Charles V (France)

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (0) About content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

Charles Vögele Holding AG

Postfach 58
Gwattstrasse 15
Pfaeffikon SZ, CH-8808 CM13 3EN 2
Telephone: (41) 055 416 71 11
Fax: (41) 055 410 12 82
Web site:

Public Company
Employees: 7,258
Sales: CHF 1.35 billion ($1.10 billion) (2005)
Stock Exchanges: Switzerland
Ticker Symbol: VCH
NAIC: 448140 Family Clothing Stores; 315222 Men's and Boys' Cut and Sew Suit, Coat, and Overcoat Manufacturing; 454113 Mail-Order Houses; 551112 Offices of Other Holding Companies

Charles Vögele Holding AG operates a cross-European chain of nearly 800 clothing stores. The company, based in Pfaeffikon, Switzerland, operates stores primarily in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Belgium. The company also operates a store in Slovenia, opened in 2005. Since 2006, the company has begun testing its retail format in Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic as well. Germany remains the company's largest single market, with nearly 340 stores. In Switzerland, the company is the market leader, with 159 stores in operation. The company has been expanding quickly in Belgium and the Netherlands, with more than 150 stores in 2006. The company also operates 144 stores in Austria. Vögele designs nearly all of the clothing it sells, but operates no production plants itself. Instead, the company contracts its manufacturing to third parties. European contractors account for 40 percent of the group's business, with the bulk produced in Asian markets. Women's wear forms the group's largest sales segment, averaging more than 55 percent of sales in each of the company's markets. Men's clothing adds some 30 percent to sales, while children's clothing accounts for more than 12 percent of sales. Charles Vögele has traditionally targeted a somewhat older, low-fashion market. However, in 2006 the company launched a new, more modern store design to target a more fashion-oriented clientele. Listed on the Swiss Stock Exchange, Vögele is led by chairman Bernd H. J. Bothe and CEO Daniel Reinhard. In 2005, the company posted revenues of CHF 1.35 billion ($1.10 billion).


Charles Vögele (alternatively Voegele) was a successful race car pilot, who, together with his wife Agnes Vögele-Antig, opened a store selling motorcycle clothing in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1955. Although Vögele continued racing with some success through the 1960s, and even sponsored his own racing team, his real fortune came from his clothing sales. The success of the company's motorcycle fashions encouraged the company to expand its operations, and by 1957 Charles Vögele GmbH had acquired an expanded range of sportswear designs. The company then launched a new, larger store in Winterthur.

The new store was followed by a steady string of store openings, and by 1958 the company had already begun to eye operations on a national scale. Vögele's timing seemed perfect, as the retail clothing market in Switzerland remained dominated by small stores. Few large retail groups existed, and most retail clothing groups operated only a handful of stores. Yet the rising Swiss economy, and particularly the country's emergence as one of the world's wealthiest, encouraged the development of the retail clothing sector. Consumers not only possessed greater purchasing power, and more leisure time, but the spirit of the period also encouraged greater individual expression through clothing choice.

Through the 1960s, Vögele continued expanding its network of retail stores. In 1970, the company moved its headquarters to a larger facility in Rapperswil. The company had also been developing a larger, city-center retail format, launched with the opening of an eight-story store in Berne in 1969. Vögele also began experimenting with other formats, particularly a small format store. The new format not only allowed the company to enter smaller towns, it also proved the perfect fit for the newly developed shopping mall format. The first shopping mall in Switzerland opened in Spreitenbach in 1970, and included a Vögele store among its first tenants.

Through the 1970s, Vögele achieved national penetration with its retail network. The company also launched a mail order business, enabling the company to reach markets not yet covered through its retail stores. In support of its growing clothing sales, the company opened an office in Hong Kong, taking advantage of the lower production costs in the Asian region. Meanwhile, Vögele added new operations, including real estate development. In 1974, for example, the company built its own shopping mall in Pfaffikon, Charles Vögele's hometown. Pfaffikon also became the site of the company's headquarters in 1985.

By then, Vögele had already begun to look beyond Switzerland's borders. In 1979, the company entered Germany, through the acquisition of Josten-Joka, based in Sigmaringen. That acquisition provided Vögele with a base of 22 stores with which to launch its international expansion. Germany quickly became the company's most important market, and by the mid-2000s represented more than one-third of the group's total retail network.


Vögele began testing a new large-scale store format, dubbed Moderama, which featured selling space ranging from 4,000 to 6,000 square meters. The first Moderamas opened in Volketswil and Oftringen in 1984, and featured an extended clothing selection, including evening wear. The new format was destined exclusively for the Swiss market.

Nonetheless, Vögele's interest in foreign expansion remained strong through the decade. The company added a new Southern Germany retail group, Kurz, soon after the Josten acquisition. In 1988, the company expanded its German holdings again with the purchase of the 34-store chain of Cosmos Mode S.A. and Willy Korn AG. By then, too, the company had expanded its mail order operation, acquiring Germany's Braun & Goll in 1987. That purchase also brought the company additional retail operations based in Pforzheim.

