Visual History of the World
The Early Modern Period
16th - 18th century
The smooth transition from
the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is conventionally fixed on such
events as the Reformation and the discovery of the "New World,"
which brought about the emergence of a new image of man and his
world. Humanism, which spread out of Italy, also made an essential
contribution to this with its promotion of a critical awareness of
Christianity and the Church. The Reformation eventually broke the
all-embracing power of the Church. After the Thirty Years' War, the
concept of a universal empire was also nullified. The era of the
nation-state began, bringing with it the desire to build up
political and economic power far beyond Europe. The Americas,
Africa, and Asia provided regions of expansion for the Europeans.
Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci (drawing, ca.
is a prime example of the new approach of Renaissance
artists and scientists to the anatomy of the human body.
Spain and Portugal
Voyages of discovery and merchant shipping made Portugal and Spain
the leading sea powers of Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth
century. Under Philip II, Spain also became the major force behind the
Counter-Reformation. A rapid economic and political decline took place
in Portugal after 1580 and in Spain after 1600, accelerated by the often
weak and conservative governments. This decline lasted until around
1750, when reforms associated with enlightened absolutism elsewhere were
carried out in both countries. In the wake of the French Revolution,
both countries fell under Napoleon's control.
High Point and Decline of Spanish Power
Spain's dominant position in Europe and the New World, attained
under Philip II, declined under his successors. Under the last Spanish
Habsburg the country was practically bankrupt, and its political
influence greatly diminished.
From a position of strength, 7 Philip II projected Spanish power across
He supported the Austrian Habsburgs against the Protestants,
ended the war with France in 1559, and married Elizabeth of Valois, the
daughter of Catherine de Medicis, in his third marriage. In the context
of the Counter-Reformation he financed the Catholic League in the French
Wars of Religion, but was unable to prevent Henry of Navarre from
becoming king of France in 1589.
7 Philip II king of Spain and Portugal by
Philip was married four times and had children with three
of his wives. Even so, most of his children died young.
Philip's first wife was his double first cousin, Maria
Manuela, Princess of Portugal; she was daughter of John
III of Portugal and Catherine of Habsburg. Philip and Maria
were both young and the prince displayed no affection for
his wife. The marriage produced one son, at whose birth
Carlos, Prince of Asturias, (July 8, 1545 – July 24,
1568), died unmarried and without issue.
Philip's second wife was his first cousin once removed,
Queen Mary I of England. Mary was significantly older
than Philip, and the marriage was political - although
Philip did his best to be kind to the queen. By this
marriage, Philip became jure uxoris King of England, but the
marriage produced no children and Mary died in 1558.
Philip's third wife was Elisabeth of Valois, the
eldest daughter of Henry II of France and Catherine de'
Medici. Elisabeth was very young at the time, and Philip was
very attached to her. For the most part, their union was
quite harmonious. Their marriage produced five children.
Elisabeth died hours after a miscarriage. Philip deeply
mourned this loss.
Miscarried twin daughters (1564)
Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain, married Albert VII,
Archduke of Austria, but had no issue.
Catherine Michelle of Spain, married Charles Emmanuel I,
Duke of Savoy, and had issue.
miscarried son (1568)
Philip's fourth and final wife was Anne of Austria,
who was also his niece. This marriage produced four sons and
a daughter. The king was said to have been very much in love
with the young and fair Anna. (There are no records of
mistresses during this time in his life.) Anna had a
personality very much like his own, and he was devoted to
her. Their children were
Ferdinand, Prince of Asturias: 4 December 1571 – 18
October 1578, died young
Carlos Lorenzo: 12 August 1573 – 30 June 1575, died young
Diego, Prince of Asturias: 15 August 1575 – 21 November
1582, died young
Philip: 3 April 1578 – 31 March 1621 (future king, Philip
III of Spain)
Maria: 14 February 1580 – 5 August 1583, died young
Maria Manuela of Portugal,
Princess of Asturias
Maria Manuela of Portugal
Maria Manuela, Princess of Portugal (1527–1545; Mary
Emmanuella) was a daughter of King John III of Portugal and
his wife Catherine of Habsburg. She was Princess of Asturias
as spouse of Philip, Prince of Asturias, and between 1527
and 1535 Princess of Portugal in her own right.
