Portrait of Francisco Gómez de Sandoval (1553-1625), 1st Duke of Lerma (1599), Great Equerry (Caballerizo major) from 1598 to 1618; de facto Prime Minister of Spain (valido del rey Felipe III) from 1598 to 1618
Don Francisco Gómez de Sandoval, 1st Duke of Lerma (1553 – 17 May 1625), a favourite of Philip III of Spain, was the first of the validos ('most worthy') through whom the later Habsburg monarchs ruled. The family of Sandoval was ancient and powerful. Lerma was born and raised at Tordesillas. As long as Philip II lived, the nobles had little effective share in the government, with the exception of a few who were appointed viceroys or commanded armies abroad. The future duke of Lerma passed his time as a courtier, and made himself a favourite with the young prince Philip, heir to the Spanish throne. No sooner was Philip III king than he entrusted all authority to his favourite, who amassed power unprecedented for a privado or favorite and became the "king's shadow," the filter through whom all information passed, as he was appointed Sumiller de Corps and Caballerizo mayor to the King. As chief minister Lerma's ideas of foreign policy were firmly grounded in feudal ideas about royal patrimony. He cemented Spanish rule by many marriage alliances with the Austrian Habsburgs and then with the French Bourbons. Lerma's administration began with a treaty with France Treaty of Vervins 1598, declaring peace, but he persisted in costly and useless hostilities with England till 1604, when Spain was forced by exhaustion to make peace.
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