Philip II of Spain (Spanish: Felipe II; 21 May 1527 – 13 September 1598), called “the Prudent” (el Prudente), was King of Spain[a] (1556–98), King of Portugal (1581–98, as Philip I, Filipe I), King of Naples and Sicily (both from 1554), and jure uxoris King of England and Ireland (during his marriage to Queen Mary I from 1554–58). He was also Duke of Milan. From 1555, he was lord of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands.
Known in Spain as “Felipe el Prudente” (‘”Philip the Prudent'”), his empire included territories on every continent then known to Europeans, including his namesake the Philippine Islands. During his reign, Spain reached the height of its influence and power. This is sometimes called the Golden Age. The expression, “the empire on which the sun never sets,” was coined during Philip’s time to reflect the extent of his dominion.
During Philip’s reign there were separate state bankruptcies in 1557, 1560, 1569, 1575, and 1596. This was partly the cause of the declaration of independence that created the Dutch Republic in 1581. A devout Catholic, Philip is also known for organising a naval expedition against Protestant England in 1588, the Spanish Armada, which was unsuccessful, mostly due to storms and serious logistical problems.
Philip was described by the Venetian ambassador Paolo Fagolo in 1563 as “slight of stature and round-faced, with pale blue eyes, somewhat prominent lip, and pink skin, but his overall appearance is very attractive.” The Ambassador went on to say “He dresses very tastefully, and everything that he does is courteous and gracious.
The son of Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire and his wife, Infanta Isabella of Portugal, Philip was born in the Spanish capital of Valladolid on 21 May 1527 at Palacio de Pimentel, which was owned by Don Bernardino Pimentel (the first Marqués de Távara). The culture and courtly life of Spain were an important influence in his early life. He was tutored by Juan Martínez Siliceo, the future Archbishop of Toledo. Philip displayed reasonable aptitude in arms and letters alike. Later he would study with more illustrious tutors, including the humanist Juan Cristóbal Calvete de Estrella. Though Philip had good command over Latin, Spanish, and Portuguese, he never managed to equal his father, Charles V, as a polyglot. While Philip was also a German archduke of the House of Habsburg, he was seen as a foreigner in the Holy Roman Empire. The feeling was mutual. Philip felt himself to be culturally Spanish; he had been born in Spain and raised in the Castilian court, his native tongue was Spanish, and he preferred to live in Spain. This would ultimately impede his succession to the imperial throne.
In April 1528, when Philip was eleven months old, he received the oath of allegiance as heir to the crown from the Cortes of Castile. From that time until the death of his mother Isabella in 1539, he was raised in the royal court of Castile under the care of his mother and one of her Portuguese ladies, Dona Leonor de Mascarenhas, to whom he was devotedly attached. Philip was also close to his two sisters, María and Juana, and to his two pages, the Portuguese nobleman Rui Gomes da Silva and Luis de Requesens, the son of his governor Juan de Zúñiga. These men would serve Philip throughout their lives, as would Antonio Pérez, his secretary from 1541.
Philip’s martial training was undertaken by his governor, Juan de Zúñiga, a Castilian nobleman who served as the commendador mayor of Castile. The practical lessons in warfare were overseen by the Duke of Alba during the Italian Wars. Philip was present at the Siege of Perpignan in 1542 but did not see action as the Spanish army under Alba decisively defeated the besieging French forces under the Dauphin of France. On his way back to Castile, Philip received the oath of allegiance of the Aragonese Cortes at Monzón. His political training had begun a year previously under his father, who had found his son studious, grave, and prudent beyond his years, and having decided to train and initiate him in the government of Spain. The king-emperor’s interactions with his son during his stay in Spain convinced him of Philip’s precocity in statesmanship, so he determined to leave in his hands the regency of Spain in 1543. Philip, who had previously been made the Duke of Milan in 1540, began governing the most extensive empire in the world at the young age of sixteen.
Charles left Philip with experienced advisors—notably the secretary Francisco de los Cobos and the general Duke of Alba. Philip was also left with extensive written instructions that emphasised “piety, patience, modesty, and distrust.” These principles of Charles were gradually assimilated by his son, who would grow up to become grave, self-possessed and cautious. Personally, Philip spoke softly and had an icy self-mastery; in the words of one of his ministers, “he had a smile that cut like a sword.
