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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

In 1558 he gave up his imperial crown


Other failures of Charles and his abdication.]

Great as were to be the results of Charles' reign on its European side, it had nevertheless been a failure so far as Spain and Charles' own objects were concerned. Yet other disappointments were to fall to his lot. He aspired to the imperial title for his son Philip. In this he was opposed both by the Germanic nobility, who saw in it an attempt to foist upon them a Spanish-controlled absolutism, and by his brother Ferdinand, who held the Austrian dominions as a fief of the empire and aimed to become emperor himself. Unable to prevail in his own policy Charles eventually supported Ferdinand. For many years, too, he thought of establishing an independent Burgundian kingdom as a counterpoise to France, but changed his mind to take up a plan for uniting England and the Low Countries, with the same object in view. For this latter purpose he procured the hand of Queen Mary of England for his son Philip. The marriage proved childless, and Philip was both unpopular and without power in England. The death of Mary in 1558 ended this prospect. At last Charles' spirit was broken. For nearly forty years he had battled for ideals which he was unable to bring to fulfilment; so he resolved to retire from public life. In 1555 he renounced his title to the Low Countries in favor of Philip. In 1556 he abdicated in Spain, and went to live at the monastery of Yuste in C?ceres. He was unable to drop out of political life

completely, however, and was wont to intervene in the affairs of Spain from his monastic retreat. In 1558 he gave up his imperial crown, to which his brother Ferdinand was elected. Thus Spain was separated from Austria, but she retained the Burgundian inheritance and the Italian possessions of Aragon. The marriage of Philip the Handsome and Juana la Loca was still to be productive of fatal consequences to Spain, for together with the Burgundian domains there remained the feeling of Hapsburg solidarity.

[Sidenote: Greatness of Charles in the history of Spain and Spanish America.]

Charles had failed in Europe, but in Spain and especially in the Americas he had done more than enough to compensate for his European reverses. His achievements in Spain belong to the field of institutional development rather than to that of political narrative, however. As for the Americas his reign was characterized by such a series of remarkable mainland conquests that it is often treated as a distinct epoch in American history, the era of the _conquistadores_, and Spanish America is, after all, the principal monument to the greatness of his reign. The Emperor Charles V was a failure; but King Charles I of Spain gave the Americas to European civilization.



[Sidenote: Resemblance of the reign of Philip II to that of Charles I.]

In underlying essentials the reign of Philip II was a reproduction of that of Charles I. There were scattered dominions and family prestige to maintain, the enemies of the Catholic Church to combat, the dominant place of Spain in Europe to assure, the strain on Spanish resources, and, as glorious offsets to general failure in Europe, the acquisition of some European domains and the advance of the colonial conquests. Only the details varied. Philip had a more compact nation behind him than had fallen to the lot of Charles, although there was still much to be desired in that respect; France was hostile, though less powerful than formerly, but England and Philip's rebellious Protestant Netherlands more than made up for the weakness of France; issues in Germany no longer called for great attention, but family politics were not forgotten; on the other hand Philip achieved the ideal of peninsula unity through the acquisition of Portugal, carrying with it that country's colonies; and, finally, his conquests in the new world, though less spectacular than those of Charles, compared favorably with them in actual fact.

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