In the later months of 1588, Philip slowly recovered his strength; by November he was once again working long hours at his papers and before the year was out he was conducting business with his ministers in person.1 However, the last decade of his life was one of progressive physical decline and latterly of the unremitting agony of a long and lingering death. These years saw the king make a series of grievous errors of judgement — in his handling of the situation in Aragon; in his determination to risk so much on intervention in France and doing so at the expense of the war in the Low Countries; and in sending two more armadas against Elizabeth of England, both of which were ill-prepared and sailed unseasonally late in the year (1596 and 1597). The illnesses and the impairment of judgement were doubtless connected but what was most remarkable about Philip at the end of his life was the way in which he shed the indecisiveness that had characterised so much of his kingship. As he became more conscious of the approach of death, Philip became more determined to take any risk in order to bring his reign to a successful conclusion and to hand on a secure inheritance to his son.
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