PHILIP II, King of Spain

During Philip II's reign Catholic Spain was often at war, frequently for re­ligious reasons. Though his father was King Charles I of Spain, he was far more known as Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.* When Charles abdicated in 1556, he divided his enormous realm between his younger brother and his son. Philip's desire to have a suitable resting place for his father's remains was the impetus for El Escorial, the huge monastery-palace in the hills north of Madrid built under Philip's personal direction. Philip was the first Habsburg king to be truly identified with Spain.
Philip married four times but had difficulty producing a suitable heir. In his brief first marriage to his Portuguese cousin Maria he had one son, Don Carlos, but his bizarre behavior made him incapable of ever ruling. It was a relief when he died in 1568. Philip had no children from his second marriage to Mary I* of England, also his cousin. Though he was known for his mistresses, Philip eventually came to love and be faithful to Elisabeth of Valois; they had two daughters before her death in 1568 after eight years of marriage. With another cousin, Anna of Austria, who died after ten years of marriage, he had three sons who died in childhood, but another, Philip III, lived to survive his father. During Philip II's reign Spain fully established its empire in Mexico, Central America, and the Philippines. In 1580 Philip also seized Portugal, which did not regain its independence until 1604, several years after his death. Spain gained great wealth but dissipated much of it on war.
Philip II's reign encompassed what has been called the Golden Age of Spain. Though some Spanish intellectuals feared that Spain was more interested in war than in the arts, the empire Spain had amassed did have a great influence on its intellectual development. The wealth that poured in made owning art attractive. Philip was particularly interested in the works of Italian and Flemish painters; he commissioned many works by the Venetian artist Titian* and invited Antonio Mor* from the Netherlands to come to Spain as his court painter. Though there was censorship and a decree that forbade education abroad, thousands of Span­iards traveled through Europe and the rest of the world and learned about other cultures.
Philip fought hard to keep control of the Netherlands; his motives were not only dynastic but also religious, as part of Dutch nationalism was conversion to Protestantism. Philip was especially outraged that Elizabeth I* and the English supported their Dutch coreligionists. Though for a long time Philip was cautious, he eventually decided to lead a holy crusade against Protestant England, but the Spanish Armada of 1588 was a disaster for Spain and hinted at a future when Spain would be in decline and the Dutch and British would have greater world influence. When Philip died a decade later in 1598, the world was already chang­ing.
H. Kamen, Philip ofSpain, 1997. G. Parker, Philip II, 3rd ed., 1995.
Carole Levin

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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