THERE is no little fascination in these prosaic days in turning back to the lives of the old adventurers, whose careers, impossible in these times of railways and telegraphs, abound with that touch of romance which--fortunately or unfortunately, as the case may be--is so strikingly absent from public life to-day. Yet it is not so long ago that the political atmosphere of Europe gave ample scope for the abilities of such men as the Duke de Ripperda. To-day, when every embassy in Europe is directly administered by the Foreign Office of the country it represents, when even the remotest corners of the globe are connected by the electric telegraph, such intrigue as existed in the early part of the eighteenth century at the Courts of Europe is an impossibility. Publicity and a more due sense of the rights and wrongs of international relations have almost cancelled the opportunities for the brilliant, if often unscrupulous, diplomacy of those days; and with the fall of Napoleon, and the great change that took place all over Europe in the days immediately succeeding it, the possibility of such careers as that of the hero of this article disappeared. Disapprove as one may of such lives as these great adventurers lived, it cannot be denied that there pervades them a certain indefinable charm, whether their successes or failures were owing to sheer ability, sheer pluck, or sheer wickedness. Generally it was only by an amalgamation of all three of these characteristics that such men as Ripperda rose to pre-eminence, though in his particular case must be added a personal fascination which rendered him then, and would have rendered him to-day had he been living, the temporary idol of the countries that at various times he served. Had he been our contemporary, he would probably have found opportunities to be little more than a suave and brilliant diplomatist, eventually to retire covered with honours and decorations. For this reason--this very lack of opportunity--one cannot regret that his life was passed nearly two centuries ago in an epoch that permitted full scope for his undoubtedly exceptional individuality. Unbending in his belief in his own capacities, insatiable in his ambition, alternately reaching the pinnacle of fame--the idol of the people--and again suffering such reverses as would have broken the spirit of less ambitious and less persistent characters, the Duke de Ripperda showed throughout his whole career the spirit of the real adventurer. Ready as he was at a moment's notice to change his manner of life, his policy, his nationality, and his religion, he was throughout acknowledged by his contemporaries as a man of brilliant, if unscrupulous, ability.
RIPPERDA, JOHN WILLIAM, Baron, afterwards DUKE OF, a descendant from an ancient and honourable Spanish family, which had settled at Groningen during the period that the Low Countries were attached to Spain, was born in that district in the latter part of the seventeenth century. His father being a Roman Catholic, young Ripperda was educated in the Jesuits' college at Cologne. After greatly distinguishing himself in the course of his education, Ripperda returned to the United Provinces, and having soon after entered the Dutch army, served during the whole of the war of the Succession, and rose to the rank of colonel. He then married the heiress of very considerable property, in order to obtain which he first renounced the faith of his fathers. Aspiring to political distinction, he eagerly sought a seat in the States-General, and was returned towards the end of the war as deputy for his own province. In 1715 the States appointed him envoy extraordinary to the court of Spain, with instruction to arrange definitively a system of commercial intercourse between the two powers. On his arrival at Madrid, Ripperda immediately attached himself to Alberoni, the all-powerful minister of Philip V, whom he assisted with memorials and plans of improvement for the commerce and finance of Spain, and whose protection he secured. During his residence at Madrid, Ripperda carried on several intrigues by no means creditable to his character either as an ambassador or a man; for whilst conducting the negociations of his native country, Holland, he maintained a secret correspondence with the emperor, and was guilty of a most disgraceful transaction towards Mr. Doddington, the English minister in whose pay he seems to have been, whilst he secretly informed Alberoni of all his projects.
In the meantime Ripperda rose high in favour both with Philip and his minister. By his exertions fifty masterworkmen from Holland were induced to settle in Spain, and to establish extensive cloth manufactures, first at Azcca, and afterwards at Guadalaxara. Having some time applied for some recompense for his services, he was answered that the king of Spain could never employ in any high or responsible office a person attached to the Protestant faith. Accordingly, in March, 1718, Ripperda quitted the Spanish capital and returned to Holland. Having rendered a full account of his mission, of which the States expressed their approbation, he then formally resigned the office which he held, and set out once more for Madrid, and proceeded thence to Aranjuez, where, soon after his arrival, he made his abjuration, receiving as compensation for his losses the appointment of superintendent-general of the royal manufactories at Guadalaxara, with a considerable pension and extensive grants of land. The fall of Alberoni, which was hastened by Ripperda, opened to this ambitious man the way to power, and he was accordingly entrusted, in 1725, with the formation of a secret treaty with the emperor. To reward his services in that memorable transaction, he was soon after created duke, and raised to the dignity of grandee of Spain.
