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Philip V Of Spain


Philip V, who reluctantly assumed the Spanish throne in 1700, was the first of the Bourbon dynasty which continues to rule Spain today. His 46-year reign, briefly curtailed in 1724 when he abdicated in favour of his short-lived son, Louis I, was one of the most important in the country's history. This highly readable account is the first biography of Philip V in English.

Previous writing on Philip has been largely negative, dismissing him as comic, stupid and indolent. Henry ...

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Philip V, who reluctantly assumed the Spanish throne in 1700, was the first of the Bourbon dynasty which continues to rule Spain today. His 46-year reign, briefly curtailed in 1724 when he abdicated in favour of his short-lived son, Louis I, was one of the most important in the country's history. This highly readable account is the first biography of Philip V in English.

Previous writing on Philip has been largely negative, dismissing him as comic, stupid and indolent. Henry Kamen demonstrates here, however, that the king initiated significant developments in politics, imperial policy, finance, government and military affairs that laid the basis of the modern Spanish state. Philip also encouraged literature, the creative arts and music in ways that brought Spanish culture closer in touch with the rest of Europe, and he dealt authoritatively with issues concerning the autonomy of the provinces of Spain and the role of the monarchy itself. Drawing on contemporary opinion and fresh archival sources, Kamen discusses Philip's character, decisions and policies. He offers a new assessment of the king's illness (which led earlier historians to view Philip as mad) and re-evaluates the role of his two wives. Kamen's account of Philip as king also provides an essential introduction to the study of early eighteenth-century Spain and the Bourbon monarchy.

Henry Kamen is Professor of the Higher Council for Scientific Research in Barcelona. He has held posts at several universities in Britain and the United States, most recently as visiting professor at the University of Chicago. He is the author of many books on European and Spanish history, including 'Philip of Spain', 'The Spanish Inquisition', and 'The Phoenix and the Flame: Catalonia and the Counter Reformation', all published by Yale University Press.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sometimes imagining himself a frog, and repeatedly believing himself to be dead, Philip V, the first Bourbon on the throne of Spain, has been a risible figure for many historians. For others, Philip, who ruled from 1700 to 1746, was a despicable absolutist who too briefly abdicated the throne in 1724, or a weak man easily dominated by his Italian-born second wife, Elizabeth Farnese. But Kamen, a historian of the early modern era with the Higher Council for Scientific Research in Barcelona, has made his career destroying established scholarship. In The Spanish Inquisition (1998), he undercut the "Black Legend" of Spanish brutality and intolerance, placing the holy tribunal in a more realistic historical context. Here, he argues that Philip in fact helped ensure the economic, political and cultural revival of his adopted country, that he was entirely uninterested in absolutist power and that the salacious accusations regarding his sexual appetite are without foundation. Although he postures this scholarly work as a personal biography of Philip V and not a historical review of the king's reign, Kamen's rehabilitation is sometimes excessive: for instance, his claim that, under Philip, "Spain awoke to adequate food supplies" is undermined by his own admission that royal policies aggravated the problem of poverty. Moreover, the author admits that the cultural advancements (with a Parisian influence) that the king encouraged had little effect beyond the court and that Philip's manic depression quite clearly had a crippling effect on his capacity to govern. Still, this remains a humane work, as well as a provocative one, notably in its treatment of Elizabeth, whose apparently authoritarian behavior was, Kamen suggests, simply the result of a loyal decision to act decisively on behalf of her beloved but incapacitated husband. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A biography of a manic-depressive, but surprisingly successful, king. Kamen (The Spanish Inquisition, 1998, etc.) presents an absorbing tale of the first Spanish king from the Bourbon line, which rules the country today. He focuses on three aspects of Philip's reign: his state policies, his family concerns, and his psychological problems. On the domestic front, taking the cue from his grandfather, Louis XIV of France, Philip reformed Spain's antiquated structure of government, streamlining tax collection and tightening the political bonds between the various Iberian kingdoms and Madrid. Unfortunately, however, the gains from these reforms were squandered by Philip's belligerent foreign policies, which led to the War of Spanish Succession (a short-lived invasion of Sardinia) and other devastating mishaps. The author paints Philip as a cosmopolitan in an inward-looking court. He eschewed Spanish nobles' advice, kept French and later Italian counselors, and was often totally dependent on the two wives he had over the course of his 46-year reign. This last point surfaces because, Kamen argues, Philip had bipolar disorder. During low periods he refused to wash and spent months sleeping by day and conducting official business in the middle of the night, sometimes refusing to talk so that his queens had to speak for him. During high periods, on the other hand, especially during wartime, he was the consummate leader. These episodes contributed to Philip's decision to abdicate, a chapter of the king's life Kamen could have examined more closely and at more length. Philip's son died shortly after being installed, however, and the father returned to the throne. Despite the ill fit between kingand kingdom, Kamen argues that Philip made Spain's first moves towards becoming a modern state. The foreign art and architecture he brought into the country revitalized the Spanish court. Even his failed military enterprises had an upside: by committing Spanish troops (successfully or not) to European campaigns, Philip forced the other powers to take his country more seriously. A fresh history that profits from its psychological insights.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300180541
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 3/7/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 294
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Disputed Succession

