In the year 1527, the most powerful man of the Western world was the Holy Roman emperor, Charles V, emperor of Austria and Germany, king of Spain and Sicily, and lord over a dozen or more other states in Italy and the Netherlands, which included Belgium. A rare confluence of noble family connections had made him sovereign over the largest realm in Europe, made still larger by explorers and conquistadors who had claimed for Spain lands of the vast New World and beyond it as far as the Philippines.
Charles was twenty-seven years old in 1527, not tall but well built, blond and blue eyed, with a long face, aquiline nose, and the thick lower lip that ran in his father’s family, the Habsburgs. When single, he had fathered an illegitimate daughter (Margaret of Parma), but now he was married to the beautiful, blond, twenty-four-year-old Portuguese princess Isabel, who was also his cousin (both were grandchildren of the late King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain). He had reneged on an agreement to marry Mary Tudor, the future queen of England, who was only a child at the time, so that he could wed Isabel.
The wedding had been held in Seville on March 10, 1526, and the following August Isabel had become pregnant, a fact over which virtually the entire population of Spain, where the couple resided, apparently rejoiced, the birth of a royal heir being always a huge cause for celebration.
The ninth month of Isabel’s pregnancy, May 1527, arrived with the fragrance of orange blossoms in the warm Castilian air but with international problems looming dangerously before Charles. If God in His mercy would grant him a son, a male heir to his empire and kingdoms, that advent would be such glad news to Charles that the gloomy clouds of threats from France and England and the pope might for a time be burst with brightness. Deeply serious about his Catholic faith (though not a friend of the pope), Charles doubtless was earnestly praying that Isabel would deliver a son, a successor, healthy and whole.
About three o’clock in the morning of May 21, 1527, in the royal palace in Valladolid (then Spain’s capital), Isabel began a difficult labor, which she stoically endured, telling the midwife who attended her, “I may die, but I will not cry out.” Thirteen hours later, at four o’clock that afternoon, Isabel’s eagerly awaited baby arrived. Charles, who remained with his wife throughout her ordeal, had received the happy answer to his prayer. He was the father of a son.
He took the infant in his arms, praying as he held him: “May our Lord God make you a good Christian. I beg our Lord God to give you His grace. May it please our Lord God to enlighten you, that you may know how to govern the Kingdom you shall inherit.”
As news of the baby’s birth rippled out from the palace, church bells pealed in gleeful annunication, first in Valladolid, then in nearby towns and villages, then throughout the land. In Castile’s protective forts, cannons were fired in thunderous salute to the blessed event. Many of the country’s important persons, members of the royal court, noblemen, government officials, and high-ranking clergy, began making their way to the Valladolid palace to offer their congratulations and join the celebration.
Charles, meanwhile, in a pouring rain that had come sweeping through Valladolid, made his way on foot from the palace to the Church of Saint Paul (San Pablo) to give thanks for the prayed-for blessing that God had bestowed upon him.
Two weeks later, on Sunday, June 2, the royal infant was carried from the palace to the Church of Saint Paul, along a path scattered with rose petals and lemon and orange blossoms, to be baptized according to the Catholic tradition and to receive his name, one that history would forever remember. According to one account, many of those close to Charles wanted him to name the boy Fernando (Ferdinand), after the child’s famous great-grandfather. One of those closest to Charles, the duke of Alba, while standing at the baptismal font during the ceremony, went so far as to insist that Charles name him Fernando.
Charles, however, had already made up his mind about what his son would be called and he couldn’t be dissuaded. The infant prince would be named for Charles’s father. He would be Philip, grandson of Philip the Handsome. And so was he baptized by the primate of Spain, the archbishop of Toledo, Don Alonso de Fonseca, who drew the baptismal water from a large silver font and pronounced the baby’s name. The child’s godparents were the duke of Bejar, who cradled the baby in his arms during the ceremony, and Charles’s older sister Eleanor, queen of France. Upon the infant’s baptism, a royal herald announced to the onlookers, “Oyd, oyd, oyd, Don Philipe, principe de Castilla por la gracia de Dios!”
