‘Austrias’ is the name by which the dynasty of the Habsburgs is known, the reigning Spanish monarchy in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The dynasty of the Austrias started with King Philip I, known as Philip the Beautiful, and it was comprised of five Kings: Charles I, Philip II, Philip III, Philip IV and Charles II.
Philip I (1506)
Philip I married Juana The Mad, the daughter of the Catholic kings who became the Queen of Castilla on the death of her mother Isabel the Catholic. However, Philip was not content being the Queen’s consort and he claimed his wife was deranged; thanks to the support of a large part of the Castillian nobility he was named King, but only for a few months between April and September 1506. Philip I, who was a fan of ball games, drank iced water which gave him a fever and which subsequently led to his death.
Charles I of Spain & V of Germany (1516- 1556)
Charles I was the eldest son of Philip I and Juana the Mad and he inherited a great empire on the death of his father: Holland, Luxembourg, Artois and the French Comté were joined by Aragon, Navarra, Castilla, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia and the already conquered territories in America. In 1519, on the death of his paternal grandfather Maximiliano I, he obtained the Austrian territories of the Habsburgs and was named Emperor of Germany. For this reason he is known as Charles I of Spain and V of Germany.
His arrival in Spain, a country whose language and customs were not familiar to him, caused the Commune Wars led by Padilla, Bravo and Maldonado, who were defeated at the battle of Villalar.
Two years before his death, he abdicated in favour of his son Philip II and retired to the Monastery of Yuste in Extremadura. There he received his natural son John, who would become known as Don Juan of Austria, a great soldier and diplomat during the reign of his step brother Philip II.
Philip II (1556- 1598)
Philip II, nicknamed “The Prudent”, established the Court in Madrid, specifically in the Escorial, from where he governed all his dominions. Being the son of Charles I and Isabel of Portugal, not only did he receive the territories inherited from his father but he also received the crown of Portugal and all its colonies. During his reign Spain became the most powerful country in the world and the saying “The sun never sets on the Spanish Empire” was invented.
Philip II was a great defender of christianity. He had two important military victories, but also an important defeat.
- At the battle of San Quintín in the north of France, he beat the French. To celebrate his victory which occurred on 10th August 1557, the day of San Lorenzo, he ordered a monastery to be built for the saint in El Escorial.
- At the naval battle of Lepanto, which took place off the Greek coast, Philip II led the so-called Holy League which defeated the Ottoman Empire of the Turks.
His big failure was the confrontation with England for maritime control in all the world which resulted in the defeat of the “Invincible” Armada off the coasts of Scotland and Ireland, due partly to the adverse weather conditions. After this, Philip’s plan to invade England and dethrone Elizabeth I was abandoned.
Philip III (1598- 1621)
Philip III succeeded his father and was known as “The Pious” and was the son of his father’s fourth wife Ana of Austria. Philip III was not interested in affairs of state and relinquished the power to a series of worthies, the first and most famous being the Duke of Lerma.
The most relevant event in his reign was the expulsion of the Moors (Moriscos) who were Muslims who had been forced to convert to Christianity during the reign of the Catholic Kings. Their integration into Spanish society had been very difficult and in 1609 Philip III expelled them from Spain for religious and national security motives.
Philip IV (1621- 1665)
Philip IV succeeded Philip III and was known as the Planet King when he came to the throne at the age of only 16. Like his father he handed over the power to a “worthy”, the Count- Duke of Olivares, who tried to maintain Spanish hegemony in Europe by fighting the Thirty Year War.
Philip IV was a patron of the arts, promoting artistic, literary and theatrical creation. His reign coincided with the so-called “Golden Age” of culture in Spain, with figures like the painter Velázquez, the dramatist Lope de Vega or the poet Quevedo.
Charles II (1665- 1700)
The successor of Philip IV was his son Charles II, known as “The Bewitched”, due to his sickly, weak constitution and his lack of mental capacity.
His reign was characterized by an economic crisis inherited from his father’s reign and by the wars against the France of Louis XIV.
Despite being married twice, Charles II had no descendants, leading to the Spanish War of Succession, which was an international conflict that lasted from 1701 until the signing of the treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
In 1700 he named his successor as Philip of Anjou, grandson of Louis XI, who ascended to the throne of Spain with the name Philip IV, starting the Dynasty of the Bourbons.
With that the Dynasty of the Spanish Austrias came to an end, having been in power for nearly two centuries and coinciding with the most glorious age of the Spanish Empire.
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