`I would rather go back to being duke of Anjou, and I can't stand Spain!'
Philip V, May 1701

In the last months of the year 1700, the attention of the western world was centred on the royal palace of the Habsburg kings of Spain. In Madrid on 2 October the mortally ill young monarch, the ashen-faced and rickety Charles II, made the last positive decision of his life and signed a final testament in which he declared that his throne should pass to the French duke of Anjou, grandson of the sovereign of France, Louis XIV. He had previously made two other wills, each favouring a different heir, so that for nearly half a century the shadow of war had loomed over Europe because of the vexed question of the Spanish succession.

    Charles II, born in 1661, had become king of Spain in 1665 but suffered throughout his life from serious ill-health and was unable to produce an heir by either of his wives, the second of whom, Mariana of Neuburg, daughter of the Elector Palatine and sister to the wife of Emperor Leopold I, he had married in 1689. The other European powers were anxious that the extensive Spanish empire, if left without an heir, should not fall into the hands of one sole dynasty. To this end various secret agreements were therefore arrived at to divide the empire up. Louis XIV's interest in the throne of Spain dated from his marriage in 1660 to Maria Teresa, daughter of Philip IV. Both the terms of the marriage and the subsequent testament of Philip IV made it clear that Maria Teresa and her descendants were excluded from the throne of Spain. However, at no time did Louis or his advisers take the renunciations seriously. They used, in part, the excuse that the dowry of Maria Teresa had never been paid, and that this automatically made the renunciations invalid. As early as 1668, the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, signed a treaty at Vienna with France, providing for the partition between them of the Spanish territories if Charles were to die heirless. Leopold based his own claim to the Spanish throne on the fact that he was a grandson of Philip III. He had also married, as his first wife, Margarita, daughter of Philip IV. Their daughter, Marie Antonia, married the elector of Bavaria, Maximilian; the couple's son, Joseph Ferdinand, born in 1692, also became a direct candidate for the Spanish throne.

    Over the next two decades the interests of England and the United Provinces also came into play, particularly after the union of these two nations under one ruler, William III of Orange, in 1688. When it became apparent in the last years of the century that Charles II was seriously ill, the chief European powers agreed on a secret partition treaty. The treaty, made in October i698, stated that the throne of Spain would pass to the infant heir of the duke of Bavaria, while France would obtain some Spanish territory as well as Italy, and the Empire would receive Milan. When the news was leaked to Spain, there was indignation. By a testament of 14 September 1693, made during a severe illness, the heirless Charles II had already left his entire monarchy to the Bavarian prince. On receiving news of the October 1698 treaty, the king, with the support of his Council of State, made a secret testament, dated 11 November 1698, in which he named the Bavarian prince sole heir to the crown. The Spaniards were unanimous on one point: there must be no division of the monarchy. The Bavarian prince unexpectedly died three months later, so forcing the powers to draw up yet another treaty (this time without much secrecy but with the participation of the emperor) in March 1700. By this, the monarchy would still be divided up, and Spain would go instead to the emperor's younger son, the Archduke Charles.

