Biography of Hernando de Acuña (ca. 1456-1495)

Aristocrat, military and Spanish poet, born to 1456 and died in 1495. Do not confuse with the eponymous composer of sonnets, friend of Garcilaso de la Vega , and soldier of the Emperor Carlos V, who is a descendant of another branch of the lineage and subsequent generation Acuña. This gentleman Hernando de Acuña was the Palace of the Catholic Kings Guard Captain, and from this first contact with the courtly environment, became one of the most important partners of Isabel and Fernando in the last third of the 15th century, to the point of being named viceroy of Sicily between 1488 and 1495.

Hernando de Acuña was one of the sons of the first count of Buendía, Pedro de Acuña, and his wife, the Countess Inés de Herrera. Because of the kinship that the Earl joined the Acuña with the powerful Archbishop of Toledo, Alfonso Carrillo (brother of the count of Buendía), both as his four children were involved in the events of the reigns of Henry IV and the Catholic monarchs. The eldest son of the count of Buendía, Lope Vázquez de Acuña, was, in addition, Adelantado de Cazorla between 1467 and 1486, while another brother, Luis Acuña, was captain of the troops of the brotherhood of Palencia in the year 1477. With regard to Hernando, on the occasion of an algarada of Granada troops by the lands of Quesada, in December of 1468, Hernando de Acuña had his baptism in the military struggle, as the chronicler Alonso de Palencia (op. cit., I, p. 272), which describes the gentleman in the following way:

Tender lad at the time who, against the will of his brother [i.e., the advance], wearing armor and holding the spear to fight that day for the first time, it is said that it kept perfect chastity until his manhood, and he/she knew how to keep free of any note, being considered at all how deserving of great praise.

After this first appearance in events of the young Hernando, both he/she and his family were involved in infighting on the occasion of the policy filolusa of the toledan prelate, contrary appears from the count of Buendía, who preferred to be loyal to the Catholic monarchs; again, Alonso de Palencia describes how own count, accompanied by their children, tried unsuccessfully to persuade Carrillo that joined the cause of Isabel and halt the noble army under his command who, in August 1475, was about to besiege Arévalo, favorable to the Catholic monarchs stronghold.

But Hernando de Acuña remained rather alien to these types of negotiations: his preferred field of action was always located on the battlefield. Thus, during the month of February 1476, the valiant knight, along with another captain, Álvaro de Mendoza (son of the Duke of Infantado), commanded the Castilian troops who fought a fierce battle against the Portuguese armies located in the vicinity of Bull. While prisoners made to important Portuguese Knights (among them, the count of Penamacor, Lope de Alburquerque, and his brother, Rodrigo Pereira), the race not ended with good results, since both Castilian knights were wounded seriously, relates the chronicler Palencia (op. cit., II, p. 266):

[Hernando de Acuña] was running Lich for the loss of blood from six wounds received, and seemed more serious fellow of Álvaro de Mendoza [...]; dedicaronse to take care of their wounded, and returned to Zamora.

From this moment on, Hernando de Acuña became one of strongest captains of the troops of the Catholic Kings, his name is frequently mentioned in the chronicles in front of military contingents. Similarly, Isabel and Fernando not squandering the kinship that linked him with the Archbishop of Toledo, uncle of our gentleman, to try to put an end to discord they faced to the irascible prelate and Queen Elizabeth. Thus, November 22, 1476, Hernando de Acuña received in Zaragoza instructions of King Fernando that he/she returned to Castile and seek a possible understanding with the primacy of Toledo; presumably the Knight to fulfill its mission, but even the refusal of his uncle is more predictable to ingratiate himself with the Catholic monarchs.

Two years later, in December, 1478, Hernando de Acuña was chosen by the Catholic Kings to mediate in fights occurred between Pedro Manrique, count de Treviño, and Ayala García, Marshal of Castilla, apropos of the lawsuit on possession and jurisdiction of the town of Orduña. The resolution was usually followed by the Catholic monarchs: the setting of the city in third party proceedings in favour of a Knight, in this case Hernando de Acuña, while the Manrique and the Ayala had appropriate allegations and decided the problem through legal mechanisms. In the wake of this kind of intervention, may think that in 1478, Hernando de Acuña was the total confidence of the Catholic monarchs, who used to choose carefully who granted a city, a territory, or a fortress in third party proceedings.

