World Without End

Hugh Thomas



The Global Empire of Philip II

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Hugh Thomas is the author of, among other books, The Spanish Civil War (1961), which won the Somerset Maugham Award, The Suez Affair (1967), Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom (1971), An Unfinished History of the World (1979), Conquest: Montezuma, Cortés and the Fall of Old Mexico (1994), The Slave Trade (1997) and the first two volumes of his Spanish Empire trilogy, Rivers of Gold (2003) and The Golden Age (2010). From 1966 to 1976 he was Professor of History at the University of Reading, and from 1979 to 1991 chairman of the Centre for Policy Studies in London. In 2008 he was made a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres and won the Gabarrón Prize: he received the Calvo Serer Prize, the Boccaccio Prize and the Nonino Prize in Italy in 2009. He is a member of the Academia de Buenas Letras in Seville and a Caballero of the Maestranza of Ronda, and in 1981 became a life peer as Lord Thomas of Swynnerton.


List of Illustrations

List of Maps


Prologue: A Journey to Paris

Old Spain

1 King Philip II the Enlightened Despot

2 King Philip the Bureaucrat Monarch

3 King Philip and his Empire

4 An Imperial Theocracy

5 The Jesuit Challenge

Spain Imperial

6 Trouble in Mexico

7 The Sons of the Conquistadors Ask Too Much

8 New Spain in Peace

9 Viceroy Toledo at Work in Peru

10 Convents and Blessed Ones

11 Chile and its Conquerors

12 The Conquest of Yucatan

13 Conclusion in Yucatan

14 A Great Conquistador from Asturias

15 Franciscans in Yucatan

16 The Rivers Plate and Paraguay

17 The Mad Adventure of Lope de Aguirre

18 Guiana and El Dorado

The Imperial Backcloth

19 Portugal Joins Spain

20 The Money Behind the Conquests

21 Piracy and Buccaneering

22 The Galleon, a Very Narrow Prison

23 Populations Discovered

The East in Fee

24 The Conquest of the Philippine Islands

25 Manila

26 The Temptation of China

27 The Conquest of China

28 Epilogue: The Age of Administration








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Here I cannot forbear to commend the patient virtue of the Spaniards. We seldom or never find any nation hath endured so many misadventures and miseries as the Spaniards have done in their Indian discoveries. Yet persisting in their enterprises, with invincible constancy, they have annexed to their kingdom so many goodly provinces as bury the remembrance of all dangers past. Tempests and shipwrecks, famines, overthrows, mutinies, heat and cold, pestilence and all manner of diseases both old and new, together with extreme poverty and want of all things needful have been the enemies, wherewith every one of their most noble discoveries, at one or other, hath encountered. Many years have passed over some of their heads in the search of not so many leagues: yea, more than one have spent their labour, their wealth and their lives in search of a golden kingdom without getting further notice of it than what they had at their setting forth. All which notwithstanding, the third, the fourth and fifth undertakers have not been disheartened. Surely they are worthily rewarded with those treasures and paradises, which they enjoy, and well deserve to hold them quietly, if they hinder not the like virtue in others, which (perhaps) will not be found.


Since the fall of the Roman empire (omitting that of the Germans which had neither greatness nor continuance) there hath been no state fearful in the East but that of the Turk; nor in the West any prince that hath spread his wings far over his nest but the Spaniards who since the time that Ferdinand expelled the Moors out of Granada have made many attempts to make themselves masters of all Europe.

