- Describe Philip II’s convictions and how he attempted to carry them out
- During the reign of Philip II, Spain reached the height of its influence and power, and remained firmly Roman Catholic. Philip saw himself as a champion of Catholicism, both against the Muslim Ottoman Empire and the Protestants.
- As the Spanish Empire was not a single monarchy with one legal system but a federation of separate realms, Philip often found his authority overruled by local assemblies, and his word less effective than that of local lords.
- When Philip’s health began failing, he worked from his quarters in the Palace-Monastery-Pantheon of El Escorial, which he built with Juan Batista de Toledo and which was another expression of Philip’s commitments to protect Catholics against the raising influence of Protestantism across Europe.
- Philip’s foreign policies were determined by a combination of Catholic fervor and dynastic objectives. He considered himself the chief defender of Catholic Europe, both against the Ottoman Turks and against the forces of the Protestant Reformation.
- Wars with Dutch Provinces, England, France, and the Ottoman Empire all had the undermining religious aspects of protecting Catholicism in increasingly Protestant Europe or protecting Christianity against Islam.
- Because Philip II was the most powerful European monarch in an era of war and religious conflict, evaluating both his reign and the man himself has become a controversial historical subject.
A term used to refer to former Muslims who converted, or were coerced into converting, to Christianity after Spain outlawed the open practice of Islam by its Mudejar population in the early 16th century. The group was subject to systematic expulsions from Spain’s various kingdoms between 1609 and 1614, the most severe of which occurred in the eastern Kingdom of Valencia.
Eighty Years’ War
A revolt, known also as the Dutch War of Independence (1568–1648), of the Seventeen Provinces against the political and religious hegemony of Philip II of Spain, the sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands.
A Spanish fleet of 130 ships that sailed from A Coruña in August 1588 with the purpose of escorting an army from Flanders to invade England. The strategic aim was to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I of England and the Tudor establishment of Protestantism in England.
A major participant in the French Wars of Religion, formed by Henry I, Duke of Guise, in 1576. It intended the eradication of Protestants—also known as Calvinists or Huguenots—out of Catholic France during the Protestant Reformation, as well as the replacement of King Henry III. Pope Sixtus V, Philip II of Spain, and the Jesuits were all supporters of this Catholic party.
A Latin term that means “by right of (his) wife.” It is most commonly used to refer to a title of nobility held by a man because his wife holds it suo jure (“in her own right”). Similarly, the husband of an heiress could become the legal possessor of her lands jure uxoris, “by right of [his] wife.” Jure uxoris monarchs are not to be confused with kings consort, who were merely consorts of their wives, not co-rulers.
Philip II of Spain
The son of Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire and his wife, Infanta Isabella of Portugal, Philip II of Spain was born in 1527. Known in Spain as “Philip the Prudent,” his empire included territories on every continent then known to Europeans, including his namesake the Philippine Islands. During his reign, Spain reached the height of its influence and power, and remained firmly Roman Catholic. Philip saw himself as a champion of Catholicism, both against the Muslim Ottoman Empire and the Protestants. He was the king of Spain from
1556 to 1598.
Philip was married four times and had children with three of his wives. All the marriages had important political implications, as they connected Philip, and thus Spain, with powerful European courts. Philip’s first wife was his first cousin Maria Manuela, Princess of Portugal. She was a daughter of Philip’s maternal uncle, John III of Portugal, and paternal aunt, Catherine of Austria. Philip’s second wife was his first cousin once removed Queen Mary I of England. By this marriage, Philip became jure uxoris king of England and Ireland, although the couple was apart more than together as they ruled their respective countries. The marriage produced no children and Mary died in 1558, ending Philip’s reign in England and Ireland. Philip’s third wife was Elisabeth of Valois, the eldest daughter of Henry II of France and Catherine de’ Medici. Philip’s fourth and final wife was his niece Anna of Austria.
The Spanish Empire was not a single monarchy with one legal system but a federation of separate realms, each jealously guarding its own rights against those of the House of Habsburg. In practice, Philip often found his authority overruled by local assemblies and his word less effective than that of local lords. He also grappled with the problem of the large Morisco population in Spain, who were forcibly converted to Christianity by his predecessors. In 1569, the Morisco Revolt broke out in the southern province of Granada in defiance of attempts to suppress Moorish customs, and Philip ordered the expulsion of the Moriscos from Granada and their dispersal to other provinces.
