Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II, by Geoffrey Parker
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. Pp. xiv, 456. Illus., maps, diagr., stemma, notes, biblio., index. $40.00. ISBN: 0300196539.
A Fresh Look at a Much Maligned Monarch
Prof. Parker (Ohio State), noted for
The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road, 1567-1659
1972), The Military Revolution (1996), and
outstanding works in early modern European history, draws upon a recently discovered lode of documents to give us a
much revised edition of his 1978 biography
of Philip II of Spain (r. 1556-1598),
which presents a much
more nuanced look at the
life and work
In this new work
Philip emerges as less the
ogre of traditional English histories, though also less the rather
hapless figure portrayed in Henry Kamen’s Philip of Spain (1997).
Parker divides his account into five parts
In “Threshold of Power,” Parker gives us a
rather in depth look at Philip’s ancestry and early life against the background of the
rise of the
Hapsburg world empire
and the state of global politics and strategy in the middle of the sixteenth century
“The King and His World” looks at
Philip’s work habits, religious beliefs, and diversions, which give some insights into his character and motivations, both the good and the bad.
“The First Decade of the Reign,” gives a well braided account of the politics and strategy of the years 1558-1568,
including his marriage to Queen Mary of England
, which appears to have been
usually portrayed, his devotion to suppressing heresy, the curious case of his son Don Carlo,
the tragic idealistic reformer of
come “The King Victorious,”
the ascendancy of Spain in the period 1568-1585, and “The King Vanquished” on the
and its aftermath
though Spain would remain a great power for much the remaining century.
Parker sees the successes and failures of Philip’s reign as having several roots. Although Philip was a man of considerable intellect and ability, he was unable to delegate, was inclined to micromanage, was obsessed with detail and paperwork, and was unable to compromise or seek alternative outcomes. And then there w
the demands of his enormous, globe-spanning, multi-cultural empire for which no single set of policies could be developed, and one which lacked both a coherent governmental apparatus and reliable financial institutions.
A ground-breaking work, Imprudent King is a valuable addition to the literature on the sixteenth century.
Imprudent King is also available in paperback, $25.00, ISBN: 978-0-3002-1695-0 and as an
ebook ISBN 978-0-300-19653-5.
Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor
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