Philip IV (Spain) (1605–1665)

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PHILIP IV (SPAIN) (16051665)

PHILIP IV (SPAIN) (16051665), king of Spain (16211665). Philip, his father Philip III (15781621), and his son Charles II (16611700) are sometimes known as the "minor Habsburgs" to differentiate them from their sixteenth-century predecessors. Studies have shown that the seventeenth-century Spanish monarchs did not deserve the pejorative term, though the reevaluation is due less to their abilities than to the events of their reigns, which have been the subject of important works of revisionist history.

Philip IV came to power as war between Spain and the rebellious Dutch recommenced after the expiration of a truce. In 1618 Spain had been drawn into what became the Thirty Years' War, and in 1628 it became ensnared in the so-called War of the Mantuan Succession, which turned out to be expensive and useless as it angered Spain's natural allies and gave a victory to France. There were a few early military triumphs, among them the 1624 surrender of Breda by the Dutch and the king's brother's victory over the Swedes at the 1634 Battle of Nördlingen, immortalized respectively by Diego Rodríguez de Silva Velázquez and Peter Paul Rubens. In 1635 Spain and France declared mutual war, which ended in 1659 with the Treaty of the Pyrenees (which included a double marriage that eventually served to hand the Spanish crown to the Bourbons). Philip also oversaw the increasingly futile war with the Dutch, which ended with the 1648 Treaty of Münster and the independence of the United Provinces. In 1640 he endured rebellions by both Catalonia and Portugal. The former ended unsuccessfully for the Catalans in 1652; the latter ended in 1668, after the king's death, with the independence of Portugal.

Domestically Spain in the seventeenth century underwent a deep economic crisis. Demographic recession and dislocation, repeated epidemics, crop failures, industrial stagnation, and high taxation in Castile, all linked to the continual warfare, contributed to the famed "decline of Spain" which, though more nuanced than often depicted, was nonetheless indisputable and has become emblematic of Philip's reign.

Philip is best known for the men who surrounded him. Like his father, Philip had advisers who often were accused by jealous noblemen of usurping the throne. The greatest of these favorites was Gaspar de Guzmán, the count-duke of Olivares (15871645), whose rival and counterpart across the Pyrenees was Cardinal Richelieu (15851642) of the court of Louis XIII (ruled 16101643). Olivares trained and cultivated the young king, seeing in him the possibility of restoring Spain's fortune and reputation. Though Philip has been dismissed as a monarch who essentially abdicated, his correspondence shows he was not a puppet. He shared with the powerful Olivares a frantic desire not only to triumph on Europe's battlefields but to reform Spain from within, the latter desire fueled by the former. Philip spent his entire reign not only waging war on multiple fronts but balancing the competing interests of his vassalsthe aristocracy, the cities, and the commonersall of whom he was forced to negotiate with to obtain revenues to raise and maintain the military.

Philip's reign coincided with the Siglo de Oro, the golden age of Spanish art and literature. The king was an important patron of literature, the theater, and the fine arts. Chief among the era's painters was Velázquez (15991660), whom Olivares engaged in an important public relations campaign. Velázquez created a magnificent series of equestrian portraits of the royal family (now housed in Madrid's Prado Museum) for the Buen Retiro palace in Madrid, which J. H. Elliott has called "a gigantic exercise in self-projection" that ultimately backfired because of the court's isolation (Elliott, 1989, p. 187). The playwright, poet, and satirist Francisco de Quevedo (15801645) was another great figure enlisted for propaganda purposes, though the relationship ended badly. Quevedo eventually was banished for championing the king over Olivares, whom he regarded as a tyrant.

Olivares fell from power in 1643, and his system of government was dismantled. That year Philip met and came under the influence of Sor María de Jesús de Agreda (16021665), a mystic with whom he corresponded for the rest of his life, receiving spiritual and political advice. Philip also acquired a new favorite, Olivares's nephew Luis de Haro (15981661), who presided over Spain's gradual disengagement from the European and peninsular conflicts. Spain's humiliations, for which Philip felt responsible, made the king's last years melancholy ones. Of equal concern was the absence of an heir. His first wife, Isabel of Bourbon, who died in 1644, had one son, who died in 1646 at the age of seventeen. Philip then married his niece, Mariana of Austria, whose second son, Charles, inherited the throne upon Philip's death in 1665. The frail four-year-old Charles was the last of the Spanish Habsburgs.

See also Olivares, Gaspar de Guzmán y Pimentel, Count of ; Mantuan Succession, War of the (16271631) ; Thirty Years' War (16181648) ; Velázquez, Diego .


