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02.- Felipe II (1527 - 1598)

Felipe II by Sofonisba AnguisciolaFelipe II was born in Valladolid, son of Carlos I and Isabel of Portugal. His father educated him to be king, which he finally became when Carlos I abdicated in 1556. He reigned over the Iberian Peninsula, part of France, the Netherlands, Sicily, Cerdeña, Milan, Naples, Oran, Tunisia, his Afro-Asian Empire, America and the Philippines. It was said that in his reign there was no sunset.

He reigned with the support of councillors, royal secretaries and a powerful, but centralized, administration. His reign suffered several bankruptcies and many economic and fiscal problems.

Felipe II wanted to maintain his reign and therefore always married - four times - the appropriate woman. When he was sixteen he married his first wife, Maria of Portugal in 1543. She died after giving birth to his son, Carlos.
His second wife was Maria Tudor, Queen of England. He was 25 years old and she nearly 40. She died without having had any children and in 1559 Felipe married Elisabeth of Valois.
This marriage put an end to the long war fought between France and Spain. Elisabeth had been Felipe´s son´s fiancée, but when Maria Tudor died, Felipe decided to marry her himself. They had two daughters, Isabel Clara EugeniaMaria of Portugal and Catalina Micaela, and so, after her death, Felipe was obliged to marry again in order to have a son and heir for his throne.
In 1570 Felipe married his niece Anna of Austria. They had four children who died after a short time, but finally a son was born, the future Felipe III. Also his fourth wife died, but Felipe did not marry again.

His firstborn son, Carlos died in 1568. He had been arrested accused of taking part in a conspiracy against his father. When in prison he refused to eat and consequently starved to death. This incident left a deep sorrow in Felipe which he never overcame.

Felipe II was a very religious man and he tried to defend his faith against the berber and turkish attacks. In order to defend their reigns against the Ottoman Empire, several states created the Holy League. A famous battle against them was fought in Lepanto, a battle in which also Miguel de Cervantes fought and lost his arm.

Maria Tudor by Antonis MorAfter Maria Tudor´s death, both England and Spain wanted to control the seas. Finally the Spanish Armada Invencible was defeated in 1588.Elisabeth of Valois by Pantoja de la Cruz

Under Felipe´s reign Spain and Portugal were united. Noblemen were removed from powerful positions in the government and substituted by secretaries belonging to the middle classes.

In those days the court was wherever the king was, sometimes in Toledo, some in Valladolid or Granada. But in 1561 Felipe decided to move it to Madrid.

Probably one of the reasons were some problems between the crown and the archbishop of Toledo. Some also believe that it could be due to Toledo´s climate, very hot in summer and very cold in winter, or to insufficient infrastructure to cover the needs of all the people belonging to the court.

Anna of Austria by Sanchez CoelloMadrid was not a big cities, but there was enough space to construct new buildings and house the court. Another important fact was, that Madrid was not a bishops see and that its aristocracy was not very powerful.

Suddenly Madrid started to grow and grow: aristocratic buildings, churches and convents were built like the Incarnation Convent and the Descalzas Reales Convent. The old wall was pulled down and new one built. The court had new needs and many people came to Madrid to cover these needs. Pubs offered cheap accommodation for all these travellers that visited the city. Sometimes these inns offered shared rooms with "clean people".
The area around the Plaza Mayor was full of taverns and wine cellars, like Botin, where people could eat and drink wine. It was a time when streets were not paved, dirt was everywhere, people just threw dirty "water" and all kinds of garbage out of the windows onto the street. One can imagine that in the hot summer days the smell had to be terrible.Prince Don Carlos by Sanchez Coello

As there were not enough buildings to house all the people belonging to the court, Felipe II established that all the second floors of the houses had to be expropriated and would belong to the crown. The end result was quite different from the expected: the new houses that were being built suddenly only had one floor (it seems that quite often a second floor was also there but could not be seen from the street).

Felipe bought the lands that are now the Casa de Campo as his private hunting preserve.

Isabel Clara Eugenia and Catalina Micaela by Sanchez CoelloIn 1557 the Spanish troops won the Battle of San Quentin preventing the occupation of Flanders by the French. In order to commemmorate this victory, Felipe II ordered the building of the Monastery of El Escorial, about 50km from Madrid. This monastery of the Jeronimos (Hieronymites) contains several buildings: a basilica, a mausoleum for all Spanish kings and queens, the royal residence, a vast library, a university and a pharmacy. They started to build the monastery in 1563 and it was finished 20 years later.
In 1598 Felipe decided to live in El Escorial. He stayed there until his death.
The Monastery of El Escorial is a wonderful place which everybody coming to Madrid should visit.

@Copyright 2008, 2009 Mª Dolores Diehl Busch. All rights reserved.
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