Vögele, which had acquired an art gallery and auction house, Stuker, in the 1970s, targeted a new area of diversification in the late 1980s, founding its own travel agency, Vögele Reisen, in 1988. The company remained active in the travel market for more than a decade, before selling that business to TUI.

Retail remained the group's primary business, and in the early 1990s, Vogele, which had long targeted a relatively older, low-fashion-oriented clientele, attempted to expand its range of retail offerings. In 1991, the company bought 80 percent of the Dyckhoff Group, based in Cologne. The move was intended to bring the group into the high-end clothing sector. However, by 1995, the company had decided to abandon that effort, selling off its Dyckhoff stake in order to refocus itself on its core clothing market.

Vögele also added to its international operations, buying up Austria's Moden Muller GmbH in 1994. That purchase placed Vögele among the leaders in Austria's retail clothing sector, with a network of 57 stores. Back at home, Vögele stepped up its presence with the acquisition of rival Kleider Frey, adding 22 new stores to its Swiss network in 1995.


Vögele is the store for fashion that has already asserted and established itself in the society, and which offers an excellent price-performance-ratio. At Vögele, women, men and children can find high quality fashion at attractive prices. Production, administration and sales follow strict quality guidelines and ethic principles.

That year Charles Vögele also retired from the company, turning over its direction to sons Marco and Carlo. (Charles Vögele died in 2002 at the age of 79.) By then, Vögele counted nearly 330 branches, more than half of which were outside Switzerland. Under its new direction, the company decided to exit its flagging mail order business, which had become unprofitable in the first half of the 1990s. Instead, the company concentrated on revamping its retail network, revising its store design while investing in a new IT network to connect all of its branches to the headquarters.

The second half of the 1990s, however, presented a new challenge to the company. Faced with a growing number of rivals, such as H&M, Zara, The Gap, and others, Vögele recognized the need to expand its own network in order to remain competitive. For this, the company turned to Schroder Ventures, selling a majority of its shares to the investment group in 1997 in a deal worth more than $900 million. Under Schroder Ventures, the company continued to streamline its operations, selling off all non-core operations in order to focus exclusively on retail clothing sales.

By 1999, Vögele was prepared to launch its next phase of expansion. In support of this, the company went public, listing its shares on the Swiss and Frankfurt stock exchanges. The listing on the Frankfurt exchange proved only temporary, and the company removed its listing on that exchange in 2003.


In the meantime, Vögele had targeted new international markets. In 1999, the company entered Belgium and the Netherlands, acquiring 27 stores formerly operated by P&C Groep. The company further expanded its Benelux presence with the purchase of the Kien Group, adding 106 stores, as well as a warehouse facility, in 2001. Vögele paid NLG 126 million ($65 million) to acquire the chain from parent Vendex KBB, the Dutch retailing powerhouse. At the same time, the company added to its German holdings, buying Hannover-based Mac Fash Textil, with 40 stores, in 2000. By the end of that year, the company total retail network numbered more than 570 stores.

Vögele's rapid expansion in the early 2000s, however, cut deeply into its profits. By 2002, the company was forced to undertake a major restructuring of its operations, streamlining its organization structure, while also rolling out a new store design across its network. The new "jazzier" interior was developed in order to help the company attract a younger clientele. As part of the process, the company adopted the new store brand and logo, Charles Vögele Switzerland.

With its restructuring underway, Vögele began developing new expansion goals for the middle of the decade. With further growth limited in the Swiss market, and with its presence already well developed in Germany, Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands, Vögele turned its attention to the developing Eastern European markets. In 2005, the company entered this emerging market, opening a store in Slovenska Bistrica, in Slovenia.

The successful launch into that market led the company to expand its Eastern European ambitions. In 2006, the company began testing the waters elsewhere in the region, opening pilot stores in Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Charles Vögele hoped to replicate its history of success in these new markets, setting the pace for its next 50 years as a European retail clothing leader.


Race-car driver Charles Vögele opens a shop in Zurich to sell motorcycle clothing.
The company extends its range to general sportswear and begins building a retail network throughout Switzerland.
The company's first international expansion occurs with the acquisition of the Josten-Joka retail network.
Vögele attempts to enter the high-end retail clothing market with the purchase of majority control of Dykhoff.
The company enters the Austrian market with the purchase of Moden Muller GmbH.
The Vögele family sells majority control to Schroder Ventures.
Vögele goes public with listings on the Zurich and Frankfurt exchanges, and adds Belgium and the Netherlands to its international markets.
A Vögele store opens in Slovenia.
The company launches operations in Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic.


Charles Voegele Ceska s.r.o. (Czech Republic); Charles Voegele Polska Sp. z o.o. (Poland); Charles Vögele (Austria) AG; Charles Vögele (Belgium) B.V.B.A.; Charles Vögele (Netherlands) B.V.; Charles Vögele Deutschland GmbH; Charles Vögele Fashion (Hong Kong) Ltd. (Hong Kong); Charles Vögele Hungária Kereskedelmi Kft. (Hungary); Charles Vögele Import GmbH (Germany); Charles Vögele Mode AG; Charles Vögele Store Management AG; Charles Vögele Trading AG; Charles Vögele trgovina s tekstilom d.o.o. (Slovakia); Cosmos Mode AG; Mac Fash GmbH; Prodress AG.


