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Encyclopedia > Emperor Charles V

Charles (February 24, 1500September 21, 1558) was Holy Roman Emperor (as Charles V) from 1519-1558; he was also King of Spain from 1516-1556, officially as Charles I of Spain, although often referred to as Charles V ("Carlos Quinto" or "Carlos V") in Spain and Latin America. He was the son of Philip I and Joanna of Castile and grandson of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile and of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor and Marie, Duchess of Burgundy.


Family and nationality

"Emperor Charles V with a Baton" by Rubens, copy of a portrait by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, 1490-1576). He wears the Order of the Golden Fleece

It is hard to say what nationality Charles was. He was a Habsburg on his father's side, but he was not German. His mother tongue was French, being the language of the aristocracy in the Low Countries (modern day Belgium, Luxembourg, French région of Nord-Pas-de-Calais and the Netherlands), where he grew up. He made frequent stays in Paris in his youth, then the largest city of Western Europe which, like most aristocrats of his days, he thoroughly enjoyed. In his words: "Paris is not a city, but a universe" (Lutetia non urbs, sed orbis). He also famously said: "I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men and German to my horse." His first language was French, but he was a lifelong enemy of the king of France. His mother was Spanish, and Spain was the core of his kingdom, but he was not Spanish. He probably felt more at home in the Low Countries where he had spent his youth. In Spain he was always felt as a foreign prince, and never totally integrated.

Early life

Charles was born in Ghent and brought up in the Low Countries until 1517, where he was tutored by Adrian of Utrecht, later Pope Adrian VI. His three most prominent subsequent advisors were Lord Chièvres, Jean Sauvage, and Mercurino Gattinara. In 1506, on the death of his father, Charles inherited the Low Countries and Franche-Comté. After the death of his grandfather Ferdinand in 1516, Charles became joint-king of Castile with his mother Joanna of Castile (who was insane), and also inherited Aragon, Navarre, Granada, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, and Spanish America. Upon arriving in Castile and dismissing the regent Cardinal Cisneros, he had to fight the Castilian War of the Communities against the cities and petty nobles who disliked his appointment of Flemings for Castilian offices. He eventually won and from then on Castilian Cortes were keen on conceding him the vast resources needed for the numerous wars he waged in Europe. After the death of his other grandfather, Maximilian, in 1519, he inherited Habsburg lands in Austria and was elected Holy Roman Emperor on June 28, 1519.

He married the Infanta Isabella in 1526, sister of John III of Portugal, who had shortly before married Catherine, Charles's sister.

Wars against France and the Reformation

Plus Oultre on a gable of a Flemish house in Ghent, Charles V's birthplace

Charles V initiated many wars with France during his reign, first fighting against them in Northern Italy in 1521. Later in the Italian Wars, in 1527, his troops sacked Rome, causing Charles some embarrassment but enabling him to keep the Pope from annulling the marriage of Henry VIII of England and Catherine of Aragon, who was his aunt.

As Holy Roman Emperor, he called Martin Luther to the Diet of Worms in 1521, promising him safe conduct if he would appear. He outlawed Luther and his followers in that same year but was tied up with other concerns and unable to try to stamp out Protestantism.

In a war supported by Henry VIII of England, in 1525 Charles captured François I of France and made him sign the Treaty of Madrid (1526), in which France renounced her claims on Northern Italy. When he was released, however, François I had the Parliament of Paris denounce the treaty, because it had been signed under duress. The 1529 Treaty of Cambrai (signed with France) and the Peace of Barcelona (with the Pope) confirmed Charles as Holy Roman Emperor and also allowed him to keep the lands he had acquired in Italy.

1524 to 1526 saw the Peasants' Revolt in Germany and the formation of the Lutheran Schmalkaldic League, and Charles delegated increasing responsibility for Germany to his brother Ferdinand while he concentrated on problems abroad.

Wars against the Ottoman Empire

He had been fighting with the Ottoman Empire and its sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, for a number of years. The expeditions of the Ottoman force along the Mediterranean coast posed a threat to Habsburg lands and the peace of Western Europe. In Central Europe, the Turkish advance was halted at Vienna in 1529, which they besieged unsucessfully. In 1535 Charles won an important victory at Tunis, but in 1536 Francis I of France allied himself with Suleiman against Charles. While Francis was persuaded to sign a peace treaty in 1538, he again allied himself with the Ottomans in 1542. In 1543 Charles allied himself with Henry VIII and forced Francis to sign the Truce of Crepy-en-Laonnois. Charles later signed a humiliating treaty with the Ottomans, to gain him some respite from the huge expenses of their war.

The Council of Trent and other reforms

In 1545 the opening of the Council of Trent began the Counter-Reformation, and Charles won to the Catholic cause some of the princes of the Holy Roman Empire. He also attacked the Schmalkaldic League in 1546 and defeated John Frederick, Elector of Saxony and imprisoned Philip of Hesse in 1547. At the Augsburg Interim in 1548 he created a doctrinal compromise that he felt Catholics and Protestants alike might share. A more permanent settlement followed with the 1555 Peace of Augsburg.

In 1548 he made the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands (Low Countries) an entity separate from both the Empire and from France (the "Pragmatic Sanction of 1548").

In 1550, Charles convened a conference at Valladolid in order to consider the morality of the force used against the indigenous populations of Spanish America.

Abdication and later life

In 1556 Charles abdicated his various positions, giving his personal empire to his son, Philip II of Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire to his brother, Ferdinand. Charles retired to the monastery of Yuste (Extremadura, Spain) and is thought to have had a nervous breakdown. He died in 1558. In the last two decades of his life he suffered from gout.

Preceded by:
Ferdinand II
King of Aragon Succeeded by:
Philip II
Count of Barcelona
King of Valencia
King of Naples
King of Sicily
Joanna of Castile King of Castile
King of Leon
Maximilian I King of Germany
Also Holy Roman Emperor
Ferdinand I
Archduke of Austria
Duke of Styria, Carinthia and Carniola
Count of the Tyrol
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

  Results from FactBites:
51. The Emperor Charles V. Wells, H.G. 1922. A Short History of the World (2515 words)
So it was that this Charles V, his grandson, inherited most of the American continent and between a third and a half of what the Turks had left of Europe.
The Emperor was greatly concerned by these advances, and did his utmost to drive back the Turks, but he found the greatest difficulty in getting the German princes to unite even with this formidable enemy upon their very borders.
Charles, muffled in a dark mantle, and bearing a lighted candle in his hand, mingled with his household, the spectator of his own obsequies; and the doleful ceremony was concluded by his placing the taper in the hands of the priest, in sign of his surrendering up his soul to the Almighty.”
  More results at FactBites »



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