start page Charles V TOUR :   Order of Saint John ➜

Spanish contemporaries
Duke of Alba,  *1507   †1582
Hernán Cortés,  *1485   †1547
Alfonso de Valdés,  *1490   †1532
Francisco de los Cobos,  *1475/85   †1547
Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, el Gran Capitán,  *1453   †1515
Bartolomé de Las Casas,  *1484   †1566

Don Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba ,   *1507   †1582
From an early age on, Alba started on a brilliant carreer in the Spanish military and became the most distinguished general of his times. He was keenly ambitious so that Charles V, later Philip II, always doubted him in spite of his stauch loyalty.
The duke accompanied Charles V to Tunis (1535) and Algier (1541). In the Schmalkaldian War he won the battle at Mühlberg (1547) and thus helped the Emperor to the peak of his power. He besieged Metz in 1552, then occupied by France, in the emperor's name, but the siege failed. In Italy he defeated the troups of France's ally Pope Paul IV. In 1567 Philip II sent Alba to the rebellious Netherlands at the head of an army. In answer to this, the governess Margaret of Parma resigned, and Alba was assigned her task. However, his bloody actions did not help appease the state of affairs. Holland and Zeeland broke away and Alba was relieved from office in 1573. In 1580 Alba enforced Philip II's hereditary claim to Portugal and he died there as governor in 1582.

Stuck silver medal 1567.     Ø 36,5 mm; 23,70 g.   v. Loon - ; Hill -; Kress -.
Obv.:   FERDINandus·TOLETanus·ALBÆ·DVX·BELGii·PRÆFectus·
"Ferdinand de Toledo, Duke of Alba, governor-general of Belgium"
Bust wearing cuirass and the Golden Fleece on a cord.

Rev.:   Alba's crowned arms, the Order of the Golden Fleece and its neck chain, 9 banners. Date.

Cast silver medal n. d. (1568).     Ø 37 mm; 31,59 g.   v. Loon 121,I.
Obv.:   FERDINandus:TOLETanua ALBAE DVX BELGii PRAEFectus   -   Bust to the right.
Rev.:   DEO PATRUM NOSTRORum   "The God of our fathers"
Altar with flame between two hanging armor.
The hanging armor belongs to the counts of Hoorn and Egmond, executed in 1568.

Cast silver medal n.d. (1568).     Ø 40 mm; 16,03 g.   v. Loon 125,I.
on the suppression of the unrest in the Netherlands and the beheading of the counts of Hoorn and Egmond by his governor Ferdinando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba.

Obv.:   ·Dominus·FERdiNANDVS·TOLEDO·DVX·ALBaE  -  Bust to the left.
Rev.:   Two dancing putti with wreaths.

Cast bronze medal 1571 by Jacques Jonghelinck.     Ø 40 mm.
Armand II, p.246, 12; v.Loon 136,I; Scher 163 (in silver)

Obv.:   FERDINandus·TOLETanus·ALBÆ DVX·BELGii·PRÆFectus
Bust wearing cuirass and the Golden Fleece. Date on the truncation.
Rev.:   DEO ET REGI - VITÆ VSVS   (completed by the engraving at the bottom)
"The purpose of life is service to God and the king"
A burning candle supported by a lion and two cranes.
The burning candle represents the duke's life, being consumed in the service of God and king and sustained by Might (the lion) and Vigilance (the cranes). The crane on the left holds a stone in its raised foot. The ancients believed that the crane balanced on one foot carrying a stone in the other as a precaution. Should the bird relax too deeply, the falling stone would startle it into wakefulness.
At the same time Alba commissioned a statue of himself from Jonghelinck to be erected in the citadel in Antwerp, showing him standing triumphant over a monster symbolizing Rebellion and Heresy. After Alba's departure, his successor quitly had the statue melted down.
[from Scher, "The Currency of Fame, Portrait Medals of the Renaissance", 1994]
Compare the picture (106x84 cm, 1549) by Antonis Mor (1519-76), Musée royaux des Baux-Arts, Brussels.

Hernán Cortés,  *1485   †1547
Cortés went to Hispaniola (Santo Domingo) as a 19-year old and took part in the conquest of Cuba. From there he sailed to Mexico in 1519 with 500 soldiers. He had the 11 ships burnt on their arrival and continued into the inner territories to conquer the Azteks' realm. Cortés had to return to Spain twice in order to defend himself against accusations from adversaries at court. He was honoured by the king in 1528. In 1541 he took part in Charles V's campaign against Algier.

