Learn Spanish » Spanish Culture Blog » Felipe IV of Spain
Felipe IV, or as he is better known in the English speaking world, Phillip IV, was King of Spain from 1621 until his death in 1665. He reigned in Portugal as Phillip III for a slightly shorter period, up until the year 1640.
Phillip IV was faced with a handful of difficult decisions during his time as King, many of these concerned with relations with both the French and the Dutch.
Phillip IV was King of Spain for a period of 41 years, and of Portugal for 19; famed for his relations with a range of women, and his steadfast Catholic faith.
Phillip was King of Spain during the Thirty Year’s War, a difficult period in European history. On beginning his reign, Phillip joined with the Holy Roman Empire in order to bring about a more assertive foreign policy. Notable aspects of his reign also include the pursuit of a strategy which aimed to negotiate with the Dutch for the benefit of Spain, and the difficult dilemma regarding whether to prioritize Spain’s relations with France during the War of the Mantuan Succession, or the war in Flanders.
His parents were Margaret of Austria and Phillip III. At just 10 years old, Phillip married Elisabeth of France, who was 13 at the time, with whom he went on to have 7 children, only one of which was male. Phillip’s son, Balthazar Charles, sadly died in 1646, at just 16 years old. The way people saw the King changed considerably over time, with many thinking him unnecessarily pious, or to have overly adhered to the concept of ‘religious dignity’. Phillip was also renowned for his keen interests in culture; he frequently visited the theatre and was supposedly particularly strong academically, proficient in several languages. During his youth, Phillip reportedly enjoyed attending ‘academies’, which saw modern literary works enjoyed in a marginally humorous light, yet in terms of his governing style, many considered Phillip’s weaknesses to center on a lack of self-confidence, resulting in excessive delegation. He is also well known for his relations with women; the most famous of his affairs was with famous actress Maria Ines Calderon, who went on to become his mistress, and gave birth to a son, Juan Jose, in 1629.
On inheriting an impressively sized Empire from Phillip III, his father, it was surprising that most issues encountered during his time as King actually stemmed from problems within Spain. In the start of the 17th century, a number of provinces and kingdoms together formed Spain, united via the monarchy of Castile and Phillip IV. Influenced in part by Olivares, his most trusted royal, Phillip made attempts to change the system to reduce chaos and improve efficiency, which involved implementing juntas, committees which aimed to put policies into action more quickly. Other efforts made involved working closely with the church to more carefully monitor the sexual behaviors of priests, and all brothels which had been run legally were shut down under his rule.
King Phillip was also closely associated with religion, with the catholic faith intrinsically weaved into his life, becoming particularly relevant towards his death. He was known for his fascination with the painting Nuestra Señora del Milagro. In fact, during his marriage to Elisabeth, Phillip is reported to have put his children under the painting’s protection, obviously believing in its substantial spiritual value. Phillip’s faith was evident in both his belief that the successes and failures making up his period as King were reflective of God’s judgement, and in the trust he placed in Sister Maria de Agreda, with whom he exchanged hundreds of letters, in the hope that she could, via her faith, have some influence on repairing a struggling Spain.