Sir Walter Raleigh, The History of the World

List of Illustrations

  1. The Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis and the embrace of Henry II of France and Philip II of Spain, 2–3 April 1559, French School, sixteenth century. (Palazzo Pubblico, Siena / The Bridgeman Art Library)
  2. Tournament during which Henry II was injured by the Count of Montgomery, 30 June 1559. Coloured engraving by Franz Hogenberg (1540–c. 1590). (Bibliothèque nationale de France / Giraudon / The Bridgeman Art Library)
  3. Philip II of Spain by Sofonisba Anguissola, 1565 and 1573. (Prado Museum, Madrid / Giraudon / The Bridgeman Art Library)
  4. María Manuela of Portugal by Anthonis Mor (1517–1577). (akg-images / Album / Oronoz)
  5. Mary Tudor by Anthonis Mor, 1554. (Prado Museum, Madrid / Giraudon / The Bridgeman Art Library)
  6. Elizabeth of Valois by Alonso Sánchez Coello, 1570. (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence / The Bridgeman Art Library)
  7. Anne of Austria, Queen of Spain by Sofonisba Anguissola, 1573. (Prado Museum, Madrid / The Bridgeman Art Library)
  8. The Alcázar of Madrid by Anton van den Wyngaerde, 1569. From a series of views of Spanish cities created under Philip II. (akg-images / Eric Lessing)
  9. ‘The monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial under construction’ also known as ‘The Hatfield Drawing’ attributed to Rodrigo De Holanda, c. 1575 (By courtesy of the Marquess of Salisbury / Hatfield House)
  10. Don John of Austria by Alonso Sánchez Coello (1531–88). (culture-images/Lebrecht)
  11. Fernandez Alvaro de Toledo, Great Duke of Alba by Titian (c. 1490–1576). (Copyright © SuperStock / SuperStock)
  12. Francisco de Toledo by unknown 18th-century artist. (Museo Nacional de Arqueologia, Antropologia e Historia del Peru. Photograph by Enrique Quispe)
  13. Gaspar de Zúñiga y Acevedo, Count of Monterrey, 1596. (Museo Nacional de Historia, Mexico. CONACULTA.-INAH.-MEX; reproduced by permission of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico)
  14. Don Martín Enríquez de Almansa. (Museo Nacional de Historia, Mexico. CONACULTA.-INAH.-MEX; reproduced by permission of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico)
  15. Luis de Velasco II. (Museo Nacional de Historia, Mexico. CONACULTA.-INAH.-MEX; reproduced by permission of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico)
  16. Laying of the first stone of Mexico cathedral in 1562. Detail of manuscript illustration from the ‘Codex Tlatelolco’. (Biblioteca Nacional de Antropología e Historia – INAH Mexico)
  17. Mexico Cathedral. (Copyright © Luis Castaneda / Tips / Axiom /
  18. The Kukulkan Pyramid in Chichen Itza, known as ‘El Castillo’. (Iberfoto / Photoaisa)
  19. Courtyard of the monastery, San Francisco Church, Quito, Ecuador. (akg-images / Gilles Mermet)
  20. Potosí (Copyright © Ritterback / AGE Fotostock)
  21. Fortress ruins at Portobelo, Panama (Copyright © JJM Stock Photography / Travel / Alamy)
  22. Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga by El Greco, c. 1577. (akg-images / RIA Novosti)
  23. Virgin and Child by Bernardo Bitti (1548–1610). (Paul Maeyaert / Iberfoto / Photoaisa)
  24. ‘Unión de la descendencia imperial incaica con la casa de los Loyola y San Borja’ by Cusco School, 1718. (Museo Pedro de Osma, Lima, Peru)
  25. The corn stone, basalt artefact originating from Mexico. Aztec Civilisation, fourteenth–sixteenth century. (Copyright © DEA Picture Library / Age Fotostock)
  26. ‘Nicotiana’ (tobacco) by Adam Lonicer (1528–86). From ‘Codex plantarum.’ (Bibliothèque nationale de France)
  27. ‘Papas peruanorum; Serpillum citratum and Thymus vulgatior’ from ‘Hortus eystettensis’ by Basil Besler, 1613. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)
  28. Scenes of agriculture and the textile industry from the sixteenth-century ‘Codex Osuna’ (Copyright © Iberfoto / Superstock)
  29. Gold objects in an Aztec shop from the Florentine Codex by Bernardino de Sahagun, c. 1540–85. From Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España. (Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana, Florence, Italy / The Bridgeman Art Library)
  30. Caribbean slaves working the sugar cane. Engraved by Theodor de Bry, 1590. (Copyright © DEA Picture Library / AGE Fotostock)
  31. Nuñez de Balboa throws a number of Indians who committed the sin of sodomy, to the hounds. Engraving by Theodor de Bry from ‘America pars quarta’, Frankfurt 1594. (akg-images)
  32. Illustration showing punishments applied to the Indians from the sixteenth-century ‘Codex Osuna’, gathered by Jerónimo de Valderrama 1563–5. (M.C. Esteban/ Iberfoto / Photoaisa)