The Currency of Fame, Portrait Medals of the Renaissance The Currency of Fame, Portrait Medals of the Renaissance
Cast bronze medal by Christoph Weiditz, 1529.     Ø 56 mm.
"Don Ferninando Cortés, 1529, at the age of forty two"
"The justice of the Lord touches all, and His power has strengthened my arm"
On top, an arm in a cloud from which rain is falling, the fist clenching part of the cloud.
Christoph Weiditz went to the royal court in Spain in 1528-29. There he met Cortés when being back from Mexico. Apart from the medal a drawing of Cortés is found on page 77 of Weiditz' so-called Trachtenbuch, conserved in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.
Compare the small picture of Cortés (13x9,5 cm) of the huge collection of small portraits of archduke Ferdinand (1529-95) collected in Tyrol.

Alfonso de Valdés,  *1490   †1532
Alfonso de Valdés, born in Castile, was a Spanish humanist and politician. He accompanied Charles V (I of Spain) to Aachen for his imperial coronation. Valdés was secretary of the imperial chancellor Mercurino Gattinara since 1522. He understood the Sacco di Roma 1527 as a punishment for the sins of the papal city. Valdés was enthusiastic about the ideas of Erasmus of Rotterdam. He accompanied the emperor on his journey 1529-31 and attended the coronation in Bologna and the imperial Diet of Augsburg in 1530, where he unsuccessfully tried to mediate between the emperor and Melanchthon.

Cast lead medal 1531,  model by Christoph Weiditz.    Ø ? mm   Habich 1/1 395, 2/1 pl.LII,2.
Specimen from Coin Cabinet Niedersächsisches Landesmuseums, Hannover, Inv.No.04:077:012
(published in

Obv.:   ALFONSVS·VALDESIVS - SECRET·ANNO·XXXI·   -   Effigy half left.
Rev.:   Four pillars in the sea holding an altar with a fire, four winds around. At the altar FIDES.
Between the columns a ribbon with ILLA IMMOTA MANET ("They remain unmoved at their place").
Compare this altar with the altar on the Gattinara-Medal:
both with the inscription FIDES and a fire.
Look at the oil painting (c. 1531/32) showing Alfonso de Valdés. In his hand he holds a round portrait of Mercurino Gattinara in Cardinal Purple (London, National Gallery).

Lit.: Ioannes Dantiscus' Correspondence with Alfonso de Valdés: Introduction (pdf)

Francisco de los Cobos y Molina,  *ca.1477   †1547
Francisco de los Cobos comes from Andalusia, where his father had fought the Moors. Following his uncle, he started a career in civil service. He became a notary and secretary of king Ferdinand II the Catholic in 1503 and was treasurer of Granada in 1508. He went to the Netherlands in 1516 to serve Carlos I (later also Charles V) in his Spanish secretariat. He became an indispensable assistant of the Dutch Guillaume II de Croy (Charles' leading minister until 1521). Afterwards he was fellow and opponent of Grand Chancellor Mercurino Gattinara. Cobos became responsible for Spain and the colonies in 1529, while Nicolas Perrenot de Granvelle became responsible for German-French-Burgundy affairs. Under king Philip II Cobos was in charge of all Spanish finance. He was ambitiously accumulating a large fortune and acquired several estates.

Cast lead medal 1531,  model by Christoph Weiditz.    Ø 62 mm, 163,2 g.  Habich 1/1 396.
Specimen from The National Gallery of Art (Washington, USA), Kress Coll. 588.

Bust from the front with hat, necklace, order of Santiago and cross next to it.
Rev.:   Man riding toward a cliff. Above a band with: FATA VIAM INVENIENT   "Fate will find the way".

Look at the oil painting from around 1531 by Jan Gossaert, 44x34 cm, Getty Center, Los Angeles.
The same order and cross of Santiago hang around the neck like on the medal.
Cobos was Grand Commander (Comendator Mayor) of the Order of Knights of Santiago for Leon since 1529.