Maria was born in Coimbra on October 15, 1527 and was one
of the few children of John III to survive childhood. She
married her double-cousin Prince Philip of Asturias (future
Philip II of Spain and I of Portugal) and was the mother of
Prince Carlos, a deformed child who was heir of the Spanish
Maria died soon after she gave birth to Don Carlos of
Spain (1545–1568) on August 12, 1545 in Valladolid, Spain.
Mary I of England Portrait by Anthonis Mor, 1554
Mary I, Master John, 1544
Mary I c. 1555, unknown artist
Queen Mary I of England
Born to Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon in 1516, Mary
Tudor took the English throne in 1553. In 1554, she married
Felipe II. She died in 1558. Sitting on a sumptuous
embroidered velvet armchair, the queen wears a gray dress
with a floral pattern, and a maroon velvet coat. This rich
clothing is in keeping with her high status, as are the
jewels on her clothing, head, cuffs and belt. A tear-shaped
pearl pendent hangs from her collar. Her right hand holds a
red rose that symbolizes the Tudor family, and the left has
a pair of gloves, which are also a symbol of distinction.
This portrait combines the meticulous description
characteristic of Flemish painting with the majestic
distance imposed by the sitter's dignity, which Mor
masterfully captures in this work that became a model for
later court portraits.
Before marrying Felipe II, the queen had been engaged to
Carlos V, who kept this portrait with him when he retired to
the Monastery of Yuste. It was already mentioned in the
Alcázar Palace in Madrid by 1600.
Elisabeth of Valois by Juan Pantoja de la Cruz
Elisabeth de Valois, 1568, by Antonio Mor
Elisabeth of Valois
She was born in the Chateau of Fontainebleau. Her childhood
was spent in the French royal nursery, where her father
insisted she share her bedroom with her future
sister-in-law, Mary I, Queen of Scots, who was about her
same age. Even though Elisabeth had to give precedence to
Mary, (since Mary was already a crowned queen regnant) the
two would remain close friends for the rest of their lives.
Elisabeth was described as being shy, timid and very much in
awe of her formidable mother; although there is also
evidence that Catherine was tender and loving toward
Elisabeth. (This was certainly evident in her letters to
Elisabeth married Philip II of Spain ("Philip the
Catholic"), son of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and
Isabella of Portugal in 1559. Originally married via proxy
at Notre Dame (with the Duke of Alba standing in for Philip)
prior to leaving France, the actual ceremony took place in
Guadalajara, Spain upon her arrival. The marriage was a
result of the Peace of Cateau Cambrésis (1559). His second
wife, Mary I of England had recently died; making Elisabeth
of Valois Philip's third wife.
Philip was completely enchanted by his 14 year old bride,
and within a short period of time had given up his mistress.
Despite the significant age difference, Elisabeth was also
quite pleased with her husband. (In letters to her mother,
she proclaimed herself to be fortunate to have married so
charming a prince.) Philip enjoyed hosting chivalric
tournaments to entertain his wife. Elisabeth would play
liege lady to the three young Princes of the Spanish Court
Don Carlos, Don Juan (John of Austria, illegitimate son of
Charles V), and Alessandro Farnese (Duke of Parma, and son
of Charles V's illegitimate daughter Margaret).
Elisabeth had originally been betrothed to Philip's son,
Don Carlos, but political complications unexpectedly
necessitated instead a marriage to Philip. Her relationship
with her troubled stepson Don Carlos was warm and friendly.
Despite reports of his progressively bizarre behavior, Don
Carlos was always kind and gentle to Elisabeth. When it
eventually became necessary for Philip to lock him away
(which shortly lead to the Prince’s demise) Elisabeth cried
Philip was very attached to Elisabeth, staying close by
her side even when she was ill with smallpox. Elisabeth's
first pregnancy in 1564 ended with a miscarriage of twin
girls. She later gave birth to Infanta Isabella Clara
Eugenia of Spain on August 12, 1566, and then to Isabella's
younger sister Catherine Michelle of Spain October 10, 1567.
Elisabeth had another miscarriage on October 3, 1568, and
died the same day, along with her newborn infant son.
After the death of Elisabeth, Catherine de' Medici
offered her younger daughter Marguerite as a bride for
Philip. Philip declined the offer.
