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Cristóbal de Mondragón

Cristóbal de Mondragón y Mercado (Christoffel van Mondragon) (1504, Medina del Campo, Valladolid - 4 January 1596, Antwerp, Spanish Netherlands) was a Spanish general during the Eighty Years' War.

He was a prominent military figure of the sixteenth century, and was colonel of the Tercios of Flanders under the Duke of Alba, Luis de Requesens, Alexander Farnese and Peter Ernst I von Mansfeld-Vorderort. He fought during the Eighty Years' War against the armies of William of Orange first and after Maurice of Nassau.

His talent as a strategist led to important victories by the Spanish troops in Flanders and the Netherlands in a time of decline of Spanish domination in this region.

Mondragón developed several military techniques like wading through tidal rivers and espionage.


He arrived in Flanders in 1544 and (barring two short trips in 1570/71 and 1579) remained there the rest of his life, speaking the local language and marrying a Flemish woman.

Early years

Although born in Medina del Campo like his father, the Mondragon came from the town of Mondragón in Gipuzkoa. His mother belonged to one of the most important noble and powerful families in Medina del Campo.

Beginning of his military career

He enlisted in the army in 1532 during the reign of Charles V, and served as a soldier first in Italy and later in Tunisia, Provence, Germany and Flanders.

Cristóbal de Mondragón was released first in the battle of Mühlberg against the Protestants of the Schmalkaldic League in the heroic step of the ford of the Elbe, which the playwright Lope de Vega recalled in his verses. The troops of the League were camped on the banks of the Elbe, near the present town now belongs to the German state of Brandenburg and Saxony at that time. The Saxons had destroyed the bridges over the Elbe, which implied a natural barrier impassable. Mondragon was part of the brave men who, on the night of April 24, 1547, led the fording of the river "with the sword in the mouth and chest above water", making the enemy take several pontoons in the middle of musket fire. Thanks to the pontoons stolen could build a bridge over the river that allowed the passage of large imperial army who came led by Charles V himself and the Duke of Alba taking by surprise the enemy troops.

In April 1559, with the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis he was appointed governor of Damvillers, in the Duchy of Luxembourg and Walloon colonel of the Tercios. As a colonel he served under Sancho d'Avila when they saw the first revolts in Flanders Protestants led by Prince William of Orange. By 1569 he defended the cities of Liege and Deventer against the Geuzen.

In 1572 he raised the Geuzen siege of Goes, and was later appointed Stadhouder of Zeeland by the Duke of Alba. On 21 February 1574 he took Middelburg from William the Silent. Two years later he successfully besieged Zierikzee but afterwards was unable to stop his troops (who had not been paid for a long time) from mutinying. Under Alessandro Farnese he took part in the 1578 Battle of Gembloux and 1579 siege of Maastricht. His last campaign was in 1595, when he was 91 years old. He raised Maurice of Nassau's siege of Groenlo. He then attempted a direct confrontation with Maurice of Nassau, but Maurice drew back, leaving Mondragon to drive off Philip of Nassau's cavalry and capture Philip, who died of wounds the following day. He ended his life as governor of Antwerp and died of old age in its citadel.

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