Philip II, King of Spain

views updated


Reigned 1556 to 1598: b. Valladolid, May 21, 1527;d. the Escorial, Sept. 13, 1598. He was the son of Charles I of Spain (the Emperor charles v) and Isabella of Portugal. He received his early education from Juan Martínez Siliceo, Bishop of Cartagena, an indulgent tutor, and Juan de Zúñiga, grand-commander of Castile, who provided a more systematic education, imparting piety and seriousness to his pupil as well as an extensive knowledge of history and an appreciation of scholarship, the arts, and politics.

His Empire. Philip's apprenticeship in government began in 1543 as regent in Spain during his father's absence in Germany. From 1549 Philip traveled in the Low Countries and Germany, and in 1554 played his first major role in the Emperor's foreign policy with his marriage to Mary Tudor, Queen of England, on which occasion his father gave him the Kingdom of Naples and the Duchy of Milan. When the Emperor decided to retire, he abdicated to Philip on Oct. 25, 1555, the sovereignty of the Low Countries; on Jan 16, 1556, Philip received the crown of Castile with Navarre and the Indies, the crown of Aragon-Catalonia with Sardinia, and the crown of Sicily. He was now the ruler of a world empire. But it was not the empire of Charles V. After the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis with France in April 1559, Philip returned from the Low Countries to the Iberian Peninsula, where he remained for the rest of his reign. Financial difficulties forced him to settle in Spain, impose his authority, and withdraw from the widepread commitments of his father. In the process, the empire he ruled changed, not in size, but in character. Less ecumenical than that of Charles V, who had already lost Germany, it was also more solid, being firmly based in the Iberian Peninsula, and was essentially Castilian in character.

Domestic Tragedies. Philip II, whose accession was exceptionally free of complication, found it less easy to provide for his successor. He married Maria of Portugal in 1543; within two years she had died in bearing him the Infante Don Carlos. In 1554 he married mary tudor, but the union was barren of children and, on Philip's side, of love. His marriage to Elizabeth of Valois in 1559 was also a diplomatic arrangement, but Philip grew to love his third wife and was desolate when she died in 1568, having borne him two surviving daughters. Her death was preceded by that on July 25, 1568, of Philip's problem son, Don Carlos, who had been mentally and physically abnormal. As a result of his deranged and dangerous meddling in affairs of state, Philip regarded him as permanently unfit to rule. He therefore confined him in January 1568, partly in his son's own interest but above all to prevent his succeeding to the throne, and perhaps with

the intention of disinheriting him. His enemies accused the King of poisoning his son, a charge not proved by available evidence. In 1579 he married his fourth and last wife, Anne of Austria. Of the five children she bore him, only one survived, and he was to succeed his father as Philip III. These personal tragedies left their mark on Philip II, who behind the mask of sovereignty, was a sensitive man and devoted to his family.

Exercise of Power. In other ways, however, Philip was completely attuned to the exercise of power; he took the disaster of the armada with the same equanimity as the triumph of Lepanto. He had a high sense of royal prerogative and with it a notion of personal duty that made him one of the most hard-working monarchs in history. He ruled his empire from his desk, dealing personally with all affairs of state. His distrust of subordinates was due to his anxiety to prevent the crown becoming a cipher in the hands of the aristocracy; his notorious slowness was not simply a defect of character but was imposed by circumstances, for he had to measure the distant repercussions of his acts, governing as he did an immense empire

formed of constituent kingdoms separated by vast distances. His system of government was one of absolute monarchy; he was assisted, but never controlled, by his councils and secretaries. He completed the unification of the peninsula, annexing Portugal in 1580 and crushing a separatist revolt in Aragon in 1591. But he always respected the semi-autonomous status of the constituent kingdoms. In the administration of justice, he wrote that "in cases of doubt the verdict must always be given against me."