On his return to Madrid, Ripperda was appointed secretary of state in the place of the marquis of Grimaldi. Having succeeded shortly after in gaining the entire confidence of Philip, he was raised to the post of prime minister. His administration however was not of long duration. Unable to fulfil the secret engagements entered into with the house of Austria, or to accomplish the vast schemes laid down by the treaty of Vienna, such as the recovery of Gibraltar by force of arms, and the seating of the Pretender on the throne of England, schemes which the exhausted state of the Spanish treasury and the menacing attitude assumed by Great Britain compelled him to relinquish, Ripperda fell into disgrace with the Spanish monarch.
On the 25th of May, 1727, he was arrested at the house of Colonel Stanhope, where he had taken refuge, and was sent to the fortress of Segovia, where he remained in close confinement, until, having eluded the vigilance of his keepers, he made his escape, and arrived safely in Lisbon, where he embarked for Cork. After spending some time in England, he set sail for his native country in 1731, and settled at the Hague. Whilst there he became acquainted with an envoy from the court of Marocco, of the name of Perez, who was a Spanish renegado, and who, perceiving the violent hatred which Ripperda bore to the Spaniards, and his love of adventure, induced him to try his fortunes upon the shores of Africa. Ripperda accordingly set sail for Tangier, and was well received by the emperor of Marocco (Muley Abdullah), who gave him command of an army destined to repel a threatened invasion from Spain. Ripperda was however defeated before Oran, which city fell into the hands of the Spaniards in 1732.
About this time Ripperda is said to have abandoned the Roman Catholic creed, and to have embraced the Mohammedan religion, taking the name of Othman Pasha. He lived for some time at Marocco, surrounded with all the gratifications and luxuries that wealth could supply, and then removed to Tetouan, where he remained until his death in 1737.
It is said that some time previous to his death he believed himself inspired, and endeavoured to propagate a new religion--a mixture of Christian, Jewish, and Mohammedan doctrines, which however had no followers. Shortly after the death of this extraordinary man there appeared at Amsterdam an account of his life and adventures, under this title: 'La Vie du Duc de Ripperda, par M.P.M.B.,' Svo., Amst., 1739. The same work was translated into English by John Campbell, and published as 'Memoirs of the Basha Duke of Ripperda,' London, 1739, Sv. There is also a Spanish translation of it, Madrid, 1748.
--entry from the The Penny Cyclopædia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Volume XX: Richardson--Scander-Beg (London: Charles Knight and Co., 22, Ludgate Street, 1841, pages 18-19).
Cardinal Giudice, an Italian as unscrupulous perhaps as Ripperda himself, was at this time Prime Minister of Spain. Already he had once fallen from power, to be again reinstated; and there is little doubt that both his fall and subsequent rise were owing to the influence of ladies whose charms gained favours at Court. Giudice was not slow to discover the abilities of Ripperda, and the two adventurers, one just ending his career, the other on the point of beginning his, became fast friends. This friendship was to avail Ripperda but little, for Giudice's second and final fall from power occurred in 1716, when Ripperda, owing to the relations which existed between the Court of Madrid and the States-General, was recalled to Holland. But the influence of Cardinal Giudice had made its impression, and had awakened in the breast of Ripperda the hopes for a like but more successful career. He remained but a short time in Holland,--just long enough, in fact, to settle up his affairs for a prolonged absence; and having abjured his recently adopted Protestantism and reverted once more to the Catholic faith, he set out for Madrid, not as an accredited ambassador, but as a private individual who came to claim the fulfilment of promises undoubtedly made to him there, that if he would forsake his heretical faith and his nationality, a career of surpassing opportunities awaited him.
On his arrival he was publicly received back into the Roman Church, in the presence of the king and queen, and on their majesties' recommendation was immediately taken under the protection of Cardinal Alberoni, who had succeeded Cardinal Giudice as Prime Minister. Just as Giudice had not been slow to perceive the natural abilities of Ripperda, so they were not lost upon Alberoni, and he quickly became the confidant, and probably the only confidant, of the scheming cardinal. But their united plans were destined to failure. A plot was discovered to have been hatched in Madrid to carry off the Regent of France, and Alberoni was implicated. War broke out between the two nations, in which England and Austria sided with France. French troops invaded Spain, and the British fleet, under Admiral Byng, routed the Spanish navy. Alberoni fell from power, and in December 1719 left Spain in disgrace, and Ripperda, his sworn friend and associate, disappeared at the same time from active life, retiring to a country house at Segovia, where he took to horticulture with the same assiduity that he had exhibited in intrigue. It is at this point that Madame de Ripperda first enters upon the scene. The biographers, it is true, say little about her, but that little is sufficient to allow the surmise that she was an able abettor in her husband's schemes during the earlier part of his political career, for whatever fortune he encountered, whatever change of nationality or religion he embarked upon, Madame de Ripperda was not slow to express her supreme pleasure at the event, and her preference for the latest phase of his career. She assisted her husband to tend his garden in his country retirement with the same affable spirit of contentment that she had exhibited in playing the great lady at Madrid. No sudden rise to power, no misfortune, seems at this period to have ruffled the temper of this estimable lady, who, when eventually Ripperda's final fall occurred, managed with no little skill to maintain for herself the respect of the Spanish Court and the public of Madrid.
