La Princesa de Éboli was the centre of intrigue and scandal during the reign of Felipe II. Despite having lost an eye in her childhood, she was renowned for her beauty and vivacity. She came from a powerful Castillian family and was obliged to marry the Prince of Eboli (a town in the kingdom of Naples) at the age of twelve.
She was the mother of ten children and after her husband’s death, entered a convent for three years. Ana was not made for convent life and had already come into conflict with Teresa of Avila, the founder of the order of “bare-footed” Carmelite nuns. She had invited Teresa to found a convent in her home town of Pastrana, but interfered to such an extent that the equally strong-tempered Teresa left the town in a rage. As a result Ana publically ridiculed the nun’s religious experiences, drawing the attention of the inquisition to Teresa’s writings.
On her return to the royal court, Ana was in close liaison with the king’s secretary and confidant Antonio Perez, and they were almost certainly lovers. This was the era of the “black legend” of the Spanish court, famous for its Catholic austerity and obscure conspiracies, in which the inquisition and the interests of powerful families played their part.
Ana and her lover apparently plotted to place her daughter on the throne of Portugal, thus thwarting the ambition of Philip himself to take the throne. A series of mysterious deaths in the court led to the arrest of both Ana and Antonio and their imprisonment without trial. Ana’s lover Antonio eventually escaped to France, but Ana ended her days imprisoned in one room in the company of her youngest daughter and three servants. Her life has been portrayed in film by Olivia de Havilland in 1955, by the British actress Julia Ormond in 2008 as well as on Spanish television.