Philip II of Spain (b.1527 r.1556-1598)
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Philip II of Spain (b.1527 r.1556-1598)

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King Philip II of Spain married Mary I in 1554. It was a disappointing and bitter union. After Mary's death Philip made overtures to her sister Elizabeth I. However, he is best remembered for the Armada which he sent against the English in 1588. The Armada's defeat was one of the great triumphs of Elizabeth's reign.

This is based on a contemporary portrait, attributed to Titian.

Philip was meagre in stature, with a large, oddly shaped head, thinly covered with sandy hair; his face was pale and his small eyes were blue and weak. He was in no way a heroic figure, even in his sumptuous clothes.
Ralph Dutton, English Court Life.

(2) Philip II of Spain (b.1527 r.1556-1598)

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Philip II of Spain (b.1527 r.1556-1598)

Philip married Mary I of England as his second wife in 1554 and, until her death in 1558, was joint sovereign of both England and Spain. The couple had no children, and so Spain had no further claim to the English throne after Mary's death.

Philip was the son of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, who had strongly influenced him to defend the Catholic faith whenever possible - he is quoted as saying "Rather than suffer the least damage to religion and the service of God, I would lose all my states and an hundred lives, if I had them; for I do not propose nor desire to be the ruler of heretics". This led directly to the two great events in his life. Firstly, the successful defence of Europe and its religion against the Ottoman Turks, culminating in the naval victory at Lepanto in 1571.

The second was the sending of the Armada in 1588 against England. The Armada was intended to link up with the troops assembled in The Netherlands under the experienced Duke of Parma, for the invasion of England. It failed chiefly because of the superior seamanship and longer range cannon of the English fleet, which had remained upwind of the Spanish fleet and decisively sent fire ships into the Spanish fleet in the narrows of the Channel, scattering their fleet and allowing the English to close in and sink a number of Spanish men of war. About half the remainder made it back to Spain, having lost more ships in storms around the north coast of Scotland.

Philip's ambitions for Spain led to the annexation of Portugal, but his interference in the French succession was ultimately a failure, although it helped to ensure that France remained Catholic. During his reign, which was bedevilled by Philip's bureaucratic method of government (so ineffective in an age when the transmission of information and commands were inevitably very slow) Spain nevertheless achieved the zenith of its power, mostly due to the influx of gold from the New World. Philip was often blackly portrayed by the Protestant opposition in The Netherlands and England, but he was an elegant figure, who loved books and paintings and was dedicated to his work. Advanced Category Search

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