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Philip II (Spain) (1527–1598; Ruled 1556–1598)

PHILIP II (SPAIN) (15271598; ruled 15561598)

PHILIP II (SPAIN) (15271598; ruled 15561598), king of Spain. Philip, the firstborn of Charles V (ruled 15161556 as Charles I [Spain]; Holy Roman emperor, ruled 15191556) and Empress Isabella, was reared in Castile. The emperor's frequent absences limited Philip's contact with his father, and he was raised in his mother's court until her death in 1539. His tutor (15341541) was the future archbishop of Toledo, Juan Martínez Siliceo (14861557), while the Castilian nobleman Juan de Zúñiga (d. 1546) headed his household from 1535 and supervised his knightly training. Philip displayed reasonable aptitude in arms and letters alike, though historians have faulted Siliceo's narrow piety, and Philip for ineptitude in modern languages. Later he would study with more illustrious tutors, including the humanist Juan Cristóbal Calvete de Estrella (d. 1593). Philip was close to his sisters, María (15281603) and Juana (15351573), and to two pages, the Portuguese nobleman Ruy Gómez de Silva (c. 15161573) and Luis de Requesens (15281576), the son of his governor Zúñiga. These men would serve him throughout their lives, as would Gonzalo Pérez (d. 1566), his secretary from 1541.

Departing Spain in 1543, Charles V named Philip his Spanish regent, leaving him experienced advisorsnotably the secretary Francisco de los Cobos (14771547) and the general Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, duke of Alba (15071582)and written instructions emphasizing the defense of Catholicism on the one hand and mistrust of his advisors and personal intimacy on the other. Charles also arranged Philip's marriage to a first cousin, María Manuela of Portugal, who died in 1545 after the birth of Don Carlos (15451568). Philip acquitted himself well as regent, taking an increasingly active role when advisors such as Cobos and Zúñiga died. In 1548, he left Spain to visit his prospective Burgundian inheritance in the Netherlands. He met Charles in Brussels in 1549 and toured the Low Countries to be formally recognized as heir. Before returning to Spain, Philip attended the Imperial Diet of Augsburg (1550) and lingered while Charles negotiated the 1551 family agreement that would leave the Holy Roman Empire to his brother Ferdinand I (ruled 15581564); Philip would inherit Charles's other lands, then succeed his uncle as emperor. Subsequent reverses in Germany, however, invalidated this plan, and Philip renounced his claims to the empire in 1555.

Philip returned to Spain in mid-1551 and resumed his duties as regent. In 1553, in Brussels, Charles negotiated Philip's marriage to Mary Tudor of England (ruled 15531558) without consulting the prospective groom, who preferred a Portuguese match and had little interest in Mary or England. Nevertheless, Philip wed Mary in July 1554, receiving Naples and Milan from his father as wedding gifts. He spent fifteen frustrating months as consort in England before departing in September 1555 after Mary's pregnancy proved false.

Having resolved to abdicate, Charles relinquished the Netherlands to Philip in a Brussels ceremony (25 October 1555). A few months later (16 January 1556) Charles resigned Spain and its territories, subsequently transferring the Franche-Comté andwith dubious legalityimperial suzerainty in Italy to his son, now Philip II of Spain. The emperor retired to Castile, where he died in 1558. The young king was soon tested by his dynasty's enemies. War with Pope Paul IV (15551559) broke out in 1556, triggering a wider war against Henry II of France (ruled 15471559) in 1557. Alba quickly triumphed in Italy, while victories over the French at St. Quentin (10 August 1557) and Gravelines (13 July 1558) led to the 1559 Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis. Mary Tudor died in 1558, enabling Philip to seal the treaty by marrying Henry II's daughter, Isabelle de Valois.


Philip returned to Castile in 1559, establishing his court permanently at Madrid in 1561. He would never again leave Iberia. During his first years in Spain the Inquisitor-General Fernando de Valdés (14831568) spearheaded a campaign against heterodoxy, rooting out Protestant cells within Castile and contriving to destroy his rival (and Philip's confidant), Bartolomé de Carranza (15031576), archbishop of Toledo. Philip's government strove to rebuild crown finances, crushed by decades of military expenditures, and succeeded by 1562 in increasing Castilian revenues by 43 percent. During this period rivalry between two principal ministers, Ruy Gómez de Silva (now prince of Éboli) and the duke of Alba dominated the court. By 1565, Éboli's influence waned while Philip elevated Diego de Espinosa (15021572) to president of the Council of Castile, inquisitor-general, and cardinal. Espinosa's repressive policies provoked the Granadine Morisco revolt (15681570), suppressed with difficulty by forces under Don Juan de Austria (15471578), Philip's illegitimate half-brother.

