Drawing on Philip's unpublished correspondence and on many other archival sources, Henry Kamen reveals much about Philip the youth, the man, the husband, the father, the frequently troubled Christian, and the king. Kamen finds that Philip was a cosmopolitan prince whose extensive experience of northern Europe broadened his cultural imagination and tastes, whose staunchly conservative ideas were far from being illiberal and fanatical, whose religious attitudes led him to accept a practical coexistence with Protestants and Jews, and whose support for Las Casas and other defenders of the Indians in America helped determine government policy. Shedding completely new light on most aspects of Philip's private life and, in consequence, on his public actions, the book is the definitive portrayal of Philip II.
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About the Author
Henry Kamen has been professor of the Higher Council for Scientific Research in Barcelona since 1993. Before that he held various university posts in England and the United States. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he is the author of several books on European and Spanish history, including The Phoenix and the Flame: Catalonia and the Counter Reformation, published by Yale University Press.
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The Formative Years 1527-1544
I cannot find words to express the need and straits in which these realms find themselves
In July 1522 the Emperor Charles V returned to his Spanish dominions. Over two years previously he had sailed from them, just as revolution was breaking out in the major cities of Castile. His journey abroad took him to the lands over which he ruled in northern Europe. In Germany he was formally elected Holy Roman Emperor of the German nation. During the sessions of the Imperial Diet in Germany he paid due attention to the scandal caused by the preachings of the monk Martin Luther. His absence did not prevent him following closely the course of events in Spain. He was gratified to learn of the defeat of the rebels, the Comuneros, at the battle of Villalar in April 1521. On his return, the royal council under his direction decreed a further number of exemplary executions, but Charles soon declared that 'enough blood has been shed' and on 1 November 1522 in a solemn ceremony in the town square of Valladolid, he issued a general pardon to the rebels. It opened the way to a reconciliation between the king and his alienated subjects.
Over the next few months the king did his best to correct the errors that had thrown the beginning of his reign into turbulence. Born in Ghent, in the Netherlands, in 1500, endowed with the square face and low-hung jaw typical of his Habsburg family, he was an accomplished soldier and a proficient scholar. But it took him time to acquire political experience. He succeeded to the crowns of Spain in 1516, and arrived in the peninsula in 1517. InCastile he at first ruled jointly with his mother, the crazed queen Juana, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. It was a purely nominal collaboration, for she was already in retirement. During his first weeks as ruler, Charles was criticised for being insensitive to the interests of his new subjects. He soon made up for his mistakes. From 1522 he prudently made concessions to all the major demands that had inspired the revolt of the Comuneros. They had complained about his absence. He now stayed for seven years, the longest of his sojourns in the peninsula. High up on the list was their demand that the king marry, by implication within the realm. He was young, the most eligible bachelor in western Europe (and already father, by a Flemish girl, of a daughter, Margaret). The Castilian deputies to the Cortes (or parliament) of 1525 hoped that he might marry his cousin Isabel, sister of the king of Portugal. Charles was virtually pledged to marry the daughter of Henry VIII of England, Mary. But by 1525 he had drifted from the idea of an alliance with England and accepted the link with Portugal. The marriage took place at Seville on 10 March 1526. It was a political union, but Charles fell in love with his beautiful wife, three years younger than he. When the heat invaded Seville they escaped to spend the honeymoon in the Moorish splendour of the Alhambra at Granada. In December the couple, and the whole court with them, moved back to Castile. It was there, in one of the palaces of Valladolid, that a son was born to Isabel in the afternoon of 21 May 1527.
She was thirteen hours in labour, but Charles stayed by her side throughout. The proud father was 'so overjoyed and delighted by his son', that he spent his time doing nothing but arranging celebrations and festivities. The infant was not baptised until six weeks later, by the archbishop of Toledo in the monastery of St Pablo in Valladolid. His godparents were the Constable of Castile (who bore him in his arms), the duke of Bejar, and Charles's elder sister Eleanor, queen of France. The emperor laid on 'tourneys and ventures like those described in Amadis, but far more daring and 'accomplished than-those in the book, so that neither before nor since had such celebrations been held'.
The happiness of the occasion was clouded by serious political problems. Just over a year before, Charles had released from captivity in Madrid the king of France, Francis I, captured at the battle of Pavia in northern Italy in 1525. Although Francis was to keep his promise, made in captivity, to marry Eleanor, he almost immediately on his release refused to honour the main political concessions he had made. Francis's ally, pope Clement, took heart at these events and challenged the emperor's forces based in Milan. In reply the emperor's army, strengthened by German mercenaries, moved south and on 6 May 1527 attacked and sacked the city of Rome. The outrage to the capital of western Christendom shocked all Europe. The news reached Charles in Valladolid in mid-June, and dampened the festive atmosphere. The emperor's attention had of necessity to be diverted to these serious events, and his departure soon became unavoidable. Pressure of affairs of state meant that in the coming years he was fated to play little part in the rearing of his infant son.
Twelve months later, on 10 May 1528, representatives of the Cortes met in the monastery of St Jeronimo in Madrid and recognised the infant as heir to the throne of Castile. They also recognised the empress Isabel as regent of the realm during Charles's impending absence. On 27 July 1529 the emperor set sail from Barcelona. He was not to return until 1533.
Every aspect of the prince's upbringing was catered for with great care. Isabel's circle was largely Portuguese. It gave to her son a propensity for things Portuguese which he never lost. Of the many nurses assigned to him the most influential was the Portuguese Leonor Mascarenhas, in her twenties when she began to care for him. Philip's affection for and confidence in her made him appoint her, years afterwards, as nurse to his son Don Carlos. He was also assigned 'governors', the first of whom was Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, son of the duke of Infantado. From abroad Charles kept in close touch with all those in charge of the heir to his Spanish throne. Infant mortality in those times was a permanent threat. It carried off the majority of the royal children in Spain, and in the population as a whole eliminated one out of every two infants. As a consequence, questions of health featured prominently in letters sent to the emperor. Isabel's own private correspondence expressed her fears. 'The prince my son is ill with fever,' she wrote to a friend in mid-June 1532, 'and though the illness is not dangerous it has me very worried and anxious.' Three weeks later Philip was ill again: 'I'm very anxious,' she wrote.
