A critical analysis of Charles V & Philip his Son by Marino Cavalli, 1554

This is a critical analysis of a written piece by Marino Cavalli as he writes his thoughts about the comparisons between the current King; Charles V, and his son and heir Philip. Cavalli has documented the concerns he has about Philip’s inability to adequately rule over ‘various peoples’ when he comes to power. Cavalli was the Venetian Ambassador in France at the time, and had a vested interest in who succeeded Charles V to the throne.

Cavalli begins by making basic observations about the physical similarities between father and son; their appearance, their habits and their demeanour.

“His Highness is now in his twenty-fourth year, of very delicate complexion and medium stature.

In both face and mind he resembles his father..” This is the first, and last positive evaluation he makes about Philip. It becomes clear very quickly that he harbours numerous doubts about Philip’s ability to come to power and manage different countries, when he favours being advised by a solely Spanish council, who would clearly have preference for their own agenda. “He takes excessive pleasure in being revered, and he maintains with everyone, no matter who he may be, a greater haughtiness than his father,”.

Cavalli obviously worries that Philip does not attempt to earn the respect of his subjects or nobility. He manages to infer a negative edge to the term ‘revere’ cleverly using insinuation to make the reader consider this to be an unattractive quality, and demonstrates a preference for Charles V over Philip as he goes on to say; “They have good reason, being used to his father, who knows extremely well how to adjust himself by various ways to all kinds of people.”

If Cavalli’s dilemma was merely a loyalty preference for Charles V it could be argued that he was politicking. Especially considering his Venetian roots and French ties, and the fact that the European countries were constantly warring for power, land and control. But when taking into account his other reservations about Philip’s eventual rise to power, (which were similar to a great many other opinions of the time), the historian; with the grace of hindsight, can see that his concerns were well founded.

It was well known that Charles V (despite the many wars he fought) was hungrier for peace than to acquire land, and he made the best efforts to maintain civility with the neighbouring states, whether or not they had previously fought each other for the rite to rule. Charles V was also recognised as having a very tolerant nature regarding the religious preferences of the people he governed. He was aware of the protestant uprising, and did not make it a priority to come down on his subjects with the severity he could have. As his son Philip would do in later years. It would seem Philip was destined to live in his fathers shadow; “But owing to the greatness of his father, and the fact that he was born great and has not yet proved himself in any work, he will never appear in the last analysis as the equal of the emperor.”

Cavalli felt that Philip had cut himself off from all but the Spanish. “One may judge that when this prince succeeds to the government of his states he will be served wholly by Spanish ministers, for he is inclined towards that people more than is fitting in a prince who wishes to rule over various peoples…”

And he was quite right, Philip did move to Spain never returning to live in Holland, he refused to speak the language and did keep virtually a wholly Spanish council. His preference for Spain was widely known at the time, and widely documented in the historical years to follow.

This piece of text is written in a personal, almost diary or journal entry style which allows Cavalli to articulate freely his concerns. It would seem that Cavalli’s fears were realised once Philip came to power, although there would have been nothing Cavalli could have done to bring about change, as Philip was born into the time when Royalty were believed to be born with a divine rite to rule, and due to the sheer population numbers of the countries that he resided over, he was always able to gain favour somewhere, especially when his main goal was to crush the protestant reformation and gain land and title, no matter what the cost.

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