's death and the succession of Philip III there was no real operation by both sides.
During 1600 autumn, a French and Spanish army consisting of a mere 5,000 came to fight near Milan where the French had launched an invasion, claiming the Italian provinces belonged rightfully to France. The battle ended with neither a winner nor a loser, ending in a stalemate as the French forces were quickly pushed back by the rushing of superior forces to that region and a general mobilisation of forces across the entire border. A few months later in a shocking raid, the majority of the French army attacked the United Provinces which had experienced something of a economic boom as their services were hired by nearly every nation across Europe. The French penetrated their way up to Zealand before being halted by the combination of the Dutch army and thousands of mercenaries. Thus the French army was pushed away toward the borders of the Old Spanish Netherlands had been while the Spanish took advantage of their foe's miscalculation and quickly captured Calais, garrisoned by a joint force of Dutch and Spanish who tolerated each other with relative suspicion. The loss of a strategic place on the Channel like Calais was a severe damage for the French, which resolved to directly attack Spain to counter the current advantage the Spanish had won.
Some weeks later, the French army based in the south attacked Spain in Catalonia. The army quickly marched, reaching the midway between the border and Barcelona, while the Spanish troops fought every inch, causing huge losses in the battles of Barcelona and Tarragon. Eventually, a counterattack pushed the French foreign army was pushed back to the Pyrenees. Since most of the French army was now divided between the United Provinces and Spain, both of them having been defeated in their respective campaigns, Philip III ordered for a full-on invasion from Spain, Italy and the United Provinces who looked to Spain for their leadership. However, after two years of constant raids and attacks in France causing great devastation the two nations were to reach Paris, eventually resulting in the Treaty of Paris. Both Henri IV and Philip III signed a peace agreement which meant that Henri had to pay humiliating tributes to the King of Spain and to end any custom taxes on Dutch shipping.
The birth of a new nation - New England
After the Spanish invasion of England, a large majority of the English nobility fled from her shores abroad, scattering throughout Europe. However, a large part of those nobles ended up in Virginia where a English colony had established itself already. Following these nobles came thousands more colonists and refugees, fleeing the devastation in England.
The majority of these refugees landed at Chesapeake Bay where they declared the city "New London" would be born. With a quickly rising population numbering around 12,000, they immediately set about creating an agricultural base that could sustain them. It wasn't long before a leader was chosen amongst them, one of the refugee nobility around whom other nobles gathered. Gilbert Talbot, the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury quickly found one of the only acceptable nobles that had escaped from England. It was not long before he found himself declared the King of America and was receiving delegates and words of support from English communities in New Jersey, Long Island and Massachusetts Bay.
As soon as it was possible, Gilbert I ordered a general gathering of representatives from these communities in a new Parliament where the future of their nation would be decided. Later known as the Parliament of the Hope, they completely rejected James I rule in England as illegal and stated their full intent of reclaiming England. They declared the new American colonies to be henceforth known as New England and for the political structure to remain the same. New England was to be a Protestant nation based on Puritan values, and perhaps most importantly, they declared Gilbert I the rightful King of England.
Almost immediately, New England experienced an economic boom. With the establishment of a new kingdom that had little competitors or war, refugees from the Spanish-French war fled to America. Following in their footsteps came Dutch traders who at high prices bought rare furs which led to increasing economic development as skilled workers from France and England found their skills in high demand. However, as farmers and sheep herders increasing took and adapted the land for their purposes, they inevitably came into conflict with the local American tribes who reacted with hostility to the mass of refugees.
What resulted became known as the First American war in which English soldiers armed with muskets and pikes faced against native Indians. What followed was a war of extermination on both sides as the local tribes attacked small farms and isolated villages, killing all in their way. In response, the New English army hunted and attacked individual tribes. The result was perhaps almost always inevitable as the native Indians found themselves slaughtered or refugees in their own land, leaving the English as the victors.
So it was that the New English found themselves in a golden opportunity. With no real rivals to threaten them and a whole continent at their disposal, it almost seemed like a dream that their God had given to them, as some compared, "A new Jerusalem for the Chosen People".
- See also a further alternative timeline about American history after the Invincible Armada's victory
30 Years War
It was during this period that the religious tensions, seemingly ended by the conquest of Europe's only major Protestant Power, came to its climax. In Bohemia, the people revolted against Ferdinand II in 1618 and declared Frederick V of the Palatinate their King. An attempted invasion by the Austrian Habsburgs from Moravia failed miserably, further spreading the flames of revolution.
