III. PHILIP III: 1598–1621

His heir was quite another Philip. The father, seeing the youth’s improvident lassitude, had mourned, “God, who has given me so many kingdoms, has not granted me a son fit to govern them.”37 Philip III, now twenty, was even more pious than his sire, so that gossip doubted that he had ever committed even a venial sin. Timid and meek, and quite unable to command, he handed over all the powers and perquisites of government to Francisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas, Duke of Lerma.

The Duke was a man of some benevolence, for he promoted nearly all his relatives to lucrative offices. He did not neglect himself; in his twenty years as chief minister he grossed so fat a fortune that popular resentment estimated it at the impossible sum of 44,000,000 ducats.38 He spared to the treasury enough to equip two armadas against England (1599, 1601); both were shattered by unsympathetic winds. Lerma had the good sense to welcome the pacific overtures of James I, and after nineteen years of war Spain and England signed the Peace of London (1604). The war in the Netherlands continued, draining gold from Spain faster than it could come from America; Lerma found it beyond his ingenuity to satisfy, out of the revenues of an exhausted country, the needs of his hampered generals and his private purse. Realizing the futility of further efforts to deny independence to the United Provinces, he signed with them a twelve-year truce (1609).

But his next enterprise was as costly as war. He was a native of Valencia, where there were thirty thousand Morisco families; he had enough piety to hate these farmers and craftsmen, whose industry and thrift kept them prosperous amid the proud and shiftless penury of the Christians. He knew that these Christianized Moors, resenting their persecution by Philip II, maintained treasonous contacts with the Moslems of Africa and Turkey, and with Henry IV of France, who hoped to raise timely revolts in Spain.39 It was unpatriotic of the Moriscos to avoid wine and eat so little meat; in this way the burden of the taxes on these commodities fell almost wholly upon the Spanish Christians. Cervantes expressed the fear that the Moriscos, who, rarely celibate, had a higher birth rate than the “Old Christians,” would soon dominate Spain.40 Juan de Ribera, Archbishop of Valencia, presented memorials to Philip III (1602) urging the expulsion of all Moriscos above seven years of age; the disasters that had befallen Spain, including the destruction of the Armada, were (he explained) God’s punishments for harboring infidels; these pretended Christians should be deported, or sent to the galleys, or shipped to America to work as slaves in the mines.III41 Over the warnings of the Pope, and despite the protests of landlords who profited from their Morisco tenants, Lerma issued (1609) an edict that—with some exceptions—all Moors of Valencia province were to embark within three days on ships provided for them and be transported to Africa, taking with them only such goods as they could carry on their backs. The scenes that had marked the expulsion of the Jews 117 years before were now repeated. Desperate families found themselves forced to sell their property at great losses; they marched in misery to the ports; many were robbed, some were murdered, on the way or on board ship. Reaching Africa, they rejoiced to touch Moslem soil, but two thirds of them died of starvation there or were killed as Christians.42 During the winter of 1609–10 similar expulsions cleared the other provinces of Moriscos; altogether 400,000 of Spain’s most productive inhabitants were expropriated and banished. In the eyes of the people this was the most glorious accomplishment of the reign, and simple Spaniards looked forward to a more prosperous era now that God had been appeased by ridding Spain of infidels. The proceeds from the confiscation of Morisco property rejoiced the court. Lerma pocketed 250,000 ducats, his son 100,000, his daughter and son-in-law 150,000.43

By 1618 the greed and carelessness of Lerma, the extravagance of the King and the court, the venality of officials, and the disruption of the economy by the Morisco exodus had reduced Spain to a condition where even the fainéant King saw the need of a change. In a flurry of resolution he dismissed Lerma (1618), only to accept Lerma’s son, the Duke of Uceda, as chief minister. Lerma retired gracefully, received a cardinal’s hat, and lived seven years more in piety and wealth. In 1621 the Council of Castile warned the King that his realm was being “totally ruined and destroyed owing to the excessive burdens, taxes and imposts,”44 and it besought him to moderate his expenditures. He agreed—and then marched off on a royal progress lavishly equipped and maintained. In that same year he died, leaving to his son a realm enormous and impotent, a government corrupt and incompetent, a populace reduced to destitution, beggary, and theft, a nobility too proud to pay taxes, and a Church that had stifled the thought and broken the will of the people, and had transmuted their superstitions into hoards of gold.

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