Alva, Ferdinando Alvarez de Toledo, Duke of, born in 1508. Spanish governor of the Netherlands under Philip II of Spain, and notorious for the merciless manner in which he exercised his dictatorial power. Under his rule more than 18,000 persons were sent to the scaffold, and a revolt, headed by the Prince of Orange, broke out, which, after nearly forty years of war, resulted in the independence of the provinces. Alva was recalled in 1573, but he was soon given the command of Portugal, which he quickly conquered. Though his pride and cruelty were excessive, he was undoubtedly the greatest general of his age. Died, 1582.