Philip II 1527–1598

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Philip II

Philip II, king of Spain, was the first sovereign in history to rule a world empire upon which the sun never set. Overseas treasure and trade proved important in his statecraft and wars.

In 1556 he succeeded his father, Emperor Charles V (1500–1558), to rule Spain, the chief Caribbean islands, Florida, Mexico, and Central and South America except Brazil. In 1565 Spanish conquistadors began the conquest of the Philippines (named after him), and opened a trans-Pacific trade route to Mexico, sailed annually by the Manila galleon. The Casa de Contratación (House of Trade) in Seville, established in 1503 regulated Spain's commerce with the Americas, and the annual treasure fleets that brought the gold and silver used in Philip's wars and Europe's trade with Asia. Little remained for his efforts to improve the science of navigation. In 1580 Philip acquired Portugal and its rich commercial empire: Brazil, African outposts involved in the slave trade, Goa and other ports on India's west coast, Malacca in Malaysia, Macao, and Indonesia's Spice Islands. Spanish trade with the new world grew, as did Portuguese trade with Asia, until the 1590s, when the effects of Philip's war with Asia, until the 1590s, when the effects of Philip's wars started its steady declined.

In Europe Philip inherited the Low Countries (today's Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands), much of Italy, and wars with the Turks. A staunch Catholic, he failed to suppress Protestantism in Holland, and became involved in war with the English, who supported Dutch independence, engaged in piracy, and in 1588 defeated his invasion Armada.

SEE ALSO Elizabeth I; Empire, British; Empire, Spanish;Mediterranean;New Spain;Peru;Religion.


Kamen, Henry. Empire: How Spain Became a World Power. New York: Harper Collins, 2003.

Pierson, Peter. Philip II of Spain. London: Thames and Hudson, 1975; New York: W. W. Norton, 1975.

Peter Pierson

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Philip II 1527–1598

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