Ana de Austria, by Bartolomé González y Serrano
Queen Ana de Austria by Sánchez Coello
Queen Ana de Austria
Anna of Austria (Cigales, Valladolid, 1 November 1549 –
Badajoz, 26 October 1580), was Queen consort of Spain and
She was the first daughter of Maximilian II, Holy Roman
Emperor and Maria of Spain. She was born in Spain, but lived
in Vienna from the age of four.
Anna's maternal grandparents were Charles V, Holy Roman
Emperor and Isabella of Portugal, her paternal grandparents
were Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor and Anna of Bohemia and
Hungary, Charles and Ferdinand's mother was Joanna of
Castile, Joanna was the daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon
and Isabella I of Castile. She was born in Spain, but lived
in Vienna from the age of four. She had many other siblings
some became Holy roman emperors, among her sisters was
Elisabeth of Austria who became the Queen of France.
Anna was betrothed to Don Carlos, son of Philip II and
heir to the Spanish throne, but he died in 1568. Philip II
lost his third wife in the same year and a marriage was
arranged between Anna and Philip II, despite the fact that
Philip was also Anna's uncle. Pope Pius V first opposed the
marriage, but finally consented and gave a dispensation for
it, and they were married in Prague on 4 May 1570.
The king was said to have been very much in love with the
young and fair Anna. (There are no records of mistresses
during this time in his life.) Anna had a personality very
much like his own, and he was devoted to her. Queen Anna was
also vivid and cheerful, and managed to ease up some of the
stiff atmosphere at the Spanish court. She enjoyed art and
came on good terms with her step-daughters.
Philip II and Anna of Austria had 5 children:
Ferdinand, Prince of Asturias: 4 December 1571 – 18
Carlos Lorenzo: 12 August 1573 – 30 June 1575
Diego, Prince of Asturias: 15 August 1575 – 21 November 1582
Philip: 3 April 1578 – 31 March 1621 (future king, Philip
III of Spain)
Maria: 14 February 1580 – 5 August 1583
In 1580 Philip II obtained the throne of Portugal; Anna
became Queen of Portugal. However, she died the same year,
victim of a contagious disease which had also struck King
In 1571 a Spanish-papal fleet under Juan de Austria won a major naval victory over the Ottomans at
Lepanto 9 (The
Battle of Lepanto).
9 Celebration of the victory over the Ottomans at the Battle of
including Pius V, Philip II, Doge Alvise Mocenigo of Venice,
and Don Juan de Austria,
El Greco, ca. 1577
see also collections:
Battle of Lepanto
(Oct. 7, 1571), naval engagement between allied Christian
forces and the Ottoman Turks during an Ottoman campaign to
acquire the Venetian island of Cyprus. Seeking to drive
Venice from the eastern Mediterranean, the forces of Sultan
Selim II invaded Cyprus in 1570. The Venetians formed an
alliance with Pope Pius V and Philip II of Spain (May 25,
1571). Philip sent his half brother, Don John of Austria, to
command the allied forces. By the time the allies assembled
at Messina, Sicily (Aug. 24, 1571), the Turks had captured
Nicosia (Sept. 9, 1570), besieged Famagusta, and entered the
Adriatic. Their fleet lay in the Gulf of Patras, near
Lepanto (Návpaktos), Greece. The allied fleet of more than
200 ships sailed for Corfu on September 15 and on October 7
advanced in four squadrons against the Ottoman fleet,
commanded by Ali Pașa, Muxammad Saulak (governor of
Alexandria), and Uluj Ali (dey of Algiers). After about four
hours of fighting, the allies were victorious, capturing 117
galleys and thousands of men.
Of little practical value
(Venice surrendered Cyprus to the Turks in 1573), the battle
had a great impact on European morale and was the subject of
paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese,
The Victors of Lepanto (from left: Don Juan de
Marcantonio Colonna, Sebastiano Venier)
The Battle of Lepanto
The Battle of Lepanto by Paolo
Battle of Lepanto, by
Battle of Lepanto by Martin Rota
Philip II, King of Spain offers his son
Allegory of the Battle of Lepanto, 1571, by
However, Spanish naval supremacy was broken in 1588 when a large
invasion fleet, the Spanish Armada, was defeated off the British coast
In 1598 Philip II was succeeded by his son, 8
Philip III, who fell under the influence of royal favorites.
He further stretched the state finances by underwriting the Catholic
powers in the Thirty Years' War.