That solemn ceremony having been concluded, the joyous celebrations began, nights of banquets and days of feasts, celebratory bullfights and tournaments, jousts that featured some two hundred knights. Members of the royal court put aside other concerns and gave themselves to the celebration. “There is consequently a great lull in politics,” the ambassador from Bohemia wrote in an official report, “and the courtiers think of nothing save the rejoicings.”
Within days, however, the festivities were abruptly aborted on receipt of alarming news from Italy. An army of Pope Clement VII, who had allied himself with the French king, Francis I, Charles’s hostile brother-in-law, had challenged Charles’s forces based in Milan. Charles’s army had brushed aside the challenge and, marching south on Rome, had assaulted the Vatican on May 6, 1527, and had sent the pope and his cardinals fleeing for their lives, the pope narrowly escaping capture or worse. Out of control after their commander had been killed in the assault, Charles’s troops, many of them German mercenaries, had, according to one report, slaughtered some six to eight thousand men of Rome and had sacked the city, leaving much of it in ruins. News of the peril to the pope and the atrocities committed against the capital of Christendom ignited a firestorm of outrage throughout Western Europe.
Charles learned of the events about the middle of June and, persuaded that the festive mood was now inappropriate, he called off the celebrations of his son’s birth. Strong reaction to the atrocities in Rome had burst through Spain as it had done elsewhere in Europe. Defiantly denouncing Charles from their pulpits, many Spanish priests had demanded an end to the celebrations, and many of the members of Charles’s Spanish court who had been joyfully celebrating went into mourning over the deeds of their sovereign’s army.
For the newborn prince it was an inauspicious beginning to his public life, which officially began when at age one year he was, on May 10, 1528, recognized as heir to the throne of Castile, Spain’s major province, by Castile’s legislature, the Cortes. The Cortes then also recognized Philip’s mother, the Empress Isabel, as regent whenever Charles was out of the country, which he soon would be. Isabel was likely thinking little about becoming regent, however. She was then pregnant with a second child, who was born on June 21, 1528, in Madrid and was named Maria.
Deciding that he could no longer stay in Spain, that he needed to take charge of developing events in other parts of his realm, Charles set sail from Barcelona on July 27, 1529, when Philip was two years old. It was the last the boy would see of his father for nearly four years.
There was no question of Isabel and the children going with Charles. Nine years earlier, in 1520, there had been a widespread rebellion in Spain against Charles, who was born and raised in Flanders and whom a great many in Spain considered an outsider. He had made some concessions to the rebels in the course of bringing the revolt to an end. The rebels, called comuneros, had asked Charles to spend more time in Castile and less time in other parts of his empire. They had also asked him to learn to speak Spanish. Further, they had asked him to marry a Portuguese princess. All of those things he had done. They had also asked that whatever children he had with the princess be brought up as Spaniards and be educated in Spain. Now, no doubt remembering the comunero revolt and the promises made, Charles left his young son and baby daughter in Spain with his wife as he sailed away to attend to his affairs outside Spain.
Little Philip, fair skinned, blond haired, and blue eyed, was turned over by his mother to the care of a Portuguese nurse, Leonor Mascarenhas, for whom Philip developed a lasting affection. He managed to survive several childhood illnesses, all of which his mother, who kept a watchful eye on him, fretted over. “The prince my son is ill with fever,” she wrote to a friend during one of Philip’s sicknesses, “and though the illness is not dangerous it has me very worried and anxious.” Philip recovered, but three weeks later he fell sick again. “I’m very anxious,” Isabel wrote to her absent husband.
