Spainish Empire

Brief History

King Philip was the ruler of Spain who championed causes throughout his lands. He was the son of Charles V and reigned from 1556 to 1598, controlling Spain and ushering an age of Spanish greatness. Prior to the reign of King Philip, the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1469, helped unify Spain and strengthen the dual monarchy. They both believed in religious unity and became the most Catholic country of that time. They gave the choice to Muslims and the Jewish to either convert to Catholicism or to flee the country. This helped lead into absolutism because the previous revolts for religion helped strengthen the monarchy and establish royal absolutism.

Key Facts

  • King Philip II inherited kingdoms Milan, Naples, Sicily, Netherlands, Spain from Charles V, his father
  • He made his control stronger by wanting strict conformity to Catholicism and strong monarchical authority.
  • King Philip sent ten thousand troops to the Netherlands to end Calvinism.
  • He also had the Spanish army at his command.
  • In 1588, King Philip II sent an armada to invade England.
  • His goal was to overthrow Protestantism by invading England. Hope for victory against England never came.
  • The armada(fleet of warships) was demolished by storms and half of the Spanish fleet and three-quarters of the men died.
  • Because King Philip spent too much money on the war and his successor spent too much money on his courts Spain became bankrupt by the end of his rule.
  • The war between the Dutch and Spain ended in 1609 by a 12 year truce.

Major Accomplishments

Under King Philip II’s reign, Spain inherited the territories of Milan, Naples, Sicily, and the Netherlands. Also during his reign, King Philip II led Spain in an age of greatness. Spain won the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, when they defeated the Turks under Spain’s leaderships of the Holy League. Spain conquered neighboring Portugal and united the two thrones.Spain took over Portugal's overseas territories.Firmly applied divine right of kings which was a doctrine that kings derive their authority from God.

Legacy of Spanish Empire

In 1598, by the end of King Philip’s reign, Spain was not in as of great of power as it appeared to be. Even though Spain was bankrupt, it was the most populous empire in the world. Spain continued to play a lasting role of great power.

List of Important Rulers/Names and Dates Ruled

King Philip reigned from 1556-1598 and fought wars against Protestant England and Netherlands. He supported Protestant Reformation and Elizabeth’s use of privateers to steal gold from Spain.

Supporters/Religion of Empire or Monarchs

King Philip II was the greatest supporter of the militant, or combative Catholicism, during the second half of the 1500s. King Philip II urged on allegiance to Catholicism and powerful monarchical authority, in order to strengthen his control. Around 1500 Spain saw itself as a nation that was chosen by God to save Catholic Christianity from Protestant heretics. Also around 1500, Catholic kingdoms in Spain reconquered Muslim areas, expelling Spanish Jews and Muslims.

Key Terms

  • King Philip II-

    • king from 1556 to his death in 1598

    • spain’s greatest supporter of militant catholicism

  • Militant-

    • combative and aggressive in support of a political or social cause, typically favoring a violent method of confrontation

  • Armada-

    • fleet of warships

  • Netherlands-

    • One of the richest parts of King Philip’s empire which consisted of 17 provinces

  • Scotland and Ireland

    • The armada retreated back to Spain by a northern route around Scotland and Ireland after it was beat by English ships

  • William the Silent

    • the prince of Orange who led the Dutch against Philip

Essential Questions

  1. What difficulties must Phillip II have encountered administering an empire of this size?

Some difficulties he probably encountered was trying to run an empire that was across the sea, since he ruled over parts of Italy as well as Spain.

  1. Why was the defeat of the Spanish Armada a turning point in history?

The defeat of the Spanish Armada was a turning point in history because it guaranteed that England would remain a Protestant country and signaled a gradual shift in power from Spain to England and France.

  1. What did Philip II hope to accomplish by Invading England?

By invading England and sending an armada, or fleet of warships, King Philip II hope to overthrow Protestantism and establish and Catholic rule there.


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