So many people have assisted me in the preparation of this book that it is impossible to thank them all. However, I would like to express my particular gratitude to John Elliott, who originally supervised it as a doctoral thesis, and has since continued to show an interest and remarkable patience with my research. I am also grateful for the many useful comments and feedback provided by James Casey and David Parrott.
Whilst working in Spanish archives, I benefited from the assistance of Julia Montalvillo at the Archive of the Dukes of Alburquerque in Cuéllar, and José Manuel Calderón in the Palacio de Liria. I would also like to thank the owners of these archives, as well as the counts of Orgaz, the earls of Sandwich, and the Fundación Casa Medina Sidonia for allowing me access to their papers. At the state archive of Simancas, Isabel Aguirre and Agustín Carreras Zalama were of great help to me in the early months of my research. Amongst the academic community, Fernando Bouza has always been generous in sharing with me his immense knowledge of Spain’s archives, whilst José Martínez Millán and Patrick Williams kindly allowed me access to their unpublished material on the councillors of Philip IV. For equally important reasons my thanks go to Catherine Davis, Jeremy Lawrance, and Ron Truman. I would also like to express particular appreciation to Antonio Álvarez-Ossorio Alvariño, Félix Beltrán Díez, and Rafael Valladares for their friendship and encouragement during the course of many years and visits to Spain.
This research was made possible by the British Academy, the Institute of Historical Research, the de Osma foundation, and the Vicente Cañada Blanch Institute at Manchester University. I have also benefited from travel grants provided by Magdalen College Oxford and the University of Limerick. I would particularly like to express my appreciation to my colleagues in the Department of History at Limerick for allowing me a lengthy career break to give me the time necessary to write this book, and to the School of History at the University of St Andrews for the kind welcome they have shown me. Writing about a subject that is primarily based on continental European sources has many complications that have, to a significant extent, been smoothed over by the assistance of the Inter-Library Loans staff at the Universities of Limerick and St Andrews.
Over the years, I have inflicted a lot of text on unsuspecting readers. John Cooper, Tony Lappin, and Guy Rowlands have waded through very (p.vi) substantial amounts of my prose, and without their patience and constructive criticism, this book would not have appeared in its present form, and probably not at all. I am also very grateful to Pádraig Lenihan, Eric Nelson, Harald Braun, and to the late Robert Oresko, who read chapters in earlier forms. Finally, and most importantly, I should mention my parents Alan and Alison Malcolm, who sadly were only around in the early stages of a project whose final outcome I hope would have been to their liking.