In May 1620, Ferdinand II called upon his relative, Philip III for assistance in putting down the rebellion which by this time seemed to be taking its lessons from the Dutch revolt that had plagued most of Philip II's reign. Relations meanwhile between the Dutch and the Spanish had never been better after the war both had fought against the French who were still recovering from the devastating war. Quickly attacking from North Italy, the Spanish quickly overwhelmed and crushed the Palatinate before marching upon Bohemia itself. Joined by Saxony and Bavaria, the Battle of the White Mountain ended Frederick's ambitions. Frederick later escaped to Denmark where he later died in 1632.
Five years later in 1625, King Christian IV of Denmark launched a campaign in North Germany. However, his campaign was nearly immediately put to an end when it was revealed that Denmark could only rely upon the war reparations gained from Sweden from the Kalmar War in 1611. With him was an army of a national army 15,000 strong and a mercenary army only 5,000 strong. However, at the Battle of Lutter in 1626, Christian IV was heavily defeated by the Imperial Commander Wallenstein, killing 4,000 of Christian's army and capturing a further 1,500. Wallenstein pursued through Denmark but ultimately was halted at Zealand after a lack of a proper navy was revealed. A peace was made with Christian IV that formally saw him surrender his claims to North Germany.
All might have ended had it not been for the Edict of Restitution and the invasion by Sweden. The Edict of Restitution was a clear attempt by Ferdinand II to restore the Catholic supremacy that it had held before 1555. Gustavus Adolphus invaded in response to the Edict, claiming that the edict violated the rights of German Lutherans. At the start of the invasion, it was widely predicted that the Swedes would be defeated as easily as the Danish had been. However, to the surprise of Europe Gustavus waged war in a revolutionary way, using mixed regiments and using war to fuel further war. In this way, Gustabus reached Lutzen in 1634 where he was killed in a battle and forced the retreat of the Swedes back to Sweden.
It is widely held at this time that had France intervened somehow, the 30 Years War would have ended differently. However, at this time the French were still recovering from the war against the Dutch and Spanish, and under Cardinal Richelieu had only just begun to regain their military strength. Meanwhile, the assistance of the Spanish to their Austrian relatives had proven extremely useful and arguably was the main reason for the victory that the Habsburgs enjoyed.
The aftermath of this war was the strengthening of the Habsburgs in the Holy Roman Empire. The German Princes found themselves increasingly under Habsburg influence and the ancient Holy Roman Empire as a whole is said to have ended with the Treaty of Augsburg in which Denmark and Sweden formally surrendered any claims over North Germany and paid war subsidies proportional to the devastation caused. Sweden in particular suffered immensely due to the reparations and was forced to default on their payments many time. It wasn't long before Denmark had recovered and reclaimed the Baltic as her own sphere of influence.
Catholicism was now firmly rooted in Germany, and was very much seen now as a Habsburg inheritance. Even so, tensions were still high between the Catholic German Princes and the few remaining Lutheran Princes. In 1636, Ferdinand was confirmed by the Papacy and representatives as being the rightful ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. The Habsburgs had never before enjoyed such a golden age as they had done before.
The French War of Devastation
By 1645, France had once again grown in strength. Under the reigns of Henri IV and Louis XIII, France had recovered from the war against Spain and the United Provinces and now saw itself surrounded by a Habsburg domination. England to the north was seen to be a Habsburg ally at best, puppet at worse. To the west, the Dutch were counted as strong allies with Spain who feared an insurgent French invasion. In addition, the Holy Roman Empire had never been as united under one ruler and faith as it had been under Ferdinand II and his successor, Ferdinand III. Finally, to the south the Spanish remained as strong as they ever had been. Their navy was still counted as one of the best in the world, followed closely by the Dutch and their armies had been tested and come out on top in Germany during the 30 Years War.
The main reason that the war began is usually put down to the rule of the Habsburgs whose prestige and dominance of Europe had reached its height. In the west, the Austrian Habsburgs held supreme in the Holy Roman Empire with almost complete dominance of its lands. Its only competitors were the Ottoman Empire and Poland-Lithuania, both of whom were engaged elsewhere (with Poland-Lithuania at war with Russia and the Ottoman Empire dealing with dissent in Egypt). To the East and the South, Spain reigned supreme, effectively surrounding France. To the north stood the states of England and the Netherlands, both of whom were effectively pro-Habsburg. The latter was especially willing to stand by Habsburg Spain for fear of a resurgent France.
The time had come, it was felt, to secure Habsburg domination of Europe for the last time. No other major European power at this time existed that was in opposition to the Habsburgs other than France. Poland-Lithuania found itself at war at the same time with Russia and Sweden, occupying the three powers. Denmark was undergoing a religious reformation to Catholicism and the Ottoman Empire, while becoming seen as the next target to secure Europe as a Christianised continent was not yet a real danger to the Holy Roman Empire. Even the Papacy was more compliant than it ever had been with the Habsburgs.
The invasion of France began in Dauphine where a combined Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs invaded.