Garcilaso de la Vega y Guzmán was a renowned poet and soldier from Toledo born in the Spanish Golden Age.
He was as brave with the pen as with the sword; a man of idealistic and original verbs, so much so that many researchers catalogue his work – together with that of Shakespeare and Cervantes – as a promoter of modernism.
After his death, his letters were studied by a large number of writers. This was both because of his poetic richness and because he considered it an autobiography in verse.
It is said that the author broke his and fixed in his poems his experiences, loves and sorrows.
His talent as a poet and warrior made him walk between the cards and the battlefield, although the latter was more of an obligation than a pleasure.
To begin with, they called him “the prince of the Spanish-speaking poets”. It was his unenthusiastic and imposed military career that caused his death earlier.
Garcilaso de la Vega was born in Toledo. The exact date of his birth is still being debated, although according to the latest research the date is September 30, 1499.
From a very young age, he embodies in himself the perfect example of a poet-warrior, even if this is not a choice and he complains in his poetry of the blood lust of the profession.
His father was Pedro Suárez de Figueroa, a hidalgo of certain stature at that time, holder of the title of Lord of Los Arcos y Cuerva, as well as a former lion commander in the Order of Santiago.
He fought in the war of Granada, as well as having held several important court positions in the service of the Catholic Kings.
An interesting fact is that in those days people changed their names at will, there was no legal aspect to it.
Pedro himself, Garcilaso’s father, changed his name to Garci Lasso.
Her mother was Sancha de Guzmán, also a noblewoman, and she had the title of IV Señora de Batres. She was the great-granddaughter of the famous Spanish nobleman Fernán Pérez de Guzmán, the same who wrote the play. Generations and representations.
De la Vega was the third of six brothers. Something that marked Garcilaso’s life was the fact that he was the second man, or “second son”, as he was called at the time.
The first-born had the greatest attention and the greatest advantages over the so-called law of the majorat, common in Eastern cultures.
The early years and education
His childhood was spent moving from season to season between Batres (in his mother’s estate in Madrid), Cuerva and Los Arcos (in his father’s estate in Toledo and Bajadoz).
Thanks to the positions he held and the good positions of his parents, Garcilaso managed to benefit from a privileged education in his childhood.
He learned Latin, Greek, Italian and French, the latter a Romance language used at the court of Charles V.
Among his tutors are Pedro Mártir de Anglería and Juan Gaitán, although some say that many of the monks in Toledo’s cathedral served as guides in their personal preparation.
He was a leading musician in the field of stringed instruments. He played the harp, zither and lute with great ease, instruments with which he did not go unnoticed at court.
At the age of about 13, his father passed away. He received only 80,000 coins in inheritance as a “second son”.
This did not affect the boy’s attitude or his close relationship with Pedro Laso, his older brother.
Seek the favors of Charles V
Charles V arrived in Spain in 1517. For a long time, Garcilaso and his brother prepared to present themselves to the emperor and were ready to serve him.
However, despite the protection and support of the Dukes of Alba, they did not have the advantages they wanted, nor did Toledo.
King Charles V went to Zaragoza and Barcelona to make accusations among his courtiers, but not to Toledo.
This behavior of the monarch caused a great annoyance between the city of Toledano and the Castilians, an annoyance that later would become a rebellion.
Garcilaso de la Vega, along with his brother Pedro Laso, tried several times to approach Charles V to go to Toledo and calm the spirits of the colonists; however, Quevres, the king’s secretary, avoided him.
The exile of Toledo
After a confrontation with the clergy of the cathedral of Toledo, caused by the fight for the custody of the Nuncio’s hospital, Garcilaso de la Vega was expelled from the city.
The exile lasted 90 days and, in addition, he was forced to pay 4,000 coins as a penalty.
In 1521, a battle took place very close to Olías. In this crusade the brothers Pedro Laso and Garcilaso de la Vega faced each other.
Pedro supported the Toledans who already had some friction with Charles V, while, out of conviction and honor, the poet supported the official side.
Garcilaso was wounded in the face during the battle and after the confrontation, his and his brother’s paths separated.
Pedro, leading the comuneros, fled to Portugal after getting lost in the confrontation.
