It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. — Upton Sinclair

Spanish Empire—Hapsburg Spain

1516 to 1700
Charles V, Emperor to War of Spanish Succession

Era Summary       Characters       Timeline       Reading Assignments      

Era Summary—Hapsburg Spain

Spanish throne descends to the Habsburgs—Ferdinand and Isabella had five children, and under Isabel's guidance, all were raised with the utmost care and rectitude. Their son John, the intended heir to the throne, however, died soon after he was married, and two of their daughters and a grandson also died young, leaving their daughter Juana of Castile, and her sons as the rightful heirs to the throne. After much palace intrigue, the throne passed to her eldest son Charles I of Spain, better known as Charles V (of Austria), who was also the sole heir to the Habsburg empire in the east, inherited from his father.

christian spain
CHARLES V. RETIRING TO YUSTE.
The vesting of so much power in one throne was bound to cause division and sure enough, the reign of Charles V was an endless series of wars. Some of these wars accomplished worthy goals, such as opposing Turkish advances in the Balkans and defeating the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean, but others were mainly intrique. The Wars of Italy, for example, were fought between France and Spain for control of Italy, and during the seventy year conflict, virtually every power in Europe was at some point drug into the fray.

The Protestant Reformation occured during the reign of Charles V, but he dealt with the problem much more as a political difficulty than a theological one. He saw his primary enemies as the Ottoman Turks and Catholic France, so to a large extent he tolerated the dissentions in Germany. One of the prominent popes early in Charles's reign was Clement VII, who allied himself with France against Spain and failed to support the idea of a Council to reform problems in the Church. For these reasons, Charles V, the supposed protector of the Church, did not hold the Pope in high regard and allowed his army to sack Rome and take the Pope prisoner.

Also during the reign of Charles V, large quantities of gold and silver were found in the New world colonies, and development of the region expanded rapidly. Likewise, the Portuguese settlements in the far east became firmly established. In a relatively short period, therefore, the Iberian Peninsula became the wealthiest region in Europe.

Reign of Philip II of Spain—Charles V was succeeded by his son Philip II, who is often portrayed by Protestant historians as a narrow minded bigot for his stalwart defense of the faith. Although he is best known as the Catholic antagonist of Elizabeth I of England and William the Silent of the Netherlands, the most significant military accomplishment of his reign was a crushing victory against the Ottoman Turks. At the Battle of Lepanto, Philip's half-brother, Don John of Austria, demolished the Turkish navy, who in league with the Barbary pirates, threatened all the Christian kingdoms of the Mediterranean.

The Netherlands War of Independence, and the Anglo Spanish Wars also occurred during his reign. Although both these wars are generally thought of as religious conflicts, there were political and commercial aspects as well. The nemesis of Dutch Protestants during the Dutch Revolt was the Duke of Alva but he only served for a few years, and even the Spanish leaders came to see that his heavy-handedness was counter-productive. All following Spanish governors of the Netherlands took a more diplomatic approach, and succeeded in bringing much of the region back to Catholic Spanish control.

Even though Spain eventually lost the struggle against Protestantism in both England and Holland, she remained at the height of her power for several generations, due largely to the vast wealth inflowing from her American colonies. Unfortunately, the inevitable corruptions that follow easy and sudden wealth were soon to bring about her downfall. During the late Hapsburg era, Spain's American provinces suffered from piracy and smuggling, mainly at the hands of her Protestant enemies. Even more destructive, however, were the indulgence, bureacracy, and lack of industry bread by excessive wealth. There was more money to be made in trade, taxes, and government offices, than in industry or efficient agriculture. Over-indulgence and corruption were as destructive to Spain as conflicts with outside enemies, and during the 17th century she fell from being the leading power in Europe to an inept lackey of France.

The last Habsburg King of France was Charles II, and because he was severely deformed, it was understood even before his death that he was unlikely to produce an Habsburg heir. At this time, France was at the height of her power, and all of Europe feared what would happen if France and Spain were united under one crown. The Austrians, therefore, put forth the claims of a Habsburg cousin, and almost every independent country in Europe joined forces against the behemoth France. The resulting War of the Spanish Succession drug on for 14 years and consumed the whole continent in conflict. Although the allies failed in their objective of placing a Habsburg on the throne of Spain, the conflict dramatically curtailed the power of France.

Leaders of the Counter Reformation—Aside from political developments during the Habsburg era, several very important religious occurances are worthy of note. The Spanish kings tended to see Protestantism primarily as a political threat, and dealt with it in that manner. There was, however, a tremendous need at the time for genuine reform of the Catholic church, and several Spanish religious orders, most notably the Jesuits, led these critical reforms.

Besides Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuits, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, and Bartholomew de las Casas, were at the forefront of both the reform of exisiting orders, and the propagation of the faith in the new world. Since the interests of the bishops and parish priests were closely aligned with those of the state, it was primarily the religious orders who had enough independence to promote the interests of the universal church, especially when it opposed the material interests of the crown.


