Spanish Power Grows. A Presentation By Zachary Blair. Ruling The Hapsburg Empire.
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In 1519, Charles I became the heir to the extensive Hapsburg Empire. When he became king, he went by the name of Charles V. Because he ruled over both Spain and The Hapsburg Empire, he was constantly in of war. Not only did he try to suppress Protestantism in The German states, but he also faced the Ottoman Empire, who attacked from the Balkans and the Mediterranean.
The Hapsburg Empire was too sporadic to for one person to govern efficiently. Charles abdicated and entered a monastery in 1556. He delegated the Hapsburg Empire to his brother Ferdinand, and gave Spain, The Netherlands and some Southern Italian States to his son Philip, who became Philip II.
In Philip’s 42 years as sovereign, he enforced absolutism, strengthened the Catholic church, and expanded Spain's influence. Philip was a very hard working Monarch, who rarely hunted, never jousted, and lived like a monk. His place of residence was called the Escorial, and was located outside of Madrid. It was an isolated, modest palace that served as a house, church and family tomb.
King Philip fought numerous wars in his efforts to advance Spanish Catholicism. In the Mediterranean, the Ottomans continued to threaten European control of the region. In the battle of Lepanto in 1571, the Holy League, a fleet of ships from Spain, Italy, The Hapsburg Empire and Malta defeated the Ottoman fleet off the Greek coast. It was hailed as a great victory for Christians everywhere. In the latter half of his rule, he battled rebels in what is today The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. The fighting continued for decades until 1581, when the Netherlands declared independence from Spain.
In the 1580s, Philip II and English Queen Elizabeth I were bitter enemies. Elizabeth began to support the Dutch, first discreetly, then openly. To destroy his opposition, Philip prepared an Armada, or a naval fleet to invade England. With over 130 ships, the Spanish were confident of victory over the English. However, a number of factors, including bad weather and fast moving English ships, the English emerged victorious, leaving what remained of the Armada to retreat.
After the Armada’s defeat, Spanish power began to weaken. Spain’s power began to decrease thourougt the 1600s. A large factor was that Philip’s successors ruled less competently than him. Economic factors were also another problem. Constant wars drained wealth out of Spain, along with the neglect of agriculture and commerce. The government heavily taxed the middle class, and also deported skilled Jews and Muslims. Combined with inflation caused by American gold and silver, Spain’s empire began to collapse.
El siglo de oro, or Spain’s golden age, lasted from 1550 to 1560 and was a flourishing of arts, literature and science. One of the painters who contributed to this golden age was El Greco. He was Greek born, but studied in Italy and settled in Spain. He made very realistic portraits of Spanish nobles, and made religious paintings as well. One famous writer of the golden age was Miguel de Cervantes and was the most important writer of the time. He wrote the famous Don Quixote, and is considered to be one of the most important works of all time.