    The feelings of the Council of State in Madrid were quite clear. Uppermost in the minds of all its ministers was the need to preserve the integrity of the monarchy, and to put it in hands powerful enough to guarantee that integrity. Their view was crystallised in the vote of the marquis del Fresno: `that Your Majesty cede the whole monarchy to a grandson of the king of France, on the assurance that there will be no unification of the two Crowns'. Following the advice of his ministers, and with his health failing, on 3 October 1700 Charles drew up a final will leaving to the second son of the dauphin of France, Philip duke of Anjou, `the succession of all my kingdoms and dominions, without exception of any'. If Anjou did not accept, the undivided inheritance was to go to the Archduke Charles. On 29 October Charles appointed Cardinal Portocarrero of Toledo as regent. Just before 3 p.m. on 1 November 1700, All Saints' Day, the last Habsburg king of Spain died. On 6 November, after the customary lying in state, his body was taken to the Escorial and interred the next day.

    When the king lay dying, most diplomats in western Europe knew the general terms of his will, for it was in Spain's interest that there be a peaceful transition. The elites of Spain were overwhelmingly in favour of the French candidate. Several years before, the English ambassador Godolphin had reported: `By all the notices I have of the present temper of this people I am persuaded, if it should happen that the young king dye as things now stand, they would tamely goe into the obedience of France'. Under the last Habsburg king they had watched their empire virtually collapse and they were eager to greet a new dynasty and a new, more promising future. In the great hall of the royal Alcazar of Madrid the nobles, grandees and ambassadors waited for the announcement of the king's death, and the formal statement of the terms of his will. The grandee charged with making that announcement, the duke of Abrantes, emerged from the doors of the antechamber and proceeded towards the two most relevant ambassadors, the count of Blécourt for France and the count of Harrach for Austria. `Blécourt advanced with the confidence of a man who expected a declaration in his favour; but the Spaniard, casting on him a look of indifference, advanced to Harrach and embraced him with a fervour which announced the most joyful tidings. Maliciously prolonging his compliment, and repeating his embrace, he said, "Sir, it is with the greatest pleasure — Sir, it is with the greatest satisfaction — for my whole life — I take my leave of the most illustrious House of Austria!"'

    In spite of such unequivocal events in Madrid, there was still much doubt in international circles. Louis was bound by the terms of the secret treaty he had made. Would he accept the testament that now placed the entire Spanish empire, the richest and most extensive association of territories on the face of the earth, exclusively in his hands? The king did not hesitate. He received the text of the testament of Charles II on 9 November, at Fontainebleau, and within twenty-four hours, after consulting with his Council of State, had decided to accept it. There would, he was convinced, be war if he accepted the succession under the terms of Charles II's will, and war even if he decided not to accept it, since he would have to take up arms against the emperor in order to enforce the last partition treaty. On 12 November he wrote formally to the queen regent of Spain, Mariana of Neuburg, accepting the crown on behalf of the duke of Anjou. On the 15th he went to Versailles and summoned the Spanish ambassador to attend him the next day.

