Gateway to the Classics: A Child's History of Spain by John Bonner
A Child's History of Spain by  John Bonner

Philip the Second

A.D. 1556-1568

The successor of Charles the First was his son Philip, who was born at Valladolid on May 21st, 1527, and was consequently twenty-nine years old when he came to the throne. His mother had died when he was twelve, and he had been brought up by tutors under his father's instructions. In his youth he was pale and slim, with blue eyes and rather a pleasing expression; in middle and old age his features grew pinched, and his cast of face morose. At all stages of life his temper was sour, he was cold-blooded, deceitful, tricky, and suspicious. He was a man who lived without pleasures. He spent his life in reading dispatches, with his thin nose bent over the paper, and his quill pen scribbling comments on the margin.

When he was sixteen he was married to Mary, infanta of Portugal, a young lady who was fifteen, and quite pretty. She travelled from Portugal to Spain to be married, and as he had never seen her, he disguised himself with a slouch hat and a gauze mask, and mixed with the crowd which assembled to greet her, so as to take a good look at her face. She rode a mule; her saddle was silver; her dress was of silver cloth embroidered with flowers of gold, and over the dress was a Castilian mantle of violet-colored velvet. Her hat was velvet with plumes of white and blue.

The young couple lived happily together for two years. A boy baby was then born to them, and the mother died: what became of the baby I will presently tell you.

Some years afterwards Philip betrothed himself to Mary, Queen of England, who had at one time been courted by his father. She is the queen who has been called Bloody Queen Mary, because of the numbers of Protestants who lost their lives in her reign by reason of their religion. She was indeed a bitter and bigoted Catholic, and, like most people in that day, she believed that it was right and proper to put people to death because they did not believe what she did.


Philip the Second

The wedding took place at Winchester, and shortly after it the queen and her husband made their public entry into London. Generally speaking, the English did not like the marriage. They were prejudiced against the Spaniards, and those of them who were Protestants, and these, I think, were the majority, would much rather the queen had married a Protestant prince. They were afraid that in some way the marriage would make England subject to Spain, which was at that time the most powerful state in Europe.

But Philip had brought with him quantities of silver from his possessions in Mexico and Peru, and the sight of the carts laden with the bright metal rolling through the streets of London cooled the enmity of the mob. He did his best to soothe the jealous temper of the great English lords with his wheedling tongue, and had almost won their hearts, when he was called to Flanders to hear from his father's lips the news of his intended abdication. He left his wife in September, 1555, and did not see her again till March, 1557.

In the meantime he had come into his kingdom, and had waged two successful wars—one against the pope, the other against the French, and had shown his people in Spain that lie knew how to make himself obeyed. The war in Flanders and Picardy was fierce and bloody; on one side fought the French; on the other side the Spaniards, with Englishmen, Flemings, and Germans to help them. There was a battle at St. Quentin, which the Spaniards won; and there was a battle at Gravelines, which the Spaniards also won, mainly through the valor and skill of a Fleming, Count Egmont; but the French took Calais, which was English, and just as a final decisive battle was going to take place the King of France and the King of Spain discovered that they had no money to carry on the war, and made peace.

Meanwhile, Queen Mary, who had been in bad health for years, died on November 17th, 1558, and Philip was a widower again. It appears that he believed it was not good for man to be alone, for he had scarcely put on mourning for his wife when he proposed to her sister, Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth was too wise a woman either to accept or to reject him. She was herself a Protestant, and she knew that the English people would not forgive her if she married a Catholic; but, at the same time, she did not want to offend so powerful a monarch as Philip. So she coquetted with him, and neither said yes nor no; till he, weary of answers which might mean anything, married Elizabeth—or Isabella, as the Spaniards called her—of France, who was fourteen at the time. Elizabeth of England took the marriage in dudgeon.

Your master," said she to the Spanish ambassador, "must have been much in love with me not to be able to wait four months."


Work-room of Philip the Second.

Philip married his wife Isabella by proxy in June, 1559, and did not see her face till January, 1560, when she joined him in Spain. She was tall, with dark eyes and dark hair; full of wit and merriment, after the manner of her country, and in this a contrast to her gloomy husband, who spent his time pouring over papers with a scowl on his yellow face. The wedding festival was joyous. In the public squares tables were set with good things which all were free to eat; the fountains ran with wine. I am afraid that after the holiday was over poor little Isabella did not find her life as pleasant as it had been in her own sunny Franco.

