FERNANDO DE VALENZUELA (1630-1692), Spanish royal favourite and minister, was born at Naples on the 19th of January 1630. His father, Don Francisco de Valenzuela, a gentleman of Ronda, had been compelled to flee from Spain in consequence of a brawl, and had enlisted as a soldier in Naples, where he married Dona Leonora de Encisa. Francisco de Valenzuela having died young, his son was placed by his mother as a page in the household of the duke of Infantado. He lost his place owing to a reduction of the duke's establishment, and for several years he lived obscurely; but by good fortune he succeeded in persuading Maria de Uceda, one of the ladiesin-waiting of Mariana, second wife of Philip IV., to marry him. By her help Valenzuela obtained a footing in the palace. He was appointed introducer of ambassadors on the 12th of October 1671, and it became notorious that whoever had a petition to present or a place to ask for must apply to him. He became popularly known as the duende, the fairy or brownie of the palace, and was believed to be the lover of the queen. In 1675 a court intrigue, conducted by his rivals and supported by the younger Don John of Austria, was so far successful that he was driven from court; but the queen gave him the title of marquis of Villa Sierra, and appointed him ambassador to Venice. Valenzuela succeeded in getting the embassy exchanged for the governorship of Granada. His stay at this post was short, for he was able to organize a counter-intrigue which soon brought him back to court. The queen-regent now openly appointed him prime minister, gave him official quarters in the palace, and conferred a grandeeship on him, to the profound indignation of the other grandees. In January 1678 a palace revolution broke out against the queen-regent, who was driven from Madrid, and Valenzuela fled for refuge to the monastery of the Escorial. He was, however, taken out by force, and his house was pillaged. His property was confiscated - his jewels, furniture and ready money were estimated to amount to £120,000 - he was degraded from the grandeeship and exiled to the Philippines. At a later period he was released from close confinement and allowed to settle in Mexico, where a pension was given him. He died in Mexico, from the kick of a horse he was breaking in, on the 7th of February 1692. Part of his property, and the title of Villa Sierra, but not the grandeeship, were restored to his wife and children. The career of Valenzuela probably helped to suggest the subject of Ruy Blas to Victor Hugo.
See Documentos Ineditos Para la Historia de Espana, vol. lxvii. (Madrid, 1842, &c.), which contain an artful and well-written defence of himself addressed to King Charles II. of Spain from Mexico.
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