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Spanish Empire

History of the Spanish Empire

Spanish Empire was a superpower and the center of the first global empire in the 16th century,comprising territories administered by Spain in all the world.

Upon the death of Ferdinand II of Aragon (Ferdinand V of Castile) in 1516, the Spanish crown and the Kingdoms of Castile, Aragon, Navarra and Naples were inherited by his grandson Charles. As a direct descendant of the Austrian House of Habsburg, Charles I of Spain, soon assumed the rule of Austria and the Low Countries. In 1519 he was elected Holy Roman Emperor as Charles V, ensuring from that moment on the Roman Empire for the Habsburg Dynasty.

This peak of glory, however, would be followed by a period of endless wars that drained Spain of its wealth and consumed increasing sums of gold and silver from the American colonies. On the religious front, Charles V endeavored to put a stop to the Protestant Reformation of the Roman-Catholic Church, declaring Martin Luther an outlaw. In a war supported by Henry VIII of England, he captured François I of France at Pavia in 1525, obliging him to sign the Treaty of Madrid and to renounce his claims on northern Italy. Ten years later, when the Ottoman Empire was at the height of its splendor, Charles V defeated Suleiman the Magnificent in a battle in Tunis, signaling the beginning of Turkish decline.

Charles V abdicated in 1556, dividing his dominions between his son Philip II, who inherited the majority of his domains, and his younger brother Ferdinand, who became ruler of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire. The Spanish branch of the Habsburgs, known in Spain as "the House of Austria", thereby retained power over most of the empire. That same year Charles V entered the monastery of Yuste, where he died in 1558.

Other European wars were waged under Philip II, including a war between Spain and England. The Great Armada was unable to conquer England, and the 'invincible' armed fleet would be destroyed in 1588, as a result of which Spain's political decline became increasingly notorious. Philip II was not a deft politician, nor would his heirs (Philip III and Philip IV) prove to be. The death of Charles II, who had reigned from 1661 to 1700, marked the end of the Habsburg dynasty. Philip of Anjou (Philip V), grandson of Louis XIV, was crowned King of Spain, a decision that prompted disputes over the European balance of power leading Spain, France, England and Austria into the War of the Spanish Succession. The signing of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and the Treaty of Rastatt (1714) signaled the end of the war and for Spain entailed the loss of Flanders, Luxemburg, Franche-Comté , Milan, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, Minorca and Gibraltar.

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