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Explain the external problems Spain faced on the accession of Philip II in 1556 and comment on Philip's style of leadership.

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Introduction

1.i) When Philip became king in 1556, he inherited one of the largest empires in Europe. However with an empire meant he faced many threats from foreign countries. Philip was concerned about his Mediterranean possessions due to the threat from the Turks. He had to deal with their attacks and also pirate raids on Spain's southern coastline, and there was also continuous fear of the spread of Islam from the Muslim Turks. There were also fears of France, which was Spain's traditional enemy as the two countries bordered each other. The Habsburg-Valois wars had dragged on for decades and Philip had to make sure he did not lose this for the sake of the Hapsburg dynasty and his reputation. England at the time was less of a threat to Philip, as he was married to Mary Tudor. However he was still concerned as the English people were generally hostile towards the Spanish and he had to be careful not to push any Protestants in England into revolt. ...read more.

Middle

Philip also established a permanent capital in Madrid in his native Castile and used the Castilian Cortes as his principal court. He had the best postal system in Europe but letters from distant parts of his empire still took days to reach him, so often his officers were left frustrated as Philip insisted on making the decisions himself. Philip was unable to delegate jobs and he was also very distrustful of his subjects. Therefore there was never one person other than Philip in dominant position of power and the government was full of faction fighting. Philip used this to his advantage by playing the factions against each other so that no one faction was in control and they all had to work to please him. This was demonstrated in the rivalry of the Eboli and Alva factions. When Philip's personal secretary died both Eboli and Alva pushed for their candidates to take the job and Philip characteristically divided the post between them. After the death of Eboli the faction fighting continued between Perez and Alva, with Philip removing both from power in 1579. ...read more.

Conclusion

Philip was also unable to have all the nobility obeying him at will. This is particularly reflected in Philip's constant need for more money to finance his wars. The Cortes at times rejected his demands for new taxes or attached conditions for their approval. The nobility were often wealthy landowners and well established families in their areas so Philip needed their support to be able to govern effectively. This meant he could not force his will upon them if they objected and thus he had to be careful not to upset the noble classes. This need was particularly reinforced by the Aragon revolt when some nobles of Aragon even called for war against Philip for fear of their freedom being jeopardized. Therefore I think that Philip tried his hardest to follow his father's advice and Charles's words very much shaped how the government was run. However this was not completely feasible in reality as a monarch had to rely on his subjects in order to run a country. However Philip did well to make sure none of his subjects became too significant in government and he always kept the most power, so he did manage to follow Charles's advice to a large extent. ...read more.

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