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The Princess of Eboli

A Sexy Eyepatch

Princess of Eboli by Sanchez CoelloThe Princess of Eboli, Ana de Mendoza y de la Cerda was born in 1540. She was the only child of the count of Melito. Her parents were Diego Hurtado de Mendoza and Catalina de Silva . It seems that her parents did not have a good relationship and that her father did not care much about her.

In fact, when her father became a widower many years later, he remarried immediately in order to have an heir, a male. But he died before his second wife gave birth to a girl who also died soon afterwards. So Ana de Mendoza could ensure her inheritanc, which she would have lost if a baby boy had been born. It was a great blow to her to realize that her father wanted to find a way to disinherit her.

While a child, she tried to be the son her father had wanted and participated in many masculine activities, which she herself preferred to those meant for women.

Even though her mother taught her to sew and embroider, she preferred to ride and dedicate her time to falconry.

It is said that being a child she suffered an accident with a sword. The point of the sword went into her right eye. Since then she wore her famous eyepatch which made her so popular at the court. For her it was like a jewel and she wore different types.

Some said she did not really need the eyepatch, that she was just cross-eyed.

Ruy Gómez de Silva, a good man

Her future husband, Ruy Gómez da Silva (1516-1573) was a nobleman from Portugal. He hadPrince of Eboli come to Spain with Isabel of Portugal who was going to marry Carlos I . So Ruy knew Felipe II since he was born, as he was working for the queen.


He was appointed gentleman to Felipe II in 1548. The king wanted him to marry a lady belonging to the nobility and he chose Ana de Mendoza for him. As she was still very young she stayed with her parents until the marriage was consummated in 1557. During this time they rarely saw each other, because Ruy had to go to England with Felipe II who was going to marry Mary I of England in 1554 and, afterwards, he was also with him when he married Elisabeth of Valois in 1559.

Ana and Ruy had their first child in 1558. They had 10 children and it seems they were quite happy, although he was much older.


While Felipe II was married to Elisabeth of Valois, Ana played an active role at the court. She and the queen became good friends.

During the time he worked for the king, Ruy received several titles. In 1559 Felipe II conferred on the couple the title of Prince and Princess of Eboli, which was a town in Naples. Afterwards Ruy also was appointed Duke of Pastrana.

Ana de Mendoza and Ruy Gomez da SilvaRuy was secretary and confidence-man in the times of Felipe II. Then he worked for prince Carlos (son of Felipe II and his first wife, Maria of Portugal). The prince's violent and unstable character, maybe inherited form his grandmother Juana la Loca, as well as his conspiracy against his father resulted in his imprisonment in the castle of Arevalo . There he rejected any kind of food and finally died, completely insane, in 1568.

With the prince's death, Ruy lost his position at the court. He had less influence.

Even though it was said that Ana had a relationship with the king, this was never proven. It should have also taken place during the time Felipe II was married to Elisabeth of Valois, who he loved very much. Unfortunately, after having two daughters, Isabel Clara Eugenia and Catalina Micaela, the queen died in 1568.

These two deaths made the couple shift to the backround. Now Antonio Perez played the decisive role.

Pacifist vs. Warmonger

At the court were two groups, the ‘pacifists' lead by Ruy and the ‘warmongers' lead by the Juan of AustriaDuke of Alba.

In 1567 the Netherlands had risen up against Spain as Felipe wanted to annex that area to his kingdom and also impose the Catholic religion. Ruy proposed a solution based on respect for laws and costums while the duke favoured one based on arms.

On the other hand, regarding England , the Duke of Alba favoured a pacific solution while Ruy thought that only a war could solve the problem. This confrontation between both had its origin in their belonging to two famous noble families which wanted to be favoured by the king.

The group lead by Ruy was supported by his wife's family, the Mendozas, and many important civil servants, among them Antonio Perez.

Morisco Revolt in Alpujarras, Saint Teresa and the Duke of Pastrana

The moriscos that lived in Granada were obliged to change their customs and adopt the Catholic religion. This started a revolt.

In 1568 the revolt was crushed by the army, following Alba's advice, although it took two years. Felipe II sent his stepbrother, Don Juan de Austria, as commander-in-chief. That is how the moriscos were scattered all over the country.

Antonio PerezRuy always had a good relationship with the king although he had lost his influence. He started buying assets for his children, among them the village of Pastrana . He enlarged the farming areas using for this the moriscos who had come to Pastrana after the revolt in Las Alpujarras. Many of them were experts in working with silk.

Ruy also founded two convents belonging to Santa Teresa de Jesus' order. He had to convince the saint as she had had a serious argument with Ana de Mendoza. In fact, after Ruy's death, the princess of Eboli decided to retire to a convent, a very theatrical gesture. But she wanted to maintain her lifestyle, her maids, her visitors, etc. really believing that she was the owner of the convent. Finally the nuns escaped surreptitiously during the night leaving the convent.

Ruy died unexpectetly in 1573. At that time the policy proposed by the Duke of Alba for the Netherlands was not successful. 

Four Aces and the Queen of Hearts

Antonio Pérez, Felipe II, Juan de Escobedo, Juan de Austria and the Princess of Eboli

Antonio Pérez, son of, Gonzalo Pérez, Felipe II' secretary and Juana Escobar , was born Juan de Escobedoin 1534. He had a humanistic education.

