- Philip II
- (1527-1598)King of Spain from 1556 to 1598, the son and successor of the Emperor Charles V. Under him, Spain reached its peak as a military and political power and also entered its Golden Age of literary achievement. He was active in the wars and diplo-macy of his time, sincerely conceiving his role as protector of the Catholic faith while at the same time pursuing the dynastic and terri-torial interests of his own Habsburg family. He inherited the Span-ish, Italian, and Netherlandish territories of his father but not the Ger-man imperial title and the dynasty's hereditary lands in Germany, which passed to his Austrian uncle and cousins. Philip continued his father's wars against the rival kings of France and during the French Wars of Religion (1562-1598) intervened actively but unsuccessfully in the efforts of Catholic extremists to block the succession of the Protestant Henry of Navarre to the French throne. He also faced the Reformation in his hereditary Netherlandish provinces, where a combination of local resistance to his ambitious program of political and ecclesiastical centralization with Netherlandish distaste for the harsh measures he used against the growing Protestant movement in the Netherlands led to an uprising and civil war. This conflict divided the Netherlands and led to the de facto independence of the seven northern provinces as the United Netherlands, while the Spanish army eventually was able to regain control of the 10 southern provinces (modern Belgium), which remained under Habsburg rule until the French Revolution.Closely linked with Philip's military activity in both France and the Netherlands was his abortive attempt to invade and conquer England, the famous Armada expedition of 1588. Philip was also deeply involved in Italian politics (where his interests often clashed with those of the pa-pacy) and in the Mediterranean. His navy was a major participant in the great victory of the Christian forces over the Ottoman Turks at Le-panto in 1571. His military and political undertakings were frequently impeded by his severe financial problems, which led to three bankrupt-cies by the Spanish government during his reign. In 1580 he success-fully enforced his hereditary claim to the throne of Portugal after the death of the last king of the Aviz dynasty. He ruled Portugal as a sepa-rate kingdom but kept its policy closely linked to Spain's.At least in his intentions, Philip was a good and just king, caring deeply about the welfare (including the eternal salvation) of the many nations entrusted to his rule. He worked hard at the trade of being a king. His greatest flaw as ruler was his inability to delegate authority, so that his painstaking inspection of every document and insistence on making every decision made his government slow and unrespon-sive to unexpected events. Though deeply Catholic and instrumental in the final effort that brought the Council of Trent to completion in 1563, he did not hesitate to oppose papal policies that he disap-proved. He was sensitive to the mystical piety of the greatest reli-gious figure of his reign, St. Teresa of Avila, and sheltered her from those who tried treat her as a heretic. He was an active patron of ed-ucation, literature, and the arts, continuing a Habsburg tradition of patronizing major artists (Titian and El Greco, for example) and forming a great royal collection of Renaissance art.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.