KEY AREAS OF STUDY
The character of Philip II and the nature of his government and administration, the problem of royal finances, the extent of Philip II's absolutism.
To what extent was Philip II a prudent King?
Main reason for ineffective government was Philip’s personal weaknesses.
How effective was Philip in the administration of Spain?
Was Philip to blame for Spain financial problems?
Assess how far Philip II’s problems in governing mainland Spain were due to the Spanish administration system.
Assess the view that Philip II’s character caused serious problems in his rule of Spain.
How far do you agree that Philip II was a just ruler?
Discuss why Philip was unable to solve Spain’s financial problems.
Explain why historians disagree on the extent of Philip’s power over Spain.
How convincing is the view that Philip was an ‘absolute monarch’ in his rule of Mainland Spain?
Was it Philip’s indecisiveness or his determination that caused more problems in his ruling of mainland Spain?
ADVICE - there are really three aim areas here. Take one at a time.
1) Government and administration and Philip role within it - It is important that initially you have a clear picture of the positives and negatives of Philips government. Look at the personal style of Philip, the policies he followed in terms of running the Spanish government, the nature and make up of Spanish government, examples of successes and failures, his government inheritance.
2) Finance and the economy - clearly poor - but why? factors and their impact. Role of Philip, could it have been avoided? poor policies, reform? good policies?
3) Absolutism - did Philip have the powers to act above the law? what examples are there that he did this? what were the restraints on Philip acting as an absolute monarch? examples are there of these restraints in action? How was Philip's authority challenged by the Cortes, grandees, provinces e.g. Aragonese and Granada with Moriscos.
Interpretations? Overall - perhaps in theory but not in practice? Cortes was not a rubber stamp. Too many constraints etc.
In the final analysis it can be argued that Philip’s government was clearly not efficient – however how much blame can be placed on Philip is questionable. It would be simplistic to say he was totally to blame, yet it would appear mainly due to his style and floored policies that it is fair to say he was the most significant factor.
Philip’s Personal Style
Accused of being the Paper King – micro managing detail – checking consultas – focused on the trival - reluctant to deal with councils direct or as a whole – over reliance on secretaries like Gonzalo Perez – micro managing detail seen as being cautious and hesitant – e.g. Netherland 1566 hesitated eventually sent Alva but rebellion already over. G.Perez claimed the system of government was so slow that even a ‘cripple’ could keep up with it. Claims from the New World that if death came from Spain that they would all be immortal. Spider at the centre of an administrative web, the chief clerk of the Spanish empire.
El Prudente – other contemporaries saw Philip as being informed so that he could see the bigger picture and was making wise and prudent decisions. Following a ‘wait and see’ policy similar to Elizabeth I which frustrated ministers however avoided rash decisions and allowed for events to unfold.
Created by Charles I for an absentee monarch while he fought in European wars. Philip inherited this system and continued with it despite being an ever present monarch. Expanded councils to meet needs e.g. Council of Portugal after 1580 and Council of war increased four fold. However this made things more difficult given Philip’s desire to micro manage government business. Over reliance on secretaries Perez affair showed the level of faction and influence they had. Later in life resorted to Juntas – which alienated certain advisors and perhaps showed a breakdown of the system.
Attempts to Centralise and codify all laws across his Kingdom
Based central government in Madrid 1561
Relationship with Cortes
Traditionally seen as a rubber stamp to Philip’s demands. However challenged him over taxation e.g. Millones and Aragonese revolt over fureos (liberties).
Ambassadors and couriers
Best in Europe. Ambassador at all the major courts therefore informed. Considering 16th century level of communication every good.
Atmosphere created by Philip
Biased towards Castilian appointments alienated other subjects/provinces. Didn’t leave Liberian Peninsular after 1559, arguable a progress to Netherlands would have helped prevent rebellions, could only speak Castilian with any expertise.
Encouraged faction – especially Eboli and Alva faction – believed create a healthy competitive environment also divide and rule approach to prevent dominance of one opinion / faction.
Negative effects – in fighting , disruption to government business, Perez affair
Creation of juntas towards end of his reign - alienated the majority outside of these informal committees
Relationship with Provinces
Communication issues made outlying areas such as the new world semi – autonomous
See – Castilian baised, centralization,
Absolute Monarch (acting above the law) – Black Legend of Philip
Theoretically absolute (range of powers), but in practice restricted – so what was he? Alternative interpretation
Absolute – Yes Challenged
Acting above the law – Dutch grandees / Perez Affair But actions in Netherlands legitimised by Spanish court
Desire to control government – paper king / centralisation in Madrid Self defeating
Rationalised laws and customs to increase control Backlash from Dutch – fear losing liberties
Cortes became a rubber stamp 1591 taxation issue forced to negotiate with Aragonese Cortes
Control of military and church
Able to respond to revolts 1566, 1568, 1590
Lynch – Church – Inquisition – taxation – relations with Pope
Patronage from military and church
Conciliar System – ultimately controlled by Philip – structure / appointments / decisions
Faction / Micro managing / size of Monarquia and ‘space-time’ , de-centralisation inevitable
Dutch revolt / Aragonese resisting challenge to Fueros