Rodrigo Calderón (d. 1621), Count of Oliva and Marques de las Siete Iglesias, Spanish favourite and adventurer, was born at Antwerp. His father, Francisco Calderón, a member of a family ennobled by Charles V., was a captain in the army who became afterwards comendador mayor of Aragon, presumably by the help of his son. The mother was a Fleming, said by Calderón to have been a lady by birth and called by him Maria Sandelin. She is said by others to have been first the mistress and then the wife of Francisco Calderón. Rodrigo is said to have been born out of wedlock. In 1598 he entered the service of the duke of Lerma as secretary. The accession of Philip III. in that year made Lerma, who had unbounded influence over the king, master of Spain. Calderón, who was active and unscrupulous, made himself the trusted agent of Lerma. In the general scramble for wealth among the worthless intriguers who governed in the name of Philip III., Calderón was conspicuous for greed, audacity and insolence.
He was created count of Oliva, a knight of Santiago, commendador of Ocaña in the order, secretary to the king (secretario de cámara), was loaded with plunder, and made an advantageous marriage with Ines de Vargas. As an insolent upstart he was peculiarly odious to the enemies of Lerma. Two religious persons, Juan de Santa Mariá, a Franciscan, and Mariana de San José, prioress of La Encarnacion, worked on the queen Margarita, by whose influence Calderón was removed from the secretaryship in 1611. He, however, retained the favour of Lerma, an indolent man to whom Calderón's activity was indispensable. In 1612 he was sent on a special mission to Flanders, and on his return was made marques de las Siete Iglesias in 1614. When the queen Margarita died in that year in childbirth, Calderón was accused of having used witchcraft against her. Soon after it became generally known that he had ordered the murder of one Francisco de Juaras. When Lerma was driven from court in 1618 by the intrigues of his own son, the duke of Uceda, and the king's confessor, the Dominican Aliaga, Calderón was seized upon as an expiatory victim to satisfy public clamour.
He was arrested, despoiled, and on the 7th of January 1620 was savagely tortured to make him confess to the several charges of murder and witchcraft brought against him. Calderón confessed to the murder of Juaras, saying that the man was a pander, and adding that he gave the particular reason by word of mouth since it was more fit to be spoken than written. He steadfastly denied all the other charges of murder and the witchcraft. Some hope of pardon seems to have remained in his mind till he heard the bells tolling for Philip III. in March 1621. "He is dead, and I too am dead" was his resigned comment. One of the first measures of the new reign was to order his execution. Calderón met his fate firmly and with a show of piety on the 21st of October 1621, and this bearing, together with his broken and prematurely aged appearance, turned public sentiment in his favour. The magnificent devotion of his wife helped materially to placate the hatred he had aroused. Lord Lytton made Rodrigo Calderón the hero of his story Calderon the Courtier.
See Modests de la Fuente, Historia General España (Madrid, 1850-1867), vol. xv. pp. 452 et seq.; Quevedo, Obras (Madrid, 1794), vol. x. - Grandes Anales de Quince Dias. A curious contemporary French pamphlet on him, Histoire admirable et declin pitoyable advenue en la personne d'unfawory de la Cour d'Espagne, is reprinted by M.E. Fournier in Variétés historiques (Paris, 1855), vol. i.