Post-classical history

Philip II of Spain (1527-1598)

King of Spain (1556-1598).

The son of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (king of Spain as Charles I), Philip became ruler of the Habsburg lands in Italy and the Netherlands in 1555 and king of Spain in 1556 upon the abdication of his father. Like Charles, he acted as the chief protector of Christendom against heresy and Islam. Yet despite Spain’s riches from its silver mines in the New World, Philip lacked the resources to simultaneously fight the Ottomans in the Mediterranean and put down the Protestant revolt in the Netherlands and wage war against England and France.

The Ottomans conquered Egypt from the Mamlûk sultanate in 1517, and through the sixteenth century they threatened Spanish interests in North Africa and in the western Mediterranean. However, there were no conflicts between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans in the western Mediterranean between 1560 and 1565, permitting Philip to focus on the Netherlands. This unofficial truce ended in May 1565, when the Ottomans besieged the island of Malta, which was defended by the Order of the Hospital. A Spanish fleet under Garcia de Toledo relieved Malta in September 1565.

Despite Philip’s preoccupations with the Netherlands, his attempt to conquer England, and expansion in the New World, the papacy appealed to the Spanish Crown to bankroll additional Christian campaigns against the Ottomans after the death of the Ottoman sultan Süleyman I (1566). In response to the Ottoman invasion of Cyprus, Pope Pius V and Venice formed the Holy League, which Philip joined in 1570. He paid half the total cost of the campaign, in return for the right to collect the crusading tenths from his subjects and the Spanish church. Even after the Christian victory at Lepanto (7 October 1571), the Ottomans continued to harass Spanish possessions in North Africa. The Habsburgs briefly recaptured Tunis in 1573, but the Ottomans won it back in 1574 and destroyed the Spanish forts guarding the narrows between Sicily and North Africa.

Following state bankruptcy in 1575, Philip was unable to pursue galley warfare against the Turks, and the Spanish monarchy relied upon crusade taxes to balance the budget. Philip annexed Portugal in 1580, following the death of King Sebastian in battle against the Turks in Alcazarquivir in 1578. Finally, Philip made a treaty with the Ottomans in 1580, which permitted him to concentrate his resources on the religious warfare in the Netherlands; at the same time, the Ottomans ceased expansion in the western Mediterranean.

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