After living in the Netherlands in the early years of his reign, Philip II decided to return to Spain. Although sometimes described as an absolute monarch, Philip faced many constitutional constraints on his authority, influenced by the growing strength of the bureaucracy. The Spanish Empire was not a single monarchy with one legal system but a federation of separate realms, each jealously guarding its own rights against those of the House of Habsburg. In practice, Philip often found his authority over-ruled by local assemblies, and his word less effective than that of local lords.
Philip carried several titles as heir to the Spanish kingdoms and empire, including Prince of Asturias. The newest constituent kingdom in the empire was Navarre, a realm invaded by Ferdinand II of Aragon mainly with Castilian troops (1512), and annexed to Castile with an ambiguous status (1513). War across Navarre continued until 1528 (Treaties of Madrid and Cambrai). Charles V proposed to end hostilities with King Henry II of Navarre—the legitimate monarch of Navarre—by marrying his son Philip to the heiress of Navarre, Jeanne III of Navarre. The marriage would provide a dynastic solution to instability in Navarre, making him king of all Navarre and prince of independent Béarn, as well as lord of a large part of southern France. However, the French nobility under Francis I opposed the arrangement and successfully ended the prospects of marriage between the heirs of Habsburg and Albret in 1541.
In his will Charles stated his doubts over Navarre and recommended that his son give the kingdom back. Both King Charles and his son Philip II failed to abide by the elective (contractual) nature of the Crown of Navarre, and took the kingdom for granted. This sparked mounting tension not only with King Henry II and Queen Jeanne III of Navarre, but also with the Parliament of the Spanish Navarre (Cortes, The Three States) and the Diputación for breach of the realm specific laws (fueros)—violation of the pactum subjectionis as ratified by Ferdinand. Tensions in Navarre came to a head in 1592 after several years of disagreements over the agenda of the intended parliamentary session.
In November 1592, the Parliament (Cortes) of Aragón revolted against another breach of the realm-specific laws, so the Attorney General (Justicia) of the kingdom Juan de Lanuza was executed on Philip II’s orders, with his secretary Antonio Perez taking exile in France. In Navarre the major strongholds of the kingdom were garrisoned by troops alien to the kingdom (Castilians) in conspicuous violation of the laws of Navarre, and the Parliament had long been refusing to pledge loyalty to Philip II’s son and heir apparent without a proper ceremony. On 20 November 1592 a ghostly Parliament session was called, pushed by Philip II, who had arrived in Pamplona at the head of an unspecified military force, and with one only point on his agenda—attendance to the session was kept blank on the minutes: unlawful appointments of trusted Castilian officials and an imposition of his son as future king of Navarre at the Santa Maria Cathedral. A ceremony was held before the bishop of Pamplona (22 November), but its customary procedure and terms were altered. Protests erupted in Pamplona, but they were quelled.
Philip II also grappled with the problem of the large Morisco population in Spain, who were sometimes forcibly converted to Christianity by his predecessors. In 1569, the Morisco Revolt broke out in the southern province of Granada in defiance of attempts to suppress Moorish customs. Philip ordered the expulsion of the Moriscos from Granada and their dispersal to other provinces.
Despite its immense dominions, Spain was a country with a sparse population that yielded a limited income to the crown (in contrast to France, for example, which was much more heavily populated). Philip faced major difficulties in raising taxes, and collection was largely farmed out to local lords. He was able to finance his military campaigns only by taxing and exploiting the local resources of his empire. The flow of income from the New World proved vital to his militant foreign policy, but nonetheless his exchequer several times faced bankruptcy.
Spanish culture flourished during Philip’s reign, beginning the “Spanish Golden Age”, creating a lasting legacy in literature, music, and the visual arts. One of the notable artists from Phillip II’s court was Sofonisba Anguissola, who gained fame for her talent and unusual role as a woman artist. She was invited to the court of Madrid in 1559 and was chosen to become an attendant to Isabella Clara Eugenia (1566–1633). Anguissola also became a lady-in-waiting and court painter for the queen, Elizabeth de Valois. During her time as a court painter, Anguissola painted many official portraits of the royal family, a sharp departure from her previous personal portraits.
