Biography of Felipe III. King of España (1578-1621)

Felipe III, King of Spain. Velazquez.

King of Spain, born in the Alcázar of Madrid 14 April 1578 and died in that same city March 31, 1621. Son of Felipe II and his fourth wife, Anne of Austria, reigned from 1598 until his death, but not governed, since during all his reign, the Government was in the hands of their valid, the Duke of Lerma and the Duke of Uceda. With Felipe III opened, therefore the regime of the typical influence of the Spanish monarchy in the 17TH century.

When he was born in 1578, the Crown already had two potential heirs: los infantes don Fernando and don Diego. But the first died in October of that same year and the second in 1582, as a result of an epidemic that nearly cost the life also to Felipe. This, as sickly as his brothers, became heir to the throne at the age of four. Two years earlier had killed his mother, Queen Anne. The King, who did not marry, wanted to give his son a strict education, guided by a rigid discipline that everything, even his diversions, depended on the real discretion. Felipe II surrounded the Prince of preceptors and elderly ayos, depriving him of the company of children their age and people outside the finest courtly circle. However, the King chose for your child excellent teachers. Ayo was the Marquis of evening and as tutor to the chaplain García de Loaysa, both close collaborators of his father. But perhaps the teacher who most influenced the future King was the multifaceted Flemish humanist Jean de L'Hermite, who, in addition to teach French, contributed to arouse the interest of a child who grew up puffed and withdrawn.

The courtiers chroniclers lists the subjects that were taught him, but instead are scarce with respect to the use of the Prince. It seems that he had a facility for languages, who was an accomplished dancer and who showed some interest in cartography. In his memoirs, Jean de L'Hermite speaks with concern of a threat that saw sift about your Ward: get caught up in Spider weaving in lathe to the Marquis of Denia, Francisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas, Grande of Spain's and, as such, access to the narrow circle who frequented the Prince. The Marquis, twenty-five years older than Felipe, knew win the confidence of this and become indispensable for its ease to flatter their tastes and by his profligacy, which partly compensated for the shortage of money that Felipe II kept his son. The Marquis showed the Prince new entertainment and allowed him to glimpse the outside world to the Court. The King, who considered pernicious friendship of Denia, sent him as Viceroy to Valencia in 1595 in order to remove him from the Prince, but the separation was short-lived and was not enough to break the ties between the two, which have narrowed insofar as the Marquis returned to the Court as master of the horse of Prince. King ended in compromise with their presence, understanding that, anyway, his son was too weak of character and would need the support of a confidence man.

But, despite her weakness of character, Felipe was not devoid of intelligence. It was rather cold and oppressive education imposed by his father which cut short its natural qualities, making it a shy young man, lacking initiative and curiosity. Felipe II realized too late the mistake he had made with your child's education and, in 1596, only two years before his death, García de Loaysa commissioned a report on this point. This report presents the Prince as a young intelligent and gentle, but also lazy, fanciful and lacking in life experience. Like Loaysa, other contributors to the King (Moura, evening, Idiáquez), advised a greater flexibility in the education of the Prince, his involvement in the courtly life and, above all, in the handling of political matters. Shortly thereafter, Felipe II introduced his son at meetings of the Board of the night, in which participated with notorious lack of interest, and allowed him to replace it in some ceremonies and to, from 1596, sign on behalf of government offices. The chroniclers attributed to Felipe II two comments that show his lucidity regarding the capabilities of his heir: "God, who has given me so many States, has denied me a son able to rule them" and "I'm afraid that you have govern".

The reign of Felipe III

In 1598 Felipe married his cousin Margaret of Austria, daughter of Archduke Carlos de Estiria. Margarita, which at the time was fourteen years old, was an energetic young man who exerted a remarkable influence on her husband until his early death by posterity in 1611. During those few years, had eight children: Ana (then married to Luis XIII of France), Felipe (future Felipe IV), María, Carlos, Fernando, Margarita, Francisca and Alfonso. After the death of the Queen, Lerma advised the King to come back not to marry, arguing that had already secured offspring, and Felipe shrugged. While he was just thirty and three years, other amorous Affairs and illegitimate children not met him.

The early years of the reign. The Lerma privanza

The Prince was twenty years old when his father died September 13, 1598. Its advent was received with some relief, because an environment of tiredness exemplified the saying which, according to the diplomat Gaspar Silingardi, circulated by the Court had been installed in the final years of Felipe: "If the King does not die, the Kingdom dies". Felipe III received as part of his inheritance to some of the main collaborators of his father, as Rodrigo Vázquez, Pedro Portocarrero, the aforementioned García de Loaysa (who later named Archbishop of Toledo), Cristóbal de Moura, Juan of Idiáquez or the Marquis of Velada. All of them were backed by a strong political party with which Felipe II thought that the inexperience of his son could counter. But it was soon decided to dispense with the "old guard" of Felipe II in favor of the Marquis of Denia, to which shortly after upload to the throne appointed Duke of Lerma. In his hands would be progressively leaving the new King all the Affairs of the State. The consolidation of Lerma, head of the Government went through the dismantling of the Board of night and the remoteness of the collaborators of the King showing a greater independence of judgement, Loaysa, Moura and Portocarrero. They only remained in the Government the Marquis of Velada, who soon showed his loyalty to the followers, and the old Idiáquez, harmless for Lerma. Thus was inaugurated the regime's favour, which would dominate the political life of the Spanish monarchy throughout the 17th century.

