Federigo Spinola


In some ways, the hero of this story is Federigo Spinola, or Federigo de Spinola, or Federico di Spinola, or Frederike Spignola, or Frederic Spinola, who almost certainly was Shakespeare’s “great soldier Fredericke,” the brother of Mariana.  As explained elsewhere, if Shakespeare had not intended anything by his choice of the name for Mariana’s brother, he would have picked a name that did not immediately call to mind a real-life soldier who had recently perished at sea.  And if the name “Fredericke” was intentional, then his “sister” – Mariana – most likely also represents someone or something drawn from real life.


Why do I spell Fredericke with an “e” above?  Because that’s the way it was spelled in the only authoritative text – the 1623 Folio version of the play.  Subsequent editors uniformly leave the “e” off.  Leaving the “e” on makes it clear that Fredericke was intended to be a foreign name, and it very closely matches the name the English used for Spinola (i.e. Frederike Spignola, see excerpt from Grimeston below, no. 5).


This document collects what I have been able to learn about Spinola.  Stradling in particular documents the connection between Spinola and Mariana.


1.         The following are a series of quotes from Stradling, R.A., The Armada of Flanders: Spanish Maritime Policy and the European War, 1568-1668 (Cambridge U.P. 1992), which address the contributions of  Spinola and Juan de Mariana to the Spanish Navy and Spanish Naval policy.  It seems likely that during that period, anyone familiar with Spanish military concerns (as the English certainly were) would have associated Spinola with Mariana.


“In 1593, Federigo Spinola, promising heir to the complementary traditions of Hispano-Genoese collaboration – banking fortune and maritime genius – put forward a scheme for an offensive against Dutch trade, using a galley-fleet based in Flanders.” 


“Around the same time, dozens of Basque shipowners in the deep-sea fishing industry, many of them forced into redundancy as a result of forceful Dutch encroachment, began to apply for patents as corsairs, I order to prey in revenge on their rivals’ trade with France.  By the end of the century a thriving privateering industry had sprung up in Vizcaya and Guipuzcoa, naturally encouraged by Madrid in the hope (inter aliis) that it would keep alive Spain’s main nursery of mariners.”


“The impact on the City o f London of this first phase of systematic corsair activity was dramatic.  In 1601 it was claimed in the House of Commons that Flemish raisers had inflicted more damage on English commerce than the whole French navy during the course of the sixteenth century.”


“Naval historians now accept that Federigo’s flotilla made a powerful impact.  [citing  R. Gray, Spinola’s Galleys in the Narrow Seas, 160, MM [The Mariner’s Mirror] 64 (1978), pp. 71-83; Fernandez-Armesto, The Armada, pp. 127-8; and cf. J.S. Corbett, The Successors of Drake (London 1900) pp. 386-95]. They were a fully autonomous force (‘las galeras de Flandes’), with its own officials and tercio de infanteria.  Despite being checked by Mansell, they later acquitted themselves well in several brushes with the Dutch, during the manoeuvrings [sic] connected with the prolonged siege of Ostend.  They constantly harried Dutch attempts to supply the port by sea.  In one encounter, the Spanish marines boarded the enemy flagship and lowered its standard before being driven off by reinforcements.  Had it not been for the death in action of their commander (1603) the galleys might have justified the confidence of many experts in their aptitude for the Low Countries’ environment.  Even as it was, their actions – though certainly to be seen in conjunction with those of the local elements whose port they shared – represented the first major contribution that organized naval power had made to the war in the Netherlands.  In November 1603, Ambrogio Spinola recognized this when he rewarded with their liberty the galley-slaves who had served with the squadron.  Others were not so fortunate.  The galley San Felipe, wrecked with only ten survivors on the sandbanks of Flanders was one symbol of a campaign which eventually obtained the fall of Ostend (1604) but only at the cost of enormous sacrifices in men and resources.” (p. 13)


p. 19:  “Near the end of the sixteenth century, political thinkers, whose ideas were articulated in attempts to influence the new monarch, Phillip III, had begun to identify the problem.   Baltasar Alamos de Barrientos and Juan de Mariana, for example, argued that the northern threat necessitated a ruthless counter-offensive, aimed at securing the material mainsprings of power, the fuel (as it were) of the machine.  To them, developing a powerful maritime capacity in Europe was as important as maintaining the line of Atlantic trade and the silver supply which ran along it.”


p. 22:  “Failure had been humiliating, in terms of Spain’s reputation; but it had also been costly.  One of the basic suppositions of the new generation, advanced (for example) by Juan de Mariana in the 1590s, was that a naval policy could be made to pay for itself, and might even represent an investment.  Mariana was a keen advocate of privateering.  He seems to have envisaged it as a socially positive pastime, and as a popular movement in which the inhabitants of every fishing village on the Iberian coastline would fit out their best vessels as corsairs.  Mariana even suggested that his huge General History of Spain could be published if the King were to grant him an allowance – presumably presenting the projector’s fair return from his ideas – secured on royal profits from prizetaking.”  [citing Soons, 15, 65, and referring to De Rege].


