Alvaro de Bazan, Marquis of Santa Cruz (1526-1588) was a Spanish naval commander who planned the Spanish Armada, but died just before the fleet sailed, denying the fleet an able commander.
Santz Cruz was born in Granada in 1526 into a family with a naval tradition. His early career was spent in the Mediterranean, where he fought the French (during the Hapsburg-Valois Wars), the Ottoman Turks and the Moors of North Africa. He fought the French in 1544, during the Fourth Hapsburg-Valois War. In 1554 he fought the corsairs of Algiers, a major threat to Christian shipping in the Mediterranean and in 1563 he defended Oran against attack.
He was rewarded for his successes by being appointed perpetual governor of Gibraltar in 1562, captain of the galleys of Naples in 1568 and Marquis of Santa Cruz in 1569.
In 1571 Santa Cruz commanded the reserve fleet at the battle of Lepanto, the last great battle fought between fleets of galleys. He had created the battle plan for the fleet of the Holy League, and during the battle made a major contribution to the victory with his reserve.
In 1580 he commanded the fleet that supported the Duke of Alba's conquest of Portugal (Alba's last campaign - the aging duke died in Portugal).
In 1582 Santa Cruz won the first battle of Terceira, defeating a small French fleet that had been sent to help Portuguese rebels holding out on the Azores.
In 1583 Santa Cruz won the second battle of Terceira, defeating a more powerful French fleet that had been sent for the same purpose. After the battle Santa Cruz had all of his French prisoners executed, leaving a stain on his reputation even at the time.
On 9 August 1583 Santa Cruz wrote to Philip II of Spain suggesting an invasion of England. Philip eventually accepted the plan, although reduced the scale of the fleet. In 1587 Santa Cruz was made naval commander, and began to gather the massive fleet at Lisbon. He overcame a series of problems, including English raids, and successfully created a powerful fleet, but he died unexpectedly on 9 February 1588, aged only 61. He was replaced as naval commander of the Armada by the Duke of Medina-Sidonia, who had no naval experience of any sort. Santa Cruz's early death is thus sometimes given as one of the reasons for the failure of the Spanish Armada.