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LUISA DE CARVAJAL (1568-1614)

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Originally appearing in Volume V05, Page 437 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LUISA DE CARVAJAL (1568-1614), Spanish missionary in England, was born at Jaraicejo in Estremadura on the 2nd of January 1568. Her father, Don Francisco de Carvajal, was the head of an old and wealthy family which produced many men of note. Her mother, Dona Maria, belonged to the powerful house of Mendoza. Both were people of pious character. The mother died in 1572 from a fever contracted while visiting the poor, and the father took the disease from his wife, and died of it. Luisa and a brother were left to the care of their grand-aunt Maria Chacon, governess of the young children of Philip II. On her death they passed to the care of their maternal uncle, Francisco Hurtado de Mendoza, count of Almazan. The count, who was named viceroy of Navarre by Philip II., was an able public servant in whom religious zeal was carried to the point of inhuman asceticism. His niece attracted his favour by her manifest disposition to the religious life; she sent her own share of dinner to the poor, ate broken meats, wore a chain next her skin, and invited humiliation; and at the age of seven-teen she was instructed by the count to make a surrender of her will to two female servants whom he set over her, and by whom she was repeatedly scourged while naked, trampled upon and otherwise ill-treated. But when Luisa came of age she refused to enter a religious house, and decided to devote herself to the conversion of England. The execution of the Jesuit emissary priest, Henry Walpole, in 1596 had moved her deeply, and she prepared herself by learning English and by the study of divinity. A lawsuit with her brother caused temporary delay, but she secured her share of the family fortune, which she devoted to founding a college for English Jesuits at Louvain; it was transferred to Watten near Saint Omer in 1612, and lasted till the suppression of the Order. In 16o5 she was allowed to go to England. She established herself under the protection of the Spanish ambassador, whose house was in the Barbican. From this place of safety she carried on an active and successful propaganda. She made herself conspicuous by her attentions to the Gunpowder Plot prisoners, and won converts, partly by persuasion, partly by helping women of the very poorest class in childbirth,and taking charge of the children. Her activity attracted the attention of the authorities, and she was arrested in 1608. But the protection of the Spanish ambassador Zuniga, and the desire of King James I. to stand well with Spain, secured her release. In 1613, while staying at a house in Spitalfields, where she had in fact set up a disguised nunnery, she was arrested with all the inmates by the pursuivants of Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury, who had been on the watch for some time. Her release was again secured by the new Spanish ambassador Gondomar, who played with effect on the weakness of King James. By this time, however, the Spanish authorities had begun to discover that she was a political danger to them, and recalled her. Luisa, who had hoped for the crown of martyrdom, was bitterly disappointed, and resisted the order. Before she could be forced to obey she died in the Spanish ambassador's house on her birthday, the 2nd of January 1614. Her body remained as an object of admiration for months till it was carried back to Spain. The original authority for the life of Luisa de Carvajal is La Vida y Virtudes de la Venerable Virgen Dona Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza (Madrid, 1632), by the Licentiate Lorenzo Munoz. It is founded on her own papers collected by her English confessor Michael Walpole. It is largely autobiographical, and contains some examples of her verse. The Vida y Virtudes is summarized by Southey in his Letters from Spain and Portugal (1808). A life was written by Lady Georgiana Fullerton (1873), in which much that is shocking to modern sentiment is concealed. See also Quatre Portraits de femmes, by La Comtesse R. de Courson (Paris, 1895). There are several references to Luisa de Carvajal in the Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, by Henry Foley (1897-1883). (D. H.)
End of Article: LUISA DE CARVAJAL (1568-1614)
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