Ana de Mendoza y de la Cerda

4 December 2009

I remember seeing this portrait on the cover of a book when I was a teenager and being instantly fascinated and, I will be honest, rather smitten. It seems like this was a common reaction to the subject.

Ana de Mendoza y de la Cerda was a Spanish aristocrat, born on 29 June 1540 and married at the age of twelve to Ruy Gómez de Silva, Prince of Eboli. She was a great favourite of King Philip II and considered to be one of the greatest beauties of the day, despite an accident which resulted in the loss of an eye. I think the eyepatch adds to her charm actually and gives her a rakish, mutinous look that is very attractive. The accident occured during a sword fight with one of her father’s guards.

Oh dear, girl crush.

Ana fell from favour after her husband’s death, ending up embroiled in a court scandal involving state secrets and dying in prison in 1592 aged fifty one.

She was a subject of a absolutely fantastic historical novel by Kate O’Brien, entitled That Lady, which was made into a film, starring Olivia de Havilland in 1955. The book is well worth a read if you can find a copy.

There is also a 2008 Spanish film about Ana, starring Julia Ormond.