    In the morning of 16 November he staged at Versailles one of the great theatrical acts of his reign. The nobles of the realm and the diplomats of Europe were invited to be present. `The king', reports the diarist Dangeau, `summoned to his rooms the Spanish ambassador, then called in the duke of Anjou, who was waiting in the antechamber, and said to the ambassador, "You may address him as your king"'. At precisely 11 a.m. Louis advanced through the throng of guests and opened the inner doors of the palace, through which he led out a shy and somewhat bewildered young man whom he presented to the waiting assembly. `Gentlemen', he proclaimed, `the king of Spain! His birth called him to this crown, the whole nation desired it and has pressed me to it, and it is my pleasure to grant my consent.' He then turned to Anjou and said: `Be a good Spaniard, that is now your first duty, but remember that you were born French in order to uphold the union between the two nations; this is the way to maintain their felicity and to preserve the peace of Europe.'

    While diplomats and governments busied themselves trying to sort out the political implications of the decision, the French court tranquilly made preparations for the new king's journey to his kingdom. Officials were designated for his household, and the marquis of Louville was appointed as his tutor. Philip took formal leave of Louis and the French court at Sceaux on 4 December. It was on this occasion that the Sun King uttered one of his most memorable phrases. Philip recalled many years later that Louis, `full of joy, and taking leave of me with a final embrace, said: "There are now no Pyrenees; two nations that have for so long been rivals will in future be a single people; the lasting peace between them will assure the tranquillity of Europe."' His large retinue of over forty coaches then made its way across country, by way of Orléans and Poitiers, and spent the New Year's holiday in Bordeaux. They passed the second week of January in Bayonne, then crossed the river Bidasoa into Spanish territory on 22 January 1701 and entered Irún. The Spaniards laid on entertainments in every town, but the heavy rains dampened many of the festivities, and cut short a visit that the king made to San Sebastian on the 26th. The royal party took the route through Vitoria, Burgos and Guadalajara. In Vitoria he assisted at his first bullfight on Spanish territory: `the king was so delighted', reports the Gaceta de Madrid, `that after seeing twenty bulls in action, he asked if there were more'. He spent three days in Burgos, especially to view the impressive cathedral and the convents. The crowds coming to see him grew bigger after he left Guadalajara. On the 18th his coach left Alcalá for Madrid. `On the news of his approach, so many people came from all parts', it was reported, `that the like has never been seen in Spain, for the six leagues of the highway were one continuous crowd, and the cheers and cries of Long live the king added up to a constant commotion.'

    Followed by innumerable carriages and cavalry, he entered the palace of the Buen Retiro on 19 February, stopping first at the shrine of Our Lady of Atocha, `where the choir of the Royal Chapel were waiting to sing a Te Deum, but could not be heard because of the excited cries and acclamations of the public'. At the staircase of the Buen Retiro he was welcomed and had his hand kissed by Cardinal Portocarrero and the grandees of Spain. `To satisfy all the crowds who wished to see him, he went out on the balcony several times.' There were fireworks that night, but because it was Lent all other celebrations were postponed. The day ended on a note of tragedy, for in the crush of people several were trampled to death in the Puerta de Alcalá; the incident made a lasting impression on Philip, who subsequently always took care to ensure that crowds in his vicinity were controlled.

    The young man on whom the world's greatest monarchy had devolved was born on 19 December 1683 and was therefore barely seventeen years old, little more than the age at which his most illustrious predecessor, Charles V, had also succeeded to the throne. Like Charles, the youthful Philip spoke no Spanish and had no personal experience of the Iberian peninsula. Nor had the French much confidence in his capacities. Louis XIV was aware of Philip's limitations and took great, even excessive, care to have experts available at every stage to advise the young king. Second son of Louis XIV's son Louis (known as `the Great Dauphin') and of Marie Anne of Neuburg, of the ruling house of Bavaria, Philip, with his elder brother the duke of Burgundy (prospective heir to Louis XIV's throne) and his younger the duke of Berry, had been brought up in a completely protected environment where they had little contact with the real world. Their moral and social education was put in the hands of the duke of Beauvilliers and of the archbishop of Cambrai, Fénelon. They were also trained to be soldiers and athletes, with riding and swimming in their repertoire of open-air exercises. Yet despite this rigorous upbringing, Philip appears to have been rather withdrawn. The French foreign minister Torcy observed quite correctly that Philip was `raised in tutelage and unable to act by himself'. The day he took his leave of Louis XIV at Sceaux, we are told by a contemporary, `the king of Spain fell into a deep melancholy', brought on certainly by fears of his new role, and an omen of the illnesses that he was later to endure. Madame de Maintenon commented that Philip had `a hesitant character, an exaggerated lack of confidence in himself, and is slow of speech', but also praised `his piety, his correct behaviour, his feeling for justice and truth'. Her reading of him was, as we shall see, correct in every detail. Because they were doubtful of his capacities, the French took care that Philip should not have to make any decisions by himself, a policy hardly calculated to help the new king gain any great faith in his own abilities.