In the same period, Spanish art and 10
literature was in full bloom at his 11
12 Philip IV was forced to
declare the state bankrupt in 1627 and accept the loss of territory in
the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 after heavy defeats by the French.
The repeated intermarrying of Austrian and Spanish Habsburgs began to
show clear signs of degeneration.
Philip's son 13
Charles II, the last of the Spanish Habsburgs, was both impotent and
Even before his death, the dispute over his succession flared up at the
royal court. When he died in November 1700, the War of the Spanish
Portrait of king Felipe II
of Spain and his second spouse
Queen Maria I of England
by Hans Eworth
king of Spain and Portugal
born , May 21, 1527, Valladolid, Spain
died Sept. 13, 1598, El Escorial, Spain
king of the Spaniards (1556–98) and king of the Portuguese (as Philip I,
1580–98), champion of the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation. During his
reign the Spanish Empire attained its greatest power, extent, and
influence, though he failed to suppress the revolt of the Netherlands
(beginning in 1566) and lost the “Invincible Armada” in the attempted
invasion of England (1588).
Early life and marriages
Philip was the son of the Holy Roman emperor Charles V and Isabella of
Portugal. From time to time, the emperor wrote Philip secret memoranda,
impressing on him the high duties to which God had called him and
warning him against trusting any of his advisers too much. Philip, a
very dutiful son, took this advice to heart. From 1543 Charles conferred
on his son the regency of Spain whenever he himself was abroad. From
1548 until 1551, Philip traveled in Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands,
but his great reserve and his inability to speak fluently any language
except Castilian made him unpopular with the German and Flemish
Philip contracted four marriages. The first was with his cousin Maria
of Portugal in 1543. She died in 1545, giving birth to the ill-fated Don
Carlos. In 1554 Philip married Mary I of England and became joint
sovereign of England until Mary’s death, without issue, in 1558.
Philip’s third marriage, with Elizabeth of Valois, daughter of Henry II
of France, in 1559, was the result of the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis
(1559), which, for a generation, ended the open wars between Spain and
France. Elizabeth bore Philip two daughters, Isabella Clara Eugenia
(1566–1633) and Catherine Micaela (1567–97). Elizabeth died in 1568, and
in 1570 Philip married Anna of Austria, daughter of his first cousin the
emperor Maximilian II. She died in 1580, her only surviving son being
the later Philip III.
King of Spain
Philip had received the Duchy of Milan from Charles V in 1540 and the
kingdoms of Naples and Sicily in 1554 on the occasion of his marriage to
Mary of England. On October 25, 1555, Charles resigned the Netherlands
in Philip’s favour and, on January 16, 1556, the kingdoms of Spain and
the Spanish overseas empire. Shortly afterward Philip also received the
Franche-Comté. The Habsburg dominions in Germany and the imperial title
went to his uncle Ferdinand I. At this time Philip was in the
Netherlands. After the victory over the French at St. Quentin (1557),
the sight of the battlefield gave him a permanent distaste for war,
though he did not shrink from it when he judged it necessary.
After his return to Spain from the Netherlands in 1559, Philip never
again left the Iberian Peninsula. From Madrid he ruled his empire
through his personal control of official appointments and all forms of
patronage. Philip’s subjects outside Castile, thus, never saw him, and
they gradually turned not only against his ministers but also against
him. This happened particularly in the Netherlands, in Granada, and in
Method of government
By sheer hard work Philip tried to overcome the defects of this system.
His methods have become famous. All work was done on paper, on the basis
of consultas (that is, memoranda, reports, and advice presented him by
his ministers). In Madrid, or in the gloomy magnificence of his monastic
palace of El Escorial, which he built (1563–84) on the slopes of the
Sierra de Guadarrama, the king worked alone in his small office, giving
his decisions or, as often, deferring them. Nothing is known of his
order of work, but all his contemporaries agreed that his methods
dangerously, and sometimes fatally, slowed down a system of government
already notorious for its dilatoriness. Philip was painstaking and
conscientious in his cravings for ever more information, hiding an
inability to distinguish between the important and the trivial and a
temperamental unwillingness to make decisions.