Charles V had left Philip with a debt of about 36 million ducats and an annual deficit of 1 million ducats. This debt caused Phillip II to default on loans in 1557, 1560, 1575, and 1596 (including debt to Poland, known as Neapolitan sums). Lenders had no power over the king and could not force him to repay his loans. These defaults were just the beginning of Spain’s economic troubles as its kings would default six more times in the next 65 years. Aside from reducing state revenues for overseas expeditions, the domestic policies of Philip II further burdened Spain and would, in the following century, contribute to its decline, as maintained by some historians.
Spain was subject to different assemblies: the Cortes in Castile, the assembly in Navarre, and one each for the three regions of Aragon, which preserved traditional rights and laws from the time when they were separate kingdoms. This made Spain and its possessions difficult to rule, unlike France, which, while divided into regional states, had a single Estates-General. The lack of a viable supreme assembly led to power defaulting into Philip’s hands, especially as manager and final arbiter of the constant conflict between different authorities. To deal with the difficulties arising from this situation, authority was administered by local agents appointed by the crown and viceroys carrying out crown instructions. Philip felt it necessary to be involved in the detail, and he presided over specialised councils for state affairs, finance, war, and the Inquisition.
Philip played groups against each other, leading to a system of checks and balances that managed affairs inefficiently, even to the extent of damaging state business, as in the Perez affair. Following a fire in Valladolid in 1561, Philip resisted calls to move his Court to Lisbon, an act that could have curbed centralisation and bureaucracy domestically as well as relaxed rule in the Empire. Instead, with the traditional Royal and Primacy seat of Toledo now essentially obsolete, Philip moved his Court to the Castilian stronghold of Madrid. Except for a brief period under Philip III, Madrid has remained the capital of Spain.
Whereas his father had been forced to an itinerant rule as a medieval king, Philip ruled at a critical turning point in European history toward modernity. He mainly directed state affairs, even when not at Court. Indeed, when his health began failing, he worked from his quarters in the Palace-Monastery-Pantheon of El Escorial he had built. But Philip did not enjoy the supremacy that Louis XIV of France would in the next century, nor was such a rule necessarily possible at his time. The inefficiencies of the Spanish state and restrictively regulated industry under his rule were common to many contemporary countries. Further, the dispersal of the Moriscos from Granada – motivated by the fear they might support a Muslim invasion – had serious negative economic effects, particularly in that region.
Philip’s foreign policies were determined by a combination of Catholic fervour and dynastic objectives. He considered himself the chief defender of Catholic Europe, both against the Ottoman Turks and against the forces of the Protestant Reformation. He never relented from his fight against heresy, defending the Catholic faith and limiting freedom of worship within his territories. These territories included his patrimony in the Netherlands, where Protestantism had taken deep root. Following the Revolt of the Netherlands in 1568, Philip waged a campaign against Dutch heresy and secession. It also dragged in the English and the French at times and expanded into the German Rhineland with the Cologne War. This series of conflicts lasted for the rest of his life. Philip’s constant involvement in European wars took a significant toll on the treasury and caused economic difficulties for the Crown and even bankruptcies.
In 1588, the English defeated Philip’s Spanish Armada, thwarting his planned invasion of the country to reinstate Catholicism. But war with England continued for the next sixteen years, in a complex series of struggles that included France, Ireland and the main battle zone, the Low Countries. It would not end until all the leading protagonists, including himself, had died. Earlier, however, after several setbacks in his reign and especially that of his father, Philip did achieve a decisive victory against the Turks at the Lepanto in 1571, with the allied fleet of the Holy League, which he had put under the command of his illegitimate brother, John of Austria. He also successfully secured his succession to the throne of Portugal.
With regard to Philip’s overseas possessions, in response to the reforms imposed by the Ordenanzas, extensive questionnaires were distributed to every major town and region in New Spain called relaciones geográficas. These surveys helped the Spanish monarchy to govern these overseas conquests more effectively.
Charles V abdicated the throne of Naples to Philip on 25 July 1554, and the young king was invested with the kingdom (officially called “Naples and Sicily”) on 2 October by Pope Julius III. The date of Charles’ abdication of the throne of Sicily is uncertain, but Philip was invested with this kingdom (officially “Sicily and Jerusalem”) on 18 November 1554 by Julius. In 1556, Philip decided to declare war in the Papal States and temporarily held territory there, perhaps in response to Pope Paul IV’s anti-Spanish outlook. According to Philip II, he was doing it for the benefit of the Church.
