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The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely

Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley

History of the reign of Philip the Second, king of Spain

by William Hickling Prescott



Introductory Remarks. — Spain under Charles the Fifth. — He prepares to resign the Crown. — His Abdication. — His Return to Spain. — His Journey to Yuste.


In a former work,.I have endeavored to portray the period when the different provinces of Spain were consolidated into one empire under the rule of Ferdinand and Isabella; when, by their wise and beneficent policy, the nation emerged from the obscurity in which it had so long remained behind the Pyrenees, and took its place as one of the great members of the European commonwealth. I now propose to examine a later period in the history of the same nation, — the reign of Philip the Second; when, with resources greatly enlarged, and territory extended by a brilliant career of

VOL. I. l

discovery and conquest, it had risen to the zenith of its power; but when, under the mischievous policy of the administration, it had excited the jealousy of its neighbors, and already disclosed those germs of domestic corruption which gradually led to its dismemberment and decay.

By the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella, most of the states of the Peninsula became united under one common rule; and in 1516, the sceptre of Spain, with its dependencies both in the Old and the New World, passed into the hands of their grandson, Charles the Fifth, who, though he shared the throne nominally with his mother, Joanna, became, in consequence of her incapacity, the real sovereign of this vast empire. He had before inherited, through his- father, Philip the Handsome, that fair pojrtion of the ducal realm of Burgundy which comprehended Franche Comte and the Netherlands. In 1519, he was elected to the imperial crown of Germany. Not many years elapsed before his domain was still further enlarged by the barbaric empires of Mexico and Peru; and Spain then first realized the magnificent vaunt, since so often repeated, that the sun never set within the borders of her dominions.

Yet the importance of Spain did not rise with the importance of her acquisitions. She was, in a manner, lost in the magnitude of these acquisitions. Some of the rival nations which owned the sway of Charles, in Europe, were of much greater importance than Spain, and attracted much more attention from their contemporaries. In the earlier period of that monarch's reign, there was a moment when a contest was going forward in Castile, of the deepest interest to mankind. Unfortunately, the "War of the Conmnidades," as it was termed, was soon closed by the ruin of the patriots; and, on the memorable field of Villalar, the liberties of Spain received a blow from which they were destined not to recover for centuries. From that fatal hour, — the bitter fruit of the jealousy of castes and the passions of the populace, — an unbroken tranquillity reigned throughout the country; such a tranquillity as naturally flows not from a free and well-conducted government, but from a despotic one. In this political tranquillity, however, the intellect of Spain did not slumber. . Sheltered from invasion by the barrier of the Pyrenees, her people M ere allowed to cultivate the arts of peace, so long as they did not meddle with polities or religion, — in other words, with the great interests of humanity; while the more adventurous found a scope for their prowess in European wars, or in exploring the boundless regions of the Western world.

While there was so little passing in Spain to attract the eye of the historian, Germany became the theatre of one of those momentous struggles which have had a permanent influence on the destinies of mankind. It. was in this reign that the great battle of religious liberty was begun; and the attention and personal presence of Charles were necessarily demanded most In the country where that battle was to be fought. But a small part of his life was passed in Spain, in comparison with what he spent in other parts of his dominions. His early attachments, his lasting sympathies, were with the people of the Netherlands; for Flanders was the place of his birth. He spoke the language of that country more fluently than the Castilian; although he knew the various languages of his dominions so well, that he could address his subjects from every quarter in their native dialect. In the same manner, he could accommodate himself to their peculiar national manners and tastes. But this flexibility was foreign to the genius of the Spaniard. Charles brought nothing from Spain but a religious zeal, amounting to bigotry, which took deep root in a melancholy temperament inherited from his mother. His tastes were all Flemish. He introduced the gorgeous ceremonial of the Burgundian court into his own palace, and into the household of his son. He drew his most trusted and familiar counsellors from Flanders; and this was one great cause of the troubles which, at the beginning of his reign, distracted Castile. There was little to gratify the pride of the Spaniard in the position which he occupied at the imperial court. Charles regarded Spain chiefly for the resources she afforded for carrying on his ambitious enterprises. When he visited her, it was usually to draw supplies from the cortes. The Spaniards understood this, and bore less affection to his person than to many of their monarchs far inferior to him in the qualities for exciting it. They hardly regarded him as one of the nation. There was, indeed, nothing national in the reign of Charles. His most intimate relations were with Germany; and as the Emperor Charles the Fifth of Germany, not as King Charles the First of Spain, he wag known in his own time, and stands recorded on the pages of history.

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