How a ruler of XVI century fought for purity of race and military glory of country

One Austrian, a great lover of order and discipline, by the way, was very depressed by the financial crisis and the number of foreigners in his country. He decided that life would get better if we get rid of the aliens, and to begin with, he proclaimed the principles of the purity of the nation.

If it seems to you that further there will be a speech about Germany of the twentieth century, then you have missed a little. Everything described happened in Spain in the seventeenth century. The Austrian was Austrian only by blood and by “citizenship” – Spaniard and his name were Philip III.

Germans on the Spanish throne

The Habsburg dynasty became famous not only for its love of marriages with not too distant relatives and protruding chins but also because it occupied a good half of Europe’s royal thrones with the help of many dynastic marriages. So the first German blood king of Spain also did not conquer the country with fire and sword but successfully married.

The chosen one of Philip, known under the nickname Handsome, was the child of the very Isabella of Castile, who equipped the expedition of Columbus so that he would find the way to Asia across the Atlantic Ocean. The girl’s name was Joanna. In general, she was not originally the heir to the Spanish crown: the throne was awaiting her brother, John.

But the young man did not live to be twenty years old, catching some illness. So, according to Isabella’s will, the throne passed to Philip’s wife.

By that time, Joanna had already begun to show signs of mental illness. She was unable to rule herself. The question was, who will be her regent: father, king of Aragon, or husband? The Spanish Cortes have chosen a husband. But in any case, Joanna would be inherited by her children, representatives of the Habsburgs.

As we remember, in the habits of the Habsburgs were marriages with relatives. The parents of Philip III, a champion of the purity of Spanish blood, were each other’s uncle and niece. However, at least in an obvious way, this did not affect his health in any way. Philip III was a handsome blond boy with regular facial features and grew into a healthy, proportionally built man of good appearance.

Philip himself married, by the way, his second cousin Margaret, whose parents were each other’s uncle and niece. Looking ahead, let’s say that their son later married his sister’s daughter, and we will be glad that all these Habsburgs, at least, did not attack their sisters but waited for them to give birth to their wives.

At the same time, the grandson of Philip III became the last Habsburg on the throne of Spain and suffered from mental retardation and impotence. This did not stop him from marrying his second cousin at all. It must be so, but he could not make children for her.

Energetic young leader

After his father’s death, Philip III ascended the throne, the nobles were almost in love with him. After the passive old monarch, Philip seemed like the epitome of energy. He rushed on a grand scale to restore Spain’s greatness in the field of foreign policy.

Philip gathered and sent to Ireland a gigantic fleet, the Armada, to help the Catholic rebels throw off the yoke of Protestant Britain. The large-scale operation, however, failed. The troops missed the landing site and, as a result, were late for the start of the decisive battle.

At the same time, Philip was full of intentions to destroy the old pirate nest – Algeria. Not for the sake of treasures, of course, but to restore order to the Mediterranean. Philip was generally a big fan of order. Everything that only caught his eye, he immediately strictly regulated. Court etiquette reached an unprecedented complexity. The Grand, helping the monarch put on the vest in the morning, would not dare to pour him a glass of wine. The new etiquette did not give the slightest room for maneuver either in actions or in conversations. The Spaniards were wary of him.

But Algeria also failed. The Spanish fleet never reached its shores, having turned earlier. The pirates continued to feel at ease in the Mediterranean.

Spanish ships fight the Barbary corsairs
©Cornelis Hendrix Vrom – Spanish ships fight the Barbary corsairs

But at first, everything went well with Holland. The commander of the troops sent out victorious reports. Military luck was on his side for about two years. Then the Dutch began to press the Spaniards again on their lands.

All this soon disappointed the nobility. In addition, they expected from the beginning that Philip would tackle the economic crisis in which his father left the country with the same vigor. But all the projects of the young king turned into high costs for the treasury without any effect, the people were taxed with more and more taxes, and against this background, they became impoverished, and life in the palace was arranged more and more magnificent.

Save Spain from foreigners.

Philip III did not remain so disconnected from reality for long. In the end, either someone directly informed him about the plight of Spain, or he, having looked into the papers with the accounts, guessed. Of course, as a monarch, Philip had to find out what the causes of the crisis were, outline ways out of it, and appoint those responsibly.

Philip connected the first with the second, appointing the guilty instead of those responsible. Even after accession to the throne, he issued a memorandum emphasizing the importance of the purity of Spanish blood and their priority over the nobility of the family.

It is pretty logical that with such views, he found the guilty among the foreigners. If it had been in the XIV century, it would have been the Marranos – baptized Jews, but the Marranos had already completely disappeared into the Spanish population by that time.

The most significant ethnic minority in Spain in the early 17th century was the Moriscos, the descendants of the Arab conquerors who converted to Catholicism. They were fully integrated into Spanish society and flourished as artisans and merchants.

Eager to please others, they tried so hard that Catholic priests admired their honesty, hard work, mercy, and high morality, lamenting, however, the lack of true holiness – for example, the Moriscos were not in the habit of becoming monks. The latter, by the way, aroused the anger of the champions of the purity of Spanish blood since it was considered a means of avoiding population decline. They breed, they say, like rabbits, while the Spaniards restrain themselves, either promising their children to God, then going to monasteries themselves.

In general, everything was evident with the moriscos. Philip III announced that they were trying to monopolize trade and handicrafts and, in general, very much interfere with Spain’s prosperity.

The Moriscos were deported. For deportation (transportation by ships), they had to pay out of their pocket. All real estate and property that could not be taken with them became the property of the feudal lords. Nevertheless, many feudal lords defended the Moriscos and obtained notes for the deportation decree, according to which, to preserve infrastructure, in areas inhabited mainly by Moriscos, 6 out of 100 families could remain.

Since sea travel was hazardous, the king graciously allowed to leave children under four years old to be raised by Catholic families. The Moriscos preferred to leave the babies to those six families out of a hundred that remained. In total, about 300,000 Arab Spaniards left the country.

Nevertheless, the economy from such a decisive measure did not rise but even seemed to shake. In some areas, handicrafts have fallen into disrepair. The feudal lords who ruled the villages of the Moriscos and received their houses and shops for themselves, but lost their taxes, rapidly became poorer.

Then Philip resorted to even more radical measures. In 1492, the Spaniards integrated the migrants from the Byzantine Empire, the gypsies, who appeared in the country.

King Philip III died in the prime of life.
King Philip III died in the prime of life.

In the adopted decree, it was ordered to expel those who were not engaged in crafts. The Gypsies themselves were strictly called to elect a feudal lord for themselves, accept Catholicism, speak only understandable Spanish, and not practice the incomprehensible Gypsy language.

Although there was a hitch with the abandonment of the language, a large number of Roma remained in the country. Like the Moriscos, they did not go to monasteries, and although it seems that they did not even close to monopolizing trade, it is possible that they plundered the entire country before the reign of Philip III. So five years after the end of the deportation of the Spanish Arabs, Philip deported all the Roma. There was no one else to expel based on nationality, so we had to wait for prosperity and abundance to begin.

Unfortunately, the country continued to fall into crisis, the peasants became impoverished and hungry, the feudal lords went bankrupt, and international debts grew further. Perhaps the king would have come up with some other effective measure, but two years later, he died. His death was rumored to be full of order and discipline. After drinking wine after the hunt, the king fell asleep in an armchair by the fireplace.

A spark fell on the chair, and it caught fire. For a long time and, perhaps, with pleasure, the courtiers were looking for the only grandee who, according to etiquette, was allowed to move the king’s chair. Meanwhile, the king was burned down.

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