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Philip III ( ; 14 April 1578 – 31 March 1621) was the King of Spainmarker and King of Portugal and the Algarvesmarker, where he ruled as Philip II of Portugal ( ), from 1598 until his death. His chief minister was the Duke of Lerma. Philip III married Margaret of Austria, sister of Emperor Ferdinand II, and like her husband, a member of the House of Habsburg.

Born in Madridmarker, the son of Philip II of Spain and his fourth wife (and niece) Anna, daughter of the Emperor Maximilian II and Maria of Spain. He shared the viewpoints and beliefs of his father, including his piety, but did not inherit his industry. The diligent old king had sorrowfully confessed that God had not given him a son capable of governing his vast dominions, and that he had foreseen that Philip III would be led by his servants. This assessment ultimately proved correct. In the view of historian J. H. Elliott, his "only virtue appeared to reside in a total absence of vice".

The new king put the direction of his government entirely into the hands of his favourite, the Duke of Lerma, Francisco Goméz de Sandoval y Rojas, and when he fell under the influence of Lerma's son, Cristóbal de Sandoval, the Duke of Uceda in 1618, he trusted himself and his states to the new favourite. Unlike his father, Philip was not interested in the day-to-day business of government. He spent many months each year travelling to different palaces with his court, away from the government centre. His household costs rose enormously at a time of falling income.

He died at Madrid on 31 March, 1621. The story told in the memoirs of the French ambassador Bassompierre, that he was killed by the heat of a brasero (a pan of hot charcoal), because the proper official to take it away was not at hand, is a humorous exaggeration of the formal etiquette of the court.

Domestic policy

The policies of the Duke of Lerma were aimed towards the maintenance of international peace, the expulsion of the Moors and personal enrichment; as much economic as political.

Throughout his reign, institutional reforms followed one after another to solve the problems of corruption and inefficiency that plagued the administration of the Monarchy: apart from the changes introduced in the traditional system of Counselors, resources were extended to the Juntas, bodies responsible for decreasing the power of royal favorites, in order to create a more agile and coherent government, but they didn't produce the desired result. The financial problems that Philip II had left behind made the king dependent on the Cortes, who had to meet more frequently than their predecessors in order to grant the resources to run the empire.

The most significant domestic policy acts during the reign of Philip III were the expulsion of the Moors from the Iberian Peninsulamarker and the adoption of the coins of a copper and silver alloy for domestic money transactions.

Expulsion of the Moriscos (1609–1614)

In 1609, Philip issued a decree for the expulsion of the Moriscos (descendants of Muslims who converted to Christianity) from Spain. The idea was proposed by Juan de Ribera, Archbishop and Viceroy of Valencia. Reasons included:

  • Accused collaboration with the Barbary Pirates to attack the coast
  • Their unpopularity among the people, especially in Valencia
  • The gain to the royal treasury from seizing the assets of 4% of the population

Between 1609 and 1614 they began to leave the peninsula. To accomplish this, the Navy and 30,000 soldiers were mobilized with the mission of transporting the Moriscos to Tunismarker or Morrocomarker. Approximately 300,000 Moriscos were expelled.

This measure significantly damaged the economies of the Kingdom of Valencia, Aragonmarker, and Murciamarker. Both the supply of cheap labour and the number of rent paying property owners in these areas decreased considerably. The cultivation of sugar and rice had to be substituted for white mulberry, vineyards, and wheat.

Dismissal of the Duke of Lerma (1618)

In 1618 the corruption grew to an intolerable level in the Court of Madrid. The King dismissed the Duke of Lerma and named the duke's son as his successor, the Duke of Uceda, whom he sent to detain Rodrigo Calderón, a figure emblematic of the administration of his father.

Foreign policy


With the ascension to the throne of James I of England, succeeding his cousin Elizabeth, it became possible to end the Anglo–Spanish War which had been dragging on since 1585 and was far too costly for both countries. In August of 1604 the Treaty of London was signed.


