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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote The annexation of Portugal


[Sidenote:

Wars in the Low Countries.]

The greatest of Philip's difficulties, and one which bulked large in its importance in European history, was the warfare with his rebellious provinces in the Low Countries. Its principal bearing in Spanish history was that it caused the most continuous and very likely the heaviest drain on the royal treasury of any of Philip's problems. The war lasted the entire reign, and was to be a factor for more than a half century after Philip's death. It got to be in essence a religious struggle between the Protestants of what became the Netherlands and Philip, in which the latter was supported to a certain extent by the provinces of the Catholic Netherlands, or modern Belgium. Religion, however, was not the initial, or at any time the sole, matter in controversy. At the outset the causes were such practices as the Castilian communities had objected to in the reign of Charles, namely: the appointments of foreigners to office; the presence of foreign (Spanish) troops; measures which were regarded as the forerunner to an extension of the Spanish Inquisition to the Low Countries (against which the nobles and the clergy alike, practically all of whom were Catholic at that time, made strenuous objections); Philip's policy of centralization and absolutism; the popular aversion for Philip as a Spaniard (just as Spaniards had objected to Charles as a Fleming); and the excessive rigors employed in the suppression of heresy. The early

leaders were Catholics, many of them members of the clergy, and the hotbed of rebellion was rather in the Catholic south than in the Protestant north. It was this situation which gave the Protestants a chance to strike on their own behalf. The war, or rather series of wars, was characterized by deeds of valor and by extreme cruelty. Philip was even more harsh in his instructions for dealing with heretics than his generals were in executing them. Alba (noted for his severity), Requesens (an able man who followed a more moderate policy), Juan of Austria (builder of air castles, but winner of battles), and the able Farnese,--these were the Spanish rulers of the period, all of them military men. The elder and the younger William of Orange were the principal Protestant leaders. In open combat the Spanish infantry was almost invincible, but its victories were nullified, sometimes because it was drawn away to wage war in France, but more often because money and supplies were lacking. On various occasions the troops were left unpaid for so long a time that they took matters into their own hands. Then, terrible scenes of riot and pillage were enacted, without distinction as to the religious faith of the sufferers, for even Catholic churches were sacked by the soldiery. The outcome for the Low Countries was the virtual independence of the Protestant Netherlands, although Spain did not yet acknowledge it. For Spain the result was the same as that of her other ventures in European politics, only greater in degree than most of them,--exhausting expenditures.

[Sidenote: The annexation of Portugal.]

In the middle years of Philip's reign there was one project of great moment in Spanish history which he pushed to a successful conclusion,--the annexation of Portugal. While the ultimate importance of this event was to be lessened by the later separation of the two kingdoms, they were united long enough (sixty years) for notable effects to be felt in Spain and more particularly in the Americas. The desire for peninsula unity had long been an aspiration of the Castilian kings, and its consummation from the standpoint of the acquisition of Portugal had several


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