Alessandro Farnese (älĕs-sän´drō färnā´zā), 1545–92, duke of Parma and Piacenza (1586–92), general and diplomat in the service of Philip II of Spain. He was the son of Duke Ottavio Farnese and Margaret of Parma and thus a nephew of Philip II and of John of Austria, under whom he distinguished himself at the battle of Lepanto (1571). In 1577, Farnese joined John in the Low Countries to fight the rebels against Spain. Appointed (1578) governor of the Netherlands, he took Tournai, Maastricht, Breda, Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp from the rebels and secured continued possession of the southern part of the Netherlands for Spain (see Netherlands, Austrian and Spanish). In 1590 he was sent to France at the head of a Spanish army to assist the Catholic League against Henry IV of France. He relieved the siege of Paris (1590) and the siege of Rouen (1592), but was wounded soon afterward and retired to Arras, where he died. Farnese showed exceptional skill in military art and diplomacy.
See R. Solari, The House of Farnese (1968).