IMG_2777397J Anthony Perez d.1611

The fatal effects of arbitrary power, and the dangerous condition of court-favourites, demonstrated by the wicked intrigues of the court of Philip II. King of Spain. That Prince’s Cruelty and Falshood. The execrable Practices of envious Statesmen, and other ambitious Persons, sticking at no Wickedness to please that Prince. The miserable inthralling of a Kingdom, for asserting its undoubted Rights, Privileges, and Liberties. The inhuman Persecutions and unparallell’d Sufferings of Antony Perez, Prime Minister, Secretary of State, and Favourite of the said King Philip, and Author of the present Relation, verify’d and attested by unquestionable Witnesses, and original Papers. With an account of Don John of Austria’s aspiring to the crown of England, and his Contrivances for attaining to it.


IMG_2779London:printed for Jonas Brown at the Black Swan without Temple-Bar, and J. Richardson at the King’s Head the corner of Swithin’s Alley in Cornhill 1715   $ 1,100

Octavo. 7 1/4 x 4 1/2 inches.  A4,B-U8, X4.  [Pp.113-224 IMG_2780misnumbered as Pp.133-244.] leaf A4 is a catalogue of books.

First and only English edition

Bound in later quarter calf 20ThC?

The Author of the preface tells us : “This Relation (for that is the Title given it by the Author, who at the same Time is the main Subject of it) is of so extraordinary a Nature, that it ‘ cannot but be acceptable to most clirious Persons. The Fall of Favourites is not unusual; but this is attended with such extraordinary Circumstances, as make it appear quite out of the common Course. So much Favour, and so much Oppression, are singular Instances of the little Dependance there is on the Grandeurs of this World, whose vicisitudes are such, that the most exalted Mortal: have but a very slippery Standing. Monarchs are not exempted from Calamities ; then how should Subject is hope to be more secure & Where the tall Cedars are blown down, it is in vain for Shrubs to expect to be unshaken. As for Antony Perez, he gives so ample an Account of himself, that there appears no Necessity of adding to it; and yet, after all, like Ovid, he leaves us in the Dark as to the true Ocasion of his Disgrace. He, in this small Work,  promises that which he calls his Commentaries, but, to our great Lost, that never appeard, either because he was prevented by Death, or else the Secrets it would reveal were then thought too weighty to be made publick. That, in all Probability, might have been a most curious Piece of History, as coming from a Man who had been acquainted with, and was resolv’d, in his own vindication, to expose such Arcana, as few Historians, whatsoever they pretend to, have been Masters of.  But it is past retrieving, and we have nothing but Guesses at the Original of the Author’s Misfortunes. 


A most curious piece of History

Further on he states :

“ I will now come to the Relation of Murders, Imprisonments, Calamities, Surprises, Affronts, Wrongs, Violence, Havock, Destrućlion, Sufferings, Mo Subornations, false Depositions, Conspiracies, and the Captivity of Widows, marry’d Women, Maidens, Children, Infants, New Born Innocents, and even the Unborn crying for Justice; of all which this present Age has afforded a plentiful Harvest. “ 

As secretary to King Philip, Perez, led quite a life full of double crosses and back stabbing.   in a true Machiavellian style he made great advantage id Philip’s suspicious nature.

“King Philip was suspicious of the designs of his half brother Don Juan of Austria and Antonio Pérez exploited this suspicion to his own benefit. By advice of Antonio Pérez, in 1575, the king imposed Juan de Escobedo, whom Antonio Pérez considered trustworthy, as secretary of Don Juan of Austria. The design was that Escobedo would spy for Antonio Pérez but it turned out that, unexpectedly, Escobedo became faithful to Don Juan.

Antonio Pérez then began to make king Philip suspicious of Escobedo. Pérez, as secretary for the affairs of the Low Countries, was in a position to intercept and turn to his own advantage many innocent documents. He doctored reports and wrote derisive comments on the margins of letters destined for the king. He repeatedly insinuated to the king that Don Juan was plotting against him and Escobedo (code named Verdinegro – “green-black”) was encouraging him in his plotting.[1] He convinced the king that Escobedo must be killed without judicial process for “reasons of State”. The king gave his assent but had no other participation in the murder.


In early 1577 Don Juan was in the low Countries and Escobedo, his secretary, was visiting Madrid having been sent there by Don Juan. After three clumsy attempts to poison Escobedo failed, Pérez recruited swordsmen to assassinate him. Pérez removed himself from Madrid and, on the night of March 31, 1578, in a narrow alley the assassins stabbed Escobedo to death. Insausti was the name of the killer and was helped by a group of loyals of Antonio Pérez, people from Aragon, where Antonio Pérez was from and where he was most powerful and influential. Immediately rumors were flying that Antonio Pérez was behind the killing.