As Espinosa (1572) and Éboli died (1573), and Alba fell from grace, Philip governed more personally through secretaries such as Mateo Vázquez de Leca (15431591) and Antonio Pérez (15401611). Increasingly the king manifested the traits of a roi casanier ('stay-at-home king')sedentary, obsessed with redacting state papers, and reclusive, retiring for months at a time to the Escorial and other palaces. Personal tragedy prompted some of Philip's introversion. His heir Don Carlos died insane under house arrest in 1568, soon followed to the grave by Queen Isabelle, who left Philip two daughters, Isabel Clara Eugenia (15661633) and Catalina Micaela (15671598). To secure the succession, Philip married his niece, Anna of Austria (15491580), in 1570. They had five children, including the eventual heir, Philip III (ruled 15981621). Philip's isolation allowed Antonio Pérez to embroil him in the 1578 murder of Don Juan de Austria's secretary, Juan de Escobedo. The unraveling of Pérez's plot forced him to flee to Zaragoza and caused the revolt of Aragón (1591). Philip sent Castilian troops to suppress the uprising, but afterward left most traditional Aragonese privileges intact.

Philip's reign in Iberia was marked by one great triumphthe annexation of Portugal and its empire in 15801581, following the death of his nephew, King Sebastian (ruled 15571578)and also by the crown's worsening financial difficulties. Even unprecedented silver yields from America could not offset the expense of Philip's warlike policies. Four timesin 1557, 1560, 1575, and 1596he suspended payments and renegotiated terms with his bankers. From 1590, the crown imposed the regressive excises known as the millones ('millions'). Royal debtCastile's share tripled to 85 million ducats between 1560 and 1598and mounting taxation contributed to Castilian economic deterioration, and eventually to the eclipse of Spanish power in Europe.


Constant warfareagainst Muslims, rebellious subjects, and the Protestants of northwestern Europeoccupied much of the attention of Philip II, and in the long run overextended the resources of his realm. In the first decade of his reign, Philip's government faced acute threats in the Mediterranean from the naval forces of the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (ruled 15201566) and his North African clients. Spain was shocked by the loss of thirty galleys and six thousand troops at Djerba in 1560; combined with subsequent disasters, the king's fleet was reduced by 40 percent by 1562. Massive sums went into rebuilding the galleys by 1565, when García de Toledo (15141578) led them to the successful relief of the Turkish siege of Malta. That victory and the death of Suleiman provided some respite in the later 1560s, although the Morisco uprising excited fears of a Muslim invasion of Spain, while the Turkish assault on Cyprus in 1570 sharpened the threat to Venice. These anxieties fostered the brief and unstable Holy League, a naval alliance between Philip and the Venetians brokered in 1571 by Pope Pius V (15661572). Commanded by Don Juan de Austria, the Holy League inflicted a crushing defeat on the Ottoman fleet at Lepanto (7 October 1571), which would stand as the greatest victory of Philip's reign. The Holy League collapsed when Venice withdrew in 1573, but Lepanto opened a period of relative disengagement in the Mediterranean, as both Philip and his Ottoman counterparts attended to other affairs.

The early 1560s saw the progressive breakdown of religious unity and allegiance to the Spanish crown in the Low Countries as Calvinism made inroads in the southern towns, and the nobles grew restive under the government of Philip's half-sister Margaret of Parma (15221586) and Cardinal Granvelle (15171586). Philip worsened matters by appearing to relent in the face of noble protests in 15641565he dismissed Granvelle, and excited false hopes of relaxed strictures on heresybefore his continued rigidity provoked open rebellion in 1566. After some hesitation, Philip opted for repression, dispatching Alba and a Spanish army to restore order in the Low Countries in 1567. The duke's harsh measures had nearly crushed the revolt when the diversion of Castilian resources to the Holy League, coupled with the assaults of the Sea Beggars (Dutch privateers who harassed Spanish shipping), allowed rebellion to flare again in 1572. Alba was relieved of command in 1573. Despite following more flexible policies, his successors, notably Luis de Requesens (15731576) and Don Juan de Austria (15761578), could not fully restore crown authority. From 1578, Philip had a more adept governor in the Low Countries, his nephew Alexander Farnese, duke of Parma (15451592). Through shrewd diplomacy and military skill, Farnese forced the rebels onto the defensive, and perhaps only English intervention (negotiated in the 1585 Treaty of Nonsuch) thwarted Philip's reconquest of the Dutch provinces.

