Spain’s First Caudillo: Don Juan Jose of Austria

Henry Kamen profiles a natural son of Philip IV who had hopes of succeeding to the crown and for two years led the Spanish government.

To most students of history Don Juan of Austria is the man who won the battle of Lepanto. One century after him, however, another Don Juan blazed another spectacular career that remains one of the most significant - and least well known - in Spanish history. As leader of the first modern military revolt (the Spanish word is pronunciamiento ) against the central government, Don Juan possessed many of the aspects of a national leader (caudillo).

A natural son of Philip IV (1621-1665) by the actress Maria Calderon, and born on April 7th, 1629, Don Juan Jose was brought up as a royal prince. He was given a careful education by the Jesuits and accepted at court. Since the King had no legitimate male heir after the death of his son, Baltasar Carlos in 1646, Don Juan grew up in the unique situation of being the King’s principal support, albeit not his heir.

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