Fadrique de Toledo Osorio

Felix Castello – Retrato de D. Fadrique de Toledo en la pintura Recuperación de la Isla de San Cristóbal Lienzo. 297 x 311 cm. Museo del Prado.

Birth: Naples, ca. 1589[1]

Death: Madrid, December 11,  1634.

I Marquis of Valdueza, Captain-General of the Royal Army of the Ocean Sea and General Captain of Gente de Guerra in Portugal, who recovered Salvador on May 1, 1625 for the Hispanic Monarchy after eleven months of Dutch occupation.

Link to BRASILHIS Database:

Fadrique de Toledo Osorio, also known as Fadrique de Toledo, was a Spanish military officer and admiral, Captain General of the Navy of the Ocean Sea and of the People of Portugal, famed after leading the fleet that reconquered Salvador de Bahia in 1625 after eleven months of Dutch occupation. In this expedition, popularized in Portugal as the “Voyage of the Vassals” and in Spain as the “Journey of Brazil”, Fadrique de Toledo retained the highest command of the combined fleet of the Armadas of the Crown of Spain and the Crown of Portugal, composed of 62 ships and 12,563 soldiers (Guerreiro, 1625; Valencia and Guzman, 1626). Due mainly to its size, but also to the final success of the expedition and its subsequent propaganda, this “journey” was considered then and is recognized today as the main naval victory of Fadrique de Toledo, the only one in Brazil, which earned him the official recognition of King Philip IV with honors and titles, as well as of the peninsular and international population, enraptured with the numerous writings, pamphlets, paintings and engravings that recounted the offensive and praised the intervention of the Captain General (Santos Pérez, Vicente Martín, 2023: 46-49).

According to the remaining sources, at the end of the 1580s Fadrique de Toledo was born in Naples to a noble family, the Osorios (Marquises of Villafranca since 1486), which had traditionally served in war and high military politics. At the birth of Fadrique, his father, Pedro de Toledo, was the 5th Marquis of Villafranca and, before joining the Council of State and War, he had served as Captain General of the Galleys of Naples (1585), Captain General of the Galleys of Spain (1607) and General of the Cavalry of Spain (1621), resuming the military career with which his grandfather, Garcia de Toledo Osorio, had distinguished himself in the journeys of Tunis (1535) and Algiers (1541). The Osorios were related to the III Duke of Alba, Fernando Álvarez de Toledo Pimentel, whose military activity in the rebellion of the Dutch Provinces (1568) and in the wars of the Portuguese Succession (1580-1581) would forever mark the career of his grandnephew, Fadrique de Toledo (Bueno Blanco, 2021: 51-79). As the second son of the 5th Marquis of Villafranca, Fadribe was initially born apart from the line of succession to the marquisate, a line that made his older brother, García de Toledo, heir to Villafranca.

Initially relieved of the family effort to support the estate of the Marquises of Villafranca, Fadrique de Toledo moved to Salamanca in 1604 to begin his studies of Canons at the University.[2] Attending university usually fell to the younger sons of noble families in the 16th century, and the  Osorios considered that, in addition to conferring greater prestige on don Fadrique, studying Canons would facilitate his later integration into the Church and the service to the Crown in higher administrative positions (Bueno Blanco, 2021: 33-35). In Salamanca, nevertheless, Fadrique de Toledo worked to serve his family further, first pursuing the ecclesiastical position but, as the months went by, also representing his lineage before the many diplomatic and military personalities of the Hispanic Monarchy who passed through the city (Soria Mesa, 2007: 245). Fadrique’s success in this activity made him reconsider the decision to enter the clergy and, barely two years after beginning his studies, he switched Canons for the service in which his father had excelled: the naval army.

