In saving Don John of Austria’s life, Don Luis Quijada loses his own

July 2, 2012

Painting by Sánchez Coello , Alonso

Meanwhile D. John of Austria was driving the Moors from place to place, and from rock to rock, towards the Alpujarras, where the other wing of the army was to cut them off. And such were his ardor, forethought, and wish to participate as much in the responsibilities of a leader as in the fatigues and dangers of a soldier, that the then veteran D. Diego Hurtado de Mendoza says of this, “And those of us who were in the engagements of the Emperor seemed to see in the son an image of the courage and forethought of the father, and his desire to be everywhere, especially with the enemy.” Luis Quijada never left him for a moment, restraining at each step D. John’s imprudent rashness in what concerned his own person, as he exposed his life with dangerous frequency….


D. John of Austria left Galera and went straight to lay siege to the town and castle of Serón, where awaited him the first real sorrow which embittered his life. He encamped his troops at Canilles, and from there he wished to go personally to reconnoiter the place, taking with him the Knight Commander of Castille and Luis Quijada, with 2,000 picked arquebusiers and 200 horses.

The Moors of Serón saw them coming, and hurriedly began to make signals from the castle, asking for help….The soldiers gave themselves up in a shameless manner to sacking the houses, and better to secure the plunder many shut themselves up in them. Suddenly there appeared more than 1,000 Moors from Tijola, Purchena, and other villages on the river, in response to the signals, and the panic of the Christians was then boundless.

   They fled in a disorderly way, and unwilling to leave the booty they had already in their hands, and encumbered with the loads, they stumbled, fell one on top of the other, affording a good mark for stones, arrows, and bullets. D. John, from the hill where he was, saw all this confusion, and angry at the danger to his soldiers and at their want of discipline, fearlessly plunged his horse into the midst of them, crying with heroic force:

“What is this? Spaniards! Whom are you flying from? Where is the honor of Spain? Have you not your captain D. John of Austria in front of you? What do you fear? Retire in order like men of war with your faces to the enemy, and you will soon see these barbarians terrified at your arms.” But Luis Quijada also saw the danger D. John ran within reach of shot, and he went with all speed to make him retire. At the same moment a ball from an arquebus struck the Prince’s helmet, and, had it not been so solid, would have killed him. Like a lion whose cubs are being hurt, Luis Quijada turned and urged his horse on as if he would annihilate the marksman. He then received a shot in the shoulder, and they saw him first stagger and then fall heavily from his horse, among the cries of grief and shrieks of rage of those who were near. D. John covered him with his person, and with wonderful presence of mind, ordered him to be taken to Canilles with an escort by Tello de Aguilar and the horses from Jerez la Frontera.

Don Luis Quijada

Rev. Fr. Luis Coloma, The Story of Don John of Austria, trans. Lady Moreton, (New York: John Lane Company, 1912),  pp. 195, 197-198.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 191 Editorial comment: —

“Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13.
We see this spirit of sacrifice among military men. The bonds of friendship forged when men suffer hardship and fight together against the common enemy can at times be stronger than even family ties.
But what drove Don Luis Quijada to risk his life in the protection of Don Juan’s was not just this noble friendship between brothers-in-arms. More than the fact that Don Juan was his military commander, Don Luis Quijada spurred into action because Don Juan was his prince, the son of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.
This feudal bond of friendship is something we need to understand better today. It stands a world apart from the rampant selfishness in our individualistic, postmodern, and increasingly anarchical world.


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