Elizabeth's (ruled 15581603) interference spurred a rapid deterioration in Anglo-Spanish relations, punctuated by the execution of the Catholic Mary Stuart (ruled Scotland 15421567), and Francis Drake's (1540?1596) raids on Iberian ports in 1587. Provoked, Philip activated a plan for an amphibious invasion of England, the Enterprise of England, aborted by the disastrous voyage of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Primary responsibility for its failure rests with Philip, who named a naval tyro (the duke of Medina Sidonia) to command his great fleet, while persistently disregarding the difficulties of coordination that would frustrate the planned English Channel rendezvous between Parma's Army of Flanders and the Armada. Philip impassively shrugged off this setback but beyond its cost in treasure, matériel, and trained manpower, the defeat of the Armada proved a great psychological victory for Philip's Protestant foes.

Undeterred, from 1589 Philip intervened in the final phases of the French Wars of Religion, ordering Parma's army into France in a failed effort to unseat Henry IV (ruled 15891610), and perhaps dreaming of placing his favorite daughter, Isabel Clara Eugenia, on the French throne. This adventure too came to naught (and cost Farnese his life), and Philip II's long reign ended with his negotiation of the inconclusive Peace of Vervins with Henry IV in 1598. This treaty and Philip's designation of Isabel Clara Eugenia and her consort the Archduke Albert (15591621) as rulers of the Low Countries were intended to scale back the monarchy's commitments for the benefit of the king's callow heir, Philip III, but the costly and seemingly endless conflict in the Low Countries would bedevil the Spanish Habsburgs for another half-century.


As the bête noire of late sixteenth-century Protestantism, Philip II acquired an odious reputation, which grew only more fearsome with the passage of time. His vexed and conflicted relations with several popes, however, belie any notion that he was a simple pawn of the church, while accusations of cruel treachery should be balanced against the conscientiousness attested by the king's work habits, and the concern for his subjects' welfare reflected in his 1559 instructions to a viceroy: "The first thing you must realize is that the community was not created for the prince but rather that the prince was created for the sake of the community."

Conversely, the traditional Castilian appreciation of Philip II as el rey prudente ('the prudent king') will not withstand critical scrutiny either. In crises, his vaunted deliberation in reaching decisions partook more of avoidance than prudence. Philip's bureaucratic and reclusive bent and his mistrust of his counselors led to decision making divorced from practical considerations. The king repeatedly privileged statecraft over politics, for example, in his choice to impose his will on the Low Countries by proxy rather than journeying north to conciliate his powerful subjects. A cleric excoriated Philip for "the manner of transacting business adopted by your majesty, being permanently seated at your papers . . . in order to have a better reason to escape from people." The Armada fiasco and the quixotism of the Spanish intervention in France testify to Philip's recklessness rather than prudence, while the lasting deleterious effects of his unrelenting wars arose largely from his lifelong inability to grasp the monarchy's financial circumstances or the consequences of his expenditures.

Throughout his reign, Philip II tenaciously guarded his territorial inheritance from Charles V and heeded the emperor's 1543 warning not to "allow heretics to enter into your kingdoms." The lingering quagmire of the Netherlands war was the principal legacy of the policies Philip learned from the father, whom he did not know well but extravagantly admired. Even on his deathbed, Philip continued to defer to his father, ordering the exhumation of Charles V so he might learn what a ruler properly wore to the grave, and grasping the emperor's crucifix as he expired at the Escorial in September 1598. Overmatched by his myriad responsibilities, during a long reign Philip did his duty, but failed to achieve his fondest goals.

See also Alba, Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, duke of ; Armada, Spanish ; Burgundy ; Calvinism ; Cateau-Cambrésis (1559) ; Charles V (Holy Roman Empire) ; Cobos, Francisco de los ; Dutch Republic ; Dutch Revolt (15681648) ; Éboli, Ruy Gómez de Silva, prince of ; Elizabeth I (England) ; Ferdinand I (Holy Roman Empire) ; Granada ; Henry II (France) ; Henry IV (France) ; Holy Leagues ; Holy Roman Empire ; Inquisition, Spanish ; Isabel Clara Eugenia and Albert of Habsburg ; Juan de Austria, Don ; Lepanto, Battle of ; Mary I (England) ; Medina Sidonia, Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, 7th duke of ; Moriscos ; Moriscos, Expulsion of (Spain) ; Netherlands, Southern ; Ottoman Empire ; Parma, Alexander Farnese, duke of ; Philip III (Spain) ; Pius IV (pope) ; Pius V (pope) ; Portugal ; Sea Beggars ; Spain ; Suleiman I ; Wars of Religion, French ; William of Orange .


