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Philip II of Spain Richard Fitzsimmons Strathallan School ex.php?app=core&module=attach&sec tion=attach&attach_id=1331
Overview … Philip II of Spain has had a chequered reputation among historians, many of them polarised over his character, his policies and his legacy For some, Philip’s reign was a ‘golden age’, and he was Spain’s greatest monarch For others, Philip personified everything that was most sinister about Counter-Reformation Catholicism But, it is not only the man who invites controversy – the rest of this course concentrates on the policies he pursued and the consequences of his actions – equally controversial and the subject of historical debate
Philip’s early life Born in 1527, brought up in a large household of 191 – rarely alone – raised strictly by his mother (Isabel of Portugal) until her death in 1539 – father, Charles V rarely there (away , , , ) From 1535 he had his own household under his ‘governor’, Don Juan de Zuniga A sickly child –very ill in 1535 with gastric problems – dogged him for the rest of his life – became obsessed with his health Brought up a very devout Roman Catholic – legacy of his mother - to play an important role in later life – sometimes he confused what was for God’s cause with his own … partic. in foreign policy Given a sense of duty and responsibility as Charles’ heir – dynastic concerns – attended Council meetings from age 12 – Regent of Spain at 16
Philip’s upbringing … 1 Educated by tutor Juan Martinez de Siliceo – governor Juan de Zuniga – skilful at hiding his feelings Primarily a Spanish emphasis in his learning – maths, architecture, geography, history, classical langs, but no contemporary langs – lack of skill in foreign langs plagued him throughout his reign.
Philip’s upbringing … 2 He preferred hunting to study. At age 14, given his own secretary – Gonzalo Perez 1542 – made his first ‘progress’ – travelling round Castile and Aragon 1543 – Charles left for Germany, leaving Philip behind as Regent, aided by a group of highly experienced men including the Duke of Alva, Cardinal Juan de Tavera and Francisco de Los Cobos Philip married Maria of Portugal (she died in July 1545 in childbirth)
Philip’s character … Assessments of Philip’s character have often been influenced by historians’ own prejudices –J. L. Motley – ‘grossly licentious, cruel … a consummate tyrant’ –Henry Kamen – ‘Philip was by temperament tranquil, subdued and always in control of himself … as a person he was more gentle. He disliked war and violence…’ They have concentrated on alleged character defects - cruelty, ambition, war-mongering, his religious obsession, his indecision etc, and rarely have achieved a balanced summary
Philip’s character … ‘zero-defects mentality’ or procrastinator? One area that has been most raked over has been Philip’s seeming inability to make decisions, particularly in foreign policy. Geoffrey Parker advances one potential explanation for this – what he calls Philip’s ‘Zero- defects mentality’ i.e. an obsessive drive not to make mistakes, and a fear of failure – may help explain why he had an almost pathological desire to control decisions wanted to prove himself worthy of his father Charles V, and to avoid the disgrace of failure this could lead to periods of deep depression e.g. over the Netherlands in , and Armada 1588.
Philip’s character … How far did he depend slavishly on the advice of his father ? He tended to withhold information from his ministers – led to confusion and perhaps competing advice Not good at delegation – tended to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of government business BUT, did work very long hours conscientiously, sometimes at the expense of his own health
Philip’s inheritance … Philip was King of Spain, but also separately King of Aragon and Castile Duke of Milan King of Naples and Sicily Ruler of Sardinia Ruler of Franche-comte Netherlands – multiple titles depending on each province (17) Philip’s dominions were huge and, essentially, ungovernable as a unitary state.
Philip’s inheritance … problems Philip’s dominions were huge and, essentially, ungovernable as a unitary state. He had different titles in each state, and consequently different powers He had to deal with a number of representative assemblies – Cortes in Castile and Aragon, States-General in the Netherlands Each territory guarded its ‘privileges’ jealously – made collection of taxation and use of military force difficult in his many wars The size of his empire, and the distances involved, made direct governance basically impossible and communication was extremely slow
Charles V’s legacy … Charles gave Philip four sets of instructions, advising him in the art of government –Nov 1539 –May 1543 –Jan 1548 –1556 Of these, the 1543 instructions were probably the most important and certainly the most comprehensive Laid down precise rules for government Gave advice on anticipated problems He discussed in detail the strengths/weaknesses of individual councillors He urged Philip to avoid being identified with, or reliant on, any particular faction at court, or any individual
State of the Empire, 1556 … In 1556 Charles V left an on-going war with Valois France under Henry II – not going well on the Netherlands border War in the Mediterranean against the Turks – in uneasy abeyance in 1550s An imperial treasury strained by almost 40 years of continuous warfare – bankruptcy was declared in 1557 (national debt 25.5 million ducats – annual income 3 million) Military forces stretched throughout the Empire
Further Reading J. Casey, ‘Philip II of Spain, the prudent King’ Teaching History 1997 H. Kamen, Spain : A Society of Conflict. H. Kamen, Philip II of Spain. H. Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition. J. Kilsby, Spain: Rise and Decline, (Hodder) A. W. Lovett, Early Habsburg Spain, J. Lynch, Spain ; From Nation State to World Empire. D. McKinnon-Bell, Philip II (Hodder) N. G. Parker, ‘Philip II of Spain – a reappraisal.’ History Today 1979 N. G. Parker, The Grand Strategy of Philip II. I. Thompson, War and Society in Hapsburg Spain. G.Woodward, Philip II. (Longman, Seminar Studies)