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Philip IV ( , 8 April 1605 – 17 September 1665) was King of Spain between 1621 and 1665, sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands, and King of Portugal (as Philip III, ) until 1640. On the eve of his death in 1665, the Spanish empire reached its territorial zenith spanning almost 3 billion acres. He is best remembered for the "astonishing enthusiasm" with which he collected art.


Philip IV was born in Valladolidmarker, and was the eldest son of Philip III and his wife Margaret of Austria. Philip IV's reign, after a few years of inconclusive successes, was characterized by political and military decay and adversity. He has been held responsible for the decline of Spain, which was mostly due, however, to organic causes largely beyond the control of any one ruler. Philip certainly possessed more energy, both mental and physical, than his diffident father. His handwritten translation of Francesco Guicciardini's texts on political history still exists, and he was a fine horseman and keen hunter.

His artistic taste is shown by his patronage of his court painter Diego Velázquez; his love of letters by his favouring Lope de Vega, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, and other distinguished dramatists. He is credited, on fairly probable testimony, with a share in the composition of several comedies. He also commenced the building of the Buen Retiro palacemarker in Madrid, parts of which still remain near the Prado.
His good intentions were no avail to governance, however. Feeling himself not yet qualified to rule when he ascended to the throne at age 16, he allowed himself to be guided by the most capable men he could find. His favourite, Olivares, was a far more honest and capable man than his predecessor the Duke of Lerma, and better fitted for the office of chief minister than any Spaniard of the time, perhaps. Philip, however, lacked the confidence to free himself from Olivares's influence once he did come of age. With Olivares's encouragement, he rather busied himself with frivolous amusements.

On 1 December 1640, an uprising took place in Lisbonmarker expelling King Philip IV of Spain (Philip III of Portugal) from the Portuguese throne, giving it to the Braganzas. This was the end of 60 years of the Iberian Union and the beginning of the Portuguese Restoration War (lost by the Habsburgs).

By 1643, when disasters falling on all sides led to the dismissal of the all-powerful minister, Philip had largely lost the power to devote himself to hard work. After a brief struggle with the task of directing the administration of the most extensive and worst-organized multi-national state in Europe, he sank back into indolence and let other favourites govern.

In July of that year, on his way to battle in Zaragoza, he sought the advice of a noted cloistered abbess, Sor Maria de Agreda, whose convent was along the route. He asked her to correspond with him, and to advise him in spiritual matters. The two became regular correspondents throughout the remainder of their lives, documented in over 600 confidential letters between them over a period of twenty-two years.

His political opinions were those he had inherited from his father and grandfather. He thought it his duty to support the House of Habsburg and the cause of the Roman Catholic Church against the Protestants, to assert his sovereignty over the Dutch, and to extend the dominions of his family. The utter exhaustion of his people in the course of perpetual war, against the Netherlandsmarker, Francemarker, Portugal, Protestant forces in the Holy Roman Empire, and Englandmarker, was seen by him with sympathy but he considered it an unavoidable misfortune, since he could not have been expected to renounce his legitimate rights, or to desert what he viewed as the cause of God, the Church and the House of Habsburg.

He was idealised by his contemporaries as the model of Baroque kingship. Outwardly he maintained a bearing of rigid solemnity, and was seen to laugh only three times in the course of his entire public life. But, in private, his court was grossly corrupt. Victorian historians prudishly attributed the early death of his eldest son, Baltasar Carlos, to debauchery, encouraged by the gentlemen entrusted by the king with his education. Doctors that treated the Prince at that time diagnosed smallpox, although modern scholars attribute his death to appendicitis. The death of his son shocked the king. Philip IV died broken-hearted in 1665, expressing the pious hope that his surviving son, Carlos, would be more fortunate than himself. On his death, a catafalque was built in Rome to commemorate his life.


Philip's ancestors in two generations
Philip IV of Spain, III of Portugal Father:

Philip III of Spain, II of Portugal
Father's father:

Philip II of Spain, I of Portugal
Father's father's father:

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Father's father's mother:

Isabella of Portugal
Father's mother:

Anna of Austria
Father's mother's father:

Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor
Father's mother's mother:

Maria of Spain

Margaret of Austria
Mother's father:

Charles II, Archduke of Austria
Mother's father's father:

Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother's father's mother:

Anna of Bohemia and Hungary
Mother's mother:

Maria Anna of Bavaria
Mother's mother's father:

Albert V, Duke of Bavaria
Mother's mother's mother:

Anna of Austria


With Elizabeth of France (1603–1644, daughter of Henry IV of France) — married 1615 at Burgosmarker

With Mariana of Austria (1634–1696) - his niece - 1649

With Maria Calderon{a}

In fiction

  • Philip was satirized as the Black King in Thomas Middleton's A Game at Chess.
  • The novel The king Amaz'd by the Spanish novelist Gonzalo Torrente Ballester is an ironic portrait of the early years of Philip IV's reign. The movie , based on the novel, was directed by Imanol Uribe and features Gabino Diego as Philip in his early reign.
  • Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte depicts difficult social, political and military conditions during the reign of Philip IV in his series of bestselling novels starring the swashbuckler Captain Alatriste.
  • Frances Parkinson Keyes, a prolific American Catholic author, wrote I, The King, memorializing in her title a translation of the traditional regal signature of Spanish kings ("Yo, El Rey"). Her novel highlights the most influential women in Philip IV's life, who according to her were: his first wife Elizabeth of France, his mistress Calderon, and his spiritual advisor Maria de Agreda.
  • The children's novel I, Juan de Pareja (a Newbery award winner by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino) chronicles, in part, the period of painter Diego Velazquez's life spent in Philip IV's court as court painter. Philip IV is portrayed as sensitive, shy, and kind-hearted.
  • The king is also depicted in the Spanish language film, Capitane Alatriste, starring Viggo Mortensen.


  1. Andrew Graham-Dixon.
  2. Hume, Martin. Court of Philip IV: Spain in Decline, (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907)

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