Phillip II in The Sea Hawk (1940)

The Sea Hawk is a 1940 film directed by Michael Curtiz.  It was the tenth collaboration between Curtiz and Errol Flynn.  Though the principal royal presence in the film is Flora Robson as Elizabeth I, Phillip the II of Spain is always sort of looming in the background.  He is played by Montagu Love, who also co-starred with Flynn in the 1938 Curtiz film The Adventures of Robin Hood.

The film opens with Phillip II discussing his plans for world domination with his advisors.  The film takes place in the year before the Spanish Armada’s attack on England.  Phillip is constructing the most powerful fleet in the world and though he makes overtures of friendship towards England, he secretly plans to take the island as part of the Spanish Empire.

Phillip II was the son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles the V and so of the House of Habsburg.  Phillip commissioned many portraits of himself during his reign so we have a very strong idea of his appearance. The filmmakers seem to have done a great job in casting Love in the role.  The resemblance is clear from this 1565 portrait by Sofonisba Anguissola.

Montagu Love was born in 1880 and began his career as a field artist and cartoonist for newspapers.  His battlefield drawings from the Boer War gained him much popularity but instead of continuing as an artist he decided to become an actor.  He re-located to the US in 1918 and made several appearances on Broadway before beginning a successful acting career in silent films.  He starred in nearly 100 silent films and was often a favourite villain.

Phillip II was not the first royal that Love played.  Perhaps his most famous monarch was Henry VIII in 1937’s The Prince and the Pauper (again alongside Errol Flynn).  Love died at the age of 63 in 1943 leaving behind a very impressive body of work.

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