A few months later, on October 1, Don Juan died of Typhus in the Low Countries. (His body was cut in three parts and secretly passed through France to Spain where it was reassembled and given proper burial.)[1]

King Philip soon became suspicious of the motives of his secretary and realized he had given his assent to a terrible crime. Nevertheless, he could not arrest him immediately as Pérez was a powerful man with information which could damage the king, including the murder of Escobedo.

At first the family of Escobedo demanded an investigation but later they gave up this claim. They were probably paid off by Antonio Pérez or someone close to him.

On 28 July 1579 Antonio Pérez and the Princess of Éboli were arrested by order of the king. The Princess of Éboli, as a proud woman who confronted the king, was kept imprisoned in different places, mostly on her palace in Pastrana, for the rest of her days. Antonio Pérez was more prudent and had compromising information so his situation with the king deteriorated slowly over time. At first he was under house arrest and had relative freedom but his liberty was gradually diminished. Also, he thought it might be possible for him to regain the favor of the king.

In 1584 he was subject to the judicial process called visita which was an auditing or review of his service as Secretary of the king. In this process he was formally accused of corruption and of altering ciphered messages to the king.

On 31 January 1585 he jumped out a window and sought asylum in a nearby church but the king’s officers forced the door and arrested him without regard for the special judicial status of the church. This incident provoked a lawsuit from the church claiming infringements of their rights and demanding the man be returned to them but this claim went nowhere.

Antonio Pérez was taken prisoner to the castle of Turégano, near Segovia. On 23 March he was notified of the sentence of the visita process: two years in prison, ten years banishment from the court with disqualification for all official posts as well as some monetary penalties.

While at Turégano Antonio Pérez enjoyed relative freedom, his wife and children went to live with him and he soon assembled, as was his custom, a retinue of followers.[2]

Antonio Pérez plotted his own escape with the help of more followers who would take the castle at Turégano and overcome the guard. This group set up their base in the nearby village of Muñoveros and did manage to enter the castle in the middle of the night but the governor and his guard, outnumbered and against all odds, tricked them and convinced them to give up their attempt. As a result, Antonio Perez’s property was confiscated and his wife and children were imprisoned in Madrid.

Finally, in 1587 Antonio Pérez was formally accused of the 1578 murder of Escobedo. This judicial process progressed very slowly and during this time Antonio Pérez was kept prisoner but moved around different towns and castles. During all this time his conditions varied from harsh to relative freedom. The intention of the king was to recover the incriminating papers which Pérez still kept hidden somewhere. Pérez knew that his safety depended on having these papers and would not produce them and the king’s tactics alternated between punishing him or giving him more freedom. But the king was becoming aware that he was not getting the papers he wanted.

In early 1590 Antonio Pérez was questioned under torture but he only confessed very vaguely implying the king was behind the killing. At this point he believed he may be sentenced to die and so, again, he planned his escape. On 19 April, with the help of his wife, Juana Coello, who was eight months pregnant, in the evening, he escaped his prison in Madrid. The escape was very carefully planned. With two loyal men he rode all night trying to gain the border of Aragon, separate kingdom with laws that protected him. In spite of his age and his poor physical state after being tortured, they rode all night changing horses along the Royal Posts. A second group followed a short while later, disguised as servants of a nobleman, with the purpose of tiring the Posts’ horses and thus make them unavailable should any officers of the king try to follow.

Once in Aragon they rested in the Monastery of Santa María de Huerta, then in Aragon (although this is not the case today as the border was later moved). A group of followers came to join them there with fresh horses and, further on, a military escort. He demanded the judicial process known as manifestación which made him subject to the laws and justice of Aragon (fueros) and this was immediately granted. With this he could not be extradited to Castile without a formal judicial process. He then moved slowly towards Zaragoza while he raised his supporters. On May 1 he entered triumphantly in Zaragoza surrounded by his followers and escorts. There he was put in the prison of manifestados subject to the justice of Aragon which for him meant protection from the king and the judicial process in Castile. In the prison of manifestados Antonio Pérez had great liberty. He received his friends and prepared his defense. He had access to all his documents which had been sent to Aragón even before his escape.

