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Philip II of Spain Edit Profile

also known as Philip The Prudent, Philip II Of The House Of Habsburg


Philip II was a king of the Spaniards (1556–98) and king of the Portuguese (as Philip I, 1580–98), champion of the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation.


Philip II was born on May 21, 1527, in the Spanish capital Valladolid. Philip was the first child and the only son to reach adulthood of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and his Portuguese wife, Isabella.


Philip II learned Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin, and demonstrated moderate propensity in arms and letters alike. He studied under Juan Martínez Siliceo, the future Archbishop of Toledo and humanist Juan Cristóbal Calvete de Estrella.

He received the practical lessons of warfare from Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, the general Duke of Alba during the Italian Wars (1542-46).


Charles V abdicated in 1554, at the age of 54 after 34 years of active governance that left him physically and mentally exhausted. His brother Ferdinand, who already ruled their ancestral lands in Austria, succeeded him as the Holy Roman Emperor. Philip took over the Spanish empire, and the vast properties in the Netherlands and Italy. The two empires were each other’s greatest of allies till the extinction of the Spanish branch of Habsburg dynasty in the 18th Century.

The most recent addition to the Spanish Empire had been the Kingdom of Navarre. It had been conquered and brought into the empire by Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1512. In his will, Charles expressed his concerns over the kingdom, and proposed that Philip grant Navarre freedom. It did not come to fruition.

They both failed to grasp the elective nature of the crown of the kingdom. After putting down several rebellions, Philip installed Carlos as the King of Navarre and appointed his trusted Castilian officers in the government.

On October 2, 1554, he was crowned the King of Naples by Pope Julius III, and on November 18, ascended to the Sicilian throne. He launched a war on the Papal States in 1556, which is often attributed to Pope Paul IV’s anti-Spanish views. The Pope sued for peace. A treaty was signed between Cardinal Carlo Carafa and the duke of Alba, representing their respective lords, on September 13, 1557.

The final phase of the Italian Wars was a rewarding campaign for Philip and Spain. The Spanish army decisively won against the French at St. Quentin in 1557 and at Gravelines in 1558.

The treaty of Cateau-Cambresis was signed between Philip and Henry II, the King of France, on April 3, 1559. As per the agreement, Piedmont, Savoy, and Corsica were given to allies of the empire. It also ascertained Philip as the sovereign of Milan, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, and the State of Presidi and ended a war that had lasted for almost 60 years.

He had been financing the Catholic league since the beginning of the ‘French Wars of Religion. ’ By the time the Spanish invaded France in 1589, the wars between Catholic and Protestant factions were already 27 years old. Philip sought to unseat Henry IV, who was a Calvinist and put his daughter, Isabel Clara Eugenia, on the French throne.

Henry converted to Catholicism in 1593, declaring an all-out war against Spain in January 1595. The conflict went on until 1598, when the Treaty of Vervins was signed. While Spain did withdraw from the French lands, Philip’s hope to see a Catholic French king had become a reality.

The Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands were threatened with unrest and chaos during Philip’s reign. War broke out in 1568. The people of the country, who were largely Protestants, were incessantly prosecuted and heavy taxes were levied upon them. In 1566, the Calvinist preachers incited violence against Catholicism. A movement of riots and vandalism, known as the Iconoclast Fury, broke out.

The Dutch independence leader William the Silent was assassinated in 1584, following Philip’s declaration of 25, 000 crowns reward for his death. The war continued well after even Philip’s death. In 1648, the independent Dutch Republic came into being.

A succession crisis was set off in Portugal after its young king Sebastian died in 1578 without any heirs. Philip attacked and after a battle at Alcântara, ascended the throne as Philip I of Portugal.

His and his third wife, Mary I of England’s reign as the King and Queen of England and Ireland was catastrophic for the Protestants. So much so, that Mary came to be known as ‘Bloody Mary’.

After the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, he launched the Spanish Armada to conquer England and put a Catholic on the throne. It was a disaster. Most ships were lost to storms, and the rest were easily defeated by the English forces.

Before returning to Spain, Philip spent the early years of his reign in the Netherlands. With the increasing strength of the bureaucracy, Philip’s own authority was confronted by the multiple restrictions implemented by the constitution, despite often being hailed as the absolute monarch. Spain was essentially a federation of separate lands, the local governments of which were known to give priority to self-interest over royal directives.

Philip inherited a debt of about 36 million ducats and an annual deficit of 1 million ducats from his father, which over the course of his reign resulted in five different state bankruptcies in 1557, 1560, 1569, 1575, and 1596. According to some historians, Spain maintaining a huge empire, spending a large amount of the revenues on overseas expeditions, and undertaking multiple expensive domestic projects would end up contributing to its decline within the next hundred years or so.

It was just not his religious fervour that decided his foreign policies; dynastic politics played an equal role too.


  • King Philip II was unarguably the most important ruler in Spanish history. It was under his reign that Spain reached the height of its influence and power, and also of its artistic, literary, and musical excellence.


He made strengthening the Catholic faith his life’s mission and the principal objective of his reign and led a brutal fight against heresy. The Inquisition was a powerful tool in his hand that helped curb religious freedom in the empire.


He had a great way to increase his empire. Though he did not have much taste for war, it was his tenacity that made him include more territory within his kingdom. As a king, he can be said to be extremely conscious of his power and diplomatic in certain respects. Thus, he can be said to be a tyrant.


He believed that Spain as a country was the best among all others and poured his complete will and tenacity towards its betterment.

Quotations: “O how small a portion of earth will hold us when we are dead, who ambitiously seek after the whole world while we are living.”

"God, who has given me so many Kingdoms to govern, has not given me a son fit to govern them.”

“I would rather lose all my lands and a hundred lives than be king over heretics.”


As a true Spaniard, he was known for his taste, his love for music, art and culture. He had an immense passion for collecting rare works of art and ensuring that his reign was one that was culturally enriched. He was known as ‘Demon of South’ because he was known to exterminate Protestants all over Spain.

As a king, he was known to be extremely laborious and self–righteous who believed in supervising every aspect of administration. Though, as a man himself, he was known for his bigotry and immense ambition, he had a fervent piety that made him worthy of worshipping on a pedestal. In case of any adverse situation, it was his courage and stoic nature that would add up to his positive points.

Physical Characteristics: He was said to be of slight stature with round face, pale blue eyes, prominent lips and pink skin.


  • Other Interests

    He enjoyed hunting as a sport and was fond of music.


Philip II married four times in the course of his life. He married his first wife, who was also his first cousin, Maria Manuela, the princess of Portugal, on November 12, 1543.

He was 27 when the marriage between him and Mary I took place. For him, it was strictly a matter of political alliance, while the decade-older Mary was genuinely in love with him. Their union did not produce a child, although there was a case of false pregnancy. After her death on November 17, 1558, Philip unsuccessfully sought to wed her Protestant sister Elizabeth.

Following the signing of Peace of the Cateau-Cambrésis agreement, that marked the end of the 65-year-old conflict between France and Spain, Philip married Princess Elisabeth of Valois, daughter of Henry II of France on June 22, 1559, which was one of the important stipulations of the negotiation.

His fourth and last marriage was with his niece, Anna of Austria.

Charles V

Isabella Of Portugal

Mary Tudor
Mary Tudor - spouse of Philip II of Spain

Anna Of Austria
Anna Of Austria - spouse of Philip II of Spain

Maria Manuela
Maria Manuela - spouse of Philip II of Spain

Elisabeth Of Valois
Elisabeth Of Valois - spouse of Philip II of Spain