For his loyalty and dedication, Garcilaso was named “Contino” and received a salary that contributed to the expenses of that time.
There was a place in the village, which prevented the entry of supplies to harass its inhabitants.
However, after some time, an armistice led to the cessation of the harassment, and among the problems agreed upon, no one would enter the city until the emperor appeared.
In the midst of this context, Garcilaso de la Vega was able to enter Toledo in 1522. He found his house mercilessly, totally plundered; since then he has dedicated himself to trying to obtain forgiveness for his brother and to reconstruct the name and honor of the family.
A secret love and an illegitimate child
Between 1522 and 1523, after a long adventure with Guiomar Carrillo with whom he continued to maintain contact and sexual relations, even after he married another woman, his son Lorenzo, whom the poet officially recognized in 1529.
Guiomar, although not the archetype of a perfect woman for Garcilaso, had a considerable impact on his life.
There are experts who claim that the poet’s work is taken from poems in honor of this love on the margins, which did not meet the demand because the girl’s family was a commoner.
The return of the emperor, his punishment and his forgiveness…
In 1522, Garcilaso was sent to La Victoria with a fiscal delay of 126 thousand dollars.
He brought with him an endorsement from Juan de Rivera himself, where he spoke of his good conduct in battle and his loyalty to the emperor. The poet-soldier returned to complete his career completely.
Shortly afterwards, on July 6th of the same year, Charles V arrived in Spain. Among the gentlemen who were waiting for him was Garcilaso, accompanied by Don Fradrique, Duke of Alba and protector of the poet.
At that time, the court was divided into two camps: those who demanded the punishment of the communal farmers for their rebellion and those who asked for their forgiveness.
Charles V was bending over. He was accompanied by a large army and as soon as he disembarked, he ordered the decapitation of the main rebel leaders who were in the prisons.
Not content with that, Charles V negotiated with the King of Portugal the repatriation of the exiled Communards, among them of course Pedro Laso.
The event had great repercussions in Europe, so much so that, in addition to the great number of nobles and clergymen who spoke in clemency, the Pope raised his voice and presented himself with the proclamation of the “general pardon” of Charles V.
The joy was not complete in the town, including Garcilaso, since the edict issued in Valladolid left out 293 neighbors accused of being leaders and organizers of the rebellion, including Pedro Laso.
The poet de la Vega could not insist on forgiveness because, having a blood relationship with a boss, his life was at stake.
Alba’s house, Garcilaso’s refuge
Under the protection of the Dukes of Alba, Garcilaso managed to strengthen the bonds of friendship in Valladolid with Juan Boscán, who served as coach to Don Fernando Álvarez de Toledo (15 years old at the time).
Over time, Boscan became the poet soldier’s best friend and confidant. Garcilaso held Juan in such high esteem that he wrote several poems.
Boscan, reciprocal in his feelings, after the poet’s death, took it upon himself to publish his works posthumously, with the help of Garcilaso’s widow.
Knowing the delicate situation surrounding Charles V because of Peter’s betrayal, Garcilaso asked for more than one way to strengthen the ties with the nobles of the time, those of the House of Alba being part of his ties with greater influence and prestige.
Two important events
After a meeting in Valladolid where the different courts were convened, the representatives of the Castilian provinces demanded that the service fee be granted to men born in the kingdom, that is, to the natives there.
As a result of this meeting of glasses, the first days of July 1523 in Garcilaso de la Vega he was conferred the title of Knight of Burgundy, and was granted a salary double that of his appointment as the previous Contino.
Two months after this appointment – on September 16th – and after his origin in Toledo, the poet dressed as a Knight of the Order of Santiago. On his own, Garcilaso established himself among the nobility and gained popularity among the characters of the time at the age of only 24.
Timely campaign and promotion
At the end of 1523, tensions with France increased; Charles V called the men to war.
The main objective was to prevent Francis I, who led the Franks, from invading Italian imperial territory.
Given his recent appointment and his dual responsibility, Garcilaso assumed his role as a warrior and headed for the Pyrenees with Pamplona’s army. This crusade was called the Campaign of the Pyrenees.
The Castilians were heading for Bayonne, but the slope of the Pyrenees prevented them from doing so, so the interests were centred on Fuenterrabía.
