The Birth of Philip II of Spain

Philip II in black and gold armour.
Philip II in black and gold armour.

On May twenty first 1527, the Infante Philip of Spain , Prince of Asturias was born at the Palacio of Valladolid to Isabella of Portugal, Queen and Empress to Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire and I of Spain. Philip was the couple’s firstborn and only surviving son. He was followed by two sisters, Maria and Juana.

The Wedding of Charles V and Isabella of Portugal in Seville, Spain from the upcoming series "Carlos, Rey Emperador" (2015)
The Wedding of Charles V and Isabella of Portugal in Seville, Spain from the upcoming series “Carlos, Rey Emperador” (2015)

The couple had been married the previous year on 10 March 1526 on Seville. They were well-matched. Isabella was the daughter of King Manuel I of Portugal and Maria of Aragon, sister to Charles V’s mother, Juana I of Castile (otherwise known unfairly as “Juana la Loca”). What began as an arranged marriage soon became a love match. Initially Charles V was pledged to marry his other first cousin, whose mother was his mother’s youngest sister; Princess Mary Tudor. Henry VIII’s (then) only child. When he visited England during the summer he found the girl charming and very accomplished. According to contemporary writers, Mary was a young beauty and very precocious, curious and eager to please. However as the years passed by, Charles grew very disenchanted with an English alliance and listened to his councilors who never wanted him to marry the English Princess (or any other foreign Princess) in the first place. Charles V was for lack of better words, not very loved by the Spaniards when he ascended to the throne after the death of his maternal grandfather, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Regent for Castile. He didn’t speak any Castilian and he brought with him many foreigners whom he appointed to key positions in government. In the beginning of the 1520s a popular revolt called “Las Comunidades de Castilla” had been led by the commons and the dissatisfied nobles who called for the cessation of Charles’ policies. Among these many policies were taxation and the appointment of German and Austrian to key positions in government. Their motto was basically Spain for Spaniards only. Charles managed to placate the rebellion but he learned from this experience. To his councilors, it was imperative that he married someone who could understand Spain and could help him rule in his absence when he would be looking after his other territories. As appealing as the idea of marrying the daughter of the Catholic Queen’s favorite daughter, and one who was heiress presumptive at the time; it was better that he married his other first cousin. Someone who was closer to him in age and understood the customs of Spain better.

Isabella of Portugal, Holy Roman Empress and Queen Consort of Spain.
Isabella of Portugal, Holy Roman Empress and Queen Consort of Spain.

Isabella was fierce, ambitious and smart as he was. The two soon fell in love.
When she was in labor, she asked for “a veil to be placed over her face so that no one would see her agony”. One of the midwives reassured her that no one would judge her if she cried or screamed. To this, the young Queen and Empress responded: “I would rather die. Don’t talk to me like that: I may die, but I will not cry out.” Many hours later at 4pm, Philip was born, much to the joy of his father who was so “overjoyed and delighted by his son”.

Their son was baptized six weeks later by the bishop of Toledo at the monastery of St. Pablo in Valladolid.

Monastery of St. Pablo Valladolid
Monastery of St. Pablo Valladolid

Philip became the Prince of Asturias and on his marriage to his second wife, Queen Mary I of England, King of Naples so he would not be inferior in status to her. This however, did not prevent Mary from forcing him and his party to agree to her terms that there would be no other boss in her country except her. Mary I was a stern, calculate and pragmatic woman. Like her sister, the future “Glorianna”, she was both cruel and compassionate. While she wrote desperately to Philip and his father Charles V when he was away to return, her letters are not those of a love-sick girl but of a woman who was demanding his presence because she believed he was vital to help her deal with the rebellions in her country.

Philip next to his second wife, Mary I of England.
Philip next to his second wife, Mary I of England.

After she died, he briefly entertained the idea of marrying her sister, the new Queen, Elizabeth I. After she made it clear that she was toying with him, he looked elsewhere for a bride. His eyes landed on France, on the beautiful pre-teen daughter of Henry II and Catherine de Medici. The couple had two surviving daughters, who became Philip’s favorite offspring, Isabel Clara Eugenia and Catalina Michaela. His letters to her still survive and they speak of great parental devotion. His fourth marriage to his niece, Anna of Austria did the trick providing him with a healthy male heir. The future Philip III.

Modern view of the Monastery of San Lorenzo El Escorial.
Modern view of the Monastery of San Lorenzo El Escorial.

Philip II died at his great monastery of San Lorenzo El Escorial that he had built in Madrid on the 13th of September 1598. He was buried there.

Sources:

  • Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II by Geoffrey Parker
  • Philip II of Spain by Henry Kamen
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
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