Ripperda's first disgrace was of short duration, and it was not long before he issued from his retirement to accept at the hands of his Catholic majesty a post that cannot have failed to be uncongenial to so ambitious a character. He was appointed Minister of Trade and Manufactures, and sent touring Europe in the hopes of attracting skilled labour into Spain. This drudgery, however, was not to occupy him long, for he was soon afterwards sent as Ambassador to Vienna--a difficult and arduous post taking into consideration the relations of the Emperor and the King of Spain. It was in this appointment that Ripperda's real ability came to the fore, for not only did he restore amicable relations between the two Courts, but he negotiated the "Treaty of Vienna," which, though in favour of Austria, was well received in Madrid. In the Austrian capital Ripperda became the most popular of ambassadors. His infinite tact, his affability, his generosity, and his magnificence attracted every degree of the population of the capital. His extraordinary powers of conversation, his knowledge of the world, his mastery of languages, astonished and dazzled the Austrian Court during the period in which he negotiated the treaty and awaited its confirmation from Madrid. At length the royal couriers arrived. The Spanish king had signed the treaty, and had created Ripperda a duke.
On his return to Madrid fresh honours were thrust upon him; but Ripperda had studied under Giudice and Alberoni, and nothing short of the position they had in turn held would satisfy his ambition. He played his cards with tact. He did not allow his new honours to crush his geniality and affability; if anything he became more genial, more affable, than ever, and drew fresh friends around him, until he was thoroughly assured of his position. Then, and not till then, he adopted the haughty dignity of a Spanish grandee. He became difficult to access; he broke off his intimate relations with his friends; he dictated to the Council; he lectured his sovereigns. The Jesuits alone he confided in, and they were his sole advisers. He realised that he was necessary to the Spanish Government, and that at last he had reached power. His wife admirably supported him. She ruled the ladies of the Spanish Court as sternly as he did the men. She played the rôle of grande dame with equal success to that of the Châtelaine at Segovia. Her change of manner and ideas led to a witty saying, apropos of her husband's recent honours, that "Madame Ripperda left Madrid just before the Duchess de Ripperda arrived there."
The Duke's success increased daily. To the many dignities he already held Philip V. added to those of Secretary of State and Minister of War, and eventually bestowed upon him the power of revising all sentences and transactions, by which he became in reality the supreme head of the Spanish Government. Such an accumulation of positions and honours had never probably been previously held by a Spaniard, much less by a foreigner, at the Spanish Court.
Ripperda did not hesitate to act up to these dignities, and so overbearing did he become in his manner that he raised up a host of enemies. No form of intrigue was left untried against him. A lever was made of the "treaty of Hanover," concluded between Great Britain and the Electors and Princes of the Empire, which undoubtedly injured the efficacy of the treaty of Vienna that Ripperda had negotiated, but in vain. Ripperda's position seemed unassailable, and his intense confidence in his own ablility to maintain it no doubt assisted to retain him in power. Meanwhile he had served Spain well in more than one way. He had successfully introduced manufactures into the country and increased trade. In 1726 he was even able to clothe the Spanish infantry in locally manufactured cloth, whereas a few years previously no such industry existed in the country.
The details of the events that brought about Ripperda's fall are not known, except it was owing to the intrigues of his former friends the Jesuits. As to what had passed between them to cause his former confidants and associates to bring about his ruin has never been fully disclosed. This much alone is certain, that the Society of Jesus was able to persuade the king of Ripperda's disloyalty, and in this they must have received the aid of his many enemies. After a pathetic interview with King Philip, Ripperda retired once more into private life at Segovia, and the Duchess again pronounce herself as "charmed" at the changes.
The public, who until this time had been inclined to regard Ripperda as the champion of their interests, now threatened to tear him into pieces. His fall had turned loose all their passions, and the passions of the public of Spain in the eighteenth century were not to be trifled with. Ripperda fled for protection to the British Embassy in Madrid, and threw himself upon the mercy of Mr Stanhope, the Ambassador of England.
This naturally led to complications, and Mr Stanhope referred the matter to the Spanish king, who assured his Excellency that his Government had no designs upon Ripperda's person, but only demanded the return of certain valuable State documents of which they accused him of being illegally in possession. Mr Stanhope referred the matter to Ripperda, who in fear of the populace and with little or no confidence in the promises of the king and Government, refused to leave the Embassy. A day later guards were placed in the streets near by to prevent Ripperda's escape, an act much resented by Mr Stanhope. Even the placid Duchess broke down under these insults. She had hysterics in the embassy drawing-room, tore out her hair in handfuls, and attacked everybody and everything with great vehemence and no pretence of decency.
