“Philip II of Spain, King of Ireland”, by Heather R. Darsie

Philip II of Spain, King of Ireland
Artist: Titian, 1550


Philip II of Spain, King of Ireland

by Heather R. Darsie


On 7 June 1555, the new Pope Paul IV, who was elected 23 May 1555, issued a papal bull conferring the title of “King of Ireland” on Philip II of Spain.  Philip was twenty-seven years old in July 1554 when he married Mary I of England at Winchester Cathedral. Because of that marriage, Philip was King of England and Ireland jure uxoris, meaning by right of his marriage to Mary. There was just one problem: Henry VIII assumed the title of “King of Ireland” back in 1542, after his excommunication from the Catholic church in 1538. The papacy and Catholic monarchs did not recognize Henry’s title to the Kingdom of Ireland because of Henry’s excommunication from the Catholic church.

The title, “King of Ireland” fell out of use with the death of Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair in 1198. It was thereafter the “Lord of Ireland” up until 1542. In 1541, the Irish Parliament created the title of “King of Ireland.” In 1542, the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 was passed, stating:

“FORASMUCH as the King our most gracious dread soveraign lord, and his grace’s most noble progenitors, Kings of England, have bin Lords of this land of Ireland, having all manner kingly jurisdiction, power, pre-eminences, and authoritie royall, belonging or appertayning to the royall estate and majestie of a King, by the name of Lords of Ireland, where the King’s majestie and his most noble progenitors justly and rightfully were, and of right ought to be, Kings of Ireland, and so to be reputed, taken, named, and called, and for lacke of nameing the King’s majestic and his noble progenitors, Kings of Ireland according to their said true and just title, stile, and name therein….”

Henry VIII of England became King of Ireland with the passing of that act.

For Catholic Philip to become King of Ireland, it would take an act of God. Thankfully, Pope Paul IV could create such a document by virtue of his being God’s representative on earth. Pope Paul’s papal bull[1] gave a brief history of England’s separation from Mother Church, mentioning Henry’s act of parliament and the Protestant reign of Edward VI. The act tells of how Mary and Philip were free from interdict, excommunication, and the like, and were upright in their Catholic faith. The act closes by conferring the title of “King of Ireland” to Philip. The monarchs were called “King Philip and Mary” in the document.

The Treason Act of 1554 cemented Philip’s position as King of England, and after June 1555, of Ireland. A first offense against King Philip, such as depriving Philip of his title, levying war, or trying to destroy Philip, was punishable by forfeiture of goods and permanent imprisonment. A second offense was high treason.

Philip remained King of Ireland until the death of his wife Mary I in 1558.


[1] The text, in Latin: llius, per quem Reges regnant, & Principes dominantur, vices licet immeriti gerentes in terris, votis Catholicorum Regum, & Principum quorum probata in Deum pietatis, & eximiae erga Romanam Ecclesiam fidei constantia, ac sincerae devotionis affectus in nostro, & Apostolicae Sedis conspectu clarere dignoscuntur, libenter annuimus; eaque favoribus prosequimur opportunis.

Hinc est, quod Nos charissimum in Christo filium nostrum Philippum Regem, & charissimam in Christo filiam nostram Mariam, Reginam Angliae, & Franciae Illustres a quibusvis excommunicationis, suspensionis, & interdicti, aliisque Ecclesiasticis sententiis, censuris, & poenis, a iure, vel ab homine quavis occasione, vel causa latis, si quibus quomodolibet innodati existunt, ad effectum praesentium tantum consequendum, harum serie absolventes, & absolutos fore censentes, Insulam Hiberniae, cujus ab eo tempore, quo illius dominium, per Sedem praedictam adepti sunt, Reges Angliae, qui pro tempore fuerunt, se dominos tantum nuncupari consueverunt, & cujus regium titulum quondam Henricus Octavus, postquam ab unitate Ecclesiae Catholicae, & obedientia Romani Pontificis secessit, praetextu cujusdam legis per Parlamentum, ejusdem Insulae praetenditur latae, primo, & deinde ejus natus Eduardus Sextus eorum nominum, qui dum viverent, pro Regibus Angliae se gesserunt, de facto usurparunt, in Regnum ad instar aliarum Insularum Regiis titulo, dignitate, & honore fulgentium, sine praejudicio jurium ipsius Romanae Ecclesiae, & cujuscumque in illa, vel ad illam jus habere praetendentes, ad Omnipotentis Dei laudem et gloriam, ac gloriosissimae ejus Genitricis Virginis Mariae, totiusque exaltationem, praefatis Philippo Rege, & Maria Regina, Nobis super hoc humiliter supplicantibus, de Fratrum nostrorum consilio, & Apostolicae potestatis plenitudine Apostolica auctoritate perpetuo erigimus, ac titulo, dignitate, honore, facultatibus, juribus, insigniis, praerogativis, antelationibus, & praeeminentiis regiis, ac quibus alia Christi fidelium Regna utuntur, potiuntur, & gaudent, ac uti, potiri, & gaudere poterunt quomodolibet in futurum, insignimus, & decoramus.

Datum Romae apud Sanctam Marcum, Anno Incarnationis Dominicae millesimo quingentesimo quinquagesimo quinto, septimo Idus Junii Pontificatus nostri Anno I.


Sources & Suggested Reading

  1. Duffy, Sean, ed. “Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, in Medieval Ireland:An Encyclopedia.” New York (2005).
  1. Crown of Ireland Act 1542, 33 HENRY VIII.  A.D. 1542. http://www.heraldica.org/topics/national/ireland_docs.htm#act1542 Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  2. Papal Bull of 1555 Conferring the Title of King of Ireland on Philip II of Spain. http://www.heraldica.org/topics/national/ireland_docs.htm#bull1555   Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  1. Pickering, Danby. “The Treason Act 1554: from the First Year of Q. Mary, to the Thirty-Fifth Year of Q. Elizabeth, Inclusive,” vol. 6. Cambridge: Joseph Bentham (1763).



Heather R. Darsie

Heather lives in the United States with her family and three parrots. She is writing a new biography called Anna, Duchess of Cleves, which she hopes to submit to the publisher in late 2018. Heather is an apprentice bowyer, who also enjoys knitting. She holds a BA in German languages and literature, as well as Juris Doctorate.

Beth von Staats

is the owner and administrator of QueenAnneBoleyn.com. Blogger of "The Tudor Thomases", Beth specializes in writing magazine articles, online historical articles, short stories, and flash fiction.

Leave a Reply