p. 24:  “Alamos and Mariana agreed that privateering rather than the gran empresa de armada should be the ruling tactical principle of the new army.  The dismal message of Philip II’s campaigns in the North Sea was not lost on them.  However, Alamos argued that it would permit the Monarchy’s land forces to be scaled down, producing a defence-oriented army establishment and a strategy which would reduce expenditure by incalculable levels.  Not only would Castil’s coasts, and the interest of her traders, be protected, but also the need for increased taxation – the greatest domestic difficulty of the Crown since the 1580s – would be obviated.” [Guardia, L’Art pp. 210-12].


“On the other hand, given Mariana’s point that mass privateering was an economic way both to wage war and to train up fighting seamen, the decree can also be seen as an attempt to encourage the formation of a species of national sea-militia.  ‘All mariners and other fighting men who sail in the licensed ships, as well as the armadores themselves, will benefit from the same exemption, privileges and liberties . . . which the men of the militia of these realms enjoy’, declared point five of the 1624 revision.”


“All this was not quite to release the frantic mass-launch of warships      evoked by Mariana.”


p. 167:  “What seems beyond doubt is that the two examples of the Mediterranean ‘frigate’ which Federigo Spinola took with him to Flanders in 1599, provided a crucial stimulus.  This small and manoeuvrable vessel made a great impression in Ostend and Dunkirk, where its shallow draught combined with a single bank of ten oars made it ideal, as much for rather unglamorous tug-work in the inshore roads as for speedy operations in the calmer waters of the estuaries and islands dominated by the enemy.”


p. 186 – cites to “Certificates of F. Spinola, 14 jan. 1603, ARB/SSEG 124, ff 1-2. – ARB = Archives tu Royaume de Belgique (Allgemenie Rijksarcheiv), Brussels, SEG = Secretairerie d’Etat et de Guerre.


2.         Wernham, R.B., The Return of the Armadas: The Last Years of the Elizabethan Wars Against Spain 1595-1603 (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1994)


p. 269: "This second doubt [of the Queen's decision to dismiss the army around London in August 1599] was speedily justified.  Reports came pouring in almost at once that the six galleys from Santander, provided and led by Frederico Spinola, were at Le Conquet on their way to Dunkirk and Sluys.  These authentic reports were, almost inevitably, accompanied by fresh rumours that the Ferrol armada was close behind them  . . . . The London bands and a good part of the army that had been around the city were called back."


This is in reference to the "invisible Armada" which "called forth

defence preparations by sea and even more by land on a scale comparable

to those of 1588."  (pp. 271-72)


p. 319: “A dozen or so Dunkirk privateers did prowl off the English East Coast and in the Channel and Spinola’s six galleys at Sluys were an annoyance to Holland and Zeeland shipping. But these were irritants rather than serious menaces, though the periodical rumours of more galleys coming up from Spain to reinforce the six at Sluys alarmed both England and Holland and Zeeland into building galleys of their own.  The Archduke’s land forces seemed even less of a threat, for they were for the most part in open mutiny over lack of pay.”


p. 373:  It was therefore not unreasonable to suspect that the military and naval preparations in Spain’s Atlantic ports might be intended rather for the Netherlands than Ireland or England.  And indeed in December and January before the Treaty of Lyons [signed in Jan. 1601, I assume in “new-style” date; i.e. that the December referred to is Dec. 1600] was signed, the Spaniards were thinking of trying to send 5,000 troops thorough the Channel to Dunkirk.  The panicky alarm engineered by the success of Spinola’s six galleys in slipping through from Spain to Sluys in 1599 encouraged suspicions that the attempt might be renewed and on a larger scale.”


p. 327:  notes that the Sluys galleys were preying on the smaller craft and “had sunk 17 or 20 ‘small boats or hoys’”


p. 395-96 describes an engagement against the English on June 3, 1602, with eleven galleys, 8 of which were Spinola’s where two galleys were sunk and “the other nine were limping back to the Tagus, ‘miserably beaten and their slaves so piteously slain.’”


p. 400:  “The Anglo-Dutch navies also had a major success in 1602 against Spinola’s galleys.  He had been indulging Philip II, Lerma, and the Adelantado Padilla (until his death in April) in pipe dreams of a massive galley-borne invasion of England until the council of stat brought him down to a mere eight galleys, provided at his own expense.  He was on his way from San Lucar to Lisbon when he got involved in the encounter with Leveson in Cezimbra Road [described above]. 