1. Europe in the late sixteenth century


2. The Spanish and Portuguese empires, c. 1570–1600


3. The division of the world as laid down in 1493–4


4. The routes to the Indies


5. Yucatan in the sixteenth century


6. Monasteries and convents in New Spain (Mexico) in the sixteenth century


7. The Journey of Ursúa and Aguirre


8. Supreme courts (audiencias) of the Spanish Empire in the sixteenth century


9. The ‘Florida Project’ 1565–68


10. The Galleon of Manila: its routes to and from Acapulco


11. The Absorption of Portugal by Spain in 1580


12. The approaches to El Dorado


13. Jesuit establishments in Spanish America and Brazil, c. 1600


14. The Far East and the Philippines


15. Argentina/Paraguay c. 1610


With this book, I complete a trilogy about the Spanish empire in the Americas begun in 2003 with Rivers of Gold, and continued in 2010 with The Golden Age. The present book brings the history up to 1598, the year of the death of the long-lasting Spanish king Philip II, when administrators, colonists, clergymen, and other officials were doing what they could to manage a large political empire, rather than expand it. The vast undertaking would last for another two hundred and more years; in the case of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippine islands and some other places, three hundred. But by 1598 the men of empire had mostly become guardians, not conquerors.

The present volume includes chapters where I try and consider life in one or other of the conquered territories; and there are the chapters of adventure in which I discuss new conquests. The two are the same in some cases, as, for example, in chapter 11 about Chile. There are also chapters where I talk of the arrangements made in the mother country, Spain, for the control of the new imperial territories.

Books play a part in this story, as Irving Leonard pointed out years ago in his admirable study Books of the Brave, first published in 1949.1 The number of persons inspired by chivalrous novels to go and seek their fortunes in the new world is considerable. Antonio Pigafetta, the Italian chronicler of Magellan’s journey around the world declared: ‘When I was in Spain in 1509, certain people whom I met and several books which I read, revealed to me the marvels of the ocean sea and there and then I resolved to see such marvels with my own eyes.’2 The reflections on this subject of the German Philipp von Hutten are quoted in this book’s immediate predecessor, The Golden Age: ‘I could not die in peace without having seen the Indies.’3 Bernal Díaz del Castillo, who came from Medina del Campo in Castile, wrote in Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España that he thought a distant sight of Mexico/Tenochtitlan reminded him of a depiction he remembered from the marvellously successful novel Amadís de Gaula,4 which is a little odd since there are no scenes of great cities in Amadís that I can find. But Bernal Díaz differs, and it is worth recalling that he must have known the author, or re-writer, of Amadís, Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, since, astonishingly, they came from the same town, where their houses were not far from one another. Rodríguez de Montalvo was a councillor (regidor) in Medina del Campo, as was Díaz’s father.

Díaz’s famous chronicle, like Montalvo’s Amadís, was characteristic of the age and would not have been thought of a hundred years earlier. For the European sixteenth century had yielded one surprising innovation from which much of the rest of its history flowed. That was printing, and the possibility of the widespread dissemination of both texts and copies of pictures. Reading became transformed from being the privilege of a small elite, able to afford handwritten copies, to something which most educated people could access by way of printed pamphlets and books. The effect was similar to the achievement of the radio in the twentieth century in widening the appreciation of music. In Spain, the new era began with such novels as Joanot Martorell and Martí Joan de Galba’s Tirant lo Blanch, published in 1490 in Valencia, and Amadís de Gaula, whose first identifiable publication was in Saragossa in 1508. With these works ‘a wide public awoke to the realization that a book could also be a means of entertainment’.5 In this new world, people looked to the chivalrous novel as a sort of modern-day tourist guide: beyond the next cape, Sergas de Esplandián might have suggested, in the book of that name, there were sure to be Amazons.