Mr Stanhope having protested against guards being placed on the British Embassy, the king in a despatch again assured him that no harm should befall Ripperda, but that he should be allowed to pass the rest of his life in peace--in a monastery, the last spot in the world that the Duke would choose to end his career in. On returning a refusal to the request that the Duke should leave, the king became exasperated, and two days later Ripperda was forcibly arrested in the presence of Mr Stanhope, who strongly protested against this outrage on the British Embassy. There is no doubt that this forcible entry by officers and troops into the precincts of the residence of the Ambassador was contrary to the spirit and letter of the laws of nations, yet it is curious to note that England never obtained reparation or apology for this insult. Mr Stanhope, in his letter of protest to the Marquis de la Paz, stated that he had referred the matter to his Government and his sovereign; and he concluded this sternly worded document with the sentence, "I hope his Catholick Majesty will not take it amiss, that for the present I appear not at Court."
This letter called forth a reply which was forwarded to the Spanish Ambassador at the Court of St James, in which amongst other explanations of what had occurred the Marquis de la Paz asserted that the expediency of his Catholic majesty's action was clear, for unless example had been made of this particular case, any of his Catholic majesty's Ministers might at any time seek a safe refuge in the residences of any of the foreign ambassadors--an argument that does not tend to show the security of the position of the high officials of the Spanish Court. The Marquis concluded his letter by stating that "the Duc de Ripperda was conducted in his coach, guarded by some life-guards, to the castle of Segovia; to the end that he may be secured there at his full ease, and free from the insults which he, vainly and without ground, apprehended." A delicate manner of expressing that he had been forcibly seized in the British Embassy and thrown into prison.
Mr Stanhope's courier was, by order of the Spanish Government, detained for several days on the frontier, so that the first news of the incident received in London was through the Spanish Embassy. The Duke of Newcastle was, however, in no wise appeased by the Spanish Ambassador's excuses, and replied in a lengthy and severe despatch dated June 20, 1726, in which, after a statement of the whole case, he demanded reparation for the outrage committed on the British Embassy. The relations of England and Spain were, however, undergoing so great a change that the incident seems to have been lost sight of in more important affairs.
We must return for a moment to the Duchess de Ripperda, whom we had left in hysterics in the Embassy reception-room. A quiet period of thought, in which no doubt she reviewed the whole situation, decided her husband's downfall was final. She became inconsolable, spending her time in acts of charity and in constant companionship with the priests. She took great care to maintain for herself the esteem of the world, and more particularly of the Church, through whose influence she may still have hoped that some amelioration in the Duke's position might possibly be brought about. But as she grew to realise that the Duke's career in Spain was ended, and there seemed little likelihood of his ever leaving his prison, she followed the side of public opinion, neglected to visit the castle of Segovia, and even agreed with the world in general that it was the Duke's unprincipled ambition that had brought about his ruin. With this confession on her lips, she became more popular than ever, and as the contemporary biographer states, "her extraordinary Œconomy, her great Piety, her extensive charity, and her profound Obedience to her Ghostly Directors secured to her an universal Applause."
Meanwhile Ripperda remained incarcerated in the fortress of Segovia, where his ambitions and irascible temperament, added to constant attacks of the gout, rendered his confinement hard to bear. He was, it is true, well treated, was accompanied by his valet,--who had followed his master's example throughout, even in his change of religion,--and was allowed to receive visitors. He spent some of his spare hours in drawing up an "apology" for his conduct of affairs, in which he so violently attacked his enemies that a contemporary stated it was difficult to know which to admire the most--"the Poignancy of his Malice or the Elegancy of his Genius."
It was during his imprisonment at Segovia that he met with a person who was to play no unimportant part in his later life. This was a young Spanish girl, of very attractive appearance and pleasant manner, who became celebrated as the "Fair Castilian," and who followed Ripperda through the strangest of his adventures. At Segovia she became his mistress; and it was owing to her ingenuity, joined to that of the valet, that the Duke, although suffering at the time from a severe attack of the gout, was able to escape from his prison by climbing the high walls by the aid of a silken ladder that the "Fair Castilian" had herself woven. Entering a coach, Ripperda, the lady, and the valet, hastened with all possible speed to St Andero on the coast, where a vessel awaited him. Immediately they were safely on board the ship proceeded to sea, and laid her course for England.
There is no doubt that Ripperda chose London in preference to other places of refuge on account of the strained relations which existed at that time between England and Spain. He hoped by aid of his name and influence to stir up the anti-Spanish feeling which existed there already to no mean degree, and by this means to avenge himself for his misfortunes by bringing about a state of war, in which eventually Spain could not fail to suffer. It appears that the overruling ambition which had formerly dominated all his actions was changed to a malevolence equally as strong. He cared not to what extremes he might proceed, or what he personally might be called upon to suffer, could he only bring about the desire that reigned supreme in his heart. But he failed to take into account the common-sense of the English people. If he looked to London for Spanish temperaments and Spanish hot-headedness he looked in vain. The Ministry listened attentively to his arguments, appreciated his versatility, and acted on none of his recommendations. His residence in Soho Square--then the height of fashion--became the resort of people of position. He was rich and lived handsomely. He was lauded by the people for his generosity. He was ridiculed by the British press. In fact, he entered systematically into fashionable life as it existed in the early part of the eighteenth century.
