This intriguing little work, printed in Zaragoza, covers major events across Europe that occurred in the late spring and early summer of 1661; notably, the Ottoman takeover of Transylvania, the VenetianOttoman conflict in both Dalmatia and Crete, as well as the renewal of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance that would ultimately ensure Lisbon’s independence from Madrid. The publisher, Augustín Verges, would have gleaned the information from foreign newspapers and broadsides. In Spain, during this period before regular newsletters were common (Spain’s first newspaper, the Gaceta de Madrid, an official government organ, was founded in 1661) and when all publishing was heavily censored, the public depended upon officially licensed pamphlets and broadsides for knowledge of current events abroad.
The present work is very rare. Vague bibliographical references indicate that there are perhaps a couple of other examples in institutions, although we cannot trace their whereabouts (perhaps they are in provincial Spanish libraries not covered by major databases; there seem to be no examples in major libraries, including the Biblioteca Nacional de España); moreover, we cannot find any sales records for the work from the last generation.
The first section, ‘Prodigos que se han visto en Turquia’ (pp. 1-2), concerns events surrounding the ongoing struggle between Austria and Venice, on one side, and the Ottoman Empire, on the other. While Spain was not directly involved in the mentioned wars, both Spain and Austria (the main anti-Turkish force) were ruled by branches of the same Habsburg family, while Spaniards generally maintained a strong sense of solidarity with their Christian brethren, having themselves battled Muslim powers for centuries.
The segment commences with a report, dated May 30, 1661, from Pressburg (Bratislava) of the sighting of a great comet on May 30, 1661. The phenomenon was seen by figures across Europe, including the Pope in Rome, as an omen, hopefully hailing the victory of the Christian armies over the Muslim Turks. However, events did not really turn out that way.
The present work goes on to recount the situation in the Principality of Transylvania, a Protestant-ruled land which had until recently enjoyed a ‘golden age’ of prosperity, having successfully maintained its autonomy from both Habsburg Austria and the Ottomans. While it has, since 1526, technically been a vassal of the Ottoman Empire, Transylvania had enjoyed almost complete internal independence. However, in 1658, the Transylvanian leader, here called the ‘Principe Ragotzky’, being Prince George II Rákóczi, rashly decided to invade Poland without Istanbul’s blessing. The Transylvanian armies were eventually defeated, and George II was killed (May 1660), causing the near collapse of the state. The Ottomans invaded Transylvania, while George II’s successors asked Vienna (their traditional enemy) for help fighting off the Sublime Porte. However, a secret agreement between the Habsburgs and Istanbul ensured that the Austrians did not get involved, guaranteeing Transylvania’s defeat. From that point onwards, Transylvania became a closely-controlled client state of the Ottoman Empire.
The next section, ‘De Venicia’ (p. 2 – 3), concerns Venice’s seemingly endless struggle against the Ottoman Empire. It notes that the Venetian coastal cities of Zara (Zadar), Spoleto (Split) and Cattaro (Kotor), were then under intense pressure from an Ottoman army of 60,000 men from Bosnia commanded by Hali Pasha.
The work then turns to the ongoing Cretan War, (1645-69), whereby the Ottomans were attempting to wrest control of Crete from Venice. It notably mentions the continuing Siege of Candia (modern Heraklion), which lasted 21 years (1648-69), making it the second-longest siege in history. The Ottomans would eventually prevail, assuming complete control of Crete in 1669.
Next, the work turns its focus towards the ongoing Portuguese Restoration War (1640-68). Following the dissolution of the Iberian Union of Spain and Portugal in 1640, Portugal regained its independence and fought an on-and-off-again conflict with Spain, usually in the form of sporadic border skirmishes (that occasionally broke out into larger battles). Spain stubbornly refused to acknowledge Portugal’s independence, viewing it a renegade province that should be brought to heel.
The section ‘De Inglaterra’ (p. 3) covers the negotiations then going on in London which renewed the ancient Anglo-Portuguese alliance following the Restoration of Charles II to the English throne in 1660. Portugal was to promise England a large dowry in exchange for Charles II marrying the Portuguese
Princess Catarina de Bragança. These negotiations would prove successful, with the marriage occurring on April 23, 1662. This alliance would have grave consequences for Spain, as Portugal would, once again, be protected by England, a naval superpower and Madrid’s arch-nemesis. Nevertheless, Spain was determined to attack Portugal, hoping to deal a knockout blow, and once again assume control of the country.
The section ‘De Portugal’ (pp. 3-4) concerns the Portuguese preparations for the expected Spanish onslaught. In the spring and summer of 1661 Portugal was marshalling its army and bringing in large quantities of supplies and financial resources from its overseas empire, while England was sending support carried by both naval and mercantile vessels.
The final section ‘Del Excercito de Estramadura’ (p. 4) concerns the dramatic bolstering of the Spanish army in the Extremadura region bordering Portugal in preparation for the invasion.
As the present work concludes its coverage with events at the end of July 1661, it is worth mentioning how the Spain vs. Portugal-England contest turned out. In 1662, Spain invaded the Alentejo region of Portugal, taking the major city of Évora; however stubborn Portuguese resistance, backed by a significant English intervention, ensured that the Spanish endeavour was defeated by 1665. Spain formally (albeit reluctantly) recognized Portugal’s independence and the legitimacy of its royal House of Bragança in 1668.
References: Palau: no. 258599; Estado actual de los estudios sobre Aragon (Zaragoza, 1979). p. 320.