Young Don Juan fans the flame of Spanish chivalry

July 8, 2013

The Grand Master Jean de La Valette.

The Grand Master Jean de La Valette.

The Turkish Fleet was gathering in strength in the Golden Horn (spring 1565)….

Jean de Valette, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, had no doubt of the objective of this great fleet. He sent out an appeal from Malta to all the Christian princes….

Don John had gone…. Nobody knew where he had gone nor what had become of him.

Painting of Don Juan of Austria by a 16th Century Court Painter.

Painting of Don Juan of Austria by a 16th Century Court Painter.

And Don John, with two attendants, was away to Barcelona to sail with the galleys bound for the relief of Malta (April 9, 1565). The news leaked out. The King sent couriers post-haste to all ports and officials with orders: “That Don John return at once….” But Don John galloped east, along the banks of the Henares, through Siguenza…, through Medina Celi…, along the Roman-Moorish road to Calatayud…. Up and up into the mountains …. On and on, while heart and pulse beat loud and hard as the hoofs of the black horse on the stony track.

On to the galleys and out to sea, dreamed Don John…on to the crash of iron-beaked prows, the thunder of cannon, the clash of sword and shield, the shrill music of bugles, the fierce shout of “Santiago” and white decks red with blood. There lay his destiny. For this fate had he been born…. He knew it as every man in his soul knows the work for which God has created him….

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Blindly and reeling in the saddle he rode into Frasno, five leagues short of Zaragoza and there the two terrified men put him to bed in a miserable inn, too racked with fever to be conscious how his flight had been abruptly ended.

Tidings flew swiftly as by wireless. Young nobles began to pour out of Madrid to join the young hero in his enterprise….

Never had the little village known such excitement nor seen so such life.

 

Margaret Yeo, Don John of Austria (New York: Sheed & Ward, Inc., 1934), 67, 70-2.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 297

 

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