These chivalrous novels influenced behaviour in many ways. Fernando de Ávalos, marquis of Pescara in Italy, the husband of Michelangelo’s friend Vittoria Colonna, read many chivalrous novels in his youth before embarking on his own valiant career.6 Saint Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, was accustomed to read those ‘vayne Treatises’ to relieve the boredom during his recovery in 1522 from a broken leg at the siege of Pamplona.7 Equally, Saint Teresa of Ávila describes how she fell ‘into the habit of reading them [chivalrous novels] and it seemed that it was not wrong to spend many hours of the day and nights in such vain exercise, though concealed from my father. I became so utterly absorbed in this that if I did not have a new book, I did not feel I could be happy.’8 Surely this reading influenced Saint Teresa’s own life and her own book, El Castillo interior o las Moradas (The Castle of the Soul). Irving Leonard recalls a priest who not only knew of the deeds of Amadís and other heroes but believed that they were true merely because he had seen them in print.9

The conquest of the Americas also appears to have been in some ways the last crusade. The role of the Catholic Church in the unfolding of this great drama was as great as it had been in the earlier adventures of Christianity. We can recognize the role of the Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian orders, and then the Jesuits, in this age of imperial conquest. Christianity gave the Spanish empire an ideology. But it also provided that empire with a purpose and an essential discipline.

I am grateful to the following for their help: Mr Stuart Proffitt of Penguin Books, and his successive assistants Shan Vahidy and Donald Futers; Mr Andrew Wylie, Ms Sarah Chalfant, James Pullen, and others at Wylie Inc.; I can only describe Stuart Proffitt’s work on my text of volume 3 as marvellous, to use Columbus’s favourite word. He has been meticulous, imaginative, learned and interesting, as well as wise.

I also thank Ana Bustelo at Planeta, Barcelona; Gloria Gutiérrez and Carmen Balcells, at the Agencia Carmen Balcells; Guillaume Villeneuve, my excellent French translator; Agnès Hirtz and Jean-Louis Barré at Robert Laffont, Inc.; and the following with whom I stayed or consulted: Mr and Mrs John Hemming; Sir John Elliott; Damian and Paloma Fraser in Mexico; the late Carlos Fuentes; Marita Martínez del Río de Redo; Enrique Krauze; Dr Kwasi Kwarteng, MP; Professor Enriqueta Vila Vilar; Dr Juan Gil and Professor Consuelo Varela; the Duke and Duchess of Segorbe; Gerarda de Orleans; Rafael Atienza, Marquis of Salvatierra; the Marquis of Tamarón; Don Gonzalo Anes, Marquis of Castrillón, director of the Royal Academy of History in Spain; Don Vicente Lleó; Don Rafael Manzano; the director of the Archivo de Indias in Seville; Don Antonio Sánchez, director of the Museo de las Ferias, in Medina del Campo; and Don Miguel-Angel Cortés, Member of Parliament for Valladolid.

My assistants, Teresa Velasco, then Cecilia Calamante and finally Carlota Ribeiro Sanches, did much on different volumes of this work and I shall always be grateful to them for their care. Teresa Alzugaray has, as in the past, helped me with sixteenth-century Spanish script.

I should also mention certain books which have been an inspiration as well as a great help. These include the Dictionary of Spanish National Biography, of which masterpiece of book production I am one of the first to benefit (references are to DBE, or Diccionario Biográfico Español). There is also the Colección de documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista y organización de las antiguas posesiones españolas en América y Oceania, 42 volumes, Madrid 1864–84, to which I have alluded in the notes by the abbreviation ‘CDI’. I have also benefited from Marcel Bataillon, Érasme en Espagne; Manuel Ollé, La empresa de China; Manuel Fernández Álvarez, Felipe II y su tiempo; Sir John Elliott, Imperial Spain; James Lockhart, The Men of Cajamarca and Spanish Peru; Sir Nicholas Cheetham, New Spain; Irving Leonard, Books of the Brave; Geoffrey Parker, Philip II; Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean in the Age of Philip II; Manuel Giménez Fernández, Bartolomé de las Casas; John Hemming, The Search for El Dorado; Ludwig von Pastor, History of the Papacy; and Robert Ricard, The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico.

