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Felipe IV (April 8, 1605 – September 17, 1665) was King of Spain and (as Felipe III, King of Portugal). He ascended the thrones in 1621 and reigned in Portugal until 1640. Felipe is remembered for his patronage of the arts, including such artists as Diego Velázquez, and his rule over Spain during the Thirty Years’ War.

Felipe IV when young

Felipe IV was born in Royal Palace of Valladolid, and was the eldest son of Felipe III and his wife, Margaret of Austria, the daughter of Archduke Charles II of Austria and Maria Anna of Bavaria and thus the paternal granddaughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I. Her elder brother was the Archduke Ferdinand, who succeeded as Emperor Ferdinand II in 1619.

At the age of 10, Felipe was married to 13-year-old Elisabeth of France, eldest daughter of King Henri IV of France and his second spouse Marie de’ Medici, although the relationship does not appear to have been close; some have even suggested that Olivares, his key minister, later deliberately tried to keep the two apart to maintain his influence, encouraging Felipe to take mistresses instead.

Elisabeth de Bourbon of France

Felipe had seven children by Elisabeth, with only one being a son, Balthasar Carlos, who died at the age of sixteen in 1646. The death of his son deeply shocked the king, who appears to have been a good father by the standards of the day. Elisabeth was able to conspire with other Spanish nobles to remove Olivares from the court in 1643, and for a brief period she held considerable influence over Felipe; by the time of her death, however, she was out of favour, following manoeuvering by Olivares’ successor, Luis de Haro.

Felipe remarried in 1649, following the deaths of both Elisabeth and his only legitimate heir. His choice of his second wife, Maria Anna, also known as Mariana, Felipe’s niece and the daughter of the Emperor Ferdinand, was guided by politics and Philip’s desire to strengthen the relationship with Habsburg Austria.

They were married on October 7, 1649. Maria Anna bore him five children, but only two survived to adulthood, a daughter Margarita Teresa, born in 1651, and the future Carlos II of Spain in 1661 – but the latter was sickly and considered in frequent danger of dying, making the line of inheritance potentially uncertain.

Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria

Privately, Felipe appears to have had a lighter persona. When he was younger, he was said to have a keen sense of humour and a ‘great sense of fun’. He privately attended ‘academies’ in Madrid throughout his reign – these were lighthearted literary salons, aiming to analyse contemporary literature and poetry with a humorous touch.

Although interpretations of Felipe’s role in government have improved in recent years, Diego Velázquez’s contemporary description of Felipe’s key weakness – that ‘he mistrusts himself, and defers to others too much’ — remains relevant. Although Felipe’s Catholic beliefs no longer attract criticism from English language writers, Felipe is still felt to have been ‘unduly pious’ in his personal life. Notably, from the 1640s onwards he sought the advice of a noted cloistered abbess, Sor María de Ágreda, exchanging many letters with her.

This did not stop Felipe from becoming known for his numerous affairs, particularly with actresses; the most famous of these was his actress-mistress María Inés Calderón (La Calderona), with whom he had a son in 1629, Juan José, who was brought up as a royal prince. By the end of the reign, and with the health of infants Carlos in doubt, there was a real possibility of Juan José’s making a claim on the throne, which added to the instability of the regency years.


Felipe was to reign through the majority of the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, a turbulent period of military history. In Felipe III’s final years, Baltasar de Zúñiga had convinced him to intervene militarily in Bohemia and the Electorate of the Palatinate on the side of Emperor Ferdinand II. Once Philip himself came to power, he was convinced by de Zúñiga, appointed his principal foreign minister, and Olivares that he should commit Spain to a more aggressive foreign policy in alliance with the Holy Roman Empire. This would lead Philip to renew hostilities with the Dutch in 1621 in an attempt to bring the provinces to the negotiating table with the aim of achieving a peace treaty favourable to Spanish global interests.

Felipe IV died broken-hearted in 1665, expressing the pious hope that his surviving son, Carlos II, who was only 4 years old at the time, would be more fortunate than himself.