    Philip's arrival in the palace of Buen Retiro, just outside Madrid, was meant to be a prelude to his formal entry into the capital, which was postponed until after Easter. While notables came every day to pay their respects and homage, the king tried to get used to his unfamiliar surroundings. Finally on 14 April he made the official visit to the capital, despite the fact that it rained all morning and most of the afternoon. His entourage left the Buen Retiro at 3 p.m. and made a slow progress, through packed streets and cheering crowds, first to the Prado, then on to the Puerta del Sol and finally to his destination, the royal palace of the Alcázar. Everywhere there were triumphal arches and throngs of notables dressed in festive clothing. The procession took four hours in all, arriving at the Alcázar shortly before dusk. That night there were lights and torches, and celebrations in the streets. The next day the king made a visit to the church of Our Lady of Atocha, and on his way back to the Alcazar passed through the Plaza Mayor, which had been specially decorated for the occasion.

    On 8 May he attended a solemn meeting in the monastery of San Jerónimo. Often described as a Cortes, it was both less and more than that. It was less, because only thirteen of the cities in the Cortes of Castile sent delegates. The government had decided that the meeting would cause excessive expense to the cities, and asked that these send credentials only to delegates who were already in the capital. It was more than a Cortes, because the packed assembly included representatives of all the communities of Castile, from bishops and grandees down to the deputies of provinces and cities. There were also representatives of the Crown of Aragon. All had come to swear allegiance to their new sovereign. The young king's appearance was a triumph, and the people of Madrid were overjoyed. Perhaps the only perplexing event of those days was when Philip declined (on the specific advice of his tutor the marquis of Louville) an invitation to attend an auto de fe especially arranged for him by the Inquisition. Northern Europeans had never approved of the ceremony, and the French obviously thought that they should distance themselves from such fanaticism. The French were also unfamiliar with bullfights, but Philip, as we have seen, was immediately converted to them.

    The refusal to attend the auto de fe was a symbol of the new way in which decisions were going to be made in Madrid. Louis felt that the first requisite was to give the new king access to good advice. Among the documents that Philip had to read in these weeks was a long letter sent to him by his grandfather through the French ambassador Harcourt. Another document of advice reached him from Beauvilliers through his new tutor, Louville. Fénelon also sent, through Louville, a number of counsels. Those who gave advice, whether Frenchmen or Spaniards, all concurred on two main points: the king must change his court, and he must change the manner of government.

    The hundreds of French officials who accompanied Philip to Madrid were in agreement that they did not like the court; they shared a dislike of this way of life with which they were completely unfamiliar. The style in clothes, in decoration, in etiquette, in culture, all seemed to the fashionable Versailles courtiers to be relics of a past age. The king, accustomed to a different style of diet, refused to accept food cooked in the Castilian way. The chamberlains issued new instructions to the Spanish cooks in the royal kitchens, but they refused to obey, staged strikes, and even insisted on placing their dishes before the king. In the face of such `intransigence' Philip had no option but to create a completely new royal household, one in which all the key officials were French and would do things in the French manner. In 1701, Louville was made official head of the French household.

