|Centuries:||15th century – 16th century – 17th century|
|Decades:||1550s 1560s 1570s – 1580s – 1590s 1600s 1610s|
|Years:||1585 1586 1587 – 1588 – 1589 1590 1591|
- May 12 – Day of the Barricades in Paris. Duke Henry of Guise seizes the city, forcing King Henry III to flee.
- May 28 – The Spanish Armada, with 130 ships and 30,000 men, begins to set sail from Lisbon heading for the English Channel (it will take until May 30 for all ships to leave port).
- July – King Henry III of France capitulates to the Duke of Guise and returns to Paris.
- July 31 – First engagement between the English and Spanish fleets off Plymouth. The English have the better of it.
- August 2 – The English and Spanish fleets meet again off Dorset. (The English fleet is led by Lord Howard of Effingham and Sir Francis Drake.) The English again have the better of it.
- August 6 – Battle of Gravelines: The Spanish Armada is defeated by an English naval force under command of Lord Charles Howard and Sir Francis Drake off the coast of Gravelines, now in France.
- August 7 – The English and Spanish fleets again engage off the coast of Flanders. The English again are more successful.
- August 8 – August 9 – The Spanish are unable to reach the coast of Flanders to meet up with the army of the Duke of Parma. Medina Sidonia decides to return to Spain.
- August 12 – The Spanish fleet sails past the Firth of Forth, and the English cease their pursuit. Much of the Spanish fleet is destroyed as it sails around Scotland and Ireland.
- December 23 – Henry III of France strikes his ultra-Catholic enemies, having the Duke of Guise and his brother, Cardinal Louis of Guise, killed, and holding the Cardinal de Bourbon a prisoner.
- Ahmad al-Mansur, sultan of Morocco, demands that the king of Songhay give a heavy tribute in exchange of a Saharan salt, probably in an intentional provocation. When Songhay's answer is defiant, he declares war and marches his army through Sahara to Songhay
- Russia, regency of Boris Godunov
- William Morgan's Welsh translation of the Bible published.