Shortly before Charles's departure, a daughter, Maria, was born to the empress on 21 June 1528 in the royal palace of the Alcazar in Madrid. Mendoza in 1531 informed the emperor that 'the Infanta grows bigger and fatter by the day, and the prince entertains her like a genteel gallant'. But the prince was not always a model of gentility: 'he is so mischievous that sometimes Her Majesty gets really angry; she spanks him, and the women weep to see such severity'. Mother and son seem to have had a good relationship. Isabel gave him the only semblance of a family circle he was to have in his childhood. Deprived of a father, he looked only to her as the example for his character and conduct. On his side, unfortunately, a child's respect never had the opportunity to mature into abiding affection: her early death cut that link.
When Charles returned to Spain in April 1533 it was time to begin the next stage in the training of the prince. In July 1534 he appointed a tutor for Philip, 'to teach him to read and write'. Juan Martinez de Siliceo, aged forty-eight at the time of his appointment, was a priest and graduate of Paris and Salamanca. The next year the prince was given a new governor, Juan de Zuniga, a noble companion of the emperor who from 1532 enjoyed the title of grand commander of Castile. Charles left Spain again in April 1535 and was periodically absent for the next few years (he was abroad when Isabel gave birth on 24 June 1535 to their third child, Juana). Before leaving, he arranged for the prince to have his own separate household. This meant that he had lodgings, attendants and chapel independent of the queen. Siliceo and Zuniga were entrusted with his education.
Booklets on reading and grammar were specially written for Philip's instruction by a humanist member of the royal household, who also translated Erasmus's Institution of a Christian Prince into Spanish for the same purpose. Illness occasionally interrupted his schooling, but he made fair progress. Siliceo commented in November 1535 that 'he shows promise of learning a lot in a short time'. By February 1536, 'he has made a lot of progress in reading and learning prayers in Latin and Spanish'. By September that year, 'he knows the conjugations and some other principles; soon he will start to study authors, the first of whom is Cato'. By March 1540, 'he has improved a lot in speaking Latin, and speaks no other language during classes ... He has started to write in Latin.'
An important place in the prince's education was assigned to music. The aristocratic households of this time the great Mendoza family is an example had their own musicians and put on musical entertainments. Spain could draw on its own popular songs, on Moorish music, and on imported influences from Italy, France and the Netherlands. Inevitably, music was central to the activities of the royal court. Each of the royal households had its own chapel, with accompanying musicians and choristers. Both in chapel and out, the tastes of the court were especially influenced by foreign styles. Philip's sisters learned to dance in the French way. The prince was always interested in music. Around 1540 the Granada composer Luis Narvaez was his music tutor and taught him to play the guitar (vihuela). Significantly, Philip appears in these years in the dedication of several books on guitar music.
Non-academic interests soon asserted themselves, as Siliceo's letter of June 1540 pointed out. 'Though hunting is at present what he is most inclined to, he doesn't neglect his studies a bit. And we have to be grateful that at this age of fourteen when the weakness of the flesh begins to assert itself, God has given the prince such a passion for hunting that he spends most of his time in this and in his studies.' In September, 'his favourite pursuits after study are going hunting and jousting'. It is fair to doubt whether Siliceo was right to think that the sexual urges of adolescence were wholly consumed by hunting and study.
Shortly after, in February 1541, Siliceo was appointed bishop of Cartagena. The fact is that Charles was not satisfied with Philip's educational progress. He told him flatly that Siliceo 'has not been nor is the most suitable teacher for you; he has given in to you too much'. The tutor's appointment to Cartagena paved the way for his removal, though he did not leave for his see till 1544. In 1541 Cristobal Calvet de Estrella was appointed to teach Philip Latin and Greek, Honorat Juan to teach mathematics and architecture, and Juan Gines de Sepulveda to teach geography and history. These illustrious humanists and scholars were, however, unable to bring the prince to the level of excellence desired by his father.
Philip, like any normal schoolboy, did not like school. 'He studies well enough when he is in school,' Zuniga wrote to the emperor in 1535, 'although when he has to go there he resembles his father at the same age.' By the same post he sent Charles the first of several letters written by the prince 'in his own hand'. None of these appears to have survived. Zuniga received reports from Siliceo and sent them on to Charles, together with comments on the progress made by the prince in other matters. From the grand commander Philip picked up a passion for hunting. 'He continues with his studies as when Your Majesty was here, and in the hunting season goes to the country twice a week,' wrote Zuniga in January 1540. Two weeks later Philip 'went to Alcala for four days ... He enjoyed himself greatly, specially in the woods, where he killed nine rabbits with the bow, and nicked others.' A week later, 'yesterday he went hunting and killed four fowl and brought down another two'. In the following week, 'he went to the Pardo and shot two arrows ... He came and went by litter, but in the country was a good six hours on horseback, which seemed to him like two and to me more like twelve.'
Zuniga was aware of the importance of studying Latin. 'I consider it essential that a prince be a good Latinist, to be able to discipline both himself and others, especially one who is going to rule over so many different tongues'. Sepulveda too was concerned that through Latin the prince should learn to speak to ambassadors directly and so avoid interpreters. It was a goal which the emperor enjoined on the prince repeatedly. But in classes when his humanist tutors addressed him in Latin, Philip insisted on replying in Spanish. The prince was neither a model pupil nor in any way outstanding. His command of Latin remained always average, his literary style at best mediocre, and his handwriting generally ill-formed. Educated as a humanist, he never became one. His Greek always remained very rudimentary. When his then secretary Gonzalo Perez in 1547 dedicated to him his Castilian translation of the Iliad, he hoped that Philip 'may see in his own tongue what many famous princes have read in Greek'.
