Philip II of Spain

(1527-1598)
   The son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V who appointed him ruler of Naples and Sicily in 1554, of the Netherlands in 1555, and of Milan and Spain in 1556. Upon Charles' death (1558), Philip also inherited the rulership of the Spanish colonies in the Americas. In 1567, he sent an army to squelch the Calvinist revolt in the Netherlands. The seven United Provinces of Holland, led by William of Orange, signed the Union of Utrecht in 1579 and declared their independence from Spain in 1581. In 1580, Sebastian I of Portugal died leaving no heirs to the throne. Philip seized the opportunity to lay claim to the Portuguese crown as he was the son of Isabella of Portugal. He met little resistance and as the new king he obtained Brazil and the Portuguese colonies in Africa and the West Indies, along with the riches these lands had to offer. In 1588, he sent the Spanish Armada to England, which he ruled briefly while married to Mary Tudor, a Catholic who sought to reinstate Catholicism in her kingdom. She died in 1558 before accomplishing her goal. Her Protestant sister, Queen Elizabeth, ascended the throne as her successor and Philip used the fact that the British had provided support to the Protestants in Holland during their revolt as an excuse to oust her from power. Heavy winds and large ships proved disastrous to the Spanish Armada as they tried to invade England in 1588. In 1590-1598, Philip also involved himself in the French wars of religion against the Huguenots (French Protestants). The French King Henry IV, a Protestant, ended the war when, in 1593 he converted to Catholicism and in 1598 he signed the Treaty of Nantes guaranteeing religious freedom to this group. Philip was passionate about art and learning. In 1557, during the Battle of San Quentin against the French, he vowed that, if victory was achieved, he would build a monastery in honor of St. Lawrence. Having won, he commissioned the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo to build the Monastery of San Lorenzo in El Escorial, a structure continued by Juan de Herrera when Juan Bautista died in 1567. The decoration of the monastery occupied Philip for several years, with Bartolomé and Vicente Carducho, Juan Fernández de Navarrete, Eugenio Cajés, and El Greco forming part of the group of artists involved in the task. Juan Pantoja de la Cruz, Alfonso Sánchez Coello, and Anthonis Mor were his official portraitists, and Titian also worked for him as he had done for Philip's father, Charles V.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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