Pp.  400-01 describe a further encounter on Sept. 24, 1602:  “They were able to complete the job.  Of the six galleys, two were rammed and sunk, two were driven ashore and broke up, a fifth was wrecked near Calais (was this perhaps the Hope’s victim?).  Only Spinola in his flag galley survived and got into Dunkirk. . . . .  Henceforth the spectre of the galley would no longer haunt those responsible for defending England against invasion.” 


Pp. 410-11 notes that “the disastrous ending of Federigo Spinola’s second attempt to run galleys from Spain through the Channel had ended his and Philip III’s dreams, and English fears, of a galley-borne invasion of England from Flanders.”


3.         From the Wikipedia entry for Ambrosio Spinola:


“Several of the younger brothers of Ambrosio Spinola sought their fortune in Spain, and one of them, Federico, distinguished himself greatly as a soldier in Flanders.”


Note the proximity of the word “great” to “soldier.”


4.         A medal commemorating the Dutch defeat of Spinola can be viewed here http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/explore/object.cfm?ID=MEC0069


5.         A near-contemporaneous account of Spinola’s death appeared in Edward Grimeston's  (sometimes spelled “Grimston”), “A true historie of the memorable siege of Ostend” (1604), which refers to him as “Frederike” (closely matching the Folio’s “Fredericke”).  Grimeston’s book happens to have been printed by Edward Blount, who also printed the 1623 Shakespeare Folio, and who some biographers believe was, along with Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, John Donne, Walter Raleigh, and others, a member of the Friday Street (or Mermaid) Club:


A TRVE HISTORIE OF THE MEMORABLE SIEGE OF Ostend, and what passed on either side, from the beginning of the Siege, vnto the yeelding vp of the Towne.


Conteining the Assaults, Alarums, Defences, Inuentions of warre, Mines,

Counter-mines and Retrenchments, Combats of Galleys, and Sea-fights, with

the portrait of the Towne: And also what passed in the Ile of Cadsant, and

at the siege of Sluice, after the comming of Count Maurice.


Translated out of French into English, By Edward   Grimeston.


AT LONDON Printed for Edward Blount. 1604.

 . . .

This yeare 8. great Galleys were rigged and made ready at Seuille in Spaine,

their chiefe commander was Frederike Spignola: that wherein Spignola went

was called S. Lewis, the Captaine thereof was Redon. The second the

Trinitie, the Captaine Pedro de Fergas. The third the Occasion, the Captaine

Auila: the fourth Saint Philip, the Captaine Don Rodrigo de Neruaiz. The

fift the Morning, the Captaine Pedro Collado Tenorro. The sixt S. Iuan, the

Captaine Hernando de Vergas. The seauenth Hiacintho, the Captaine

Christouall de Mongis: and the eight La Padilla, the Captaine Iuan de Sossa.

There were 400. men in euery one of these Galleys besides the slaues, and

eight hundred Souldiers they tooke in as they past at Lisbone. These Galleys

went their course towards England, and were sent by the King of Spaine with

some others which the Arch-duke had, to scoure along the coast of England,

Holland, and Zeland, to interrupt their trade, and to annoy them of Ostend

by Sea· Two of them, the Trinitie and the Occasion were sunke by Sir Richard



 . . .


The 26. of May the besieged receiued 100000. pounde waight of Poulder,

whereof 40000. for the soldiers, and 60 the Canon; a sargeant came and

yeelded himselfe into the towne, who sayd that the besieged did much anoy

the new battery vpon the gollet, and had that day slaine a canonier, and

stroke of an others leggs.


The 27. of May at the breake of day, being an easterly winde, a full sea and

calme, the generall Don Frederike spignola (by the Arche-dukes

commaundement, who omitted no opportunity to annoy Ostend) parted from

Escluse with 8. galleis and 4. frigatts well appointed both with slaues and

marriners, and in them were 2500. musketers and small shott; they shewed

themselues at the west of the ditch of Escluse, betwixt the bankes called

Francois Pol, (that is to say) the chiefe or head, and rowed eastward of

this ditch. The ships and galleys of the States and of Prince Maurice,

(being Admirall generall of the sea) seeing that their meaning was to charge

them, wayed anchour, and hoysed vp their sailes, taking their course towards

the east, although the tide were co~trary; & the wind also being so weake as

it would not fill their sailes. Spignolas galleis hauing the aduantage of

wind,  tide, and sun, vpon the States fleet; went by the North beyond the

Francois Pol into the Vuielinghe or gulfe, turning their prowe against the

fleet. Being in the Vuielinghe about 5. of the clocke, the 8. galleis

deuided the~selues in two foure & foure, with some space betwixt them, &

came in this order very furiously with a great cry, & with all their force

against the states army, first 2. galleys set vpon the


page [171]