But his refusal to become a scholar did not mean that he could not appreciate the value of scholarship. His tutors, notably Calvet de Estrella, were given funds to build up a library for the prince. Philip grew up surrounded by books written by the geniuses of western civilisation. Among volumes acquired for him by Calvet in 1545, bought in Salamanca and Medina del Campo but for the most part printed abroad, were items by Sophocles, Virgil, Aquinas, Boccaccio, Savonarola, Petrarch, Vitruvio, Copernicus, and the collected works of Erasmus. His library in 1553 contained 'books in different subjects and languages', including works by Durer, Dante and Machiavelli. The collection grew over the years, as he continued to purchase items on his special interests: architecture and art, music and warfare, magic and theology. The prince undoubtedly dipped into the volumes. The rich selection also stimulated his urge to collect further.
From 1535, when Philip was put under Zuniga's care, his classes included a number of noble pages. Among them was Zuniga's son Luis de Requesens, who was mercilessly teased by the others for his strong Catalan accent. The group in 1537 totalled six. 'Of those who study with the prince,' reported Zuniga's wife Estefania in 1537, 'little Luis is the youngest ... Two days ago the prince and six other children took part in a prank.' From a very young age, the prince organised infant tourneys and dances among his group. In 1537, for example, 'a little joust and in the evening a dance ... the prince and the Infanta danced'. Philip was to remain for the rest of his life a devotee of dancing, court festivities, and rites of chivalry. When he was sixteen Zuniga claimed that he was 'the most accomplished man of arms in this court, and this can be said without flattery; this week he and the duke of Alba put on a contest in the country'. He was 'very good at fighting both on foot and on horseback', he added.
Through his childhood years the prince seems to have suffered periodic illnesses, which Zuniga took care to report in detail to the emperor, since they concerned his only male heir. It is doubtful if we should conclude that he was sickly by nature. He led an active, vigorous life, and took part in all activities. His constitution and diet laid him open to digestive ailments and fevers, but he resisted severe illnesses successfully.
His major privation was the absence of his father, which Isabel endured with difficulty. 'The empress and her children are very well,' reported Estefania in 1538, 'but Her Majesty is pained by the emperor's departure, for fear that he will be absent longer than he says; and she is right, for her life is very dreary when he is not here.' Charles returned that summer, and at the end of October was in Toledo to take part in the Cortes called for those weeks. It was one of the decisive political moments in Castile's history. The nobles stubbornly refused to grant any money towards the emperor's campaigns in Germany. Charles angrily dissolved their session and they were never again summoned to a meeting of the Cortes. 'You are not required any longer,' the cardinal of Toledo, Tavera, informed the grandees, 'you may go home or wherever you wish.'
Shortly after, during spring 1539, Isabel fell ill in Toledo. At the end of April she suffered a miscarriage, from which she died on 1 May. Philip at the time was almost twelve, possibly too young to appreciate the blow. Charles, who despite his long absences (and occasional dalliances) abroad, loved his wife deeply, was grief-stricken. He immured himself in a convent for seven weeks. On 2 May the empress's body was accompanied to the outskirts of the city by ministers and grandees. Philip was unwell and went only part of the way with the procession. He withdrew and took to his bed. From the city border Isabel's body was accompanied to the royal resting-place at Granada (where the tombs of Charles's grandparents Ferdinand and Isabella also were) by members of her household and other officials, led by the marquis of Llombay, Francisco de Borja, equerry of the empress. Two weeks later the prince presided over the solemn obsequies held for the empress in the church of San Juan de los Reyes.
No sooner did Charles emerge from his convent at the end of June than he received news of a revolt in his home city of Ghent, in the Netherlands. In November, as a consequence, he had to leave once again, this time at the head of a small force which passed through France on its way to Ghent. Before he did so he left a short written Instruction to guide his son. Government was left in the hands of cardinal Tavera as regent, with the duke of Alba and Francisco de los Cobos as his colleagues. Philip, for the first time without either parent to turn to, remained under the capable guidance of Zuniga, from whom he seems to have picked up the traits of seriousness and piety that marked his character in later years. Zuniga was the prince's decisive support throughout his early development, helping him both in personal matters and in decisions of state. It was not the best of times for a child to be handed responsibility. The year 1540 was one of famine and misery throughout most of Castile.
Charles's main preoccupations in the north of Europe were the German princes and the king of France. The princes questioned his authority in German politics, and many gave their support to Luther's Reformation. France, concerned to restrict the apparently immense power of the emperor, encouraged them in both their political and religious aspirations. The French also had claims on Italian territory, principally the strategic duchy of Milan, which Charles controlled.
From about 1540 the Turkish question, a constant threat, became more menacing. The armies of the Ottoman empire, under their ruler Suleiman the Magnificent, had so far failed to break through the line of Christian defences on the Danube. But in the Mediterranean they were considerably more successful. Spain was in the front line of the conflict. Muslim corsairs, led by Khair al-Din Barbarossa and Dragut, used the north African coast as the base for their attacks on Christian shipping in the western Mediterranean. In 1535 Charles had won a famous victory by capturing Tunis and the fort of La Goletta from the corsairs. Now in 1541 he planned a similar descent on Algiers. In October he arrived in Mallorca from Italy, in the fleet of the Genoese admiral Andrea Doria. A general rendezvous was set for the coast south of Algiers. It was a vast international force of 65 galleys and 450 other ships, with 24,000 troops from Italy and Spain. Among the Spaniards were the duke of Alba and Hernan Cortes the conqueror of Mexico. Unfortunately, a violent storm wrecked the vessels before the attack could start. With difficulty Charles made his way to the safety of Bougie, and from there to Cartagena in early December. Travelling overland, he was met at Ocana, south of Aranjuez, by Philip, who accompanied him back to Valladolid.
