Don Carlos

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Don Carlos (painted by Alonso Sánchez Coello, 1564)
Don Carlos (painted by Alonso Sánchez Coello between 1555 and 1559)

Don Carlos , Spanish : Carlos de Austria (*  July 8, 1545 in Valladolid ; †  July 24, 1568 in Madrid ), was an Infant of Spain from the House of Austria and as such Prince of Asturias from 1560 until his death in 1568 .


Don Carlos was the eldest son of King Philip II of Spain and his first wife, Princess Maria of Portugal .

His mother died after days of complications during his birth. As the eldest legitimate son of his father, Carlos was heir to the throne of Spain . As a result of the close relatives of his parents - they were cousins ​​on both maternal and paternal side - and his severe fall as a teenager, it was repeatedly claimed that Carlos was insane. Don Carlos himself commented on this finding on the occasion of his arrest in 1568 with the words: "that he was not crazy, but only desperate and that it was his father's fault alone".

In 1560 Carlos was recognized by the Spanish nobility as heir to the throne ( Prince of Asturias ), but his father was extremely skeptical about the abilities of his firstborn. When Don Carlos was seventeen years old, he confessed, in response to the tricky questions from his confessor, that he wanted to see his father dead. The latter revealed this statement to Philip II, whereby the somewhat retarded Don Carlos was placed even more under clerical supervision. In April 1562 he fell down a flight of stairs and badly injured his head, causing a long illness that was sought to be cured with excessive cult of relics.

Don Carlos, unlike his father, may have had a certain sympathy for the Dutch rebels in the Eighty Years' War . On the other hand, he hoped that after a joint trip to the Netherlands and a peaceful solution , the king would make him the new governor of the Netherlands. But things turned out differently: Philip II did not make a trip, and the general Fernando Álvarez de Toledo , the third Duke of Alba , was selected as the new governor of the Netherlands . Don Carlos now turned against the king, especially since he was refused a trip to Italy and a visit to his fiancée Anna of Austria in Vienna. Out of anger, he killed his father's favorite horse.

In order to reassure his son, Philip appointed him Minister of State, in which Carlos initially worked actively. However, he soon relapsed into his old, childish behavior, whereupon his father withdrew the task. When Carlos wanted to flee to the Netherlands , Philipp had his son arrested under dramatic circumstances and planned a high treason trial against him (January 1568). While in custody, Carlos swallowed a diamond ring with the intention of killing himself. At Easter he wished to receive communion , but was refused after extensive theological discussions. When summer came it got unbearably hot in the attic where he had been locked up, so Carlos had the stone floor sprinkled with water and went barefoot. He also drank large amounts of ice water, which led to a fever and severe colic . He became seriously ill, and when he felt near death, he longed to see his father in order to be reconciled with him. Philipp refused to meet him one last time. The infant died of a digestive disorder before his trial began. He was buried in Chapel 9 of the Pantheon of the Infants in the Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial .

The suspicion that Philip II had his son murdered was never confirmed. The end of Don Carlos seemed suspicious to the imperial court in Vienna, and they wanted to send a special envoy to find out more on the spot; Philip II could only dispel bad feelings with extensive letters.


Philip I (Castile) (1478–1506)
Charles V (HRR) (1500–1558)
Joan of Castile (1479–1555)
Philip II (Spain) (1527–1598)
Manuel I (Portugal) (1469–1521)
Isabella of Portugal (1503–1539)
Mary of Aragon (1482-1517)
Don Carlos (1545–1568)
Manuel I (Portugal) (1469–1521)
Johann III. (Portugal) (1502–1557)
Mary of Aragon (1482-1517)
Mary of Portugal (1527–1545)
Philip I (Castile) (1478–1506)
Catherine of Castile (1507–1578)
Joan of Castile (1479–1555)

Literary processing

The fate of the Infante was also processed literarily. The drama Don Karlos (1787) by Friedrich Schiller and the opera Don Carlos (1867) by Giuseppe Verdi, based on it, have become famous . The love affair with Don Carlos and his stepmother Elisabeth von Valois , who is said to be the same age, is also legend, but is possibly based on the fact that she was engaged to Don Carlos before she married Philip II. This processed Abbé de Saint-Réal in a novel, then used the Schiller as a model for his famous drama.


Web links

Commons : Don Carlos  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Don Carlos  - sources and full texts (English)

Individual evidence

  1. Philip II's father, Charles V, was the brother of Maria's mother, Katharina, and Philip II's mother, Isabella, was the sister of Maria's father, Johann III.
  2. Giardini 1994, p. 204.
  3. Giardini 1994, pp. 109-115.
  4. Giardini 1994, pp. 174-181.
  5. Giardini 1994, p. 182.
  6. Giardini 1994, pp. 202-205.
  7. Giardini 1994, p. 227.
  8. Giardini 1994, pp. 228-230.
  9. Cesare 1994, p. 231.
  10. Giardini 1994, p. 234.
  11. ^ Guy Bechtel, Jean-Claude Carrière: Lexikon der Sonderlinge, Gustav Kiepenheuer Verlag, Leipzig 2001, p. 57, ISBN 3-378-01053-3
predecessor Office successor
Philipp of Austria and Avis Prince of Asturias
Ferdinand of Austria