However, during the first years of his reign, Felipe caused a favorable impression, as it was to some extent entrepreneurial, accessible and willing to accelerate the handling of the Affairs of State. But soon Lerma monopolized the links between councils, which allowed him to control all the tasks of the Government. All sources agree the almost absolute control the Duke exerted on the monarch. On the other hand, typical of the character of the valid distrust took him to personally resolve all matters, hence his Government resulted in a new blockage of the administrative machinery. In addition, Lerma was a man extremely faithful to their favorites - which resulted in an increase of the nepotism - and avaricioso, as demonstrated by the extraordinary growth of its fortune during his years in Government.

In 1601 the Court of transferred to Valladolid in unexpected ways, causing strong popular protests in Madrid, capital of the Kingdom from 1561. In this surprising decision influenced three factors: first, Lerma wanted to remove the King from the influence of her grandmother, the Empress María, who lived in the convent of the Descalzas real and opposed the privanza; unambiguously Second, the valid (possessing great Lordly domains in Valladolid) needed, to consolidate his power, bring the Court to a place where there were no vested interests that dominated in Madrid; and, third, their own fondness of Felipe III for moving ("Not for", commented the nuncio Caetani). Of them, no doubt the decisive factor was the first, as evidenced by the fact that began speaking of returning to Madrid as soon as the Empress, died in 1603. But the Court remained even four years in Valladolid, where deployed all the luxury of the Baroque, to which both the King and his valid were very amateur.

In 1607, date of the return of the Court to Madrid, produced the first political crisis of the severity of the reign, motivated, largely by the conflict between Queen Margaret and Lerma. He did as he could by neutralizing the influence of the Queen: he first dismissed his entourage of German servers, and then managed to prevent that petitions and memorials were presented. But Margarita, supported by the Confessor real fray Diego Mardones, showed strong opposition to the Duke. In late 1606, the Queen launched a campaign against Lerma, denouncing their abuse of power and irregularities in its management. The climate was conducive to the fall of the valid, then in 1607, there was a serious monetary crisis, caused by the temporary decline of American silver reserves, administrative misappropriation and the immense Sumptuary expenses of the Court. The venality of the public offices had become by then commonplace, the State machinery was sclerotized and public affairs were neglected or were resolved with extreme slowness. Everywhere it is blamed for the country's ills the Lerma and his favorites, which were enriched disproportionately. But the offensive of the Queen and her confessor not got another thing that the fall of some of the "valid for the valid", as Pedro Franqueza, who was in charge of transmit Lerma consultations of the Councils. Do not fell, on the other hand, Rodrigo Calderón, the favorite Lerma, very hated character that plays an important role in the irregular system of Government established by the valid. In the following years, the Queen and her new confessor, fray Luis de Aliaga, would attempt to again bring down Calderon, which Lerma saved again from the Defenestration.

The death of the Queen in 1611 allowed Lerma to reach the Summit of his power. The following year, Felipe III strengthened its position through a certificate of vital importance in which ordered the Presidents of the councils that delivered directly with the Duke, who allowed to even sign on their behalf. Since then, always the valid was addressed to the Council of State did in the name of the King, which was not but a fiction that is accepted by all, therefore in reality, Felipe III dissociated itself almost entirely from the Affairs of Government, preferring to devote himself to his favorite hobbies: hunting, horses and the theatre. The performance of Lerma was comprehensive, therefore not being supported in any official position, but the single will of the King, was not subject to any institutional control. 1612 card was, therefore, the Act of official founding of the regime's influence.

Foreign policy

It often tends to tilt of "pacifist" the reign of Felipe III, due to the fact that, during the first ten years of the same, the Spanish monarchy temporarily canceled its wars with England and the Netherlands. But that "pacifism" (which is part of the so-called "anti-war generation of Baroque"), is largely a historiographic fiction, since they were pressing internal problems that had to deal with the rulers of the time, and not their desire to keep the peace at all costs, prompting the temporary caesura of armed conflicts. In the case of Felipe III and Lerma, it is more appropriate to speak of conservatism when it comes to characterize its foreign policy. Both the King and his valid took the basic lines inherited from the reign of Felipe II, despite the fact that the political and economic principles of the 17TH century context was very different. In 1597, trade of the Indies, main support of the Spanish economy, was plagued by a series of fluctuations that were the first sign of regression that would later suffer. The financial difficulties of the monarchy forced Felipe III to suspend foreign policy of offensive nature which had dominated in the previous reigns. Instead of raising taxes (which would have increased social discontent), the King and his valid preferred to reduce military expenditure to alleviate as far as possible the economic crisis. Hence the famous "pacifism".