This was coupled with an almost pathological suspicion of even his
most able and faithful servants. Margaret of Parma; the Duke of Alba;
Don John of Austria; Antonio Pérez; and Alessandro Farnese—to name only
the most distinguished—suffered disgrace. “His smile and his dagger were
very close,” wrote his official court historian, Cabrera de Córdoba. It
was no exaggeration, for, in the case of Juan de Escobedo, the secretary
of Don John of Austria, Philip even consented to murder. As a result,
Philip’s court became notorious for the bitterness of its faction
fights. The atmosphere of the Spanish court did much to poison the whole
Spanish system of government, and this played no small part in causing
the rebellions of the Netherlanders (1568–1609), of the Moriscos of
Granada (1568–70), and of the Aragonese (1591–92).
Yet the “black legend” that, in Protestant countries, represented
Philip II as a monster of bigotry, ambition, lust, and cruelty is
certainly false. Philip’s spare and elegant appearance is known from the
famous portraits by Titian and by Anthonis Mor (Sir Anthony More). He
was a lover of books and pictures, and Spain’s literary Golden Age began
in his reign. An affectionate father to his daughters, he lived an
austere and dedicated life. “You may assure His Holiness,” Philip wrote
to his ambassador in Rome, in 1566, “that 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 remark may be regarded as the motto of
his reign. To accomplish the task set him by God of preserving his
subjects in the true Catholic religion, Philip felt in duty bound to use
his royal powers, if need be, to the point of the most ruthless
political tyranny, as he did in the Netherlands. Even the popes found it
sometimes difficult to distinguish between Philip’s views as to what was
the service of God and what the service of the Spanish monarchy.
For the first 20 years of his reign, Philip sought to preserve peace
with his neighbours in western Europe. He was fighting a major naval war
with the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean and, from 1568, he was
faced with rebellion and war in the Netherlands. From the late 1570s,
his policy gradually changed. The death (August 1578) without heirs of
his nephew, King Sebastian of Portugal, opened up the prospect of
Philip’s succession to Portugal. He had to conquer (1580) by force what
he regarded as his just, hereditary rights, but the rest of Europe was
alarmed at this growth in Spanish power.
Both England and France gave increasing support to the rebellious
provinces of the Netherlands. Gradually, in the 1580s, Philip became
convinced that the Catholic religion in western Europe, and his own
authority in the Netherlands, could be saved only by open intervention
against England and France. To this end he fitted out the Armada that,
with the help of the Spanish Army in the Netherlands, was intended to
conquer England (1588). He sent money and troops to support the League,
the ultra-Catholic party in France, against Henry of Navarre and the
Huguenots. He even claimed the throne of France for his daughter,
Isabella Clara Eugenia, after the murder of Henry III in 1589. Again,
even his Catholic allies found it difficult to distinguish between
Philip’s championship of the Catholic church and the interests of Spain.
All these plans failed. Henry of Navarre became a Catholic (1593) and
Philip had to accept (Peace of Vervins, 1598) his succession as Henry IV
of France. England and the northern Netherlands remained Protestant and
unconquered. Yet Philip’s reign as a whole was not a failure. He had
defeated the great Ottoman offensive in the Mediterranean at the Battle
of Lepanto (1571). In the Iberian Peninsula he had completed the work of
unification begun by the “Catholic Monarchs,” Ferdinand and Isabella.
Most important of all, in his own eyes, he had won great victories for
the Catholic church. If England, Scotland, and the northern Netherlands
were lost, the southern Netherlands (modern Belgium) had been preserved.
In Spain and Italy he had prevented the spread of heresy, and his
intervention in France was one of the factors that forced Henry IV to
become a Catholic.
When Philip II died of cancer at El Escorial in 1598, Spain was still
at the height of its power; it took almost 50 years before it was clear
that the Counter-Reformation would make no further major conquests.
Helmut Georg Koenigsberger
King Philip III of Spain, Juan Pantoja de la Cruz
king of Spain and Portugal
born April 14, 1578, Madrid
died March 31, 1621, Madrid
king of Spain and of Portugal (as Philip II) whose reign (1598–1621) was
characterized by a successful peaceful foreign policy in western Europe
and internally by the expulsion of the Moriscos (Christians of Moorish
ancestry) and government by the King’s favourites.
Philip was the son of Philip II of Spain by his fourth consort, his
Habsburg cousin Anna of Austria. Though pious, benevolent, and highly
virtuous in private conduct, Philip, after he became king (Sept. 13,
1598), showed himself to be indolent and indifferent to his
responsibilities. His father revealed his disappointment when he
remarked that his son was unfit to govern the kingdoms God had given him
and would instead be governed by them. In April 1599 the new king
married his Habsburg cousin the Austrian archduchess Margaret.
