Duke of Alva

(Fernando Alvarez de Toledo)

Duke of Alva

The Duke of Alva, who was appointed governor of the Netherlands during the early years of the Dutch revolt, did much to provoke the Protestant cause in the region, and his heavy handed methods of suppressing heresies did much to unite the country against Spain. Before his appointment to the Spanish Netherlands, Alva had distinguished himself as a top Spanish general, trusted by both Charles V and his successor Philip II. He fought against France in the Italian Wars and was commander of the Spanish troops in Italy at the close of the Valois-Hapbsurg war in 1559. He also fought for Spain against the Ottomans, most notably at the Battle of Pavia.

Alva led a Spanish army into the Netherlands in 1567 and almost immediately made himself hated by executing two popular leaders, Counts Horn and Egmond. There only crimes had been advocating for the historical rights of the states of Holland, and voicing Dutch grievances. They were loyal Catholics rather than Protestant rebels, and their execution greatly incensed the entire country, including many Catholic loyalists. Alva's continued repressive measures held down the rebels for a short time, but when he raised taxes without the consent of the local councils, the states openly rebelled against him. This time, the rebellion was much harder to put down and his iron-fisted measures only served to alienate those moderates who did not desire a break from the Crown.

Soon after, Alva was recalled to Spain and replaced with Requessens, a general that the Spanish hoped would deal more diplomatically with the rebels. A few years later Alba was recalled to lead the Spanish army against a Portuguese prince who had usurped the throne from the Spanish-backed claimant. He died soon after.

Key events during the life of Duke of Alva:

Birth of Fernando Alvarez de Toledo to a noble family in Spain.
Distinguished himself at the Battle of Pavia, during the Italian Wars.
Took part in the siege of Tunis, where Spain retook the city from the Ottomans.
Led Spain to victory at the battle of Muhlberg over a league of German Protestant princes.
Led the unsuccessful siege of Metz during the Italian War of 1551-1559.
Placed in command of all Spanish forces in Italy.
Married a princess of France, and negotiated a peace to end the Italian Wars.
Appointed governor of the Spanish Netherlands—assigned to abolish Protestant heresies.
Arrested and executed Counts Egmont and Horne, popular Dutch leaders.
States of Holland unite under the Prince of Orange against the Duke of Alva.
Recovered much of Holland for the Spanish Crown. Besieged Haarlem Alkmar, Leiden and others.
Decisive victory for the Dutch at the Naval battle of Zuiderzee.
Resigned as governor of the Netherlands due to "ill-health".
Defeated Dom Antonio at the battle of Alcantar during the War of the Portuguese Succession.
Died in Lisbon.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
The Duke of Alva  in  A Child's History of Spain  by  John Bonner
Orange Leaves the Netherlands. Alva Arrives  in  The Netherlands  by  Mary Macgregor
Storm Bursts  in  The Awakening of Europe  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

Alva's Council of Blood
 in Greatest Nations - Netherlands

Alva's Statue Dragged through the Antwerp Streets
 in Greatest Nations - Netherlands

Short Biography
Charles V 16th century Hapsburg Emperor who ruled Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and parts of Italy.
Philip II Catholic king of Spain during Netherland revolt and Anglo-Spanish Wars. Great enemy of Protestant Reformers.
Count Egmont Powerful Noble in Low Countries during Dutch Revolt. Protested Inquisition and was beheaded.
Count Hoorn Admiral of the Dutch Navy. With Egmont, protested Inquisition and was beheaded.
William the Silent Hero of the Dutch Revolt. Led resistance to the Inquisition and Spanish tyranny.
Cardinal Granvelle Dutch Cardinal who implemented the Spanish Inquisition in the Dutch Netherlands.
Don Fadrique Son of the Duke of Alba. Led Spanish armies against Dutch towns.