By May 1541 Philip had spent two years in official mourning for his mother. He was given permission by Charles to exchange his black garments for more colourful ones, and to wear gold. He was also now, at fourteen, deemed to be of age, and so made his first communion that year. Looking over this period of his mother's death and his coming of age, it is difficult to believe that Philip had any real experience of childhood or domestic affection. His distant father, for whom he always retained an unshakeable respect, was an object of reverence rather than of tangible love. His need for love from his mother was, because of her early death, never allowed to mature. His affections settled, as a consequence, exclusively on his sisters Maria and Juana. The three shared a deep dedication to each other that lasted all their lives. The only other persons for whom he felt a bond of familial affection were the Catalan household of Zuniga, his wife Estefania and their three sons, who were all destined to become Philip's friends and collaborators. Whenever he went to Barcelona he made a point of visiting Estefania and her family.
The lack of a loving childhood was not unusual in the sons of kings. They were brought up to be men rather than children. Love was not one of the emotions normally permitted to men of state. There is no doubt that for years after his mother's death Philip faithfully controlled and repressed his instinct for affection. This by no means made him overly serious or old beyond his years: he was capable of all the pleasures and distractions to which young men devote themselves. But childhood was a phase lost somewhere in the process of growing up.
Emergence into manhood was signalled by plans to find him a wife. The candidate chosen by his father was the princess of Portugal, Maria, to whom he became formally betrothed in December 1542, an agreement ratified on 13 January 1543.
From this point forward he was rapidly propelled into the role prepared for him. From 1541 he was given his own personal secretary, the humanist Gonzalo Perez, a gruff and bossy career priest who served him faithfully for the next twenty-four years. In 1543 his small private household, presided over by Zuniga as chamberlain, was made up of personnel assigned to cater for his daily needs: porters, a clerk, a physician, stable hands. He had his own kitchen staff. The two largest groups in his household were those in the chapel (Siliceo and ten other chaplains, with several attendants), and his bedchamber. He also had the occasional services of seventy-three pages, sons of the aristocracy and of bureaucrats. The personnel came in all to some 110 persons. The running cost in 1543 appears to have been 32,000 ducats a year, one-eighth the cost of the king's own much larger household.
The prince's eating habits followed normal practice for noble households. His kitchen accounts for January 1544 reveal a daily diet based on a lot of meat ('for stewing, roasting and soup'), backed up by bread, chicken, and eggs. Fish, consumed in the coastal areas of Spain rather than inland, never featured. Twice a week lettuce and endives were bought. Once a week the royal table had fruit (melon, oranges). In summer the diet varied little (pears replaced oranges). In 1549 in the Netherlands he continued to have fruit, cheese and salads. During those months in northern Europe, beer appeared on the table, but it is likely that Philip never took to it. The item disappeared from the accounts after 1551, when he returned to Spain. From 1550 wine, which he had drunk occasionally before, was a regular item with meals.
In these early years the prince became perfectly acquainted with the royal residences, particularly the hunting estates, of central Castile. He knew most of the principal towns in the centre of the peninsula. But he was ignorant of the rest of Spain. On 22 May 1542 his father, who had returned the preceding December from his disastrous expedition to Algiers, set out with him from Valladolid. It was a formal trip that involved taking with them a huge number of officials and attendants. The emperor, who spent most of his life on the move, was familiar with the routine. He was always accompanied, for example, by officials from the different realms he ruled; among them were several secretaries, to whom he dictated in the different languages of his territories.
For Philip, it was his first experience of a royal journey. Their route took them to the eastern provinces of Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia, known collectively as the crown of Aragon. Each of the realms of Spain had its own constitution, and it was a long-standing obligation for the heir to the throne to visit each realm and be formally sworn in. The royal party went first to Burgos. From here they left on 2 June for Navarre, and eventually on 22 June reached Monzon, in Aragon, where the meeting of the Cortes of Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia had already commenced. Philip fell ill with fever, which kept him indisposed the whole of July and August.
That summer the emperor also had to cope with a threatened invasion by France. Defences had to be strengthened all along the Pyrenees. The threat became real when French forces laid siege to Perpignan, on the Catalan frontier. Charles sent the duke of Alba off in July to deal with the problem. It was not until September and early October that the Estates extended their recognition to prince Philip. The prince's next obligation was to go to each realm to swear to their privileges. On 12 October he set off for Saragossa.
Charles in the meantime went on to Barcelona, where he arrived on the sixteenth. Philip returned to join him early in November. He was scheduled to make a solemn entrance into the city on 8 November, but arrived the day before and had to spend the night in a convent outside. Not to be outdone, he slipped secretly into the city on the evening of the seventh, visited his father, and then went 'by night to see the distractions in the town' before going back to sleep outside the walls. This experience of enjoying night-life and celebrations when in disguise, appealed to him hugely. He repeated it frequently in later years. The following afternoon he made his formal entry, and swore to the constitutions of Catalonia. On the ninth he received the homage of the authorities. Francisco de Borja was now viceroy of Catalonia, and the festivities put on for the royal party went on for two weeks. There were 'illuminations, dances and masked balls', in which the prince played a leading part. On the fourteenth he was taken on a special tour of the business area of Barcelona. On 21 November, in pouring rain, the emperor and Philip set out for Valencia. Having made sure of Philip's constitutional position as heir in Valencia, the emperor made his final preparations for departing abroad. The court left Valencia on 16 December and returned to Castile.
On 1 March 1543 Charles and Philip once more left Madrid. The latter accompanied his father as far as Alcala de Henares. Charles then went on to Saragossa and Barcelona. In the first week of May he set sail from Palamos, on the Catalan coast, after naming his son as regent of Spain. It was a momentous step, for Charles now entered on his longest absence from the peninsula, an incredible fourteen years during which he tried in vain to bring his imperial commitments to a successful conclusion, ruining his health in the process. Philip, by contrast, now became effective and permanent ruler of Spain. These early years of his regency were certainly only an apprenticeship, but they helped to shape the king, and their relevance to his later development should not be underestimated.
