When in 1555 Philips II became the Lord of the Netherlands he wanted to crush both the religious reformers and the people who defended the rights of the 17 semi-independent states that made up the Netherlands.
If he had compromised with the religious reformers he might have won the centralisation, if he had had respected some of the traditional rights of the rulers and ruled, he might have defeated the religious reformers.
He did not compromise with either group, and also tried to subdue Protestant England, the Protestants (Huguenots) in France and on top that fought against the naval dominance of the ‘heathen’ Ottoman Turks in the Mediterranean.
The wealth of Spain’s American colonies was not enough to pay for all these wars. Spain was dependent on mercenaries to fight its wars and during the 80 years war in the Netherlands there were many mutinies because the soldiers were not paid. The mutineers of course happily robbed both ‘rebels’ and ‘loyalists’.
Philips regained control over the south of the Netherlands, what is now Belgium, but at great cost. The wealthy industrial and trading centres came to a virtual standstill, and population numbers went down dramatically, through casualties of war, persecution and mass emigration.
The North of the Netherlands profited greatly. Skilled workers and experienced traders with Europe wide connections settled in northern cities.
These immigrants often were ardent Calvinists and strengthened the church in the north.
Jean Calvin taught that citizens had the right to revolt against unjust rulers. Willem van Oranje wrote about a contractual relation between the ruler and the ruled and that a contract can be broken if the ruler does not stick to the rules .
In modern terms we could say that the ruler has a duty of care for the people she/he rules, ideas that were also developed in India for the Hindu and Buddhist rulers on the sub-continent.
Philips II ruled over a vast Empire, including most of South America, but like Aurengzeb, the last of the great Moghuls, his rule was the beginning of the end of Spain as a world power.
The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands is now one of the few remaining Kingdoms in Europe, and the Queen is a descendent of Willem van Oranje. Young Willem was a Lutheran when he inherited the title of Prince of Oranje, but at the court of Charles V he was brought up as a Catholic. Finally he became a Calvinist but he was one of the few people who tried to see the other side of the argument.
1) Willem van Oranje ‘Apologie of verantwoordinghe’ (1581)