chapter  6
End of the old empire 1660–1714
Pages 24

The death of Philip IV in September 1665 left the monarchy in profound crisis. His son Charles II was only four years old, and the succession of a child as king (it was the first royal minority in Spain’s history) inevitably created problems. Power was vested in Queen Mariana as regent and in a five-member Committee of Government, who were to rule until the king reached his official coming of age at fourteen. Because Mariana had little experience decisions tended to be made by pressure groups among the grandees, of whom the most powerful up to 1668 was the count of Castrillo, who had engineered the fall of Olivares. The king, an invalid since birth, was never a significant force. His childhood was extremely complicated; at three years of age the bones of the cranium had still not closed and the child could not stand, he could not walk until six years of age and even at nine still did so with difficulty. He remained chronically ill throughout his life, and proved unable to father an heir. When he was twenty-five the papal nuncio reported that

he is as weak in body as in mind. Now and then he gives signs of intelligence, memory and a certain liveliness; usually he shows himself slow and indifferent, torpid and indolent. One can do with him what one wishes because he lacks his own will.