Philip II (1527-1598)Philip II (1527-1598) - King Philip II of Spain inherited the most powerful empire on earth from his father, Charles V, in 1556.  It included vast holdings in Europe outside of Spain, most notably the British Isles thanks to his marriage to Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII.  However, by the time his own reign had ended in 1598, Spain was in decline.  The seismic event which caused this, of course, was the Battle of the Spanish Armada in 1588.  But in fairness to Philip, cracks began to develop in the empire, particularly in the economy, before he ever became monarch.  Along with the throne, Charles passed on to his son a national debt of 36 million ducats, and an annual deficit of another million.  Spain became increasingly dependent on income from its colonies in the New World.  But this was an unreliable source of wealth as it was vulnerable to piracy, particularly from English privateers (like Francis Drake).  His tenure as King of England (and Ireland) did not last long either.  The death of his wife in 1558 forced him to relinquish power unwillingly to Elizabeth.  He considered her a usurper, but because he lived in Spain, was powerless to prevent her from claiming the throne.  The English, who did not like the idea of being subjects of a Spanish monarch, supported Elizabeth enthusiastically.  Philip was Spanish through and through and regarded England as little more than a source of tax revenue.  Likewise, the Dutch, which had been under Spanish rule, declared their independence in 1581; and in order to strengthen their declaration, aligned themselves with other European powers.  Philip decided to let that province go.  England was a different matter, however.  He continued to view himself as the legitimate monarch and refused to recognize Elizabeth's authority.  The dual insult (from his perspective) of English piracy and Protestantism motivated him to try and conquer England and return it to the Spanish Empire.  In the years leading up to the famous battle, not many in Europe gave England much of a chance at fending off the Spanish navy, which was referred to as the "Invincible Armada".  This air of invincibility was enhanced at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, in which Spain played a primary role in defeating the Ottoman fleet.  Few were aware that England had been building its own powerful navy for years in anticipation of an invasion.  It was simply the fact that her fleet had been untested in battle that she was considered the underdog.  Philip would have been wise to let England go without a struggle.  But, of course, he did not.