The legacy of imperial Spain was shaped by many hands. But the dramatic human story of the extraordinary projection of Spanish might in the second half of the sixteenth century has never been fully told—until now. In World Without End, Hugh Thomas chronicles the lives, loves, conflicts, and conquests of the complex men and women who carved up the Americas for the glory of Spain.
Chief among them is the towering figure of King Philip II, the cultivated Spanish monarch whom a contemporary once called “the arbiter of the world.” Cheerful and pious, he inherited vast authority from his father, Emperor Charles V, but nevertheless felt himself unworthy to wield it. His forty-two-year reign changed the face of the globe forever. Alongside Philip we find the entitled descendants of New Spain’s original explorers—men who, like their king, came into possession of land they never conquered and wielded supremacy they never sought. Here too are the Roman Catholic religious leaders of the Americas, whose internecine struggles created possibilities that the emerging Jesuit order was well-positioned to fill.
With the sublime stories of arms and armadas, kings and conquistadors come tales of the ridiculous: the opulent parties of New Spain’s wealthy hedonists and the unexpected movement to encourage Philip II to conquer China. Finally, Hugh Thomas unearths the first indictments of imperial Spain’s labor rights abuses in the Americas—and the early attempts by its more enlightened rulers and planters to address them.
Written in the brisk, flowing narrative style that has come to define Hugh Thomas’s work, the final volume of this acclaimed trilogy stands alone as a history of an empire making the transition from conquest to inheritance—a history that Thomas reveals through the fascinating lives of the people who made it.
Praise for World Without End
“Readers will not find a more reliable guide to the maturing Spanish Empire. . . . World Without End reminds us that the far-flung Spanish Empire was the work of many minds and hands, and by the end their myriad stories carry a cumulative charge.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A sweeping, encyclopedic history of the arrogance, ambition, and ideology that fueled the quest for empire.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Literary power is a vital part of a great historian’s armoury. As in his earlier books, Thomas demonstrates here that he has this in abundance.”—Financial Times
“A vivid climax to Hugh Thomas’s three-volume history of imperial Spain.”—The Telegraph
“Thomas clearly excels in the Spanish history of religion, politics, and culture, [and] successfully shows that Spain’s global ambition knew no bounds.”—Publishers Weekly
From the Hardcover edition.
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King Philip II the Enlightened Despot
Philip, by the Grace of God, King of Castile, of Leon, Aragón, of the two Sicilies, of Jerusalem, of Navarre, of Granada, of Toledo, of Valencia, of Galicia, of Mallorca, of Seville, of Sardinia, of Córdoba, of Murcia, of Jaén, of the Algarves, of Algeciras, of Gibraltar, of the Canary Isles, of the Isles of the Indies, and of the mainland of the Ocean sea, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, of Brabant, and of Milan, Count of Barcelona, of Flanders and of Tyrol, Lord of Biscay and of Molina, Duke of Athens and of Neopatria, Count of the Roussillon and of Cerdagne, Marquis of Oristan and Gociano…
The style of the monarch in accepting Ercilla’s dedication of his poem La Araucana, 1569
The new queen of Spain, the ‘Queen of Peace’, Elisabeth of Valois, arrived in Pamplona, in January 1560, just after King Philip too had returned to Spain after his many journeys in his northern European domains. The new queen, still only fourteen years old, had a dark and Italian complexion, recalling her Medici forbears. She was vivacious and attractive, but not exactly beautiful, or so the Venetian ambassador thought. Both parties seemed pleased to be married, even though King Philip was twenty years older than his new bride. Elisabeth wrote to her mother, Catherine, kindly of the king. Balls, hunts, jousting, bullfights, marked the moment. The new monarchs went to Toledo for the Carnival in 1560, and stayed in the Alcázar there. There were more celebrations. They also visited Aranjuez, where Philip set in motion elaborate plans for the reconstruction of the garden. The king now abandoned his mistress, Eufrasia de Guzmán, who, being pregnant, perhaps with a royal baby, quickly married Antonio Luis de León, the third Prince of Ascoli, an appropriate Neapolitan. Her daughter by the king afterwards lived happily at the court in Spain. Eufrasia herself founded a convent for Recoletos Augustinians.
