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Second Thoughts

The boards creaked as Cristobal stepped off the pier and onto the bridging to the ship.  He'd anticipated a more stable footing and nearly fell over.  As his body wobbled, so did Cristobal's resolve. 

In that instant he knew it was all wrong.  He would turn back. Escape the enterprise. Home. Maria. 

No room to turn on the little bridge, he inched backwards.  

From the pier a burly soldier grabbed him. Keep moving forward!  Get on board!

"No!  I've decided not to go!"

"You can't decide that.  You're on the crew, you're on your way."  The burly soldier gestured that he would swing his musket like a club to keep Cristobal moving onto the ship.

"I'm not a galley slave you know!"

"You thought there was a difference?" 

On any Spanish enterprise, the soldiers always assumed charge, Sailors were treated like servants at best, just there for the function of transporting the soldiers to battle.  Any soldier thought he could tell any sailor what to do.

More soldiers gathered behind the man who had grabbed him.  There was no way out. Cristobal realized he had made a mistake, He was not in command of his own destiny.  Galley slaves were shackled, but Cristobal had no more options at this point than the miserable men he'd seen loading onto the galleys. 

Take This Cup

The Duke sits down at the only chair in front of the only desk on the galleon Santa Maria, flagship of the Spanish Armada. Within a three-mile radius of Santa Maria and its 500 souls, 130 ships carrying 30,000 men and a handful of women.  Priests.  Horses. Oxen. Soldiers and sailors. The fleet can travel only as fast as its slowest ship.  Waiting for them in the Netherlands, 20,000 more men are standing by under the great Parma, the greatest military leader of the day.

It is already clear to the Duke that the English Enterprise is doomed to failure.  But how to convince King Philip?

The strategy is clear.  Find Parma. Guide and protect barges of soldiers across the Channel. Land a force of 50,000 in England.  Defeat the harlot Queen Elizabeth and return the British Isles to the true church.  Pope Sixtus would pay for the enterprise, but only whence a bill was sent from the new Catholic rulers of England.

But the plan was incomplete. How to get this across?

A biblical reference, perhaps?  “Take this cup away from me…” he muses.


God said no to Jesus.  Surely the devout Philip would do the same. He must argue with logic. Facts. Tell the king the men are already sick. Describe the logistical nightmares plaguing the fleet.  Supplies of water and foodstuffs already rancid because of the green barrels hastily supplied after the pirate Drake attacked the fleet in port and destroyed everything in sight, including thousands of barrels and staves lined up to load onto the ships.  Let Philip know it is not even clear where and how they would find Parma’s army.

… copied… he plan was to sail to Dunkirk in France where the Armada would pick up another 16,000 Spanish soldiers that were under the command of Alessandro Farnese, the Duke of Parma.

The Conventional

The greatest power of its day

Conducted a great operation because God was on its side