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Philip I (22 July 1478 – 25 September 1506; ; ; ; ), known as the Handsome or the Fair, was the son of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. He inherited the greater part of the Duchy of Burgundy and the Burgundian Netherlands (as Philip IV of Burgundy) from his mother, Mary of Burgundy and briefly succeeded to the Kingdom of Castile because he was married to Joanna of Aragon. He was the first Habsburg ruler in Spainmarker and his successors recognized him as Philip I of Spain. He never inherited his father's territories, nor became Holy Roman Emperor, because he predeceased his father.

Having, as a young Prince, met Philip the Handsome at the court of Henry VII, the future King Henry VIII of England regarded the Duke as providing a model of leadership towards which he aspired.


Early life

Philip was born in Brugesmarker, in the County of Flanders (today in Belgiummarker) and was named after his great-grandfather, Philip the Good. In 1482, upon the death of his mother Mary of Burgundy, he succeeded to her Burgundian possessions under the guardianship of his father. A period of turmoil ensued which witnessed sporadic hostilities between, principally, the large towns of Flanders (especially Ghentmarker and Brugesmarker) and the supporters of Maximilian.

During this interregnum, Philip became caught up in events and was even briefly sequestered in Brugesmarker as part of the larger Flemish campaign to support their claims of greater autonomy, which they had wrested from Mary of Burgundy in an agreement known as the Blijde Inkomst or Joyous Entry of 1477. By the early 1490s, the turmoil of the interregnum gave way to an uneasy stand-off, with neither French support for the cities of the Franc (Flanders), nor Imperial support from Maximilian's father Frederick III proving decisive. Both sides came to terms in the Peace of Senlis in 1493, which smoothed over the internal power struggle by agreeing to make the 15-year old Philip prince in the following year.

The Burgundian inheritance and the Spanish alliance

In 1494, Maximilian relinquished his regency under the terms of the Treaty of Senlis and Philip, aged 16, took over the rule of the Burgundian lands himself, although in practice authority was derived from a council of Burgundian notables. On 20 October 1496, he married Infanta Juana, daughter of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, in Lier, Belgiummarker.

The marriage was one of a set of family alliances between the Habsburgs and the Trastámara, designed to strengthen against growing French power, which had increased significantly thanks to the policies of Louis XI and the successful assertion of regal power after war with the League of the Public Weal. The matter became more urgent after Charles VIII's invasion of Italymarker (known as the First Peninsular War).

Philip's sister Margaret married Juan, Prince of Asturias, only son of Ferdinand and Isabella and successor to the unified crowns of Castile and Aragonmarker. The double alliance was never intended to let the Spanish kingdoms fall under Habsburg control. At the time of her marriage to Philip, Juana was third in line to the throne, with Juan and his sister Isabella married and hopeful of progeny.

The Castilian inheritance

In 1500, shortly after the birth in Flanders of Juana and Philip's second child (the future Charles V), the succession to the Castilian and Aragonese crowns was thrown into turmoil. The heir apparent, Don Juan, had died in 1497 very shortly after his marriage to Margaret of Austria. The succession thereby passed to Queen Isabella, who had married King Manuel I of Portugal. She died in 1498, while giving birth to a son, the Infante Miguel, to whom succession to the united crowns of Castile, Aragon and Portugal now fell; however, the infant was sickly, and he died during the summer of 1500. The succession to the Castilian and Aragonese crowns now fell to Juana. Because Ferdinand could conceivably produce another heir, the Cortes of Aragon refused to recognise Juana and Philip as the heirs presumptive to the Kingdom of Aragon. In Castile, however, the succession was clear. Moreover, there was no salic tradition which the Castilian Cortes could use to thwart the succession passing to Juana. At this point, the issue of Juana's mental incompetence moved from courtly annoyance to the centre of the political stage, since it was clear that Philip and his Burgundian entourage would be the real power-holders in Castile.

In 1502, Philip, Juana and a large part of the Burgundian court travelled to Spain to receive fealty from the Cortes of Castile as king, a journey chronicled in intense detail by Antoon I van Lalaing ( ), the future Stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland. Philip and the majority of the court returned to the Low Countries in the following year, leaving a pregnant Juana behind in Madrid, where she gave birth to Ferdinand, later Holy Roman Emperor. Philip's life with Juana was rendered extremely unhappy by his infidelity and political insecurity, during which he consistently attempted to usurp her legal birthrights of power. This led in great part to the rumors of her insanity due to reports of depressive or neurotic acts committed while she was being imprisoned or coerced by her husband; most historians now agree she was merely clinically depressed or schizophrenic at the time, not insane as commonly believed. Before her mother's death, in 1504, husband and wife were already living apart.

Struggle for power in Spain

When Queen Isabella died, King Ferdinand endeavoured to lay hands on the regency of Castile, but the nobles, who disliked and feared him, forced him to withdraw. Philip was summoned to Spain, where he was recognized as king. He landed, with his wife, at La Coruñamarker on 28 April 1506, accompanied by a body of German mercenaries. Father and son-in-law mediated under Cardinal Cisneros at Remesal, near Puebla de Sanabriamarker, and at Renedo, the only result of which was an indecent family quarrel, in which Ferdinand professed to defend the interests of his daughter, who he said was imprisoned by her husband.

A civil war would probably have broken out between them; but Philip, who had only been in Spain long enough to prove his incapacity, died suddenly at Burgosmarker, apparently of typhoid fever, on 25 September 1506. His wife long refused to allow his body to be buried or to part from it.


Philip and Juana of Castile had six children:


Coat of arms of Philip as an Archduke before his marriage.
Coat of arms of Philip as King of Spain.


  1. Hermann Wiesflecker, Maximilian I. und die habsburgische-spanischen Heirats- und Bündnisverträge von 1495-1496, in Mitteilungen des Instituts für österreichische Geschichtsforschung 67 (1959)


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