John William, Baron Ripperda

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The Duke of Ripperdá

Johan Willem Ripperda.jpg
Prime Minister of Spain
In office
12 December 1725 – 14 April 1726
MonarchPhilip V
Preceded byJosé de Grimaldo
Succeeded byJosé de Grimaldo
Personal details
Johan Willem Ripperda
NationalityDutch, Spanish
Coat-of-Arms of the Duke de Ripperda

Juan Guillermo, Baron de Ripperdá, 1st Duke of Ripperdá (7 March 1684 in Oldehove – 5 November 1737 in Tétouan), was a political adventurer and Spanish Prime Minister.


According to a story which he himself set going during his adventures in Spain, his family was of Spanish origin. But there does not appear to be any foundation for this assertion. His father, Baron Ludolph Luirdt Ripperda tot Winsum, was a Dutch military commander. In fact, the Ripperdas were one of the oldest and most influential noble families in Groningen, with origins going back to East Frisia. He was born a Roman Catholic and attended a Jesuit School in Cologne, he conformed to Dutch Calvinism in order to obtain his election as delegate to the states-general from Groningen.[1]

Dutch ambassador to Madrid[edit]

In 1715 he was sent by the Dutch government as ambassador to Madrid. Saint-Simon says that his character for probity was even then considered doubtful. The fortune of Jean Orry, Giulio Alberoni and other foreigners in Spain, showed that the court of Philip V offered a career to adventurers. Ripperda, whose name is commonly spelt de Riperdá by the Spaniards, devoted himself to the Spanish government, and again professed himself a Roman Catholic. He first attached himself to Alberoni, and after the fall of that minister he became the agent of Elizabeth Farnese, the restless and intriguing wife of Philip V. Though perfectly unscrupulous in money matters, and of a singularly vain and blustering disposition, he did understand commercial questions, and he had the merit of having pointed out that the poverty of Spain was mainly due to the neglect of its agriculture. But his fortune was not due to any service of a useful kind he rendered his masters. He rose by undertaking to aid the queen, whose influence over her husband was boundless, in her schemes for securing the succession to Parma and Tuscany for her sons.[1]

Spanish envoy to Vienna[edit]

Ripperda was sent as special envoy to Vienna in 1725 and was elevated to the rank of duke. He behaved outrageously, but the Austrian government, which was under the influence of its own fixed idea, treated him seriously. The result of ten months of very strange diplomacy was the Treaty of Vienna (1725) by which the Emperor promised very little, and the Ostend Company received commercial rights in the Spanish colonies in the Americas.[citation needed] Spain was bound to pay heavy subsidies, which its exhausted treasury was quite unable to afford. The emperor hoped to obtain money. Elizabeth Farnese hoped to secure the Italian duchies for her sons, and some vague stipulations were made that Charles VI should give his aid for the recovery by Spain of Gibraltar and Menorca. When Ripperda returned to Madrid at the close of 1725, he asserted that the emperor expected him to be made prime minister. The Spanish sovereigns, who were overawed by this quite unfounded assertion, allowed him to grasp the most important posts under the crown. He excited the violent hostility of the Spaniards, and entered into a complication of intrigues with the French and British governments.[1]

End of Spanish career[edit]

His career was short. In 1726 the Austrian envoy, who had vainly pressed for the payment of the promised subsidies, came to an explanation with the Spanish sovereigns. It was discovered that Ripperda had not only made promises that he was not authorized to make, but had misappropriated large sums of money. The sovereigns who had made him duke and grandee shrank from covering themselves with ridicule by revealing the way in which they had been deceived. Ripperda was dismissed with the promise of a pension. Being in terror of the hatred of the Spaniards, he took refuge in the British Embassy. To secure the favor of the British envoy, Colonel William Stanhope, afterwards Lord Harrington, he betrayed the secrets of his government. Stanhope could not protect him, and he was sent as a prisoner to the castle of Segovia.[1]

Last years[edit]

In 1728 he escaped, probably with the connivance of the government, and made his way to Holland. His last years are obscure. It is said that he reverted to Protestantism, and then went to Morocco, where he became a Muslim and commanded the Moors in an unsuccessful attack on Ceuta. But this story is founded on his so-called Memoirs, which are in fact a Grubstreet tale of adventure published at Amsterdam in 1740.[a] All that is really known is that he did go to Morocco, where he died at Tetuan in 1737.[1]


He was married twice. His first wife was Aleida van Schellingwoude from whom he inherited the lordships of Poelgeest and Koudekerk. Their son, Ludolph Luirdt, Baron Ripperda also served as Spanish ambassador to Vienna. Their daughter, Maria, married the Spanish Count Balthasar de Argumossa. His second wife was the Spanish lady Francisca de Xarava del Castillo who bore him two sons. The youngest son, Baron Juan María Vicencio de Ripperdá, became a Spanish officer and Governor of Texas and Honduras.[2]

Ripperda escaped Spain with the assistance of the servant girl, Josepha Francisca Ramos. She bore him an illegitimate son, Francois Joseph, whose descendants still live near Lingen in Germany and across the United States. There are over 600 descendants in the United States none of whom are formally considered to belong to the House of Ripperda.


  1. ^ The story goes he joined the service of Sultan Modey Abdallah. He served as a minister and later as a general commanding the Moors in an unsuccessful campaign against the Spanish. Following his defeat he was forced to flee Morocco and, once again, ended up in London and then Holland. This time, he was enticed by the promise of the crown of Corsica to put together a shipment of weapons to help in the Corsican fight for independence. However, this campaign also ended in disaster, after Baron Neuhoff took the credit and ended up being crowned king instead.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e Chisholm 1911.
  2. ^ "RIPPERDA, JUAN MARIA VICENCIO, BARON DE". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved January 31, 2012.


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
José de Grimaldo
Secretary of the Universal Bureau
Succeeded by
José de Grimaldo