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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote Philip IV and Olivares


Philip IV and Olivares.]

The storm broke in the reign of Philip IV (1621-1665). Philip IV was only sixteen at the time of his accession to the throne. He had good intentions, and tried to interest himself in matters of government, but was of a frivolous and dissolute nature, unable to give consideration for any length of time to serious affairs. The result was the rule of another favorite, the Count-Duke of Olivares. Olivares was possibly the worst man who could have been chosen, precisely because he had sufficient ability to attempt the execution of his mistaken ideas. He was energetic, intelligent, and well educated, but was stubborn, proud, irascible, boastful, and insulting. He was able to make plans on a gigantic scale, and had real discernment as to the strength of Spain's enemies, but lacked the practical capacity to handle the details. The times were such as demanded a Sp?nola, but the counsels of Olivares prevailed, and their keynote was imperialism in Europe and a centralized absolutism in the peninsula.

[Sidenote: Spanish losses in the Thirty Years' War.]

The truce with the Dutch came to an end in 1621. Sp?nola urged that it be continued, but Olivares gave orders for the resumption of hostilities. No advantages of consequence were obtained by Spain, but the Dutch were again successful in their career on the seas. The Thirty Years' War continued to involve Spain.

France, though Catholic and virtually ruled by a Catholic cardinal, Richelieu, was more intent on the development of the French state than upon the religious question, and aided the Protestants against their enemies. Richelieu did not bring France into the war until 1635, but, in the meantime, through grants of money and skilful diplomacy, he was able to make trouble for Spain in Italy and in the Low Countries. When at length it seemed as if the Catholic states might win, due largely to the effectiveness of the Spanish infantry, France entered the war on the side of the Protestant princes. Spanish troops continued to win battles, without profiting greatly because of the incessant difficulties from lack of funds. In 1643 the French, under Cond?, defeated the Spaniards at Rocroy. The moral effect of this victory was tremendous, like the surrender of the ancient Spartans at the Island of Sphacteria, for it was the first time in some two centuries that the Spanish infantry had been defeated in pitched battle under nearly equal conditions. Henceforth defeats were no novelty. The tide had turned; Rocroy spelled Spain's doom as a great power. The treaties of Westphalia in 1648 affected Spain only so far as concerned the war with the Protestant Netherlands. Dutch independence was reaffirmed, and the colonies which the Dutch had won, mainly from the Portuguese in the East Indies, were formally granted to them. The Catholic Netherlands remained Spanish. The war with France went on until 1659. In 1652 Cromwell offered Spain an alliance against France, but the price demanded was high; one of the conditions was that Spain should permit Englishmen to trade with the Spanish colonies,--an entering wedge for an English commercial supremacy which might easily be converted into political acquisition. Spain declined and Cromwell joined France. The English conquest of Jamaica in the ensuing war was the first great break in the solidarity of the actually occupied Spanish domain, marking a turning point in colonial history, as Rocroy had done in that of Europe. By the treaty of 1659 Spain gave up the Roussillon and Cerdagne, thus accepting the Pyrenees as the boundary between herself and France. Spain also surrendered Sardinia and large parts both of the Catholic Netherlands and of her former Burgundian possessions. The most fruitful clause in the treaty was that providing for the marriage of the Spanish princess, Mar?a Teresa, with Louis XIV of France. The former was to renounce for herself and her heirs any rights she or they might otherwise have to the Spanish throne, while a considerable dowry was to be paid by Spain on her behalf. The results of this marriage will be mentioned presently.

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