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Philip II

King of Spain from 1556. Only son of Emperor Charles V* and Isabella of Portugal, he was born in Valladolid and educated by clergy in Spain. He grew up grave, self-possessed, and distrustful, loved by his Spanish subjects, but not elsewhere. He married four times: (1) Maria of Portugal (1543), who died in childbirth (1546); (2) Mary I of England (1554)—a marriage of policy; (3) Elizabeth of Valois (1559); (4) Anne of Austria (1570).

On his father’s abdication (1556), he became Europe’s most powerful monarch, ruling Spain, Naples and Sicily, Milan, the Netherlands, Franche Comté, Mexico, and Peru. He governed his empire from his desk, possessed an unbounded power of work, and an absolute love of reading, annotating and drafting dispatches. He defeated the French at St. Quentin (1557) and assured Spain’s ascendancy for a time. He defeated the Turks in the naval battle of Lepanto (1571). In 1580 he obtained the crown of Portugal and Brazil. He reactivated the Inquisition* in Spain, using it to establish his absolute power. Revolt, however, continued in the Netherlands, resulting in the independence of the Dutch republic (1579). He supported the Guises in France against Henry of Navarre, but his intrigues failed. His attempt to conquer England ended in hopeless disaster with the destruction of the Armada (1588).

He possessed great abilities, but lacked political wisdom. He crushed the chivalrous spirit of Spain, and destroyed its commerce by oppressive exactions and by bitter persecution of the industrious Moriscos (whom he expelled, 1570). He was bigoted, morose, and morbidly suspicious, though a tender husband and affectionate to his daughters. He encouraged art and built El Escorial. Under him, and supported by the Jesuits and the Inquisition, Spain became the intellectual, financial, and military spearhead of the Counter-Reformation.

Bibliography: M. Hume, Philip II of Spain (1897); B.J. Kidd, The Counter-Reformation (1933); W.T. Walsh, Philip II, King of Spain (1938).