Philip II of Spain

Philip II of Spain

Philip, the only son of Emperor Charles V, was born in Valladolid in 1527. In 1543 he married Mary of Portugal but she died in 1546 giving birth to their son, Don Carlos.

Mary Tudor became Queen of England in 1553. There were several attempts by Protestant to overthrow Mary. To protect her position, Mary decided to form an alliance with the Catholic monarchy in Spain. Thomas Wyatt gave his support to the new queen until he heard she planned to marry Philip. In January, 1554, he accepted the invitation from Edward Courtenay, to join in a general insurrection throughout the country against the marriage. Based at Rochester Castle, Wyatt soon had fifteen hundred men under his command.

When Mary heard about Wyatt's actions, she issued a pardon to his followers if they returned to their homes within twenty-four hours. Some of his men took up the offer. However, when large number of the army sent to arrest Wyatt changed sides, he controlled a force of 4,000 men. He now felt strong enough to march on London.

On 1st February, 1554, Mary addressed a meeting in the Guildhall where she proclaimed Wyatt a traitor. The next morning, 20,000 men enrolled their names for the protection of the city. The bridges over the Thames within a distance of fifteen miles were broken down and on 3rd February, a reward of land of the annual value of one hundred pounds a year was offered to the person who captured Wyatt.

By the time Thomas Wyatt entered Southwark, large numbers of his army had deserted. However, he continued to march towards St. James's Palace, where Mary Tudor had taken refuge. Wyatt reached Ludgate at two o'clock in the morning of 8th February. The gate was shut against him, and he was unable to break it down. Wyatt now went into retreat but he was captured at Temple Bar.

Wyatt was taken to the Tower of London and on 15th March he was convicted of high treason and sentenced to death. At the scaffold on Tower Hill on 11th April he made a speech claiming that Princess Elizabeth had not been involved in the plot against her sister.

In 1554 Philip married Mary. The marriage was unpopular with the English people. They disliked the idea of having a foreign king. At that time the English particularly disliked the Spanish as they were seen as England's main rivals in Europe.

In 1555 Charles V abdicated and Philip became king of Spain, the Netherlands, and all Spanish dominions in Italy and America. Once in power Philip reactivated the Spanish Inquisition in an attempt to deal with the growth of Protestantism in Europe.

In 1558 Mary Tudor began to get pains in her stomach and thought she was pregnant. This was important to Mary as she wanted to ensure that a Catholic monarchy would continue after her death. It was not to be. Mary had stomach cancer. When Mary died later that year. Henry VIII's other daughter, Elizabeth, a Protestant, became Queen of England.

Philip attempted to arrange a marriage with Elizabeth but she rejected the idea and he therefore married Isabella, the daughter of King Henri II of France in 1559.

In 1568 Muslims living in Granda rebelled against his rule. This revolt was eventually put down in 1570 but three years later a more serious rebellion took place in the Netherlands.

Philip became king of Portugal in 1580. With Spain's wealth increasing as a result of its dominions in the Americas, Philip developed a more expansionist foreign policy. This included a fresh attempt to regain control over the northern Netherlands.

When Philip began persecuting Protestants living in the Netherlands, Elizabeth sent English soldiers to help protect them. In February 1587 Elizabeth agreed to the execution of Mary Stuart. Philip had hoped that Mary would eventually become the Catholic queen of England. Philip now decided to conquer England and bring an end to Elizabeth and her Protestant government.

The invasion took a lot of preparation and it was not until July 1588 that the 131 ships in the Spanish Armada left for England. The large Spanish galleons were filled with 17,000 well-armed soldiers and 180 Catholic priests. The plan was to sail to Dunkirk in France where the Armada would pick up another 16,000 Spanish soldiers.

On 6 August the Armada anchored at Calais Harbour. The English now filled eight old ships with materials that would burn fiercely. At midnight, the fire-ships were lighted and left to sail by themselves towards the Spanish ships in Calais Harbour. The plan worked and the Spanish ships fled to the open sea.

With their formation broken, the Spanish ships were easy targets for the English ships loaded with guns that could fire very large cannon balls. The Spanish captains tried to get their ships in close so that their soldiers could board the English ships. However, the English ships were quicker than the Spanish galleons and were able to keep their distance.

The English bombardment sank many Spanish galleons. Those that survived headed north. The English ships did not follow as they had run out of gunpowder. After the Armada rounded Scotland it headed south for home. However, a strong gale drove many of the ships onto the Irish rocks. Thousands of Spaniards drowned and even those that reached land were often killed by English soldiers and settlers. Of the 25,000 men that had set out in the Armada, less than 10,000 arrived home safely.

In 1591 there was a revolt in Aragon against Philip's rule. Philip's military campaigns created severe financial problems and by 1596 his country was bankrupt. When Philip died in 1598 his empire was divided and economically depressed.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Letter from Philip II to Count Feria, the Spanish ambassador in England (12 February, 1559)

Tell her (Elizabeth) from me that... I must warn her to consider deeply the evils which may result in England from a change in religion... if this change is made all idea of my marriage with her must be broken off.

(2) Letter from Count Feria to Philip II (19 March, 1559)

Queen Elizabeth... said that so much money was taken out of the country for the Pope every year that she must put an end to it... she kept repeating to me that she was a heretic and consequently could not marry your Majesty.

(3) Philip II talking to the survivors of the Armada (1588)

I sent you to fight with men, and not with the weather.