Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

Charles V
Elderly Karl V.jpg
Reign28 June 1519 – 27 August 1556
PredecessorMaximilian I
SuccessorFerdinand I
King of Castile
Reign23 January 1516 – 16 January 1556
Coronation15 February 1518
SuccessorPhilip II of Spain
Co-monarchJoanna de jure until 1555
King of Aragon
Reign23 January 1516 – 16 January 1556
Coronation29 July 1518
PredecessorFerdinand II
SuccessorPhilip II of Spain
Co-monarchJoanna de jure until 1555
Archduke of Austria
Reign12 January 1519 – 28 April 1521
PredecessorMaximilian I
SuccessorFerdinand I (in the name of Charles V until 1556)
Reign25 September 1506 – 25 October 1555[1]
PredecessorPhilip I of Castile
SuccessorPhilip II of Spain
Born24 February 1500
Ghent, Flanders, Habsburg Netherlands
Died21 September 1558 (aged 58)
Yuste, Spain
SpouseIsabella of Portugal
see full list
Regnal name
see full list of titles and regnal names
FatherPhilip I of Castile
MotherJoanna of Castile
ReligionRoman Catholicism
SignatureCharles V's signature
Europe at the time of the accession of Charles V

Charles V[a] (24 February 1500 – 21 September 1558) was Holy Roman Emperor (1519–1556), King of Castile and Aragon (1516–1556), and head of the House of Habsburg. As emperor he was sovereign in Germany and northern Italy, while he had direct rule over Habsburg Austria and also the Habsburg Netherlands since becoming Duke of Burgundy in 1506. Through his Spanish kingdoms he was also ruler of Naples, Sicily, Sardinia and an expanding colonial empire. He spent most of his reign defending the integrity of the Holy Roman Empire from the Protestant Reformation, the Ottoman Empire and a series of wars with France.

Charles ratified the conquest of the Aztec and Inca empires by the Castilian conquistadores, and financed the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan. He revitalized the medieval concept of the universal monarchy of Charlemagne[2] and travelled from city to city, with no single fixed capital: overall he spent 28 years in the Low Countries, 18 years in Spain and 9 years in Germany proper.[3] After four decades of incessant warfare, Charles V abandoned his multi-national project by abdicating in 1556 and dividing his hereditary and imperial domains between the Spanish Habsburgs headed by his son Philip II of Spain and the Austrian Habsburgs headed by his brother Ferdinand, who was Archduke of Austria under Charles' authority since 1521 and the designated successor as Emperor since 1531.[4] The personal union of his European and American territories, spanning over nearly 4 million square kilometres, was the first collection of realms labelled "the empire on which the sun never sets".[5][6][7][8][9]

Charles was born in Flanders to Philip the Handsome and Joanna the Mad. Due to the premature death of his father in 1506 and the mental illness of his mother, Charles inherited all of his family dominions at a young age. As Duke of Burgundy from 1506, he inherited areas in the Netherlands and around the eastern border of France. As a grandson of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he became King of Spain jointly with his mother in 1516 and inherited the developing Castilian empire in the Americas and the Aragonese territories extending to southern Italy. As the head of the House of Habsburg, he inherited Austria and other lands in central Europe and was also elected in 1519 to succeed his grandfather as Holy Roman Emperor.

Because of widespread fears that his vast inheritance would lead to the realisation of a universal monarchy and that he was trying to create a European hegemony, Charles was the object of hostility from many enemies.[10] His reign was dominated by war, particularly by three major simultaneous prolonged conflicts: the Italian Wars with France, the struggle to halt the Turkish advance into Europe, and the conflict with the German princes resulting from the Protestant Reformation. In order to finance such wars to defend the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V increased the flows of South American silver to Spain (the chief source of his power and wealth) and caused long-term consequences on the economy. [11] While Charles did not typically concern himself with rebellions, he was quick to put down four particularly dangerous rebellions; the Revolt of the Comuneros in Castile, the Revolt of the Brotherhoods in Aragon, the revolt of the Arumer Zwarte Hoop in Frisia, and, later in his reign, the Revolt of Ghent (1539). Once the rebellions were quelled, the essential Castilian and Burgundian territories remained mostly loyal to Charles throughout his rule.

Charles opposed the Reformation, and in Germany he was in conflict with Protestant nobles who were motivated by both religious and political opposition to him. In 1521 he organised the Diet of Worms and declared Martin Luther an outlaw, but could not prevent the spread of Protestantism and (despite victory in the Schmalkaldic War) was ultimately forced to concede the principle of Cuius regio, eius religio in 1555. The struggle with the Ottoman Empire was fought in Hungary and the Mediterranean. The Turkish advance was halted at the Siege of Vienna in 1529, and a lengthy war of attrition, conducted on Charles' behalf by his younger brother Ferdinand (King of Hungary and archduke of Austria), continued for the rest of Charles's reign. In the Mediterranean, although there were some successes, he was unable to prevent the Ottomans' increasing naval dominance and the piratical activity of the Barbary pirates. The French wars, mainly fought in Italy, lasted for most of his reign. Enormously expensive due to the employment of condottieri and landsknecht, they led to the development of the infantry known as the tercios. The Battle of Pavia (1525) led to the temporary imprisonment of Francis I of France: imperial control of the French-occupied Duchy of Milan was restored and Charles V became Duke of Milan in 1535. However, France refused to accept the hegemony of Charles V and often supported the Protestant Leagues and formed alliances with the Ottomans.

Charles was 56 when he abdicated, and after 40 years of active rule he was physically exhausted and sought the peace of a monastery, where he died at the age of 58. The Holy Roman Empire passed to his younger brother Ferdinand, archduke of Austria, while the Spanish Empire was inherited by Charles's son Philip II of Spain. The Duchy of Milan and the Habsburg Netherlands were left in personal union to the King of Spain, but remained part of the Holy Roman Empire. The two empires would remain allies until the extinction of the male line of the Spanish branch of the Habsburgs in 1700.

