Charles II of Spain
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (December 2008)|
|Reign||17 September 1665 – 1 November 1700|
|Predecessor||Philip IV of Spain|
|Successor||Philip V of Spain|
|Regent||Mariana of Austria
John of Austria the Younger
|Spouse||Marie Louise d'Orléans
Maria Anna of Neuburg
|House||House of Habsburg|
|Father||Philip IV of Spain|
|Mother||Mariana of Austria|
6 November 1661|
Royal Alcazar, Madrid, Spain
|Died||1 November 1700
Royal Alcazar, Madrid, Spain
|Burial||El Escorial, Spain|
Charles II (Spanish: Carlos II) (6 November 1661 – 1 November 1700) was the last Habsburg ruler of Spain. His realm included Southern Netherlands and Spain's overseas empire, stretching from the Americas to the Spanish East Indies. He is noted for his extensive physical, intellectual, and emotional disabilities—along with his consequent ineffectual rule.
He died in 1700 childless and heirless, and all potential Hapsburg successors had predeceased him. In his will, Charles named as his successor his 16-year old grand-nephew, Philip, Duke of Anjou grandson of Charles' half-sister Maria Theresa of Spain, the first wife of Louis XIV (and thus grandson of the reigning French king Louis XIV). Because the other European powers viewed the prospective dynastic relationship between France and Spain as disturbing the balance of power in Europe, they went to war in the War of the Spanish Succession.
Early life 
Charles was born in the Spanish capital, Madrid, the son of Philip IV of Spain with Philip's second wife, Mariana of Austria (also known as Maria Anna). As the only surviving male heir of his father's two marriages, Charles was named Prince of Asturias, the title given to the person first in line to the Spanish throne.
Charles did not learn to speak until the age of four nor to walk until eight, and was treated as virtually an infant until he was ten years old. Fearing the frail child would be overtaxed, his caretakers did not force Charles to attend school. The indolence of the young Charles was indulged to such an extent that at times he was not expected to be clean. When his illegitimate half-brother John of Austria, a natural son of Philip IV, obtained power by exiling the queen mother from court, he covered his nose and insisted that the king at least brush his hair.
The only vigorous activity in which Charles is known to have participated was shooting. He occasionally indulged in the sport in the preserves of El Escorial.
The years of Charles's reign were difficult for Spain. The economy was stagnant, there was hunger in the land, and the power of the monarchy over the various Spanish provinces was extremely weak. Spain’s finances were perpetually in crisis. Charles' unfitness for rule meant he was often ignored, and power during his reign became the subject of court intrigues and foreign, particularly French and Austrian, influence.
Charles was four years old when his father, Philip IV, died on 17 September 1665. The Council of Castile (as the Regency Council) appointed Philip's second wife and Charles' mother, Mariana of Austria, regent for the minor king. At the time, the size of the Spanish Empire was a then-unheard-of 12.2 million square kilometres (4.7×106 sq mi), but in other respects it was in decline, a process to which Philip's inability to achieve successful domestic and military reform is felt to have contributed.
As regent, Mariana managed the country's affairs through a series of favourites ("validos"), whose merits usually amounted to no more than meeting the queen's fancy. The queen's validos included her confessor, Juan Everardo Nithard. She made Nithard Grand Inquisitor in 1666, which gave him access to the Regency Council, from where he became the most important person of the Spanish Court. From then on he was the de facto prime minister or valido of Spain. The sheer size of the kingdom at that time made this kind of government increasingly damaging to the realm's affairs. By 1668, Nithard was desperate to reduce Spain's military commitments, at almost any price, and to end the Portuguese Restoration War accepted the loss of the Crown of Portugal and formally recognized the sovereignty of the House of Braganza by signing the Treaty of Lisbon. The treaty ceded the North African enclave of Ceuta to Spain, but marked the loss of Portugal and the Portuguese colonies. After he signed the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1668) with France ending the War of Devolution in Spanish Netherlands the members of the Councils and in particular Charles' illegitimate half-brother, John of Austria, started plotting to overthrow him. In 1669, Nithard was dismissed by a military pronunciamiento (a coup) led by John.
