In this article we will talk about one of the last great commanders of the Spanish Habsburgs - Alessandro Farnese. He received his baptism of fire in the famous naval battle of Lepanto, and achieved the greatest success in the Netherlands. Moreover, he had to fight in this province of the Spanish Habsburgs at the most difficult moment, when it seemed to many that the Netherlands had already been lost forever.
Alessandro Farnese was a representative of an ancient aristocratic family, the first information about which in historical documents appear around 1210. At that time, the ancestors of the hero of our article were known as Signors de Farneto (de Farneto). Among them were knights, and church hierarchs (the level of bishops), and diplomats. The rise of Farnese began in the middle of the 25th century, when a girl from this family, Giulia, who was known in Rome as Giulia la Bella (the Beautiful), became the mistress of the famous Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, in the future - Pope Alexander VI. It is he (as well as his children Cesare and Lucrezia) who are credited with the mass poisoning of their enemies (modern researchers are more than skeptical about these medieval legends, invented by the enemies of the Spanish Borja family). Julia gave birth to a daughter, Louise, from her patron, and her 45-year-old brother Alessandro received from him the rank of cardinal and three episcopal dioceses (it is curious that he received the clergy only at the age of XNUMX).
Raphael. "The Lady with the Unicorn" This is a supposed portrait of Giulia Farnese, painted around 1506. On the lap of the lady we see the unicorn, which was the symbol of the Farnese family
The alleged daughter of Julia and Alexander VI, Louise, married the nephew of Pope Julius II, who was the worst enemy of the Di Borgia (Borja) family. And the brother of the "beautiful Julia" later (in 1534) himself became the pope. After being elected pontiff, he took the name Paul III.
Paul III is known for issuing the very important bull Sublimis Dei, which forbade the enslavement of the Indians and all other people. Nicolaus Copernicus dedicated his work "On the rotation of the celestial spheres" to him. But morally, Paul III differed little from his predecessors. It is known that he controlled all the Roman prostitutes who paid him a tax as a pimp. This pontiff continued the tradition of trading in church positions, and he made three of his grandchildren cardinals, two of whom had not yet reached the age of majority at the time of their appointment. For his illegitimate son, Pier Luigi, Paul III recreated the Duchy of Castro in 1537 (which existed until 1649).
Pier Luigi Farnese in a portrait by Titian
Coat of arms of the Duchy of Castro
In 1545, Parma (which became the capital) and Piacenza were added to this duchy. The Duchy of Parma was then dominated by the Bourbons, the Habsburgs, Napoleon, the Kingdom of Sardinia.
Duchy of Parma on the map of Italy
On this coat of arms of the Dukes of Parma, we see both the Castro shield and the Farnese unicorn:
The grandson of Paul III and the second son of Pier Luigi, Ottavio Farnese, became the spouse of the illegitimate daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Margherita. This girl was born on July 5, 1522, her mother was the Flemish Johanna van der Geinst. In 1533, Margarita received the right to be called Austrian, but she is better known as Margarita of Parma.
On February 29, 1536, this girl, who was not yet 14 years old, was married to the Duke of Florence, Alessandro Medici, who was officially considered the nephew of Pope Clement VII, although many considered him the son of this pontiff. In 1537, Alessandro was assassinated by his cousin Lorenzino Popolano de' Medici. Margarita was not allowed to be a widow for a long time: on November 4, 1538, a 16-year-old girl became the wife of 13-year-old Ottavio Farnese.
Ottavio Farnese in a portrait by an unknown artist
The first years of the life of Alessandro Farnese
In this marriage, on August 27, 1545, Margaret gave birth to twin boys in Rome, one of whom died at the age of 4 years. The second was Alessandro Farnese, the hero of our article.
As we remember, Margarita of Parma was a native of the Netherlands. That is why the heir of Charles V - Philip II in 1559 appointed her viceroy of this province (this position was called stathauder or stadtholder - literally "holder of the state").
Margaret of Parma in a portrait by Antonis More, 1562
And her husband was in Parma, which he disputed with his own grandfather, the Roman Pontiff Paul III, and then with Julius III, who wanted to annex the duchy to the papal region. The issue was finally resolved only in 1551.
