Philip V

Philip V (1683-1746), first Bourbon king of Spain, reigned from 1700 to 1746. During this period Spain began to recover from the long decline it had experienced during the 17th century and to regain a voice in the affairs of Europe.

The grandson of Louis XIV of France and his wife Maria Theresa, daughter of Philip IV of Spain, Philip V was born in Versailles on Dec. 19, 1683. In November 1700 the last Hapsburg king of Spain, Charles II, died after naming Philip his heir to Spain, the Spanish Indies, the Spanish Low Countries, and Naples and Sicily. At Versailles, Philip was proclaimed king of Spain by his grandfather, and on Jan. 28, 1701, he entered Spain. He was never again to set foot on French soil.

War of the Spanish Succession

Philip entered Madrid in April 1701. In May 1702 England, Austria, and the United Provinces, fearing the possible union of Spain and France, simultaneously declared war on them. Meanwhile, Archduke Charles, the great-grandson of Philip III of Spain and brother of the Austrian emperor, declared himself the rightful king of Spain, launching the War of the Spanish Succession.

The first hostilities took place in Italy, where Philip went to protect his threatened possessions. While he was there, the British took Gibraltar; Portugal declared war against him; and Catalonia, Valencia, and Aragon rose on behalf of the Archduke Charles. Castile, Navarre, and the Basque provinces, however, remained loyal to Philip. He returned to Spain and in 1707 forced the enemy to evacuate Madrid, meanwhile bringing Valencia and Aragon under his control. In 1710 a Franco-Castilian army decisively defeated the Anglo-Austrian-Catalan army, and in 1714 Philip forced Barcelona to surrender, bringing the war to an end.

By this time the major European powers had signed a series of treaties collectively known as the Peace of Utrecht (1713-1715). Philip was recognized as the legitimate king of Spain; in return he gave up all claims to the throne of France and surrendered the Spanish Low Countries, Naples, and Sicily to the Austrians, and Gibraltar to the British.

Internal Reforms

Now that the war was over and his claims to Spain and the Spanish Empire secured, Philip turned to the task of strengthening the monarchy and introducing the reforms necessary for the economic recovery of the kingdom. With the assistance of able ministers such as the Frenchman Jean Orry and the Spaniards Melchor de Macanaz and José Patiño, Philip accomplished much. Orry gradually remodeled the royal household along French lines and began the gargantuan task of financial reform. Meanwhile, Patiño was building up the country's navy and introducing much-needed reforms into the armed forces. Roads were built and canals repaired; foreign craftsmen and technicians were brought to Spain. On the eve of his death Philip V could boast of an army that had vindicated the national honor in the field of battle, a marine force that had once more awakened the attention of Europe, and many establishments that signaled the revival of industry, trade, and the arts.

Marriages and the Line of Descent

Like his grandfather, Philip possessed the Bourbon sexual appetite, but he also had a high moral sense that prevented him from having sexual relations with anyone except his legitimate wife. Thus the young king was heavily influenced by his first wife, Maria Luisa of Savoy, who had married him, when she was 13, in the spring of 1701. Maria Luisa in turn was controlled by the cunning 60-year-old Princess des Ursins, whom Louis XIV had planted in the Spanish court to represent the interests of France.

Maria Luisa died on Feb. 14, 1714. She and Philip had had four sons, of whom two would live to succeed him as kings of Spain. On Sept. 16, 1714, Philip was married by proxy to the 21-year-old Elizabeth Farnese of Parma. She arrived in Spain in December 1714 and, as one of her first official acts, dismissed the imperious Princess des Ursins.

Elizabeth soon exercised much power over her husband. She often went hunting with him and was enchanted by the palace he had built at La Granja. This little model of Versailles was to become their favorite residence. Elizabeth and Philip had several sons and daughters. Since none of them seemed to have a chance of inheriting the throne of Spain, Elizabeth set out to look for other thrones in Italy. In this she was assisted by the powerful Giulio Alberoni, whose consuming goal was to drive the Austrians out of Italy. They were eminently successful; by 1735 Elizabeth's eldest son, Charles, was king of Naples and Sicily; another son was Duke of Parma; and a third son was cardinal archbishop of Toledo and primate of Spain.

In early 1724 Philip abdicated in favor of his son Luis. It was believed at the time that Philip had taken this step in order to be free to claim the French throne should Louis XV die without a son. A few months after this abdication, however, Luis died of smallpox and Philip returned to the throne. The years passed, and Philip became the victim of acute melancholia. In the 1740s he became increasingly ill and bedridden, and on July 9, 1746, he died of apoplexy. He was succeeded by Ferdinand VI, the only surviving son of his first marriage.

Further Reading on Philip V

There is no biography of Philip V available in English, and those available in Spanish are few and unsatisfactory. A very useful account of Philip and his reign, however, can be found in Charles Petrie, The Spanish Royal House (1958). Also recommended are Edward Armstrong, Elisabeth Farnese (1892), and Simon Harcourt Smith, Alberoni (1944).

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