In the meanwhile the king had immediately set the judicial process in motion. On 23 April, even before Antonio Pérez had arrived in Zaragoza, a new judicial process was initiated by the king against Antonio Pérez in Aragon accusing him of being responsible of the murder of Escobedo, of having given the king false information with the purpose of getting him to approve the extrajudicial killing, of using secrets of State for his own ends and of falsifying messages to the king as he deciphered them as well as having escaped from prison.

On 1 July the judge in Madrid, Rodrigo de Arce, issued a death sentence against Antonio Pérez.

To prevent any escape attempt a special guard was placed outside the prison of manifestados by order of the king and Antonio Pérez used this to his advantage by playing the issue as one of Castile infringing on the sovereignty of Aragon. By linking his case to that of the rights and freedoms of Aragon (known as fueros), Antonio Pérez cleverly obtained the support of the people of Aragon.

The courts of Aragon hindered the judicial process and it seemed Antonio Pérez would be found innocent so the king’s accusation was withdrawn and a new, similar, accusation was presented by the king’s representative in Aragon, Iñigo de Mendoza y de la Cerda, Marquis of Almenara. Also, on 1 September, a new accusation was presented by the king as king of Aragon. In this new accusation Antonio Pérez was accused of serving king Philip badly in matters relating to Aragon but Antonio Pérez claimed as defense that he never served the king in any matters related to Aragon.

Antonio Perez released by the Aragonese town in 1591.

In 1591 Pérez made an unsuccessful attempt to escape and the judicial processes were moving very slowly. The king then resorted to the farce of accusing Antonio Pérez of heresy through the Inquisition which was an ecclesiastical organization and had jurisdiction in both Castile and Aragon. The purpose of this was to bypass the judicial system of Aragón.

On 13 May Antonio Pérez was moved to a prison in the Aljafería which caused riots of the people of Aragon who considered this an affront and a violation of their laws. In the riots the marquis of Almenara, representative of the king, was killed and soon Antonio Pérez was triumphantly returned to the prison of manifestados.

The situation was growing chaotic, the local authorities escaped in fear of the rioters and Pérez was planning his escape to France when the king ordered the invasion of Aragon by troops of Castile in a watershed move against the specific laws of Aragon and its limited self-government.

On 10 November 1591 Antonio Pérez fled Zaragoza and two days later the Aragonese armies crumbled and the royalist armies entered Zaragoza without opposition.

The king gave order that the Chief Justice, Juan de Lanuza y Urrea, be executed without trial and on December 20, 1591, his head was exhibited for all the terrified people to see.

Escape and exile in France and England

On the night of 23 November, disguised as a shepherd and in heavy snow, Antonio Pérez crossed the Pyrenees into the Kingdom of Bearn-Navarre. He first went to Pau in Béarn where Catherine, sister of Henry III of Navarre (IV of France), governed.

He spent the rest of his life trying to make a living off the sale of the secrets he knew, but he failed to make an impression on Queen Elizabeth I and her chief minister William Cecil. In 1593 he arrived in England as a guest of Anthony Bacon and he was admired by the Essex circle for his knowledge of Tacitism. It was the printer Richard Field who printed Perez’ Pedacos de Historia o Relaciones. He was a guest of Francis Bacon’s on the famous Night of Errors at Gray’s Inn when the throng of disorderly people nearly prevented a performance of A Comedy of Errors.

He was the target of several unsuccessful assassination attempts, originating with the Spanish Government: Patrick O’Collun and John Annias, executed in 1594 for conspiracy to kill the Queen, initially confessed only to an attempt to kill Perez, and the royal physician Rodrigo Lopez, who was executed for the same crime, was a party to a separate plot to kill him.

It has been claimed that Perez was mocked in Love’s Labour’s Lost in the persona of the preposterous Spaniard Don Armado. Gustav Ungerer argued that there were many similarities between Perez and Armado, including their prose style and their love life.[3]

Perez was recalled to France by Henry of Navarre, now Henry IV. He remained there until the end of his days except for several travels to England.

Perez’s Relaciones along with the Apologia written by William of Orange in 1580, are largely responsible for the Black Legend that has grown around Philip II.

King Philip died in 1598; and the wife and children of Antonio Pérez, who were still imprisoned in Madrid, were set free.

In 1611 Antonio Pérez died in Paris and was interred in a convent, but his remains were lost during the desecrations of the French Revolution.


  1. Amarie Dennis, Don Juan of Austria.
  2. ^ Gregorio Marañón, Biografía de Antonio Pérez
  3. ^ Felicia Hardison Londré, “Elizabethan Views of the Other”, in Love’s Labour’s Lost: Critical Essays, Routledger, 2001, p.333.