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Philip Prospero of Spain, Prince of Asturias (Spanish: Felipe Próspero) (November 28, 1657[1] – November 1, 1661) was the first male child of the marriage between Philip IV of Spain and Mariana of Austria to survive infancy. Spain had had no heir since the death of Prince Balthasar Carlos, the son of Philip and his first queen, Isabella, eleven years before, and the question of a successor to Philip, as Spain's strength continued to ebb, had become a matter of fervent and anxious prayer. The birth of an Infante was welcomed with much rejoicing and relief.

His birth affected the course of European history. By 1659 the prime ministers of France and Spain had been negotiating an end to their countries' hostilities for two years; now that Spain had a male heir, she could agree to consolidate the peace by marrying the king's eldest child Maria Theresa to the French king Louis XIV.[2] The outcome of the negotiations was the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which established France as the world's new dominant power.

Philip Prospero lived for nearly four years. It is not known what caused him to die, though "he was almost always ill, and had frequent attacks of epilepsy."[3]

His mother, Mariana of Austria, was to have been the wife of her cousin Balthasar Carlos, but after his death she was married to his father, Philip, her uncle. Of their five children two died in infancy; the last, Carlos II, was born eight days after Philip Prospero died, and on his father's death became the King of Spain. Carlos manifested every physical misfortune symptomatic of generations of inbreeding, and his own death ended the Spanish Habsburg dynasty.[4]

The year before Philip Prospero was born, Velazquez painted Las Meninas, known in Spain as La Familia de Felipe IV. In this painting his sister Margarita, five years old, is the shining central figure. The shapes of his mother and father are reflected in a dim mirror on the back wall of the studio.

A large fresco decorating the west wall of the cloister staircase in the Convent of Las Descalzas Reales in Madrid depicts the royal family as it was in 1660 or 1661, when the prince was about three, eyeing their viewers from a trompe l'oeil balcony. The painting is attributed to Antonio de Pereda.[5]


The only portrait of Philip Prospero to come down to us was painted by Velazquez in either 1659, the year Philip felt he could safely agree to the terms of the treaty with France, or 1660. This portrait and one of Margarita were made for the Emperor Leopold, their mother's brother affianced to Margarita. In the painting the prince appears to be three or nearly three. He stands before a rich black background, the blackness of which is repeated in his eyes. His wrist limply rests over the back of a child-size chair in which lies an equally limp, contented spaniel. (These are a traditional pose and prop, though Velazquez painted his sister and, years before, his half-brother Balthasar Carlos with their commanding little hands placed flat and firm, not dangling.) In Velazquez's honest depiction the baby's eyes have a faint gray-blue-brown hollowness around them. His luminous face and hands and his white muslin smock are accented by the warm red of his gown and are a brightness against the somber, subdued background colors. But the painting directly admits the little boy's precarious health: from strings criss-crossing his chest and waist hang metal bells and at least two protective lucky amulets, a cornicello and on the string across his left shoulder a black object, likely a fig-hand carved of jet.[6] By contrast nearly thirty years earlier Velazquez painted a robust Balthasar Carlos at age two or three with staff, sword, exuberant sash and plumed hat. This is not a political picture, other than that it shows that the impossible hopes of a nation are depending on a wavering little spirit, which itself is depending on luck and fate.


  1. ^ Quevedo, José (1854). "Depositados en el Panteon de Infantes." Historia del Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo Llamado Comúnmente del Escorial. p. 367.
  2. ^ In the most fateful stipulation of the agreement, Maria Theresa renounced all future claim to the Spanish throne and Spanish possessions contingent on a massive monetary settlement, which the French rightly suspected Spain could never pay.
  3. ^ Hume, Martin A.S. (1907). The Court of Philip IV: Spain in Decadence. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. Google Books
  4. ^ Alvarez G., Ceballos F.C., Quinteiro C. (2009). "The Role of Inbreeding in the Extinction of a European Royal Dynasty." PLoS ONE 4(4): e5174. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005174 PLoS ONE
  5. ^ Images of the fresco: "La escalera de las descalzas reales de Madrid: la huella de un mecenazgo religioso femenino."
  6. ^ "Sometimes the rosary pendant took the form of a hand amulet — one of the many instances in which this pre-Christian talisman was combined with a Christian symbol." Ward, Gerald W.R. (ed.) (2008). "Jet: 2. History and Uses: (i) Spain." The Grove Encyclopedia of Materials and Techniques in Art. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. pp. 307-8.
Preceded by
Balthasar Charles
Prince of Asturias
Succeeded by
Charles II of Spain


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