Fadrique de Toledo’s military career, which began with his appointment as captain of the Spanish Galleys (1607), would characterize his service, from then on oriented to naval army. In the following years, he was admiral (1609) and lieutenant (1611) in several battles in the Mediterranean, where he defeated the Turks and Berbers on the coasts of Valencia, Alicante and Malaga, as well as in North Africa, standing out in the capture of Larache (1610) and La Mamora (1614). His triumphs were officially recognized by the Crown in 1617 when, upon the death of Luis Fajardo, Fadrique de Toledo was chosen to take his place as Captain General of the Armada of the Ocean Sea, the most important squadron of the Hispanic Monarchy at the time.[3] The end of the Twelve Years’ Truce (1609-1621) four years later, the opening of a new war front in the Atlantic against the newly created West-Indische Compagnie (WIC) in the United Provinces, and the consequent increase in the appropriation earmarked for maritime defense approved by the Count-Duke in 1622 (Elliot, 2004: 94-95) further boosted Fadrique’s military rise, becoming responsible for the protection of the routes with the Indies, for the escort of the galleons loaded with precious metals and, above all, for the defense against Dutch and English navies that probed the Atlantic waters and threatened the peninsular coastal enclaves. The victory of Don Fadrique against the Dutch in the Strait of Gibraltar (1621), and his activity of protection of the Indian fleet in the Cape of San Vicente would earn him the appointment of Captain General of the Gente de Guerra of the Kingdom of Portugal (1622), as well as with the Marquisate of Valdueza in 1624 for his military skill and performance at the head of the most important fleet of the Hispanic Monarchy.[4]

Despite his previous military career, and the one he undoubtedly developed later, it was the recovery of Salvador de Bahia in 1625, the most relevant victory of Fadrique de Toledo’s career. A year earlier, twenty-six WIC ships commanded by Jacob Willekens had sacked the Bay of All Saints and occupied its main urban center, the city of Salvador. The feat was facilitated by the flight of the inhabitants who, frightened by the naval deployment of the invaders and the scarce, if not missing, defensive means of the city, had taken refuge in the rural areas of the interior (F. do Salvador, 1918 [1627]: 507-522). The relevance of Salvador as the institutional center of Brazil, a crucial territory of Philip III’s Atlantic policies (Costa, 2010: 859-822), but also an economic hub for sugar exports (Schwartz and Hutz, 2021), prompted the organization of a counterattack by the Hispanic Monarchy. When the news was known in Madrid, King Philip IV and the Count-Duke of Olivares summoned the military authorities, entrusting the reconquest of Salvador to Fadrique de Toledo, whose worth and command capacity, as well as his experience against Dutch armadas, was well known in the kingdom (Santos Pérez, Vicente Martín, 2023: 35).

In the months immediately after the fall of Salvador, Fadrique de Toledo organized, supervised and controlled the preparations of the fleet. Described by his contemporaries as the “most powerful armada that has crossed the line until now” ” (Vieira [1626], ed. 1925: 43), it comprised 12,563 soldiers from Spain, Portugal, Naples and Vizcaya were enlisted, and was funded by the Church, several public institutions, and many nobles and great merchants for ammunition and provisioning (Vicente Martín, 2020: 371). According to the details offered by the “Compendio historial de la Jornada del Brasil” by the soldier Juan de Valencia (1626), on January 14, 1625 -three months after the beginning of the preparations- the army of the Ocean Sea, commanded directly by Don Fadrique, left Cádiz, joined by the “presdincible” Armada of the Strait (Bueno Blanco, 2021: 96), the Escuadra of Cuatro Villas, under the orders of Francisco de Azevedo and the Escuadra of Naples, led by Francisco de Ribera. After taking on water in the Canary Islands, the fleet would meet in Cape Verde with the Portuguese Armada, captained by Manuel de Meneses, setting a joint course to the northeast of Brazil.

