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Explain how Philip II became King of Portugal in 1581. Although Philip II devoted most of his time to foreign affairs, his foreign policy was a failure. To what extent would you accept this verdict?

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Introduction

4i) Philip became King of Portugal in 1581, and it was one of his biggest successes in foreign policy. Portugal's King Sebastian was killed in battle and he had no children, so his 66 year old uncle Henry succeeded him. When Henry also died childless Portugal was left without an obvious heir. Philip had a claim to the throne through his mother and he was quick to respond and used a variety of methods to secure the throne. Philip acquired the allegiance of the nobility through bribes and promised them rewards if they supported his claim. The church and many merchants also supported Philip as they wanted a strong powerful monarch. Another claimant, the Duchess of Braganca, was satisfied with the release of her son from prison in Seville and the promises of lands. His main difficulty was winning over the peasant who supported Henry's brother's illegitimate son, Don Antonio. Foreign powers such as England supported Don Antonio so Philip acted quickly. ...read more.

Middle

A truce was signed in 1578 followed by a formal peace treaty in 1580. This allowed Philip to concentrate on the other European powers such as France and England whilst the Turks turned towards the east. Spain lost most of its African possessions but his policy was not a total failure and he never aimed to conquer the Turks but merely to contain them. The rivalry with France lasted much longer. The Habsburgs and Valois were at war since before Philip, and he wanted to preserve the Hapsburg dynasty. He was tested soon after his ascension with the Pope forming a pact with the French. Henry II then planned to attack Spanish lands in Italy and Philip reacted first by sending an army to Rome. French attacks on Milan failed and Philip earned a great name for himself by offering no conditions for withdrawing his army. He then had further successes at St. Quentin where the Spanish army achieved another great victory. ...read more.

Conclusion

Finally war broke out in 1585 with the Armada and crushing naval defeat for Philip. In this case his policy mostly failed as he lost all hopes of restoring Catholicism in England whilst also damaging his reputation with the military losses. One major success was the addition of Portugal to his empire. Philip had always wanted to expand his territory, and his acquirement of Portugal was achieved almost bloodlessly by clever bribes and threats. He also ensured minimal trouble from the area by letting the area retain their tradition. There were negatives such as the need to defend the Portuguese coastline and the threat from other claimant, but Portugal gave Philip an impressive navy, more overseas possessions and also a great boost to his reputation, so in this case his policy was a great success. Overall Philip's foreign policy was definitely not a total failure. He did fail in his aim restoring Catholicism in England, but achieved his aim of containing the Turks, preserving the dynast and expanding his empire with Portugal. Therefore his foreign policy can only be seen as part failures. ...read more.

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