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Charles IV

Charles IV

Charles IV (1316-1378) reigned as king of Bohemia from 1346 and Holy Roman emperor from 1355. He strengthened monarchical authority and increased intellectual and cultural contact between Bohemia and the West.

On May 14, 1316, Charles IV was born in Bohemia, the son of John of Luxemburg, King of Bohemia. Charles was taken by his father to France at the age of 7 to be educated at the French court. John, who spent the last 20 years of his reign outside Bohemia, wanted his son to have a broader experience of the world of knighthood than Bohemia could offer. After his French education (under a tutor who would later, as Pope Clement VI, crown Charles emperor), Charles was called by his father to Italy, where John had temporarily become governor of Lombardy. After 2 years in Italy, Charles was sent by his father to Bohemia, where he was named margrave of Moravia and given the administration of Bohemia and Moravia on his father's behalf. In 1341 Charles was recognized as heir to the Bohemian throne.

In 1342 Charles's former tutor became Pope Clement VI and, in collaboration with King John, arranged for Charles to be elected king of the Romans (the first step toward being elected Holy Roman emperor) in 1346. In the same year John and Charles went to France to fight against the English armies in the first major campaign of the Hundred Years War. King John, blind and aged, was led into battle at Crécy, where he was killed. Charles, who survived the battle, now became king of Bohemia. After a diplomatic and political struggle with his rivals for the imperial crown and with the Pope himself, Charles went suddenly to Italy in 1355 and was crowned emperor by the papal legate.

Holy Roman Emperor

In the mid-14th century the title of Holy Roman emperor was useful more for dynastic aggrandizement than as a sign of political power. The series of emperors from hitherto obscure families—Hapsburgs, Nassaus, Wittelsbachs, and Luxemburgs—who had held the title from 1273 had been elected precisely because they were unlikely to create a genuine imperial monarchy. The real power in the empire lay in the hands of the princes (the electors) who elected each emperor and in the hands of the other aristocrats and individual cities who vied with them for rights and privileges. The imperial title gave its holder only certain rights to appoint some kinds of officials, to issue some privileges, and to receive certain incomes from Italy and Germany. It also attracted dynastic jealousy and political opposition from those who feared too powerful or too ambitious an emperor. Charles faced the same problems as his predecessors: lack of an imperial administration or legal structure, lack of money, and lack of a strong social or territorial base upon which to establish a stronger imperial title.

Charles attempted first to set the empire in order. At the imperial diets of Nuremburg and Metz in 1355-1356 he issued a series of ordinances, collectively known as the Golden Bull, which stabilized the privileges of the electors, gave them virtual independence from imperial authority, and intended that they become the basis of a stronger empire. Hostility on the part of those envious of the electors, however, and of the Wittelsbach and Hapsburg rivals of Charles prevented the Emperor from contributing much toward a real reform of German government. In addition, Charles was occupied with other imperial duties. The papacy, situated at Avignon since the beginning of the century, claimed Charles's assistance for its return to Italy. The great poet Petrarch wrote Charles imploring him to remember the Roman destiny and to return to pacify Italy. In 1367-1369 Charles made an unsuccessful entry into Italy. From his return to Prague until his death he concentrated upon establishing his sons in positions of power. He had his eldest son, Wenceslaus (later Wenceslaus IV), elected king of the Romans and named him his heir in Bohemia and arranged for the marriage of his second son (later the emperor Sigismund) to the heiress of the king of Hungary. His remaining efforts concentrated upon the extension of Bohemian power.

Bohemian Cultural Revival

The establishment of the house of Luxemburg on the Bohemian throne in the person of Charles's father, John, in 1310 had begun the rise of Bohemian power and prestige in Christendom. John, although away from Bohemia for the last 20 years of his life, had strengthened the power and, more importantly, the prestige of the Crown by his chivalrous adventures and by his judicious acquisition of territories for his kingdom. Charles's talent, administrative experience, papal connections, and genuine love for Bohemia led him to continue his father's policy. In 1348 Charles established the great University of Prague and, in the following years, rebuilt much of Prague, his capital, adding the famous New Town to the city by a spectacular bridge across the Vltava, and built the famous castle of Karlstein, from which he governed both empire and kingdom.

Charles's patronage of learning and the arts resulted in the fertilization of native Bohemian culture with the work of artists and scholars brought from France and Germany. Prague even witnessed an early stage of humanism under the influence of Charles's efficient and learned chancery. The scholar-king himself inspired much of the activity in his realm. He could speak Latin, French, German, Czech, and Italian, maintained an interest in theology and law, and lived a simple, pious-almost superstitious-life.

