European Royalty: Holy Roman Emperor--Charles V (1500-58)

Figure 1.--Nicolaus Alexander Mair von Landshut painted this work of Queen Juanna la Loco with her two children, Charles amd Elebor. The portrait would have been made about 1505. It looks to have neen painted fter their parents became Quee amd King of Spain, but before their fasther died.

Charles V was the son of Philip I. He thus inherited Spain and its wealthy overseas empire, parts of Italy (Naples, Sicily. Sardinia, Milan, Mantua, Parma, and Piacenza), the Netherlands, parts of France (Burgandy and Franche-Comté), and the Habsburg German and Austrian possessions. The Hapsburg domains dominated Continental Europe, surronding Burobon France and soon to threaten England. Vast quantities of gold and silver from the American possessions flowed into the Hapsburg coffers which combuined with their extensive possessions gave them enormous power.


Charles V was the son of Philip I. Philip was the son of Emperor Maximilliam. His mother was Juanna, the daughter of King Ferdinand and Quenn Isabella of Spain. Upon the death of Isabella (1504), Juamma became queen of Castille. Juanna was the sister of Catherine of Aragon. Juanna was without doubt insane. Philip thus became king of Spain. When he died unepectely (1506), Ferdinand became regent , ruking in the mame of Juanna and her infant son Charles who was raised in Flanders. His grandfather, Ferdinand of Aragon died without a surviving son.


Charles V was born in 1500. Charles was born in Ghent and raised in the Netherlands until 1517.


He was tutored by scholar Adrian of Utrecht and later by Pope Adrian VI. Few individuals even monarchs can be said to have been tutored by a pope.


Charles V became king of Spain in 1516 and Holy Romam Emperor in 1519. His father was Hapsburg Philip I and Joanna of Castile. He was thus destined to inherit a realm of vast territory and power. Beginning with the death of his father, Charles inherited a vast holdings and territories. Philip I left him the Netherlands and Franche-Comté (1506). Ferdinand his grandfather left him Castile (joint ruler with his insane mother (1516). This also meant he ruled Aragon, Navarre, Granada, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, and the growing Spanish empire in America. Emperor Maximillian, his other grandfaher, left him Austria and other Hapsburg lands (1519). He was then elected Holy Roman Emperor.

Voyages of Discovery

The Spanish voyahes of Discovery were creating avast new colonial enpire in the Americas. During Carles rule the great Aztec and Incas Empires were conquered and large quantitiesof treasure began to clow back to Charles andspain.

Political Situation

Charles V with his vast territories wasthe most powerful man in Europe. His territories, virtually surrounding France, posed a mortal fanger to Francis I and France. England was also involved. Charles' territories included the Netherlads and the English economy was depoedant on acces to marets there for its raw loo exports. Both England and the Netherlands played an importan role in Europeam wool trade. The natural tendency would be for France to seek an alliance with England to ballance the power of te Empire and Charles V. England was, however, France's natural enemy. The English could not help but think that if France and the Empire ever formed an alliance, England would be endngered. Complicating the political situation was the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation (1517).


Charles married the Infanta(princess) Isabella, sister of John III of Portugal, who had shortly before married Catherine, Charles's sister.


Charles' elsest son succeeded him as Philip II of Spain. His other child was Maria of Spain. There were two other illegitimate children: Joan of Spain and Margaret of Parma.

The Reformation in Germany

Charles at a very young age was immediately confronted with Luther and the growing problem of the Reformation in Germany. Charles summoned Martin Luther to the Diet of Worms (1521). Luther ereceived safe conduct, but when ordered to recant and he refused, Charles declared Luther and his followers outlaws. He was unable, however, to focus his resources to suppress the growing support for Luther as he was involved in a war supported by Henry VIII of England, against their common enemy--France. Charles summoned Martin Luther to the Diet of Worms (1521). Luther received safe conduct, but when ordered to recant and he refused, Charles declared Luther and his followers outlaws. The situation in Germany worsened with the Peasants' Revolt and the growing Reformation, especially the formation of the Schmalkaldic League. Charles faced with problms abroad, delegated considerable responsibility for German domestic problems to his brother Ferdinand. Charles hope to resolve the Reformation with the opening of the Council of Trent (1545). This was in effect thge opening of the Counter Reformation. Charles manage to win the support of some German princes for the Catholic cause. He attacked the Schmalkaldic League and achieved battlefield successes against the protestant princes (1546). He defeated John Frederick I of Saxony and imprisoned Philip of Hesse (1547). Charles at the Diet of Augsburg supported doctrinal compromises that he hoped would bring the Protestants back to the Catholic Church (1547).

Military Campaigns

His ability to handle the growing pronlem in Germany was complicated by a series of military confrintations with both France and the Turks. There was a campaign in Northern Italy (1521).

The Reformation in England

Another campaign resulted in the sacking of Rome (1527). In command of Rome the Pope was in no position to annull the marriage between Henry VIII of England and Catherine of Aragon who was Charles' aunt. (Henry was furious and the result of course was the English Refotrmation.)

Francis I

Chgarles was unable, however, to focus his resources to suppress the growing support for Luther as he was involved in a war supported by Henry VIII of England, against their common enemy--France. Charles' forces captured François I of France and forced him to sign the Treaty of Madrid (1526) in François renounced claims on Northern Italy. As soon as he was released, however, François renounced the treaty.

The Turks

Charles' principal problem was he faced a major military chalenge in the Mediterranean from Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. This was componded by an alliance between Suleiman and François I which made it impossibe for Charles to concentrate his forces to deal with either as well as the Protestants within the Empire.

The Netherlands

Charles made the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands a seperate entity from both the Empire and from France which was called the "Pragmatic Sanction" (1548).


These efforts, however, did not resolve the Reformation crisis. Charles worn down by constant domestic and international crises abdicated (1556). Most of his possesions and titles went to his son, Philip II of Spain. The Hapsburg territories in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire went to his brother, Ferdinand. Charles retired to the monastery of Yuste in Spain and may have suffered a nervous breakdown before dieing (1558). Some could not help but note his mother's madness.


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Created: September 28, 2003
Last updated: 6:17 AM 10/12/2009