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John Joseph of Austria
Regent of Spain
In office
1677 – 17 September 1679
MonarchCharles II
Governor-General of the Spanish Netherlands
In office
Preceded byLeopold Wilhelm of Austria
Succeeded byThe Marquis of Caracena
Personal details
Born(1629-04-07)7 April 1629
Died17 September 1679(1679-09-17) (aged 50)
Parent(s)Philip IV of Spain
María Calderón

John Joseph of Austria or John of Austria (the Younger) (Spanish: Don Juan José de Austria; 7 April 1629 – 17 September 1679) was a Spanish general and political figure. He was the only illegitimate son of Philip IV of Spain to be acknowledged by the King and trained for military command and political administration. Don John advanced the causes of the Spanish Crown militarily and diplomatically at Naples, Sicily, Catalonia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Dunkirk, and other fronts. He was the governor of the Southern Netherlands from 1656 to 1659. He remained a popular hero even as the fortunes of Imperial Spain began to decline. His feuds with his father's widow, Queen Mariana of Austria, led to a 1677 palace coup through which he exiled Mariana and took control of the monarchy of his half-brother Charles II of Spain. However, he proved far from the saviour Spain had hoped he would be. He remained in power until his death in 1679.

Early life

Coat of arms of John of Austria the Younger

His mother was María "La Calderona" Calderón, a popular actress, who was forced into a convent shortly after his birth.[1] He was raised in León by a woman of modest circumstances who likely did not know his parentage, though he received "a careful education" at Ocaña (Toledo).[2][3] In 1642, the King recognized him officially as his son, creating him a prince (Serenity) and John began his life's career as a military representative of his father's interests.

Military career

Don John was sent in 1647 to Naples, then in the throes of the popular rising first led by Masaniello, with a naval squadron and a military force, to support the viceroy.[4] He ordered his land and sea forces to blockade the rebel held city while Rodrigo Ponce de León, 4th Duke of Arcos inserted agents. Don John waited until the exhaustion of the insurgents and the follies of their French leader, Henry II, Duke of Guise allowed him to move in and crush the remains of the revolt and drive out the, by then, despised French.

The young Don John as general of the Spanish army by Jusepe de Ribera

He was next sent as viceroy to Sicily, whence he was recalled in 1651 to complete the pacification of the Principality of Catalonia, which had been in revolt since 1640. On the way to Catalonia to assume his position, he captured the French galleon Lion Couronné, with a squadron of galleys he had under his command. The high-handedness of the French, whom the Catalans had called in to help their revolt, had produced a reaction, and many switched their loyalties back to the Spanish King. By the time Don John assumed command, most of Catalonia had been recovered and he had not much more to do than to preside over the final siege of Barcelona and the convention which terminated the revolt in October 1652.[4]

On both occasions, he played the peacemaker, and this sympathetic part, combined with his own pleasant manners, engaging personality, and a handsome person with bright eyes made him a popular royal favourite. In 1656, he was sent to command in Flanders, then in revolt against his own sovereign. At the storming of the French camp at Battle of Valenciennes in 1656, Don Juan Jose displayed great personal courage at the head of a brilliantly executed cavalry charge that caught the French totally by surprise. When, however, he took a part in the leadership of the army at the Battle of the Dunes, fought against the French under Turenne and the British forces sent by Oliver Cromwell, he was decisively defeated and failed to raise the Siege of Dunkirk, in spite of the efforts of Louis II de Condé, whose invaluable advice he neglected, and the stubborn fight put up by his own troops.[4]

Triumphal entry of Don John into the Southern Netherlands, attributed to David Teniers III

During 1661 and 1662, he fought against the Portuguese in Extremadura. The Spanish troops were ill-supplied and irregularly paid and in a rugged, hostile country. Morale was poor and they were untrustworthy but they were superior in numbers and some successes were gained. If Don John had not suffered from the indolence which Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon considered his chief defect, the Portuguese might have been hard-pressed. John's forces overran the greater part of southern Portugal, but in 1663, with the Portuguese forces reinforced by a body of English troops, and put under the command of the Huguenot Schomberg, Don John was completely beaten at Ameixial.[4]

Even so, he might not have lost the confidence of his father, if Queen Mariana, mother of the sickly Infante Charles, the only surviving legitimate son of the king, had not regarded him with distrust and dislike. Don John was removed from command and sent to his command at Consuegra.

