Luis Manuel Fernández Boccanegra Portocarrero et Mendoza

8 September 16291 - 14 September 1709

Descent of Portocarrero

Portocarrero descended from a man of the Genovese family named Boccanegra who had married an heiress of the Spanish house of Portocarrero and had taken its name and arms. He was a son of the count of Palma and was early on sent to Toledo, were he was entrusted to the care of the church. This in fact meant that he came under the care and guidance of his uncle Alonso Portocarrero, dean of the cathedral. Portocarerro then became dean of the cathedral at the resignation of his uncle. The Duke del Infantado Rodrigo de Silva y Mendoza was a brother in law to Portocarerro, and he helped him to his first step at court by getting him appointed as sumiglier of Felipe IV.

Portocarrero becomes a cardinal (up to 1670)

As dean of Toledo Portocarrero of course ranked below the primate Pascual de Aragon. In his absence Portocarrero however got his first major appearance on the political scene by leading a congregation of the Spanish church in the convent of San Bartolomé near Lupiana 2). It is from this time that Portocarrero can be seen as an opponent of Queen Mother Marianne of Austria and her confessor Nithardt, who together dominated the regency council for Charles II. With the threat of a succession crisis already looming Portocarrero came to head the party that wanted Juan José (a bastard son of Felip IV, also known as Don Juan) to come to Madrid and head the government. On 9 June 1667 they succeeded and Don Juan became the champion of this party as well as their candidate for the succession should Charles II die. After a plot to assassinate Nithardt had been discovered Don Juan had to flee from Madrid in October 1668. Don Juan then started to gather forces in Barcelona, and on 27 january 1669 he started his march on Madrid with 400 soldiers. At the end of February Don Juan arrived near Madrid and made his demands. The march ended with an agreement whereby Nithardt got expulsed and power at Madrid was divided between the Queen Mother and Don Juan. A specific moment of conflict between the Queen mother and Portocarerro arrived when the government had to recommend three candidates for the cardinalship. The party supporting Portocarrero got a clear victory in this when the Council of State nominated him as preferred candidate and ignored the Queen mother's candidate. On 5 August 1669 Portocarrero was appointed cardinal by Pope Clemence IX. The Queen Mother then offered the archbishophric of Grenada to Portocarrero. On the excuse of having to elect the new pope Portocarrero refused this appointment and arived in Rome on 23 April 1670.

Portocarrero as cardinal (up to December 1677)

The entrance of Valenzuela into power (1669) meant that measures were taken to strengthen the position of the Queen Mother. Valenzuela continued the attack on the Portocarrero clan which meant that his enemies of the house of Aguilar were brought into positions of power like the Council of State, and more importantly the bishophric of Cordoba. This appointment of an Aguilar as bishop of Cordoba was meant to bar Portocarrero's way to the primateship of Spain that was still held by Pascual de Aragon.

In Rome it was Portocarrero's mission to secure the election of a new pope that wasn't favorable to Louis XIV. He however also had a more private mission and that was to prevent the election of an Austrian candidate. In this he succeeded by blocking the candidate that had been agreed upon thus far and supporting the compromise candidature of bishop Altieri, who became Clemence X. The downside of this was that the old pope delegated most of his responsibilties to a pro-French cardinal, but the upside was that the Austrian influence at Rome was shaken. After the conclave the Queen Mother appointed Portocarrero as ambassador to the pope, a move intended to keep him away from Madrid. In order to keep control of his actions there she appointed Valenzula as president of the Council of Italy. Portocarrero then formed a strong Spanish party at Rome that was led by the Duke of Bracciano Flavio Orsini, who later married to Marie Anne de Tremoïlle (who would style herself Princesse des Ursins). As expected Clemence X did not live very long, and a new conclave met from July till August 1676. This time Portocarrero and his party were prepared, and on 2 August 1676 the Pro-Spanish candidate Benito Odescalchi was appointed pope as Innocentius XI.

Meanwhile Valenzuela's government had antagonised a big part of the Spanish nobility and population, and new strife loomed at the Spanish Court. The opposition to the Queen Mother was centralised around 3 persons: the group around the Duke of Alba, the group around the count of Monterrey and the group of Portocarrero. Pascual de Aragon mentioned that the house of Palma had a lot of agents working for Juan José, for proposing to send the Queen Mother to Germany and for declaring Charles II to be of age to rule. 3). Don Juan again entered Madrid in arms on 6 November 1675 and though he did not get what he want the Queen Mother saw herself constrained to declare Charles II of age, and so the government of Charles II started. This governement of Charles II was at first just a prolongation of the regency with Valenzuela as prime minister. It started with strong measures against the opposition and continued on this course for a while. The entrance of Don Juan in Madrid on 23 January 1677 then led to his banishment.

Cardinal Portocarrero under Don Juan June 1677 - April 1679

Don Juan's government had a war with Louis XIV on its hands that had incited a revolt on Sicily. By appointing Portocarrero as Vice Roy Don Juan probably thought to attain two goals at once by nominating an able administrator as well as keeping an ambitious man away from Madrid. Portocarrero left for Sicily on 12 May 1677 and probably arrived in June. His government was marked by concentrating power in his hands and not letting himself be bothered with attemps by Madrid to mingle in the details. Amidst grave difficulties Portocarrero succeeded in aquiring money; e.g. by severely restricting all non-military expenditure, taking personal control of all expenditure, selling appointments, and by getting a personal loan.

