Ana de Mendoza y de la Cerda, Princess of Eboli

25 February 2012

I’ve just been reminded of one of the very first posts that I ever made on this blog, back in March 2009. Crikey! I thought I’d share it with you all again…

I remember seeing this portrait on the cover of a book when I was a teenager doing a rather hideous stint of work experience at the Colchester branch of Waterstone’s. I was instantly fascinated and, I will be honest, rather smitten with her. It seems like this is a common reaction to the subject – clearly there is something about an eye patch.

Ana de Mendoza y de la Cerda was a fabulously wealthy 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 during a sword fight with one of her father’s pageboys, 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. Ana herself was rather keen on the eyepatch and had a selection that matched her outfits – hell, she probably had jewels and pearls set into them too.

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. I can’t comment on the film though.

There is also a 2008 Spanish film about Ana, starring Julia Ormond. Yes, that really is a monkey wearing a ruff…

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