From 1671, the queen-regent's then favourite was Fernando de Valenzuela. In 1675, a court intrigue conducted by Valenzuela's rivals and supported by John succeeded in driving Valenzuela from court. Also in 1675, Charles reached the age of 14, the age when he was legally entitled to rule without a regent. However, on the basis of Charles' illnesses and disabilities, Mariana decided to continue the regency. Valenzuela returned to court and in 1677 the queen-regent openly appointed him prime minister, and conferred a grandeeship on him, to the profound indignation of the other grandees.
In January 1678 a palace coup broke out against the queen-regent, and John establish himself as prime minister. Mariana was driven from Madrid, and Valenzuela was exiled. The nobility came to dominate Spain once again. By the Treaties of Nijmegen (1678), which brought to an end the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78), Spain gave up to France the Imperial County of Burgundy (Franche-Comté), and further territories of the Spanish Netherlands, including the town of Saint-Omer with the remaining northwestern part of the former Imperial County of Artois, the lands of Cassel, Aire and Ypres in southwestern Flanders, the Bishopric of Cambrai, as well as the towns of Valenciennes and Maubeuge in the southern County of Hainaut. Great hopes were entertained for his administration, but it proved disappointing and short. Most nobles were incompetent and self-serving, but there were a few good men such as the Count of Oropesa, who managed (despite ruinous deflation) to stabilize the currency. Others tried to weaken the power of the Inquisition (which however was not abolished until 1808) and encourage economic development.
It was imperative for Charles to produce an heir as early as possible, and John arranged to find a suitable wife for him in the person of Marie Louise of Orléans. A proxy marriage ceremony took place in Paris on 30 August 1679. John died on 17 September 1679, and the queen-regent returned to court. On 19 November 1679, at the age of 18, Charles married 16-year-old Marie Louise in person in Spain.
In November 1683, Louis XIV of France again attacked the Spansh Netherlands in the War of the Reunions (1683–84). Though brief, the war was devastating on Spanish forces and ended in August 1684 in the Truce of Ratisbon, to enable the Holy Roman Emperor to concentrate on the attacks from the Ottoman Empire in the east in the Great Turkish War. France atacked the Spansh Netherlands again in 1688 at the start of the Nine Years' War which ended with the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697.
After Mariana died on 16 May 1696, Charles ruled without a regent until his death in 1700.
During the reign of Charles II, there was acceleration in the decline of Spanish power and prestige, that started in the last years of Count-Duke of Olivares' prime ministership in the 1640s. The economy, on the whole, was depressed between 1650 and 1700, with low productivity, famines and epidemics. Spain's economy (especially in Castile) crumbled. This was partially due to plague outbreaks, for example during 1676–1685, and partially due to the huge casualties caused by almost continuous warfare. Finally, the lives of the overburdened peasants were so miserable that they were unwilling to have children. The period 1677-1686 was the lowest point; there was famine, natural disasters, and economic chaos. Emigration to the New World increased; with Spanish population decreasing by nearly two million people during the 17th century: nearly 1.25 million from plagues, and 300,000 from the expulsion of the Moriscos.
In 1680, Charles presided over the greatest auto-da-fé in the history of the Spanish Inquisition, in which 120 prisoners were forced to participate, of whom 21 were later burned at the stake. A large, richly adorned book was published celebrating the event. The last public auto-da-fé took place in 1691. Toward the end of his life, August 1700, in one of his few independent acts as king, Charles created a Junta Magna (Great Council) to examine and investigate the Spanish Inquisition. The council's report was so damning of the Inquisition that the Inquisitor General convinced the decrepit monarch to "consign the 'terrible indictment' to the flames". When Philip V took the throne, he called for the report, but no copy could be found.
Toward the end of his life Charles' fragile health deteriorated and he became increasingly hypersensitive and strange, at one point demanding that the bodies of his family be exhumed so he could look upon the corpses. He officially retired when he had a nervous breakdown caused by the amount of pressure put on him to try to pull Spain out of the economic trouble it was going through. He lived a simple life from then on, playing games and other activities. He died in Madrid on 1 November 1700, five days before his 39th birthday. According to the medical coroner, Charles' body "contained not a single drop of blood, his heart looked like the size of a grain of pepper, his lungs were corroded, his intestines were putrid and gangrenous, he had a single testicle which was as black as carbon and his head was full of water."