Despite its immense dominions, Spain was a country with a sparse population that yielded a limited income to the crown (in contrast to France, for example, which was much more heavily populated). Philip faced major difficulties in raising taxes, the collection of which was largely farmed out to local lords. He was able to finance his military campaigns only by taxing and exploiting the local resources of his empire. The flow of income from the New World proved vital to his militant foreign policy, but nonetheless his exchequer faced bankruptcy several times.
During Philip’s reign there were five separate state bankruptcies.
Whereas his father had been forced to an itinerant rule as a medieval king, Philip ruled at a critical turning point toward modernity in European history. He mainly directed state affairs, even when not at court. Indeed, when his health began failing he worked from his quarters in the Palace-Monastery-Pantheon of El Escorial he had built. El Escariol was another expression of Philip’s commitment to protect Catholics against the raising influence of Protestantism across Europe. He engaged the Spanish architect Juan Bautista de Toledo to be his collaborator. Together they designed El Escorial as a monument to Spain’s role as a center of the Christian world.
Philip’s foreign policies were determined by a combination of Catholic fervor and dynastic objectives. He considered himself the chief defender of Catholic Europe, both against the Ottoman Turks and against the forces of the Protestant Reformation. He never relented from his fight against what he saw as heresy, defending the Catholic faith and limiting freedom of worship within his territories. These territories included his patrimony in the Netherlands, where Protestantism had taken deep root. Following the Revolt of the Netherlands in 1568, Philip waged a campaign against Dutch secession. The plans to consolidate control of the Netherlands led to unrest, which gradually led to the Calvinist leadership of the revolt and the Eighty Years’ War. This conflict consumed much Spanish expenditure during the later 16th century.
Philip’s commitment to restoring Catholicism in the Protestant regions of Europe resulted also in the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604). This was an intermittent conflict between the kingdoms of Spain and England that was never formally declared. The war was punctuated by widely separated battles. In 1588, the English defeated Philip’s Spanish Armada, thwarting his planned invasion of the country to reinstate Catholicism. But the war continued for the next sixteen years, in a complex series of struggles that included France, Ireland, and the main battle zone, the Low Countries.
Two further Spanish armadas were sent in 1596 and 1597, but were frustrated in their objectives mainly because of adverse weather and poor planning. The war would not end until all the leading protagonists, including Philip, had died.
Philip financed the Catholic League during the French Wars of Religion (primarily fought between French Catholics and French Protestants, known as Huguenots). He directly intervened in the final phases of the wars (1589–1598). His interventions in the fighting—sending the Duke of Parma to end Henry IV’s siege of Paris in 1590—and the siege of Rouen in 1592 contributed to saving the French Catholic Leagues’s cause against a Protestant monarchy. In 1593, Henry agreed to convert to Catholicism. Weary of war, most French Catholics switched to his side against the hardline core of the Catholic League, who were portrayed by Henry’s propagandists as puppets of a foreign monarch, Philip. By the end of 1594 certain league members were still working against Henry across the country, but all relied on the support of Spain. In 1595, therefore, Henry officially declared war on Spain, to show Catholics that Philip was using religion as a cover for an attack on the French state and Protestants that he had not become a puppet of Spain through his conversion, while hoping to take the war to Spain and make territorial gain.
The war was only drawn to an official close with the Peace of Vervins in May 1598; Spanish forces and subsidies were withdrawn. Meanwhile, Henry issued the Edict of Nantes, which offered a high degree of religious toleration for French Protestants. The military interventions in France thus ended in an ironic fashion for Philip: they had failed to oust Henry from the throne or suppress Protestantism in France and yet they had played a decisive part in helping the French Catholic cause gain the conversion of Henry, ensuring that Catholicism would remain France’s official and majority faith—matters of paramount importance for the devoutly Catholic Spanish king.
Earlier, after several setbacks in his reign and especially that of his father, Philip had achieved a decisive victory against the Turks at the Lepanto in 1571, with the allied fleet of the Holy League, which he had put under the command of his illegitimate brother, John of Austria. He also successfully secured his succession to the throne of Portugal.
Because Philip II was the most powerful European monarch in an era of war and religious conflict, evaluating both his reign and the man himself has become a controversial historical subject. Even in countries that remained Catholic, primarily France and the Italian states, fear and envy of Spanish success and domination created a wide receptiveness for the worst possible descriptions of Philip II. Although some efforts have been made to separate legend from reality, that task has been proven extremely difficult, since many prejudices are rooted in the cultural heritage of European countries. Spanish-speaking historians tend to assess his political and military achievements, sometimes deliberately avoiding issues such as the king’s lukewarm attitude (or even support) toward Catholic fanaticism. English-speaking historians tend to show Philip II as a fanatical, despotic, criminal, imperialist monster, minimizing his military victories.