Before he sailed from Palamos the emperor left with Zuniga two handwritten letters of Instruction for his son, one dated 4 May, the other 6 May. The first, headed 'Confidential', and consisting of advice on his personal and public behaviour, was to be handed to Philip by Zuniga and read in his presence, since Zuniga was still responsible for his conduct. In it, Charles said he was leaving him 'in my place during my absence, to govern these realms'. Philip was adjured to keep two principles always before him: to 'keep God always in mind'; and to 'accept good advice at all times.' He must serve God above everything: 'never allow heresies to enter your realms; support the Holy Inquisition ... and on no account do anything to harm it'. He must be 'an upholder of justice' and uproot all corruption among his officials. He must be 'temperate and moderate in all you do. Keep yourself from anger, and do nothing in anger'. He must avoid flatterers, but accept the good advice given him by his counsellors and 'preserve their freedom so that their opinions are given freely'. Great care must be taken not to say, or sign, anything that might create problems for the future. He must exercise caution in the crown of Aragon, 'because you are more liable to make mistakes in this government than in that of Castile'. In giving audiences he must be patient, 'and you must also find time to go among and talk with the people'.
The Instruction then turned to his personal life. First of all, to his disinclination for study. 'As I told you in Madrid, don't think that it is childish to study.' Study helped to make the man. Being a man was not a question of body but of mind, and only study could achieve this. Moreover, he was to rule over many different peoples and languages, and to communicate with them all it was essential to know Latin. 'Nor would it be amiss to know a bit of French.'
He must now also enter the adult world. 'Till now your company has been that of children ... From now on, you must not associate with them.' The change would be brutal. 'Your company will be above all that of grown men.' But he must enter the world of public affairs slowly and with caution, consulting always, and especially with Zuniga. 'You will soon marry'; but once married he must be moderate in his pleasure, 'because besides being harmful both to bodily growth and strength, often it impairs the capacity to have children and can kill', as was the case with prince Juan, son of Ferdinand and Isabella. He must therefore limit access to his wife and 'keep away from her as much as possible', and when with her 'let it be briefly'. In this he should be ruled by Zuniga's advice. However, he must remain faithful to her and once married must not go with other women. And in all matters, if in any doubt, he should have recourse to Zuniga.
The Instruction of 6 May was headed 'Private' (secreta), for him to keep 'under lock and key, so that nobody not even your wife sees it'. In it Charles regretted his departure, and the penury of his treasury, but trusted that God would favour him in his struggle against the king of France. The advice concerned delicate matters of state.
Criticising the factions among his ministers, he recommended that Philip consult with the president of the royal council, cardinal Tavera, and with the secretary of state Francisco de los Cobos. 'Although they are the heads of differing factions, I wanted to have both of them available so that you should not fall into the hands of either.' Philip must never put himself in the hands of any one minister. 'Rather, deal with many and do not bind yourself to one alone.' For example, the duke of Alba had ambitions in government: 'he has set his sights on great things and on rising as high as he can', but 'you must be careful not to let him or other grandees get a firm footing in government, or you will regret it afterwards'. However, Alba should be employed in matters of war, 'since he is the best that we have at present in these realms'. As to Cobos, he had been a good servant and no one knew affairs of state better than he, but he was also grasping and had many enemies. In conclusion, Charles hoped to be able during his journey to sort out the current problems and so clarify the issues facing them both.
From abroad, the emperor continued to take a close interest in the training of his son. Outside of politics and war, the main business of 1543 was Philip's marriage. The princess of Portugal was aged just sixteen, six months younger than Philip. The prince wrote to his father how with a small escort he had gone out at the beginning of November to witness secretly the princess Maria's progress from the frontier. At Aldeanueva 'I saw her without her being able to see me'. On Monday, 1: November Philip made a ceremonial entry into Salamanca. The princess entered a few hours later, and the couple were married by cardinal Tavera on the same day. The celebrations continued till the early hours.
A few days later the royal pair, with their retinue, set out for Valladolid. They made a courtesy stop at Tordesillas to visit queen Juana, mother of the emperor and Philip's grandmother. The unhappy, crazed queen had ruled Castile briefly in the early years of the century. Her parents, Ferdinand and Isabella, had been well aware of her mental affliction but hoped it would not affect her political capacity. When her husband, the Flemish Philip the Handsome, died unexpectedly, she went out of her mind. Out of respect for her, as long as she lived she was accepted as queen jointly with her son. During his period as regent, Philip got used to signing decrees in the name of 'the Catholic Queen and the emperor and king, my lords'. In practice, she did not stir from her strange retreat in her palace at Tordesillas, where Philip made regular courtesy visits to see her. She died, a prey to her imaginings, in April 1555.
Immediately his father left the country in 1543, Philip applied himself with enthusiasm to his new role. 'His Highness received the Instructions,' Zuniga reported to the emperor, 'together with the powers which Your Majesty sent for governing these realms and those of Aragon. After he had read it all, he sent the special instructions to the tribunals and councils. He has begun, conscientiously and with resolution, to study what he has been ordered to do. He is in touch always with the duke of Alba and the grand commander of Leon [Cobos].' The prince continued at the same time with his habitual interests and diversions, notably jousting and hunting. Zuniga kept him company. 'His Highness arrived here in good health this afternoon,' the grand commander wrote in May 1543; 'his grandmother was pleased to see him, and he also enjoyed being in Alcala eight days with his sisters. The day after he left Alcala he killed a large, fat stag which he sent to his sisters. One day when he was in the Segovia woods he killed two or three, as well as a roe; I myself killed a very large stag,'
Philip was still obliged to follow his daily classes with his tutors in Latin and other subjects, but more and more he was introduced into the routine of business undertaken by the councils. His mentor was Francisco de los Cobos. As secretary to Charles for Spanish affairs, and administrator of the treasury, the grand commander of Leon was effective director of government machinery in the emperor's absence. He used his position to build up a reliable team of state officials. He also, on the side, made himself extremely rich. Philip was encouraged by him to assist at meetings of the lesser councils and also to make decisions. Cobos informed Charles shortly after his departure that 'two meetings on matters of administration have been held with His Highness, and I must say that he really is very good in these affairs'. The prince's first recorded decision was in this meeting in July 1543 of the royal council, when 'His Highness has through his councillors ordered all necessary steps to be taken' in a matter involving an argument with the papacy.
