Philip II Lesson for Kids: Accomplishments & Reign

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

Philip II ruled as king of Spain for four decades, creating an empire that stretched across the entire world. Learn about Philip's achievements and legacy in this lesson.

Bigger Is Better

Have you ever wondered why so many people in Central and South America, from Mexico to Argentina, all speak Spanish? The answer is that Spain ruled almost every part of Central and South America, as well as many other areas around the world. In fact, historians say that the sun never set on the Spanish Empire, since it stretched from Mexico to Africa to India to east Asia - no matter what happened, it would always be daylight on a part of the world ruled by the Spanish!

One man ruled this entire empire: Philip II of Spain. He is remembered as one of the greatest kings in all of European history, ruling during a period known as the Spanish Golden Age.

King Philip II of Spain
Portrait of Philip II

Early Life

Philip's life was shaped in large part by his father, Charles V. Charles was not just king of Spain but also the Holy Roman Emperor, meaning that he controlled the area that is today Germany and parts of Italy in addition to Spain. Charles was a Catholic and had a deep dislike of Protestants, whom he considered heretics, or religious enemies.

Philip inherited his father's deep hatred of Protestants and Muslims, and would spend much of his life trying to defeat both religions in Europe, with mixed results. Even though he was very religious, he was also very well-educated: as a boy, he read famous books by authors such as Nicholas Copernicus, who claimed that the Earth revolved around the sun, rather than the other way around.

Long Live The King

When Charles V died in 1556, Philip became the ruler of the first empire to stretch across the globe. His possessions made Spain a very rich country. Huge fleets of ships brought in treasure from the empire to Philip's treasury, especially gold and silver from Central and South America and spices from India and Indonesia. All these riches meant trouble, however. During Philip II's reign, pirates became a major problem. After all, who wouldn't want a ship of their own filled with gold and spices? The English were major pirates: their famous captain Sir Francis Drake captured many of Philip's treasure ships.

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