After negotiations with the villagers, a massacre was avoided and the citadel was recovered.
After the recovery of this redoubt, Mr. Fernando Álvarez de Toledo was appointed governor at only 16 years of age. Due to his close ties with Juan Boscán and Garcilaso, they accompanied him in the triumphal entrance to his appointment.
Women in the life of the soldier-poet
After taking Fuenterrabía and diluting his army, Garcilaso did not think twice and went to Portugal to visit his brother Pedro Laso.
Thanks to his ties to the Infanta Isabel of Portugal, he was able to meet Isabel Freire.
His biographers will involve him more than once in love with this woman. Some have even said that his Eclogue I is an autobiography in which the poet denotes this love.
From Isabel’s hand, he met Beatriz Garcilaso de Sá, who was also related at that time and said that it was one of her secret loves, although Sá ended up marrying Pedro Laso, the poet’s brother.
After the victory of Charles V in Pavia and the capture of Francis I as a prisoner, there was a party in Toledo.
There were courts and the monarch, together with Garcilaso, negotiated their respective marriages.
Isabel of Portugal was given to Charles V, while Elena de Zuñiga, Doña Leonor, the king’s sister, was given to Garcilaso.
The poet gave in to simple interest, although he conceived six children with it. However, he kept his adventures and, as a confession of them, his poems.
The poet married in 1525, while Charles V married in 1526. It was a time of peace for Garcilaso, when he enjoyed a comfortable economic stability.
Time of calm and imminent death
During these almost three years of calm, Garcilaso dedicated himself to negotiating properties and respecting the things of the town and the house.
In the squares and universities, topics related to Spanish nationalism opposed to the Emperor and centralism in favor of Charles V were discussed in large groups.
At the same time, the Protestant Reformation promoted by Luther was underway in much of Europe.
Also, the Turks started their invasions; spaces became tense and the smell of war was breathed.
For his part, Ferdinand was freed from his imprisonment and besieged Italy in 1528.
After the brutal siege, Fernando, Garcilaso’s younger brother, who was then serving as a soldier in Naples, died.
A coronation voyage and a will
Charles V decided to leave for Italy in 1529 so that the Pope could consecrate him as Caesar and thus demolish any opposition; the emperor asked Garcilaso to accompany him. The emperor asked Garcilaso to accompany him.
In view of the request, the poet was willing to do what he could in case something serious happened to him.
Thus, in 1529 in Barcelona, the witness of Juan Boscán and his brother Pedro Laso, Garcilaso, refined the content with respect to his material heritage. It was there that he recognized his first son, Lorenzo, although he did not specify who had any, and asked him to receive a good education.
He tried to do good to all his loved ones, paid off all his debts and made considerable donations to charity.
When it was time to leave, Carlos V and Garcilaso changed their haircuts and adjusted them to the Carolino style, keeping their beards. All out of respect for the Pope.
Charles V disembarked in Genoa, and then went to Bologna, where his coronation would take place.
The event took place on the same day as the Emperor’s 30th birthday. After he was crowned, peace was signed between all Catholic states, to which was added Francis I. Only Florence and the Lutherans were excluded.
The Empress’ spy…
Garcilaso quietly returned to Toledo in 1530. After his arrival, Empress Elizabeth sent him to France to congratulate Francis I on his marriage to Dona Leonor.
The real context of this trip was to find out what the military situation was like on the border with Italy.
The trip was without miners, nothing strange was seen and the poet returned calmly to Toledo. At that time, Garcilaso was the envy of many, with contacts he would never have imagined, but a small incident changed everything.
A marriage and its misfortune
In 1531 the poet was in Avila with the court of the Empress. While there, he was invited to a ceremony that took place in the cathedral, where he married a nephew of hers named after him: Garcilaso.
The tragedy came because the couple was only 14 and 11 years old, being the youngest daughter, and also recognized heiress of the Duke of Albuquerque.
Her name was Ana Isabel de la Cueva; Garcilaso was a participant and witness of this clandestine union.
Some time later, the poet was interrogated about it and, at the constant insistence of the interrogator, admitted to having attended the ceremony.
After the confession, the empress immediately requested his exile.