During the first years of the reign, relations with France were tense, due to the fact that the French King, Henri IV, developed an antiespanola policy in Italy and the Netherlands, however, preventing the outbreak of a military conflict. His death in 1610 overturned the situation, as the Regent, María de Médicis, strove to improve relations with Spain. The bloating was sealed in 1611 by the signing of a double engagement: on the one hand, that of Isabel de Bourbon (daughter of Enrique IV) with infant Felipe (future Felipe IV); and, secondly, that of Luis XIII of France with infanta Anne of Austria.

Relations with England were also of hostility until the generational change occurred: in 1604, following the death of Elizabeth I of England and the ascent to the throne of James I, was signed the peace of London, which would remain in force during the entire reign of Felipe III.

In Italy, the Spanish Government was forced to continually intervene as an arbitrator in the succession disputes, in order to keep ruling princes favourable to Spain. The main problem were the ambitions of the Duke Carlos Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy, who aspired to take possession of the Duchy of Montferrat. The Spanish Government prevented it (1615) and the Duke was declared in default, and proclaiming "liberator of Italy", tried to organize a rebellion against the Spanish presence in Italy. The Milan Spanish forces invaded Piedmont and forced the Duke to withdraw, but the peace signed in Pavia in 1617 did not result in any territorial or political advantage, but in the mere re-establishment of the status quo prior to the war.

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, it continued the war. The Dutch rebels achieved some important successes in 1600-01. Felipe III and Lerma decided to continue the fight in defence of the rights of the Archduke Alberto and Isabel Clara Eugenia, who Felipe II had given the Netherlands before his death. The recovery of the trade of the Indies in 1602-03 allowed to launch a major military offensive. The general Ambrosio Spínola, who managed to conquer Ostend, in 1604 received the command of the operations. But they abruptly concluded in 1606, due to a mutiny of the troops caused by the delay of the two payments. This hiatus gave to ruin all the efforts of the previous years and forced the Government of Madrid ordered a partial withdrawal of Flanders. Shortly after informal peace talks were held, but you were unable to reach a definitive agreement by the inflexibility that showed both sides. Finally, the truce of twelve, in which, for the first time, the Spanish monarchy acknowledged the status of belligerence of the United Provinces of the Netherlands was signed in April 1609. This was due to the conviction of Lerma and Felipe III himself that the Spanish Empire could maintain its stability as it was and that would be enough defensive actions and any other casual show of force to preserve its hegemony.

Peace reigned until the large outbreak of the thirty years ' war in 1618. Good relations with England and France, the internal problems of the Empire and the decline of the Ottoman Empire allowed the maintenance without efforts of the Spanish hegemony over Europe, and the Duke of Lerma was kept very well than alter this situation. But he failed to take advantage of the opportunities that offered peace to improve the domestic situation. Thus, when the war resumed in 1618, the Spanish monarchy was bloodless and lacked the capacity of initiative and the necessary resources to maintain its European hegemony.

Domestic policy

The international context of peace allowed the Spanish Government to focus on the problem of the Moors, whose expulsion is considered the central fact of domestic of the reign. After the failure of less traumatic solutions, Felipe III signed the order of expulsion of the Moorish population in July 1609. So drastic as some characters (Queen Margaret, the own Lerma) Court, but, above all, had a decisive weight the criteria of security of the Council of State, marked by the needs of foreign policy. The root of the problem was the resistance to the assimilation of the Moors. The Council feared that these could act as a "fifth column" of France, of the Muslims of North Africa, or the Turks. Deportation proceedings began in the autumn of that year in the Kingdom of Valencia, and continued in the following years throughout the peninsula. The measure had serious demographic and economic consequences as Spain lost some 300,000 inhabitants (Domínguez Ortiz), which mostly were good farmers and craftsmen. But, in principle, the expulsion produced an atmosphere of official and popular euphoria that prevented its consequences will analyze lucidly until the Decade of 1620.

The decision to expel the moriscos, taken without consultation with the Eastern Kingdoms, aggravated the climate of discontent that they breathed in these. The situation was particularly worrying in Catalonia, where he lived a severe economic crisis. From 1615, the Government decided to change the containment policy that had kept until then. The Duke of Alburquerque, Viceroy of 1615 to 1618, tried to tackle the brigandage (one of the major scourges that suffered from the Catalan countries) and is supported in the cities to curb the power of the aristocracy. But under his successor, the Duke of Alcalá (1618-1621), the decision of the Government claim the fifth part of municipal revenues for the Crown sparked the opposition of the rural aristocracy and the urban oligarchies. Although the situation remained stagnant during the rest of the reign, the great Catalan revolt of 1640 (see: Corpus of blood) was already in the environment.

