Philip Ii Of Spain HOW WAS SUCCESSFUL A RULER WAS PHILIP II? To fully answer this question it is necessary to truly evaluate each of his policies with dealing his enemies and compatriots both foreign and domestic throughout his reign. This essay will attempt to take each main area of conflict in his life and provide clear indications as to the degree of success that Philip achieved. Philip’s character itself is a critical as his personality and characteristics convey, not only himself, but also his empire to others. It is believed by some historians that Philip was a far poorer leader than his father, Charles I, who had reigned before him. Philip grew up to be an outsider and carried this flaw with him into leadership. He never fully trusted anyone and so was incapable of calling upon others resources to aid him.
He controlled a multi-cultural empire but was held very basic skills in the languages which he needed to communicate with all of his subjects. The only language he spoke fluently was Spanish and he lived in Castille throughout his time at the throne, which made the people from more far-flung areas of his kingdom begin to distrust him, and treat him more as a Castillian than one of their own. He was a devout catholic and a strong belief in ridding the continent of all forms of heresy at any cost, which could often cloud his judgement in making key decisions. All of the above contributed to his troublesome reign as leader. The moriscos were the Muslim population inhabiting the south of Spain. Throughout Phillip’s reign his primary objective had been to expel all forms of heresy and to have only his own Catholicism as the surviving religion.
The moriscos existence had come about through Phillip’s efforts to convert them into the Christian lifestyle. This name was given to the converted Muslims, or ‘new’ Christians. His policy was to attempt to make the moriscos genuine coverts through the teaching and persuasion of catholic missionaries, designed to guide them into their new way of life. This effort was largely a failure as provided that the moriscos went to Christian mass and looked to be practising their new religion, then little more was asked of them. The majority of moriscos retained their old faith in spite of Phillip’s efforts. It wasn’t until the 1560s that Phillip decided that his policy would have to be changed.
A section of the Christian clergy were angry that the moriscos abided in name only and insisted that action needed to be taken. There was a higher military incentive to remove the presence of the moriscos, however. While the battle in the Mediterranean between the Spanish and the Turks raged on, it was feared that the moriscos could become ‘an enemy within’. It was deemed possible that the moriscos would support a Turkish incursion, particularly from North Africa. There was also a chance that they would join with Protestants in Southern France in any attack on Spain itself. Phillip was extremely concerned about Turkish power and agreed that any possibility of a Turkish-morisco alliance would have to be quashed. It is for these reasons that Phillip took the decision to take a sterner approach on the moriscos in Granada.
This new policy began in 1567. The morisocs were completely forbidden to practice any of their own customs including language and dress. They were to suffer severe economic hardships as a result. This brought them to revolt in Granada in 1568. The government was completely unprepared as it was fighting the war in the Netherlands.
There was no plan on how to curb the uprising and many paid with their lives. The moriscos eventually lost in 1570. Phillip’s next policy was to spread the moriscos throughout the Christian population to try to prevent any future hostilities. This met with adverse effects as ‘old’ Christians became angrier at the moriscos turning up on their doorstep. Phillip was encouraged to expel the moriscos completely from his country, but he decided against it as the moriscos in Valencia made up a large portion of the workforce on its estates.
Instead the number of missionaries was increased but had little effect. The main reason why Phillip’s policy of assimilation had failed was because he never thought things through properly. He was always one step behind. In the concoction of his plans, he never seemed to consider the consequences his actions, or lack of, would create. In conclusion his policies failed because he was never completely sure of what he was hoping to achieve.
Phillip believed in no more holy a cause than the battle against the Muslim Turks. Spain was undergoing reconquest of lost lands and so considered the Turks as natural enemies. Unfortunately, Phillip always had other problems in his empire to be able to concentrate fully on the Turkish problem and was not in a position to mount a full-scale attack. Due to this his policy was mainly the defence of Spain in fortifying coasts and to protect his Mediterranean lands. The Turkish navy was considered vastly superior and it was feared that a large-scale naval invasion could occur at any time.
Spain often come under pirate raids and the was the constant threat of morisco co-operation. A Spanish attack was made in 1560 against Tripoli but only the small island of Djerba was captured, and soon lost again. This failure was a blow to Spanish prestige and Phillip began to revise his military strategy. He made the decision that a powerful navy had to be raised to have any chance of success against them. This saw to the development of many more vessels in Spanish shipyards.
In a Barbary pirate raid on Spanish outposts in North Africa, the new fleet was sent into action, and this was done so both quickly and efficiently. This is a good example of Phillip acting decisively when the need arose. Further victories followed as the Spanish defeated the Turks in Naples. This was a huge moral boost for the Spanish people and soldiers. In 1570 the Spanish garrison at La Goleta was isolated by a take-over in Tunis. Cyprus was also invaded by the Turkish. This led Phillip to form the Holy League, an alliance between Italian States and Spain, thus increasing the defending force available to protect Cyprus.
This was an important step for Phillip who was never once to trust the help of others. Led by Don John of Austria, the fleet set sail and met the Turkish fleet in Greek waters. Victory came to the Christians when John masterminded the battle including the death of a Turkish admiral. The majority of Turkish ships were sunk or captured. Despite the lack of territorial gain for the Spanish, the moral victory was huge. The Turkish fleet had long been considered invincible and now this could be proved otherwise.
It was now believed that the Turkish could no longer pose as large a threat to the Mediterranean lands. The Holy League soon broke up and Phillip once again embroiled in other matters of concern, this time the Protestant challenge in England, France and the Netherlands. The Turkish themselves were also becoming more concerned with enemies on their opposite borders, the Persians. Peace was therefore now a plausibility. Phillip was largely successful in his dealing with the Turks. He recognised the areas of concern and made decisions to change them.
He had regained the support of his subjects and could now move on to concentrate on other affairs. The unification of the Iberian Peninsula is one of the greatest successes of Phillip’s reign. The area we now know as Portugal existed as an independent state on the borders of Phillip’s home territory of Spain. When the Portuguese King died, the only heir was the aged Cardinal Henry …