The Jews of Spain had their revenge on the Inquisition and the Spanish monarch on this date in 1588 when the Spanish Armada arrived in Lisbon in preparation for an attack on England, and Hector Nuñez, a crypto-Jew who had fled the Portuguese Inquisition to settle in England in 1546, was able to provide the British spymaster Francis Walsingham with foreknowledge of the Armada’s position and intentions. The Spanish Armada set sail on May 28th with 151 ships, 8,000 sailors and 18,000 soldiers, and with 30,000 more soldiers waiting to join the invasion in Netherlands. Nuñez was a successful merchant and physician who had relatives in Flanders and Spain and received letters in cipher concealed in cargoes of wine, raisins, figs and other goods. In the course of several sea battles, the Armada was shattered by the British navy and returned to Spain with only 67 ships and 10,000 men, many of them wounded or deathly ill. The wife of Hector Nuñez, Leonara Freire, contributed to the upkeep of a secret synagogue in Antwerp.
“The wily Nuñes even corresponded directly with Phillip the Catholic. He had an extensive network of informants . . . [and] was so important to the government that the Privy Council even protected him from creditors. He was appointed as a special commissioner in insurance cases. He was treated unlike any other Portuguese merchant of the period.” — Manuel Azevedo.