Pope Paul IV charged a seven-member commission with preparing a peace agreement. The efforts were later abandoned and the war continued. On 27 August 1557, Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba and Viceroy of Naples, was at the walls of Rome, ready to lead his troops for a final assault. On 13 September 1557, Cardinal Carlo Carafa signed a peace agreement, accepting all of the duke’s conditions.
Philip led Spain into the final phase of the Italian Wars. The Spanish army decisively defeated the French at St. Quentin in 1557 and at Gravelines in 1558. The resulting Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559 secured Piedmont, Savoy, and Corsica for the Spanish allied states, the Duchy of Savoy, and the Republic of Genoa. France recognised Spanish control over the Franche-Comté, but, more importantly, the treaty also confirmed the direct control of Philip over Milan, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, and the State of Presidi, and indirectly (through his dominance of the rulers of Tuscany, Genoa, and other minor states) of all Italy. The Pope was a natural Spanish ally. The only truly independent entities on Italian soil were the allied Duchy of Savoy and the Republic of Venice. Spanish control of Italy would last until the early eighteenth century. Ultimately, the treaty ended the 60-year, Franco-Spanish wars for supremacy in Italy.
By the end of the wars in 1559, Habsburg Spain had been established as the premier power of Europe, to the detriment of France. In France, Henry II was fatally wounded in a joust held during the celebrations of the peace. His death led to the accession of his 15-year-old son Francis II, who in turn soon died. The French monarchy was thrown into turmoil, which increased further with the outbreak of the French Wars of Religion that would last for several decades. The states of Italy were reduced to second-rate powers, and Milan and Naples were annexed directly to Spain. Mary Tudor’s death in 1558 enabled Philip to seal the treaty by marrying Henry II’s daughter, Elisabeth of Valois, later giving him a claim to the throne of France on behalf of his daughter by Elisabeth, Isabel Clara Eugenia.
The French Wars of Religion (1562–98) were primarily fought between French Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots). The conflict involved the factional disputes between the aristocratic houses of France, such as the House of Bourbon and House of Guise (Lorraine), and both sides received assistance from foreign sources.
Philip signed the Treaty of Vaucelles with Henry II of France in 1556. Based on the terms of the treaty, the territory of the Franche-Comté was to be relinquished to Philip. However, the treaty was broken shortly afterwards. France and Spain waged war in northern France and Italy over the following years. Spanish victories at St. Quentin and Gravelines led to the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis, in which France recognised Spanish sovereignty over the Franche-Comté.
During the War of the Portuguese Succession, the pretender António fled to France following his defeats and, as Philip’s armies had not yet occupied the Azores, he sailed there with a large Anglo-French fleet under Filippo Strozzi, a Florentine exile in the service of France. The naval Battle of Terceira took place on 26 July 1582, in the sea near the Azores, off São Miguel Island, as part of the War of the Portuguese Succession and the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604). The Spanish navy defeated the combined Anglo-French fleet that had sailed to preserve control of the Azores under António. The French naval contingent was the largest French force sent overseas before the age of Louis XIV.
The Spanish victory at Terceira was followed by the Battle of the Azores between the Portuguese loyal to the claimant António, supported by French and English troops, and the Spanish-Portuguese forces loyal to Philip commanded by the admiral Don Álvaro de Bazán. Victory in Azores completed the incorporation of Portugal into the Spanish Empire.
Philip financed the Catholic League during the French Wars of Religion. He directly intervened in the final phases of the wars (1589–1598), ordering the Duke of Parma into France in an effort to unseat Henry IV, and perhaps dreaming of placing his favourite daughter, Isabel Clara Eugenia, on the French throne. Elizabeth of Valois, Philip’s third wife and Isabella’s mother, had already ceded any claim to the French Crown with her marriage to Philip. However the Parlement de Paris, in power of the Catholic party, gave verdict that Isabella Clara Eugenia was “the legitimate sovereign” of France. Philip’s interventions in the fighting – sending the Duke of Parma, to end Henry IV’s siege of Paris in 1590 – and the siege of Rouen in 1592 contributed in saving the French Catholic Leagues’s cause against a Protestant monarchy.