The only son of this couple since 1556 was at the court of Philip II - first in Brussels, and then, from 1559 - in Madrid, where he was brought up together with the Infante Carlos and another famous Habsburg bastard - Don Juan of Austria, who would later lead the fleet of the Holy leagues in the great battle of Lepanto. Some believe that the son of Margaret at the court of Philip II was in the role of an honorary hostage and had to guarantee her loyalty as the viceroy of an important province.
Alessandro Farnese and the heir to the throne, Don Carlos, were cousins and nephews of Juan (son of Charles V). At the same time, Alessandro Farnese was the oldest of them - he was born 2 years earlier than his classmates.
Sofonisba Anguissola. Portrait by Alessandro Farnese, 1560
By the way, it was then, under Philip II - in 1561, that Madrid became the capital of Spain: until then, the royal court "roamed" between Toledo and Valladolid.
Alessandro Farnese spent the first years of his life in Italy and therefore, despite his subsequent upbringing in Madrid, he never became a Spaniard. Everyone thought he was Italian.
In 1565, Alexander Farnese returned to his mother in the Netherlands and in the same year married the Portuguese princess Maria. The wedding took place in Brussels.
F. Floris. Marriage of Alessandro Farnese and Mary of Portugal
The eldest son of this couple, Ranuccio, will be his father's viceroy in Parma, and after his death he will take the ducal throne.
Ranuccio Farnese, monument in Piazza Cavalli, Piacenza
Spain's setbacks in the Netherlands
Meanwhile, contradictions between the local bourgeoisie, merchants and the central Spanish government were rapidly growing in the Netherlands. The prerequisites for the uprising of this province and the beginning of the Eighty Years' War were described in the article "Iron Duke" Alba and the revolution in the Netherlands.
The Duke of Alba in a portrait by William Key, 1568
Recall that in 1566 the "Iconoclastic uprising" began in the Netherlands, and Duke Fernando de Toledo Alba, who arrived in the Netherlands in August 1567, was ordered to suppress it, as well as punish its instigators and active participants. Margarita of Parma went to her husband in Italy, where she stayed, with a short break in 1580-1581. until his death in 1586. As for Alessandro Farnese, he took an active part in the war of the Holy League against the Ottoman Empire (1570-1573). In the battle of Lepanto (October 7, 1571), he led a small detachment of three Genoese ships, which fought in the center - against the main forces of the Ottoman fleetled by Admiral Ali Pasha Muezzinzadeh. In a boarding battle, the ship on which Alessandro was located captured an enemy galley.
Fernando Bertelli. Battle of Lepanto, fresco, 1572
In the Netherlands, the policy of terror, which the Duke of Alba had staked on, proved ineffective. In 1673, he was recalled and, after returning to Spain, found himself in disgrace (like his son Fadrique). The king had mercy only in 1580, when it was necessary to conquer Portugal. On August 25, 1580, Alba defeated the Portuguese army at the Battle of Alcantara and entered Lisbon 2 days later. This victory was the last in the life of the "Iron Duke". And we will return to the Netherlands, where Luis Requesens y Zuniga was first sent as viceroy. He tried to act "not with a stick, but with a carrot": in 1574 he abolished the notorious Council on the case of rebellions, which in the Netherlands was called "Bloody". The Alkabala tax introduced by the Duke of Alba was also abolished, which, being mechanically transferred to the territory of the Netherlands, turned out to be extremely ruinous: due to the high degree of division of labor and traditionally high intermediary activity, it turned out that each product on its way to the consumer was taxed up to seven times . But half measures did not work, the war continued, and it was then that the inhabitants of the besieged Leiden destroyed the dams, flooding the area around.
Don Juan of Austria and Alessandro Farnese in the Netherlands
In March 1576, Requesens died, and Don Juan of Austria was appointed in his place - the half-brother of Philip II, the illegitimate son of Charles V, the hero of Lepanto, who on October 7, 1571, impatiently waiting for the ramming of the flagship of the Ottoman fleet, did not pray, but to the sounds of a military band danced the galliard sarabande on the artillery deck of his ship.