Asda Group Ltd.; Hennes and Mauritz AB; Royal Vendex KBB N.V.; NEXT PLC; Arcadia Group Ltd.; C and A Mode KG; Vivarte; Stockmann Oyj Abp; Gruppo Coin S.p.A.; Peek and Cloppenburg KG; Cortefiel S.A.


"Charles Vogele Opens First Shop in Hungary," Hungarian News Agency, March 17, 2006.

"Charles Vogele Textiles Group Invests in the Netherlands," European Report, November 29, 2000, p. 600.

"Expansion Will Hurt Earnings at Voegele," Wall Street Journal Europe, January 23, 2002, p. 7.

Freeborn, Tim, "Is Swiss Giant Ready to Try on New Look?," Daily Mail, October 1, 1999, p. 81.

Hall, William, "Swiss Offering Fails to Excite," Financial Times, June 7, 1999, p. 30.

, "Vogele Cuts IPO Range," Financial Times, June 1, 1999, p. 27.

"Higher Profit at Voegele," Swiss News, April 2004, p. 17.

"Losses in Germany for Swiss Vogele," Suddeutsche Zeitung, March 9, 2005.

"Vogele Profits Double After Sales Edge Up," , March 8, 2006.

"Vogele to Make Acquisition," Textil Wirtschaft, June 24, 1999, p.13.

views updated

Charles V

The Holy Roman emperor Charles V (1500-1558) inherited the thrones of the Netherlands, Spain, and the Hapsburg possessions but failed in his attempt to bring all of Europe under his imperial rule.

Born in Ghent on Feb. 24, 1500, Charles V was the oldest son of Philip the Fair of Hapsburg, Lord of the Netherlands, and Joanna the Mad of Aragon and Castile. When Philip died in 1506, Charles was in line for the rich inheritance of the Netherlands as well as Hapsburg Austria and possibly the office of emperor. Spain—the product of the rather recent union of Aragon and Castile under the Catholic Kings—fell to him because of a series of deaths in the Spanish family, which made his mother, Joanna, the legal successor to the Spanish throne.

Charles's maternal grandfather, Ferdinand of Aragon, who had long tried to block a Spanish-Hapsburg union, favored the succession of Charles's younger brother, Ferdinand, to the Spanish crown. But the grandfather died in 1516 before he was able to alter the succession. Charles, who in 1515 had already taken over the government of the Netherlands, became regent of Aragon and Castile for his mother, who was confined because of mental illness to the castle of Tordesillas. In 1517 Charles went to Spain, where he met his brother, Ferdinand, for the first time. The 17-year-old Charles acted with remarkable authority and self-confidence and firmly rejected the suggestions of his family that he give his brother either Spain or the Netherlands.

Although the medieval idea of universal empire captured Charles's imagination only later, he was already determined to play a major role in the European scene. When his paternal grandfather, the emperor Maximilian I, died in 1518, the elective imperial crown as well as the Hapsburg patrimonial lands (Austria) came within Charles's reach, and he again acted strongly. To suggestions that Ferdinand be elected emperor, Charles replied that the duties of emperor would be too much for his brother. But Charles had a dangerous rival for the imperial crown in the French king, Francis I, who had offered huge bribes to the seven electors. Charles, however, was able to outbid him, and on June 28, 1519, he was elected king of the Romans, or emperor designate. (His actual coronation as emperor by the Pope took place in 1530 in Bologna.)

Basic Problems

With each of his crowns Charles inherited enormous problems. Each country had a peculiar internal structure which gave rise to constitutional opposition to the ruler, and furthermore most of the countries had a tradition in foreign policy related to their specific interests and situation in Europe. As an Austrian prince, Charles inherited the continuous struggle against the Turks in Hungary and the Balkans. As emperor, he was directly involved in the preservation of imperial power against the German semi-independent princes; moreover, he had to defend the remnants of imperial suzerainty that were being challenged by France in northern Italy. As king of Aragon, he had to protect the commercial Mediterranean interests of his subjects and their traditional involvement in southern Italy. The Castilians wanted him to carry the conquest of the Moslems into North Africa; and the huge Castilian possessions in South America also made demands upon him. Traditionally, the Burgundian-Netherlands princes had been the foes of France, but now the majority of the Netherlands leaders wanted a policy of peace with both France and England, which would be advantageous to trade. Charles had to find a way to integrate all these interests, essentially an impossible task. Moreover, the jealously guarded privileges of his various lands did not allow him to create a universal imperial policy.

