Facts and Events
A member of the House of Habsburg, Philip III was born in Madrid to King Philip II of Spain and his fourth wife and niece Anna, the daughter of the Emperor Maximilian II and Maria of Spain. Philip III later married Margaret of Austria, sister of his cousin Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor. Although also known in Spain as Philip the Pious, Philip's political reputation abroad has been largely negative – an 'undistinguished and insignificant man,' a 'miserable monarch,' whose 'only virtue appeared to reside in a total absence of vice,' to quote historians C. V. Wedgwood, R. Stradling and J. H. Elliott. In particular, Philip's reliance on his corrupt chief minister, the Duke of Lerma, drew much criticism at the time and afterwards. For many, the decline of Spain can be dated to the economic difficulties that set in during the early years of his reign. Nonetheless, as the ruler of the Spanish Empire at its height and as the king who achieved a temporary peace with the Dutch (1609–21) and brought Spain into the Thirty Years' War (1618–48) through an (initially) extremely successful campaign, Philip's reign remains a critical period in Spanish history.