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Luisa Carvajal y Mendoza

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Luisa Carvajal y Mendoza (1566 – 1614) was a member of the Spanish nobility, a family connection of the Duke of Lerma and religious poet and writer.

Carvajal y Mendoza's parents died when she was young. The Jaraicejo native moved to live with her uncle and aunt in Pamplona. Because she did not wish to marry, after her uncle's death, she lived a holy life by herself and a few servants in Madrid, claiming her inheritance against her brother through a legal suit. She at first wished to donate the amount to found a nunnery in Belgium, but with the help of the Jesuits, she decided to leave the monies to the Order and travel to England actively to seek converts to Catholicism and perhaps martyrdom for herself (Carter 1964)..

Arriving in London shortly after the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, Carvajal y Mendoza attempted to reconvert the Anglicans to Catholicism by preaching in Cheapside and publicly declaring the illegitimacy of the late Queen. Her actions, considered disruptive and traitorous, landed her in prison. To strike at her would be an embarrassment to the new ambassador, Diego Sarmiento de Acuña, soon to be conde de Gondomar. Archbishop Abbot, a Puritan sympathizer, procured a warrant for her arrest, and she was seized in Spitalfields, at a little house that, it was asserted, she had established as a nunnery. Sarmiento, as he then was known,[1] was unable to procure her release more discreetly through orders in Council and was forced to lodge a protest with James I. Refusing the offer to free her if she promised to leave the country immediately, with the threat that he would leave with her, the Ambassador eventually procured her unconditional release through James's Council.

After a second imprisonment she fell mortally ill from a bronchial infection. King Philip III arranged for her body to be shipped back to Spain, where she was revered at first as a putative saint. Her canonization proceedings, however, resulted only in her beatification.

Carvajal left autobiographical writings and a brief but excellent collection of religious poetry. Her unusual decision to travel to England as a missionary has attracted the attention of feminist scholars.

Carvajal y Mendoza's legacy in Spain was evidenced during the 1990s, when Spain's airline, Iberia, named an Airbus A340 jet airliner after her.

Notes

  1. He was created conde de Gondomar in 1617.

References

  • Charles H. Carter, "Gondomar: Ambassador to James I" The Historical Journal 7.2 (1964, pp. 189-208), p 201f.

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