As the American historians Will and Ariel Durant put it, Charles II was "short, lame, epileptic, senile, and completely bald before 35, he was always on the verge of death, but repeatedly baffled Christendom by continuing to live."
By the time of Charles's birth there were many generation of inbreeding within the Spanish royal house, to which is attributed his physical and mental disabilities. The practice of first cousins and uncle-niece marriages was common among 17th century European nobility, intended to preserve prosperous family's properties. Charles's own immediate pedigree was almost exclusively populated with close relative relationships: Charles's mother, Mariana of Austria, herself a Hapsburg, was a niece of Charles's father, Philip. Mariana was a daughter of Empress Maria Anna of Spain (1606–46) and Emperor Ferdinand III. Thus, Maria Anna was simultaneously his aunt and grandmother and Margaret of Austria, Maria Anna's mother, was both his grandmother and great-grandmother. The inbreeding was so widespread in his case that all of his eight great-grandparents were descendants of Joanna and Philip I of Castile. This inbreeding had given many in the family hereditary weaknesses. That Habsburg generation was more prone to still-births than were peasants in Spanish villages.
There was also insanity in Charles's family. His great-great-great (-great-great, depending along which lineage is counted) grandmother, Queen Joanna of Castile, became insane early in life and became known as "Joanna the Mad"; it is debated, however, the degree to which her "madness" was induced by her confinement and political intrigues targeting her. Joanna's parents, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, were only distantly related. Joanna was two of Charles' 16 great-great-great-grandmothers, six of his 32 great-great-great-great-grandmothers, and six of his 64 great-great-great-great-great-grandmothers.
Dating to approximately the year 1550, outbreeding in Charles II's lineage had ceased (see also pedigree collapse). From then on, all his ancestors were in one way or another descendants of Joanna and Philip I of Castile, and among these just the royal houses of Spain, Austria and Bavaria. Charles II's genome was actually more homozygous than that of an average child whose parents are siblings. He was born physically and mentally disabled, and disfigured. Possibly through affliction with mandibular prognathism, he was unable to chew. His tongue was so large that his speech could barely be understood, and he frequently drooled. It has been suggested that he suffered from the endocrine disease acromegaly, or his inbred lineage may have led to a combination of rare genetic disorders such as combined pituitary hormone deficiency and distal renal tubular acidosis.
In 1679, the 18-year-old Charles II was married to 16 year old Marie Louise d'Orléans (1662–1689), eldest daughter of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans (the only sibling of Louis XIV) and his first wife Princess Henrietta of England. At that time, Marie Louise was known as a lovely young woman. It is likely that Charles was impotent, and no children were born. Marie Louise became deeply depressed and died at 26, ten years after their marriage, leaving 28-year-old Charles heartbroken.
Still in desperate need of a male heir, the next year he married the 23-year-old Palatine princess Maria Anna of Neuburg, a daughter of Philip William, Elector of the Palatinate, and sister-in-law of his uncle Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. However, this marriage was no more successful than the first in producing the much-desired heir.
As the Spanish crowns passed according to cognatic primogeniture, it was possible for a female to assume the throne. However, by that time all the offspring of Philip IV, male and female, had predeceased Charles except for the children and grand-children of Maria Theresa of Spain (who had herself died in 1683), the first wife of the reigning Bourbon king of France Louis XIV, and therefore also his children and grand-children.
In his will, Charles named as his successor his 16-year old grand-nephew, Philip, Duke of Anjou grandson of Charles' half-sister Maria Theresa of Spain, the first wife of Louis XIV. Upon any possible refusal, the crown of Spain would be offered next to Philip's younger brother, Charles, Duke of Berry, then to the Archduke Charles of Austria, who in 1711 became Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI.