She dined alone, with thirty of her ladies standing round the room. One of these carved the meat for her; another poured out the wine. The others talked with gentlemen who flirted, and kept their hats on; etiquette forbade that any of them should address the queen. After dinner she retired to her room, where her jester tried to amuse her with stupid jokes, and ladies sang and played the lute, often out of tune. I fear that the life was dull for one so young and gay.

In order to divert her mind, her husband sometimes took her to a bull-fight, which disgusted her, and sometimes to an auto-da-fé, where she saw Protestants and Jews burned at the stake. This was the chief entertainment at Valladolid, where the court lived. It was a strange performance to take a young lady to see.

At six in the morning the church-bells tolled, and a procession of troops, priests, inquisitors, and magistrates accompanied the prisoners of the Inquisition from its dismal fortress to the great square. Some of the prisoners were dressed in black; these were heretics who had abjured their heresy, and whose lives were spared on condition of their giving up their property to the Church and serving a term in jail. The others were dressed in loose sacks of yellow cloth, painted with figures of dancing devils who represented the inmates of hell. These were the culprits who were to be burned alive. Many of both classes had to be supported as they walked, their limbs had been so twisted and crippled by the tortures they had suffered in the dungeons of the Inquisition.


Crucifix to which Philip the Second Prayed.

When they were all in place, some high churchman preached a sermon on the sweet mercies of the Church; then the sentences of those who were to be fined and jailed were read; the others, in the yellow sacks, were handed to the executioner to be dealt with, as the grand inquisitor said, "in all kindness and mercy." The kindness and mercy consisted in chaining them to iron stakes, piling fagots round them, and burning them to death in sight of the people and the court.

A victim led past the king cried to him:

"Is it thus you allow your innocent subjects to be persecuted?"

To which Philip replied:

"Wert thou my own son, I would fetch the wood to burn such a wretch as thou art."

I can hardly think that pretty Isabella enjoyed such spectacles.

After a time the Inquisition rather overdid their business I think. They accused the Archbishop of Toledo of heresy, and kept him in prison for seventeen years, torturing him from time to time to remind him in whose hands he was. This shocked the pope, and he removed the head inquisitor, whose name was Valdes. But the holy office succeeded in stamping out Protestantism in Spain, so that it has never reared its head from that day to this; and it demoralized the Spanish people so that their sense of right and wrong became confused, and they have never recovered from the obliquity.

It was while the Inquisition was busy with its bloody work that Philip lost his son and his wife, both at the age of twenty-three. The son, Carlos, whose mother was Mary of Portugal, grew up to be a headstrong, passionate, eccentric youth; he felt that no one loved him, and that he was friendless; there were but two people whom he loved, his uncle, Don John of Austria, and his step-mother, Isabella of France; everybody else he hated, and showed his hate so plainly that he was said by his father to be mad. At last the story got wind that be intended to kill his father, and Philip made him a prisoner in his room. He was not long a prisoner. In August, 1568, he died.

Less than two months afterwards Queen Isabella died, a few hours after her baby was born. She died of a disease which the doctors could not understand; she was chiefly treated with relics.

After both had been laid in their graves a dark and dreadful story began to be whispered that the queen and her stepson had been in love with each other, and that Philip, having found it out., had put them both to death.

I think he was capable of doing so; but it is not yet proven that he did.

The suspicion was first started by the warmth of the affection which Carlos showed for his stepmother, and by her kindness to him. They had been betrothed before Philip ever thought of marrying Isabella; it was natural that the son should feel bitterly at losing the girl he intended to make his wife.

The case was so suspicious that the pope demanded a full explanation from Philip, and I think that if it had been satisfactory, it would have been made public. Popes in those days were arbitrary; but they were not always intrepid. No blame came to Philip from Rome.

I think you must conclude that the case was a dark mystery which can never be unraveled. I am afraid that Carlos who had been betrothed to Isabel did really love her more warmly than befitted a son-in-law; but there is no reason to suppose that her affection for him was deeper than became a mother-in-law.

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  | Previous: The Conquest of Peru  |  Next: The Duke of Alva
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.