Facts and Events
Fernando Álvarez de Toledo y Pimentel or Ferdinandus Toletanus Dux Albanus (Piedrahita, October 29, 1507 – Lisbon, 11 December 1582), called the "Grand Duke of Alba", was a Spanish noble, military, diplomat, III Duke of Alba de Tormes and Huéscar, IV Marquis of Coria, III Count of Salvatierra de Tormes, II Count of Piedrahita and VIII Lord of Valdecorneja, Grandee of Spain and Illustrious Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece.
He was the most trusted and obedient servitor of the Spanish king Carlos I and his successor Philip II, both chief steward and member of their Council of State and War. He was charged with the government of the Duchy of Milan (1555–1556), the Kingdom of Naples (1556–1558), the Netherlands (1567–1573) and the Kingdom of Portugal (1580–1582). He represented Philip II at his betrothal to Elizabeth of Valois, daughter of Henry II of France and Anne of Austria, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian II.
Considered by historians as the greatest general of his time and one of the best in history, Alba especially distinguished himself in La Jornada de Túnez, and in many campaigns during the Religious Wars and the Spanish annexation of Portugal, including the Mühlberg, Jemmingen and Alcántara. He is most remembered in Western European history for his sometimes brutal attempts to pacify, and eradicate sedition in, the Netherlands, where he acted with great rigor in punishing the Dutch rebels. Among other efforts, he instituted the Council of Troubles and repeatedly defeated the troops of William of Orange and Louis of Nassau in the early stages of the Eighty Years War. He capped his career in his latter years with the succession crisis in Portugal in 1580, conquering that kingdom for Philip II. As a result of of his military genius, Spain achieved the unification of the entire Iberian Peninsula and the consequent expansion of the overseas territories.
He received a Golden Rose from Pope Paul III as a reward for his efforts in favor of Catholicism. He was comrade in arms, friend and protector of the poet, historian and soldier Garcilaso de la Vega, who dedicated part of his Eclogue II to extolling the House of Alba and its Duke.
His figure is one of the most important Spanish black legend, which describes him as an authentic warlord, famous and intrepid but at the same time, brutal, implacable and extremely severe.
Still, Alba was an unquestionable leader, tough, strong and respected by and respectful of his men. The speeches where he said: "gentlemen soldiers" were the delights of the Tercios Thirds, his elite troops and in his age the finest ground troops in all Europe. He used to say:
The kings use men like oranges, first they squeeze the juice and then throw away the peel.
The life of the III Duke of Alba was marked by a long series of military exploits that contributed to Spain reached its peak during the 16th century.