Government in those days was a simpler affair than today. The areas in which the state had competence were limited, no proper bureaucracy existed, and the main business of the king was to raise a few taxes in order to keep the peace or wage war. As responsibilities increased, the crown relied on selected counsellors to help it arrive at decisions. Most advisers were traditionally from the high nobility and formed councils for specific areas of government. In 1543 there were about nine councils advising the king of Spain, of which the most important was the royal council (often also called the council of Castile). Staffed since 1493 by legal experts, it was the highest court in Castile and had competence over most aspects of government. Questions of foreign policy were dealt with by a number of grandees sitting in the council of State, which when it convened for military business was known as the council of War. Other specialist councils existed for America (the council of the Indies), the Inquisition, and affairs of finance. The eastern realms of the peninsula, and the kingdom of Naples, sent representatives who sat on the council of Aragon. The councils met on allotted days, during specific hours, in the royal palace. They gave their opinions in the form of a written report known as a consulta. The secretaries of the councils directed all the paperwork, and liaised directly with the king. They became, inevitably, powerful men who effectively controlled business.
From the summer of 1543 Philip began to append his signature, with the words 'Yo el Principe [I, the prince]', to all official letters. His annotations, written in the scrawl of one who had refused to subject himself to writing lessons, began to appear in the margins of state papers. It seems that Philip's education may have been adversely interrupted by these political duties, for Siliceo reported in August that 'about his studies I can say that he understands what he reads in Latin, although he practises little, partly because he is busy with government and partly because he spends his time in pursuits of arms and chivalry'.
At this early stage, most real decisions in Spain were being made by Cobos, who ruled his colleagues with an iron fist. But by the end of 1543 the prince with Cobos's guidance was participating in most aspects of business, and also took a close interest in American affairs. Financial matters were from the very beginning put his way, the emperor's instruction to the council of Finance stating specifically that 'matters arising should be discussed with the prince my son, so that he can see the accounts of what is needed'. Most major decisions were still reserved for the emperor, but in practice day-to-day matters were resolved in Spain. This left Philip free to follow policies that the emperor might not always agree with. The council of the Indies, for example, complained to Charles in August 1543 that the prince was diverting silver which came to them from America to other projects.
Philip also began to give audiences, one of the most important duties of the crown. Among his earliest was that given to the marquis of Mondejar, who travelled to Valladolid from Andalusia in order to lay before him a plan to bring peace and security to the lands peopled by the Moriscos of Granada. With effective power in nearly all areas of decision-making, Philip was now the real master of Spain. Thirty years later he had no doubts in dating the fact: 'I began to govern in the year 1543'.
The favourable noises made about the prince's role at this date, when he was still only sixteen, smack of polite flattery. Fernando de Valdes, president of the royal council, felt that 'His Highness is very able in his duties, to the great contentment of these realms'. Cobos felt that 'since Your Majesty left him he has grown in body and even more, in my opinion, in judgment; he takes part enthusiastically in all business'. There is, all the same, clear evidence that Philip was indeed working at his new job. He now took on, for example, the role of principal correspondent with the emperor. Guided by secretaries who put together the several pieces of information which had to be reported to Charles, Philip helped to compose official letters into which he was expected to slot his contribution. From the autumn of 1543 all the ministers deferred to the prince's letters. Alba and Cobos, though they still conducted their own correspondence with Charles, told him also that 'there is no need to repeat what the prince is writing, since he will write all that is necessary'. Tavera, rounding off one of his missives, added that 'on all the other matters that have been discussed in the council of State on the prince's orders, you will be informed through the letters of His Highness'. These were not polite gestures, but a real division of tasks, in which the prince was allotted considerable responsibility.
A report drawn up by Cobos in 1544 gives an intimate (and suspiciously favourable) sketch of the prince at work. Philip is described as
always immersed in matters of government and justice ... His daily business and activity is always on these matters and with men of judgment ... Sometimes he asks questions even though he knows the answer, and this is no doubt his greatest virtue, since he does it in order not to err. In weighty matters for which special committees are set up, he listens to each opinion with great care and attention, and when everything is aired and explained he criticises with courtesy and prudence that which he disagrees with. Afterwards he alone decides. He often shuts himself up with me for hours to deal with business of the council of State. He does the same with the president [of the royal council] on questions of justice, with the duke of Alba on those of war, and with others on other different areas.
The report, obviously designed to please the emperor, gives an exaggerated picture of the prince's competence, claiming for example that 'instead of giving him advice, we all accept and respect his'. For all that, it seems to coincide with other evidence of Philip's impressive immersion in the world of government. Most official correspondence within the peninsula was addressed to him, though in practice he dealt with only some of it. By contrast, virtually all official correspondence emanating from the central government carried his signature, proof that he dedicated considerable time to the formality of putting his name to letters.
When the emperor left Spain in 1543, war had already broken out with France. He went to Germany, from which he launched an invasion of Francis I's kingdom. It appeared the most direct way of stopping aggression in Italy by the French, and their schemes with German Protestants and the Turks. The major difficulty was the lack of adequate finance for the war.