As far as Portugal is concerned, the Government of Felipe III often violated the legal and institutional personality of the Kingdom. The measures taken by Lerma, always subject to the Castilian interests, were very unpopular and caused a growing discontent with the monarchy of Madrid.

In regards to economic policy, Felipe III inherited from his father a huge debt of State, which the Sumptuary expenses of the Court did not only increase. To alleviate the financial situation, it resorted to the reduction of Defense spending and currency devaluation. The currency of 1599, 1602 and 1603 alterations caused the withdrawal from circulation of gold and silver, the devaluation of the fleece and the worsening of the financial crisis of the Crown by the gap that was supposed to pay with currency of fleece inside and on the outside with gold and silver. A logical consequence of this erratic monetary policy was the bankruptcy of 1612.

The end of the reign

The final years of the reign were marked, inside, by political intrigue. The political position of Lerma was weakened from 1615, due to the unrest that caused its authoritarianism. The Royal confessor, fray Luis de Aliaga, faithful guardian of Felipe III, led the court party opposed to the Duke, party with which sympathized the Marquis de Cea, son of Lerma. In 1616 the Earl of Lemos, former viceroy of Naples, plotted an intrigue for the privanza, but failed. Two years later, when the outbreak of the thirty years ' war caused a new crisis Government, Lerma was named Cardinal by Pope Paulo V in a desperate attempt to keep his position. But that same year came to light a series of intrigues trumped by Rodrigo Calderón that triggered a new offensive against the valid, orchestrated by the confessor and influential media churchmen. The Duke abandoned finally the court voluntarily shortly after, taking refuge in Lerma, where he died in 1623.

Following the departure of Lerma, Aliaga and Cea (to which the King appointed Duke of Uceda) took his place at the head of Government. But soon the latter tended to monopolize the Affairs of State on behalf of the King, as his father had done. However, Uceda never came to control the link between the monarch and the councils and their power was, therefore, much more limited than the Lerma. This was due to that in their last years of life, Felipe III felt hounded by feelings of guilt for not having fulfilled his duties as King and tried to put limits to the influence. That allowed that, in certain institutional levels, has attempted to recover the operation of former executive agencies and, above all, the Council of Castile. The anxiety that accompanied the King during his last years did not pass unnoticed to those who made up their closest circle. The chroniclers show it gripped by anxiety which you have not been able to confront his political duties and have delegated all responsibilities to others.

Policy in these years was marked by Spanish involvement in the thirty years war in favour of the Emperor Fernando II, produced by the intervention of the thirds in Switzerland, the Palatinate and Bohemia, and the increase of the social unrest of the so-called "peripheral realms" (Portugal, Catalonia, Valencia). In 1619 Uceda advised the King to a trip to Portugal in order to calm the winds of rebellion that blew into the realm. The trip somewhat tempered the situation, but was interrupted abruptly when contracting an Erysipelas that forced him to abruptly return to Madrid, Felipe just before some courts in Lisbon that would expose the needs and grievances of the country should be held. It left unsettled the Portuguese problem, that would blow violently in 1640.

Disease rapidly decreased the forces of the King, and caused a severe nervous depression. After a short improvement, Felipe III in Madrid died March 31, 1621, at the age of forty-three. Historians usually consider his reign as a period of transition, because, on the one hand, resulted in the cancellation of the hegemonic stage of the Austrias largest (Carlos I, Felipe II), and, on the other, the prelude to the crisis that would occur during the reign of his son and successor, Felipe IV.

Testament of Felipe III.


FEROS CARRASCO, A. Felipe III, in the crisis of the seventeenth century, vol. 6 of the history of Spain, directed by A. Domínguez Ortiz.

GARCIA GARCIA, B.J. The Pax Hispanica. Foreign policy of the Duke of Lerma. Leuven, Leuven University Press, 1996.

MARTORELL TÉLLEZ-GIRÓN, R (ED). Letters of Felipe III to his daughter Anna, Queen of France (1616-1618). Madrid, Hellenic printing, 1929.

PÉREZ BUSTAMANTE, C. Felipe III. Semblance of a monarch and a privanza profiles. Madrid, 1950.

Ditto. The Spain of Felipe III, in history of Spain directed by j. m. Jover Zamora, vol. XXIV. Madrid, 1979.

BETHLEHEM, J.A. SÁNCHEZ The minor Austrias. The Spanish monarchy in the 17TH century. Madrid, 16, 1996 history.