1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Perez, Antonio

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PEREZ, ANTONIO (c. 1540-1611), for some years the favourite minister of Philip II. of Spain and afterwards for many more the object of his unrelenting hostility, was by birth an Aragonese. His reputed father, Gonzalo Perez, an ecclesiastic, has some place in history as having been secretary both to Charles V. and to Philip II., and in literature as author of a Spanish translation of the Odyssey (La Ulyxea de Hornero, Antwerp, 1556). Antonio Perez, who was legitimated by an imperial diploma issued at Valladolid in 1542, was, however, believed by many to be in reality the son of Philip's minister, Ruy Gomez de Silva, prince of Eboli, to whom, on the completion of a liberal education at home and abroad, he appears at least to have owed his first introduction to a diplomatic career.[1] In 1567 he became one of the secretaries of state, receiving also about the same time the lucrative appointment of protonotary of Sicily, and in 1573 the death of Ruy Gomez himself made room for Perez's promotion to be head of the “despacho universal,” or private bureau, from which Philip attempted to govern by assiduous correspondence the affairs of his vast dominions. Another of the king's secretaries at this time, though in a less confidential relation, was a friend and contemporary of Perez, named Juan de Escovedo, who, however, after the fall of Tunis in 1574, was sent off to supersede Juan de Soto as secretary and adviser of Don John of Austria, thus leaving Perez without a rival. Some time after Don John's appointment to the governorship of the Netherlands Perez accidentally became cognisant of his inconveniently ambitious “empresa de Inglaterra,” in which he was to rescue Mary Queen of Scots, marry her, and so ascend the throne of England The next step might even be against Spain itself. This secret scheme the faithful secretary at once carried to Philip, who characteristically resolved to meet it by quietly removing his brother's aider and abettor. With the king's full cognisance, accordingly, Perez, after several unsuccessful attempts to poison Escovedo, succeeded in procuring his assassination in a street of Madrid on the 31st of March 1578. The immediate effect was to raise Perez higher than ever in the royal confidence and favour, but, wary though the secretary had been, he had not succeeded in obliterating all trace of his connexion with the crime, and very soon a prosecution was set on foot by the representatives of the murdered man. For a time Philip was both willing and able to protect his accomplice, but ultimately he appears to have listened to those who, whether truly or falsely, were continually suggesting that Perez had had motives of his own, arising out of his relations with the princess of Eboli, for compassing the assassination of Don John's secretary, be this as it may, from trying to screen Perez the king came to be the secret instigator of those who sought his ruin. The process, as such matters often have been in Spain, was a slow one, and it was not until 1589 that Perez, after more than one arrest and imprisonment on a variety of charges, seemed on the eve of being convicted and condemned as the murderer of Escovedo. At this juncture he succeeded in making his escape from prison in Castile into Aragon, where, under the ancient “fueros” of the kingdom he could claim a public trial in open court, and so bring into requisition the documentary evidence he possessed of the king's complicity in the deed This did not suit Phihp, who, although he instituted a process in the supreme tribunal of Aragon, speedily abandoned it and caused Perez to be attacked from another side, the charge of heresy being now preferred, arising out of certain reckless and even blasphemous expressions Perez had used in connexion with his troubles in Castile. But all attempts to remove the accused from the civil prison in Saragossa to that of the Inquisition raised popular tumults, which in the end led to Perez's escape across the Pyrenees, but unfortunately also furnished Philip with a pretext for sending an army into Aragon and suppressing the ancient “fueros” altogether (1591). From the court of Catherine de Bourbon, at Pau, where he was Well received, Perez passed to that of Henry IV. of France, and both there and in England his talents and diplomatic experience, as well as his well-grounded enmity to Philip, secured him much popularity While in England he became the “intimate coach-companion and bed companion” of Francis Bacon, and was also much in the society of the earl of Essex. The peace of Vervins in 1598 greatly reduced his apparent importance abroad, and Perez now tried to obtain the pardon of Philip III., that he might return to his native country. His efforts, however, proved vain, and he died in comparative obscurity in Paris on the 3rd of November 1611.

Perez's earliest publication was a small quarto, dedicated to the earl of Essex, written and apparently printed in England about 1594, entitled Pedazos de historza, and professedly published at Leon. A Dutch translation appeared in 1594, and in 1598 he published his Relaciones, including the Memorial del hecho de su causa, drawn up in 1590, and many of his letters. Much has been done, by Mignet (Antonzo Perez et Philippe II, 1845; 4th ed., 1874) and by Froude (“An Unsolved Historical Riddle,” Nineteenth Cent, 1883) among others, towards the elucidation of various difficult points in Perez's somewhat perplexing story. For the murder of Escovedo, see Andrew Lang's discussion of it in his Historical Mysteries (1904); and the Españoles é angleses (1903) of Major Martin Hume, who had access to various newly discovered MSS.

  1. On the other hand it is suggested that this story of his being the son of Gomez was only circulated by Ruy Gomez's wife, Ana de Mendoza, as a refutation of the possibility of a supposed amour between her and Perez. It is contended by Mxgnet that this intrigue between her and Perez was known to Escovedo, and that this accounts for the part played by Perez in Escovedo's murder, because Ana had also been Ph1l1p's mistress, and Escovedo might have made mischief between Philip and Perez. Major Hume appears to combine the latter theory with Philip's political objection to Escovedo.