In 1593, Henry agreed to convert to Catholicism; weary of war, most French Catholics switched to his side against the hardline core of the Catholic League, who were portrayed by Henry’s propagandists as puppets of a foreign monarch, Philip. By the end of 1594 certain League members were still working against Henry across the country, but all relied on the support of Spain. In January 1595, therefore, Henry officially declared war on Spain, to show Catholics, that Philip was using religion as a cover for an attack on the French state, and Protestants, that he had not become a puppet of Spain through his conversion, while hoping to take the war to Spain and make territorial gain.
French victory at the Battle of Fontaine-Française marked an end to the Catholic League in France. Spain launched a concerted offensive in 1595, taking Doullens, Cambrai and Le Catelet and in the spring of 1596 capturing Calais by April. Following the Spanish capture of Amiens in March 1597 the French crown laid siege to it until it managed to reconquer Amiens from the overstretched Spanish forces in September 1597. Henry then negotiated a peace with Spain. The war was only drawn to an official close, however, after the Edict of Nantes, with the Peace of Vervins in May 1598.
The 1598 Treaty of Vervins was largely a restatement of the 1559 Peace of Câteau-Cambrésis and Spanish forces and subsidies were withdrawn; meanwhile, Henry issued the Edict of Nantes, which offered a high degree of religious toleration for French Protestants. The military interventions in France thus failed to oust Henry from the throne or suppress Protestantism in France, and yet they had played a decisive part in helping the French Catholic cause gain the conversion of Henry, ensuring that Catholicism would remain France’s official and majority faith – matters of paramount importance for the devoutly Catholic Spanish king.
In the early part of his reign Philip was concerned with the rising power of the Ottoman Empire under Suleiman the Magnificent. Fear of Islamic domination in the Mediterranean caused him to pursue an aggressive foreign policy.
In 1558, Turkish admiral Piyale Pasha captured the Balearic Islands, especially inflicting great damage on Minorca and enslaving many, while raiding the coasts of the Spanish mainland. Philip appealed to the Pope and other powers in Europe to bring an end to the rising Ottoman threat. Since his father’s losses against the Ottomans and against Hayreddin Barbarossa in 1541, the major European sea powers in the Mediterranean, namely Spain and Venice, became hesitant in confronting the Ottomans. The myth of “Turkish invincibility” was becoming a popular story, causing fear and panic among the people.
In 1560, Philip II organised a Holy League between Spain and the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa, the Papal States, the Duchy of Savoy and the Knights of Malta. The joint fleet was assembled at Messina and consisted of 200 ships (60 galleys and 140 other vessels) carrying a total of 30,000 soldiers under the command of Giovanni Andrea Doria, nephew of the famous Genoese admiral Andrea Doria.
On 12 March 1560, the Holy League captured the island of Djerba, which had a strategic location and could control the sea routes between Algiers and Tripoli. As a response, Suleiman sent an Ottoman fleet of 120 ships under the command of Piyale Pasha, which arrived at Djerba on 9 May 1560. The battle lasted until 14 May 1560, and the forces of Piyale Pasha and Turgut Reis (who joined Piyale Pasha on the third day of the battle) won an overwhelming victory at the Battle of Djerba. The Holy League lost 60 ships (30 galleys) and 20,000 men, and Giovanni Andrea Doria was barely able to escape with a small vessel. The Ottomans retook the Fortress of Djerba, whose Spanish commander, D. Álvaro de Sande, attempted to escape with a ship but was followed and eventually captured by Turgut Reis. In 1565 the Ottomans sent a large expedition to Malta, which laid siege to several forts on the island, taking some of them. The Spanish sent a relief force, which finally drove the Ottoman army out of the island.
The grave threat posed by the increasing Ottoman domination of the Mediterranean was reversed in one of history’s most decisive battles, with the destruction of nearly the entire Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, by the Holy League under the command of Philip’s half brother, Don Juan of Austria. A fleet sent by Philip, again commanded by Don John, reconquered Tunis from the Ottomans in 1573. The Turks soon rebuilt their fleet and in 1574 Uluç Ali Reis managed to recapture Tunis with a force of 250 galleys and a siege which lasted 40 days. Nevertheless, Lepanto marked a permanent reversal in the balance of naval power in the Mediterranean and the end of the threat of Ottoman control.
In 1585 a peace treaty was signed with the Ottomans.
