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Philip and The Papacy

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Relationships with the papacy remained strained, despite outlining that being co-leaders of the reformation, Philip and papacy should have been natural allies. Nevertheless, interests of the papacy, Italy and the Spaniards did not align despite the assumption this would be the case therefore threatening the stability of power. The document further highlights the arrogance of those in power, notably manipulation and bribery to sway elections in the country’s favour. This is seen through Philip’s attempt to manipulate papal elections prior to Paul IV’s death to prevent peace won in Italy being jeopardised. Additionally, Levin highlights that Spanish power was not concrete and that there were credible threats of ‘novedades’ and so Spanish presence can be somewhat understood. However, equally consistent insistence on tailoring demands towards Spanish interests resulted in lack of consensus and subsequence absence of genuine ties between allies, as seen through equal fear from the Spaniards and Venetians that other would abandon the League.

Additionally, the link between religion and popes holding significant power in the empire and the unsettling of which can have drastic consequences to the stability of power is strongly argued. Importantly, the papal system remained independent although continued as a source of vast financial support (danger it would been withdrawn if offended). The sources analysed were from ambassadors who are therefore in close relations with all political and papal figures and so give a credible assessment of their relationships. This is furthered as ambassadors were employed to be critical of both parties and so their accounts hold more truth. Their role means they can highlight negotiations of the popes and political leaders to a much greater extent, especially since they were the means through which manipulation occurred (for example by using Vargas). The vast majority of the primary sources assessed supported the argument of strained relations between the papacy and Philip. Furthermore, the sources not only detail ambassadors views but also communications between Philip and them. These above all discuss the papacy and most critically “staying in the good graces of His Holiness”. This being said highlights Philips recognition of the papacy’s power although somewhat contradicts his outward behaviour. Although, the sources on the whole are valuable as are documents written in confidence, however, notably in the case of Vargas, the primary sources do not compliment each other and therefore the value of which is undermined. Vargas’ letters to Philip portray himself as a peace-maker, stating that the unity of the conclave was threatened to the greatest extent by Guido Ascanio Sforza.

Whereas, other documents stated Vargas’ actions as ‘hateful and nearly indefensible’, therefore limiting the true value of some sources as there is an aim of self-preservation. Spanish Rome, 1500-1700 by Thomas James Dandelet (Yale University Press) would be useful to read as he portrays relations between the Spanish Empire and Palal Rome much more positively than Levin does. He further argues that papacy were successfully brought under Spanish control which highly contradicts Levin’s conclusion that they remained independent. Therefore, the text portrays an alternative theory of the extent of Spanish influence.

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Philip and the Papacy. (2019, September 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 7, 2022, from
“Philip and the Papacy.” GradesFixer, 13 Sept. 2019,
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