But Ripperda had not come to England to retire from the world. His insatiable hatred of the Spanish, his ambition, his love of intrigue, forbade him to accept a refuge where he might have ended his days in peace. His sole pleasure, it is said, during his residence in London was in gambling in stocks, a form of adventure--one of the only forms of adventure--that remains to-day. He wearied even of this excitement, and, having persuaded the "Fair Castilian" to follow him, he made up his mind to seek a career in other and more favourable lands. Again it was his desire to avenge himself upon Spain that decided his purpose. He paid a secret and hurried visit to Holland in 1731, where by arrangement he met Admiral Perez, a personage of importance in the Government of Mulai Abdullah, the Sultan of Morocco. A few weeks later he chartered a vessel and set sail for Tangier. He wisely invited to accompany him certain Moorish Jews who happened to be in Holland at the time, from whom during the voyage he learned much about the country in which he had determined not only to take up his residence but also to play a leading part.
On his arrival at Tangier he spent only a few days at that port, and, after visiting Tetuan, he set out for Mekinez, the capital of Mulai Abdullah. His journey gave him evidence that the Jews were a despised race in Morocco, and that their friendship would impede rather than aid his aims and ambitions. It was on this account that, on his arrival in Mekinez, he took up residence with a French merchant, whose wife, a young Spanish lady, became at once the devoted friend of the "Fair Castilian." The merchant gave no glowing account of the reception Ripperda was likely to meet with from the Sultan, and in this respect he did not misinform him. The audience took place, and the Sultan listened attentively enough to the Duke's plots and plans against Spain, but refused to engage upon any action until he had given the matter mature consideration. Meanwhile he advised Ripperda to see the error of his way and embrace Islam. This appears to have offered no great obstacle to the Duke, who, it will be remembered, had already several times changed his religion; and on his return from his interview with Mulai Abdullah he broached the subject to the merchant, much to the latter's horror and indignation. He wisely, however, expressed no more than his surprise, but forthwith took steps to rid his roof of so unwelcome a guest. He introduced the Duke to a certain French renegade, known to the Moors by the name of Ali. This estimable character was a renegade monk whose debaucheries had made his residence in a Roman Catholic country impossible, upon which he had emigrated to England, where, much to his surprise, he found that even among Protestants there appeared to be some idea of a code of morality. He then tried Morocco, and with more success. Between Ali and the Duke a friendship soon sprang up, each realising that the other could scarcely fail to prove of use.
Ripperda's second interview with the Sultan proved more satisfactory. Considerable state was observed, and the Duke appeared in a suit of red velvet embroidered in gold, and on taking his leave presented his majesty with a novelty in the shape of a watch set in a finger-ring, a marvel unknown at the Moorish Court, and probably a great rarity in those days. It is curious to note that the Sultan spoke Spanish fluently, and there is no doubt that the interior of Morocco was more open to Europeans then than it is to-day. At the present moment no Europeans are allowed to reside in Morocco, except as lodgers in the houses of the Jewish quarter, while at this period there seem to have been no small number of them living in comfort and ease in the Moorish town.
Ripperda now left the merchants' house, and, adopting the costume of the country, took up his residence with Ali, where the "Fair Castilian" had as companions the two wives of their Spanish host, one of whom was a Spanish girl, taken captive by pirates, and presented to Ali by the Sultan as a token of esteem. It must be noted to the Duke's credit that he never followed other renegades' examples, but remained true to the "Fair Castilian," who moved in the European society of Mekinez as the Duchess de Ripperda.
The Duke's skill in diplomacy, his personal fascination and his power of intrigue, were not long in making themselves felt at the Moorish Court. In a short time he had persuaded the Sultan not only to listen to his advice, but also to act upon it, and he had gained the good opinion of the Mulai Abdullah's native entourage. In spite of the immense jealousy that always surrounds an oriental monarch, Ripperda had made friends everywhere. His very disinterestedness, his apparent desire only to further the aggrandisement of the Empire of Morocco, ensured his popularity. He had the power of letting every one think that they were his greatest, almost his only, friends. A subtle meekness, a skilful flattery, and a deference to the ideas of others, assisted him not a little. For a European, however great his prestige, in so short a time to have become the dominant spirit at the fanatical Moorish Court speaks almost more for Ripperda's abilities than his sudden rush to power in Spain. That he could have felt any sympathy for the surroundings that he found himself among is almost impossible. Opportunities for the state of luxury in which he had lived in Spain, or his love of ostentation and praise, must have been strangely wanting in Mekinez, where the simple life of the Moorish Court, as it is known to have existed in those days, could have offered him little in exchange. Yet his intense and malign desire for vengeance on Spain not only persuaded him to bear the many discomforts of such a life, but even to appear to enjoy his existence. His failure in London, and the pent-up energy of his baffled desires, rendered him more vindictive than ever, and he entered heart and soul into the furthering of his schemes. To him the Moorish Sultan, the army, the treasury, were but a means to an end, and he had no hesitation in sacrificing them all, as he undoubtedly did sacrifice them, rather than abandon his malevolence. One cannot but admire the stubborn persistence of the man, while regretting that his ability was not more laudably employed. He must have been aware that any injury which Morocco could impose upon Spain could not be of long duration or really serious; yet he was content to suffer himself, and to make thousands of others suffer, in order to have the satisfaction of doing what could not really amount to more than causing serious annoyance to his enemies.
