Spanish History: Philip II has been described as a genocidal madman. Is this the true or it’s a false fame created by his enemies?
Everybody has a terrible opinion about Philip II. We imagine him dressed in black into a black room. Angry expression while he signed death sentences and supported the crimes of the Holly Inquisition: a caricature which has nothing to do with reality, at least in the personal.
He was born in Valladolid in 1527, Renaissance times. He was the son of a beautiful smart woman (the Empress Elizabeth of Portugal) and of a sick fighter man (the Emperor Charles I of Spain and V of Germany). His father had loved to be king and to live with excesses. No good for his uric acid and he got gout. An illness inherited by his son, Philip II, who ate and drank moderately. In fact, he hadn’t got the personality of a king. He was fond of maths, medicine, astrology… and he created in El Escorial, near Madrid, one of the most elitist libraries of old times.
Philip II accepted to be a king as an exercise of responsibility and tried to be a good person (however, this is difficult if you are the most powerful man of your time). One of his first actions, been still a prince, it was to recognize his illegitimate brother, John of Austria. Philip II trusted John (John of Austria commanded the Christian army in Lepanto battle) but John had his own plans (a personal kingdom in the North of Africa). Yes, a little betrayal. He finished in Flanders, more or less banished. But when Philip II knew his brother had died, he went incognito crossing France (an enemy country) to take his brother’s corpse. No doubt, he had loved his brother, a brother much more ambitious than him.
The heartbreak of his family and friends was a constant in his life. Philip II has been accused (Victor Hugo, Verdi…) of having locked his hunchback son. But nobody has wanted to know who his son was. In fact, current studies spoke about a psychopath with great silent sexual crimes.
Same happened with women. He married Mary Bloody of England (ugly and much older than him) and other ungraceful ladies by obligation, only one of his wives was pretty but died soon. It seems he was in love with Ana de Mendoza but she also betrayed him with his secretary Antonio Perez… Yes, a novel, a tragic novel of a tragic man who finished closed in a dark room tired of the world while everybody conspired behind.
Philip II had nothing to do with the Inquisition, created by his grand grandparents as a separate power of the crown and maybe more powerful than the own king. However, he favored art and women artists and when I knew this point I started to like him or at least to consider his someone different to a monster. He protected Sofonisba Anguissola, Catherina van Hemessen, Lavinia Fontana, Marietta Robusti… How could a macho man do that?… Maybe we must rethink about that Renaissance king.
History is written with crooked lines, sometimes very crooked.
**More about don Carlos, Philip II son.