One measure of the importance of Philip II has been perhaps the intensity of the judgements which his reign has evoked. English and Dutch historians have found it difficult to regard him as anything but a dangerous tyrant who came perilously close to destroying their liberties. Spaniards, however, have acclaimed him as El Prudente, the king of their country’s Golden Age. Moreover, while Protestants and liberals still tend to see him as a reactionary bigot, the Catholic tradition portrays him as the generous crusader of the Counter-reformation and the champion of Christendom against the Turks. Behind the rival interpretations of his reign the man himself is likely to be lost.
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