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Philip III
Felipe III de España.jpg
Portrait by Andrés López Polanco, c. 1617
King of Spain and Portugal (more...)
Reign 13 September 1598 – 31 March 1621
Predecessor Philip II of Spain
Successor Philip IV of Spain
Born 14 April 1578
Royal Alcázar of Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Died 31 March 1621(1621-03-31) (aged 42)
Madrid, Spain
Burial El Escorial
(m. 1599; died 1611)
House Habsburg
Father Philip II of Spain
Mother Anna of Austria
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature Philip III's signature

Philip III (Spanish: Felipe III; 14 April 1578 – 31 March 1621) was King of Spain. As Philip II, he was also King of Portugal, Naples, Sicily and Sardinia and Duke of Milan from 1598 until his death in 1621.


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Philip III of Spain, 1599-1601, The Phoebus Foundation

A member of the House of Habsburg, Philip III was born in Madrid to King Philip II of Spain and his fourth wife, his niece Anna, the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II and Maria of Spain.


Philip III of Spain

Although also known in Spain as Philip the Pious, Philip's political reputation abroad has been largely negative.

Within a few hours of Philip ascending to the throne, his close friend Francisco Gómez de Sandoval, 1st Duke of Lerma had been made a royal counsellor by the new king and set about establishing himself as a fully fledged valido, or royal favourite. Lerma, in due course declared a duke, positioned himself as the gateway to the king. All the business of government, Philip instructed, was to arrive in writing and be channeled through Lerma before reaching him. Philip's reliance on his corrupt chief minister drew much criticism at the time and afterwards.

From 1612 onwards the Lerma administration was crumbling. The monopoly of power in the hands of the Lerma's Sandoval family had generated numerous enemies. Lerma's personal enrichment in office had become a scandal. Philip remained close to Lerma, however, and supported him in becoming a cardinal in March 1618 under Pope Paul V, a position which would offer Lerma some protection as his government collapsed. After Lerma departed for his ducal seat, Philip signed a decree renouncing the powers of his former valido, and announcing that he would rule in person.

Philip III's reign was marked by significant economic problems across Spain. Famine struck during the 1590s through a sequence of bad harvests, whilst from 1599 to 1600 and for several years afterwards there was a terrible outbreak of bubonic plague across Spain, killing over 10% of the population. This economically weakened the country.

Financially, Philip's situation did not appear much better. He had inherited huge debts from his father, Philip II. Philip III received no money from the cortes, or parliaments, of Aragon, the Basque provinces or Portugal; Valencia only provided one contribution, in 1604.

On his accession, Philip inherited two major conflicts from his father - the long-running Dutch revolt and the Anglo–Spanish War. After military campaigns, both wars ended in peace negotiations. The Treaty of London was signed in 1604, and the Twelve Years' Truce with the Dutch followed in 1609.

In the final years of Philip's reign, Spain entered the initial part of the conflict that would become known as the Thirty Years' War (1618–48). The result was a decisive Spanish victory in the Holy Roman Empire that would lead to a recommencement of the war with the Dutch shortly after Philip's death.

Colonial policy

-The Armor of Philip III- MET DP138041
Armour of Philip III

In the Americas Philip inherited a difficult situation in Chile. The local Mapuche succeeded in razing seven Spanish cities (1598–1604). About 3,000 Spanish settlers killed and 500 Spanish women taken into captivity by Mapuche. In retaliation the proscription against enslaving Indians captured in war was lifted by Philip in 1608. This decree was abused when Spanish settlers in Chiloé Archipelago used it to justify slave raids against groups such as the Chono of northwestern Patagonia who had never been under Spanish rule and never rebelled.

Jesuit missionary Luis de Valdivia believed the Mapuche could be voluntarily converted to Christianity only if there was peace. To diminish hostilities Valdivia proposed a Defensive War in a letter to Philip. The king supported the idea, issuing a decree that established the Defensive War as an official policy in 1612. By the time Defensive War was established war between Spanish and Mapuche had been going on for 70 years.

These policies were not without criticism. Maestre de campo and corregidor of Concepción Santiago de Tesillo claimed the Defensive War gave the Mapuche a much needed respite to replenish their forces that should have been denied. The Real Audiencia of Santiago opined in the 1650s that slavery of Mapuches was one of the reasons for constant state of war between the Spanish and the Mapuche.


Philip III's tomb, between those of his grandfather, father and son

Philip III died in Madrid on 31 March 1621, and was succeeded by his son, Philip IV. The story told in the memoirs of the French ambassador Bassompierre, that he was killed by the heat of a brasero (a pan of hot charcoal), because the proper official to take it away was not at hand, is a humorous exaggeration of the formal etiquette of the court.


Philip has generally left a poor legacy with historians. Three major historians of the period have described an 'undistinguished and insignificant man', a 'miserable monarch', whose 'only virtue appeared to reside in a total absence of vice'. More generally, Philip has largely retained the reputation of 'a weak, dim-witted monarch who preferred hunting and traveling to governing'.

Family tree

Like many Habsburgs, Philip III was the product of extensive inbreeding. His father, Philip II, a product of marriage between first cousins, married his niece, Anna of Austria, herself the product of a cousin couple. Philip III in turn married his first cousin once removed, Margaret of Austria. This pattern would continue in the next generation, ultimately culminating in the end of the Spanish Habsburg line in the person of Philip's feeble grandson, Charles II.

Ancestors of Philip III and his relationship with his wife
Ferdinand II
King of Aragon

Isabella I
Queen of Castile

Manuel I
King of Portugal

of Aragon

Queen of Castile

Philip I
King of Castile

of Portugal
Charles V
Holy Roman Emperor

Ferdinand I
Holy Roman Emperor

of Bohemia
and Hungary

of Spain

Maximilian II
Holy Roman Emperor

of Austria
Philip II
King of Spain

of Austria

Charles II
Archduke of Austria

Maria Anna
of Bavaria
Philip III
King of Spain
of Austria


Interesting facts about Philip III of Spain

  • Philip was educated in Latin, French, Portuguese and astronomy, and appears to have been a competent linguist.
  • However, he was not particularly intelligent or academically gifted.
  • Philip III was not only a son to his father Philip, but also a grandnephew.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Felipe III de España para niños

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