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Charles II of Spain (1661–1700)

Charles II of Spain (1661–1700)

Charles II of Spain (b. November 1661; d. 1 November 1700), king of Spain, Naples, and Sicily (1665–1700). Chronically ill throughout his life, Charles II ruled early on through his mother, as regent, and a five-member government junta, which was an aristocratic faction headed by his illegitimate brother, Don John of Austria. Toward the end of his reign, he ruled through titled prime ministers. Charles's reign was marked by increasing governmental decentralization accompanied by a resurgence of aristocratic influence in government and a revival of provincial liberties.

During Charles's tenuous rule, Spain fought the French to retain the Spanish Netherlands but lost strategic territory at considerable cost to the ailing economy. In addition to this costly war, Castile suffered a number of natural disasters—harvest failures caused by a drought-and-deluge cycle, locusts, an earthquake, and epidemics—all of which exacerbated the effects of monetary depression. Yet Castile's very weakness forced its ministers to recognize the need for administrative and economic reforms and to act upon it, a policy that characterized the reigns of Charles's Bourbon successors. One of the bright spots of his reign was the 1680 publication of a vast compendium of the local laws of America, known as the Recopilación de las leyes de Indias. The crown intended to use this information to keep the legal codes of Spain and the Americas as close in nature as possible. The local precedent often trumped the laws encoded in the Recopilación; however, such as in 1685 when the Viceroyalty of Peru printed its own Recopilación provincial, a compendium of laws created by Peruvian viceroys.

See alsoSpanish Empire .


John Lynch, Spain Under the Habsburgs, vol. 2, Spain and America 1598–1700 (1964–1969), esp. pp. 229-280.

Henry Kamen, Spain in the Later Seventeenth Century, 1665–1700 (1980).

Additional Bibliography

Elliott, John. Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492–1830. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.

Elliott, John. Imperial Spain: 1469–1716. New York: Penguin Books, c. 1963, 1990.

Kamen, Henry. Empire: How Spain Became a World Power, 1492–1763. New York: Harper Collins, 2003.

Kamen, Henry. Spain, 1469–1714. A Society of Conflict. London: Longman, 1991.

Lynch, John. The Hispanic World in Crisis and Change, 1598–1700. London: Blackwell Publishers, 1994.

                           Suzanne Hiles Burkholder

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