Henry VIII inherited a force of some 15 ships, and continued expansion in great ships (eg Mary Rose, using the idea of firing through gunports in the sides of a ship, an idea only invented sometime between 1505 and 1509), infrastructure (including Trinity House) and facilities apace in expectation of war with France; in 1512 Sir Edward Howard took over as Lord Admiral, and attacked on 10 August, with inconclusive results despite a memorable slugging match between the English Regent and the French Cordelière resulting in the destruction of both. Additional combat in 1513 resulted in the death of Sir Edward, and his brother Thomas Howard took his place. In 1514 the 1,500-ton carrack Great Harry was launched, the first English two-decker and one of the earliest warships equipped with gunports and heavy bronze cannon.
In the end, the chief result of the war with France was a decision to keep the 30 ships active during peacetime. This entailed the establishment of a number of shore facilities, and the hiring of additional administrators; a royal shipwright appears in 1538. By 1540 the navy consisted of 45 ships, and in 1545 Lord Lisle had a force of 160 ships fighting with a French force of 130 attempting to invade England at the Battle of the Solent. In the same year a memorandum established a "king's majesty's council of his marine", a first formal organization comprising seven officers, each in charge of a specific area, presided over by "Lieutenant" or Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Clere.
By the 1580s, tensions with Spain had reached the breaking point, exacerbated by Elizabeth's support for the privateering expeditions of Hawkins, Drake, and others, and capped by the Cadiz raid of 1587, in which Drake destroyed dozens of Spanish ships. In 1588, Philip II of Spain launched the Spanish Armada against England, but after a running battle lasting over a week, the Armada was scattered and limped home. These famous battles were early actions in the long and costly Anglo-Spanish War of 1585–1604.