Kings & Queens of Spain

In the fifteenth century, the landmass of modern Spain was made up of the Christian Kingdoms of Castile & Leon, Aragon (including the County of Barcelona and the Kingdoms of Valencia and Majorca), Navarre, and the Moorish Kingdom of Granada. Castile was the largest, and wealthiest of the Christian Kingdoms. Inherited by Isabella I in 1475, it was joined in personal union with Aragon through her marriage to Ferdinand II of Aragon. They effectively ruled a united country, conquering Granada in 1492. In 1512, Ferdinand grabbed the portion of Navarre that was south of the Pyrenees and subsumed it into Aragon.

On the death of Isabella in 1504, the joint kingdom fell apart. Isabella’s heir was her eldest surviving child, Juana, married to the Duke of Burgundy. Juana and Philip arrived in Castile to take control, but Ferdinand was unwilling to let go. Juana was dominated by her husband, and, on his death in 1506, Ferdinand used the excuse of her fragile mental state to re-take control as Regent (it is not really clear at this distance whether she was genuinely ‘mad’ as she was described at the time or the victim of politics and greed).

On Ferdinand’s death in 1516, Charles, son of Juana was proclaimed as her-co-ruler in both Castile and Aragon, and was, effectively, King of Spain, until he abdicated in 1556, in favour of his son, Philip II.

Philip II ruled until 1598. Detail-obsessed, he struggled to delegate and wore himself out with trying to keep his vast lands together, particularly the Low Countries which wanted both political and religious freedom. He married four times, his fourth wife also being his niece, by whom he had an heir, Philip III.

Philip III’s reign was of mixed success – economic decline, famine and plague dogged the first decades, but he achieved peace with the Netherlands and England and an impressive victory in the opening years of the Thirty Years War. Philip III married another cousin (the Hapsburgs were now so inter-bred that their health was suffering and leading to high infant mortality).

His son, Philip IV, ruled over Spain during the height of its baroque magnificence, although its power and influence declined as France became dominant.

Monarch Dates of Reign Spouse(s)
Philip II 16 January 1556 – 13 September 1598 Maria Manuela of Portugal
Mary I, Queen of England
Elisabeth of Valois
Anne of Austria
Philip III 13 September 1598 – 13 March 1621 Margaret of Austria
Philip IV 13 March 1621 – 1 December 1640 Elisabeth of France
Marianna of Austria