Instructions to Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, Leader of an Expedition to the Philippines

Preserving Legazpi’s life was a top priority. Yet, as the instructions went on to observe, “all of us are at the mercy of death.” An ironclad procedure was therefore in place for such an eventuality. No second-in-command had been named. Bitter experience had shown that designating a successor could incite rivalries, mutinies, and murder. Instead, Legazpi’s replacement was to remain unknown until the time of his death, when the survivors would be permitted to look in the commander’s cabin for a steel coffer “of about one palm in length and one hand and two fingers in width.” This hidden box, “nailed shut and wrapped in cloth with three royal seals, contained a piece of paper with the name of the substitute commander. Should this person die, too, a second steel coffer, slightly smaller than the first but similarly closed, wrapped, and with three royal seals, bore the name of the third person in the line of command. The identities of the two replacements were wholly unknown to the expeditionaries — including Legazpi and the two chosen successors themselves. Now we know that the first (and surprising) replacement was the once treasonous military commander Mateo del Sauz . . .

Conquering the Pacific, pp. 77 – 78

These names were probably (self assumes) decided by Philip II himself?

It’s a good thing Mateo del Sauz didn’t know he would take over command if something happened to Legazpi!

Stay tuned.


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