On the subject of King Philip, I have used several important biographies: those of the late Manuel Fernández Álvarez (Felipe II y su tiempo), Madrid 1998; Geoffrey Parker, whose Philip II (Boston 1978) is illuminating; and Henry Kamen, whose comparable biography I also enjoyed. These books helped me greatly in writing volume I. I had the pleasure many years ago also of meeting in Rome the late Orestes Ferrara, who wrote a remarkable life in the 1940s when an exile from Cuba (Philippe II, Paris 1961). Two novels of the epoch helped me greatly in ways that I explain ‘sobre la marcha’, as the Spaniards would put it: Amadís de Gaula of 1508; and Tirant lo Blanch of 1490.

I am also most grateful to my wife, Vanessa, for her help and patience in reading and correcting an early version of my text; as well as my children, Íñigo, Isambard and Isabella, for their support. I thank also my son-in-law Dr Georgios and my grandson Alexander Varouxakis.

Hugh Thomas, 31 January 2014

Prologue: A Journey to Paris

La Reine manda au Roi qu’elle conjurait de ne plus courir, qu’il avait si bien fait qu’il devait être content et qu’elle le suppliait de revenir auprès d’elle.

Madame de la Fayette, La Princesse de Clèves.
This was Queen Catherine de’ Medici appealing
to King Henry II not to go on with his joust.

A treaty of peace made in 1559, between France on the one hand and Spain in alliance with the Holy Roman Empire on the other, heralded what we have come to think of as modern times. The pact was made in the shadow of the two military victories by the latter, allies who came together in the north-east of France, in battles at Saint Quentin (1557) and at Gravelines (1558). Subsequent financial exhaustion had forced France to seek a settlement. They were victories of one nation state, Spain, against another such, namely France, though Spain could count on the ancient edifice of the Holy Roman Empire, which meant Germany, as an ally.

The negotiations for the treaty were embarked upon in 1558 in the twelfth-century monastery of Cercamp in the north of France and were completed in the nearby town of Le Cateau-Cambrésis. There were also discussions at Cambrai. These places had been for a long time in the Flemish county of Hainault, and so part of the inheritance of the Dukes of Burgundy. Cambrai had been the seat of a previous peace treaty, the so-called ‘Paix des Dames’ of 1530, and had, for several generations before that, been known for a fine white linen cloth known as ‘cambric’. That seemed a good omen.

At Cambrai, in 1558, the great men of all the countries concerned – all the major countries of Europe in fact – had assembled. For Spain, there was the grand figure of the third Duke of Alba, an aristocrat who was an effective military commander, courtier, and diplomat. It was Alba who had really won the battle of Mühlberg for the Emperor Charles in 1547, a triumph commemorated superbly by Titian in one of his most famous equestrian portraits. In attendance at Cambrai also was Philip II’s chief secretary, Ruy Gómez, a courtier who had come to Spain with the king’s Portuguese mother when she became queen-empress and who had recently been given the Neapolitan title of ‘Prince of Éboli’.

Other prominent leaders in the very international Spanish delegation were the Bishop of Arras, the future Cardinal Granvelle; a learned lawyer, Virgilius van Aytta of Zwichen, who had been president of the Privy Council of the Netherlands; and William, Prince of Orange, a rich young Dutch nobleman who was at the time conducting a flirtation with a Flemish girl, Eva Elincx, a liaison which persuaded the austere Alba that the prince was a man of straw. Count Egmont, another of the imperial delegates, was also an outstanding leader. He came from an ancient family of Hainault which had played a part in the golden years of Burgundian self-assertion in the fifteenth century. The count had himself married a sister of the Elector Palatine of the Rhine and had participated in the Emperor Charles’s disastrous expedition to Algiers in 1541. A knight of the Golden Fleece since 1546, Egmont was good-natured, charming, easy-going and brave, and a fine commander of cavalry. But he could also be rash and intemperate. He had commanded the German – or Burgundian – cavalry, the ‘Schwartzreitern’, which had won the day for Spain at the battles of both Saint Quentin and Gravelines.

