Don John Takes A Castle By Subterfuge, Turns Down A Bribe, And Avoids Capture

April 25, 2019

Don Juan of Austria pictured with the Golden Fleece.

He was, however, ignorant of the number of the soldiers in the castle, and how far it was safe to count on the Governor de Ives; time pressed and he then formed a scheme, the execution of which Vander Hammen refers to as follows: “Mos. de Hierges, eldest son of the Count of Barlaimont, said that he would go to sleep that night at the castle, as Mos. de Ives, the Governor, was a great friend of his; and that His Highness would come next morning to hunt, and as he passed, if he thought he could install himself in the castle, he would put his hand to his beard as a signal, and if not he was to commend himself to God and fly. They agreed on the plan and executed it the following day, without telling the Council of the States or the deputies or trusting them. He therefore pretended to go hunting, and passing by the gate of the castle asked what it was. They answered, ‘One of the best in Flanders.’ Monsieur de Barlaimont then said, ‘My eldest son is there: would Y.H. like us to see if he wishes to go hunting?’ D. John stopped and ordered him to be called. He came to the gate; His Highness asked why he had gone to sleep at a castle and had left the town, and then they began a conversation. In the middle of it he said, ‘If you like to see it, it is still early and it will please them greatly,’ and made the sign. D. John turned to the Duke of Arschot and the Marquis de Havré, and said to them, ‘It is early, let us see it.’ With this he reached the door and dismounted, carrying a pistol he had taken from the saddle-bow.

Portrait of Philippe III de Croÿ, 3rd Duke of Aarschot, 4th Prince of Chimay, Count of Porcean.

Twenty-four Spanish lackeys preceded him. As relations were not ruptured, Mos. de Ives ordered the few Walloons (they were old soldiers, wearied by long wars) to open the door, and the twenty-four lackeys entered and disarmed the guard. The Lord D. John, standing at the door, said, ‘All who are servants of the King, my Lord, come here to me,’ and turning to Ives, he told him ‘not to fear, because he had taken the castle for the King, his Lord, to whom it belonged, to free himself from a conspiracy formed against him.’ He gave him the keys and permission to leave to all those who did not wish to stay with him. Nobody stirred, all mounted with him. Upstairs he took Arschot and Havré on one side, and told them all that had passed and the treaty they had made, and showed them his letters.

Ottavio Gonzaga, 1543 – 1583

The Duke, being convinced, offered, in the name of the States, to acknowledge him Lord of Flanders, and said that all would readily obey him if he liked to take them as vassals; but the Lord D. John reproved him very severely for the offer, and said many angry words. It was only his courage and loyalty which could do so heroic an action and resist such a great temptation. The talk ended by the two leaving the castle and going to the town, where their wives were; but on reaching it they, also Mos. de Capres and the soldiers who had come to capture His Highness fled, so hurriedly, that they scarcely collected their clothes, saying that there was nothing further to do there as he had escaped them. D. John’s chief almoner, the Abbot de Meroles, who was crafty and untrustworthy, followed them with a few others. D. John heard of the flight of the Duke and the Marquis, and at once sent Octavio Gonzaga after them, with rather more than twenty gentlemen, to make them return, but they fled in such good earnest that he could not overtake them.”

Rev. Fr. Luis Coloma, The Story of Don John of Austria, trans. Lady Moreton, (New York: John Lane Company, 1912), Book IV, Ch. XVI, pp. 379-381.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 673


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