One significant consequence of the Spanish military victories in Flanders was a commission to the architect, Juan Bautista de Toledo, to plan in memory of these triumphs a new religious house, a large Jeronymite monastery, in the foothills of the Guadarrama mountains. This became the great foundation of the Escorial.
Bautista de Toledo, as we have seen (in The Golden Age), had learned his trade in Italy, first in Rome and then in Naples, working for the powerful viceroy, Pedro de Toledo, Marquis of Villafranca, who was responsible for confirming Spanish power in the Mediterranean. That marquis did much to beautify Naples. He was helped by Bautista de Toledo, who had also worked alongside Michelangelo in the Vatican. The collaboration between Italy and Spain in these golden years was thus immensely positive.
In 1560 Philip was thirty-two years old, having been born in Valladolid in the town house of Bernardino Pimentel, the count-duke of Benavente, in May 1527. The Benaventes lived just next to the great Dominican church of San Pablo which his father Charles, and others, treated as a cathedral. He had been christened Philip (Felipe) after his philandering grandfather, Philip the Handsome, of the Netherlands, who had used the title of King Philip I after his marriage to Juana la Loca, queen of Spain in her own right. The youthful Duke of Alba, an adviser to the Emperor Charles on so many matters, as he would become to Philip too, had wanted him to be named Fernando after his successful grandfather, Fernando the Catholic. But Philip he always was.
Philip’s mother was the beautiful, strong-minded and unbending Empress Isabel, daughter of King Manuel the Fortunate, King of Portugal. She was a first cousin of her husband, the Emperor Charles, and was usually surrounded by Portuguese friends and courtiers.
Philip’s chief political guide, however, was a Spanish nobleman, Pedro González de Mendoza, son of the famous Duke of Infantado who was seen as the grandfather, or at least the senior member, of the Spanish aristocracy. There was also Juan de Zúñiga, who, as well as being a decisive authority, passed on to Philip his own passion for hunting. Zúñiga, born in 1488, was son of Pedro de Zúñiga y Velasco, Count of Miranda, and thus a member of a great family of Extremadura. He was a first cousin of Juana, the second wife of the great conqueror Hernando Cortés.
As a young man, Zúñiga had been a friend and supporter of the loose-living King Philip I, and was in Flanders from 1506 to 1517 with a minor post in the royal household. He became camarlengo, lord of the bedchamber, to the young Prince Charles, the future emperor, in 1511, and then his camarero, or chamberlain. By 1520 he was Charles’s chief adviser, and el ayo del príncipe, the tutor of the prince. He was for a long time in Charles’s confidence: in 1522 Charles sent Zúñiga to Portugal as ambassador to try and subvert the rebel leaders who had taken refuge in that country. He was also called on to work out in Lisbon the details of Charles’s wedding with Isabel. He took the side of Bartolomé de Las Casas in his famous argument with Archbishop Rodríguez de Fonseca as to how to treat Indians in 1519 and later seemed a great friend of Charles’s omnipotent secretary, Francisco de los Cobos.
Despite this mutual trust, in 1541 in a secret instruction for Philip, Charles argued that Zúñiga was jealous both of Cobos and of the Duke of Alba because he was distressed to have too few grants at his disposal. (The emperor also thought that his wife and his many children exhausted him.) All the same, Charles accepted that Philip ‘could have no more faithful counsellor than Don Juan’. Cobos once wrote that ‘Don Juan de Zúñiga is working hard for himself. I do not mean that he is acting against me, lest I make myself suspect by such a comment. But I think that he wants complete control without regard for the…rest of us and to…do all he can to make himself the only counsellor – to such an extent that his ambition becomes obvious. The sternness and rigour with which he brought up the Prince was turned into sweetness and gentleness, all of it arising from flattery to help him attain his goal.’ Another view of Zúñiga comes from the dissolute but clever courtier Enríquez de Guzmán, who thought him a friend: ‘he is truly honourable’.