    The introduction of radical changes in a society that held its customs and traditions to be immutable created uproar. Some changes were permanent: in 1701, after an incident that displeased the king, the dwarfs and buffoons who had been a part of the way of life at the Habsburg court were expelled from the palace. Other entertainments also irritated the French. Without exception, they thought Madrid comedy and music utterly boring; they therefore took the first steps towards introducing foreign theatre and music into the capital. The question of dress was, inevitably, crucial. The symbol of courtly nobility in seventeenth-century Spain had been the stiff collar known as the golilla and the first official portrait of Philip as king, painted while he was still in France by Louis's court painter Hyacinthe Rigaud and now hanging in the Louvre, shows him wearing one. The Bourbons later officially disapproved of the collar, though Philip himself kept on using it until 1703. After the first few months of conflict and resistance within the court, the French became more tolerant of Spanish customs and made an effort to coexist with them.

    The same compromises did not, however, occur at the political level. For many years the French ambassadors had been emphasising to Louis XIV that the government of Spain needed a complete overhaul. In 1701, the archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Portocarrero, submitted to Louis an outline of suggested reforms. Philip's own tutor, Louville, was in favour of abolishing the complete system of government councils. `The people', he wrote later, `want an absolute king.' While agreeing with such ideas, Louis XIV arranged for the king to be advised by a select committee of government known as the `Despacho universal', which had existed in the preceding reign but was now transformed into a sort of cabinet council. From 1701 the Despacho consisted of a handful of leading Spanish advisers, but its most important member was the French ambassador, whose advice rapidly came to dominate. The Spanish advisers were gradually edged out, with consequences that were soon widely felt.

* * *

Two months after arriving in Madrid the new king still felt uneasy; he was alone, isolated and homesick. He was unable to pick up the Spanish language, a failure which aggravated his feeling of isolation (throughout his reign he continued to speak only French). He found the Spanish palaces uncomfortable and the Spanish coaches painful to ride in. The custom of having different living quarters for summer and winter, in the same building, seemed strange to people from the north; and the restricted space in both bedrooms and public areas was a problem. One of the French nobles observed that `in fact there are no real country houses such as our king has, and it is to be hoped that Philip V will arrange to copy in this country some of the buildings we have in France'. With time, it became possible to carry out changes to his living quarters.

    In April 1701 Philip suffered an attack of the periodic depressions that later came to affect his life profoundly. It cannot have been the first such episode, for the documents treat the occurrence as virtually normal, and, as we have seen, he had had a similar attack when he left Sceaux. In all probability, he had been having similar experiences for several years. So low were his spirits that Philip now stated that he wished to return to France and to his family. Indeed, during one of his spells of depression, he informed his tutor that `I would rather go back to being duke of Anjou, and I can't stand Spain'. Afflicted by chronic shyness and lack of self-confidence, he was afraid to participate in meetings of his ministers although he sincerely wished to. Instead of taking part in the Royal Council, he would listen to the proceedings from behind a curtain. `I can assure you,' his tutor wrote to Torcy, `that it is a sad sight.' The Spanish nobles soon realized that the firm government they longed for was lacking. One of them commented sourly: `Ours is a strange government: a dumb king, a deaf cardinal, a president of the Council with no power, and a French ambassador without goodwill.'


Excerpted from Philip V of Spain by Henry Kamen. Copyright © 2001 by Henry Kamen. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vi
Preface vii
Chapter 1 The Disputed Succession 1
Chapter 2 The War in the Peninsula, 1704-1709 34
Chapter 3 The Later War Years, 1709-1715 72
Chapter 4 Elizabeth Farnese, 1715-1723 103
Chapter 5 Abdication and Second Reign, 1724-1729 139
Chapter 6 Andalucian Interlude, 1729-1733 169
Chapter 7 The Years of Crisis, 1734-1746 194
Chapter 8 The Spain of Philip V 219
Appendix Diagrams 239
Abbreviations 244
Notes 245
Glossary 265
Select Bibliography 266
Index 270
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