Philip II of Spain had bequeathed his remaining territories in the Low Countries to his daughter Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain and her husband, Archduke Albert, under the condition that if she died without any heirs, the land would return to the Spanish Crown. What later would be known as the Eighty Year's War of independence had been going on since 1568; a new war strategy resulted in a re-establishment of Spanish power on the north side of the great rivers Meusemarker and Rhinemarker, stepping up the military pressure on the rebel provinces. However, the Southern Netherlands - still under Spanish control - and the Dutch Republic in the north - dominated by Calvinist Protestants - were both exhausted. The Twelve Years' Truce that was signed, taking effect in 1609, did enable the Southern Netherlands to recover, but it was a de facto recognition of the independence of the Dutch Republic and many European powers established diplomatic relations with it. The truce did not stop its commercial and colonial expansion into the Caribbean and the East-Indies, although Spain had tried to impose the liquidation of the Dutch East India Company as a treaty condition. Minor concessions of the Dutch Republic were the scrapping of the plan to create a Dutch West India Company and to stop the harassment of the Portuguese in Asia. Both concessions were temporary as the Dutch soon recommenced their preying upon Portuguese interests, which had already lead to the Dutch-Portuguese War in 1602 and would continue till 1654. At least with the peace in Europe, the Twelve Year's truce gave Philip's regime an opportunity to improve its financial position.

France and Italy

With the death of Henry IV of France - a supporter of the war against Spain - a period of instability commenced in the Kingdom of France. The Duke of Osuna, viceroy of Naples, the Marquess of Villafranca, and the Governor of Milan directed the Spanish policy in Italy that encountered resistance from the Kingdom of Savoy and the Republic of Venice. To secure the connection between Milan and the Netherlands a new route was opened through Valtellina, then part of the independent state of the Three Leagues (the present day canton of Graubündenmarker, Switzerland) and in 1618 the plot of Venice occurred in which the authorities engaged in the persecution of pro-Spanish agents.

Thirty Years' War

Confrontation between the Catholics and Protestants in Bohemia.

Intervention of Philip III of Spain (1618–1621)

Emperor Ferdinand II Habsburg asked the Spanish branch of his family for help to put down the rebellion of the Protestant Czechs.

Spain, allied with Austria and Bavaria confronted the Bohemian Protestants supported by the Electoral Palatinate. The Spanish troops headed by Ambrosio Spinola in the Palatinate and by Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly in Bohemia, achieved victory against the Czechs in the Battle of White Mountainmarker.


Like many Habsburgs, Philip III was the product of a great deal of inbreeding by his forebears. His father, Philip II, a product of marriage between first cousins, married his niece, Anna of Austria, herself the product of a cousin couple. Philip III in turn married his first cousin once removed, Margaret of Austria. This pattern would continue in the next generation, ultimately culminating in the end of the Spanish Habsburg line in the person of Philip's feeble grandson, Charles II.


Philip married Margaret of Austria. They had the following children:
Name Birth Death Notes
Anna Maria Mauricia 22 September 1601 20 January 1666 Married Louis XIII, King of France (1601–1643) in 1615. Had issue.
Maria 1 February 1603 2 February 1603 Died in childhood.
Philip IV, King of Spain 8 April 1605 17 September 1665 Married (1) Elisabeth of Bourbon (1603–1644) in 1615. Had issue. Married (2) Mariana of Austria (1634–1696) in 1649. Had issue.
Maria Anna Margarita 18 August 1606 13 May 1646 Married Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor (1608–1657) in 1631. Had issue.
Carlos 14 September, 1607 30 July 1632 Died unmarried.
Ferdinand 16 May 1609 9 November 1641 The Cardinal-Infante. He had an illegitimate daughter (nun).
Margarita Francisca 24 May 1610 11 March 1617 Died in childhood.
Alfonso Mauricio 22 September 1611 16 September 1612 Died in childhood.

See also


  1. J. H. Elliott, Imperial Spain: 1469–1716, London: Penguin, 1963, pp. 300–301.
  2. Kamen, Spain: 1469–1714, London: Longman, 1991, ISBN 0582067235, p. 200.


  • See also Philip Allen, Philip III and the Pax Hispanica.

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