Primary Sources

Cabrera de Córdoba, Luis. Historia de Felipe II, rey de España. 4 vols. 1998. First two volumes first published 1619.

Porreño, Baltasar. Dichos y hechos del rey D. Felipe II. Edited by Ángel González Palencia. Madrid, 1942. First edition, 1628.

Secondary Sources

Bouza Álvarez, Fernando. "La majestad de Felipe II: Construcción del mito real." In La corte de Felipe II, edited by José Martínez Millán, pp. 3772. Madrid, 1994. Brilliantly suggestive.

Bratli, Carl. Felipe II, rey de España: Estudio sobre su vida y su carácter. Translated by Ángel Vega. Madrid, 1927. 1st ed. Copenhagen, 1909. Dated but perspicacious.

Eire, Carlos M. N. From Madrid to Purgatory: The Art and Craft of Dying in Sixteenth-Century Spain. Cambridge, U.K., 1995. Book 2 provides a fascinating account of Philip's death.

Kamen, Henry. Philip of Spain. New Haven, 1997. A favorable recent life.

Koenigsberger, H. G. "The Statecraft of Philip II." European Studies Review 1 (1971): 121. Concise and stimulating.

Marañón, Gregorio. Antonio Pérez (El hombre, el drama, la época). 2 vols. 6th ed. Madrid, 1958. Vol. 1, chapter 3 offers an influential and controversial assessment of the king's personality.

Mattingly, Garrett. The Armada. Boston, 1959. Unsurpassed narrative of the climax of Philip's wars.

Parker, Geoffrey. The Grand Strategy of Philip II. New Haven, Conn., 1998. Especially valuable for delineating Philip's governing style.

. Philip II. 4th ed. Chicago, 2002. Concise and readable.

Rule, John C., and John TePaske, eds. The Character of Philip II: The Problem of Moral Judgments in History. Boston, 1963. Useful excerpts from contemporary observers and later historians.

Williams, Patrick. Philip II. New York, 2001. A judicious synthesis.

James M. Boyden

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Philip II

Philip II

Philip II (1527-1598) was king of Spain from 1556 to 1598. During his reign the Spanish Empire was severely challenged and its economic, social, and political institutions strained almost to the breaking point.

The son of Emperor Charles V, Philip II inherited the larger portion of his father's dominions: Spain, the Low Countries (basically the Netherlands and Belgium of today), Franche-Comté, Sicily and southern Italy, the duchy of Milan, and Spain's colonies in the New World, including Mexico and much of South America. But the inheritance inevitably included the host of problems which his father had left unsolved or which were incapable of being solved. The other part of Charles's dominions, the Holy Roman Empire, was bequeathed to his brother Ferdinand, Philip's uncle.

Philip was born in Valladolid on May 21, 1527, at the outset of the religious and political wars that divided Europe and drained the resources of every major European country. France, the principal opponent of Emperor Charles's ambition, was likewise the chief rival of Philip's Spain. When he acceded to the throne in 1556, the two countries were still at war; peace was concluded at Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559, largely because both states were financially exhausted.

The need to find money and enforce order in his territories led to Philip's clash with his Dutch subjects, a clash that produced the first war for national independence in modern European history and eventually drew Philip into the ill-fated Armada expedition. Spain's resources, including its commercial and military lifeline to northern and southern Italy, were meanwhile threatened in the Mediterranean by the Turkish fleet and the incursions of pirates, largely operating out of North African ports.

On the one side combating rebellious Protestant subjects and on the other confronting the advance of Islam, Philip II has often been depicted as the secular arm of the Catholic Church, a religious zealot who sought to erase heresy and infidelity through military conquest. This, however, is a simplification and is misleading. He was indeed a devout Catholic and vitally concerned with the suppression of "heresy" in all the territory over which he ruled. But his policies and choices must also be viewed in the light of what he considered to be Spanish national interests.