The French genealogical line had the better claim to the Spanish throne than did the Austrian. The French line is traced through Maria Theresa (1638-1683), who was older than the Austrian line traced through her half-sister Margaret Theresa (1651-1673). Of the French line, Maria Theresa had died in 1683 and her eldest son, Louis, Grand Dauphin (also the son of Louis XIV), would have had the next claim. However, the Grand Dauphin was passed over as he was at the time the heir apparent to the French throne, though he never ascended the throne because he predeceased the monarch. The next best genealogical claim to the Spanish throne was the Grand Dauphin's son Philip, Duke of Anjou. However, the Austrian branch (i.e. the Archduke Charles of Austria) claimed that Maria Theresa had renounced the Spanish throne for herself and her descendants as part of her marriage contract with Louis XIV. A similar objection would apply to Philip's brother Charles, Duke of Berry and to the Grand Dauphin. This was countered by the French branch's claim that the renunciation was on the basis of a dowry that had never been paid.
|Claimants to the Spanish throne in the War of Spanish Succession|
When Charles II died in 1700, the line of the Spanish Habsburgs died with him. His successor, as named in his will, was Philip, Duke of Anjou. At a Royal Council meeting in France, it was agreed that Philip would accept the Spanish throne, but would forever renounce his claim to the throne of France for himself and his descendants.
The spectre of the multi-continental empire of Spain passing under the effective control of Louis XIV, who in the latter 17th century had taken an aggressive position in Europe, provoked a wide coalition of powers which opposed Philip's succession. In an attempt to allay their concerns of a possible union of the two crowns, in February 1701, Louis XIV caused the French Parlement (a court) to register a decree that should Louis, Grand Dauphin (King Louis's eldest son, and Philip's father) himself have no heir, other than Philip, then the Duke of Anjou would surrender the Spanish throne for that of the French, to ensure dynastic continuity in France but ensure the non-unity of the two powers.
Other European powers, such as the English, the Dutch and the Austrians, were not satisfied with Louis' assurances and ploys, especially after he, pursuant to a treaty with Spain, occupied several towns in the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium and Nord-Pas-de-Calais).
This was the spark that ignited the powder keg created by the unresolved issues of the War of the League of Augsburg (1688–97). Almost immediately the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) began. After thirteen years of bloody, global warfare, fought on four continents and three oceans, the Duke of Anjou, as Philip V, was confirmed as King of Spain on substantially the same terms that the powers of Europe had agreed to before the war. Thus the Treaties of Utrecht and Rastatt ended the war and "achieved little more than...diplomacy might have peacefully achieved in 1701." A proviso of the peace perpetually forbade the union of the Spanish and French thrones.
- The city of Charleroi in Belgium was named after him. It was founded in 1666 during his reign as count of Namur or generally sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands.
- Admiral Francisco Lazeano named the Caroline Islands in the Pacific Ocean after him in 1686.
|Heraldry of Charles II of Spain|
- Kamen, Henry. "Philip V of Spain: The King who Reigned Twice", Published by Yale University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-300-08718-7
- Gonzalo Alvarez, Francisco C. Ceballos, Celsa Quinteiro (15 April 2009). "The Role of Inbreeding in the Extinction of a European Royal Dynasty". PLoS ONE. Retrieved 2009-04-16. Text "journal" ignored (help)
- Jon Cowans (2003). Modern Spain: A Documentary History. U. of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 26–27. ISBN 0-8122-1846-9.
- A History of Spain by Simon Barton
- Earl J. Hamilton, "Money and Economic Recovery in Spain under the First Bourbon, 1701–1746", Journal of Modern History Vol. 15, No. 3 (Sep., 1943), pp. 192-206 in JSTOR
- The Seventeenth-Century Decline
- Durants, 1963.
- Newell (2008). Inbreeding of Charles II of Spain (jpg).
- Durant, Will. "The Age of Louis XIV", p.699. Simon and Schuster, New York, 1963.
- Will Durant, The Reformation (1957)
- Will and Ariel Durant, The Age of Louis XIV (1963)
- Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition (1997)
- Martin Andrew Sharp Hume, The Year After the Armada, and other historical studies (1896)
- NNDB: Charles II
- Ludwig Pfandl, Karl II. Das Ende der spanischen Machtstellung in Europa, Munich (1940)
- John Nada, Karl der Behexte. Der letzte Habsburger auf Spaniens Thron, Vienna (1963)
Media related to Charles II of Spain at Wikimedia Commons
Charles II of SpainBorn: November 6 1661 Died: November 1 1700
|King of Spain
|Duke of Milan, Lothier,
Brabant, Limburg and Luxemburg;
Count of Flanders, Hainaut and Namur
17 September 1665 – 1 November 1700
|Count Palatine of Burgundy
|Lost to France
Treaties of Nijmegen
Title last held byPhilip Prospero
|Prince of Asturias
Title next held byLouis Philip