Medina Sidonia, Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, duque de

Medina Sidonia, Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, duque de älōnˈsō pāˈrĕth thā go͞othmänˈ do͞oˈkā ᵺā māᵺēˈnä sēᵺōˈnyä [key], 1550–1615, Spanish nobleman and commander in chief of the Spanish Armada. The 7th duke of one of Spain's most ancient, illustrious, and wealthy houses, Medina Sidonia was appointed captain general of Andalusia early in 1588. Following the death of the marqués de Santa Cruz shortly afterward, Philip II of Spain made him leader of the Armada, a command that he accepted with reluctance because he had no previous naval experience. Aware of the fleet's deficiencies in supplies, arms, and crew, he nevertheless set out in May, 1588, to fulfill almost impossible instructions: he was to skirt the French coast through the English Channel while avoiding a naval engagement and to effect a rendezvous in the Netherlands with the land army of Alessandro Farnese, duke of Parma, and cover its attack on England. Weather conditions and a running battle with the English fleet prevented this liaison, and Medina Sidonia took the remnants of his defeated and scattered Armada around Scotland and Ireland, reaching Spain by late September. He retained royal favor and continued to serve in high offices until his death. Although defamed by contemporaries and subsequent historians, Medina Sidonia has been rehabilitated by recent scholars who have recognized his courage, loyalty to the crown, leadership, and administrative ability.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Spanish and Portuguese History: Biographies