Philip II of Spain

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Portuguese Royalty
Philippine House

Philip I (II of Spain)
Children include
   Prince Charles
   Princess Isabella
   Princess Catarina
   Prince Philip
Philip II (III of Spain)
Children include
   Anne of Austria
   Prince Philip
   Princess Maria
   Prince Charles
   Cardinal-Prince Ferdinand
Philip III (IV of Spain)
Children include
   Baltasar Carlos
   Princess Maria Theresa
   Princess Margaret
   Prince Charles

Philip II (Spanish: Felipe II) - (May 21, 1526September 13, 1598), the first King of Spain understood as the whole peninsula of Hispania (r. 1556-1598), Naples and Sicily (r. 1554-1558), and Portugal, as Philip I (Portuguese: Filipe I), (r. 1580-1598), was born at Valladolid, the heir apparent and only legitimate son of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V and queen consort Isabella of Portugal to survive childhood.

Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain

His first marriage (1543) was to his cousin Princess Maria of Portugal, who provided him with a son, Don Carlos of Spain (1545-1568). Following Maria's death in 1545, he sought an alliance with England, marrying the Catholic Queen Mary I of England in 1554. The marriage was unpopular with her subjects, and was a purely political alliance as far as Philip was concerned. On January 16, 1556, Philip succeeded to the throne of Spain, as a result of his father's abdication, but he did not choose to reside in the country until his father's death two years later.

After his second wife, Mary Tudor, died childless in 1558, Philip showed an interest in marrying her Protestant younger half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I of England, but this plan fell through, for a number of reasons. Philip believed his son Don Carlos had conspired against him; as a result, Philip had him imprisoned. When the prince died shortly thereafter, Philip's enemies accused him of having ordered the murder of his own son. There is limited evidence for this, and the circumstances surrounding the death of Don Carlos have remained an area of historical controversy.

In 1559 the 60-year war with France ended with the signing of the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis. Part of the peace process was Philip's third marriage to Princess Elisabeth of Valois, daughter of Henri II of France who in fact had first been promised to his son, Don Carlos. Elisabeth (1545-1568), provided him with two daughters, but no son. Philip's fourth wife, Anne, daughter of the emperor Maximilian II, provided him with an heir, Philip III.

During Philip II's reign the Philippine Islands were conquered and named for him and a North American colony was established in Florida. Trade across the Pacific between Asia and America, that would be carried by the famed Manila galleons for nearly three centuries, was initiated in 1565.

But his reign was troubled by financial instability and threatened by Muslim invasion, and other conflicts such as the seccession of the Netherlands, and wars with France and England. Philip also faced various rebellions against his rule within mainland Spain, most notably the Morisco Revolt of 1568, and the Aragonese revolt following the Antonio Perez affair, as Philip attempted to arrest him through use of the Inquisition, thereby breaching the fueros of Aragon.

Spain's quagmire in the Netherlands (see Dutch Revolt), the defeat of its Armada in 1588, and the economic strain of supporting so many wars with an insufficient tax base forced Philip to maintain heavy taxation on too narrow a tax base. In the seventeen provinces of the Netherlands, Philip II continued the policies of heavy taxation since Charles V. Like Charles V, he continued to exclude local nobility from administration, preferring the use of a Castilian Consulta, maintained an army of occupation, and upheld an Inquisition to stop the advance of Calvinism.

Philip II, King of Spain, by Titian
Philip II, King of Spain, by Titian

Following the 1566 Calvinist revolt, Philip II set out to stamp out treason and heresy. Issuing a new sales tax of roughly ten percent to pay for the required military expenditures (the 10th penny), the situation in the Netherlands only worsened. The region fell under open revolt once again in 1568 under William the Silent of the House of Orange, crushed by the brutal Spanish Fury led by the Duke of Alba, who convened the council of troubles (or council of blood as it came to be known), to condemn thousands to death and confiscate land. But following the Pacification of Ghent in 1576, poorly fed and poorly nourished Spanish troops, formerly considered invincible, especially after the successful campaign against the Ottomans, mutinied. The Dutch Calvinists declared that Spanish soldiers must be expelled and to be governed by the Estates General. But the Spanish took advantage of the strong religious, cultural and linguistic variation between the northern and southern provinces, playing local aristocrats against each other and recapturing the Southern provinces. Secure behind the "Great Rivers" of the Rhine delta, the north of the Netherlands emerged as the United Provinces.

