Сontent | Library | Late Middle Ages

There was something curiously cold about all the children of Charles V. None of them exhibited the hearty yet tender love which clearly united the emperor with his sisters, especially with Mary o Hungary, undoubtedly the ablest member of the family. Philip II certainly felt strong emotions from time to time, but they seldom lasted long. Thus when his sister Maria, his childhood companion, came back from Germany in 1582 after an absence of thirty years, Philip became very excited. According to his own account of their meeting, when his coach came within sight of hers, both of them hurried out, ran toward each other, and shared a long embrace in front of all their courtiers. It was a touching reunion, but before long Maria found court life empty and oppressive, and went into a nunnery. Philip, for his part, rarely went to see her. Their younger sister, Joanna, also opted for the solitude of a convent, having abandoned her only son, Don Sebastian of Portugal, at the age of three months, never to see him again. She died there in 1573. It is true that in 1559 a rumor went around the court that she had become the mistress of her spiritual adviser, Francis Borgia (later canonized), but this was almost certainly untrue: Joanna, like her brother, was renowned for [79] her coldness toward other people. She, like the king, preferred to be alone. Even when they were living under the same roof Philip, his wife and his sister usually ate alone, walked in the gardens alone, and went hunting alone. "Being by himself," a Venetian ambassador acutely observed of Philip II, "is his greatest pleasure.

Everything suggests that, despite the insinuations of certain scandal-hungry foreign ambassadors, Philip II was simply not interested in women, either for their companionship or for their sexual charms. If he left lust at all strongly, he seems to have kept it, lire the rest of his emotions, under strict control. Although he was married four times, he never seems to have been at ease with any member of the opposite sex. His first wife, Maria of Portugal, survived marriage by less than two years (1543-1545); and within only a few months of marrying her, Philip was reproached by both his father and his parents-in-law for treating his young wife coldly. There were no children from this union except Don Carlos, whose birth in July 1545 caused his mother's death. Philip's second wife, Mary Tudor, failed to conceive at all and felt abandoned by her husband - and not without reason, for Philip spent only fifteen months of the four-year marriage (1554-1558) with his wife. Relations with his third and fourth wives, Elizabeth de Valois (1560-1568) and Anne o Austria (1554-1558), were considerably better, and with Anne at least there was a real family life; yet even then an odd coldness could sometimes be seen. It was reported that, I the early years of her marriage, Elizabeth de Valois would lie awake at night hoping in vain for a visit from the king. At other times he was said to come to her room very late, after she had fallen asleep, and then creep away again feeling virtuous at having "done his duty" so easily. Matters appear to have been the same with Anne of Austria. When the couple had been living together for four months, a well-informed household officer wrote: "God keep them in the palm of his hand and grant that we may soon see the fruit we desire [namely,a son and heir]. They sleep [82] together every night and there is now no trace of the things which kept them apart, thanks to God and to the queen... I do not know if they make love often or not, since neither of them talk much." The writer concluded with a tantalizing reference to "some things I have heard [about the royal couple] which I would tell you if only they could be put on paper." Whatever these things were, they did not last long. After a year or so the relationship became more formal, with the king visiting his wife in her room at fixed times. It was almost as if Philip had taken too seriously the advice given to him, as a young adolescent, by his father - that when a marriage had been consummated "do not go back to see your wife too quickly or too often; and when you do go back, let it only be for a short time." Royal marriages, it would seem, were for procreation not pleasure.