Philip’s rule in the seventeen separate provinces known collectively as the Netherlands faced many difficulties; this led to open warfare in 1568. He appointed Margaret of Parma as Governor of the Netherlands, when he left the low countries for Spain in 1559, but forced her to adjust policy to the advice of Cardinal Granvelle, who was greatly disliked in the Netherlands, after he insisted on direct control over events in the Netherlands despite being over two weeks’ ride away in Madrid. There was discontent in the Netherlands about Philip’s taxation demands and the incessant persecution of Protestants. In 1566, Protestant preachers sparked anti-clerical riots known as the Iconoclast Fury; in response to growing Protestant influence, the Iron Duke’s (Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba) army went on the offensive, further alienating the local aristocracy. In 1572 a prominent exiled member of the Dutch aristocracy, William the Silent (Prince of Orange), invaded the Netherlands with a Protestant army, but he only succeeded in holding two provinces, Holland and Zeeland.
The war continued. The States General of the northern provinces, united in the 1579 Union of Utrecht, passed an Act of Abjuration declaring that they no longer recognised Philip as their king. The southern Netherlands (what is now Belgium and Luxembourg) remained under Spanish rule. In 1584, William the Silent was assassinated by Balthasar Gérard, after Philip had offered a reward of 25,000 crowns to anyone who killed him, calling him a “pest on the whole of Christianity and the enemy of the human race”. The Dutch forces continued to fight on under Orange’s son Maurice of Nassau, who received modest help from Queen Elizabeth I in 1585. The Dutch gained an advantage over the Spanish because of their growing economic strength, in contrast to Philip’s burgeoning economic troubles. The war, known as the Eighty Years’ War, only came to an end in 1648, when the Dutch Republic was recognised by Spain as independent.
In 1578 young king Sebastian of Portugal died at the Battle of Alcácer Quibir without descendants, triggering a succession crisis. His granduncle, the elderly Cardinal Henry, succeeded him as King, but Henry also had no descendants, having taken holy orders. When the Cardinal-King died two years after Sebastian’s disappearance, three grandchildren of Manuel I claimed the throne: Infanta Catarina, Duchess of Braganza, António, Prior of Crato, and Philip II of Spain. António was acclaimed King of Portugal in many cities and towns throughout the country, but members of the Council of Governors of Portugal who had supported Philip escaped to Spain and declared him to be the legal successor of Henry. Philip II then marched into Portugal and defeated Prior António’s troops in the Battle of Alcântara. The troops commanded by Fernando Álvarez de Toledo the 3rd Duke of Alba imposed subjection to Philip before entering Lisbon, where he seized an immense treasure. Philip II of Spain was crowned Philip I of Portugal in 1581 (recognised as king by the Portuguese Cortes of Tomar) and a sixty-year personal union under the rule of the Philippine Dynasty began. This gave Philip II compete control of Portugal and Brazil. When Philip left for Madrid in 1583, he made his nephew Albert of Austria his viceroy in Lisbon. In Madrid he established a Council of Portugal to advise him on Portuguese affairs, giving prominent positions to Portuguese nobles in the Spanish courts, and allowing Portugal to maintain autonomous law, currency, and government.
Philip’s father arranged his marriage to 37-year-old Queen Mary I of England, Charles’ maternal first cousin. To elevate Philip to Mary’s rank, his father ceded the crown of Naples, as well as his claim to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, to him.
Their marriage at Winchester Cathedral on 25 July 1554 took place just two days after their first meeting. Philip’s view of the affair was entirely political. Lord Chancellor Gardiner and the House of Commons petitioned Mary to consider marrying an Englishman, preferring Edward Courtenay.
Under the terms of the Act for the Marriage of Queen Mary to Philip of Spain, Philip was to enjoy Mary I’s titles and honours for as long as their marriage should last. All official documents, including Acts of Parliament, were to be dated with both their names, and Parliament was to be called under the joint authority of the couple. Coins were also to show the heads of both Mary and Philip. The marriage treaty also provided that England would not be obliged to provide military support to Philip’s father in any war. The Privy Council instructed that Philip and Mary should be joint signatories of royal documents, and this was enacted by an Act of Parliament, which gave him the title of king and stated that he “shall aid her Highness … in the happy administration of her Grace’s realms and dominions.” In other words, Philip was to co-reign with his wife. As the new King of England could not read English, it was ordered that a note of all matters of state should be made in Latin or Spanish.