Service to Don Pedro in Naples
After a trip to Germany, where he tried to intercede for several known interlocutors before the emperor, the Dukes of Alba and other nobles were able to put Caesar in a position where he could choose between going to a convent or serving Don Pedro, who had been invested as viceroy in Naples. Without much thought, Garcilaso agreed to go to Naples.
During his trip to Italy, he was accompanied by the Marquis of Villafranca. During the trip, they had a lot of fun, even becoming guests of the Pope for ten days.
After a month’s journey, they arrived in Naples, where the viceroy fixed the poet’s stay in Castelnuovo.
There he was appointed as the king’s lieutenant and received a high salary: 8,000 coins a month. The atmosphere at that time was tense, with noblemen opposed to Charles V, in addition to an unpleasant outbreak of plague.
Return to Spain
As if by divine design, Garcilaso returned to Spain. Don Pedro chose him to bring a message to the emperor in Genoa, but when Caesar arrived, he was not there.
The emperor had gone to Barcelona, so the poet decided to follow him.
During his trip he visited his wife to fulfill his duties and then, in June 1533, he returned to Genoa to fulfill his duties.
There he wrote his Eclogue II (although it was the first, it was designated as such).
The death of Isabel Freire and Eclogue I
Realizing a message from the Viceroy to Caesar, Garcilaso went to Toledo in 1534. Upon his arrival, he learned of the death of Isabel Freire, who had lost her life in giving birth to her third child.
The news broke the soul of the poet, who dedicated his sonnet XXV.
In April of this year, and without knowing it, Garcilaso left Toledo and never returned. Overwhelmed by the pain of losing Isabel, he went back to Naples.
He arrived at his destination in May and, without wasting time, began to write his most recognized work: Eclogue I. In his composition he remembers Virgil, Ovid and other great writers.
That same year, in 1534, he was appointed mayor of Ríjoles. In 1535, he joined the Tunis Day where he was wounded in the mouth and arm by spears. From this, he managed to recover, not like this.
Although he didn’t realize it when he was a spy for the Empress in France, Francis had something in his hand.
In 1536, the monarch started Italy’s war against Emperor Charles V.
In this war, Garcilaso was named master of the field and put 3,000 children in his place. This would be his last military experience.
The Toledan was no more than an enemy tower, he climbed a ladder and one of his adversaries threw a stone at him that dropped him into a well, where he was seriously injured.
It is said that in those days, before his participation in the war, he wrote his Eclogue III to the Queen of Naples.
Toledo was taken to Nice, where he died in agony for 25 days on October 14, 1536. He was buried with honors in the church of Santo Domingo.
Throughout his life Garcilaso de la Vega produced a large number of works in different genres: songs, ballads, elegies, epistles and sonnets, to name but a few, but they were never officially published.
It was his wife, with the help of his friend Juan Boscán, who published them after his death.
Among these works are
– The works of Boscán and Garcilaso de la Vega, divided into four books.
– The works of the excellent poet Garcilasso de la Vega Agora has still corrected many errors in all the impressions of the past.
– Works by the great poet Garci Lasso de la Vega, with notes and amendments by Mr. Francisco Sánchez, Professor of Rhetoric in Salamanca.
– Works by Garci Lasso de la Vega, with notes by Fernando de Herrera.
– Garcilasso de la Vega. Born in Toledo, prince of the Castilian poets. By Mr. Thomás Tamaio de Vargas.
When I stop to contemplate my
statute to see the steps by which I was brought, I find, according to the why of my loss,
that a greater evil might have occurred;
but when the road was forgotten, I don’t know why I came here; I know I’m done, and the more I felt
Seeing how I end up eating my medicine.
I will finish, I gave myself without art that will know how to lose me and finish with me if you want and still know what to do;
that my will can kill me,
to her, who is not so much me,
be able to, what are you going to do but hack into it?
By your hands I have come, I know that I must die so hard that you still alleviate my worries with complaints
as a remedy has already defended me;
my life i don’t know what s’ha
sustained s’ha not been saved so that only in me has it been proven
How much does a sword cost in a performance?
My tears flowed
where dryness and roughness
have given me bad luck and my luck:
It is enough that I have cried for you;
no longer come my weakness;
Here, avenge me, my lady, with my death!
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