Some time later, in April, 1481, Hernando de Acuña was sent by the Catholic Kings to Galicia in order to bring order to a territory plagued by the feudal malfetrias. The chronicler Palencia, before the appointment of our poet as Governor of Galicia, continues with their praise, telling him that "you cause the cervix of the proud and punishing the blamed". The events derived from the belligerent occupation of Ponferrada by the Earl of Lemos, Rodrigo Osorio, and also for the possession of Astorga initiated in 1483 by the count of Benavente, Rodrigo Pimentel, were the touchstones that Hernando de Acuña showed his skill in the political affairs of the time. After the truce signed in 1486 among the nobles involved possession of Astorga, Hernando de Acuña took part in the campaigns of Granada, specifically in Malaga land campaigns occurred in 1487, along with the majority of Castilian, Aragonese and Valencian nobility who responded to the call of the Kings.

The accolade ultimate of Hernando de Acuña, militarily and politically, took place in 1488, when Fernando of Aragon appointed him viceroy of Sicily, replacing Gaspar de Espés, former Butler of the Catholic King, as he/she relates Zurita (op. cit., XX, ch. 79):

being in the city of Murcia [i.e., Fernando el Católico] sent by viceroy of Sicily to don Hernando de Acuña, who was the son of don Pedro de Acuña first count of Buendía, who had great experience that was very good Governor.

From this moment on, Hernando de Acuña went to live in Sicily, where he/she played a key role in the defence of the Italian coasts against Turkish naval power; so in the year 1492, was responsible for fueling and assemble the Sicilian troops who attempt commanded by the infante Fadrique of Aragon to halt an alleged invasion of sultan Bayezid. Two years later, in 1494, on the occasion of the struggle initiated René of Anjou and Fernando among the Catholic by the Sicilian Crown, Hernando de Acuña also served the interests of its monarch, to reinforce all ports in Sicily and Calabria, as well as in the preparation of hosting the troops that Fernando sent to Sicily as reinforcement under the command of the count of PalamósGalceran de Requesens.

These actions were the latest services that the formidable Castilian Knight lent to the Catholic monarchs: indirectly, is known that he/she died before February 5, 1495, date in which Juan de Lanuza, former Justice of Aragon, replaced him in the position of viceroy of Sicily; Zurita made expressly to such relief "by death of don Hernando de Acuña". Years later, Fernández de Oviedo (op. cit., p. 294), prorrumpiría in extraordinary eulogies to recall the figure of the viceroy:

What courageous Lord was don Fernando de Acuña, Viceroy of Sicily, the Qual I oy so many praise in that ysla, quanto never thought oyr of some great Lord!

As it was customary at the time, Hernando de Acuña not only showcased his skill in fields as allied war and politics, but they also did it in veiled courtesans and palatial celebrations. Some of his inventions were published by Hernando of the Castillo in the first edition of the Cancionero general (Valencia, 1511), which introduces fully to Hernando de Acuña in the universe of the Castilian cancioneril poetry.


ALONSO CAMPOS, J. I. & CALDERON ORTEGA, J. M. "the Acuña: the expansion of a lineage of Portuguese origin in lands of Castile". (Actas das II jornadas luso-espanholas of Medieval History, Porto, 1989, III, pp. 851-860).

FERNÁNDEZ DE OVIEDO, g. battles and Quinquagenas. (Ed. J. B. Avalle-Arce, Salamanca, 1989).

Lopez DE HARO, A. genealogical Peerage of the Kings and titles of Castilla. (London, 1622).

PALENCIA, A. OF. Crónica de Enrique IV. (Madrid, 1976-1977, 3 vols.)

ZURITA, G. DE. Annals of the Kingdom of Aragon. (Ed. A. Canellas, Zaragoza, 1968).