After seventy-four days at sea, on March 29, 1625, the five armadas of the Portuguese-Castilian fleet entered the Bay of All Saints. It was probably at that time that Fadrique de Toledo contacted the leaders of the so-called Arraial of Rio Vermelho, a resistance contingent of two thousand Portuguese-Brazilians who had kept the Dutch enemy under siege in the city, and had managed to kill their leader and captain Jan Van Dorth (F. do Salvador, 1918 [1627]:519-522). The disappearance of the Dutch leader greatly facilitated the victory of don Fadrique’s forces as the Dutch, deprived of supplies, blocked inside the city walls, and led by Van Dorth’s substitute, were now faced with a new, daunting army. Taking advantage of the existence of the Arraial, as the numerical vantage of his army, Fadrique de Toledo devised a strategy that, combining maritime and land force, resulted in the surrender of the besieged soon after: first, he arranged his ships in a crescent-moon shape to prevent the Dutch from fleeing and “get within cannon fire of the enemy’s strong ships” (Valencia and Guzmán, 1626: 351),, and then he ordered a simultaneous attack on the northern and southern sides of the city, where his soldiers, guided on the ground by those of the Arraial, were opening trenches, taking prisoners and approaching the city (F. do Salvador, 1918 [1627]:519-522). Finding themselves increasingly encircled, the Dutch responded with artillery fire, too scattered to cause real damage, and even set fire to two brulotes-boats loaded with explosive materials-with the intention of opening a breach in the line of ships to escape. After a month of siege and eight days of combat, Fadrique de Toledo would end up defeating the Dutch forces that, exhausted and without reinforcements, surrendered the city on April 30, 1625, after three days of  negotiating a surrender and guarantee the defeated  a general pardon and ships to return to Holland (Santos Pérez, Vicente Martín, 2023:38). The actions of the Captain General in the moments immediately after the capitulation of the Dutch are nowadays discussed among historians due to the disparity in the writings: the most critical sources, generally of Portuguese authorship, allude to Fadrique de Toledo’s permissiveness with his soldiers, to whom he consented to sack the city “with excessive cruelty”[5], to place the flag of Castile on the government buildings, and to manifest his “hatred […] for the Portuguese nation’[6], the opposite qualities being those highlighted by Spanish writings, mainly the author of what would become the official chronicle of the event, Tomás Tamayo de Vargas (Tamayo de Vargas, 1628: 135v).  Be that as it may, on May 1, Fadrique de Toledo recovered Salvador for the Hispanic Monarchy, and his feat was immortalized in writings and printed matter that would begin to circulate throughout Spain, Portugal and Europe.

Upon his victorious return to the court, don Fadrique, I Marquis of Valdueza, was appointed Captain General of the People of War of the Kingdom of Portugal (1628), and would be granted, a year later, the “Grandeza de España” for his successful career in the navy and, particularly for “the recovery of the city of San Salvador del Brasil” (apud Bueno Blanco, 2021: 148). The last victory of Don Fadrique in the Atlantic would happen that same year in the Caribbean islands of San Cristóbal y Nieves where, with a simultaneous attack by sea and land similar to the one deployed in Salvador, subdued the Anglo-French garrisons that had occupied the islands and gained the jurisdiction back to Philip IV, at the time in need need of a naval triumph after the recent capture of the fleet of the Indies by the forces of the WIC in Matanzas (1628).

Once again back in the Iberian Peninsula, Fadrique de Toledo settled in Lisbon as Captain General of the Gente de Guerra of Portugal, where he continued to led the Navy of the Ocean Sea in organizative and provisioning  terms. At that time, Don Fadrique was already one of the most popular military men in the society of his time, a popularity that, based on his military triumphs against the English and Dutch, was mainly due to the official support that Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares, had given him through positions, recognitions, and even the marriage arrangement with Elvira Ponce de León, sister of the powerful ally of the private, the Duke of Arcos. However, the unstoppable popularity of don Fadrique, endorsed by the triumph in San Cristóbal y Nieves and the Grandeza title, did not prevent the appearance of tensions between both personalities, which would be accentuated from 1630 onwards. To the complaints of the military man for not having received the salaries of the services rendered in 1631, 1632 and 1633 would be added, that same year, the beginning of a lawsuit against the ally of the Count-Duke, the Duke of Arcos, for non-payment of the matrimonial dowry of Elvira Ponce de León. The private would respond to such an affront through two actions: the first, forcing don Fadrique to choose between the two positions he held up to that moment, mentioning the supposed “incompatibilities” existing in the simultaneous exercise of the Captaincy of the Navy of the Ocean Sea and that of the Gente de Guerra of Portugal; and the second, forcing him to reside in Madrid, in spite of Don Fadrique having requested a temporary retirement to León to attend to family matters (Bueno Blanco, 202: 169-174).