Before engaging in any active plans Mulai Abdullah awaited the return of Admiral Perez, with whom, it may be remembered, Ripperda had already had an interview at The Hague. On the Admiral's arrival the Duke was not slow to renew his friendship, and with such success that Perez supported his ideas so strongly at Court, and spoke so highly in Ripperda's favour, that the Duke was forthwith appointed a "Basha," and given entire command of the Moorish army as well as of the conduct of the forthcoming war. The man who as a diplomatist had negotiated the treaty at Vienna, now found himself a Commander-in-Chief. But there were certain formalities to be gone through before Ripperda could be legally assigned to his new post. His adoption of the Moslem faith still required certain acts before it could be considered legal. Ripperda hesitated, or rather postponed the day, and meanwhile the "Fair Castilian" was brought to bed of a son. This but added to the Duke's difficulties, for his mistress was a devout Catholic, and his devotion to her, and the fear of breaking her heart, deterred him from receiving the child into the faith he had so lately adopted. On the other hand, to baptise his infant as a Christian might upset all the schemes on which he had so steadfastly set his heart, by awakening suspicion in the Sultan's eyes. However, he took the latter course, and spared the "Fair Castilian" the mortification of seeing her son a Moslem. The child was secretly baptised.
Ripperda had acted without due consideration for the ideas and opinions of his Moslem friends and supporters, and strong objections were raised to his action. The Duke, however, was never wanting in ingenuity, and before his protesting friends left him he had carried out a bargain. For the mother's sake the child was to remain a Christian, but he agreed that his valet should at once adopt the Moslem faith, and go through every formality necessary under the circumstances. The servant did not hesitate, seeing a possibility of promotion in the service of the Sultan. Ripperda's formal reception into Islam was again announced. He feared certain details of the ceremony, but at length, seeing it was necessary to his ambition and his schemes, he pretended that the Sultan's personal instruction had convinced him of the truth of the Mohammedan faith, and with great feasting and rejoicings the ceremony was carried out. Mortified and indignant, the "Fair Castilian" for a time refused even to see him.
The Sultan and his Court now gave their entire attention to the proposed war with Spain, and Ripperda's plan for the investment of Ceuta, a Spanish possession situated at the southeast corner of the Straits of Gibraltar, was agreed upon, and 10,000 men were raised for this opening episode of the war.
It was not to be expected that Spain would remain idle under the circumstances, and she prepared a counter-move against Oran, which at that period was included in the Empire of Morocco. Ripperda hurried to the spot, put the town in a condition to withstand the threatened siege, and massed an army in its vicinity. After considerable difficulties the Spaniards succeeded in landing their troops, and by a skilful march outflanked the Moorish troops, who laid down their arms and fled, abandoning not only their entire camp, but also the town with its stores and munitions of war. It seems to have been owing to no fault of Ripperda's that this disaster came about. The army under his command consisted almost entirely of raw tribal levies, with little or no idea of fighting, and still less of discipline.
The news of the victory was received with great rejoicings in Spain, and Ripperda was solemnly degraded in Madrid by the cancelling of all his honours and his rank of Duke and Grandee of Spain. Ripperda hurried back to Mekinez, terrified lest the wrath of his new master at so serious a defeat should wreak itself upon him. Torture and various kinds of cruel deaths were common enough in Morocco, and the Duke's journey to Court must have caused him many an anxious moment. However his fears were groundless. He was received with high favour by Mulai Abdullah, and even the "Fair Castilian" did not conceal her joy at seeing him once again. The Duke, in spite of his adoption of Islam, had made no signs of instituting a harem, and this tended to the happiness of his devoted mistress. But, through no fault of Rpperda's, her jealous nature was to receive a shock, for the Sultan's mother, a lady well on in years, suddenly displayed an unconquerable devotion for the Duke. So indiscreet did the royal lady become that Ripperda not only ran the risk of losing his head, but raised such a flood of jealousy in the breast of the "Fair Castilian" that he "lost all hopes of quiet at home and abroad."
