One Foot in the Palace

One Foot in the Palace: The Habsbourg Court of Brussels and the Politics of Access in the Reign of Albert and Isabella, 1598-1621

Dries Raeymaekers
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Leuven University Press
Pages: 366
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    One Foot in the Palace
    Book Description:

    The splendor and enticement of the Archdukes' Court in Brussels The Habsburg Court of Brussels remains one of the few early modern princely courts that have never been thoroughly studied by historians. Yet it offers a unique case, particularly with regard to the first decades of the seventeenth century. Once home to the Dukes of Burgundy, the ancient palace on the Coudenberg hill in Brussels became the principal residence of the Habsburg governors in the Low Countries and, in the period 1598-1621, that of Archduke Albert and his wife, the Spanish Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia. Eager to reassert the dynasty's authority in these parts, the Archdukes ruled the Habsburg Netherlands as sovereign princes in their own right. Based on the author's prize-winning dissertation, this book vividly brings to life the splendor of their court and unravels the goals and ambitions of the men and women who lived and worked in the palace.

    eISBN: 978-94-6166-143-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Illustrations & Plates
    (pp. xv-xv)
  5. Tables & Charts
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xvii)
  7. Currency values
    (pp. xviii-xviii)
  8. Prelude
    (pp. 1-4)

    On the morning of September 27, 1595, a feverish busyness dominated the harbor of Barcelona. Along the quays of the Catalonian capital no less than 27 galleys were moored, the holds of which were stowed full of baggage and provisions. Eight ships were under the command of the Spanish nobleman Don Diego de Mendoza. The nineteen remaining galleys had been sent from Genoa, sailing under orders of Carlo Doria, duke of Tursi, who as captain of the fleet followed in the footsteps of his famous great-uncle, the Genoese admiral and statesman Andrea Doria. Mendoza and Doria had been summoned to...

  9. Introduction
    (pp. 5-34)

    On May 6, 1598, a gravely ill Philip II signed the Act of Cession. With that he sealed the transfer of sovereignty over the Habsburg Netherlands and Franche-Comté to his daughter Isabella Clara Eugenia and her prospective spouse Albert of Austria (cf. Plates 1 and 2 in the color section of this book).¹ By way of dowry, the archdukes, as they would come to be known, received theoretical dominion over all regions in the Low Countries except for the prince-bishopric of Liège. In reality, the reach of their power was limited to the areas that had remained loyal to Habsburg...

  10. Part I: Anatomy of the Archducal Household

    • Chapter I Setting the Stage
      (pp. 37-96)

      On the night of February 3, 1731, the old palace on the Coudenberg hill in Brussels went up in flames.² The exact cause of the disaster is difficult to track down. More than likely a scatterbrained lady-in-waiting neglected to snuff her candle in going to sleep and thus involuntarily sealed the fate of the princely residence.³ In no time the fire spread to the adjacent quarters. The governess at that time, Archduchess Maria Elisabeth, could only narrowly escape and be brought to safety; other residents were less fortunate.⁴ Powerless, the people of Brussels looked on as the destructive fire reduced...

    • Chapter II Household Scale & Finances
      (pp. 97-140)

      During the summer of 1603, Albert and Isabella passed the time in Antwerp for a few weeks. Without a doubt, their stay saddled Antwerp’s city magistrate with a great many logistical headaches. According to a contemporary source the archdukes arrived with a retinue of at least 382 persons, all of whom had to be housed and fed.² There were, among others, tengentilhombres de la Cámara, nineteengentilhombres de la Boca, ninegentilhombres de la Casa, twelveayudas de Cámara, seven chaplains, thirteen footmen, two personal physicians, four washerwomen, seven violists, nineteen cooks and kitchen servants, thirteen coachmen, sevenescuderos...

    • Chapter III In the Service of the Dynasty
      (pp. 141-190)

      That the choice of an entourage could be of crucial concern for a prince was a consideration that Archduke Albert was presumably very conscious of early on. Already at the age of ten he had been able to experience how the composition of his own household became the object of a tug-of-war between his father, the Habsburg Emperor Maximilian II, and his uncle, King Philip II of Spain. Maximilian had agreed with Philip’s proposal to have the Catholic upbringing of Albert and his younger brother Wenceslas perfected at the court in Madrid beginning in 1570. Yet the emperor was in...

  11. Part II: The Political Role of the Courtiers

    • Chapter IV ‘Une Liberté Absolue d’Entrer’
      (pp. 193-230)

      On November 9, 1619, the French ambassador in Brussels, Jean Péricard, informed his superiors of a rumor that was making the rounds at the archducal court.² He reported that Count Wratislas von Fürstenberg, one of Albert’sgentilhombres de la Cámara, had returned to the Southern Netherlands after a long stay in the Holy Roman Empire and that he was going to pay his respects to the archduke, who lay sick in bed, later that week. Fürstenberg, a scion from a lineage of the German high nobility, had made up part of the archducal entourage for many years, yet was connected...

    • Chapter V Eyes & Ears
      (pp. 231-262)

      In December, 1617, Lucio Morra, the papal nuncio in Brussels, informed his superiors in Rome of a remarkable incident that had drawn his attention. In the aftermath of the death of Don Juan de Meneses,maestre de campoin theEjército de Flandes, Archduke Albert had devised a new command for no less than three army officers. Don Diego Mexía succeeded Meneses as the leader of atercioin the infantry. The company of lancers Mexía had already commanded was awarded to Don Juan Niño de Tavora, whose own company of cuirassiers was in turn passed on to a son...

    • Chapter VI The Archduke’s Gran privado
      (pp. 263-304)

      In February, 1619, the court in Brussels was making ready for the reception of the Spanish nobleman Don García de Pareja.² Three years earlier Pareja – who had the reputation of being one of the duke of Lerma’s creatures – had journeyed once already to the Southern Netherlands to steer the swearing of oaths by the provincial States to Philip III in the right direction.³ On that occasion he had been appointed by Albert and Isabella tomayordomoin the archducal household, an honorary function that he now – perhaps not coincidentally shortly after the fall of Lerma – wanted to take up effectively....

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 305-318)

    In his tractatusMonita et Exempla Politica,published in 1605, Justus Lipsius sketched an anything but exhilarating picture of the early modern court. According to the famous humanist, the splendid façade of the princely residence masked a world of mendacity, treachery, and defamation. The question can be asked as to what extent Archduke Albert, to whom the work was dedicated, felt himself to be addressed by Lipsius’ comments. Did he recognize his own court in the description? Did it perhaps make him think of the court of his father Maximilian II, where he first saw the light of day in...

  13. Appendix
    (pp. 319-324)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 325-348)
  15. Index
    (pp. 349-356)
  16. Gallery
    (pp. 357-366)