Philip III (1578-1621) was king of Spain from 1598 to 1621. He was dominated by minister-favorites, and his personal impress on events was slight.

On April 4, 1578, Philip III was born in Madrid, the son of King Philip II, whom he succeeded in 1598, when he was 20 years old. From the outset of his reign he virtually gave over the government to Francisco de Lerma, his favorite, who was the true ruler of Spain for the next 2 decades. Philip's inheritance included the crises and dilemmas that had wracked Spain during the previous half century. During the first 2 years of his reign, the country was ravaged by a plague that probably wiped out the 15-percent increase in the Spanish population in the 16th century. Although projects of a reforming nature, including plans to restructure the tax system, were submitted to the King and his ministers, regional traditionalism and vested interests blocked change.

In 1607 the Crown was forced to repudiate its debts. The drain of funds caused by the Dutch War and the futility of pursuing the struggle in the Netherlands led to a 12-year truce in 1609. In effect, it indicated Spain's failure to subdue its rebellious subjects in the Netherlands. To camouflage this failure, news of the truce was accompanied by a popular measure, the expulsion of the Moriscos (Moors converted to Christianity). They were looked upon with suspicion as potential allies of Spain's enemies and with resentment as hardworking people who saved most of their money. Stringent measures against them had been taken earlier under Philip II. Now about 275, 000 Moriscos were expelled; most went to North Africa. Spain suffered economic loss, especially in Aragon and Valencia, though not as much as following the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.

The time limit on the truce with the Dutch symbolized the expectancy throughout Europe that war would again break out, and not only in the Netherlands. Spain entered the Thirty Years War, which began in Bohemia in 1618, but its early successes were short-lived, and Spain's participation in the war contributed still more to its overall decline.

Lerma was overthrown in 1618 and succeeded by the Duke of Uceda. Meanwhile, Philip engaged in devotional exercises or whiled away his time hunting, enjoying the theater, and hosting lavish banquets, his role seemingly reduced to providing an heir to the throne. His marriage to Margaret of Austria produced eight children, one of whom succeeded him as Philip IV upon his death on March 31, 1621. His daughter Anne of Austria became the consort of Louis XIII of France.

Further Reading on Philip III

A good introduction to the problems of Philip's reign, especially the social and economic issues, is John H. Elliott, Imperial Spain, 1469-1716 (1963). R. Trevor Davies, The Golden Century of Spain, 1501-1621 (1937; rev. ed. 1954), is a useful survey of the reign and includes a discussion of the literature and art of the period.

Additional Biography Sources

Dennis, Amarie, Philip III: the shadow of a king, Madrid, Spain: A.W. Dennis, 1985.