It was not long before the Duke had an opportunity of recovering the prestige which he had lost by the defeat at Oran. A rebellion broke out in the interior of the country, headed by a certain prince, Mulai Ahmed by name, and so serious grew the rising that the throne was threatened. Taking command of the legitimist troops, Ripperda routed the rebels in two successive engagements, and put a successful end to the revolt. Mulai Abdullah, saved from this new danger, was not slow to reward his deliverer, and Ripperda was appointed the Grand Vizier of Morocco, with absolute authority over every department of the Government, civil and military.
The new Grand Vizier must have known that his appointment would cause great jealousy, and he played his cards accordingly. He sent for his friends, renegades and Moors, and thanked each severally and secretly for the assistance they had given him in reaching his high position, stating that he was fully aware that had it not been for their aid he could never have succeeded. He asked each in turn to look upon him as their lasting friend, and promised to guard and further their interests. This skilful flattery, likely enough assisted by more worldly considerations, not only stifled their jealousy, but also gained him their support.
It was about this time that we bid adieu to one of the minor characters of this article. The Duke's valet, who had been employed as a spy at Ceuta, was eventually caught by the Spaniards. Threatened with torture, he confessed to being in Ripperda's employ, and to carrying information to the commander of the Moorish troops which were investing the town. Pardon was not to be expected, and the unfortunate man was handed over to the Inquisition in Spain for having abjured his faith and adopted Islam. His end is unknown, but can be surmised. The tender mercies of the Inquisition were on a par with those of the Moors themselves. When the "Fair Castilian" learned the fate of this unfortunate individual she was much distressed, and in a torrent of abuse accused Ripperda of having brought it about. His reply is preserved by his contemporary biographer. He lectured her on the fortune of war, spoke of the risks he personally encountered, and concluded by bidding her mind her own business.
Ripperda was again despatched to Oran, and as his position of authority was stronger than ever, he instituted severe measures in attempting to instil some idea of discipline into his troops. He hung any soldier guilty of pillage or looting, and by this and other similar repressive measures succeeded in introducing some order amongst the Moorish army. Leaving the siege of Oran to be carried on by his lieutenants, he proceeded to Ceuta, where, after various successes, the Moorish forces were disastrously routed.
Ripperda was once more in fear of his life; but his influence with the Sultan's mother and his popularity amongst the officials at Court stood him in good stead. Mulai Abdullah decided to take command of the troops himself, and forthwith set out for Ceuta. He had been absent from Mekinez but a short time when rebellion again broke out in the country, and the Sultan was obliged hurriedly to return to his capital. Meanwhile Mekinez had been the scene of a revolt. The palace had been unsuccessfully stormed, and the Sultan's mother had died half of terror and half from a chill that she had caught by hiding at night in one of the palace gardens. Mulai Abdullah's revenge was complete. Wholesale strangulation and every form of torture instilled fear and loyalty into the population, while renegades accused of participation in the rebellion were thrown alive to the lions.
The insecurity of life which existed at this period, and at most periods, in Morocco is illustrated by the following anecdote. The Basha of Taza, an official of importance and influence, was dining one night with Ripperda when an officer from the Court arrived. Ripperda trembled with terror, fearing his last hour had come, for he had recognised the officer as a messenger of death. His fears were groundless. It was the head of the Basha of Taza that was required, and he was forthwith strangled in the presence of the Duke and the other guests.
Ripperda had failed again in his desire for revenge upon his Spanish enemies. He had succeeded only in impoverishing the country that he had used as his instrument, and in rendering the Sultan unpopular by the exactions which these disastrous wars had necessitated. Mulai Abdullah had given way to fits of melancholy, and Ripperda, fearing a change in his likes and dislikes, hurried back to Mekinez. This must be said for the Duke, that he always acted with courage. He escaped danger oftenest by proceeding to where danger seemed most to threaten him. He still held his unchangeable belief in his own capacity and his own personal fascination, and more than once upset the plans of his enemies, who were undermining his influence at Court, by appearing in the Sultan's presence unexpectedly and in the nick of time; and on each occasion his personality won the day.
Arrived at the capital, he threw himself upon the mercy of the Sultan, asked to be released, on account of age and infirmities, from duties that he found himself incapable of performing satisfactorily; and just as, probably, his fall was certain, he escaped it by a voluntary retirement. But he still was actively engaged in other matters. He traded largely and successfully, and by persuading the Sultan from time to time further to debase the coinage, he amassed a fortune. But he foresaw all along the threatening danger. Discontent was rife amongst his people, the Sultan and his throne were threatened, and Ripperda took his precautions accordingly. He secretly removed his property to Tetuan, where he had purchased the firm friendship of the powerful Basha of the place. Thence, when affairs at Mekinez came to a head, he retired, without even notifying his intentions to the Sultan. Ripperda had timed his flight with ability. The authority of the Sultan had become so weakened that it was almost impossible for him to bring about the fugitive's arrest, and Mulai Abdullah's sole revenge for his favourite's desertion was, like that of the king of Spain, to deprive him of all his honours in an imperial edict. This was almost the last public act of the Sultan, for within a very short space of time he too was flying for his life to the oasis of Tafilet, brought to these straits through having followed throughout the advice of Ripperda in carrying on a long and costly war against a superior enemy.