The doings of the royal siblings were reported to their father in letters. “The infanta [Maria] grows bigger and fatter by the day,” the boy’s governor, Pedro González de Mendoza, wrote to Charles, “and the prince entertains her like a genteel gallant.” The prince also had other moments. “He is so mischievous that sometimes Her Majesty gets really angry,” another report reads. “She spanks him, and the women weep to see such severity.”1
When Philip was seven years old, Charles appointed a tutor for him, forty-eight-year-old Juan Martínez Siliceo, a priest who was a professor at the University of Salamanca. He was described by one of Philip’s biographers as “a man of piety and learning and of an accommodating temper, too accommodating . . . for the good of his pupil.”2 The result of the tutor’s easygoing attitude, Charles believed, was that young Philip was not absorbing all the learning that was available from Siliceo.
In 1535, when Philip was eight years old, his father appointed a new governor for him, Juan de Zúñiga, one of Charles’s close associates, and Zúñiga and Siliceo mapped out the prince’s education, Siliceo handling the book learning and Zúñiga handling the extracurricular activities, such as riding and hunting, as well as character building.
Philip progressed through basic reading and writing and began to take on more difficult assignments. “He has made a lot of progress in reading and learning prayers in Latin and Spanish,” Siliceo wrote to Charles in February 1536, and during the following September Siliceo reported that Philip “knows the [Latin] conjugations and some other principles; soon he will start to study authors, the first of whom is Cato.” Other subjects that he studied, however assiduously, included mathematics, science, French, Italian, art, and the principles of architecture. Though he did well enough with Latin, learning to speak and write it acceptably, which he often did in later years, he didn’t do as well with Italian or French. Science and math he liked, and over the years he acquired such a knowledge of architecture, painting, and sculpture that he became a credible critic of them.
Philip also learned to appreciate music. Luis Narvaez, a composer from Granada, was appointed Philip’s music tutor, and he taught the prince to play the guitar. The boy was said to be a talented musician, though he had not much of a singing voice. He developed such a fondness for organ music, which was played for him in his private chapel, as well as for music in general, that when he traveled, he took with him an organ, an organist, and a choir, so that he could always have good-listening music.
He was showing increased interest in extracurricular activities, too. “Though hunting is at present what he is most inclined to, he doesn’t neglect his studies a bit,” Siliceo wrote reassuringly to Charles. And aware of the boy’s advancing adolescence, the tutor-priest observed that “we have to be grateful that at this age of fourteen when the weakness of the flesh begins to assert itself, God has given the prince such a passion for hunting that he spends most of his time in this and in his studies.”3
The time the prince was spending hunting was more of a concern to Zúñiga than it was to Siliceo. “He went on horseback into the hills for a good six hours,” Zúñiga told Charles. “It only seemed like two hours to him, but it seemed more than twelve to me. . . . His only real pastime is shooting game with the crossbow.” The game he shot included rabbits, deer, wolves, and bears, and he became so skilled at shooting them that restrictions were imposed lest he overkill his father’s game.
In one of his reports to Charles, Zúñiga said that Philip was happiest when he was outdoors. He was content to do almost anything “provided he could do it in the countryside,” Zúñiga wrote. The boy had developed a love of nature and he collected birds that he kept in cages, so many of them that a mule was needed to transport them when Philip’s household was moved periodically. Indoors, he played with toy soldiers and played cards and quoits. He also painted pictures in a large book of blank pages.
In 1539 Philip suffered the most tragic event of his young life, the death of his mother. She had had a miscarriage in late April and died on May 1, three weeks before Philip’s twelfth birthday. Becoming ill while he walked in the funeral procession, Philip returned to his rooms and was put to bed. His mother’s body was taken to Granada and buried in the royal tombs, where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were buried. Charles was so stricken with grief that he isolated himself in mourning for the next seven weeks.
Following his mother’s death, Philip spent two years in official mourning, wearing only black, unadorned with jewelry. In May 1541 Charles let him begin wearing colorful clothing again and gave him permission to wear gold jewelry.
The loss of his mother deprived Philip of nearly all expressions of parental love, and he grew through his teenage years largely dependent on his sisters, Maria and Juana (born to Isabel on June 24, 1535, two years before her death), for mutual feelings of affection.