The final affront would come in 1634 when Fadrique de Toledo, accepting to exercise alone as Captain of Gente de Guerra of Portugal, received orders from the Count-Duke to lead a new squadron with the objective of recovering Pernambuco, a region to the north of Bahia occupied by the Dutch since 1630. Knowing that this enterprise was improvised, and that the fleet was understaffed and had no prospect of victory, Don Fadrique refused in writing to head the armada, recalling the importance of his family affairs and arguing serious health problems arising from his years of interrupted service. During the intense epistolary exchange, labeled as “violent confrontation” by J. H. Elliot, the private reminded him that “he had earned in the service of the king wealth and honors”, to what don Fadrique replied that “he had served His Majesty spending his wealth and his blood, and not made an easy-chair”in explicit allusion to the count-duke (apud Anca Alamillo, 2022: 249; Elliot, 2004, 269). Faced with this direct affront, together with Don Fadrique’s refusal to leave for Pernambuco, the count-duke initiated a process of disobedience against the Captain: he ordered his arrest and transfer to Toledo, and created a court-martial that removed him from public life and discredited his growing popularity. Don Fadrique, quite weakened, defended himself from these charges by alluding not to disobedience, but to the economic impossibility of facing a new overseas campaign and supporting his family at the same time, reminding the judicial powers that his service to the Crownd had been uninterrupted and his fidelity, unwavered, for more than twenty-five years. As soon as a verdict was reached, the board of the trial allowed the already sick don Fadrique to retire to his home in Madrid, where he would die, oblivious to the verdict that declared him guilty and condemned him to perpetual banishment from the kingdom (Elliot, de la Peña, Negredo, 2013: 309; Bueno Blanco, 2021), on November 15, 1634, just a few months before being immortalized by both Juan Bautista Maíno and Félix Castelo in two paintings commissioned for the Salón de Reinos, La Recuperación de Bahía de Todos los Santos (1634) and La Recuperación de la isla de San Cristóbal (1635) respectively.

[1] While traditionally it was thought that Fadrique de Toledo was born in 1580, a query preserved in the AGS and dated 1607 mentions that, in that year, he began his military career at the age of eighteen. AGS, Archivo General de Simancas, Guerra Antigua, leg. 813 (apud Bueno Blanco, 2021: 29).

[2] AUSA, Archivo de la Universidad de Salamanca, Libros de Matrículas, 313. Matrícula del curso 1604-1605.

[3] A complete account of the positions Fadrique held from 1611 to 1629, see AMN. Ms. 372, doc. 93. The appointment as Captain General is, instead, in AMN, Ms. 372, doc. 101, fol. 241v.

[4] AMN, ms. 372, doc. 104, fol. 247r-248v.

[5] Meneses, Manuel de, «Recuperação da cidade do Salvador (Brasil)», 1626, RAH, Sig. 9-4-1-H-27 9-550, fol. 592.

[6] Ibidem, fol. 591.