Wars with France

Charles V derived unparalleled power from his vast empire, "upon which the sun never set," but at the same time he was the victim of its conflicts. He spent most of his reign combating enemies in one section of his empire, thus allowing his enemies in other parts to organize. Among the foreign powers that opposed him, the most stubborn and dangerous was France under Francis I and later Henry II. Since the late 15th century France had tried to get a foothold in either Naples or Milan (which had been conquered by Francis I in 1515); later it attacked Alsace as well.

A series of French-Hapsburg wars (a continuation of the wars of Maximilian I) started in 1521. In that year the French king, Francis I, attacked Lombardy, but this conflict ended with a resounding Hapsburg victory. Francis was captured near Pavia and was forced to conclude a very unfavorable peace (Madrid, 1525). In 1526, however, he was back in the field, now supported by the Pope and other Italian powers. But again Charles's forces prevailed. In 1527 his predominantly Protestant armies sacked Rome, and in 1529 they recaptured Milan. Charles's domination of Italy was guaranteed by the treaty ending the war (Peace of Cambrai, 1529).

In 1526 Charles married Isabel of Portugal, and their son, Philip (later Philip II of Spain), was born in 1527. Before his marriage Charles had sired two illegitimate children: Margaretha, later Duchess of Pavia, and John of Austria, the future victor of Lepanto.

Conflict in Germany

The victory in Italy seemed to be convincing proof of Charles's power. During the same period, however, the deterioration of his position in Germany had all but offset this success. The main elements in the German situation were the continuous advance of the Turks in Hungary (in 1529 they even appeared before Vienna), the organization of the anti-Hapsburg princes, and the involvement of the forces of the Reformation with Charles's political opponents. Although Charles took literally his oath to protect the Church, he was a religious moderate and not averse to compromise with the Protestants. After the Diet of Worms (1521), when he had taken the unprecedented step of hearing Luther himself, he had continued a policy of moderation.

But Charles's continuous absence from Germany (1521-1529) gave the anti-Hapsburg princes the opportunity to consolidate their opposition to the Emperor. Although the princes were not in general concerned with theological subtleties, they used religious issues as a means of breaking with the Emperor. In 1526 Charles ordered Ferdinand to assert his authority in religious matters. But Ferdinand was constantly harassed by the Turks, and he left the settlement of disputes on religion to the discretion of the princes "until a general council" was convened.

In 1529 Charles V tightened his orthodox position (second Diet of Speyer), but the only result was the defiant "Protest," which gave the name to the dissenters. At the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 both the Emperor and the Protestants were in a mood for compromise, but attempts at reconciliation failed. Because of his plan to move against the Turks, however, Charles could not proceed with force against the Protestants. He tried instead to persuade the Pope to call a general council and meanwhile hoped to enlist the support of the German princes against Islam in Hungary and northern Africa. During the 1530s the situation did not improve. Charles lost the support of Henry VIII of England, who divorced Charles's aunt Catherine in 1533 and was subsequently driven into separation from Rome. In Germany the Protestant princes, led by Philip of Hesse, allied with France to wage a new war (1536-1538) against the Emperor. Charles's stubborn imperialism also alienated his brother. Charles had arranged for Ferdinand's election as emperor-designate (1531) but tried afterward to change the succession to his own son Philip, thus causing much resentment on Ferdinand's part.

Final Failures

The decade after the inconclusive 1530s showed more dramatic reversals. In Germany nothing had been solved, and the need for help against the Sultan had forced the Emperor to continue negotiations with the Protestants (Worms, 1541). Charles still hoped for a general council, but the Pope did not intend to convoke one unless he could control it himself. In 1542 Charles found himself opposed by the unlikely combination of France, Turkey, the Pope, and the Dutch Duke of Guelders. The Peace of Crépy (1544) ended this inconclusive war. The treaty, however, contained a secret clause in which Francis I promised support for the forceful eradication of German Protestantism, and in 1545 the Pope offered his support in this undertaking. Charles V also secured the support of the Protestant Duke Maurice of Saxony (the house rival of the electoral dukes of Saxony) by bribing him with the promise of the office of elector.

In 1547 the army of the Protestant Schmalkaldian League was beaten by Charles and his allies at the battle of Mühlberg. At last Charles appeared to have attained success; his plan for a new universal imperial authority, based on a unified Catholic Germany, seemed near fulfillment. But as before, fear of a universal empire under the Hapsburgs made his allies desert him. Henry II, who became king of France in 1547, pursued an anti-Hapsburg policy, and Pope Paul III again defected from the Hapsburg coalition. The Pope moved the general council from Trent to Bologna in order to escape the Emperor's influence. In Germany it soon became apparent that the victory had no real results; Charles's proposals of constitutional reform and of the creation of a more centralized German league were opposed by all the German powers, Protestant and Catholic alike. In religious matters Charles again had to be satisfied with compromise (Interim of Augsburg, 1548).

