1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/John, Don (of Austria, The Younger)
JOHN, DON (1620–1679), of Austria, the younger, recognized as the natural son of Philip IV., king of Spain, his mother, Maria Calderon, or Calderona, being an actress. Scandal accused her of a prodigality of favours which must have rendered the paternity of Don John very dubious. He was, however, recognized by the king, received a princely education at Ocaña, and was amply endowed with commanderies in the military orders, and other forms of income. Don John was sent in 1647 to Naples—then in the throes of the popular rising first led by Masaniello—with a squadron and a military force, to support the viceroy. The restoration of royal authority was due rather to the exhaustion of the insurgents and the follies of their French leader, the duke of Guise, than to the forces of Don John. He was next sent as viceroy to Sicily, whence he was recalled in 1651 to complete the pacification of Catalonia, which had been in revolt since 1640. The excesses of the French, whom the Catalans had called in, had produced a reaction, and Don John had not much more to do than to preside over the final siege of Barcelona and the convention which terminated the revolt in October 1652. On both occasions he had played the peacemaker, and this sympathetic part, combined with his own pleasant manners and handsome person with bright eyes and abundant raven black hair—a complete contrast to the fair complexions of the Habsburgs—made him a popular favourite. In 1656 he was sent to command in Flanders, in combination with the prince of Condé, then in revolt against his own sovereign. At the storming of the French camp at Valenciennes in 1656, Don John displayed brilliant personal courage at the head of a cavalry charge. When, however, he took a part in the leadership of the army at the Dunes in the battle fought against Turenne and the British forces sent over by Cromwell in 1658, he was completely beaten, in spite of the efforts of Condé, whose advice he neglected, and of the hard fighting of English Royalist exiles. During 1661 and 1662 he commanded against the Portuguese in Estremadura. The Spanish troops were ill-appointed, irregularly paid and untrustworthy, but they were superior in numbers and some successes were gained. If Don John had not suffered from the indolence which Clarendon, who knew him, considered his chief defect, the Portuguese would have been hard pressed. The greater part of the south of Portugal was overrun, but in 1663 the Portuguese were reinforced by a body of English troops, and were put under the command of the Huguenot Schomberg. By him Don John was completely beaten at Estremos. Even now he might not have lost the confidence of his father, if Queen Mariana, mother of the sickly infante Carlos, the only surviving legitimate son of the king, had not regarded the bastard with distrust and dislike. Don John was removed from command and sent to his commandery at Consuegra. After the death of Philip IV. in 1665 Don John became the recognized leader of the opposition to the government of Philip’s widow, the queen regent. She and her favourite, the German Jesuit Nithard, seized and put to death one of his most trusted servants, Don José Malladas. Don John, in return, put himself at the head of a rising of Aragon and Catalonia, which led to the expulsion of Nithard on the 25th of February 1669. Don John was, however, forced to content himself with the vice royalty of Aragon. In 1677, the queen mother having aroused universal opposition by her shameless favour for Fernando de Valenzuela, Don John was able to drive her from court, and establish himself as prime minister. Great hopes were entertained of his administration, but it proved disappointing and short. Don John died on the 17th of September 1679.
The career of Don John can be followed in J. C. Dunlop’s Memoirs of Spain 1621–1700 (Edin. 1834).