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04.- Felipe IV (1605 - 1665)

Felipe IV by Velazquez
Conde-duque de Olivares by Velazquez Felipe IV was born in Valladolid in 1605. He became king after his father, Felipe III, died. He was only 16 years old. After his father´s reign, the monarchy was less powerful and Felipe IV wanted to regain that power and he promoted many changes in the official institutions as well as a tax reform. But he had to face many problems. Less gold from the American colonies arrived, the Cortes were against the new tax reform and also the powerful conde-duque de Olivares, Felipe´s minister and favourite.
In order to extend the territory he married Isabel of Bourbon of France. They were 10 and 12 years old when they got married. They had seven children, but only two survived. One of them was Maria Teresa, who married the French king, Louis XIV. This marriage was going to be the reason why the Bourbon lineage could have access to the Spanish throne years later. The other child was Baltasar Carlos, heir of the throne, but he died in 1646. Isabel died in 1644.
Having no heir, Felipe married his niece Mariana of Austria in 1648. She was only 15 years old and had been chosen to be Baltasar Carlos´wife.Isabel de Borbon by Velazquez She gave birth to five children. All but two died very young. One was going to be the future king, Carlos II and the other, Margarita of Austria.
Felipe IV was very interested in literature and painting and he promoted both arts.Baltasar Carlos by Velazquez Velazquez worked for him over 40 years, not only as official court painter, but also being in charge of the royal art collection. This is why he frequently travelled to other European countries in order to purchase paintings by important painters like Raphael or Dürer. Over 800 paintings were bought during Felipe´s reign. Most of them are now in the Prado Museum.
Even though Felipe had been educated to be a king, he was weak and insecure and more interested in fun than in work. It is said that he had over 20 illegitimate children
An economic crisis could be felt in Europe and even more deeply in Spain. During Felipe IV´s reign the country suffered 4 bankrupcies. The conce-duque de Olivares wanted to maintain Spain´s power in the continent.Mariana of Austria by Velazquez In 1635 the war against France begun and this meant an even worse situation for the Spanish people. The measures taken to defray this war caused revolts in Catalonia and Portugal and Olivares´ fall. An emergency government was formed but problems went on. In order to continue with the war the fiscal pressure went on.The Meninas by Velazquez Years of bad harvest caused revolts in Castille and Naples. Finally a peace treaty is signed with France.
When Felipe IV died he left Spain immersed in a deep economic crisis and with people questioning the need of monarchy.
But we should not forget that we can see one of the most important paintings in art history thanks to Felipe´s favourite painter, Velazquez: The Meninas also called Felipe IV´s Family.

A statue of Felipe IV is in the Plaza de Oriente.

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