Charles's efforts to guarantee the unity of his empire after his death also ended in failure. He tried in vain to persuade Ferdinand to give up his right of succession to the imperial crown, and Charles's relations with Ferdinand and his son Maximilian grew strained. In 1551, however, a compromise was reached that established Charles's son Philip, rather than Maximilian, as the legal successor of Ferdinand. But neither Ferdinand nor his son felt bound by this agreement, and the Austrian lands and the imperial crown were lost for Charles's descendants.

At the beginning of the 1550s a formidable coalition— France and the German Protestant princes, including Maurice of Saxony, who had rejoined the party of the princes— rose against the Emperor. In early 1552 Maurice of Saxony penetrated into Austria, forcing Charles to flee. Ferdinand remained inactive, obviously sympathetic to the princes' party, and in 1552 Charles V was forced to sign the Treaty of Passau. This agreement, which was finalized by the Treaty of Augsburg (1555), gave Lutheranism equal status with Catholicism and left religious matters in the hands of the German princes, who were ultimately the victors in their long struggle with the Emperor.

The negotiations of Passau and Augsburg had been left mostly to Ferdinand, while Charles withdrew to his native Netherlands. In 1553, however, he achieved one last diplomatic success: the marriage of his son Philip to Queen Mary of England. This marriage created the possibility of a future union of England and Spain under one monarch. But Mary died childless in 1558, and thus England's independent existence under the Tudor monarchy was assured.

Abdication of Charles V

From October 1555 to January 1556, in the midst of another war with the French, Charles V abdicated his many crowns. He bequeathed the bankrupt states of the Netherlands and Spain to Philip and Austria and the empire to Ferdinand. He then left the Netherlands for Spain, where he lived near the monastery of Yuste until his death on Sept. 21, 1558. He had witnessed the total failure of his dream of a Catholic Europe united under his imperial rule. Charles's ideal was an anachronism, however, since Europe had become too complicated to be so governed. But the extraordinary willpower and dedication with which Charles pursued his impossible goal establish him as a man of impressive character.

Further Reading

The most useful recent survey of the empire of Charles V is the book by H. G. Koenigsberger, The Habsburgs and Europe, 1516-1660 (1971). Royall Tyler, The Emperor Charles the Fifth (1956), is a useful chronology of Charles's life and travels. Other biographical studies are Francisco López de Gómara, ed., Annals of the Emperor Charles V (trans. 1912); W. L. McElwee, The Reign of Charles V, 1516-1558 (1936); and Karl Brandi's classic study, The Emperor Charles V (1937; trans. 1939). For a scholarly, well-written account of the situation in Spain during the reign of Charles V consult the relevant chapters in J. H. Elliott, Imperial Spain, 1469-1716 (1963). Background information is also available in Leopold von Ranke, History of the Reformation in Germany (1905; trans. 1966); R. B. Merriman's masterful The Rise of the Spanish Empire, vol. 3 (1926); and Hajo Holborn, A History of Modern Germany, vol. 1 (1959). □

views updated

Charles V


Holy roman emperor


A Royal Inheritance. One of the most significant political figures of the sixteenth century, Charles V was emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (1519-1556) and, as Charles I, king of Spain (1516-1556). A member of the Hapsburg family, Charles was the son of Philip I the Handsome, the Duke of Burgundy and ruler of the Netherlands, and grandson of Emperor Maximilian I and Mary of Burgundy. His mother, Joan the Mad, was the daughter of Ferdinand I of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. He was raised by his aunt, Margaret of Austria, who was regent of the Netherlands. Upon the death of his father in 1506, Charles inherited the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and the Franche-Comte. When his maternal grandfather died in 1516, and his mother was deemed mentally unsound, he became king of Castile, as well as of the Indies, Aragon, Navarre, Sicily, Sardinia, and Naples. When his paternal grandfather died in 1519, Charles inherited the House of Austria and was elected Holy Roman Emperor. The total amount of land under Charles’s direct and indirect control was staggering—placing him at the center of two conflicts that defined his life: dynastic struggles with Francis I of France and religious controversies stemming from the teachings of a resident of the Holy Roman Empire, Martin Luther.

Spanish Connections. Charles’s political career began and ended in Spain, despite the fact that he spoke no Spanish when he first traveled there in 1517. Although Charles claimed his inheritance, the Spaniards were not happy to be ruled by an Austrian who was surrounded by Burgundians. The comuneros, a group of Castilian cities that opposed the government and were led by Juan de Padilla, revolted from 1520 to 1521 while Charles was in Germany. The uprising was put down, the leaders were executed, and Charles’s authority was reestablished. After receiving his crown as emperor and presiding over the condemnation of Luther at the Diet of Worms (1521), Charles returned to Spain in 1522 and stayed for seven years. He learned Spanish and began to place Castilians in advisory positions formerly held by Burgundians. Charles established a new Council of the Indies, which controlled colonial policy for all of Spain’s New World possessions. He put into place a law code for the Americas (New Laws: Ordinances for the Government of the Indies and Good Treatment and Preservation of the Indians) that, although unenforceable, sought to legislate control and protect subjects. Charles became well respected by his Spanish subjects, who reportedly joked that Charles spoke French with his diplomats, Italian with his lovers, German with his grooms, but Spanish with God.

