Philip II of Spain (1527–1598)

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Philip II of Spain (1527–1598)

Philip II of Spain (b. 21 May 1527; d. 13 September 1598), king of Spain (1556–1598), king of Naples and Sicily (1554–1598), and, as Philip I, king of Portugal (1580–1598).

Philip's priorities were religion, justice, and peace, although circumstances occasionally forced him to subordinate one in pursuit of another. Diplomacy and concern about an heir brought him four marriages: the Portuguese infanta María (1543–1545), who died giving birth to Don Carlos; Mary Tudor of England (1554–1558); Elizabeth of Valois (1559–1568), as part of the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis, who bore him two daughters; and his niece Anna of Austria (1570–1580), who bore him one daughter and four sons, only one of whom (Philip III) survived to adulthood.

Very deliberate in making decisions, Philip did much of his own paperwork and was unwilling to delegate authority to ministers whom he did not wholly trust, often with good reason. Nor did he have reason to trust his son and heir, Don Carlos, whom he confined in 1568 until the latter's death six months later.

Foreign policy, the first concern of Philip's government, revolved mainly around the policy toward the Netherlands after the revolt of 1566 when Calvinists overran the cities and desecrated churches. Philip's approach to governing the rebels ranged from reconciliation to brutal military suppression. The efforts consumed vast amounts of imperial revenue, increasing sums of which came from the Indies. On the southern front, Philip was menaced by the Turks and faced a revolt by the Morisco (converted Moors) population in Granada (1568). Spain delivered a resounding defeat to Turkish warships in the Gulf of Lepanto in 1571, one of the few instances when Spain acted in concert with the papacy. Philip's other major military victory was the conquest of Portugal (1580), which led to the union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns for himself and his heirs.

After the Lepanto victory, Philip again turned his attention to the problem of the Netherlands, recalling the Duke of Alva (Fernando Álvarez de Toledo) in 1573 and instituting a more conciliatory policy. However, in 1576 unpaid troops mutinied and sacked the city of Antwerp. In response, the seventeen northern provinces demanded withdrawal of all foreign troops, but left the religious issue unsettled until 1579, when the rebels and the Catholic estates formed separate unions. Although Spain retook Antwerp, Philip soon realized he would have to come to terms with a major source of Dutch support, and thus prepared the Armada for an invasion of England (1588). In 1599 Philip entrusted the government of the Netherlands to his nephew, Archduke (of Austria) Albert, and the infanta Isabella. Toward the end of his reign Philip put down a short-lived rebellion in Aragon (1590–1591), which linked the liberty of his former secretary, Antonio Pérez, with the liberties of Aragon and in the end allowed a little more royal authority in the kingdom.

Philip's costly foreign policy forced him to declare bankruptcy four times during his reign—in 1557, 1560, 1575, and 1596—despite raising taxes at home and a booming Indies trade. Although his total annual income tripled between 1560 and 1598, it was never enough to cover expenses. The Indies revenue, which included silver from the mines of Potosí (discovered in 1545), never constituted more than a quarter of the crown's total income, but it was especially valuable because it was generally dependable and in the form of hard cash that was internationally negotiable. Drake's destruction of the New Spain fleet in the port of Cádiz (1587), followed by the losses incurred by the Armada expedition (1588), shook the confidence of Spanish merchants, but Spain recovered by reorganizing fortifications and employing smaller and faster ships.

During Philip's reign, the era of conquest in the New World cametoanend and bureaucrats increased royal control over the heirs of the conquistadores.

See alsoConquistadores; Mining: Colonial Spanish America.


H. G. Koenigsberger, "The Statecraft of Philip II," European Studies Review 1, no. 1 (1971): 1-21.

Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, translated by Sian Reynolds (1972).

Peter Pierson, Philip II of Spain (1975).

I. A. A. Thompson, War and Government in Habsburg Spain, 1560–1620 (1976).

Geoffrey Parker, Philip II (1978).

Additional Bibliography

Hilliam, David. Philip II: King of Spain and Leader of the Counter- Reformation. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 2005.

Kamen, Henry. Philip of Spain. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

Morales Folguera, José Miguel. La construcción de la utopía: El proyecto de Felipe II (1556–1598) para Hispanoamérica. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 2001.

Parker, Geoffrey. The Grand Strategy of Philip II. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.

Williams, Patrick. Philip II. New York: Palgrave, 2000.

                              Suzanne Hiles Burkholder

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Philip II of Spain (1527–1598)

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