Philip tried to find funds in Spain. Serious debates took place in Valladolid in August 1543 over the desperate situation of the treasury. Charles was committed to heavy military expenditure in northern Europe, and looked to the Castilian exchequer to help him. 'Aware of the pressing need,' wrote Cobos, 'His Highness summoned the councils of State and of Finance to see what could be done.' In their deliberations, the councils agreed that some silver be seized from the ships recently arrived laden with silver from America, but that the Cortes should not be asked to pay more taxes. Cobos reported the matter in constitutional terms to his king. 'In the end it was decided that these are not matters to be treated of in Your Majesty's absence', since only the king should summon the Cortes. In a parallel letter written on the same day to Charles, and summarising the same debate, Philip expressed a quite different perspective, that of a people oppressed by taxes:
It was debated whether to ask the cities for money. On looking at the matter, many points emerged from which it appeared that to ask for money would be very long and arduous, since the countryside is poor and exhausted and every day the towns present petitions about the expenses they had during the last campaign. Because of all this, it was suggested that it would be better if this army were raised at Your Majesty's own expense.
The sentiments were so direct as to be naive. Charles needed money, and did not have to be reminded that his people were over-taxed. He was to find to his surprise that over the next few months Philip lined up very readily with those ministers who thought that Castile could not be bled further. But only the prince was courageous enough in his letters to express these sentiments boldly. He took part conscientiously in meetings. In February 1544 he informed his father that 'I ordered a meeting of the council of State, to be attended also by the president and two members of the royal council, as well as the members of the council of Finance. In several meetings which they had in my presence they debated' how one could meet the request for money. The conclusion to which he and they came was, he wrote in September, that peace was necessary, 'for the well-being and succour of Christendom and of these realms, which are so needy and exhausted that I cannot find words to express their state, except to assure you that only your return to these realms can be the real remedy for everything'.
Evidently those who were unhappy about the wars abroad were influencing the prince. On the same day that Philip sent his September letter, Cobos wrote that 'the prince's letter deals so exactly with all details of business, that it leaves me with nothing to say except to refer to it'. It was a convenient subterfuge. Cobos had always opposed Charles's imperial commitments, and he could now rely on Philip to support him. The prince however was no passive tool. He continued to devote himself to hunting, and participated in occasional jousts (unimpressively, according to one witness, who commented that 'the prince has taken part in two superb tourneys, though I feel the tourneys were better in Piedmont'). But he was capable of using his own initiative, and when his sister Maria fell ill in the autumn he personally decided when and where the court should move in order to protect her health. That November, his wife's pregnancy was confirmed, which increased his domestic commitments but did not deter him from some of the most important political steps he was to take in these years.
News of the peace of Crepy (September 1544) between the emperor and France reached Valladolid in October. Spaniards, who had little to gain from the war, were overjoyed, but for Charles there were complications. The peace made him think of offering one of two alternative marriage alliances to Francis I's second son, the duke of Orleans. He could offer either his daughter Maria, with possession of the Netherlands at his own death; or his niece Anne of Hungary, with possession of Milan a year after the marriage. The emperor consulted his advisers in Spain and the Netherlands on the matter. In Spain Philip took charge of the discussions. In late November he went to Madrid to consult personally with his sister Maria, since 'she will open her mind to no one more than to me'. 'I hope to be back soon,' he wrote to his friend Francisco Borja, duke of Gandia, 'at the latest before Christmas.' He came back to Valladolid rather earlier, on 29 November, and took part in the debate in the council of State, which had convened during his absence.
Philip took a close interest in the question (which we shall touch on later), and introduced a procedure by which formal opinions would be expressed individually, so as to guide his own decision-making. He first ordered the council to have four or five meetings in which the members could elaborate their thinking.
Afterwards when I came the council met immediately in my presence, and I wished to hear all that they had discussed and debated. They debated again and discussed the matter at length, and although they were settled in their views I ordered them to think more about it. On the third day, I said, they should meet again in council and come to it with their minds made up so we could arrive at a decision. It was so done. Since we learned from our contacts that their opinions were divided, I ordered each member to express his view.
This remarkable initiative, laying down a procedure which Philip was to follow throughout his tenure of power, shows his determination to elicit considered advice and to consult all opinions, as his father had advised, before making decisions.
In subsequent weeks Charles was to find that his son was no compliant servant of his policies. At the end of December 1544 the prince wrote that he and a majority of the council were opposed to the emperor's wish to seize the silver that had come from America for private merchants. 'Above all since it would undo what has cost me many meetings, consultations and agreements to achieve, there being so little silver.'
The resistance of Spanish officials to the wars in the north was expressed most clearly in the prince's important letter to the emperor of March 1545. In it he stressed that 'I do not need to repeat the situation of the treasury of these realms, how everything up to the year 1548 is assigned and spent, leaving nothing for expenses, and the same is the case with the taxes on the poor people of these realms'. There was no point in the emperor citing the ability of the king of France to raise a grant of taxes, for France was bigger and richer than Castile. Each nation must be treated according to its own laws and customs, 'and these realms will not tolerate being treated in that way, for each nation must be approached with respect and dealt with differently according to the nature of its people'. Philip stressed that he had consulted with his advisers and they had agreed (the failure of 1538 was in their minds) that it would be futile to convene the Cortes of Castile. The emperor's suggestion to convene the Cortes of Aragon was also not viable, because of 'the universal poverty in those realms, especially in the principality of Catalonia as a result of several barren years and the wars in Perpignan'.
This firm refusal of money was accompanied by a spirited presentation of the plight of the people of Castile:
With what they owe for other things, the common people who have to pay the taxes are reduced to such extremes of misfortune and poverty that many of them go naked without clothing. And the misery is so universal that it afflicts not only Your Majesty's subjects but even more those of the nobility, for they cannot pay their taxes nor have the means to do so. The prisons are full, and all are heading for ruin. Believe me, Your Majesty, if this were not true I would not dare write it to you.
In fact, the financial situation was so acute, and the demands of the emperor so insistent, that eventually meetings of the Cortes in Castile and Aragon were held. In Aragon proper a small grant was obtained, but in Valencia and Catalonia the Cortes refused to vote anything without the royal presence.