Once settled on the throne, Mulai Ali, the new Sultan, despatched messengers to Tetuan summoning the Basha of that place and Ripperda to proceed to Mekinez. Not only did these two refuse to go, but promptly removed to Tangier, where they put the town into a condition to withstand a siege. The fortifications which the English had left there on their evacuation in 1684, although nominally destroyed before they left, were with some repairs sufficient to protect the town from an attack by tribal soldiers. But an even stronger argument with the troops that Mulai Ali despatched to the place was the ready money which Ripperda and his ally distributed amongst them. They returned to Mekinez with nothing accomplished; and as a result of negotiations with the Court, the Sultan accepted a handsome present in money, of which he was much in need, and came to terms with the Basha and Ripperda.
His public life was now over. Suffering much with the gout, and feeling his increasing years, Ripperda abandoned his schemes and ambitions, and, still accompanied by the "Fair Castilian," he retired once more to Tetuan, certainly the most pleasant of Moorish cities in both situation and climate. There he resided in much luxury, on terms of great intimacy with his friend the Basha, each entertaining the other in turn with lavish expenditure.
As Ripperda felt his end approaching he became uneasy in mind, and eventually decided once more to return to the bosom of that Church which he had so often abandoned. As his illness increased he sent for a priest, on whose arrival he was immediately confessed and absolved. He then took the last sacrament and made his will. So little difficulty had been placed in the way of his full and speedy absolution that one is not surprised to find that this document contains large bequests to convents and churches, without which perhaps the absolution might have been a matter of more serious difficulty. To each of his servants he left a small legacy, and the residue of his property, a very considerable one, to the "Fair Castilian" and her children.
A few days later, on October 17, 1737, Ripperda died, and the following morning his house was sacked by the population of Tetuan, but craftily the Duke had removed all his valuables shortly before his death. The same day the funeral took place, with full Moslem rites,--for his reconversion to Christianity had been kept secret,--and the Imam harangued the assembled notables on the high example and many virtues of the deceased's life. Salutes were fired from the forts, and amidst a large concourse of people his body was interred.
The "Fair Castilian" did not long survive him, but died within a year or two in Spain.
Twenty-two years--from 1715, when Ripperda was appointed Minister of the States-General to the Court of Madrid, till his death in 1737--had sufficed for all the successes and failures, all the vicissitudes, of this extraordinary career.
Walter B. Harris's 1903 essay*, presented above, appears to have been largely based on the Memoirs of the Duke de Ripperda** (London, printed for John Stagg, in Westminster Hall; and Daniel Browne at the Black Swan, without Temple-Bar), which was published in 1740; the Memoirs were initially published at Amsterdam, and translated into English by John Campbell. The "so-called" Memoirs, however, are said to have been a "a Grub-street tale of adventure."***
Johan Willem Ripperda, the duke of Ripperda, and his mistress, Josefa Ramos, referred to as the "Fair Castilian" in Harris's 1903 essay as well as in the Memoirs, were great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents to my wife Deb (see lineage at right).
Johan Willem Ripperda was born on March 7, 1680, in Oldehove, Groningen, in the Netherlands, son of Ludolph Luirdt and Maria Isabella (Van Diest) Ripperda. Ripperda's birth year is alternatively given as 1682 and 1684, and one source has his birth date as July 3, 1680. Ripperda was married first to Alida von Schellingwoude on July 13, 1704; she died on May 29, 1717, in Poolgeest. Madame de Ripperda, later referred to as the Duchess de Ripperda, in Harris's essay, was the Duke's second wife, and her name was Francisca Eusebia Jaraba de Castillo; they were married on August 29, 1717, in Spain.
Josefa Ramos, the "Fair Castilian," Ripperda's mistress, is said to have been a daughter of the warden or governor of the prison where the Duke was held, the prison actually being El Alcázar de Segovia, a castle in Segovia, Spain; the 1740 Memoirs of the Duke de Ripperda states she was "a young Lady, about the Age of eighteen, whose House was near the Castle." Josefa was born on December 18, 1705, at Tordesillas, Castilla Y León, in Spain. Contrary to the ending of Harris's essay stating that she died in Spain following the Duke's death, genealogical sources indicate she preceded the Duke's death, and died in Amsterdam in 1733, with online sources giving conflicting information, but it seems that Josefa was buried on November 6 of that year. The 1740 Memoirs states that the "Spanish Lady did not long survive him [Ripperda], but in returning to Holland, died at Sea of a Dropsy."
Ripperda died on November 5, 1737* in Tétouan, Morocco; the 1740 Memoirs gives his date of death as October 17, 1737.
The following online genealogical sources were consulted for these notes on April 29, 2006:
Selected online resources: