The beginning of a new reign was traditionally a time of joyous optimism, a celebration of the new king, of his good intentions and happy prospects. But there was little to celebrate in Spain in 1559. There was, certainly, widespread relief that the king had returned home but there was also a profound sense of war-weariness and a consciousness of the seriousness of the problems facing the country. Even the climate was hostile, accentuating hunger and famine across Spain. Philip himself seems to have needed time to recover from the emotional impact of the great auto-de-fé; he left Valladolid the day after the auto and spent a month hunting. He performed one pressing task, when at La Espina near Valladolid he formally acknowledged the existence of his half-brother, Don John of Austria.1 But it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Philip was overwhelmed by the range of problems facing him. For years he had ached to return to his homeland but as he began now to fully absorb the realities of the situation confronting him in Spain he baulked at the prospect of dealing with them. At the end of 1559 he wrote to Granvelle that ‘I confess to you that when I was in Flanders, I never believed the situation could be so bad here.’2 He took refuge in inaction; in April 1560, an ambassador reported that Philip ‘avoids business as much as possible’.3 It was not the last time that Philip adopted this attitude when confronted by crisis; the carefully contrived appearance of ‘prudence’ that so impressed contemporaries was, very often, an immobility borne of indecisiveness. But it was also part of the image of majesty that Philip very deliberately created for himself — the image of a king who was coolly aloof and who could not be hurried or pressured into making decisions.
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