Brown, Jonathan, and J. H. Elliott. A Palace for a King: The Buen Retiro and the Court of Philip IV. New Haven, 1980.

Elliott, J. H. The Count-Duke of Olivares: The Statesman in an Age of Decline. New Haven, 1986.

. Spain and Its World, 15001700. New Haven, 1989.

La España de Felipe IV. Vol. 25 of Historia de España, edited by Ramón Menéndez Pidal. Madrid, 1982.

Lynch, John. The Hispanic World in Crisis and Change, 15981700. Oxford, 1992.

Stradling, R. A. Philip IV and the Government of Spain, 16211665. Cambridge, U.K., 1988.

Ruth MacKay

Philip IV

views updated Jun 11 2018

Philip IV

Philip IV (1605-1665) was king of Spain from 1621 to 1665. During his reign Spain was engaged in foreign wars and torn by internal revolt.

Born on April 8, 1605, Philip IV succeeded his father, Philip III, in 1621. He was more intelligent than his father but like him allowed his government to be run by minister-favorites. Philip's principal minister, Gaspar de Guzmán, Count of Olivares, dominated his councils and was the effective ruler of Spain for more than 20 years. In 1627 the ruinous expenses of Spain's involvement in the Thirty Years War forced the government to declare itself bankrupt; the war effort continued, however, and the Mantuan campaign (1628-1631) led to an open conflict with France, which became intensified in 1635.

Spanish troops at first came close to Paris, but the situation rapidly deteriorated. Olivares's desperate attempts to raise funds for the prosecution of the war provoked dissent and rebellion, and in 1640 Catalonia went into open revolt, murdered the king's agent there, and welcomed French aid in its struggle against the government of Castile. Soon afterward, Portugal rebelled and declared itself independent from Spain. Olivares's counterpart in France, Cardinal Richelieu, supplied money to both Catalonia and Portugal as French troops occupied Catalonia.

In January 1643, after visiting the war front in Aragon, Philip dismissed Olivares and declared that he would rule without a favorite. However, he soon employed one in the person of Don Luis de Haro, a nephew of Olivares. On May 19, 1643, the Spanish infantry was vanquished by the French at Rocroi. Since the beginning of the 16th century, the Spanish infantry had been regarded as the best in Europe; its defeat symbolized the downfall of Spain as a military power.

A dreary succession of setbacks marked the second half of Philip's reign. Another bankruptcy was declared in 1647, and in the same year unsuccessful revolts against Spanish rule erupted in Sicily and Naples. These events convinced Richelieu and his successor, Cardinal Mazarin, that, by pursuing an all-out war against Spain, France could gain considerable land and power in the European theater. Thus the war between the two countries continued after the Peace of Westphalia (by which Spain officially recognized the independence of the United Provinces) had concluded the Thirty Years War in 1648. Although civil war in France (the Fronde) gave the Spanish some slight respite, it could not stave off the inevitable. For although Catalonia was won back in 1652, bankruptcy was again declared in 1653.

The union of Cromwell's England with France in the war against Spain proved to be the coup de grace. Spain lost both Dunkerque and Jamaica to the English. In the Peace of the Pyrenees, concluded with France in 1659, Spain gave up Artois and territories in the Spanish Netherlands, together with Rosellón and part of Cerdaña. As part of the "peace package, " a marriage was arranged between Philip IV's daughter, Maria Theresa, and the young Louis XIV. The waiver of the Infanta's inheritance rights to Spanish territory was contingent on the payment of a dowry of 500, 000 escudos, which the French as well as the Spanish knew could never be paid. After Philip's death this clause was used as a pretext for the seizure of still more Spanish territory in the Low Countries during the War of Devolution.

Philip IV died on Sept. 17, 1665, just before Portugal's independence was recognized. In the course of his reign he had married twice. His first wife, Elizabeth of Bourbon, died in 1644; their only child died 2 years later. His second wife, Maria Anna of Austria, gave birth to one son who survived, the hapless Charles II, who was destined to be the last Hapsburg monarch of Spain.

Further Reading

There is no suitable study of Philip IV in English. The best book on the earlier half of his reign is John H. Elliott, The Revolt of the Catalans: A Study in the Decline of Spain, 1598-1640 (1963), in which he brilliantly fulfills the promise of the subtitle. Elliott's other book, Imperial Spain, 1469-1716 (1963), is an excellent overview of the period with a choice bibliography. Recommended for general historical background are C. V. Wedgwood, The Thirty Years War (1938), and Carl J. Friedrich, The Age of the Baroque, 1610-1660 (1952). □

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Philip IV (Spain)

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