The Resilience of the Spanish Monarchy, 1665-1700

The Resilience of the Spanish Monarchy, 1665-1700

The Resilience of the Spanish Monarchy, 1665-1700

The Resilience of the Spanish Monarchy, 1665-1700


Christopher Storrs presents a fresh new appraisal of the reasons for the survival of Spain and its European and overseas empire under the last Spanish Habsburg, Carlos II (1665-1700). Hitherto it has been largely assumed that in the 'Age of Louis XIV' Spain collapsed as a military, naval and imperial power, and only retained its empire because states which had hitherto opposed Spanish hegemony came to Carlos's aid. However, this view seriously underestimates the efforts of Carlos II and his ministers to raise men to fight in Spain's various armies - above all in Flanders, Lombardy, and Catalonia - and to ensure that Spain continued to have galleons in the Atlantic and galleys in the Mediterranean. These commitments were expensive, so that the fiscal pressures on Carlos' subjects to fund the empire continued to be considerable. Not surprisingly, these demands added to the political tensions in a reign in which the succession problem already generated difficulties. They also put pressure on an administrative structure which revealed some weaknesses but which also proved its worth in time of need. The burden of empire was still largely carried in Spain by Castile (assisted by the silver of the Indies), but Spain's ability to hang onto empire was also helped by a greater integration of centre and periphery, and by the contribution of the non-Castilian territories, notably Aragon in Spain and Naples in Spanish Italy. This book radically revises our understanding ofthe last decades of Habsburg Spain. As Storrs demonstrates, it was a state and society more clearly committed to the retention of empire - and more successful in achieving this - than historians have hitherto acknowledged.


Many think it a miracle that the Monarchy is still in existence

Venetian ambassador, 1681—

The present state of Spain; which howwretched soever it may seem to others,
they are in their own conceit very happy, believing themselves still the great
est nation in the world; and are now as proud and haughty as in the days of
Charles the Fifth

English envoy in Madrid, 1699

The decline of spain

In 1665 the 4-year-old Carlos ii succeeded his father, Philip iv, as king of Spain, and head of the Spanish Monarchy, or the worldwide Spanish empire. Philip had concluded (1659) the Peace of the Pyrenees with Louis xiv of France, ending a long conflict, but was still attempting to reimpose by force of arms his dominion over the Portuguese (in revolt since 1640). However, the war was not going well and in 1668 Carlos II—or rather his mother, Mariana of Austria, ruling as Regent—reluctantly acknowledged Portugal’s independence. of the Portuguese dominions acquired nearly a century earlier by Philip ii, Carlos retained only the outpost of Ceuta in north Africa, while Portugal remained a security problem for the rest of the century. Additional pressure to end the Portuguese war came with the renewal of war with France. in 1667 Louis xiv launched his so-called ‘War of Devolution’, asserting a claim to Spanish Flanders (on behalf of his wife, Carlos II’s half-sister), by exploiting the so-called law of devolution (in breach of her renunciation of any claim on the Spanish succession as part of her marriage settlement in 1659). the war, fought out in Catalonia, Flanders, and Franche Comté, was a disaster for Spain. the forces of Louis xiv carried all before them. Spain’s ability to fend off the French monarch’s assault was not eased by the fact

G. Brenan, The Spanish Labyrinth (Cambridge, 1943; 1990), 17.

Alexander Stanhope to marquis of Normanby, 6 Jan. 1699, in Lord Makon, Spain under Charles the Second, 2nd edn. (London, 1844), 152.

R. Stradling, ‘A Spanish Statesman of Appeasement: Medina de las Torres and Spanish policy, 1639–70’, hj, 19 (1976), 1–31.

R. Pérez-Bustamante, El Gobierno dellmperio Español (Madrid, 2000), 324

On 27 July the town of Lille—whose inhabitants had declared their loyalty to Carlos II— surrendered after a siege of just two weeks and in the presence of 4,200 (Spanish) troops, Maura, Carlos ii y su Corte, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1911), i. 320; and G. Bossenga, The Politics of Privilege. Old

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