In following the imperial style of his age, which meant attending as much to the fortunes of his house as to the problems of the empire, Charles also enriched the kingdom which his house ruled. If his imperial reign was less than effective, he at least avoided being pulled into the insoluble problems of Italy and the papacy and managed to stabilize for a time the political rivalries in Germany. He died at Prague on Nov. 29, 1378.

Further Reading

The standard biography of Charles IV in English is Bede Jarrett, The Emperor Charles IV (1935). Another fullength study is Gerald G. Walsh, The Emperor Charles IV, 1316-1378: A Study in Holy Roman Imperialism (1924). There is a short account in the Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 3 (1932). Background works which include excellent studies of Charles IV are Denys Hay, Europe in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (1966), and R. R. Betts, Essays in Czech History (1969). □

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Charles IV (Holy Roman emperor)

Charles IV, 1316–78, Holy Roman emperor (1355–78), German king (1347–78), and king of Bohemia (1346–78). The son of John of Luxemburg, Charles was educated at the French court and fought the English at Crécy, where his father's heroic death made him king of Bohemia. Pope Clement VI, to whom he had promised far-reaching concessions, helped secure his election (1346) by the imperial electors as antiking to Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV. Louis's death (1347), the popular desire for peace, which was fostered by the ravages of the Black Death (bubonic plague), and the absence of a strong leader to unite the opposition enabled Charles to make good his claim to the crown by 1349.

In 1355 he journeyed to Rome, where, on Easter Sunday, he was crowned emperor by the papal legate (the pope was then residing at Avignon). His coronation with papal approval ended years of conflict between popes and emperors, during which time the imperial rulers had tried to regain control of Italy and the papacy. Although the emperors continued to be crowned at Rome, they were excluded from Italian affairs. At the same time, Charles's Golden Bull of 1356 ended papal interference in the Holy Roman Empire by eliminating the need for papal approval and confirmation of emperors. Although he had virtually renounced imperial pretensions in Italy through his treaty with Clement VI, Charles supported the plans of Urban V to return the papacy from Avignon to Rome.

Charles's major concern was to strengthen his dynasty. Through skillful diplomacy he acquired Brandenburg (1373) and added to his territories in Silesia and Lusatia. He ensured the succession of his son Wenceslaus by bribing the electors to name him German king (1376). To raise the money for the bribes, he imposed even higher taxes on the cities. This led to a revolt by a league of Swabian cities. Charles obtained peace (1378) by granting concessions.

During Charles's reign Bohemia flourished. His imperial capital was at Prague, where he founded (1348) Charles Univ. (the oldest in Central Europe) and rebuilt the Cathedral of St. Vitus. By introducing new agricultural methods and by expanding industries, he fostered economic life. He drew up a code of laws, the Maiestas Carolina (1350)—which, however, was rejected by the diet—and he protected the lower classes by giving them courts in which to sue their overlords. Through Charles's efforts as margrave of Moravia, Prague was elevated (1344) to an archbishopric, thus gaining ecclesiastic independence. By the Golden Bull, which strengthened the electors at the expense of the emperor, he confirmed Bohemia's internal autonomy. As Holy Roman emperor, his reputation rests mainly on the Golden Bull, which, although it confirmed the weakness of the imperial power, provided a stable constitutional foundation for its exercise.

See biographies by G. G. Walsh (1924) and B. Jarett (with a translation of Charles's autobiography, 1935).

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Charles IV

Charles IV

Charles IV (1748-1819), who was king of Spain from 1788 to 1808, was a weak and good-natured monarch who preferred hunting to governing.

Born in Naples on Nov. 11, 1748, Charles IV was the second son of Charles, King of Naples and Sicily, and Maria Amalia of Saxony. His education was not a particularly good one; he was more interested in riding and hunting than in reading. In 1759 the childless Ferdinand VI of Spain died after naming as his heir his half brother Charles of Naples. The new king arrived in Spain a few months later. On his death in 1788 his son Charles ascended the throne of Spain as Charles IV.

When he became king, Charles was 40 years old and had had no experience in the art of government. Furthermore, the somewhat timid monarch was almost completely dominated by his wife, Maria Luisa of Parma, whom he had married in 1756. She in turn was infatuated with Manuel de Godoy, a young and handsome officer of the Royal Guards. Charles too became very fond of Godoy; he made him Duke of Alcudia and in 1792 named him head of the government. While Godoy governed, Charles busied himself with his two favorite pastimes: hunting and collecting clocks. A sizable part of his clock collection is still to be seen at the royal palace in Aranjuez.

Godoy's alliance with France in 1796 and the subsequent war with Britain damaged Spain and made him, as well as the monarch who kept him in power, very unpopular. In March 1808 Godoy's enemies forced Charles to dismiss Godoy and abdicate in favor of his son Ferdinand VII.

