Philip II

(Philip II of Spain )


Philip II of Spain inherited the Kingdoms of Spain, Naples, and the Netherlands from his father Charles V. As a prince, he was briefly married to Mary I of England, and has ever since been regarded as a villain to English Protestants. He was an ardent Catholic, and reigned over a far flung realm during a very difficult period in history. Although he is a favorite target of Calvinist calumny, his personal morals were not particularly bad, by European monarchial standards, and he was a meticulous and careful, although often ineffective statesman. He was however, highly intolerant of heresies and his harsh measures to surpress Calvinist rebellions in his territories undoubtedly alienated a large portion of his Netherland subjects.

The Dutch rebellion and the Spanish Armada are the two conflicts Philip II is most well known for, but they were only a few of the ongoing conflicts during his reign. At the time Philip came to the throne, the Ottoman Empire was stepping up its attacks in the Mediterranean, and posed a threat not only of piracy, but of invasion. Philip formed, a multi-national Christian navy, in order to oppose them, but it suffered a disastrous defeat at the battle of Djerba. Eventually however, the Philip's navies were victorious, and the naval Battle of Lepanto, led by Philip II's half-brother, Don John of Austria, essentially destroyed the Ottoman threat in the Mediterranean.

War with France was also nearly constant problem for Spain. The last major campaign of the Italian Wars, occurred between 1551 and 1559. After defeating the French in Italy, Spain opened up a front in the Rhine region, and quarted Spainish soldiers on territories of the Netherlands. After the war was over, the Dutch states wanted the solders removed, but instead they were taxed to support a standing foreign army on their own territory. This was one of the original causes of the Dutch rebellion, the other being the spread of Calvinist heresies. Philip II favored a very severe policy and sent Alva to put down the Rebellion. His iron-fisted antics only alientated the population, and caused the Northern Dutch to openly declare their independence. The great hero Don John of Austria later become Governor, but even his more accomodating style failed to heal the divisions. At last Philip appointed Alexander Farnese, and although he governed well and brought the southern states back into the fold, even he was unable to regain control of the Northern states.

At the same time, Spain's relationship with England had deteriorated considerably, due to many factors—piracy and the war in the Netherlands among them. Philip meticulously planned for a Spanish Armada to invade England but it failed miserablely.

On the domestic front, Philip is often blamed for mismanaging Spain's government so that, in spite of the enormous riches pouring into the country from the American colonies and from Portugal's trading posts in the far East, Spain remained a poor country. There is some truth to this, but many of the problems Philip had to deal with were fairly intractable, and power was shared between the monarchy and the nobles in a manner that made powerful, centralized decision-making very difficult. The enormous, unearned wealth flowing into the country was largely consumed by a frivolous aristocracy and a collection of intrenched, regional, bureaucracies rather than used for the public good, but Philip did not have strong monarchial powers to prevent this.

Key events during the life of Philip II of Spain:

Born to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and Isabella of Portugal. Raised in Spain.
Married princess Maria of Portugal. She died two years later, after giving birth to Don Carlos.
Married Queen Mary of England. She died two years later without issue.
Succeeded to the thrones Spain and the Netherlands, at the abdication of his father, Charles V.
Resided in Netherlands for first 3 years of reign.
Moved court permanently to Spain.
Philip organized a navy to attack Ottoman pirates, but they were defeated at Djereba.
Christian Victory at the Siege of Malta.
Sent Alva to govern the Netherlands and put down Protestant rebels.
Sends large fleets to victory over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.
Brielle capture by Protesetant rebels; Northern states declare against Spain
Dutch fleet defeats the Spanish at Zunderzee.
Turks recapture Tunis from Hapburg allies.
Don John of Austria appointed Governor of the Netherlands
Death of Don John of Austria; Alexander Farnese appointed Governor of Netherlands.
Throne of Portugal descends to the Spanish Habsburg crown.
Peace Treaty between Hapbsburgs and Ottoman Turks.
Spanish Armada is destroyed off the coast of England.
Intervened on the side of the Catholic League in the French Religious Wars.
Died of Cancer at El Escroiral.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Spanish Match  in  Queen Elizabeth  by  Jacob Abbott
Reign of Philip II  in  The Romance of Spanish History  by  John S.C. Abbott
Philip the Second  in  A Child's History of Spain  by  John Bonner
Spain Under Philip the Second  in  A Child's History of Spain  by  John Bonner
Great Armada  in  Stories From English History, Part Second  by  Alfred J. Church
Man Who Filled World with Woe  in  The Story of Liberty  by  Charles C. Coffin
Philip of Spain  in  The Story of Sir Francis Drake  by  Mrs. Oliver Elton
Spain Under the Hapsburgs  in  Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain  by  Charles F. Horne
Philip the Prince  in  The Netherlands  by  Mary Macgregor
Fate of a Reckless Prince  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris
Invincible Armada  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris
Spain's Religious Wars  in  Spain: A History for Young Readers  by  Frederick A. Ober
How the Trouble Began  in  The Awakening of Europe  by  M. B. Synge
Troubles of Philip II, King of Spain  in  European Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan

Image Links

Portrait of Philip of Spain
 in Queen Elizabeth

Philip the Second
 in A Child's History of Spain

Work-room of Philip the Second
 in A Child's History of Spain

Philip II threatens William of Orange
 in Greatest Nations - Netherlands

Philip II at the Escurial
 in Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain

The Emperor arrived, leaning on the shoulder of a tall, handsome lad
 in The Netherlands

Portrait of Philip of Spain
 in Young Folks' History of Mexico

Philip II. of Spain and Queen Mary
 in The Tudors and the Stuarts

Philip II. of Spain
 in In the Days of Queen Elizabeth

Philip II. of Spain
 in European Hero Stories

Charles V. and the Tory Prince.
 in  William of Orange

Short Biography
Charles V 16th century Hapsburg Emperor who ruled Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and parts of Italy.
Mary Tudor Eldest daughter of Henry VIII. Tried to restore Catholicism to England.
Elizabeth I Led England through tumultuous age of reformation and discovery. Reigned 45 years.
Duke of Alva Tyrannical Governor of the Spanish Netherlands who opposed Protestants during the Dutch Revolt.
Don John of Austria Illegitimate son of Charles V. Hero of the naval Battle of Lepanto. Briefly governed Spanish Netherlands.
Alexander Farnese Nephew of Philip III, who governed the Netherlands in the later years of the Dutch revolt.
Margaret of Parma Half-sister of Philip II of Spain who governed the Netherlands in the early years of the Dutch revolt.
William the Silent Hero of the Dutch Revolt. Led resistance to the Inquisition and Spanish tyranny.