King Philip II of Spain

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Part 1: A Force in Europe

Philip II was King of Spain and was one of the dominant figures on the world stage for three decades in the 16th Century.

He was born on May 21, 1527, in Valladolid, the capital of Castile, in Spain. His father was King Charles I, who was also Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire; his mother was Isabella of Portugal. Philip was his parents' firstborn son and their only male child to survive into adulthood.

King Philip II of Spain

Philip proved an adept learner while studying under the well-known tutors Juan Martínez Siliceo, who later became Archbishop of Toledo, and Juan Cristóbal Calvete de Estrella. Philip's mother, Isabella, also taught him, introducing him to literature and music. Philip showed considerable acumen in absorbing lessons in government and politics as well, and his father in 1540 named the teenager Duke of Milan. Three years later, Charles gave Philip the regency of the Spanish kingdoms.

Charles was at war with most of his neighbors throughout his reign, and it was no accident that Philip, as the king's heir apparent, learned how to fight from some of the best soldiers around, including the Castilian soldier Juan de Zúñiga. Philip was with the Spanish force at the 1542 Siege of Perpignan and saw firsthand how his mentor, the Duke of Alba, guided his forces to victory over the Dauphin of France.

After more than three decades of warfare and political intrigue, Charles V abdicated his thrones. His brother Ferdinand won election as the Holy Roman Emperor. Philip took over the Spanish empire, which at that time included not only Spain but also the Burgundian Netherlands, various lands in Italy, and Spanish colonies in the New World.

Battle of St. Quentin

France and Spain had fought against each other and against various Italian powers for decades by the time that Philip took over as King of Spain. Philip declared war on the Papal States in 1556 and wrung a peace treaty full of concessions from Pope Paul IV. Spanish armies won important victories against French armies for the next two years, significantly at St. Quentin in 1557 and Gravelines in 1558. France's King Henry II finally sued for peace, resulting in the 1559 Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis. France renounced claims to Corsica, Piedmont, and Savoy and recognized Philip as ruler of Milan, Naples, Sardinia, and Sicily.

From Charles also Philip had inherited a burgeoning maelstrom in the Low Countries. Disputes over taxation and religious beliefs spilled over into genuine revolt and then, military conflict, the Eighty Years War, beginning with the Battle of Heiligerlee, in 1568. The struggle continued until long after Philip II had gone.

Next page > War, Politics, and Marriage > Page 1, 2, 3

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