Yet the Great Procrastinator in the Escorial continued to, well, procrastinate, and the defeat of the Invincible Armada by Howard and Drake in 1588 gave Philip II even more reason to dither about schemes of conquest and conversion in the Far East. Eventually, as Lord Thomas concludes, “nothing was done.” The plan was never explicitly rejected. Philip II simply let it die of inattention, as consummate bureaucrats know how to do.
When I first read a few years ago that there were some 16th-century Spaniards who thought that they could take over China, my first response was to marvel at how delusional empire-builders can be. As weak as it might have been by that point, the Ming dynasty was hardly going to roll over and die when a few thousand Spanish soldiers showed up to try to take over their country. It never occurred to me that Philip II might one day be accused of being responsible for a “lost opportunity” in China brought on by excessive dithering.