Early Life

Philip's first marriage (1543) was to his cousin Maria of Portugal, who lived but 2 years, leaving a son, Don Carlos. To consolidate his empire and afford protection for his holdings in the Low Countries, Charles then married Philip to Mary Tudor of England, the Catholic queen of a basically Protestant country. Philip's stay in England was not a happy one, and Mary died in 1558 to be succeeded by her half sister, Elizabeth. His ties with England broken, Philip returned to Spain via Flanders in 1559. In that year the peace treaty with France was signed. The temporary harmony between the two powers was symbolized by Philip's marriage with Elizabeth of Valois, the daughter of the king of France, who proved to be his favorite wife.

Philip had succeeded his father as king of Spain in 1556. Unlike Charles V, Philip was to be a "national" monarch instead of a ruler who traveled from one kingdom to another. Though he was to travel widely throughout the Iberian Peninsula, he would never leave it again.

Personally, Philip was fair, spoke softly, and had an icy self-mastery; in the words of one of his ministers, he had a smile that cut like a sword. He immersed himself in an ocean of paperwork, studying dispatches and documents and adding marginal comments on them while scores of other documents and dispatches piled up on tables and in anterooms.

With the problems of communication in Philip's far-flung empire, once a decision was made it could not be undone. As king, he preferred to reserve all final decisions to himself; he mistrusted powerful and independent personalities and rarely reposed much confidence in aides. This personal stamp of authority during Philip's reign was in sharp contrast to the era of minister-favorites in 17th-century Spain. His private life included a delight in art, in the cultivation of flowers, in religious reading (his reign coincided with the great age of Spanish mysticism), and above all in the conception and building of the Escorial, the royal palace outside Madrid whose completion was perhaps the greatest joy of his life.

A combination palace, monastery, and mausoleum, the Escorial was Philip's preferred place for working. In a complex that included a place for his own tomb, naturally the thought of his successor concerned Philip greatly. His son Don Carlos was abnormal, mentally and physically, and on no account fit to become a responsible ruler. Philip was aware that contacts had been made between his son and political enemies. He had Don Carlos arrested, and what followed is one of the great historical enigmas: Don Carlos died on July 25, 1568, under mysterious circumstances that have never been explained satisfactorily. Did Philip have his son executed or did he die of natural causes? There is no persuasive proof on one side or the other. This incident was one of the most publicized in Philip's reign and one which naturally served to blacken his reputation. In any event, his fourth marriage, to Anne of Austria, produced five children, one of whom survived to succeed as Philip III.

Relations with Rome

During the Council of Trent (1545-1563) there was usually strong doctrinal accord between the papacy and Spanish bishops. The major difference lay in varying interpretations of the rights of Spanish bishops and their king visà-vis the Holy See. The King had almost total control over the Spanish Catholic Church, and although Spanish arms could advance Catholic interests, if Philip's Spain were to become supreme in Europe the Pope risked being reduced to a chaplain. One momentous occasion when they worked together came in the joint venture of Spain, the Vatican, and Venice against the Turkish navy. At Lepanto, in 1571, the Catholic forces devastated the enemy fleet. It was the most signal victory of Philip's career. Yet, although the Turks soon rebounded, Philip was never again to ally himself so strongly with Rome. The relations between Spain and the Vatican illustrate how senseless it is to speak of the "monolithic nature" of Catholicism in this era.

Dutch Revolt

In an attempt to shore up his depleted treasury and instill more centralization into his dominions, Philip disregarded the prerogatives and local traditions in the Low Countries, the most prosperous of the territories under his rule. In the 1560s he sought to exact more taxes, to impose more bishops, and to reshuffle the administration, thus provoking an increasingly militant opposition.

Protestant attacks upon Catholic churches, coupled with increasing resistance from the predominantly Catholic population, were followed by a severe response from Spain. A Spanish army moved against the rebels, executed several of their leaders, and opened the way to a broader war which lasted throughout Philip's reign. It was truly a war for national independence, with brutality and heroism on both sides and a growing identification of Protestantism (especially Calvinism) with opposition to Spain's political, religious, and economic policies. The rebels, entrenched in the north, declared themselves independent under the name of the United Provinces. The southern part (roughly the area comprising Belgium) remained under Spanish control.

Since the Dutch were subsidized by the English, and since Spanish supply ships could not safely move through the English Channel, Philip concluded that a conquest of England was necessary for the pacification of the Netherlands. But at the same time that the Dutch were in revolt, there were repeated clashes between the French royal armies and French Calvinists. The ups and downs of the warfare in France and in the Netherlands were viewed as barometers of the fortunes of European Protestantism versus Catholicism. After Philip's death, a truce with the Dutch was arranged in 1609. Though war was to break out again, the independence of the United Provinces was recognized in 1648.

