Today is the 320th anniversary of the death of Charles II (1665-1700) the last Hapsburg ruler of the Spanish Empire. His death is of particular interest to scholars and aficionados of the 1715 Fleet. It was his death that sparked the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714). The Fleet of 1715 was indirectly related to this event as it was the first major treasure fleet to embark for Spain after hostilities ceased. There were other treasure fleets that attempted the voyage to Spain during the conflict but these fleets were not successful in their journey. So by the time that the 1715 Fleet was assembled, Spain was in desperate need of funds. For a country that was without much needed revenue for over a decade, the safe arrival of this fleet with all of its wealth was greatly anticipated. Unfortunately for Spain, it was not meant to be.
Charles II was the son of Philip IV by his second marriage with his niece Mariana of Austria. Years of inbreeding resulted in his physical deformity and mental retardation. He was born with an enormous misshapen head, protruding jaw, large tongue and intellectual disability. The government during his minority was directed by his mother and her successive favorite, the German Jesuit Nithard and the Grenadine adventurer Fernando de Valenzuela.In 1677 the King’s illegitimate brother the younger Don John of Austria defeated the Queen’s faction which was entirely Austrian in sentiment and obtained power for a short time. By him the King was married in 1679 to Marie Louise of Orleans, in the interest of France. When she died in 1689, he was married by the Austrian party to Marianna of Neuberg. At last the French party persuaded the dying King to leave his kingdom by will to the Duke of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV and Maria Teresa, daughter of Philip IV by his first marriage. Upon his death Europe was at war for 14 years.