John of Austria the Younger

John of Austria the Younger

between 1677 and 1679.

He was recognized as the natural son of Philip IV of Spain. His mother was an actress, Maria Calderon, or Calderona. Scandal accused her of a prodigality of favors which must have rendered the paternity of Don John very dubious. He was, however, recognized by the king. He received a princely education at Ocana and was amply endowed with commanderies in the military orders, and other forms of income.

Don John was sent in 1647 to Naples - then in the throes of the popular rising first led by Masaniello - with a squadron and a military force, to support the viceroy. The restoration of royal authority was due rather to the exhaustion of the insurgents and the follies of their French leader, Henry, duke of Guise, than to the forces of Don John.

He was next sent as viceroy to Sicily, whence he was recalled in 1651 to complete the pacification of Catalonia, which had been in revolt since 1640. The excesses of the French, whom the Catalans had called in, had produced a reaction, and Don John had no much more to do than to preside over the final siege of Barcelona and the convention which terminated the revolt in October 1652.

On both occasions, he played the peacemaker, and this sympathetic part, combined with his own pleasant manners and handsome person with bright eyes and abundant raven-black hair - a complete contrast to the fair complexions of the Habsburgs - made him a popular favorite. In 1656, he was sent to command in Flanders, then in revolt against his own sovereign. At the storming of the French camp at Valenciennes in 1656, Don John displayed brilliant personal courage at the head of a cavalry charge. When, however, he took a part in the leadership of the army at the battle of the Dunes fought against Turenne and the British forces sent over by Cromwell in 1658, he was completely beaten in spite of the efforts of Condé, whose advice he neglected, and of the hard fighting of his troops.

During 1661 and 1662, he fought against the Portuguese in Estremadura. The Spanish troops were ill-appointed, irregularly paid and un-trustworthy, but they were superior in numbers and some successes were gained. If Don John had not suffered from the indolence which Clarendon considered his chief defect, the Portuguese might have been hard pressed. The greater part of the south of Portugal was overrun, but in 1663, the Portuguese were reinforced by a body of English troops, and were put under the command of the Huguenot Schomberg. Don John was completely beaten by him at Estremoz.

Even so, he might not have lost the confidence of his father, if Queen Mariana, mother of the sickly Infante Carlos, the only surviving legitimate son of the king, had not regarded the bastard with distrust and dislike. Don John was removed from command and sent to his commandery at Consuegra. After the death of Philip IV. in 1665 Don John became the recognized leader of the opposition to the government of Philip's widow, the queen regent. She and her favorite, the German Jesuit Juan Everardo Nithard, seized and put to death one of his most trusted servants, Don Jose Malladas.

Don John, in return, put himself at the head of a rising of Aragon and Catalonia, which led to the expulsion of Nithard on the 25th of February 1669. Don John was, however, forced to content himself with the viceroyalty of Aragon. In 1677, the queen mother aroused universal opposition by her shameless favor for Fernando de Valenzuela. Don John was able to drive her from court, and establish himself as prime minister. Great hopes were entertained for his administration, but it proved disappointing and short; he died in September 1679.


*"Memoirs of Spain 1621-1700" (Edin. 1834), J. C. Dunlop.



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