Struggles with France. Charles’s career was largely defined by conflicts with Francis I of France. This Valois versus Habsburg rivalry was inherited by both men as the two dynasties fought over control of territories in Italy. France had invaded Italy in 1494 and again in 1499. Italy bore the brunt of fighting between Charles and Francis until the Treaty of Combrai, signed in 1529, finally settled the conflict. The animosity between the two rulers was also fueled by the fact that both had attempted in 1519 to be elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The competition was expensive, as both men attempted to bribe the seven electors. Charles won, thanks to his grandfather’s anticipation of the election and funding from the Fuggers, a banking family that lived in Augsburg. Other rulers in Europe feared that either candidate would consolidate too much power in one family’s hands. From the French perspective, the Habsburgs were attempting to encircle France and limit its power. The French went so far as to make alliances with the non-Christian Turks who were threatening Habsburg lands. Henry VIII and Francis I were at war with each other during most of their reigns. The king of England and the papacy used this rivalry to bolster their own power by supporting first one and then the other side of the conflict.

Luther and the Protestants. Charles was a deeply religious man who sought above all to protect the Roman Catholic faith. He supported the Inquisition in Spain and attempted to introduce it into his other territories. When he went to Spain in 1522 he apparently believed that his condemnation of Luther would stifle the spread of the reformer’s teachings. Charles returned to the Holy Roman Empire seven years later, but he was greeted with the Augsburg Confession (1530), which clarified Lutheran beliefs and solidified a Protestant opposition to his policies—manifested in the newly formed Schmalkaldic League. Moreover, he had missed the Knight’s Revolt of 1523 and Peasants’ War of 1525, two defining moments in the history of Germany. Further hampering his anti-Protestant wishes, war with Francis I kept him from Germany from 1532 until 1541, by which time Protestantism was a formidable force. Conflicts between Protestants and supporters of Charles clashed for another decade until the league of German princes pushed his troops from Germany in 1552. Later that year the Treaty of Passau attempted to establish a religious division of the Holy Roman Empire, based on a principle whereby the local prince could determine the religion in his territory. This treaty led to the Peace of Augsburg on 25 September 1555, which divided his lands into Catholic or Protestant. Charles found this agreement unacceptable and considered it a personal failure. He began to withdraw from politics immediately thereafter.

Medieval View of Empire. Before Charles had reached the age of twenty-one, he had obtained a lifetime of experience in diplomacy in the Spanish unrest and the religious conflict in the Holy Roman Empire. Charles’s youthful reliance on his Burgundian advisers almost cost him control of Spain, and his early experiences with Luther undoubtedly influenced his lifelong efforts to maintain Catholicism. Charles left several treatises on statecraft and a memoir of the first fifty-one years of his life. In 1532 he issued the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina, an imperial criminal code that safeguarded the rights of the innocent. The Carolina standardized criminal procedures and strengthened the role of central government. His New Laws attempted to control the Spanish colonies and protect his subjects, particularly native populations, abroad. Despite these two law codes, Charles’s views were more medieval than modern. For instance, Charles challenged Francis I to personal combat to determine control of Burgundy and Milan, and he offered Luther a promise of safe-conduct to and from Worms (Emperor Sigismund did not honor a similar promise to Jan Hus at the Council of Constance in 1415). His medieval mind-set was broader than mere chivalry, however, as he believed that world peace could be maintained only through a strong emperor. Charles may not have wanted a universal monarchy—he certainly did not view Spanish colonies on the same terms as his European lands—but he wanted a strong Holy Roman Empire that was based on Roman Catholicism. Humiliated and disgusted that he had not been able to maintain the Catholicism in his empire, he refused to accept the legal recognition of Protestantism and opted instead to abdicate.

Last Years. In 1555 Charles turned the Netherlands over to his son Philip and the next year he abdicated to Philip the kingdom of Spain, his Italian lands, and the colonies. Philip proceeded to have a glorious reign as Philip II of Spain. Charles retired to a country home near a remote Hieronymite monastery at San Jeronimo de Yuste. There he continued to monitor political developments, went fishing, and pursued his religious devotion until his death two years later.


Manuel Fernandez Alvarez, Charles V: Elected Emperor and Hereditary Ruler, translated by J. A. Lalaguna (London: Thames & Hudson, 1975).

Karl Brandi, The Emperor Charles V: The Growth and Destiny of a Man and of a World-Empire, translated by C.V. Wedgwood (London: Cape, 1939).

Jonathan W. Zophy, The Holy Roman Empire: A Dictionary Handbook (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980).

views updated

Charles V (15001558)

King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles governed the largest realm in Europe since the time of Charlemagne. He was the son of Philip I the Handsome (the Duke of Burgundy) and Joanna the Mad of Spain. He was grandson of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, the joint rulers of Spain, and of Maximilian I, Habsburg emperor of the Holy Roman states. Born in Ghent, he was raised by an aunt, Margaret of Austria. Charles inherited the Netherlands, a part of Burgundy, on the death of his father in 1506, but ruled through Margaret, who served as his regent until 1515. On the death of Ferdinand II in 1516, Charles became the first monarch of a united Spanish kingdom that included Aragon, Navarre, Castile, Granada, Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia, and that also governed colonies established by Spanish explorers and adventurers in the Americas. As an outsider, Charles was at

first unpopular in Spain, where he levied heavy taxes and appointed Flemish outsiders to govern.

