Philip II’s admirable reaction to the defeat of the Invincible Armada

January 16, 2014

Spanish Armada

[I]t was not the English, but the elements that broke the morale of the Invincible Armada and scattered over a thousand miles of sea the timbers of the best ships and the bones of the bravest men of Spain….

Altogether about sixty per cent of the Armada came home; but less than half the men.

Painted by Sofonisba Anguissola who was one of the queen's [Isabel de Valois] ladies in waiting.

Painted by Sofonisba Anguissola who was one of the queen’s [Isabel de Valois] ladies in waiting.

His Majesty [Philip II], in San Lorenzo, heard of all this with the same serene imperturbability with which he had learned of his glorious victory at Lepanto. “I can fight men,” he said, “but not the elements.” Sending a notice of the event to all the churches and monasteries of the realm, he commanded them to offer thanks to God for the defeat of the Armada. Since God had so very plainly ordained what had happened, for ends inscrutable to men but necessarily good, since they were His, it must be for the best, and for His glory and the good of souls. Hence the disaster was not a matter for complaint or lamentation, but for rejoicing….

The cost had been tremendous…. He never expressed the slightest regret for this or for anything that had happened in connection with the voyage. He had done the best he could, and God had ordered matters for His own glory. When the Cortes met that year, Philip was able to say, “God Himself is my witness that it is not the hope of gaining new kingdoms that has guided me, but zeal in His service and the desire to glorify the Holy Faith that has led me thus to risk my patrimony, because of God, the honor of the State, and my own honor.


William Thomas Walsh, Philip II (Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1937), 664-5.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 352



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