Acts which made it high treason to deny Philip’s royal authority were passed in Ireland and England. Philip and Mary appeared on coins together, with a single crown suspended between them as a symbol of joint reign. The Great Seal shows Philip and Mary seated on thrones, holding the crown together. The coat of arms of England was impaled with Philip’s to denote their joint reign. During their joint reign, they waged war against France, which resulted in the loss of Calais, England’s last remaining possession in France.
Philip’s wife had succeeded to the Kingdom of Ireland, but the title of King of Ireland had been created in 1542 by Henry VIII after he was excommunicated, and so it was not recognised by Catholic monarchs. In 1555, Pope Paul IV rectified this by issuing a papal bull recognising Philip and Mary as rightful King and Queen of Ireland. King’s County and Philipstown in Ireland were named after Philip as King of Ireland in 1556.
The couple’s joint royal style after Philip ascended the Spanish throne in 1556 was: Philip and Mary, by the Grace of God King and Queen of England, Spain, France, Jerusalem, both the Sicilies and Ireland, Defenders of the Faith, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Burgundy, Milan and Brabant, Counts of Habsburg, Flanders and Tirol.
However, the couple had no children. Mary died in 1558 before the union could revitalise the Roman Catholic Church in England. With her death, Philip lost his rights to the English throne (including the ancient English claims to the French throne) and ceased to be King of England, Ireland and (as claimed by them) France.
Philip’s distaff great-grandson, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, married Princess Henrietta of England in 1661; in 1807, the Jacobite claim to the British throne passed to the descendants of their child Anne Marie d’Orléans.
Upon Mary’s death, the throne went to Elizabeth I. Philip had no wish to sever his tie with England, and had sent a proposal of marriage to Elizabeth. However, she delayed in answering, and in that time learned Philip was also considering a Valois alliance. Elizabeth I was the Protestant daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. This union was deemed illegitimate by English Catholics, who disputed the validity of both the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon and of his subsequent marriage to Boleyn, and hence claimed that Mary, Queen of Scots, the Catholic great granddaughter of Henry VII, was the legitimate heir to the throne.
For many years Philip maintained peace with England, and even defended Elizabeth from the Pope’s threat of excommunication. This was a measure taken to preserve a European balance of power. Ultimately, Elizabeth allied England with the Protestant rebels in the Netherlands. Further, English ships began a policy of piracy against Spanish trade and threatened to plunder the great Spanish treasure ships coming from the new world. English ships went so far as to attack a Spanish port. The last straw for Philip was the Treaty of Nonsuch signed by Elizabeth in 1585 – promising troops and supplies to the rebels. Although it can be argued this English action was the result of Philip’s Treaty of Joinville with the Catholic League of France, Philip considered it an act of war by England.
The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1587 ended Philip’s hopes of placing a Catholic on the English throne. He turned instead to more direct plans to invade England and return the country to Catholicism. In 1588, he sent a fleet, the Spanish Armada, to rendezvous with the Duke of Parma’s army and convey it across the English Channel. However, the operation had little chance of success from the beginning, because of lengthy delays, lack of communication between Philip II and his two commanders and the lack of a deep bay for the fleet. At the point of attack, a storm struck the English Channel, already known for its harsh currents and choppy waters, which devastated large numbers of the Spanish fleet. There was a tightly fought battle against the English Royal Navy; it was by no means a slaughter (the Spanish lost 5 ships whilst the English lost none), but the Spanish were forced into a retreat, and the overwhelming majority of the Armada was destroyed by the harsh weather. Whilst the English Royal Navy may not have destroyed the Armada at the Battle of Gravelines, they had prevented it from linking up with the army it was supposed to convey across the channel. Thus whilst the English Royal Navy may have only won a slight tactical victory over the Spanish, it had delivered a major strategic one—preventing the invasion of England.
Eventually, three more Armadas were assembled; two were sent to England in 1596 and 1597, but both also failed; the third (1599) was diverted to the Azores and Canary Islands to fend off raids. This Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604) would be fought to a grinding end, but not until both Philip II (d. 1598) and Elizabeth I (d. 1603) were dead.
Philip II died in El Escorial, near Madrid, on 13 September 1598, of cancer. He was succeeded by his 20-year-old son and grandnephew Philip III.