On 15 June 1559, in Brussels, Philip took the decision to send an expedition to reconquer Tripoli, which had been conquered in 1551 by the celebrated Barbary pirate corsair Dragut.1 Philip’s decision was motivated in part by a perfectly natural ambition to announce the beginning of his reign in Spain with a great victory against the infidel. More generally it emphasised his determination to reverse the successes of the Ottoman Turks and their co-religionists, the Barbary pirates, and to prevent them taking joint action in the western Mediterranean against Spain, her territories and her allies. Charles V had never concentrated fully on the defence of the western Mediterranean, although he had organised occasional large-scale expeditions; he had, for instance, succeeded in conquering Tunis in 1535 but had failed humiliatingly against Algiers in 1541. In consequence, Mediterranean Christendom suffered a rhythmic and escalating series of losses: Algiers had fallen in 1529; La Goletta in 1534; Tripoli in 1551 and Bougie in 1555. Algiers and Tripoli in particular became major pirate lairs and no one trading in the western Mediterranean, or living on its coast, was safe. Ottoman Turkey did not ordinarily send large fleets into the western Mediterranean but in 1558 a small expedition descended on Menorca and took thousands of Spaniards off into captivity. In Algiers it was said to be ‘raining Christians’.2 The assault on Tripoli was Philip’s declaration that he intended to fight back — and that he intended in doing so to claim for himself the leadership of Christian Europe as well as to protect his lands, his subjects and their commerce.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Crusade, Crisis and Revolt in the Low Countries
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number