• Hayward Keniston: Francisco de los Cobos - Secretary of the Emperor Charles V . Pittsburgh, 1958
• Javier Pérez Gil: El valor del retrato. Francisco de los Cobos y la notoriedad del linaje . J.G. Nistal (Ed.)
    Imagen y Documento. León 2014, p.61-87

Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, el Gran Capitán  *1453   †1515
Gonzalo fought first for Isabella the Catholic when she was not yet sure of the throne of Castile, then he fought at the front line in the Reconquista of Granada. For his merits he was accepted into the Order of Santiago. When king Charles VIII of France conquered Naples in 1495 and was crowned there, king Ferdinand the Catholic of Aragón decided to help the threatened nephew Alfonso II d'Aragona, king of Naples and send a Spanish army. At the request of Queen Isabella, Gonzalo became the army's commander. After an initial failure (Battle of Seminara in 1495) Gonzalo changed tactics to guerrilla warfare and was finally able to defeat the french troops, King Charles VIII had left behind when returning to France. Gonzalo's earned there the nickname 'el Gran Capitán'.
Returned to Spain in 1498, Gonzalo reorganized the Spanish army into specialized groups, consisting of offensive riflemen (arquebuses) and defensive lancers (pikes), which complemented each other.
In the second French campaign to Italy, king Louis XII of France conquered the northern part of the Kingdom of Naples in 1501 while Gonzalo occupied the southern part in the name of Ferdinand the Catholic. Then they fought each other. In 1503 the French had to withdraw from Naples. The victorious Gonzalo then became viceroy in Naples in 1504 until his jealous master Ferdinand the Catholic sent the popular and glorious Gonzalo back home in 1507, where there was no further task for him until his death in 1515.

Cast bronze medal ca. 1560  by Annibale Fontana from Milan.     Ø 57 mm, 44,88 g.
Köhlers Münzbelust.(1741) p.17; Kress Coll. 445; Attwood (2003) 107; Pollard (2007) 512.
Specimen of The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

"Gonzalo, for the third time supreme authority, famous through the nickname of the great captain"
Bust to left, in cuirass and scarf; lower right on the truncation:
"Having conquered the Gauls at Cannae (!) and Liris (Garigliano), Italy, once more at peace,
closed the Temple of Janus"
[The famous place Cannae, where Hannibal defeated Romans, stands for nearby Cerignola!]
Battle at the walls of a city; horseman with Gonzalo's banner; flag of France flying on a tower.
The medal commemorates Gonzalo's victories over the French in Cerignola (28.4.1503) near Cannae and Bari and in Garigliano (29.12.1503) near Gaeta, from where the French left the country shortly afterwards.
The medal is not contemporary with Gonzalo and the portrait is not authentic.
No contemporary portraits of Gonzalo seems to exist.
Interest in Gonzalo was awakened again by a publication by Paolo Giovio around 1550.

Ref.:   José María de Francisco Olmos: Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, el Gran Capitán, y las monedas "españolas" de Nápoles.   -   pdf online

Bartolomé de Las Casas,  *1484   †1566
Bartolomé de Las Casas was a son of a participant of Columbus' discovery of America. He arrived to Santo Domingo in 1502 to became a land and Indian owner. In a process of rethinking his opposition against slavery of indigenous people increased since 1516. His reports and petitions to the Spanish court resulted in the "Leyes Nuevas" (1542). They were released in order to improve the legal status of the natives, but were not enforced. In 1537 Pope Paul III declared the Indians to be humans who were also capable of accepting the Christian faith. As Bishop of Chiapas in Mexico 1544-46 Bartolomé was so attacked by the colonists that he finally returned to Spain, where he lived in a Dominican monastery until his death.

Guatemala: 1 Centavo (1/100 Quetzal) 1958    Cu, Ø 21 mm, 2,99 g.
Obv.:   REPUBLICA DE GUATEMALA - ·1958·  -  Coat of arms of Guatemela (A quetzal sits on a scroll with "LIBERTAD 15 DE SEPTIEMBRE DE 1821", behind it crossed two sabers and two rifles with bayonets, around two branches of laurel).
Rev.:   UN CENTAVO - ·FRAY BARTOLOME DE LAS CASAS·  -  Bust to the left.

Cuba: 30 Pesos 1992     Ag PP, Ø mm, 93,04 g   KM 377,
on the discovery of America 500 years ago.

Obv.:   REPUBLICA DE CUBA - 3 OZ  30 Pesos  AG 0,999  -  Coat of arms of Cuba.
Compare the oil painting on canvas by an anonymous artist from the 16th century
in the Archivo General de Indias, Seville, shown by Wikipedia.

start page Charles V   /   Karl V. TOUR :   Order of Saint John ➜