Spanish King Philip IV of the Habsburg dynasty was born on this day. His colonial empire was, by far the largest in the world at that time, because it included not only all of the Spanish overseas possessions, but also those of Portugal. Specifically, Philip IV was also the King of Portugal, which was in a so-called personal union with Spain (the two countries were ruled by the same person). Later, Portugal separated from Philip’s government, so that the later Spanish kings never again ruled over the main areas of present-day Brazil.
Philip IV ruled over almost the entire South America (Brazil belonged to Portugal and the rest of the continent to Spain). Furthermore, he ruled over Spanish Central America (aka the Viceroyalty of New Spain), over Florida and some other parts of North America. He also reigned over a number of Portuguese possessions on the banks of larger parts of Africa and in India (where, before the arrival of the English, Portugal was the leading colonial power). He had possessions even on the shores of Arabia and in the Persian Gulf, and ruled over the distant Philippines. In Europe, he held the entire Iberian Peninsula, southern Italy and present-day Belgium (aka Spanish Netherlands).
Philip IV bore the title of king for over 44 years. The famous painter Diego Velázquez was active on his court. With his wife, Elizabeth, the French princess, Philip had only one son – Prince Balthasar Charles. The boy was supposed to inherit all of his father’s land and much was expected of him. Young Balthasar Charles was engaged to his niece – Archduchess Mariana of Austria – who was only 11 years old and was the daughter of Philip’s IV sister.
However, Prince Balthasar Charles died at the age of only 16 years, three months after the engagement and before the wedding could even take place. King Philip IV was devastated by his son’s death. Eventually, he decided to marry Mariana himself when she was 14 years old. At the time of that marriage, he was a widower and was already in the 44 years old. The worst part was that he was the bride’s uncle. However, such a marriage was typical for the Habsburgs at the time and probably caused the genetic deterioration of the dynasty. Mariana and her uncle had their first child when she was 16 years old, and she later bore him a son who succeeded him, but had serious physical and emotional problems.