These financial measures were of course all meant to finance the military campaign against the French. While the Spanish could at first not stand against the French in open combat they waged a war that bound the French to the coast line. Already by September the French were forced to start leaving the south. On 30 August 1677 Portocarrero got a major succes when the French army was routed at Milazzo. The general situation did not change much however and so till the beginning of 1678 Portocarrero had to continue with a guerilla type warfare that he also waged at sea. During this time Portocarerro became archbishop of Toledo On 6 November 1677 2a). He was officially replaced by the nomination of a new Vice Roy on 28 November 1677, but had to continue on Sicily till he arrived. This meant Portocarrero got to launch his big counter offensive that beat the French in the beginning of 1678. Don Juan then had Portocarrero again appointed ambassador to Rome, and while under way in Naples the last French on Sicily surrendered in March 1678.

Primate Portocarrero in Spain May 1679

In spring 1679 Don Juan's health was seriously deteriorating, and so prospects of a return to power of the Queen Mother opened up. This meant that Portocarrero had to consider returning to Spain in time. This also had to do with his function as Archbishop of Toledo: it made him Chancellor of Castile; Primate of Spain; diocesan of Madrid and first of the grandees of Castile. Therefore Portocarrero left Rome and arrived in Madrid on 30 May 1679. It was Portocarrero's ambition to folllow in Don Juan's footsteps as leader of the government. The majority of the nobility was however in favor of a collegial Junta de Gobierno. When Don Juan died on 17 September 1679 a Junta de Gobierno was formed with the the Duke of Medinaceli as president. This Junta commenced with retributions against the adherants of Don Juan and Portocarrero and for the rest it saw a period of administrative and economic disaster.

On the background of these attempts at administrative and economic reform Portocarrero started an attempt at religious reform. This had to take place at the synod of Toledo in 1682 were not only religious dignitaries were invited, but also the representatives of all other government bodies (communities, cities, univeristies). Portocarrero's goal was to increase the presence of the church in society along the lines of the Council of Trento. The objectives of the synod were not only to strengthen the morality of the church, but also the struggle against paganism and superstition. Goals that coïncided with Portocarrero's personal plans were those that aimed at making canonical law supersede civilian law and strengthening the role of the church in civilian government. The main achievements of this synod were a tighter control of and better vigilance against abuses in parishes, leading to new vigor in the Spanish Church.

The economic disaster led to the replacement of Medinaceli by the Count of Oropesa.

in sicily It was also at this time that Portocarrero started to consider chainging dynasty

In his clerical career he would further become bishop of Palestrina in December 1697. In wordly affairs he became ad interim vice-roy of Sicily before becoming archbishop of Toledo; ambassador at Rome 1678-1679, Lieutenant Admiral, 19 July 1700 surintendant of the navy, and Regent twice 2)

Role of Portocarrero in the council of state

When the news of the partition treaty was received in Spain Portocarrero was president of the council of state. At the time it was composed of:

Portocarrero's power rises

One of the first things Portocarrero achieved was the banishment of the Queen widow. Together with d'Harcourt he had already tried to convince her to leave, but she would not. Finally Philip V wort her a command to leave Madrid. Somewhere at the end of January the queen widow settled at Toledo where she came to inhabit the old palace of Charles V.

Portocarrero's receives Felipe V in Madrid

On 18 February Portocarrero's work was crowned by the arrival of Felipe V in Madrid. Enormous crowds had taken to the streets to welcome the new king who went to the palace of Buen Retiro where he would reside for a while. When Felipe finally descended from his coach Portocarrero went to his knees and kissed his hand. The king lifted him up and embraced him while Portocarrero wept tears of joy.7) Portocarrero probably had reason to be joyous because he could consider that the ascension of Felipe V would bring power and fortune to him 9).

Portocarrero's character and appearance

This is a description of the looks and character of Portocarrero, it is taken from Saint Simon 8). Portocarrero was a big man of white complexion, rather fat with a nice face, venerable, noble and majestic. He was honest, polite, straightforward, talking fast and with justness, grandor and nobility, his abilities and intelligence were however very mediocre, he was very stubborn but possessed a lot of tact. He was furthermore an excellent friend and an implacable enemy and loved his relations. As regards ambition he wanted to do everything and manage everthing. He was also very passionate in his actions and in everything devout, high and glorious. In politics he was of the Austrian party (Sic!) but a declared enemey of the queen and all her party.


1) In Saint Simon Tome 7 page 257 the annotation gives 8 September 1629 as date of birth, the Britannica 1911 says 8 January 1635. See also 'La crisis Sucesoria de la Monarquia espanola. El Cardenal Portocarrero y el primer gobierno de Felipe V. (1698-1705) by Antonio Ramon Pena Izquirdo Barcelona 2005. Volume II page 155 note 242.
2) See Izquirdo
3) For this date see Izquirdo volume II page 311
4) Izquirdo mentiones a letter to this effect in Vol II Page 190
5) See Saint Simon Tome 6 page 113.
6) See Saint Simon Tome 7 Page 249 a.f.
7) Compare Dangeau, 28 February: (Felipe V wrote): Le cardinal Porto-Carrero le reçut a son arrivée a Buen-Retiro et se voulut jeter a ses pieds pour lui baiser la main; le roi catholique le releva, l'embrassa tendrement, le traita comme un vrai père, et le cardinal a toujours les yeux sur lui comme sur son enfant.
8) Louis had sent him an official and very warm letter in wich he thanked him, and in his instructions to Louville he had mentioned Portocarrero as the man who should get Felipe's prime confidence. Saint Simon Tome 8, p. 104
9) Saint Simon Tome 7 page 256