The Armada

The need to cut off English subsidies and control the English Channel so as to throttle the Dutch revolt led Philip to undertake the Armada, the most famous event of his reign. The plan was for a huge fleet to rendezvous with Spanish troops in the Netherlands and then proceed to the military conquest of England, serving Philip's military and political ends and immeasurably injuring the Protestant cause. The skill of the English navy and adverse weather conditions led to a total fiasco. Though most of his ships eventually returned home to port and though Philip still dreamed of a future campaign, the expense of the expedition and the psychological shock of failure resulted in the "invincible" Armada's becoming the symbol of Philip's failure to achieve a Spanish predominance in Europe.

French Relations

As Philip sought to put down the rebellion in the Netherlands, he fomented dissension in France. French Protestants were sometimes subsidized by Spanish agents to ensure confusion in the enemy camp. Philip tried (unsuccessfully) to install his own candidate on the French throne, and Spanish troops became embroiled in the French wars. The struggle with France drew Spanish strength away from the Netherlands and so eased the pressure on the Dutch rebels. Peace was reached at the Treaty of Vervins in 1598, several months before Philip's death.

Domestic Affairs

The complexity and extent of these foreign ventures had, of course, a tremendous impact on the economy and life of Spain. There was a constant need for money and in a country where only careers in the Church and the army carried prestige and where commerce and manual labor in general were frowned upon, the already-staggering economy was crippled by a series of disasters. The costly adventures abroad were punctuated by abrasive relations between Philip and his Spanish domains over taxation and jurisdiction; a diminishing flow of silver from the American mines; a decreasing market for Spanish goods; a severe inflation; several declarations of government bankruptcy; and an agricultural crisis that sent thousands into the cities and left vast areas uncultivated. All these, together with plagues and the defeat of the Armada, were crushing blows—economically, socially, and psychologically.

Any one of these myriad problems and crises would have taxed the ingenuity of a government. Taken together and exacerbated by the strain of incessant warfare, they shook Spain to its roots. The union of Portugal to Spain in 1580 may have given Philip satisfaction but hardly lightened his burdens. He worked methodically, even fatalistically, puzzled by the workings of a God who would permit such calamities to occur. Spain had already entered into a period of sharp decline at his death on Sept. 13, 1598, at El Escorial.

Further Reading

Although it does not emphasize social and economic issues as much as contemporary studies do, Roger Bigelow Merriman, The Rise of the Spanish Empire in the Old World and in the New, vol. 4 (1934), remains a superb study of Philip II and his reign based on extensive archival research. A good introduction to the Spain of Philip II, with special emphasis on social and economic forces, is John H. Elliott, Imperial Spain, 1469-1716 (1963); it has a fine bibliography. Also excellent are John Lynch, Spain under the Habsburgs, vol. 1 (1964), and H.G. Koenigsberger, The Habsburgs and Europe, 1516-1660 (1971). A lively narrative enriched by verbal portraits of important figures of the time is Edward Grierson, The Fatal Inheritance: Philip II and the Spanish Netherlands (1969). The Armada expedition is brilliantly recounted by Garrett Mattingly in The Armada (1959), one of the finest and most interesting products of modern historical scholarship. Recommended for general historical background are Pieter Geyl, The Revolt of the Netherlands, 1555-1609 (1932; 2d ed. 1958), and John H. Elliott, Europe Divided, 1559-1598 (1969). □

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Philip II (king of Spain, Naples, and Sicily)

Philip II, 1527–98, king of Spain (1556–98), king of Naples and Sicily (1554–98), and, as Philip I, king of Portugal (1580–98).

Philip's Reign

Philip ascended the Spanish throne on the abdication of his father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who had previously made over to him Naples and Sicily, the Low Countries, Franche-Comté, and the duchy of Milan. His first wife, Maria of Portugal, died giving birth to the unfortunate Don Carlos (1545–68), and in 1554 Philip married Queen Mary I of England. Continuing his father's war with France, he drew England into the conflict in 1557. In the same year Spain won the major victory of St.-Quentin, but in 1558 England lost Calais to France. After Mary's death (1558), Philip offered his hand to her sister, Elizabeth I of England, but he was refused. In 1559 the war with France was brought to an end by the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis, which was sealed by Philip's marriage to Elizabeth of Valois.