Characters—Hapsburg Spain


CharacterDate Short Biography

Political and Military leaders

Juana of Castile1479–1555 Daughter of Isabel, mother of Charles V, and heir to the throne of Castile. Deposed by Ferdinand due to insanity.
Charles V1500–1558 16th century Hapsburg Emperor who ruled Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and parts of Italy.
Don Carlos1545–1568 Eldest son of Philip II. Mentally unbalanced prince of Spain who was imprisoned and possibly murdered.
Duke of Alva1567–1573 Tyrannical Governor of the Spanish Netherlands who opposed Protestants during the Dutch Revolt.
Don John of Austria1545–1578 Illegitimate son of Charles V. Hero of the naval Battle of Lepanto. Briefly governed Spanish Netherlands.
Philip the Handsome1478–1506 Heir to the Burgundian and Hapsburg estates, and married to Juana of Spain. Their son was Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.
Philip II1527–1598 Catholic king of Spain during Netherland revolt and Anglo-Spanish Wars. Great enemy of Protestant Reformers.
Valetta1494–1568 Grand Master of the Knights Hospitallers who defended Malta from the siege in 1565.
Charles II1661–1700 Invalid King of Spain. Last of the Spanish Hapsburgs. His death precipitated the War of the Spanish Succession.

Religious

Saint John of the Cross1542–1591 Carmelite priest, poet and author associated with St. Teresa of Avila.
Saint Teresa of Avila1515–1582 Mystic Nun who reformed the Carmelite order, and wrote books on prayer. Doctor of the Church.
Saint Francis Xavier1506–1552 Jesuit Missionary to India. Said to have converted thousands to Christianity.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola1491–1556 Founder of the Jesuits order, dedicated to the Pope. Important counter-reformation figure.
Bartholomew de las Casas1484–1566 Priest who accompanied the Spanish conquistadors to the New World and tried to protect the native inhabitants from abuses and maltreatment.
Saint John of God1495–1550 Dedicated his life to helping the Poor. Founded order of Hospitallers, which cared for the sick.

Artists and Authors

Murillo1617–1682 Spanish artist who painted during the reign of the Spanish Habsburgs. Best known for his religious works.
Cervantes1547–1616 Author of the classic Don Quixote, the most famous novel in the Spanish Language.


Timeline—Hapsburg Spain


AD YearEvent
REIGN OF CHARLES V
1516 Charles V ascends the throne of Spain.
1517 Protestant Reformation breaks out in Germany.
1521-1526 Italian War against Francis I of France.
1526-1530 War of the League of Cognac is fought in Italy.
1527     Charles V sacks Rome and imprisons the pope.
1521 Conquest of Aztecs in Mexico by Hernando Cortez.
1521 Diet of Worms—Lutheran doctrines condemned as heresy.
1525 Charles V establishes a Council of the Indies to govern American territories.
1529 Solyman the Magnificent leads a Turkish army against Vienna, but is forced to withdraw.
1532 Conquest of Incas in Peru by Francisco Pizarro.
1534 Saint Ignatius of Loyola founds the Society of Jesus.
1535 Charles V leads the Spanish navy to victory at the Conquest of Tunis.
1545 First Session of the Council of Trent.
1555 Peace of Augsburg—Lutheranism tolerated in Holy Roman Empire.
REIGN OF PHILIP II
1556 Charles V Abdicates, Philip II becomes King.
1560 Holy League naval fleet organized under Andrea Doria.
1562 Saint Teresa of Avila begins reform of the Carmelite religious order.
1566 Spanish Treasure fleet to Americas and Philippines established on regular schedule.
1568 Beginning of the Revolt in the Netherlands
1569 Morisco rebellion in Catalonia put down by Don John of Austria.
1571 The Battle of Lepanto detroys the Ottoman fleet in the Mediterranean.
1579 Union of Utrecht—Northern Netherlands declare independence from Spain.
1580 After death of heirless king, Portugal is united under the Spanish Crown.
1584 William the Silent, Protestant patriot of the Netherlands is assassinated.
1588 Spanish Armada sent to invade England is defeated.
LATER HAPSBURGS (Philips III, IV, and Charles II)
1605 Cervantes publishes Don Quixote
1609 Expulsion of the Moriscos from Spain
1640 Catalonia made alliance with France, rebelled from Spanish crown
1640 Portuguese noble declared King John IV, leads war of Portuguese independence.
1635-1659 Franco-Spanish War ended with Treaty of the Pyrenees.
1700 Death of Charles II, last Habsburg king of Spain
1700-14 War of the Spanish Succession: England, Austria, oppose Bourbon candidate.


Recommended Reading—Hapsburg Spain

Read chapters from "core" texts before reviewing study questions.


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Book Title
Selected Chapters (# chapters)

Core Reading Assignments

Ober - Spain: A History for Young Readers   When Spain was Great to The Seventeenth Century (4)
Horne - Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain   Spain Under the Hapsburgs (1)

Supplemental Recommendations

Baldwin - Stories of Don Quixote    entire book
Morris - Historical Tales: Spanish   A King in Captivity to Henry Morgan and Buccaneers (9)
Stockton - Buccaneers and Pirates of Our Coasts    entire book
Esquemeling - The Buccaneers of America    entire book

I: Introductory, II: Intermediate