Monday, 20 April 2009

• How effectively did Philip govern Spain and his monarquia?


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.

Conciliar System

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


Anonymous said...

Just a can Philip govern the Monarqui? He can obviously rule/govern Spain as he's the King, but the monarquia - being Spanish for monarchy, is his own family and house. Isn't it like saying "How does Elizabeth govern the monarquia" - she is the monarquia!! I just don't understand how he could govern it.

Duke of Alva said...

The monarquia is an empire, i.e. a series of colonies under the control of Spain and therefore Philip. Philip's empire stretched from the Americas to the Philipines (named after Philip). To control, utilise and direct this huge empire in the 16th century was certainly a challenge. In order to do this Philip deployed various strategies. Overall however regional diversity with customs and laws, time and distance issues and Philip's own style led to issues notably colonies acting semi-autonomously.

Anonymous said...

How would you answer this question?

Assess how far it was local powers and privileges that prevented Philip II from exercising absolute power over Spain.


Anonymous said...

This in many ways is just a case of whether he was an absolute monarch. The main counter arguments against Philip being an absolute monarch, centre on the restraints. Many of the restraints were to do with the privilegdes and powers of the Cortes. Look at the powers the Cortes had, and how they exercised them against Philip e.g. 1590 and the case of the millones tax. Also how examples of local privilegdes and the protection of them ended in a direct challenge against Philip. e.g. Aragonese, Moriscos and Dutch revolts. Remember you would also need to look other constraints on his power and even argue he was an absolute monarch and there weren't any constraints from local powers and priviledges - however this is now a dated view, with the main view now being that he was in theory but not in practice.