Although Philip was a devout Roman Catholic who sought to repress heresy whenever feasible, he subordinated religious questions to his political aims. His relations with the papacy were generally bad, because most of the popes feared Spanish power in Italy. Religious persecution and the Spanish Inquisition were used to eliminate resistance to Philip's policy of centralizing power under an absolute monarchy. The repression of the Moriscos, especially after the revolt from 1568 to 1571, assured Spanish religious unity; its main purpose, however, was to prevent the Moriscos from helping the Ottomans to invade Spain. Philip's half-brother, John of Austria (1545–78), defeated the Ottomans at the battle of Lepanto (1571), and Tunis was captured and held briefly (1573–74).

The second half of Philip's reign was dominated by the revolt of the Netherlands (see also Netherlands, Austrian and Spanish). Philip appointed (1567) the duque de Alba to replace his half-sister, Margaret of Parma, as governor, but when Alba's harsh methods failed to quell the revolt, Philip supported the more conciliatory tactics of Alba's successors—Luis de Zúñiga y Requesens, John of Austria, and Alessandro Farnese, duke of Parma—who managed to reconquer the S Netherlands (approximately present-day Belgium). English support of the Dutch rebels and their persistent attacks on Spanish shipping led Philip to plan the invasion of England in 1588. However, the "Invincible Armada" (see Armada, Spanish) was ignominiously defeated. The Dutch also received support from the French Protestants, and Philip intervened (1590) in the French Wars of Religion to aid the Catholic League against the Protestant Henry of Navarre (Henry IV). He claimed the French throne for his daughter Isabella but was finally forced (1598) to recognize Henry.

The only major military success of Philip's later reign was the conquest of Portugal, to which he had a claim as the son of Isabella of Portugal, daughter of Manuel I. When King Henry of Portugal died (1580) without issue, Alba overran the country, and Philip was recognized as king by the Portuguese Cortes.

The main stage of Spanish colonial expansion was completed before Philip's accession; during his reign, however, the Spanish established colonies and garrisons in the present S United States and conquered the Philippine Islands (named for the king). The debilitating effects of depopulation, of colonial overexpansion, and of the influx of gold began to make themselves strongly felt in Philip's Spain. American gold and the proceeds of an increasingly burdensome taxation were not enough to finance Philip's foreign wars and interventions and had to be supplemented with loans. The king repudiated his debts four times during his reign. He was succeeded by Philip III, his son by his fourth wife, Anne of Austria.


Philip was not the bloodthirsty tyrant portrayed by his enemies and by later writers. The embodiment of the hard-working civil servant and bureaucrat, he sought to direct the destinies of a world empire from the seclusion of his cabinet, devoting infinite time and pains to the minutest administrative details. He did not trust even his ablest and most loyal servants, and partly as a result his court was riddled with faction. Philip's administration was generally just, but his bureaucratic absolutism, with its disregard for local conditions and privileges, inevitably caused discontent. This was true not only of the Netherlands but also of Aragón, which rose in revolt (1591) over the affair of Antonio Pérez. Isolated from reality, Philip lived and died in his strange court at the Escorial.


See study by W. H. Prescott (3 vol., 1855–58); R. B. Merriman, The Rise of the Spanish Empire in the Old World and the New, Vol. IV (1934); F. Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (1949, tr. 1972); J. H. Elliot, Imperial Spain, 1469–1716 (1963); J. Lynch, Spain under the Hapsburgs (1969); G. Parker, Philip II (1978) and The Grand Strategy of Philip II (1998); H. Kamen, Philip of Spain (1997).

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Philip II (1527–1598)

Philip II (15271598)

King of Spain from 1556 to 1598. Born in Valladolid, he was the son of Isabella of Portugal and Charles V, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire as well as Spain, southern Italy, Sicily, the Low Countries, and Spain's

colonies in the Americas. Charles named Philip his regent in Spain in 1543, when he also arranged his son's marriage to Maria of Portugal, who died giving birth to Philip's first son, Don Carlos, in 1545. Charles then arranged the marriage of Philip to Mary, the daughter of King Henry VIII of England, in 1554. He also made his teenage son the nominal ruler in the duchy of Milan, the Franche-Comte, Sicily, and Naples before abdicating all of his titles, leaving the Holy Roman Empire in the name of his brother Ferdinand I. Raised and tutored as a devout Catholic, Philip found the largely Protestant nation of England hostile and uncongenial, and returned to Spain in 1555. For the rest of his life, Philip remained within the borders of his kingdom, having little interest in following his father's example of frequent travel through far-flung domains.