The French at the peace negotiations were led by the Constable of the country, the peace-loving Anne,1 Duke of Montmorency, supported by the more warlike and intelligent Cardinal of Lorraine, brother of the Duke of Guise, an able soldier who had recently captured Calais from the English. These princely French eminences were supported by Jean de Morvilliers and Sébastien de L’Aubespine, men of letters who acted as secretaries (L’Aubespine would soon be French ambassador in the Low Countries).2

Of Montmorency, the Venetian ambassador, Martín de Cavalli, wrote to the Doge: ‘If there is peace, the Constable is the most important man in France; if there is war, he is a prisoner, deprived of all importance.’3 As usual Venetian ambassadors’ reports give the best outside view of what was happening in the courts to which they were accredited.

These delegations included the ablest men in Europe. Alba and Montmorency made common cause in the diplomacy in 1559. The former was the most reliable of the courtiers of King Philip, who both admired and feared him. The latter was known as a skilful negotiator.4

In these negotiations, which culminated in signatures on 2 and 3 April 1559, many territories and frontiers were at stake, including most of Italy. So too were small garrison towns (known as presidios) such as Talamona, Orbetello, Porto-Ercole, and Santo Stefano, imperial possessions which made it possible for Spain to interrupt commerce between Genoa and Naples.5 Marriages and inheritances were also to be discussed. Would the new queen of England, Elizabeth, marry King Philip, the widower of her sister Mary? What, too, of the pretty but very young daughter to Henry II of France, Elisabeth of Valois? Would she perhaps marry the heir to the Spanish throne, Charles (‘Don Carlos’). Or would she perhaps prefer his father, Philip? The Duke of Alba wrote a letter from Le Quesnoy, a fortified town between Cambrai and Paris, that it did not seem right for his king not to have married again when he had only one son.6 Meantime the future of Calais was settled in a curious way. If Queen Elizabeth of England were to marry, and have a son, and if that son were to marry a daughter of the king of France or even a daughter of the Dauphin, that son would have Calais. But if that solution did not please Queen Elizabeth, she would receive back the town in eight years’ time. Some 500,000 crowns were to be paid in Venice as a security for the gifts.7

The Italians accepted what Stendhal several hundred years later would refer to as the ‘Spanish despotism’,8 because they both needed protection against the Turks and coveted American silver.9 But France too retained some Italian footholds. She had five of these in Piedmont including Turin, Pinerolo, and Savignano, as well as the marquisate of Saluzzo. But these places were nothing in comparison to the parts of Corsica and Siena which were abandoned to the Doge of Genoa and to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, both of whom were in effect Spanish vassals.

Alba, Gómez, the Prince of Orange and the Count of Egmont all went on from Cambrai to the French capital. Before that, they had attended a meeting in Brussels of the chapter of the Golden Fleece, the chivalrous order which had been founded by Philip the Good in Burgundy in the fifteenth century and which his descendants maintained as if it were the highest order of chivalry. The Duke of Alba, however, had, as it turned out, a new role in Paris: he was to marry the French princess Elisabeth by proxy on behalf of King Philip.

The wedding which was to mark the end of the war was planned for 22 June, and was held on a platform mounted before the west front of the cathedral of Notre-Dame. Alba was dressed in cloth of gold surmounted by an imperial crown, the new queen-to-be was decked out with jewels. After the ceremony, the duke gave Elisabeth a jewel box full of precious stones with a cameo of the king on it, on King Philip’s behalf.10 He went to the queen’s bedroom, placed his arm and a leg across the bed, and then left. The girl became known as ‘the Queen of Peace’ because of her marriage to Philip. A second wedding was next held, between Marguerite, Henry II’s sister, and the Duke of Savoy, Emmanuel Philibert. The latter, unlike King Philip, was present in person, being the first Savoyard to become a significant European statesman.

Tournaments followed. There was also a hunt in Chantilly during which King Henry told the Netherlands Prince of Orange that the Duke of Alba wanted to set about the extermination of heresy with a joint Spanish-French army, beginning in that ‘plague spot, the Netherlands’. He chose the wrong confidant, for Orange, though taciturn, was horrified.11

A special joust was arranged in the Rue Saint-Antoine, that famous street in Paris which leads from the Louvre to the Bastille, a journey from palace to prison often taken in the past by the most unexpected people, including the most noble of aristocrats. King Henry II of France excelled at jousting.12 The street was left especially unpaved for the great occasion. Rich hangings bearing the arms of Spain, France, and Savoy covered nearby balconies, and statues, symbolizing the benefits of peace, were placed between the columns of the palaces.

