Doña Ana de Mendoza: Pirate or Princess?
Pirate or Princess?
She looks like a proper pirate, but Ana de Mendoza was actually a Spanish Noblewoman best known as the "rebel in a gown". Her lifestyle was better suited to today than the period in which she lived. Ana was born on June 29, 1540 in Cifuentes, Guadalajara, the daughter of Diego Hurtado de Mendoza and Catherine de Silva heirs of the House of Mendoza - a very powerful family in 16th century Spain.
The mystery of her missing eye begins around the age of 12 - 14, when portraits of her reflect the patch. It is uncertain what exactly happened to her, but most researchers suppose that she lost her eye in a fencing accident, or had an eye disease like amblyopia that eventually caused her to go blind in her right eye. Whichever the case her look is certainly emblematic.
Wife, Mother, or Mistress?
Ana married Rui Gomez da Silva when she was just 13 years old at the recommendation of the crown prince and future king, Philip II of Spain. Gomez became a prominent person in the court as a chief councilor, and history tells us that Rui Gomez was a good servant and a trustworthy person. Ana became well-established in the court as well and was close friends with Queen Elizabeth de Valois. Ana and Rui had nine children: six sons and three daughters.
Ana was an extremely nurturing mother who over time grew tired of their father. By that time King Philip II had taken notice of her, now a woman, not the girl he required another man to marry, and she became his mistress. Some researchers believe that a few of her children may have been King Philip's.
Regardless of the affair, Rui Gomez worked hard to protect their children from the gossip and put great effort into securing their financial future. He bought the town of Eboli in Naples and at the same time was appointed the Duke of Pastrana and Grendee of Spain. That same year, 1572, Ana became the Princess of Eboli and the Duchess of Pastrana...and Rui died of a sudden illness. The years that lie ahead for Ana were quite different from the life she had come to know.
The years to come
Ana was grief stricken over Rui’s death, and went to live in the Pastrana monastery for several years. When she left the convent she was restless and almost immediately fell in love with a powerful supporter and friend of King Philip II – Antonio Perez. Antonio was a married man, and the relationship with Ana was hidden from not only his wife, but the King. Ana was quickly becoming a radical, she was friends with many influential outsiders of the time such as St Teresa of Avilla whose controversial but fascinating speeches about life, religion, and politics brought her many friends and also many enemies. Ana wanted to live a life of freedom, fullness and happiness. She was still an important figure in the courts, and had managed to split her emotional life between her children and her secret lover. This choice however would be her downfall.
Antonio had in fact manipulated the King and his half-brother Don Juan of Austria by being involved in a rebellion in Flanders - the greatest scandal of their times. Some historians believe that Ana supported him in this actions while others believe she was unaware of his standing.
Nonetheless, Philip eventually discovered the romance between them, and imprisoned Ana for supporting the rebellion. She lived under house arrest from 1581 to 1592, and died likely from loneliness and boredom… cut off from her friends and ideals she starved mentally and emotionally. Perez apparently had little care for Ana, the woman who paid for his actions, he went on the lead a long and adventurous life.
Ana the Icon
Although she did not live a long life in the flesh, Ana de Mendoza inspired Verdi to create a character based on her in the famous opera Don Carlos. In the Hollywood version her part was played by Olivia de Haviland.
She also became the heroine of many movies, novels, poems, even television series, like That Lady by Kate O'Brien and The Princess a Nun by Hugh Ross Williamson, the most recent being the 2008 Spanish film titled “The Conspiracy”.
Her intriguing life continues to challenge and fascinate people. Perhaps the message she leaves behind for us is...
Do not be afraid to live by your ideals and desires, regardless of the costs!
Ana's name lives on in the name of The Doñana National Park in Andalucia where she lived in the sixteenth century. This National Park plays a key role to the migratory routes of birds between Europe and Africa; it is also the last refuge for many endangered species.