At the start of Philip's reign, Spain was involved in open warfare with France, a brewing rebellion in the Low Countries, and threats to Spanish trade and shipping in the Mediterranean from North African pirates and the navy of the Ottoman Empire. Although England had allied with Spain in the war against France, the campaign turned into a pointless stalemate and was finally ended by the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559, which was followed by Philip's marriage to Elizabeth of Valois, the daughter of the king of France. The succession was thrown into doubt when Philip's son Don Carlos showed himself unfit to inherit the throne; when evidence came to light implicating Don Carlos was plotting against Philip, the king had him arrested. Don Carlos died under mysterious circumstances in 1568, and may have been executed on Philip's orders.

In 1571 Philip joined a grand alliance, including Venice and the Papacy, that defeated the navy of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, off the western coast of Greece. But in the Low Countries, Philip badly miscalculated the determined opposition of Protestant towns and nobles against rule by Catholic Spain. By raising taxes, imposing Catholic prelates, and disregarding the authority of local councils, his policies inspired a full-scale revolt. The occupation of the Low Countries would end badly for Spain, as the northern Protestant countries ultimately won independence as the United Provinces (the modern Netherlands).

Philip's rivalry with Elizabeth, the queen of England who had spurned his offer of marriage, prompted him to assemble a massive fleet, known as the Spanish Armada, for a full-scale assault on the English coast. He ordered the ships to link with Spanish troops in the Low Countries, with the mission of disrupting England's support for the Protestant rebels and, ultimately, the Catholic conquest of England itself. In 1588 the Armada sailed to the British Isles but was defeated by storms and by the skilled English captains who had the advantage of lighter and more maneuverable ships.

Philip did have success in Portugal, where after the death of the childless King Henry, he pressed a claim to the monarchy through his mother, Isabella of Portugal. Spanish armies invaded Portugal and the country was annexed to Spain in 1580. Spanish colonists built outposts in Florida and in the Philippines, an archipelago named for the king. Philip also oversaw the building of the Escorial, a royal palace near Madrid, where he spent most of his time. Although he had raised a splendid monument to the wealth and power of the Spanish monarchy, he had emptied Spain's treasury with the many foreign wars, and the expense of the ill-fated Spanish Armada. Income from the American colonies dwindled, Philip's taxes remained a heavy burden on the people, and farmers suffered a series of droughts and poor harvests. After his reign Spain entered a period of slow decline from which it would never completely recover.

See Also: Charles V; Spanish Armada

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Philip II of Spain

Philip II of Spain (1527–98), consort of Mary Tudor. Philip's marriage to Mary in July 1554 was part of Spain's long struggle against the French. Son of the Emperor Charles V, he was regent of Spain between 1542 and 1548 and king from 1556 until his death. Although he was not crowned, Philip took the style of king of England. Mary was overjoyed with her young husband and bitterly disappointed when the marriage produced no heir. From Philip's point of view the marriage served its purpose by drawing England into the conflict with France, the effects of which were summed up by Armigail Waad in 1558—it had ‘consumed our captains, men, money, victuals’ and lost Calais, England's last continental possession.

After Mary's death in 1558, Philip offered himself as a husband to Elizabeth. Though she refused, England needed Spain as a counterbalance to France. But by 1565 many councillors were convinced that Philip intended to overthrow Elizabeth, place Mary Stuart on the throne, and restore catholicism. There was a sharp anti-Spanish turn in policy in 1569 which set the pattern for the rest of Elizabeth's reign. Philip was involved in plots against her—Ridolfi and Babington—and formal invasion plans—the great Armada in 1588, and further scares in 1595, 1596, and 1597. Elizabeth, for her part, sent an army into the Spanish Netherlands in 1585 and offered to support Philip's Morisco subjects against the Spanish government in the late 1580s.

Bruce Coleman

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"Philip II of Spain." The Oxford Companion to British History. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

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Philip II

Philip II (1527–98) King of Spain (1556–98), King of Portugal (1580–98). In 1554, he married Mary I of England. From his father, Emperor Charles V, Philip inherited Milan, Naples, Sicily, the Netherlands and Spain with its empire in the New World. War with France ended at Cateau-Cambrésis (1559), but the Revolt of the Netherlands began in 1566. A defender of Roman Catholicism, Philip launched the unsuccessful Armada of 1588 to crush the English who, as fellow Protestants, aided the Dutch.

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