Ever since he was seven years old, Philip had been living in his own separate quarters. He was being attended by his own servants and receiving guidance from his own advisers. He also had his own friends, or special companions, all of them selected for him. His six-year-old cousin Maximilian, son of Charles’s brother Ferdinand, was brought from Vienna to be tutored with Philip. The two boys played and studied together, although Maximilian never became one of Philip’s best friends. He and Philip’s other companions, or pages, most of them the sons of noble families, formed a sort of boys’ court, over which Philip presided, rehearsing the role of his future. By 1540 the members of Philip’s household totaled 191,4 including 51 pages, 8 chaplains, a physician, a crew of kitchen workers, plus miscellaneous maids, grooms, stable workers, and others who kept the boy’s mansion humming and maintained and the prince himself well served. In 1541 he was given his own personal secretary, Gonzalo Pérez, a somewhat imperious priest who ended up serving Philip for the next twenty-four years.
Charles was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Siliceo as the boy’s main tutor. He wrote to Philip to prepare him for Siliceo’s dismissal. “[He] has not been nor is the most suitable teacher for you; he has given in to you too much.”5 (Later Philip would choose the priest Siliceo, to whom he felt close, as his official confessor. On learning of the choice, Charles wrote to his son: “I hope he will not want to appease you as much in matters of conscience as he did in matters of study.”6) In 1541, the year that Philip made his first communion, Charles appointed three new tutors for Philip, one to teach Latin and Greek, one to teach math and architecture, and another to teach geography and history. Charles may have given up on the likelihood that his son could learn modern languages, for he appointed no tutor to make further attempts at teaching them to Philip.
The new tutors, who also taught Philip’s pages, were provided funds to acquire a library for the prince. Over time the books of Philip’s library included works by Aquinas, Boccacio, Copernicus, Dante, Dürer, Erasmus, Machiavelli, Petrarch, Savonarola, Sophocles, Virgil, and Vitruvio. The book collection assembled by his tutors, some of which he undoubtedly read, at least in part, apparently inspired Philip to add his own eclectic selections to his library. They included books on art, architecture, music, theology, warfare, and magic.
Discipline, which once had been administered to the prince by his mother, was now the responsibility of the boy’s governor, Zúñiga, whose strictness Philip protested to his absent father. Charles, however, thought Zúñiga’s rigor was just what the boy needed. “If he gave in to your every caprice,” Charles wrote to his son, “you would be like the rest of mankind and would have no one to tell you the truth.”
In Charles’s absence, Philip’s valet was given the job of buying gifts for the boy. The valet received thirty ducats a month to buy things he thought would please the prince. During the months of 1540, those pleasing things included fencing swords, jousting lances, jewels, perfume, and a glass cup from Venice.
Despite the seeming robustness required for his riding, hunting, fencing, jousting, and other physical activities, Philip remained sickly. According to one report, his blond hair and pale complexion gave him “an almost albino coloring.”7 Except for an attack of what was apparently salmonella poisoning, however, he suffered no serious illnesses.
His diet was limited because of his digestive problems. He took two meals a day, lunch and dinner, and the fare was the same for both. His choices of entrees were chicken, partridge, pigeon, beef, and venison and other game. On Fridays there was no choice: As other good Catholics did for centuries, he ate fish. (He later received special dispensation from the pope to eat meat on Fridays, which he did, except on Good Friday.) He was also served soup and bread at every meal. Few vegetables made it to his table, perhaps by his own instructions. Fruit was served to him at lunch, and salads at dinner.
His health became a continuing concern to Philip. When he asked the pope for permission to eat meat on Fridays, he told his holiness his reason for asking was that “we do not wish to risk changing our diet.” One of his most troublesome problems was chronic constipation, which the royal physicians treated with doses of oil of turpentine and enemas and emetics. He later suffered from hemorrhoids.
To accommodate his needs, a new chamber pot was purchased and placed in the prince’s privy every two weeks. His other personal items, accumulated over time, included an ebony toothbrush inlaid with gold, a gold toothpick, bowls that contained tooth powder and toothpaste, ear-cleaning instruments, a hairbrush and a brush to clean combs, a manicure set, and a special silver goblet that he used to take his medications.
Apparently not handicapped by his health problems, which included asthma, Philip was an active teenager. At age sixteen he was described by Zúñiga as “the most accomplished man of arms in this court, and this can be said without flattery. This week he and the duke of Alba put on a contest in the country.” Philip, Zúñiga said, was “very good at fighting both on foot and on horseback.” The prince also showed his accomplishments inside the palace, where he often held dances, his sister Maria being his dancing partner, and other festivities.
At age sixteen Philip’s life as a carefree boy ended. For one thing, he became officially betrothed. The bride his father selected for him was Princess Maria Manuela of Portugal, one of Philip’s cousins (her father, Juan III of Portugal, was the brother of Philip’s mother). In a letter dated May 4, 1543, just before his father once more departed Spain, Charles gave his son some advice about marriage. He cautioned Philip about overindulgence in sex: “When you are with your wife . . . be careful and do not overstrain yourself at the beginning, in order to avoid physical damage, because besides the fact that it [intercourse] may be damaging both to the growth of the body and to its strength, it often induces such weakness that it prevents the siring of children and may even kill you.”8
The point of being married, Charles told Philip, was not to have sex but to produce heirs. “For this reason,” Charles wrote, “you must be careful when you are with your wife. And because this is somewhat difficult, the remedy is to keep away from her as much as you can. And so I beg and advise you strongly that as soon as you have consummated the marriage, you should leave her on some pretext, and do not go back to see her too quickly or too often. And when you do go back, let it be only for a short time.”9 (In a separate letter to Zúñiga, Charles instructed him to make sure Philip followed this advice.)
Avoidance of his wife, furthermore, was no excuse to take up with other women, Charles said. “Apart from the discomfort and ills that may ensue from it between you and her [his wife], it will destroy the effect of keeping you away from her.”
The other life-changing event, also in May 1543, was Philip’s appointment by his father as regent in Spain, leaving Philip, as Charles wrote, “in my place during my absence, to govern these realms.” The emperor also gave his son some advice concerning that responsibility. “Keep God always in mind,” he wrote, and “accept good advice at all times.” Charles told Philip to make service to God his first priority and “never allow heresies to enter your realms. Support the Holy Inquisition,” Charles instructed, “. . . and on no account do anything to harm it.”10
As a ruler, Charles wrote, Philip must be “an upholder of justice” and must root out all corruption among his government’s officials. He should avoid flatterers and make sure his advisers feel free to give him their honest opinions. “You must also find time to go among and talk with the people,” Charles told him. Philip should strive to be “temperate and moderate in all you do,” his father said. “Keep yourself from anger, and do nothing in anger.”11
Charles braced him for the difference the new role would make in his life. “Till now your company has been that of children. . . . From now on, you must not associate with them. . . . Your company will be above all that of grown men.”
In a second letter of advice about governing, dated May 6, 1543, Charles cautioned about allowing one official to attach himself to Philip, to the exclusion of others. He mentioned specific individuals.
The duke of Alba is the ablest statesman and the best soldier I have in my dominions. Consult him, above all, in military affairs; but do not depend on him entirely in these or in any other matters. Depend on no one but yourself.
The grandees will be too happy to secure your favor and through you to govern the land. But if you are thus governed, it will be your ruin. The mere suspicion of it will do you infinite prejudice. Make use of all; but lean exclusively on none.
In your perplexities, ever trust in your Maker. Have no care but for Him.12
Philip immediately responded to the new responsibilities his father placed on him. “His Highness received the Instructions, together with the powers which Your Majesty sent for governing these realms and those of Aragon,” Zúñiga promptly reported to Charles. “After he had read it all, he sent the special instructions to the tribunals and councils. He has begun, conscientiously and with resolution, to study what he has been ordered to do. He is in touch always with the duke of Alba and the grand commander of Léon [Francisco de los Cobos].”
Feeling the role in which he had been suddenly cast by his father, Philip in the summer of 1543 started adding these words to his scrawled signature on official correspondence: Yo el Principe. I the Prince.
In October 1543 Philip got to see his bride-to-be for the first time. Accompanied by a considerable number of Portuguese nobles and attendants, as well as the archbishop of Lisbon, Maria had set out from her father’s palace in Lisbon on the long, slow trip to Salamanca, in Castile, where the wedding was to be held. Riding out to meet the Portuguese procession and escort it was a party of Spanish dignitaries led by the duke of Medina Sidonia, described in one account as the wealthiest and most powerful lord in the Spanish province of Andalusia. The duke was borne in a sumptuous litter carried by mules that were shod with gold. The members of his household and his retainers, including his private band, swelled the escort to an estimated three thousand persons, most of them mounted and liveried. About six miles from Salamanca, that impressive procession was joined by a small group of riders who looked very much like a party of hunters.
One of the ostensible hunters was Philip. He was wearing a velvet slouch hat and a gauze mask over part of his face so that he wouldn’t be recognized. He had ridden out with several attendants so that he could take a good, furtive look at the girl he was going to marry.
Maria, five months younger than sixteen-year-old Philip, was neither short nor tall; she had a good figure, though she was a bit on the plump side, and had a pleasing expression to her face. She wore a dress made of cloth of silver embroidered with gold flowers. On her shoulders was a capa, a mantle, made of violet velvet with gold figures in it. She wore a hat of the same velvet material, with a white and blue plume atop it. She sat on a silver saddle, riding a mule caparisoned in rich brocade.
Philip rode with the procession until nightfall. He later wrote to his father that “I saw her without her being able to see me.” Philip returned to Salamanca to make a ceremonial entry on November 12, and Maria arrived several hours later.
Maria’s procession was met by the rector and professors of the University of Salamanca, dressed in their academic gowns, and behind the professors came officials of the city and other public officers, wearing their robes of office, followed by contingents of cavalry and infantry in their dress uniforms. By that colorful entourage and amid shouts from the crowd of spectators who turned out for the spectacle and the sounds of celebratory music, Princess Maria was extravagantly ushered into the city.
She rode on to the palace of the duke of Alba, where a lavish reception was held for her. That evening, Monday, November 12, 1543, she and Philip were married. Each went forward from a group of attendants and, when they met, Philip kissed her hand and embraced her. The ceremony was performed under a resplendent canopy, the archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Tavera, officiating. The emperor, Philip’s father, was absent as usual. The duke and duchess of Alba stood as sponsors. Following the ceremony, a royal ball began, and the city erupted in celebration, which lasted well into the next morning.
A week later, on November 19, after days of fiestas and celebratory tournaments and bullfights, the newlyweds moved to Valladolid. On their way, through towns gaily decorated in honor of the couple, they made a stop at Tordesillas to visit Philip’s grandmother, Queen Juana, mother of Charles. Juana, daughter of the late King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, suffered from mental problems, popularly believed to have been caused by the unexpected death of her husband, Philip the Handsome, and was known as Juana la loca—Juana the Crazy. Her behavior following her husband’s death perhaps justified the name. One stormy November night she was found outside, half naked, shrieking into the wind. Night after night in an open field she had sat in the darkness with her husband’s corpse. Finally she had been locked away in a castle. For fifty years she had been held, in effect, a prisoner of her dementia. On the day that Philip and Maria visited her, however, she seemed more or less normal. She asked them to dance for her, and when they did, she sat gazing on them admiringly.
From Tordesillas, Philip and Maria continued on to Valladolid, where they would settle into the routine of married life and he would resume his responsibilities as regent. Some things would not quickly change. Philip would still attend daily sessions with his tutors and he would still pursue his riding, hunting, and jousting. The affairs of government, though, would gradually come to occupy more of his time and thoughts.
His father was pleased. “Up till now,” he wrote to Philip, “thanks be to God, there is nothing obvious to criticize in you.”
Copyright © 2007 by Benton Rain Patterson. All rights reserved.