  • Anca Alamillo, A. (2022).  “Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo Osorio”, Revista general de Marina, v. 282, pp. 239-250.
  • Bueno Blanco, A. (2021). Don Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo: El sueño, la gloria y la realidad del poder, Madrid, Sílex, 2021.
  • Costa, L. F. (2008). “El imperio portugués: estamentos y grupos mercantiles”, en Martínez Millán, J., Visceglia, Mª A. (dirs.), La monarquía de Felipe III. Vol. IV. Los Reinos. Madrid,
  • Elliot, J. H. (2004). El conde-duque de Olivares. Barcelona, Critica.
  • Elliot, J. H., De la Peña, J. F., Negredo, F. (2013). Memoriales y Cartas del conde-duque de Olivares. Madrid, Marcial Pons.
  • Fundación Mapfre, pp. 861-862.
  • Guerreiro, B. (1625).  Iornada dos Vassalos da Coroa de Portvgal, pera se recuperar a Cidade do Saluador, na Bahya de todos os Santos, tomada pollos Olandezes, a oito de Mayo de 1624, & recuperada ao primeiro de Mayo de 1625, feita pollo Padre Bertolamev Guerreiro da Companhia de Iesv. Com todas as licenças necessárias. Lisboa, Mattheus Pinheiro.
  • Salvador, F. do (1918) [1627], História do Brasil, 1500-1627 (ed. Capistrano de Abreu) Anais da Biblioteca Nacional de Río de Janeiro, São Paulo – Río de Janeiro, Weiszflog Irmãos.
  • Santos Pérez, J. M.; Vicente Martín, I. Mª. (2023), “Estudio introductorio. ‘El Brasil en poder de luteranos’: la conquista holandesa de Salvador de Bahía y su posterior recuperación en su contexto. Historiografía, noticias, relaciones y crónicas”, Santos Pérez, J. M.; Vicente Martín, I. Mª., Rodrigues-Moura, E. Salvador de Bahia, 1625. La “Jornada del Brasil” en las noticias, las relaciones y el teatro. Madrid, Ediciones Doce Calles.
  • Schwartz, S., Hutz, A. (2021), “Brazil in the Global Economy of the Catholic Monarchy: The Dutch Capture of Salvador da Bahia and the ‘Merchants’ War’—Arbitrio of Francisco de Retama”, e-Journal of Portuguese History,, Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://doi.org/10.26300/ee46-z272”, pp. 22-72.
  • Soria Mesa, E. (2007). La nobleza en la España moderna. Cambio y continuidad, Madrid, Marcial Pons.
  • Tamayo de Vargas, T. (1628). Restauracion de la ciudad del Salvador, i Baia de Todos-Sanctos, en la Provincia del Brasil: por las Armas de Don Philippe IV el Grande Rei Catholico de las Españas y Indias etc. A su Magestad por don Thomás Tamaio de Vargas, su chronista. Madrid, Viuda de Alonso Martín.
  • Valencia y Guzmán, Juan de, “Compendio Historial de la jornada de Brazil y sucesos della, donde se da cuenta de como ganó el rebelde holandés la ciudad del Salvador y Bahía de Todos Sanctos y de su restauración por las armadas de España, cuyo general fue don Fadrique de Toledo Osorio, Marqués de Villanueva de Valdueza, Capitán General de la Real Armada del Mar Occeano y de la gente de guerra de el Reino de Portugal en el año de 1625. Dirigido al Capitán don Fernando de Porres y Toledo, Comendador de Ballesteros en la Orden de Calatrava, Sargento Mayor de Madrid, por D. Juan de Valencia, natural de Salamanca, que fue sirviendo a Su Magestad en ella de soldado particular y se halló en todo lo que passó”, 1626, RB, Ms. II/456.
  • Vicente Martín, I. Mª. (2020). “‘Toda la ciudad se altera’: sociedad imperial y política local en Salvador de Bahía tras la Restauración de 1625 (c. 1625-1640)”, Santos Pérez, José Manuel; Megiani, Ana Paula; Ruiz-Peinado Alonso, José Luis (eds.), Redes y circulación en Brasil durante la Monarquía Hispánica (1580-1640), Madrid, Sílex, pp. 369-404.


Irene Vicente Martín

How to quote this entry:

Irene Mª Vicente Martín (Madrid Institute for Advanced Study). “Fadrique de Toledo Osorio“. In: BRASILHIS Dictionary: Biographic and Thematic Dictionary of Brazil in the Spanish Monarch (1580-1640). Available in: https://brasilhisdictionary.usal.es/en/fadrique-alvarez-de-toledo-osorio-2-2/. Date of access: 25/02/2024.

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