In 1519, on the death of his grandfather Maximilian, Charles was elected as the Holy Roman Emperor, governing an area that included Austria and other territories in central Europe. His election frustrated the ambitious King Francis I of France, who also had claimed the title. This encounter laid the seeds of a long rivalry between the two rulers that would endure for decades. In 1522, finding the huge realm too much for a single man to rule, Charles gave up direct rule of his territories in Austria to his brother Ferdinand.

Charles still disputed control of Burgundy and Navarre with Francis I; at the same time, Italy was contested between the pope and foreign kings seeking to extend their influence to wealthy city-states such as Milan and Florence. The emperor allied with Pope Leo X and went to war against Francis I in 1521. Charles's army won an important victory at the Battle of Pavia in 1525, capturing Francis and bringing him to Spain, where the French king was forced to sign the Peace of Madrid. This treaty freed Milan from French control and ended France's claims to Burgundy. When he returned to France, however, Francis claimed he had signed the treaty under duress and renounced it. He formed an alliance against Charles that included King Henry VIII of England, Pope Clement VII, and the cities of Venice, Milan, and Florence. Charles responded with an invasion of Italy. His armies brutally sacked the city of Rome in 1527 and took the pope hostage. The Treaty of Cambrai in 1529 temporarily ended the conflict bctween the emperor and the French king; soon afterward Charles also signed the Peace of Barcelona with the pope. In 1535, Charles installed his son Philip as the Duke of Milan in defiance of Francis, who was again claiming the city. The war continued until 1538, then resumed in 1542 with Francis allying with Suleiman I, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and Charles allying with Henry VIII.

In 1530, after reaching a peace agreement with Pope Clement VII, Charles was officially crowned the Holy Roman Emperor by the pope. The Spanish conquests in the New World had brought him prestige and a fortune in silver. Charles strongly believed in the Christianizing mission of the conquistadores; in Europe, he saw his own holy mission in the fight against Protestantism that was threatening the authority of the pope and emperor in Germany and in the Low Countries. In 1521, at the Diet of Worms, Charles had condemned the teachings of Martin Luther, the German monk who was leading the revolt against the Catholic Church, known as the Protestant Reformation. Charles sent inquisitors and troops to ruthlessly put down Protestant rebellion and worked to ally the princes of Germany with the Catholic Church and against the Protestant movement. In 1531 his Protestant opponents responded by organizing the Schmalkaldic League against him. The league allied with France against Charles; its officers seized Catholic properties, expelled Catholic leaders, and forcibly converted many German cities to Protestantism.

At the Council of Trent in 1545, Charles persuaded several German princes to join his crusade against Protestantism. With his opponents divided over strategy, he decisively defeated the Schmalkaldic League at the Battle of Mühlberg in 1546. In 1555 the Peace of Augsburg finally established a lasting compromise between Catholics and Protestants. By this treaty, the religion of each realm would be that of its prince. In the next year Charles abdicated his throne. His brother Ferdinand replaced him as the Holy Roman Emperor and his son Philip II became king of Spain. Charles entered a monastery in Yuste, Spain, where he died in 1558.

views updated

Charles V

The French king Charles V (1337-1380) ruled from 1364 to 1380. He skillfully governed France during a critical phase of the Hundred Years War.

Son of John II and Bonne of Luxemburg, Charles V was born at Vincennes on Jan. 21, 1337. He was the first heir apparent to the crown of France to bear the title Dauphin. Although nothing is known of his education, his later activities as a patron of the arts, theoretician of monarchy, and founder of the royal library at the Louvre indicate an early interest in learning. In 1350 Charles married his cousin Jeanne de Bourbon.

Charles was born, grew up, and reigned in the shadow of the great Anglo-French conflict called the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). When he was 16, Charles was made Duke of Normandy by his father and was thus entrusted with one of the most vulnerable areas of warfare. At the age of 19, on Sept. 19, 1356, Charles with his father and two younger brothers led the French army, which was cut to pieces by the English at Poitiers. During the battle John II was taken prisoner and held for ransom. Charles, lacking power and financial resources, had to assume the office of regent during his father's captivity, which lasted until 1360. During this period Charles weathered the threat of an English invasion and, faced with domestic discontent, put down a number of internal revolts, among them the Jacquerie, a peasant uprising. Only his astute political judgment and diplomatic skill saved the crown of France. With the Treaty of Brétigny in 1360 he arranged the terms of his father's ransom and established a temporary truce with the English.