Concern for Religious Orthodoxy. Philip's religious beliefs were firmly based and carefully practiced. The affairs of the Church were his daily concern, and he was known to be a friend of religious reform, as St. Teresa of Jesus acknowledged when he assisted her Discalced Carmelite reform. His religious devotion, combined with a taste for literature, art, and science, gave birth to the greatest architectural monument of his reign, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, which was at once a monastery and a palace. Like other contemporary rulers, he was intolerant of religious dissent. One of his first actions when he returned to Spain in 1559 was to attend an auto de fe, one of a series that eliminated the faint traces of Protestantism in Spain; and in 1570 he ruthlessly suppressed a rebellion of Moriscos (convert Moors), in Granada, which the intemperance of the Spanish Inquisition itself had provoked. Philip even permitted the Inquisition to try the Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Carranza, whose orthodoxy it questioned and to keep him in prison for 17 years. Philip regarded these as essential measures of state to strengthen his power, the first because Protestantism itself was unapproachable, the second because Granada was a potential bridgehead for his Islamic enemies in the Mediterranean. His concern for orthodoxy was also seen in the support he gave Pope pius iv for reconvening the Council of trent in 1562 and for the Council's adoption of a specifically Catholic position.

Relations with Rome. However, on two issues (episcopal jurisdiction and the prerogatives of the crown, especially in ecclesiastical appointments), Philip II adopted a national point of view, and he published the decrees of Trent in his dominions only with the proviso that they would not encroach on the ecclesiastical rights of the Spanish crown. Philip supported the Spanish inquisition against Rome as well. Indeed, on ecclesiastical jurisdiction and on foreign policy Philip clashed with almost every pope with whom he dealt, which makes it impossible to regard him as "the secular arm of the Counter Reformation." After the victory of lepanto (1571), Philip withdrew from the papal-led Holy League and, in spite of the Pope's pressure, began a policy of disengagement from the Turks. In northern Europe, he was equally reserved about papal policy. He long repudiated aggressive Catholic plans against elizabeth i, for he had no wish to further the cause of mary, queen of scots, and thus of his enemy, France. When he finally decided to invade England, it was for a series of political and economic reasons rather than religious ones; his objective was to strike at the source of English harassment of Spain and its empire. Philip wanted the cooperation of the papacy for financial reasons and for moral support of his claim to dispose of the crown of England. But his alliance with six tus v in 1587 was not a fruitful one. The Pope had little faith in the Armada and feared that a Spanish victory would overthrow the balance of power in Europe; for the same reason, he and his successors refused to support Philip II in his claim to the French throne in the last years of his reign. Philip II, on the other hand, believed that his own cause and that of the Church were identical.

Bibliography: j. lynch, Spain Under the Hapsburgs (Oxford 1964) v.1. r. b. merriman, Rise of the Spanish Empire in the Old World and in the New, 4 v. (New York 191834) v.4. f. braudel, La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l'époque de Philippe II (Paris 1949). l. fernÁndez y fernÁndez de retana, España en tiempo de Felipe II, 15661598, 2 v. (Historia de España, gen. ed. r. menÉndez pidal 19; Madrid 1958). j. h. elliott, Imperial Spain, 14691716 (Toronto 1963). h. lapeyre, "Autour de Philippe II," Bulletin Hispanique 59 (1957) 152175. p. gallagher and d. w. cruickshank, eds., God's Obvious Design: Papers for the Spanish Armada Symposium, Sligo 1988 (London 1990). m. j. rodriguez-salgado and s. adams, eds., England, Spain and the Grand Armada 15851604: Essays from the Anglo-Spanish Conferences, London and Madrid 1988 (Edinburgh 1991). h. kamen, Philip of Spain (New Haven and London 1997). j. martÍnez millÁn, ed., Felipe II, 1527-1598: Europa y las monarquía católica (Spain 1998). e. martÍnez ruiz, ed., Madrid, Felipe II y las ciudades de la monarquía (Madrid 2000).

[j. lynch]

About this article

Philip II, King of Spain

Updated About content Print Article