By Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
Last updated 2011-02-17
He was also one of the richest men in Spain and contributed handsomely to the costs of the campaign - as Spanish nobles, in pursuit of a strong ethos of service to the crown, customarily did.
Logistically, indeed, the Armada's preparations were a triumph - far superior to anything the English could manage. It was better supplied with foodstuffs, munitions, hospital facilities and cash - even though it was operating far from home. The English, by contrast, were in home waters, and had far fewer men to keep provisioned at sea.
Medina Sidonia's orders reflected the effective way he organised the fleet for its voyage, in squadrons, with the transports protected by fighting vessels in the vanguard, rear and wings. They also contained a summons to confession and contrition before sailing, and injunctions against swearing, blaspheming, whoring, brawling and gambling. The Spaniards were well aware that they were undertaking a risky voyage, unlikely to succeed without divine favour.
Spanish preparations, however, contained a fatal weakness: strategy was still undecided when the Armada put to sea. If the opportunity arose, would it attempt to land the forces it carried on English soil? Would it hold back until it had met up with the Spanish troops that awaited it in the Netherlands? And if so, how would it effect a junction with those troops? On these critical questions, the Armada's commanders were uncertain and divided.
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