Mendoza, Ana de (1540–1592)
Mendoza, Ana de (1540–1592)
Spanish aristocrat and princess of Eboli. Name variations: Princesa de Eboli; princess of Eboli. Born in Cifuentes, near Guadalajara, Spain, in 1540; baptized on June 29, 1540; died on February 2, 1592; daughter of Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, count of Mélito, and Catalina de Silva; married Ruy Gómez de Silva, prince of Eboli, on April 18, 1553 (died 1572); children: ten, including a daughter who married the Duke of Medina Sidonia, commander of the Spanish Armada against England in 1588.
Ana de Mendoza was born in Cifuentes, near Guadalajara, Spain, in 1540, the only child of Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, count of Mélito, and Catalina de Silva . As a Mendoza, she was from one of Spain's great aristocratic families. In 1552, Prince Philip (later Philip II, king of Spain) requested her parents' permission for Ana's marriage to Ruy Gómez de Silva, one of his closest companions and advisers. Although Ana apparently married Ruy Gómez in April 1553, her parents stipulated that she wait two years before living with him as his wife because of her youth.
Their married life was delayed even longer, however, when Ruy Gómez went with Prince Philip to England and the Low Countries. Ruy and Ana began living as husband and wife in 1559, upon Philip II's return to Spain. They were together for 13 years, during which time Ana gave birth to 10 children. She also lost her right eye from a blow or accident, and her most famous portrait shows Ana wearing a patch over the injured socket. She enjoyed a life of privilege and wealth, married to one of the most influential members of Philip II's court. As a reward for Ruy Gómez's service, Philip II made his minister prince of Eboli. Thus, Ana became a princess.
After many years as Philip II's chief adviser, Ruy Gómez died in 1572, and from then on Ana's life devolved into scandal, controversy, and imprisonment. The princess first retired to a Carmelite convent she had founded in Pastrana, but her insistence on being accorded comforts and deference alienated the nuns there, who demanded that she leave. Ana returned to court and in 1576 or 1577 became the intimate of Antonio Pérez, her husband's protegé and one of Philip II's secretaries and chief advisers. The nature of her relationship with Pérez is unclear: earlier historians saw it as sexual, but recent scholars believe the pair connived to reveal state secrets to the Portuguese. The princess apparently hoped to marry a daughter to Theodósio, duke of Barcelos, who was one of Philip II's chief rivals for the Portuguese throne should King Sebastian die childless. When Philip ordered Pérez's arrest in 1579 for the assassination of Juan de Escobedo, he also imprisoned the princess of Eboli. Confined first to the Pinto Tower south of Madrid and then in the fortress of Santorcaz, she was finally restricted to her own castle in Pastrana, a form of house arrest. Though Philip allowed her children to visit whenever and for as long as they desired and the princess oversaw her properties and other affairs, she could not leave her quarters in the castle. The princess might have secured her freedom by attempting to mollify Philip II, but instead she remained arrogant and quarrelsome. In the test of wills, Philip was equally resolute, and the princess never secured her liberty. She died on February 2, 1592.
Allegations that at some point she was Philip's mistress are probably false. Before her marriage to Eboli, she was very young and Philip was abroad. Surviving evidence gives little support to the existence of such a liaison during her marriage. Afterward, when her beauty was marred by the loss of her eye and she was the mother of ten children, it is hard to believe that Philip would have been attracted to her. Furthermore, in his later years, the king showed little interest in extramarital dalliances. Philip's enemies likely concocted such rumors. Kate O'Brien 's highly successful novel That Lady, based on the life of Ana de Mendoza, was made into a 1955 Hollywood film with Olivia de Havilland in the title role.
Marañón, Gregorio. Antonio Pérez: el hombre, el drama, la época. 2 ed. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1948.
Muro, Gaspar. Vida de la princesa de Eboli. Madrid: Mariano Murillo, 1877.
Pierson, Peter. Philip II of Spain. London: Thames and Hudson, 1975.
Kendall W. Brown , Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah