The Decline of the Hispanic Monarchy in the 17th Century

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The Decline of the Hispanic Monarchy

Felipe III had the largest empire in the 17th century. He disliked ruling the country, so he delegated his authority to a valido, which was a kind of prime minister that depended on the king's favor. He faced several problems, but he was able to maintain its extension due to his pacifist policies:

  • He signed a peace with England with the Treaty of London (1604).
  • The Twelve Years' Truce with the Netherlands from 1609 to 1621 maintained peace, although it was an indirect way of recognizing the Northern Provinces' independence as the truce was not able to be renewed and then at the Thirty Years' War it was confirmed in the Treaty of Westphalia.
  • Peace with France was signed in 1598.

During his reign, the Moriscos were expelled in 1609. This measure was disastrous for many regions as they became depopulated.

Felipe IV: appointed Count-Duke of Olivares as his valido. Olivares began a more aggressive foreign policy participating in the Thirty Years' War as an ally of the Holy Roman Empire against the German Protestant princes. France decided to reduce Spanish influence in Europe so from 1635 they entered in the war and the Habsburgs were defeated. The war finished with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. As a consequence of the Peace of Westphalia, Spain lost many territories in Europe. Count-Duke of Olivares was Felipe IV's valido for more than 20 years and top defended Spanish supremacy in Europe he introduced financial reforms and in 1625 with the Union of Arms tried to share military expenses with the other parts of the empire. However, economic difficulties of the monarchy made it impossible to apply these reforms. In the 1640s rebellions against the Union of Arms took place in Catalonia and Portugal. Catalonia rejected the Union of Arms and became part of France for 10 years. Portugal took advantage of the rebellion in Catalonia and with the support of other European countries became independent. War with France continued until 1659 when both countries signed the Peace of the Pyrenees when Spain lost more territories. This ended the Spanish hegemony in Europe.

Monarchs continued to borrow money to pay for their growing expenses and this led to several bankruptcies. Carlos II was very weak due to four generations of inbreeding; he married two times but he died without children. At the end of his reign, there were two candidates to the Spanish crown: Philip of Bourbon and Archduke Charles of Austria. Both wanted the immense Spanish Empire, which had territories in several continents. Carlos II died in 1700 and his will appointed Philip of Bourbon, the grandson of Louis XIV of France, as his heir. The other European countries did not accept Carlos' will so they started the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1713) which ended with the victory of Philip. Since then the French Bourbon dynasty rules Spain.

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