Don Juan of Austria. Monument in Messina
For help, he called from Italy an old acquaintance - Alessandro Farnese, a nephew and classmate at the Madrid court, who was his subordinate at the Battle of Lepanto. Alessandro brought with him about 9 veterans. In addition, approximately 4 soldiers came to Juan from Lorraine with Peter Ernst I, Count of Mansfeld.
Peter Ernst von Mansfeld in a portrait by Antonis Mohr
By the way, if we are talking about the Spanish army and its commanders. In the English book The Education of a Young Nobleman, written at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, one could read:
“Go to Flanders, introduce yourself to the Archduke there, and look at his army. Get to know the Spanish captains: you can learn a lot from them. There you will become perfect in military discipline, there, by example and encouragement, courage will be awakened in you.
But the Spanish soldiers were ready to observe discipline only if they were paid on time. And with this case, after the resignation of the Duke of Alba, who harshly beat out money from the Netherlands to maintain the army, it was bad. Luis Requesens, as we remember, in 1574 abolished the alcabala, Madrid sent little and reluctant money. And by the fall of 1576, the soldiers of the Spanish army had not been paid salaries for 2 years. As a result, on November 4, 1576, even before don Juan's arrival in the Netherlands, an incident took place in Antwerp, known as the "Spanish Fury" - the sack of the city by angry and out of control landsknechts. This further complicated the situation in the Netherlands and alienated even previously loyal cities and lands from Spain. But, on the other hand, frightened by the defeat of Antwerp, the deputies of the States General, who were sitting in Ghent at that time, fearing new pogroms in other cities, proposed the so-called "Ghent Appeasement". The Netherlands was declared an indivisible territory with complete freedom of trade and movement. The power of Philip II was also recognized, but a demand was made for the abolition of laws directed against the Calvinists. The troops involved in the sack of Antwerp were outlawed.
Don Juan, who arrived in the rebellious province in January 1577, signed the Union of Brussels, which guaranteed the restoration of the rights and liberties of the Netherlands and even the approval of William of Orange as the stadtholder of Holland and Zealand. On the other hand, the Estates General recognized the dominant position of Catholicism in the Netherlands. Brussels then opened the gates to Juan, who entered the city in February 1577. Continuing negotiations with the Estates General, he agreed on the text of the "Eternal Edict", which practically coincided with the provisions of the "Pacification of Ghent", except for one point: Juan declared himself a statholder of the entire territory of the province. And this turned out to be enough to resume hostilities, since Zeeland and Holland, where the positions of the Calvinists were the strongest, were initially not inclined to compromise and were only looking for a pretext for a new confrontation.
In addition, don Juan frightened everyone with his plans for an alliance with an ardent Catholic - the Duke of Guise and the release of Mary Stuart, who was supposed to restore Catholicism in England (with subsequent marriage to her). He did not object to marriage with Elizabeth of England, which did not arouse the slightest enthusiasm in this queen.
On January 31, 1578, Juan's army attacked and defeated the superior rebel forces at Gembloux. Don Juan then commanded the foot soldiers of the thirds, Farnese the cavalry.
Famien Strada. Battle of Gembloux
In July 1578, hostilities resumed in the Netherlands, and Juan's army of 22 occupied Namur and Charlemont. A new aggravation caused the wrath of Philip II, who no longer had money for this war. The states general demanded that he recall Juan, and the king went forward, but the indomitable bastard of the Habsburgs could no longer be stopped. Refusing to leave the Netherlands, he sent a letter to Philip II asking for help, promising him to conquer other areas of the rebellious province. He did not receive any money or troops, and at that time the troops of William of Orange, commanded by General Bosso and detachments of German Protestants formed with English money, were advancing on his army. A blow could also be expected from the Huguenots of France. After an unsuccessful attempt to attack Bosso at Rimenan, Juan returned to his camp near Namur. Here, some kind of epidemic began in his troops (it is assumed that it was typhoid fever). One of the victims of the disease was this brilliant bastard, who died before reaching the age of 32 - October 1, 1578. He was succeeded as governor of the Netherlands by his nephew, Alessandro Farnese.
In the next article, we will continue the story of Alessandro Farnese and talk about his activities in the Netherlands, as well as campaigns in France.