Henry VIII's reign
) But thirty-two years separate the naval actions of the First and Third French Wars, while only forty-three years separate the French invasion of 1545 from the Spanish Armada. We may fairly consider these three episodes, each a generation apart, as three stages in the battle experience of the English fleet.

This discussion is necessarily partly speculative. In the administration of the fleet there is clear continuity from Henry to Elizabeth. But the Elizabethan tactical debate, and the closely related debate over ship types, evolved without direct reference back to the Henrician experience. We can only infer that the men who argued these subjects in the 1570s and 1580s were well-aware of what had happened in the 1540s, and had it at least somewhere in the backs of their minds.

The first element of continuity in the Royal Navy was its continued existence and administrative structure. Henry's navy was allowed to decline after his death in 1547, but it was not sold into extinction as Henry V's had been a century earlier. It is true that it was not yet a "national" fleet--that would not come until the Commonwealth--but nor was it a mere appurtinance of the royal household. It belonged to the Crown, but it was something more than the private property of the reigning monarch. The King's Council of his Marine, the nascent Navy Board, remained in operation.

Admittedly the post-Henrician years were less than glorio

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