Philip II by Geoffrey Parker Book Review

Philip II by Geoffrey Parker

Mary herself believed she was destined for unhappiness. She was quoted as saying she was ‘the most unhappy lady in Christendom’. Plans to marry her had begun as early as 1518. Firstly to the French dauphin, Francis III of Brittany and later to her first cousin Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, who was sixteen years older than her. When her father’s marriage to Anne Boleyn she was considered illegitimate and thus not as much as catch on the marriage market. It appears Henry didn’t really consider marrying her off again, at least until the late 1530’s. No match ever materialised.

It was until Mary’s own ascension to the throne that she was able to think of marriage again, and this time she could choose for herself. She was now 37 years old but still hoped she could have a child to prevent her sister Elizabeth from becoming Queen. She settled on her old fiancé’s son, Charles V’s son the future Philip II. He was a widower with a single son, and the age difference was nine years. The marriage was unpopular with the English people, but Mary was in love. He was to be styled King of England, but the sole power would be vested in Mary. To elevate his son to Mary’s rank Charles V ceded the crown of Naples to Philip. Mary also became Queen of Naples upon marriage.

I was recently sent this book by the Dutch publisher. The book itself is not new I believe, but perhaps the Dutch translation is. It’s quite an impressive book size wise, and I was a bit daunted by it! It turned out better than I expected. It’s quite possibly one of the best biographies I’ve ever read. The sheer volume of information available about Philip II helps quite a bit of course. I find biographies about women usually lack information simply because no information survives. Despite the extensive and well-written information about Philip himself, there is little time spent on Philip’s marriage to Mary, or any of his marriages for that matter. Mary is simply a blip on the radar, and I can understand it to an extent. The couple had no children, and Mary died after just two years of marriage. Philip spent much of that time away from England, simply because he himself was drowning in work relating to his own lands.

I did find it quite interesting to read more about him, even if the Dutch was a bit challenging for me (ALL my books are in English!), especially because the Dutch have a tendency to translate every single name (Felips, anyone?). I would highly recommend it, though! It is available now in the UK and the US.

About Moniek Bloks 2743 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

1 Comment

  1. I don’t know how to understand your comment about the Dutch having a tendency to translate every single name.
    As far as I know there are in every language adaptations of original names (of foreign historical characters) to the indigenous language. This is not something typical for “the Dutch”.
    The name Philip II itself is such a foreign adaptation of Felipe II.
    There is a tendency nowadays to be anti-Dutch or anti-nationalist, as a person interested in history you will appreciate there are two sides to that coin.

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