With his father's and Ruy's help he became secretary to the king in 1566. Rumor had it that he was in fact Ruy's son, but this could never be proven. What is true is that Ruy treated him as if he were one of his children.
After the Prince of Eboli died, Antonio Perez lead the ‘liberal' group.

Juan de Austria , illegitimate son of Carlos I and Barbara Blomberg , was born in Germany in 1545 and therefore Felipe II's stepbrother. Juan de Austria, also known as Jeromin when he was a child, was educated in Spain. He was recognized by his father and treated like a real brother by the king.

He was very successful solving the problem at Las Alpujarras and afterwards also at the Battle of Lepanto, beating the Turks.

Juan de Austria became a heroe for Spanish people and was admired all over the country. It seems that this made him also more ambitious. Some said that he wanted to have a kingdom of his own, but Felipe II never gave him one. Maybe the king did not trust him or that he was jealous because Juan de Austria had become so popular. It was said, that one of his desires was to marry Mary Queen of Scots, invade England and become king. But again, Felipe II did not allow him to do it.

Antonio Pérez informed the king about everything related to his stepbrother and probably his own ambition made him tell things which were not true at all. As time went by, Juan de Escobedo became secretary to Juan de Austria. He belonged to Ruy's followers and was recommended by Antonio Perez, thinking that this was a way to be always informed about Juan de Austria´s plans. But after working for Juan de Austria for some time, Juan de Escobedo was faithful to his master and became an enemy of Perez.

Plaque commemorating Escobedo´s murderWhile he was still thinking about the possibility of becoming king of England , Juan de Austria was sent to the Netherlands to pacify the country. After a first victory, the conflict got worse. In 1578 Juan de Austria asked the king of Spain for more soldiers. But they never came.

Juan de Austria was sick. His secretary, Juan de Escobedo was murdered in Madrid.

It is believed that he had come to the capital to convince the king to approve the marriage between Juan de Austria and Mary, Queen of Scots, that Felipe II was jealous of his stepbrother´s ambitions and the influence Escobedo had on him and that the king ordered Antonio Perez to kill Escobedo. The murder took place at Camarin de la Almudena Street. Nowadays we can see a plaque commemorating the event. It is also said that they had tried to poison Escobedo before without any success.

But all this is just speculation. Maybe Escobedo came to ask for more troops to be sent to The Princess of Ebolithe Neteherlands and that Juan de Austria never even thought about being disloyal to his stepbrother.

Juan de Austria died that very year from typhus. After his decease, all his private documents were sent to the king who found out, that his stepbrother had always been loyal to the Spanish Crown. Maybe he even discovered that Antonio Perez had just tried to discredit him in order to get more power himself.

We are still supposing that this is what happened. In any case, suddenly Perez was not welcome at the court any more. Some time later he and the Princess of Eboli were imprissoned as accomplices in the plot, although the official reasons stated were different.

Some also believe that Perez did not only intrigue against Juan de Austria, but that he was also selling state secrets to Flanders, making Juan de Austria's victory more difficult.

Remains of Santa Maria ChurchThe Princess of Eboli was accused of living an indecent lifestyle and of managing her money badly. She was imprissones in different palaces until she was sent to her own in Pastrana, where she died in 1592.


Antonio Pérez was convicted of trading state secrets and imprisoned. As the legend goes, his wife visited him in prison, they exchanged their clothes and he escaped to Zaragoza.

Felipe II accused him of killing Escobedo, but due to legal problems he could not get Perez imprisoned, After several imprissonements and revolts, Antonio Perez finally fled to England where he fostered the black legend of Felipe II. He died in Paris in 1611.

Sculpture showing us where the remains of Santa Maria Church areOf course, today it is difficult to know what really happened, and if the Princess of Eboli was involved in the conspiracy against Escobedo. It does seem true that she had a relationship wit Antonio Perez and that both plotted in order to be more powerful.

She was an uncommmon woman for her time. She wanted to take an active part in political life and not only look after her husband and children. She liked parties, luxury and being adored by everyone.

During the time of Elisabeth of Valois she lived in a privileged position. To be suddenly in the background is something she did not like at all. When she started her relationship with Antonio Perez, first they were very discrete, but after some time they appeared everywhere together without false modesty. This was something the court did not approve.

We could say that the life of the Princess of Eboli is divided into two parts. The first one is related to her marriage to Ruy Gomez, who probably contained his wife's ambition in order to avoid worse evils. Without his support and advise, the second period starts. Nobody could control her and she even got involved with somebody like herself. How they would end was predictable.

House of Prince of EboliHer influence and ambition led her to perdition. Maybe she did not know anything about Perez' plans to kill Escobedo, but she could have. The sad end is that she died alone and locked up in her home in Pastrana. This way she became a legend.

In one of the plans of Texeira we can see the old Church of Santa Maria. Some remains of it can currently be seen in Almudena Street, next to Calle Mayor under a glass-panel. A statue of a man shows us the place. Behind the tower of the church is the house that belonged to the Duke of Pastrana with a garden in the backyard. Escobedo was killed in front of the church.

The Prince of Eboli and his wife are both buried in the crypt of the Pastrana Collegiate.

@Copyright 2008, 2009 Mª Dolores Diehl Busch. All rights reserved.
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