Heritage and early life

Portrait by Bernard van Orley, 1519

Charles was born on February 24 1500 at the Prinsenhof in the Flemish city of Ghent, which was part of the Habsburg Netherlands. He was the eldest son of Philip the Handsome of the Austrian House of Habsburg (son of Mary of Burgundy and Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor) and Joanna the Mad of the Spanish House of Trastamara (daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon).[12] The culture and courtly life of the Burgundian Low Countries were an important influence in his early life. He was tutored by William de Croÿ (who would later become his first prime minister), and also by Adrian of Utrecht (later Pope Adrian VI). Charles became a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece in his infancy and later became its grand master. Founded by the Burgundian Philip the Good in 1430, the order emphasised the ideals of the medieval knights and the desire for Christian unity to fight the infidel.[13] It played an important part in the development of Charles' beliefs and he is rarely seen in portraits without its insignia prominently displayed (see portraits by van Orley and Seisenegger). It is said that Charles spoke several vernacular languages: he was fluent in French and Dutch, later adding an acceptable Castilian Spanish (which Charles called the "divine language"[14]) required by the Castilian Cortes Generales as a condition for becoming King of Castile. He also gained a decent command of German (in which he was not fluent prior to his election), though he never spoke it as well as French.[15]

From his Burgundian ancestors he inherited an ambiguous relationship with the Kings of France. Charles shared with France his mother tongue and many cultural forms. In his youth he made frequent visits to Paris, then the largest city of Western Europe. In his words: "Paris is not a city, but a world" (Lutetia non urbs, sed orbis). He was betrothed to both Louise and Charlotte of Valois, daughters of King Francis I of France, but they both died in childhood. Charles also inherited the tradition of political and dynastic enmity between the royal and the Burgundian ducal lines of the Valois dynasty. Charles was very attached to the Burgundian Low Countries where he had been raised. These lands were very rich and contributed significantly to the wealth of the Empire. He also spent much time there, mainly in Brussels. This stands in contrast with the attitude of his son Philip who only visited the Low Countries once.

Portrait by Jakob Seisenegger, 1533

Until the 1540s, Charles did not spend much time in Germany. He frequently was in Northern Italy (then part of the Holy Roman Empire). He never actually governed his Austrian dominions and made his brother Ferdinand the ruler of these lands in 1521, as well as his representative in the Holy Roman Empire during his absence. In spite of this, the Emperor had a close relationship with some German families, like the House of Nassau, many of which were represented at his court in Brussels. Some German princes or noblemen accompanied him in his military campaigns against France or the Ottomans, and the bulk of his army was generally composed of German troops, especially the Imperial Landsknechte.[16]

Indeed, in 1519, he was elected because he was considered a German prince while his main opponent was French. Nonetheless, in the long term, the growth of Lutheranism and Charles' staunch Catholicism alienated him from various German princes who finally fought against him in the 1540s and the 1550s. It is important to note, though, that other states of the Empire chose to support him in his war, and that he had the constant support of his brother, in spite of their strained personal relationship.[17] Whereas Charles spent much of his final years as a ruler trying to address the issue of religion in the Empire, it would ultimately be Ferdinand, by then much more popular in Germany, who would bring peace to the German lands.

Though Castile and Aragon were the core of his personal possessions and though he had many Iberian ancestors, in his earlier years Charles felt as if he were viewed as a foreign prince. He became fluent in Castilian Spanish late in his life, as it was not his first language. Nonetheless, he spent much of his life in Castile, including his final years in a monastery, and his heir, later Philip II, was born and raised in Castile. Indeed, Charles's motto, Plus Ultra ('Further Beyond'), became the national motto of Spain. He had many iberian counselors and, except for the revolt of the comuneros in the 1520s, Castile remained mostly loyal to him. Castile and Aragon was also his most important military asset, as it provided a great number of generals, as well as the formidable Spanish tercios, considered the best infantry of its time. Many Spaniards, however, believed that their resources were being used to sustain a policy that was not in the country's interest.[18] They usually believed that Charles should have focused on the Mediterranean and North Africa instead of Northern or Central Europe.

A witticism sometimes attributed to Charles is: "I speak Spanish (or Latin, depending on the source) to God, Italian to women, French to men and German to my horse." A variant of the quote is attributed to him by Swift in his 1726 Gulliver's Travels, but there are many other variants and it is often attributed instead to Frederick the Great.[19]

Portrait gallery

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Karel V
Alemannisch: Karl V. (HRR)
azərbaycanca: V Karl
Bân-lâm-gú: Karl 5-sè
беларуская: Карл V Габсбург
български: Карл V
čeština: Karel V.
Deutsch: Karl V. (HRR)
eesti: Karl V
estremeñu: Carlos I d'España
فارسی: کارل پنجم
français: Charles Quint
Frysk: Karel V
한국어: 카를 5세
Bahasa Indonesia: Karl V, Kaisar Romawi Suci
íslenska: Karl 5. keisari
Kabɩyɛ: Charles Quint
ქართული: კარლ V
Lëtzebuergesch: Karel V. (HRR)
Ligure: Carlo V
Lingua Franca Nova: Carlo 5
Nederlands: Keizer Karel V
Nedersaksies: Karel V
occitan: Carles Quint
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Karl V
Plattdüütsch: Karl V. (HRR)
română: Carol Quintul
slovenščina: Karel V. Habsburški
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Karlo V., car Svetog Rimskog Carstva
Türkçe: V. Karl
українська: Карл V Габсбург
Võro: Karl V
粵語: 卡爾五世