Two days of jousting were successful. On 30 June the king, wearing the black and white colours of his famous maîtresse en titre, Diane de Poitiers, and riding a horse named ‘Malheureux’, had several triumphs. Diane was there to cheer. The queen, Catherine de’ Medici, who, despite the display of the colours of her rival, was watching, begged Henry to cease combat on account of the heat, but he insisted on going through with the three challenges for which the rulebook provided. He engaged successfully the dukes of Savoy and of Guise, but then faced a challenge from a young Huguenot, Gabriel de Montgomery, Count of Lorges, captain of the king’s Scotch guard.13 The first collision between the two was indecisive and perhaps the joust should have ended there. But Henry refused to put up his lance, exclaiming ‘I want my revenge’, for Montgomery had almost unhorsed him. He then charged the count again, in a collision so violent that both wooden lances shattered and both contestants fell. Montgomery remounted, but Henry lay for a time unconscious and bleeding. A splinter of wood four inches long protruded from the royal visor. Montgomery begged to be punished for his apparent crime, but the king, recovering – as it seemed – forgave him. Henry was then taken to the nearby royal palace, the rambling ‘Maison Royale des Tournelles’, so called because of its many little towers, built at the end of the fourteenth century by the Chancellor of France, Pierre d’Orgemont. The king was there attended by the great Belgian surgeon, Ambroise Paré, sent from Brussels by Philip II, and also by the anatomist, André Vesalius, the doctor of the century who served both the Emperor Charles and his son King Philip.14 To be able to count on two such great men associated with two opposing monarchs surely meant that Europe really was at peace. But though he seemed to rally after the attention of those distinguished physicians, King Henry died on 10 July.15 He was in the prime of life, being only forty-one years old, and he left four small sons, none of whom was ready to rule a kingdom.

Power in France, therefore, passed to Henry’s grieving widow, the clever Catherine de’ Medici, great-granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent in Florence. She maintained her rule for nearly thirty years. Among her first acts as Regent was to knock down the palace where the king died, the Maison Royale des Tournelles.16 She herself left for the Louvre where she lived henceforth. In the place of the former there would first be established a market for horses, and then – from April 1612 – there was established the Place Royale, now known as the Place des Vosges. Victor Hugo would say that the world owed that attractive square, where he lived himself, to the lance of Montgomery.17

The Duke of Alba wrote to King Philip about this tragedy the day after Henry’s death.18 The late king of France had admired Philip and told his courtiers so, despite their war. Henry’s daughter Elisabeth, who as already mentioned was known as ‘the Queen of Peace’ in Spain because of her marriage to Philip, proved a political success for France, since her betrothal prevented a Spanish marriage to another Elizabeth, the new queen of England, such as Philip had proposed (to be rejected in October 1558).19

‘The French seek to display great courtesy towards your majesty in conversation,’ Alba had written a month before. ‘Those who surround the king cannot say three words without two of them mentioning the love and friendship which the Christian king [King Henry] bears Your Majesty and the help which he will bring him in all his enterprises. It is perhaps the truth because it corresponds to reason. It is also possible that they are offering to participate in Your Majesty’s enterprises in the hope of preventing him from causing the failure of any of their own.’20

King Philip, for his part, had returned from Brussels to his kingdom by August 1559.21 Thenceforth, except for two years in Lisbon in the 1580s, after he had reduced Portugal to a Spanish satrapy, he remained in Spain for the rest of his long life, after a while living chiefly at the monastery-palace he would build at El Escorial (he could not move there completely until 1571), a village in the Guadarrama mountains which was built to celebrate his victories over France in 1558, which caused Philip to think of himself and to conduct himself as the ‘gendarme of Europe’.22

This role as ‘gendarme’ seemed to be guaranteed by an army of about 50,000 to 60,000 men.23 But King Philip was already the gendarme of the Americas too. The Venetian ambassador Antonio Tiepolo thought that Philip was the ‘arbiter of the world’.24 In 1560 his status did indeed seem to be a global one.

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Book One