September 12, 2021 by archyde
During the entire reign of Felipe II, Spain became the residence and school of the Habsburg heirs come from Vienna. Rodolfo (future emperor), Ernesto, Wescelao and Alberto passed through the country in an attempt to distance them from the Protestant influences emanating from the imperial court. The latter was Chancellor of Castile, Viceroy of Portugal and ran as Archbishop of Toledo after the death of Gaspar de Quiroga in 1594. The King considered his nephew a valuable ruler for his vast kingdoms and, in the absence of marrying his favorite daughter, Isabel Clara Eugenia, also a good husband by hand.
Back from his assignment in Portugal, Alberto took charge in Madrid of the political education of the future Felipe III, accompanying him to the meetings of the Royal Council, public events and audiences with the ambassadors. Already then Felipe II began to distrust the political gifts of his heir and to draw up his plans to untie the Netherlands from Spain.
In 1596, Alberto was appointed governor general of the Netherlands and, two years later, he resigned from the archdiocese to marry his first cousin Isabel Clara Eugenia. The marriage received the sovereignty of the Netherlands under the clause that if on the death of one of the spouses, they had no descendants, the territory would return to the Spanish Crown.
Cover of the book by José I. Benavides.
Although they never managed to conceive an heir, Isabel and her cousin worked successfully for years to rebuild the country and restore peace, and it was during this period that the borders between Belgium and Holland. Under his government, economic strength was recovered in this territory plagued with cities, the administration was completely reformed and Brussels was endowed with its own splendid court. The Archdukes promoted the Spanish language and culture, especially the school of Salamanca and Spanish literature, from mysticism to Don Quixote.
The Archduke displayed his military genius by fighting the French and Dutch in his early years as governor. However, the cost in lives and gold to conquer Ostende, in 1604, forced the Archdukes to seek a non-military solution to the conflict with the United Provinces, which were no longer a rebel territory but a truly independent state.
Ceasefire without Madrid
The Archdukes concluded, without counting on Madrid, a ceasefire with the Dutch, in March 1607, which was extended over several months. The text recognized the sovereignty of the Netherlands as an independent state for the duration of the ceasefire. They already had a reason for their peace to last. Spain took another two years to follow the example of the archdukes, since it accepted the sovereignty of the United Provinces It was too big a drink.
The couple not only worked to achieve the prosperity of their territories, but to maintain autonomy from Madrid, which now longed to regain this strategic position. An offer was sent from around Philip III in 1603 to Archduke Albert so that he leaves the government of the Netherlands in exchange for Franche-Comté, something that the son of Maximilian II rejected as “against his reputation”, and even the possibility that Isabel Clara Eugenia could occupy the throne of England on the death of Queen Elizabeth I if they were to step aside in Flanders before …
Representation of a cabinet of a Flemish collector during a visit by Archdukes Alberto and Isabel.
Felipe III distrusted the Assignment Act more and more and was jealous of the way in which his father had treated Alberto, whom he had sat on his right at public events in a clear humiliation towards his first-born son. Now as King, Felipe III did not renounce to regain direct rule over the Netherlands. Apart from the economic pressures, efforts from Madrid they were directed to withdraw all military command from the Archduke.
Tensions and prisons
“Felipe III was taking away authority and functions in successive phases both in relation to the command and organization of the army or the management of supplies that were sent from Spain”, you can read in the book
‘Archduke Albert and Philip III’. In this brilliant work by Ambassador José I. Benavides, recently republished by Círculo Rojo, the tense relations between Felipe III and the Archduke are detailed, which almost ended with the unsheathed steels.
Isabel Clara Eugenia, by Juan Pantoja de la Cruz.
In the case of the death of Isabel Clara Eugenia before her husband, Felipe III ordered in secret instructions addressed in 1606 to his trusted general Ambrosio de Espínola that the Archduke should immediately swear allegiance to the Spanish King and hand over the government of Flanders. In case of hesitation, the Genoese had to imprison the son of Maximilian II “in the castle of Antwerp with safe guard, doing it with the decency and good treatment that is due to his person, and if you arrive at this break, he must not remain in the government although later it wanted to recognize itself ».
“The said States must belong to me and they have belonged to me in their own right and ancient ancestry …”
However, Espínola, sent to supervise each movement of the Archduke, ended up allying himself with the couple of rulers before the evidence that they were conducting local affairs in the best possible way. Since the Archduke died before his wife, it was not necessary to test Alberto’s loyalty.
Even at the end of his life, Felipe III did not forget his obsession to recover this territory and he underlined this in his will: “The said States must belong to me and they have belonged to me in their own right and ancient mayorazgo …”. Curiously, the King and the Archduke died in the course of three months, so that the sovereignty of the Netherlands was to return to the Spanish Crown, but in the figure of Felipe IV.