The seven United Provinces eventually declared their independence from the Spanish king in 1581 following the Union of Utrecht of 1579, their leader, William I, Prince of Orange (William the Silent) was outlawed by Philip, and assassinated in 1584 by a Catholic fanatic.

Aside from draining state revenues for failed overseas adventurism, the domestic policies of Philip II exacerbated Spanish decline. For one, far too much power was concentrated in Philip's hands. Unlike England, Spain was subject to separate assemblies: the Cortes in Castile along with the assembly in Navarre and three for each of the three regions of Aragon, each of which jealously guarded their traditional rights and laws inherited from the time they were separate kingdoms. This made Spain and its possesions cumbersome to rule. While France was divided by regional states, it had a single Estates-General. The lack of a viable supreme assembly would lead to a great deal of power being concentrated in Philip's hands, but this was made necessary by the constant conflict between different authorities that required his direct intervention as the final arbiter. To deal with the difficulties arising from this situation authority was administered by local agents appointed by the crown and viceroys carried out instructions of the crown. Philip, a compulsive micromanager, presided over specialized councils for state affairs, finance, war, and the Inquisition. A distrustful sovereign, Philip played royal bureaucrats against each other, leading to a system of checks and balances that would manage state affairs in a very inefficient manner, sometimes damaging state business (leading to the Perez affair - see Antonio Perez). Calls to move capital to Lisbon from the Castilian stronghold of Madrid — the new capital Philip established following the move from Valladolid — could have perhaps lead to a degree of decentralization, but Philip adamantly opposed such efforts.

Philip's regime severely neglected farming in favor of sheep ranching, thus forcing Spain to import large amounts of grain and other foods by the mid-1560s. Presiding over a sharply divided conservative class structure, the Church and the upper classes were exempt from taxation (to be expected, considering their lack of parliamentary powers) while the tax burden fell disproportionately on the classes engaged in trade, commerce, and industry.

Due to the inefficiencies of the Spanish state structure, industry was also greatly over-burdened by government regulations but this was the common defect of all governments of the times. The religious expulsion of the Moriscos from Granada had some regional economic effects, but the overall negative effect has often been much exaggerated for polemical purposes. The socially marginalised Morisos had fallen on hard times since the end of Arab rule in Granada in 1492, and were mostly engaged in unskilled work. It was well into the seventeenth century, not the sixteenth, that Spain's economic and demographic decline really began to be felt.

Inflation throughout Europe in the sixteenth century was a broad and complex phenomenon, but the flood of bullion from Americas was the main cause of it, particularly in Spain. Under Philip's reign, Spain saw a fivefold increase in prices. Due to inflation and high tax burden for Spanish manufacturers Spanish industry was harmed and Spain’s riches were frittered away on imported manufactured goods by an opulent aristocracy and Philip's wars. Increasingly the country became dependent on the revenues flowing in from the mercantile empire in the Americas, although this was inflationary, before Spain's first bankruptcy in 1557 due to the rising costs of military efforts. Dependent on sales taxes from Castile and the Netherlands, Spain's tax base, which excluded nobility and the wealthy church, fell particularly heavily upon the province of Castile, so having far too narrow a base to support Philip's grand plans. Philip became increasingly dependent on loans from foreign bankers, particularly in Genoa and Augsburg. By the end of his reign, interest payments on these loans alone would account for 40% of state revenue.