When Charles became king on his father's death in 1364, his experience as regent had prepared him to take on his first great task—undoing the disastrous results of the political ineptitude of his father and grandfather. Although he was not a good general and was always in ill health, he devoted intense energy to ruling. He chose able advisers and was fortunate in securing a number of effective military commanders, including Bertrand du Guesclin, to counter the continuing threat from England. Charles resumed the war in 1369, and by his death in 1380 he had fought the English to a standstill.

Apart from his activities against the English, Charles's last years were spent in strengthening the defenses of France and organizing matters of law and finance. For the first time since the death of Philip V in 1314, France had an effective and intelligent ruler. But Charles's early death on Sept. 16, 1380, brought far less able men to the throne, kings who would preside over even greater defeats at the hands of the English and who would witness the further disintegration of French society.

Further Reading

There is no biography of Charles V in English; the standard works are in French. The period is well depicted in Jean Froissart's 14th-century Chronicles (many English translations), as well as in Édouard Perroy's standard study, The Hundred Years War (trans. 1951), and Kenneth Fowler's well-illustrated work, The Age of Plantagenet and Valois: The Struggle for Supremacy, 1328-1498 (1967). □

views updated

Charles V (1500–58) Holy Roman Emperor (1519–56) and King of Spain, as Charles I (1516–56). He ruled the Spanish kingdoms, s Italy, the Netherlands, and the Austrian Habsburg lands by inheritance and, when elected Emperor in succession to his grandfather, Maximilian I, headed the largest European empire since Charlemagne. In addition, the Spanish conquistadors made him master of a New World empire. Charles' efforts to unify his possessions were unsuccessful, largely due to the hostility of Francis I of France, the Ottoman Turks in central Europe, and the conflicts arising from the advance of Lutheranism in Germany. The struggle with France was centred in Italy: by 1535 Spain had largely established control, but French hostility was never overcome. The Turks were held in check but not defeated, and Charles' attempt to capture Algiers failed (1541). In Germany, Charles, who saw himself as the defender of the Catholic Church, nevertheless recognized the need for reform, but other commitments prevented him following a consistent policy, and Lutheranism expanded. Charles increasingly delegated power in Germany to his brother Ferdinand I, his successor, and in 1554–56 surrendered his other titles to his son, Philip II of Spain.

views updated

Charles V (Charles the Wise), 1338–80, king of France (1364–80). Son of King John II, Charles became the first French heir apparent to bear the title of dauphin after the addition of the region of Dauphiné to the royal domain in 1349. Regent during his father's captivity in England (1356–60, 1364), Charles dealt successfully with the Jacquerie revolt, with the intrigues of King Charles II of Navarre, and with the popular movement headed by Étienne Marcel, who had armed Paris against the dauphin. Becoming king in 1364, Charles stabilized the coinage and took steps to rid France of the companies of écorcheurs, marauding bands of discharged soldiers. Aided by his great general, Bertrand Du Guesclin, he almost succeeded in driving the English from France. Charles and his ministers, the Marmousets, strengthened the royal authority, introduced a standing army, built a powerful navy, and instituted reforms that put fiscal authority more firmly in the hands of the crown. A patron of the arts and of learning, he established the royal library and interested himself in the embellishment of the Louvre and in the construction of the palace at Saint-Pol. However, his love of pomp and his lack of economy put a severe economic burden on the country. In the last year of his life he sided with Pope Clement VII against Pope Urban VI at the beginning of the Great Schism (see Schism, Great). His son, Charles VI, succeeded him.

views updated

Charles V ( the Wise) (1337–80) King of France (1364–80). He regained most of the territory previously lost to the English during the Hundred Years' War, stabilized the coinage, and endeavoured to suppress anarchy and revolt in France. He strengthened royal authority further by introducing a regular taxation system, standing army, and powerful navy. He established a royal library, encouraged literature and art, and built the Bastille. His son succeeded him as Charles VI.

views updated

Charles V (Charles Leopold), 1643–90, duke of Lorraine; nephew of Duke Charles IV. Deprived of the rights of succession to the duchy, he was forced to leave France and entered the service of the Holy Roman emperor. He was twice a candidate for the Polish crown (1669 and 1674). Although he took the ducal title on his uncle's death in 1675, France still held Lorraine. He was commander of the imperialist forces in the third of the Dutch Wars. At Nijmegen he refused (1678) to accept Lorraine on King Louis XIV's terms. He took part in the defense of Vienna (1683) and in expelling the Ottomans from Hungary. Charles V married (1678) Eleanora Maria, sister of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I.

views updated

Charles V


French king noted for his support of scholarship. Known as Charles le Sage (the Wise), he became regent in 1356 after the capture of his father, John II, by the English at Poitiers during the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453). In bailing out his father he ceded territory to the English, but later won it back. Charles reigned from 1364-80 and, though he raised taxes on his people, was credited as a wise and fair ruler. He opened one of the first important libraries in Europe, the National Library in Paris, in 1373, and was also a patron of art and literature. In 1380, however, he banned the study of alchemy in France, and made it a crime to possess alchemical instruments.