Opposition to Queen Mariana of Spain

After the death of Philip IV in 1665, Don John became the recognized leader of the opposition to the government of Philip's widow, the regent. She and her favourite, the German Jesuit Juan Everardo Nithard, seized and put to death one of his most trusted servants, Don Jose Malladas.[4]

Don John, in return, put himself at the head of a rising of Aragon and Catalonia, which led to the expulsion of Nithard on 25 February 1669. Don John was, however, forced to content himself with the viceroyalty of Aragon. In 1677, the queen mother aroused universal opposition by her favour for Fernando de Valenzuela. Don John was able to drive her from court and establish himself as prime minister. Great hopes were entertained for his administration, but it proved disappointing and short; Don John died, perhaps by poison,[5] on 17 September 1679.[4]

Popish Plot

His name featured prominently in the Popish Plot fabricated by the notorious informer Titus Oates in England in 1678. Oates unwisely claimed to have met Don John in Madrid; when questioned closely by Charles II of England, who had met Don John in Brussels in 1656, it became clear that Oates had no idea what he looked like, confirming the King's suspicion that the Plot was an invention.



  • Dunlop, John C. 1834. Memoirs of Spain during the Reigns of Philip IV. and Charles II. from 1621 to 1700, vol. II. Thomas Clark: Edinburgh.
  • Stolicka, Ondrej. Different German Perspectives on Spanish Politics in the 1670s: The Reaction of Vienna and Berlin on the Coup of Juan José de Austria in the Year 1677, JEHM 23(4), 2019, pp. 367–385.


  1. ^ Madame D'Aulnoy (1930). Travels Into Spain. Oxford: OxfordCurzon, reprint of 1691.
  2. ^ Rodriguez, Ignacio Ruiz. 2007. Don Juan Jose de Austria en la monarquia hispanica: Entre La Politica, El Poder Y La Intriga. Madrid: Dykinson.
  3. ^ An example of how el conde-duque Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares managed to keep the king's illegitimate children secret is recounted in the chapter titled "A Sprig of the House of Austria," in Hume's collection of essays The Year After the Armada (1896).
  4. ^ a b c d e f One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "John, Don". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 447.
  5. ^ Hume, Martin Andrew Sharp. 1896. The year after the Armada: and other historical studies. New York: Macmillan, p. 292.

1893 text

He was natural son of Philip IV., King of Spain, who, after his father’s death in 1665, exerted his whole influence to overthrow the Regency appointed during the young king’s minority.—B.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

2 Annotations

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

John of Austria was a natural son of Philip IV of Spain, who, after his father’s death in 1665, exerted his whole influence to overthrow the Regency appointed during the young Carlos II’s minority.

Both Charles II and James, Duke of York knew Don Juan when he was the governor of the Southern Netherlands from 1656 to 1659.

He remained a popular hero even as the fortunes of Imperial Spain began to decline.

Don Juan's feuds with his father's widow, Queen Mariana, led to a 1677 palace coup through which he exiled Mariana and took control of the monarchy of his half-brother Carlos !!. He proved far from the savior Spain had hoped he would be. He remained in power until his death in 1679.

More about the Stuart Brothers', the Marquis of Ormonde's, and the Earl of Bristol's negotiations with Don Juan of Austria in Flanders in
Charles II in Germany and Flanders 1654-1660
Edinburgh: T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Queen Mariana of Austria has a Pepys encyclopedia page. I entered a book review last year, but if anyone has better info. about what exactly was happening in Spain in the Diary years, please share. John Werden indicates it was stressful.…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.