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Felipe II (May 21, 1527 – September 13, 1598) was King of Spain (1556–98), King of Portugal (1581–98, as Filipe I), King of Naples and Sicily (both from 1554), and jure uxoris King of England and Ireland (during his marriage to Queen Mary I from 1554 to 1558). He was also Duke of Milan, and from 1555, lord of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands. As a member of the Austrian Habsburg Family, Felipe II was also an Archduke of Austria.

Filipe II, King of Spain, Portugal, Naples and Sicily.

The son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (King Carlos I of the Spanish kingdoms) and Infanta Isabella of Portugal, Felipe was called Felipe el Prudente (“Philip the Prudent”) in the Spanish kingdoms; his empire included territories on every continent then known to Europeans, including his namesake the Philippines. During his reign, the Spanish kingdoms reached the height of their influence and power. This is sometimes called the Spanish Golden Age.

Felipe’s mother, Infanta Isabella of Portugal, was the daughter King Manuel I of Portugal and Infanta Maria of Aragon, Isabella was the granddaughter of the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Throughout her life, many compared her to her grandmother for her intelligence and determination. Her personal motto was “aut Caesar aut nihil” (‘either Cesar or nothing’). Felipe’s grandmother, Infanta Maria of Aragon, was the third surviving daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon (the Catholic monarchs).

Charles V-I, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain

Infanta Isabella of Portugal

Felipe led a highly debt-leveraged regime, seeing state bankruptcies in 1557, 1560, 1569, 1575, and 1596. This policy was partly the cause of the declaration of independence that created the Dutch Republic in 1581. On December 31, 1584 Felipe signed the Treaty of Joinville, with Henri I, Duke of Guise signing on behalf of the Catholic League; consequently Felipe supplied a considerable annual grant to the League over the following decade to maintain the civil war in France, with the hope of destroying the French Calvinists.

A devout Catholic, Felipe saw himself as the defender of Catholic Europe against the Ottoman Empire and the Protestant Reformation. He sent an armada to invade Protestant England in 1588, with the strategic aim of overthrowing Elizabeth I of England and re-establishing Catholicism there; but it was defeated in a skirmish at Gravelines (northern France) and then destroyed by storms as it circled the British Isles to return to Spain. The following year Felipe’s naval power was able to recover after the failed invasion of the English Armada into Spain.

The military under Felipe constituted about 9,000 men a year on average were which were recruited from Spain; in crisis years the total could rise to 20,000. Between 1567 and 1574, nearly 43,000 men left Spain to fight in Italy and the Low Countries (modern-day Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands).

Filipe II, King of Spain, Portugal, Naples and Sicily.

Philip was described by the Venetian ambassador Paolo Fagolo in 1563 as “slight of stature and round-faced, with pale blue eyes, somewhat prominent lip, and pink skin, but his overall appearance is very attractive.” The Ambassador went on to say “He dresses very tastefully, and everything that he does is courteous and gracious.”

King of Portugal

In 1578 young king Sebastian of Portugal died at the Battle of Alcácer Quibir without descendants, triggering a succession crisis. His granduncle, the elderly Cardinal Henrique, succeeded him as king, but Henrique had no descendants either, having taken holy orders. When Henrique died two years after Sebastian’s disappearance, three grandchildren of Manuel I claimed the throne: Infanta Catarina, Duchess of Braganza, António, Prior of Crato, and Felipe II of Spain.

António was acclaimed King of Portugal in many cities and towns throughout the country, but members of the Council of Governors of Portugal who had supported Felipe escaped to the Spanish kingdoms and declared him to be the legal successor of Henrique. Felipe II then marched into Portugal and defeated Prior António’s troops in the Battle of Alcântara. The Portuguese suffered 4,000 killed, wounded, or captured, while the Spanish sustained only 500 casualties.

Filipe II, King of Spain, Portugal, Naples and Sicily.

The troops commanded by Fernando Álvarez de Toledo the 3rd Duke of Alba imposed subjection to before entering Lisbon, where he seized an immense treasure. Felipe II of Spain was crowned Felipe I of Portugal in 1581 (recognized as king by the Portuguese Cortes of Tomar) and a near sixty-year personal union under the rule of the Philippine Dynasty began. that saw Portugal share a monarch with that of Spain. The next independent monarch of Portugal would be João IV, who took the throne after 60 years of Spanish rule.

Felipe was married four times and had children with three of his wives.

Felipe II’s first wife, Infanta Maria-Manuela, Princess of Portugal, was his double first cousin. She was a daughter of Felipe’s maternal uncle, King João III of Portugal, and paternal aunt, Archduchess Catherine of Austria. They were married at Salamanca on November 12, 1543. The marriage produced one son in 1545, after which Maria-Manuela died 4 days later due to hemorrhage.

Infanta Maria-Manuela, Princess of Portugal

* Carlos, Prince of Asturias (1545-1568), died unmarried and without issue.

Felipe II’s second wife was his first cousin once removed, Queen Mary I of England and Ireland. Mary was the only child of King Henry VIII by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, the niece of Felipe’s father, Emperor Charles V. The marriage, which took place on 25 July 25, 1554 at Winchester Cathedral, was political. By this marriage, Felipe II became jure uxoris King of England and Ireland, although the couple was apart more than together as they ruled their respective countries. The marriage produced no children, although there was a false pregnancy, and Mary died in 1558, ending Felipe II’s reign in England and Ireland.

Queen Mary I of England and Ireland

Felipe II’s third wife was Princess Elisabeth de Valois, the eldest daughter of King Henri II of France and Catherine de’ Medici. The original ceremony was conducted by proxy (the Duke of Alba standing in for Felipe) at Notre Dame prior to Elisabeth’s departure from France. The actual ceremony was conducted in Guadalajara upon her arrival in Spain. During their marriage (1559–1568) they conceived five daughters and a son, though only two of the girls survived. Elisabeth died a few hours after the loss of her last child.

Princess Elisabeth de Valois

Their children were:

* Stillborn son (1560)
* Miscarried twin daughters (August 1564).
* Isabella-Clara-Eugenia (1566-1633), married Albrecht VII, Archduke of Austria,
* Catherine-Michelle (1567-1597), married Carlo-Emmanuele I, Duke of Savoy, and had issue.
* Miscarried daughter (1568).

Felipe II’s fourth and final wife was his niece, Archduchess Anna of Austria, eldest daughter of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor, and Infanta Maria of Spain, who were first cousins. Archduchess Anna of Austria’s mother, Infanta Maria of Spain, was Felipe II’s sister and therefore daughter of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, and Isabella of Portugal.

Archduchess Anna of Austria

By contemporary accounts, this was a convivial and satisfactory marriage (1570–1580) for both Felipe and Anna. This marriage produced four sons and one daughter. Anna died of heart failure 8 months after giving birth to Maria in 1580.

Their children were:

* Fernando , Prince of Asturias (1571-1578), died young.
* Carlos-Laurence (1573-1575), died young.
* Diego-Félix, Prince of Asturias (1575-1582), died young.
* Felipe III, King of Spain (1578-1621).
* Maria (1580-1583), died young.

King Felipe II outlived all four of his wives.


Felipe II died of cancer, aged 71, in El Escorial, near Madrid, on September 13, 1598. He was succeeded by his 20-year-old son, Felipe III. He was the son with fourth wife, and niece, niece, Archduchess Anna of Austria.