A reader learned in Spanish history protests that my remark comparing Alva to bin Laden merely repeats English and Dutch slander. He also corrects the conventional misspelling: it turns out that Fernando Álvarez de Toledo y Pimentel was the third Duke of Alba, not Alva. (Update: Another reader reports that b and v are pronounced almost identically in Spanish.) I was working from Hume’s report that under Alva’s (Alba’s) rule 18,000 heretics were burned in the Netherlands.
My reader refers me to William S. Maltby’s biography of Alba. I’ll add it to my list; in the meantime, anyone with facts is invited to tell me about them. I’m not sure whether the claim is that Alba didn’t preside over the burning of 18,000 heretics, or rather that under sixteenth-century conditions a Spanish nobleman could preside over the burning of 18,000 heretics without being especially bloodthirsty.