In Castile the prince personally supervised the negotiations for the Cortes that opened in Valladolid in March 1544. The Cortes of Castile consisted in theory of three estates, with representatives from the higher clergy, the great nobles and the leading (at this period, eighteen) towns. In practice, for some time now only the deputies of the towns normally met, since the main business tended to be taxation, from which the other estates were in principle exempt. The nobles, we have already seen, ceased to be summoned after 1538. The standard procedure was for the towns to send two deputies each. If all the deputies attended, the assembly with its secretaries and officials would not have numbered more than about fifty people. The king or his representative would open the session with a speech setting out the purpose of the summons. This would be replied to formally by a member of the Cortes, and the debate or negotiations would then begin.
'I ordered the deputies to meet,' Philip wrote to his father, 'and after I said a few words the proposal was read to them and they replied in the usual way.' The speech consisted of a plea for money to help the emperor against France and the Turks. 'And after debating and arguing with them on the matter, and about the great distress and poverty in which these realms are, or at least the people who have to pay the taxes, it appeared superfluous to talk about other matters, and it was agreed to consult with all the cities' represented in the Cortes. Negotiation usually went on for weeks. The Cortes invariably presented a number of petitions (in 1544 they totalled nearly sixty), with which Philip had to deal if he hoped to get a grant of money. He was asked to make sure that the assembly would be called at least every three years. Cautious but firm, he promised to do what seemed best.
By 1544, on all the evidence, Philip was a fully committed head of government, influenced certainly by the views of those in power but with initiatives and ideas of his own which he expressed freely in his letters to the emperor.
From Germany Charles kept a watchful, but liberal, eye on his son's progress. He was aware of Philip's fondness for women, and instructed Zuniga shortly after Philip's marriage to control contact between the young couple. The governor faithfully made sure that Philip followed Charles's wish 'that the prince absent himself sometimes from his wife, and in particular that they should not be together during the day. The question was in part resolved by an attack of scabies which Philip suffered shortly after the wedding and which obliged him to sleep apart from Maria for over a month. At the same time there was growing evidence that the prince seemed not to be as enamoured of his bride as was expected.
In these weeks Charles warned the grand commander to 'moderate the great lust you always had for hunting', since it was leading the prince to hunt excessively and indiscriminately. Philip must also continue to study, despite his marriage and affairs of state. Zuniga, the emperor complained, was not giving him enough information. He had heard from other sources 'of the coldness the prince adopts to his wife in public, which distresses me very much'. He put it down, nonetheless, to 'the timidity of someone of his years'. There were other matters about the prince's style of living which worried both Zuniga and the emperor: the excessive time Philip spent in going to bed and getting up, expensive parties, going out at night. Philip also enjoyed tournaments, which he mounted on a big scale. 'The prince is in good health,' Gonzalo Perez wrote in May 1544; 'in March he organised a tournament and put on another yesterday in the countryside; it was a great success, with close on a hundred taking part.' Seen in perspective, despite his father's worrying, all this looks like the relatively harmless life-style of a young aristocrat.
Philip's coldness to his wife was to be expected in an arranged marriage between two very young people. In January 1544 the emperor was informed that 'the prince is somewhat distant with the princess, and in Portugal they feel strongly about it'. Later, in the autumn, the best that Cobos could report was that the couple 'get on together very well', and that the prince was not making inordinate sexual demands on his wife. Whatever the young prince's sentiments for his wife may have been, they were not allowed to mature. In giving birth to a son, Carlos, on 8 July 1545 she suffered a serious haemorrhage that led to her death four days later. She was just over seventeen. Cobos informed Charles that 'the prince felt the loss deeply, which shows that he loved her; although,' he felt obliged to add, 'some took a different view of his outward reactions.' Aged eighteen, Philip had left his childhood world behind. He was now a father and a widower, and apprentice head since 1543 of the Spanish state.
Table of Contents
|List of Illustrations and Maps||ix|
|The House of Hapsburg in the Sixteenth Century||xvi|
|1 The Formative Years 1527-1544||1|
|2 The Renaissance Prince 1545-1551||21|
|3 Soldier and King 1551-1559||50|
|4 The Cross and the Crescent 1559-1565||79|
|5 Towards Total War 1566-1572||108|
|6 Dropping the Pilot 1572-1580||143|
|7 The World of Philip II||178|
|8 The Statesman||211|
|9 War in the West 1580-1586||242|
|10 The Time of Thunder 1587-1593||269|
|11 Last Years 1593-1598||301|
|List of Abbreviations||322|
|A Note on Sources||363|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Philip II ruled over the world¿s largest empire, controlling, or trying to, the Netherlands, parts of Italy, most of the New World and also the Philippines. The author uses original sources to describe the actions and resolve and thoughts of Philip, but he does it in an understated way. If you remember that Philip launched the Armada, fought the Netherlands for twenty seven years and drained his economy, (the US should have learned from this) fully supported the Inquisition in Spain¿and came from a warrior father, Charles V, who was always off in battle, you realized this is a despot who ran his nation with a firm, solo hand, you realize he is closer to Richard III than to a benevolent king. (I found the fact that Charles gave Philip explicit instructions how to govern¿and this may have hand-tied Philip throughout his life.) I would have liked to have the author, from time to time, inject his own thought about Philip¿s actions, or quote from other available sources. It is too bad that the author only did this in the epilogue, when he compared Philip to his contemporaries. Overall, I would consider it to be almost a masterful book, showing how the kingdom was run, the intrigues and Philip¿s way of running the empire. It also provided an understanding how the continental nations were not nations at the time, but rather independent, splintered regions dependant on the overall ruler and his source of funds. And that ruler ship was all based on marriage contracts. I would have liked to know more how he administered the colonies in the New World, and set the stage for the feudal system that exists there to this day.