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The Spanish Empire and “los tercios” as seen in Arturo Párez-Reverte’s El sol de Breda (1998:2003)

Author(s): John C. Mc Intyre

Journal: FULGOR: Flinders University Languages Group Online Review
ISSN 1446-9219

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 34;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: El sol de Breda | Pérez-Reverte’s Alatriste | Dutch Protestant revolt | Spanish military

Pérez-Reverte’s Alatriste novels seek to educate young Spaniards about their Golden Age. In ‘El sol de Breda’, set in 1624-1625, Spanish armies fight to suppress the Dutch Protestant revolt. Narrator Íñigo is a teenage page to the experienced soldier, Alatriste. Traditional commentators like Elliott already see imperial decline, whereas Kamen emphasises that the Spanish Crown could always raise loans and armies. Pérez-Reverte’s series favours the traditional interpretation. The narrator accuses monarchy, aristocracy and clergy of major failures of leadership. American silver brought only extravagance, the conquistador’s ‘get-rich-quick’ mentality rejected honest work and aristocratic favourites as ministers failed to halt the widespread corruption and incompetence, while Spain persisted in seeing itself as crusading guardian of Catholicism. By 1624 Spain’s crack regiments were a superb military machine. Soldiers mainly from Germany, Lombardy and Sicily fought brilliantly in Italy, France and Flanders in spite of appalling conditions - including the non-payment of wages, which triggered numerous campaign-weakening mutinies. Spanish military skill could not finally resist the humour and doggedness of the Dutch revolt: in 1648 the Provinces will gain independence from Spain. In 1634 the witness-narrator advises Velázquez on the huge court painting ‘The Siege of Breda’, also known as ‘Las lanzas’.
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