Childhood & Early Life
Born on April 8, 1605, Philip IV was the eldest child of Philip III and Margaret of Austria.
Philip was just 10 when he was married off to Elisabeth of France, who was 3 years older than him. Olivares made efforts to keep them apart to ensure his influence over him. He even encouraged Philip to keep mistresses.
They had seven children. Balthasar Charles, who was Elisabeth and Philip's only son, died young in 1646.
Philip later married Maria Anna, daughter of Emperor Ferdinand. The union was strictly political, and the motive was to improve the kingdom’s relationship with the Habsburg Empire in Austria.
Of the five children born to Maria and Philip, only two survived to adulthood: a daughter, Margarita Teresa, and a son, Charles II. Maria was later married off to King Louis XIV (under the 'Treaty of the Pyrenees'), while Charles II was born with deformities.
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Philip ascended to the throne in 1621. Count-Duke of Olivares was appointed as his chief minister. Spain resumed conflicts with the Dutch during the Twelve Years' Truce of 1609.
In 1618, Spain got involved in the Thirty Years' War (between 1618 and 1648), during which Philip attempted restoring Spanish control over Europe. However, he ended up declaring Spain bankrupt. Nevertheless, Spain's foreign policies flourished in the 1620s.
The expensive and futile War of the Mantuan Succession (1628–1631) infuriated Spain's allies and triggered a failed campaign against France.
Two of Philip's victorious campaigns were the Siege of Breda (1624) and the Battle of Nördlingen (1634). The following year, Spain and France declared war mutually, which ended with the 'Treaty of the Pyrenees' in 1659.
Since 1640, Philip's army had encountered separatist rebellions by both Catalonia (which eventually established an alliance with France to capture Castile) and Portugal (which was later freed from Spain).
In January 1643, Philip discharged Olivares and reigned without any chief minister for a while. He then appointed Don Luis Méndez de Haro, Olivares's nephew, as the new chief minister.
Philip also relied on the advice of nun María de Ágreda, who remained with the king till his death. Apart from giving him political advice, María also passed on her spiritualism to Philip.
The second half of Philip's reign was marred by the bankruptcy declared in 1647, a demographic slump, epidemics, agricultural failures, inactive industries, and high taxation in Castile.
The futile war with the Dutch, which Philip had led, came to an end in 1648, and the 'Treaty of Münster' was signed. The United Provinces attained independence after the 'Peace of Westphalia' was signed in 1648.
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Even though the treaty resolved the Eighty Years' War, the war with France continued to affect Spain negatively.
Bankruptcy was declared once again in 1653. England had captured Spain's Dunkirk and Jamaica.
Philip made a blunder by relying too much on his favorite minister and perceived France as a weak opponent during the 1648 Fronde rebellion. His army continued the fight, causing a huge loss of resources to Spain.
Philip then took charge of the ongoing war and decided to start anew, which resulted in the successful capture of Catalonia in 1651. In 1652, Spain recaptured Barcelona.
Though Spain could never defeat France, by 1658, stressed by the French capture of Dunkirk, Philip decided to sign a peace treaty named the ‘Treaty of the Pyrenees.’
According to the 'Treaty of the Pyrenees' of 1659, Spain handed over Artois, a portion of Cerdanya, and territorial regions of the Spanish Netherlands and Roussillon. On the other hand, Spain received the Infanta's inheritance rights. However, this depended on the marriage of Philip's daughter to King Louis XIV.
France played the trick, knowing very well that Spain could never pay that huge an amount. France used the clause after Philip's death, to seize more from the Spanish territories during the War of Devolution.
Even though peace with France was attained, Portugal’s revolt continued while Philip unsuccessfully made attempts to recapture his lost kingdom.
Policies & Reforms
Toward the end of the 1620s, the Spanish army had lost its dominance. Philip and Olivares concluded that a lack of leadership was the cause.
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Philip made changes in the hierarchy of the army and declared a huge salary hike for the soldiers, with the hope to curb their reluctance of assuming appointments in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the policy failed to bring in the desired results.
Philip increased both the size of his fleets as well as the budget for the navy, which had tripled toward the end of his reign. Despite the tragic Battle of the Downs, Philip continued to make reforms in the navy.
After the 1648 treaty was signed, Philip acknowledged the role of the Dutch navy off the Spanish peninsula in the wars against the English and the French.
During the Thirty Years' War, Philip introduced the “junta” system, a number of small committees across Spain, which functioned in competition with the traditional royal councils.
Many traditional high-ranked noblemen displayed their anger on being excluded from the system. The concept of the 'Union of Arms,' as proposed by Olivares, also had a similar fate.
During the 1620s, Philip also passed a legislation to exercise censorship. In his attempt to regulate the Spanish currency, he inflated the economy.
By the 1630s, Philip's domestic policies were under a massive financial strain resulting from the Thirty Years' War and the war with France.
Art, Literature, & Religion
Philip's reign witnessed the golden age of Spanish art and literature because he was a great patron of literature, theater, and the fine arts.
Under Philip's reign, Diego Velázquez (1599–1660), a painter in the court, played a significant role in an important public-relations campaign. He gifted a painting to Philip to celebrate the 'Treaty of the Pyrenees.'
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Popular playwright, poet, and satirist Francisco de Quevedo (1580–1645), too, was drafted for propagating Spain's power and fortune.
Philip loved collecting paintings from across Europe, which he displayed to showcase his power and status.
While Spain was in the grip of a major financial crisis, Philip invested in the magnificent 'Buen Retiro Palace’ in Madrid to display his collection. The construction was highly opposed by the public.
Philip was a Catholic and followed its rituals religiously, especially toward the latter part of his reign. His interest in spiritualism and religion increased after he experienced a string of failures.
Philip, however, underwent a crisis of faith during the 1640 emergency. He believed that his successes and failures were God's ways of responding to his deeds.
Philip and Olivares were so fond of each other that their portraits were displayed side by side at the 'Buen Retiro Palace,' which was considered quite a feat in Europe back then.
However, cracks appeared in the relationship over time, due to their contrasting personalities. After several failed policies suggested by Olivares, he was dismissed amidst the crisis of 1640–1643.
Philip's next minister, Luis de Haro, has been highly criticized by historians. He is remembered as the “embodiment of mediocrity.” Haro failed to rectify the blunders that Philip had made under the influence of Olivares.
Haro died in 1661, and Olivares's son-in-law, the Duke of Medina de las Torres, replaced him.
Philip died on September 17, 1665 (aged 60) in Madrid, Spain, and was buried at 'El Escorial.' A catafalque in Rome was erected in his honor.
In his will, Philip had appointed Mariana as his son Charles's political regent and stated that she should seek the advice of the “juntas.”
Philip did not pass on any power to his illegitimate son, Juan José, born to his mistress María Inés Calderón, triggering a lifelong animosity between Mariana and Juan.