Zúñiga married into a family of royal advisers, for his wife was Estefanía de Requesens, daughter of Lluis de Requesens, commander of the Spanish fleet which had served the ‘Gran Capitán’ (Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba) in his victories in Italy, and who had also been bailiff-general to the king in Barcelona. Estefanía was something of a foster-mother to Philip, who would usually stay with her when he went to Barcelona. Her son, Luis de Requesens, was a playmate of the king as a child and would be often with him later in life, serving him as ambassador to Rome in the 1550s and as governor-general in the Low Countries in the 1570s. When they were young, Luis was teased at court for his Catalan accent. But he was the most loyal of King Philip’s followers.
From April 1535, when he was just seven, Philip had his own household independent of that of the queen. There he was educated. The Emperor Charles, who spent so much time outside Spain, his chief kingdom, for a long time received enthusiastic reports of his son’s progress. The dour Bishop Silíceo (Juan Martínez de Guijarro) wrote in March 1540 that Philip had ‘improved considerably in speaking Latin and speaks no other language during class’. Actually, he never spoke Latin adequately, any more than his father had done. He paid more attention to music, which all Habsburgs loved, to popular songs, and to both Moorish and French dancing. Luis Narváez of Granada became his music teacher and taught him the vihuela, a large primitive guitar. Philip’s sisters also loved dancing and they taught him many songs. As early as 1540, however, hunting was ‘what he was most inclined to’, since when walking in the countryside Philip could think of his projects, his fears, and his dreams (this again was Silíceo’s judgement).
We do not know whether Philip ever played or sang, but he had an ear for music and an interesting collection of instruments, including ten clavichords, thirteen vihuelas, and sixteen bagpipes. He had 219 cantorales or choir books made, so that each chorister in his service would have his own copy. He disliked the great Palestrina, much preferring the old-fashioned plainsong. But Palestrina’s Liber Secundus Missarum (Missa Papae Marcelli), published in 1567, was dedicated to Philip. Many musicians were part of the royal household, perhaps as many as 150 – a figure far exceeding the equivalents in France, England, or even the Vatican.
Silíceo was a gaunt enemy of Spanish Jews and was soon to be named Bishop of Cartagena because, the Emperor Charles rather curiously thought, ‘he had given in to you [Philip] too much’. Juan Cristóbal Calvete de Estrella succeeded Silíceo as Philip’s teacher of Latin and the polemicist Ginés de Sepúlveda, the trenchant enemy of Las Casas, would teach him history and geography – a dangerous brew for such prejudiced hands. Calvete, only four years older than Philip, found books for him, and accompanied him on his state visits to Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands in 1549 and then to England in 1554 to marry Queen Mary. Calvete later became the first biographer of the successful proconsul in Lima, Pedro de la Gasca.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations ix
List of Maps xiii
Prologue: A Journey to Paris 1
Book 1 Old Spain
1 King Philip II the Enlightened Despot 9
2 King Philip the Bureaucrat Monarch 21
3 King Philip and his Empire 29
4 An Imperial Theocracy 39
5 The Jesuit Challenge 53
Book 2 Spain Imperial
6 Trouble in Mexico 65
7 The Sons of the Conquistadors Ask Too Much 76
8 New Spain in Peace 87
9 Viceroy Toledo at Work in Peru 99
10 Convents and Blessed Ones 113
11 Chile and its Conquerors 121
12 The Conquest of Yucatan 127
13 Conclusion in Yucatan 134
14 A Great Conquistador from Asturias 142
15 Franciscans in Yucatan 153
16 The Rivers Plate and Paraguay 165
17 The Mad Adventure of Lope de Aguirre 177
18 Guiana and El Dorado 184
Book 3 The Imperial Backcloth
19 Portugal Joins Spain 195
20 The Money Behind the Conquests 200
21 Piracy and Buccaneering 212
22 The Galleon, a Very Narrow Prison 221
23 Populations Discovered 230
Book 4 The East in Fee
24 The Conquest of the Philippine Islands 241
25 Manila 251
26 The Temptation of China 259
27 The Conquest of China 270
28 Epilogue: The Age of Administration 285