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Álvaro Guerra de la Vega

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Álvaro Guerra de la Vega
Born Ibio, Cantarbia, Spain
Relative(s) Capt. Fernando Guerra de la Vega (father)
  • Royal Page
  • Knight of Santiago
  • Army Captain
Nationality Spanish
Education Royal Tutors
Alma mater Casa Real de Caballeros Pajes ("Royal House of Knightly Pages")
Movement Carrancist Destreza
Notable work(s) Comprensión de la Destreza

Álvaro Guerra de la Vega, Knight of the Order of Santiago, "Heir to the House of his Name and to those of Padisnan, Salas de Ibyo, Villa de Rioseco y Mayorazgos de Sánchez Santiago; Quevedo; Arredondo; Herrera en la Villa de Santander," and author of Comprensión de la Destreza ("Comprehension of Destreza", or "Understanding Destreza") was born in 1645 in Ibio, near Santander in what is now Mazcuerras, Cantabria, Spain.

Álvaro was born into a family which, perhaps appropriately given the epithet "Guerra," had used military service to the crown as their primary method of social advancement since at least the 1400's, being granted a "Mayorazgo" or (Estate, or Lordship), in the mid 1500's. He was the son of Capitán D. Fernando Guerra De la Vega, the sixth Lord of the house. Álvaro himself never succeeded to the family's lands and titles, as he predeceased his father. His son, Jose Luis, became the seventh Lord.

Regarding his childhood and early education, we know rather more of Álvaro's than we do of many other authors, owing to his being inducted at a young age into the Real Casa de Caballeros Pajes ("Royal House of Knightly Pages"), an instructional program operated by the Royal Household of the King of Spain for the education of young noblemen who, in return for this elite education, served the King as personal valets, couriers, body servants, and in general as exemplars of the virile, masculine, erudite, and above all Catholic Spanish nobility which the monarchy wished to portray.

To this end, the boys lived at the capital, where under the auspices and watchful eye of the highest ministers and officers of the Court, they were trained in languages, mathematics, philosophy, dance, and of course, fencing. As a result, Álvaro received his fencing instruction from the then-Maestro Mayor (Grand Master) of Spain himself, D. Juan Caro and his Deputy, D. Juan de Castañeda.

In 1662, at the age of 17, Álvaro was released from his service in the House of Pages and was knighted to the Order of Santiago the following year, being the first member of his illustrious family to receive the honour. By the personal assent of King Felipe IV, he was granted a dispensation from the rigorous months-long cloistered religious vigil which was usual for such a knighting. While such dispensations were not unheard of, they usually denoted some exemplary or personal service to the crown.

At around the same time, Álvaro petitioned the King "...whom he had served with all punctuality, brilliance and satisfaction, without [receiving] any favours" for a military posting in Santander, in a letter where he also cites his family's long military history, stating "that he was old enough to wield a sword [and] to continue employing himself in the highest service of the King like all his predecessors."

It is known that he was granted a captaincy, but of his military service, not much is yet known- although presumably the sources used by Enrique Leguina to gather the details for the introduction to the 1895 publication of Comprensión de la Destreza might still be traceable, and could be useful in this research. Leguina does make the claim, however, that there is evidence in Álvaro's biography of a "turbulent" character, as well as a number of arrests- one of which, Leguina assumes, might have been the occasion for the writing of Comprensión de la Destreza, dated 1681.