Early Life of Philip II

The early life of Philip II had a great effect on his later rule as a monarch in Spain and beyond. He was raised primarily by his mother and her ladies in waiting for much of his early childhood, while his father the Holy Roman Emperor was away fighting in the 30 Years War that was raging throughout Europe.[1] After the age of eight, Philip was taken from his mother’s court and given his own household, which he was taught to govern first by the bishop of Cartagena, Juan Martínez Siliceo, and later by Don Juan de Zúñiga, comendador mayor of Castile. From the tutelage of these two powerful men, Philip was instilled with a strong sense of piety and a love of history and the arts, as well as what historian John Lynch refers to as “the early awakening of his political judgment.”[2] These traits endeared and humanized him to many of his nobles and his subjects.[3]

Philip also spent much of his early life attempting to live up to the expectations of Charles V.[4] This can be seen clearly when a portrait of Charles V from 1533, painted by Titian, is compared to one of Philip II, painted in 1548 by the same artist.

Titian, 1533


In this image, Charles V is depicted as a warrior king, much as he was in a later painting which Titian also created, entitled Charles V on Horseback (1548). The depictions are important because of the ongoing wars in which Charles’ empire were embroiled; they make him seem victorious, masculine, and kingly in his armor.[6]

This painting can be compared to a similar painting of Philip II, in the years before he was crowned as king. In 1548, Titian painted Philip II in Armor.

Philip II in Armor, Titian, 1548


In this portrait, Philip II shows that he is following in his father’s footsteps, and demonstrating his ability to be a strong king and leader. He does not, however, hold his sword in his hand like his father, and his armor is lighter and more decorative. Philip was a king who inherited many wars, but unlike his father, he did not fight on the battlefield himself.[8]

[1] Peter Pierson, Philip II of Spain (London: Thames and Hudson, 1975), 15.

[2] John Lynch, Spain 1516-1598: From Nation State to World Empire (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1992), 257.

[3] Ibid, 256.

[4] Ibid, 257.

[5] Titian, 1533, Charles V in Armor, JPG file, ARTstor, http://library.artstor.org.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/library/secure/ViewImages?id=9yVbfj0kJCxdLS04ejl3SXssXw%3D%3D&userId=hzRAcw%3D%3D&zoomparams=.

[6] Patricia Meilman, “An Introduction of Titian: Context and Career,” in The Cambridge Companion to Titian, ed. Patricia Meilman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 26.

[7] Titian, 1548, Philip II in Armor, JPEG file, ARTstor, http://library.artstor.org.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/library/secure/ViewImages?id=%2FThWdC8hIywtPygxFTx5RngoXHsufVs%3D&userId=hzRAcw%3D%3D&zoomparams=

[8] Peter Pierson, Philip II of Spain (London: Thames and Hudson, 1975), 99.

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