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The Catholic Historical Review 87.4 (2001) 735-737

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Book Review

Francisco de Borja, Grande de España

La acción diplomática de Francisco de Borja al servicio del Pontificado 1571-1572

Francisco de Borja, Grande de España. By Enrique García Hernán. [Colección Biografía, 29.] (Valencia: Diputació de València, Institució Alfons el Magnànim. 1999. Pp. 302.) [End Page 735]

La acción diplomática de Francisco de Borja al servicio del Pontificado 1571-1572. By Enrique García Hernán. (Valencia: Organismo Público Valenciano de Investigación. 2000. Pp. 562. Paperback.)

Enrique García Hernán offers two important new studies of St. Francis Borgia (Borja in Spanish, 1510-1572), third general of the Society of Jesus. Both emphasize the work of Borgia in the wider world, rather than narrowly focus on his administration of what was then the Company of Jesus, and his spiritual life and devotional works. A diocesan priest of Madrid, Padre García Hernán has worked the relevant archives in Spain, Italy, Lisbon, London, and Fulda, the many pertinent collections of documents in print, and the vast secondary literature in Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, German, and English. Both books carry extensive footnotes that attest to the level of research undertaken. Both also carry useful genealogies, and La acción diplomática, maps that detail Borja's travels.

The entrance of Don Francisco de Borja, duke of Gandía and grandee of Spain, into the Society of Jesus, created a great stir at the time, an age caught up in the controversies of Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Borja's great-grandfather was Pope Alexander VI (Borgia), and his mother was a granddaughter of King Ferdinand the Catholic through his bastard, the Archbishop of Zaragoza, in an age when the mighty placed their illegitimate offspring well. García Hernán details the family history before taking up with Borja's service as marquis of Llombay to Emperor Charles V. Borja's family connections tied him to top families in Spain, Italy, and Portugal, a subject García Hernán treats with a sure hand: his brother David García Hernán has written a major study of the early modern Spanish nobility. At age nineteen Borja entered the household of Empress Isabel and attended Prince Philip, later King Philip II. Borja campaigned with the emperor in 1536. The death in 1539 of the empress had a deep effect on him, but he continued to serve, now as Governor General of Catalonia, until his father's death in 1543 forced him to return to his family domains centered on Játiva, near Valencia. He had fathered eight children. When his wife died in 1545, he decided to become a Jesuit. A year later, after a spiritual conversion, he took his first vows, and in 1548, professed as a Jesuit. In 1550 he journeyed to Rome for the Jubilee and to meet Ignatius Loyola. On his return he abdicated his titles and domains to his eldest son, Carlos, and less than two weeks later was ordained priest.

Soon appointed commissary of the Jesuits in Spain, he enjoyed, given his station and experience, full access to the highest circles of the court. The devout Princess Juana, regent of Spain during the absence of Philip, under Borja's guidance secretly became a Jesuit, and after Philip's return in 1559, she resided for the most part in the seclusion of a convent.

The year 1559 proved difficult for Borja. The Inquisition unearthed nests of purported Lutherans, including clergy and nobles, in Valladolid and Seville. Fernando [End Page 736] de Valdés, Inquisitor General, a man of rigid orthodoxy and, arguably, political grudges, persuaded the regent and king, who linked heresy with rebellion, to clamp down on anything that seemed less than entirely correct. In two great autos de fe dozens of heretics were burned or punished. The archbishop of Toledo was arrested for ambiguities in his works and some...


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