By this time Napoleon had decided to replace the Spanish Bourbons, his allies, with a member of his own family, and in April 1808 he lured Ferdinand to Bayonne. Soon Charles, Maria Luisa, and Godoy also arrived there. Napoleon forced the Spanish royal house to abdicate, and a few months later his younger brother entered Spain as Joseph I.

Ferdinand returned to Spain as king in 1814. But his father and mother and Godoy never again played roles in Spanish history. After the events in Bayonne the royal couple and their favorite lived in France and then settled in Italy. On Jan. 2, 1819, Maria Luisa died in Rome. Charles died in Naples on January 29. Godoy was with him until the end.

Further Reading

There is no full biography of Charles IV in English. The short account of Charles IV and his reign in Charles Petrie, The Spanish Royal House (1958), is useful, and Raymon Carr, Spain, 1808-1939 (1966), is highly recommended. □

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Charles IV (king of Spain)

Charles IV, 1748–1819, king of Spain (1788–1808), second son of Charles III, whom he succeeded in place of his imbecile older brother. Unlike his father, Charles IV was an ineffective ruler and in 1792 virtually surrendered the government to Godoy, his chief minister and the favorite of his wife, María Luisa. Spain entered the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, but in 1795 made peace with France in the second Treaty of Basel. By the Treaty of San Ildefonso (1796) Spain allied itself with France and became involved in the war with England. It suffered major naval defeats at Cape St. Vincent (1797) and Trafalgar (1805). The convention of Fontainebleau (1807) precipitated the events leading to the Peninsular War. As French troops marched on Madrid in Mar., 1808, a popular uprising led to a coup at Aranjuez; the king was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Ferdinand VII. Napoleon I tricked both father and son into a meeting with him at Bayonne, France, and forced them to abdicate in turn. The royal family was held captive in France until 1814, while Joseph Bonaparte was king of Spain. Charles IV and his family have been frankly portrayed by Goya, one of their court painters.

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Charles IV (duke of Lorraine)

Charles IV, 1604–75, duke of Lorraine. He succeeded to the duchy in 1624 but was to lose it several times because of his anti-French policy. In 1633, French troops invaded Lorraine in retaliation for Charles's support of Gaston d'Orléans. Forced to make humiliating concessions to France, he abdicated (1634) in favor of his brother and entered the imperial service in the Thirty Years War. He briefly recovered his lands in 1641 and 1644, but he was excluded from the Peace of Westphalia (1648) at the war's conclusion. Although he joined the Spanish during the Fronde, he communicated with the French government and as a result was imprisoned by the Spanish (1654–59). In 1661, at the price of heavy concessions to King Louis XIV, Charles recovered Lorraine and the duchy of Bar. Expelled once more by the French in 1670, Charles later helped to instigate the alliance of Spain and the Holy Roman emperor with the Dutch in the third of the Dutch Wars. In 1675 he defeated François de Créquy at Konzer Bruck.

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Charles IV (king of France)

Charles IV (Charles the Fair), 1294–1328, king of France (1322–28), youngest son of Philip IV, brother and successor of Philip V. Charles continued his brother's work of strengthening the royal power. He also increased the royal revenues, notably by debasing the coinage. Pope John XXII, having declared Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV deposed, offered (1324) to support Charles for emperor, but the plan came to nothing. Charles invaded (1324) Guienne (Aquitaine), a possession of the English king, and in 1327 he compelled England to cede to France the Guienne districts around Agen and Bazas and to pay a large indemnity. The English, however, retained the rest of Guienne. Charles, the last king of the Capetian dynasty, was succeeded by Philip VI, of the Valois line.

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Charles IV

Charles IV (1316–78) Holy Roman Emperor (1355–78) and King of Bohemia (1347–78). Supported by Pope Clement VI, he was a rival of the Wittelsbach Emperor Louis IV, and when Louis died, was elected King of the Germans (Emperor-elect). A skilful diplomat, he blocked or appeased his Wittelsbach and Habsburg rivals and improved relations with the papacy. In 1356, he introduced a stable system of imperial government. He ruled from Prague, his birthplace, where he founded Charles University (1348) and built the Charles Bridge. Czech culture reached a peak under his patronage. He was succeeded by his son, Wenceslas.

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Charles IV

Charles IV (1748–1819) King of Spain (1788–1808), son and successor of Charles III. Unable to cope with the upheavals of Napoleon Bonaparte, Charles virtually turned over government to his wife María Luisa and her lover Manuel de Godoy. Godoy formed an alliance with France, but Spain was nevertheless occupied by French troops in the Peninsular War. Charles was forced to abdicate in favour of his son, Ferdinand VII, who in turn was forced from the throne by Napoleon.

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Charles IV (king of Hungary)

Charles IV, king of Hungary: see Charles I, emperor of Austria.

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