shippe of lost de Mohr vice-admirall, called the golden Lion; don Fredirike

Spignola was in one of these galleys, the which had no banderolle or flag

vpon his mast, but only aboue the Chamber of the captaines lodging; Mohr the

vice-admirall defended himselfe valiantly and did much indomage his enemies

with his great ordinance,  so as Spignola himselfe was there mortally

wou~ded & died before he could go a shore: foure other galleis went after

the shippe of Captaine Legier Pieterssen of Groningh called the Segel-hont

or flying-dog; one of them tooke him right vpon the sterne with his spurre

or pointe, and made him retyer; at the same time the gunner of the dogg set

fier to a peece, the which made such a spoyle of the soldiers in the galley,

as it seemed a Cart had passed from one end to the other: The Hollandoise or

black galley wherein Iacob Michielson was Captaine, did fight with the other

two galleys; this skirmish hauing continued a while, two of the galleys

which were nere vnto the shipe of Legier Pieterssen, forsooke him, and went

against the galley of Zeland called the Flight, in the which Cornelius

Ianssen of Gorchu~ was captaine, who played his part as well as the rest, &

without doubt had wone the honor, if an accident of fier had not chanced in

his galley; The 2. other galleys did in like sort leaue Legiers shipe, &

rowed against the Hollandoise or blacke galley: One of them was vice-admiral

to Spignola & had a ba~derol vpon her mast, these 4. galleis had inough to

do with the Hollo~doise, who defended her selfe so valie~tly, as

notwithsta~ding that these 4. had grappeled with her to draw her into

Escluse, yet were they forced to leaue her after along fight. The galleie of

Holland being thus forsaken by them that had


page [172]


assailed her, went against them that were in fight with the vice admirall

lost de Mohr. An other shippe wherof Criin Henrihes of Zierc zeč called the

Alte-hont or the old dogge, although he were not charged, yet did he much

harme to Spignolas Galleies; he was among the rest, & did flanke them

shooting furiously vpon the enemies galleyes, which were in fight with the

vize-admirall and the black galley. There was such a slaughter on euery

side, but especially in Spignolas galleies, as euen a hart of Flint would

haue bin moued to pity: neyther of them shewed any base cowardise, they were

all so attentiue man to man, with the Canon, Muskets, halfe pikes, swords,

and other armes, to shoote, strike and anoy an other, without any care to

auoide the enemies blowes, as it was a horrible things to see: in the end

Spignolas men fainted, and fled to Escluse in great disorder, carrying backe

all their gallies, being fauoured by the neerenes of the retreat. According

to the letters written from diuers parts,  there were slaine on the

Arch-dukes side; the Generall Frederik Spignola with aboue 800. men; and

there were some hundreds hurt on the States side; There were some 36.

slaine, and amongst them Captaine Iacob Michels and his Lieutetenant: The

Vize-admirall Iost de Mohr, and Captaine Legier Pieterssen with some 60.

others which were hurt in the Vize-admirall and the galley of Zeland, there

were in either of them about 18. Englishmen of the garrison which is at

Flesingue for the King of England, who serued very well, there were 8.

slaine and 15. hurt which are comprehended in the nomber of the dead and

hurt. In this combat Iost de Mohr the Vize-admirall commaunded, insteed of

the signeur William Van


page [173]


Halteyn Lieftenant Admirall to the Prince Maurice: which lieutenant (hearing

the Canon shott) parted presently from Flesingue, with 5. ships of war and

one frigat, to come to the succor of his men, before the ditch of Escluse,

but the combat was ended, & the enemies retired when he arriued. Beholde

what passed then with the galleys of Spignola, wherein is verefied that

which the royal Prophet Dauid saith in the 16. & 34, Psalmes, that victories

come not from the force and power of man, but from the grace, succor and

assistance of Almighty God.


6.         The following passage, from John Lothrop Motley, History of United Netherlands 1600 to 1609 (1861), p. 87 (which also gives an account of the events leading up to Spinola’s death) supports Shakespeare’s notion (echoed in Wikipedia) that Spinola might have been a great soldier, but not necessarily a great seaman:


“Thus ended the career of Fredic Spinola, a wealthy, gallant, high-born, brilliant youth, who might have earned distinction, and rendered infinitely better service to the cause of Spain and the archdukes, had he not persuaded himself that he had a talent for seamanship.  Certainly, never was a more misplaced ambition, a more unlucky career.  Not even in that age of rash adventure, when grandees became admirals and field-marshals because they were grandees, had such incapacity been shown by any restless patrician.  Frederic Spinola, at the age of thirty-two, a landsman and a volunteer, thinking to measure himself on blue water with such veterans as John Rant, Joost de Moor, and the other Dutchmen and Zeelanders hom it was his fortune to meet, could hardly escape the doom which so rapidly befel [sic] him.”