Meanwhile, Philip became King of Portugal, and the success of colonisation in America improved his financial position, enabling him to show greater aggression towards his enemies. In 1580 the direct line of Portuguese royal family (Sebastian of Portugal died following a disastrous campaign in Morocco, giving Philip the pretext to claim the throne through his mother, who was a Portuguese princess (see struggle for the throne of Portugal). He met little resistence in Lisbon, and his power helped him seizing the throne, which would be kept a personal union for sixty years. Philip famously remarked upon his acquisition of the Portuguese throne: "I inherited, I bought, I conquered", a variation on Julius Caesar and Veni, Vidi, Vici. Thus, Philip added to his possessions a vast colonial empire in Africa, Brazil, and the East Indies, seeing a flood of new revenues coming to the Spanish crown. In the ruling of Portugal however, Philip showed tact, trimming his beard and wearing clothes in the Portuguese style, and ruling from Lisbon for the next couple of years, leaving Portuguese privileges and fueros alone.

Another ostensible boost to Spanish hegemony and the Counter-Reformation achieved a clear boost when Philip married Mary Tudor — a Catholic — in 1554 (the older daughter of Henry VIII). However, they ended up childless (a child would have been heir to all but France) after Queen Mary or “bloody Mary” as she was known by English Protestants, died in 1558 before the union could revitalize the Catholic Church in England.

The throne went to the formidable Elizabeth, the Protestant daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. But due to their premises against divorce, this union was deemed illegitimate by English Catholics, who instead claimed that Mary Queen of Scots, the Catholic great-granddaughter of Henry VII, was the legitimate heir to the throne.

The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots upset his hopes to help place a Catholic on the English throne but did not stop his plans for an attempt to invade England. Because England provided support for the Dutch rebels war had broken out in 1585 and Philip thus sought to oust Elizabeth I with an invasion by means of the Spanish Armada. However, the so-called "Protestant Wind" thwarted Spanish ambitions, enabling the small, deftly manoeuverable English ships to out-manoeuver the larger Spanish ships. Two more armadas would be sent during Philip's reign, both of which would fail, and this particular Anglo-Spanish war (1585-1604) would be fought to a grinding end, until the death of both Philip II and Elizabeth I.

The devastating 1588 defeat of the Spanish Armada gave great heart to the Protestant cause. Many Spaniards blamed the admiral of the Armada for its failure, but Philip was not among them. An attempt by England to make use of her sudden advantage at sea with a counter armada of her own the following year backfired disasterously and the war thereafter generally went Spain's way. Though ill for the last decade of his life Philip directed the rebuilding and reorganising of the Spanish navy and port defences, learning keenly from past failures. The effort paid off with a navy even more dominant than before the Armada, breaking the back of English buccaneering and frustrating English colonialisation and trade. Still Philip was bankrupt by 1596 after France had declared war upon Spain the previous year. In the last decade of his life, however, more silver and gold was shipped safely to Spain than ever before. This allowed him to maintain the military pressure upon France and England and was instrumental in the favourable Treaty of Vervins with France in 1598 and Treaty of London in 1604.

From 1590 to 1598 he was again at war against the Huguenot King Henry IV of France, joining with the Papacy and the Duke of Guise in the Catholic League during the French Wars of Religion. Philip's interventions in the French wars of religion (sending Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma to relieve the siege of Paris in 1590, and again into Rouen in 1592), to aid the Catholic faction, was disastrous in terms of the Dutch Revolt, allowing the rebels time to regroup and refortify their defenses. Henry IV of France was also able to use his propagandists to identify the Catholic faction with a foreign enemy (Philip and Spain), damaging the Catholic cause in France somewhat. In June 1595 the redoubtable French king defeated the Spanish supported Holy League in Fontaine-Francaise in Burgundy and reconquered Amiens from the overstretched Spanish forces in September 1597. The 1598 Treaty of Vervins was to many extents a restatement of the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis 1559. Even though the French monarch had recovered control of France from Spain's allies, he had to convert to Roman Catholicism in order to do so, an ironic victory for the Habsburg sponsered Counter Reformation.

