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January 16, 1556 – Philip II Ascends the Spanish Throne

Philip II, portrait by Titian c. 1554
Philip II, portrait by Titian c. 1554 (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Philip became King of Spain about a year and a half after he married Mary I, so he was already King of England and Ireland (under the terms of the Marriage Agreement, he was entitled to enjoy Mary’s titles and honors for as long as their marriage should last). That said, fun fact: he needed a special papal dispensation to assume the title of King of Ireland. That title had been created by Henry VIII in 1542…after he was excommunicated so it didn’t “count” to Catholic monarchs. To fix the situation, in 1556 Pope Paul IV issued a bull recognizing Philip and Mary as rightful King and Queen of Ireland – the first papal courtesy shown England in more than twenty years, since Pope Clement VII agreed in 1533 that Thomas Cranmer could be consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury…

And this was not even Philip’s third crown – his father (Charles V) had wanted to make sure that Philip’s marriage to Mary would be seen as a marriage between equals, so right before the wedding he ceded the crown of Naples ad Sicily, as well as all claim to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Nor would it be Philip’s last crown – he added the Kingdom of Portugal in 1580.

Anyway. Philip came to the throne not because Charles V died, but because he conducted a series of abdications that divided his domains between his son Philip (representing the Spanish Hapsburgs) and Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria (representing the Austrian Hapsburgs) before retiring to the Monastery of Yuste in Extremadura to devote the remainder of his life to prayer (the monastery had to be expanded to make room for the 50-60 person entourage he brought with him; he died a year later). Philip did visit several times, likely to seek advice on how to run dominions saddled with issues (including religious division, a bankrupt treasury, the revival of the Italian Wars and the continuing fights with the Ottomans…). But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, there is nothing but congratulations on this accession.

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