From the beginning, Philip placed affairs entirely in the hands of a
favourite, Francisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas, marqués de Denia, later
the duke of Lerma—the first in a line of royal favourites who governed
17th-century Spain. Philip’s government continued a policy of hostility
to the Turks, and in Italy it faced the rivalry of the Republic of
Venice and the Duchy of Savoy. In the rest of western Europe, however, a
Spanish policy of conciliation ruled. Peace in the West enabled the
government to deal with the internal problem of the Moriscos; and on
April 9, 1609, the decision was made for their expulsion, which caused
serious economic and demographic difficulties in certain areas. The
peace was brought to an end by the outbreak (1618) of the Thirty Years’
War, in which Philip gave his unconditional support to the Holy Roman
emperor Ferdinand II and the Catholic German princes.
Remote from his subjects, Philip spent huge sums on court
entertainments and neglected Spain’s growing economic problems, which
were to reach crisis proportions in the following reign. Having resided
in Valladolid in the first years of his reign, he eventually fixed his
court in Madrid. After a visit to Portugal (1619), he suffered the first
attack of an illness that two years later brought about his death.
Philip IV, portrait by
king of Spain and Portugal
born April 8, 1605, Valladolid, Spain
died Sept. 17, 1665, Madrid
king of Spain (1621–65) and of Portugal (1621–40), during the decline of
Spain as a great world power.
He succeeded his father, Philip III of Spain, in 1621, and, for the
first 22 years of his reign, Philip’s valido, or chief minister, was the
Conde-Duque de Olivares, who took the spread of the Thirty Years’ War as
an opportunity not only for resuming hostilities against the Dutch at
the end of the Twelve Years’ Truce of 1609 (1621) but also for an
ambitious attempt to restore Spanish hegemony in Europe, in close
alliance with the imperial branch of the Habsburg dynasty. The Spanish
armies won some conspicuous victories—for instance, the capture of Breda
from the Dutch (1626) and the defeat of the Swedes and Weimarians at
Nördlingen (1634)—but France declared open war in 1635, and Spain’s
early successes were offset, from 1640, by the separatist rebellions of
Catalonia and of Portugal (Portugal becoming independent in 1640 under
John IV of the House of Bragança).
Philip dismissed Olivares in 1643 and replaced him with Don Luis
Méndez de Haro, who remained in office until his death in 1661.
Thereafter the King had no valido, but frequently relied on the advice
of a nun and mystic, María de Ágreda, who corresponded with him on both
spiritual matters and affairs of state. By the end of his reign Spain,
weakened by military reverses and economic and social distress, had
become a second-class power.
Philip’s first wife was Elizabeth (Spanish, Isabel), daughter of
Henry IV of France; after her death in 1644, he married Maria Anna
(Mariana), daughter of the Holy Roman emperor Ferdinand III. A poet and
patron of the arts, Philip was the friend and patron of the painter
Velázquez, many of whose works portray Philip and members of his court.
Charles II by
Juan Carreno de Miranda
king of Spain
byname Charles The Mad, Spanish Carlos El Hechizado
born Nov. 6, 1661, Madrid
died Nov. 1, 1700, Madrid
king of Spain from 1665 to 1700 and the last monarch of the Spanish
Charles’s reign opened with a 10-year regency under the queen mother,
during which the government was preoccupied with combatting the
ambitions of the French king Louis XIV in the Low Countries and with
intrigues at court involving the Queen, her Jesuit confessor Johann
Eberhard Nithard, her subsequent favourite Fernando de Valenzuela, and
the King’s bastard brother Juan José (1629–79) de Austria. Of the two
phases in the King’s personal government, the first, concerned with
resistance to the French imperialism of Louis XIV, ended with the peace
of Rijswijk in 1697; the second, the last three years of the reign, was
dominated by the succession problem, for by then it was clear that
Charles would father no children.
At the peak of the succession problem, when the Austrian and French
parties at the Spanish court were prepared to use any means to gain the
support of the wretched king, Charles II obstinately defended the
majesty of the crown and was determined to preserve its territorial
integrity. In this latter aim he failed, for his death led to the War of
the Spanish Succession and the dismembering of Spain’s European