Though the end of his reign saw Spain reach the peak of its power, leading a Spanish prime minister Gaspar de Guzmán y Pimentel, Count-Duke of Olivares, decades later to proclaim that "God is Spanish", Philip would never completely recover the Habsburg's dominions in the Netherlands. Upon his death, the union with Portugal remained for 42 years, that country remaining in personal union with Spain until 1640. So, despite having far more gold and silver than any other European power, which flowed into the Spanish coffers from the mines in Spanish America, the riches of the spice trade of the Portuguese Empire and the enthusiastic support of the Spanish Habsburg dominions for the Counter-Reformation, Philip's rule was not entirely successful in its ambitious aims. Philip was a devout Catholic and took personal responsibility for his actions, but his devotion to the Counter-Reformation was to ensure that, regardless of how many victories Spain's forces would win, the country would be constantly drained of resources in the Habsburgs' futile attempt to turn back the clock on religion. The Dutch rebels would have laid down their weapons immediately if he had stopped trying to suppress Protentantism, but his devotion to his faith would not allow him to do this. In Spain itself he mercilessly crushed Protestantism as part of his wars against the heresies. It must never be forgotten when assessing Philip's reign that these "heresies" constituted a real military threat to his realm. He would have been well aware that the Islamic lands around the Mediterranean had once been Christian. In his father's day the unsuccessful siege of Vienna by the Ottomans was a reminder of the threat from the growing Islamic Ottoman Empire, hence the fears that motivated harsh measures towards the Moriscos. In addition, the serious disturbances throughout Europe since his father's time caused by the rise of Protestantism continued. Long after his death this conflict would explode into the catastrophic, religiously ignited, Thirty Years War of 1618-48, which would ultimately undermine Spain. Even with all the silver and gold of the Americas, it was Spain itself, through taxes and the supply of soldiers, that bore the huge burden, fiscally, physically and emotionally. Western Christendom would remain rent in two, and in the end it was Christianity itself that would be undermined, though this would be long after his reign. The bureaucracy that was built up around Philip and his father to run his many dominions, with their different laws and customs, was too dependant upon a tirelessly diligent monarch or one with the judgement to choose a good man to run it, as otherwise the administation of Spain's empire would drift and be overrun with corruption. After his death, under far lesser men, who were driven primarily by ambition, this would become the case. Flawed as it was, the system was an early model of a modern state system, run increasingly on rules rather than by personal favours. However, in his reign Philip consolidated the Spain's empire overseas and ended the threat to Europe of the Ottoman Empire's navy in the Mediterranean. His navies attacked piracy, not only in European and American waters, but even in the Far East, improving safety for traders and coastal dwellers. His efforts also helped ensure the success of the Counter- Reformation in staunching the collapse of the Roman Catholic faith. Philip was a complex man, and though given to suspicion of members of his court, was not the cruel tyrant that has been painted of him by his opponents down the centuries. Under him there were no arbitary executions, as occured occasionally in other realms. Disgracefully, the Atlantic slave trade grew under his reign, which was to eventually give rise to the expression "trabajar como un negro" - "work like a black" - an indirect admission of cruel exploitation, but the humanity of black slaves was never systematically denied as was to occur later, under the very much larger, and immensely lucrative British slave trade of the eighteenth century. However King Phil;ip was genuinely interested in the needs of his subjects, even intervening personally on behalf of the humblest of them, not for any public show, as do modern politicians. He passed laws, albeit ineffective ones, in the empire's remote territories, in order to protect indigenous peoples, because he genuinely believed, as a Christian, all were equal before God. Above all he was a man of duty.

He died in 1598 and was succeeded by his son, King Philip III. Philip's enemies (generally protestant propagandists), were instrumental in the creation of the Black Legend of Spain, depicting Philip II as a bloodthirsty tyrant among other things. This view has recently been challenged by revisionist historians.

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Preceded by:
Anthony I
disputed with Henry I
King of Portugal
Succeeded by:
Philip II/III
Preceded by:
Charles I
King of Naples and Sicily
King of Spain
Duke of Brabant, Guelders, Limburg, Lothier and Luxembourg
Count of Artois, Burgundy, Flanders, Hainaut and Namur

Succeeded by:
Isabella and Albert
Count of Holland, Zeeland and Zutphen
lost to the United Provinces
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