A scholarly and comprehensive biography that reconsiders the reputation of King Philip II of Spain (1527-98). As ruler of...



A scholarly and comprehensive biography that reconsiders the reputation of King Philip II of Spain (1527-98). As ruler of the most extensive empire the world had yet seen, Philip II has always been studied exclusively in terms of the political events and foreign policy of his reign. Kamen (Higher Council for Scientific Research, Spain) now offers the first true biography of Philip. The historian draws on new manuscript sources, including Philip's unpublished correspondence, and he emphasizes the part played by the New World in forming Philip's outlook. Emerging from a solitary childhood, which was overshadowed by his remote father, Emperor Charles V, the young Philip was a cultured Renaissance prince: He patronized Titian, took part in medieval jousts, and was caught up in the contemporary nostalgia for chivalry and the legends of King Arthur. His life, however, was to be dominated and shaped by serious problems, mainly springing from the convulsions caused in Europe by the Reformation and by his need as monarch to assert some measure of central control in Spain itself. Kamen explores, for example, the conflicts behind Philip's disastrous policy in the Netherlands and his brief dynastic marriage with England's Queen Mary, his attempt to invade England during the reign of Mary's Protestant successor, Elizabeth, and his interventions to protect the native populations from rapacious colonists in Spanish South America. While Kamen avoids easy revisionism, his Philip comes across as a dutiful and complex man whose freedom was paradoxically limited by his destiny. Deeply religious rather than fanatical, Philip supported the Spanish Inquisition as a matter of course but refused to attack the Jewish Conversos. His present black image, Kamen argues, can be traced to English and Dutch propaganda in the 1580s. Essential reading for all students of the turbulent 16th century.

Pub Date: June 1, 1997

ISBN: 0300078005

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997