Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
CHARLES V, HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR
Reigned 1519 to 1558; b. Ghent, Flanders, Feb. 24, 1500; d. San Jerónimo de Yuste, Province of Estremadura, Spain, Sept. 21, 1558. As the son of Philip the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy, and Joanna, third child of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, he was heir presumptive to an empire vaster than Charlemagne's, and over which the "sun never set." It included the Netherlands and claims to the Burgundian circle, which came to him at the death of his father (Sept. 25, 1506); it included Castile, Aragon, the conquered kingdoms of Navarre and Granada, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, the conquests of the New World, and possessions in North Africa, all of which after the death of Ferdinand (Jan. 23, 1516) he ruled jointly with his mad mother; and it included the Hapsburg duchies of Austria with rights over Hungary and Bohemia, inherited from his paternal grandfather, Emperor Maximilian I (Jan. 12, 1519).
Education in Flanders. Charles, 6 years old at the death of his father, was placed in the guardianship of his aunt, Archduchess Margaret of Austria, who, as regent of the Netherlands, proved a shrewd ruler and a firm but devoted foster-mother to Charles and his sisters, Eleanor, Isabella, and Mary. His brother Ferdinand and his sister Catherine were reared in Spain. Among his tutors at Mechlin (Malines) were Robert of Ghent, Adrian Wiele, Juan de Anchiata, and Charles de Poupet, but it was Adrian of Utrecht (Pope adrian vi, 1522 to 1523) who taught him piety and also won his lifelong affection. The ways of the court he learned from the experienced politician Guillaume de Croy, Lord of Chièvres, appointed his governor by Maximilian in 1509. Mercurino Arborio di gat tinara, Margaret's jurisconsult and an admirer of Dante's ideals of universal monarchy, instructed him to transcend dynastic nationalism for the universalism connected with the imperial office to which he was destined.
On Jan. 5, 1515, Charles was declared of age by the Estates at Brussels. The next year he succeeded Ferdinand, and as Charles I of Castile and Aragon he traveled to Spain to accept this new power from the 80-year-old viceroy, Cardinal ximÉnez de cisneros, who died of fever at Roa on his way to meet the king. At Tordesillas, Charles visited his insane mother, whom he had never known, and met his brother Ferdinand (age 15), whom he had never seen. In the first months of his reign, Charles, through his ministers, arbitrated the grievances of the grandees and the demands of the Cortes and appointed Gattinara his grand chancellor to succeed the unpopular Jean de Sauvage, who died June 7, 1518. These first steps in government were accelerated by the news of the death of Maximilian; Charles was now Archduke of Austria and a candidate for the vacant imperial throne.
Imperial Election. Though his choice was opposed by Pope Leo X, who feared the union of the imperial and Neopolitan crowns on the head of the same sovereign, and by Francis I, Henry VIII, and Frederick the Wise of Saxony, his rivals for the title, Charles won the votes of the seven electors, partly through intrigue and liberal bribery (it cost the Hapsburgs 850,000 gulden, borrowed from the banking house of the Fuggers). Scarcely 20 years old, Charles swore to the exacting terms of the coronation oath before the electoral college, and on Jan. 23, 1520, he was crowned in Charlemagne's cathedral at Aachen. The empire that came to Charles was held together by a net of dynastic marriages; hence the dictum,
Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube, Namque Mars aliis, dat tibi regna Venus.
Let others make wars, you happy Austria make marriages; While Mars gives kingdoms to others, Venus gives them to you.
The first objective of his reign was not new conquest but the protection and consolidation of his inheritance. To this end he arranged strategic matrimonial alliances: Isabella was married to Christian II of Denmark (1514); Ferdinand to Anne, daughter of Ladislaus of Hungary and Bohemia (1521); Mary to Louis II of Hungary (1522); Catherine to John III of Portugal (1524); Eleanor, widow of Emmanuel of Portugal, was betrothed to Francis I, king of France (1530); Charles himself, after numerous engagements, married Isabella of Portugal (1526). His aunt, catherine of aragon, was already the wife of henry viii of england, and his son Philip was later joined in a hapless marriage to mary tudor (1554). His niece Christina of Denmark was wed to Duke Francesco Sforza II of Milan; his sister-in-law Beatrice of Portugal, to the Duke of Savoy; other relatives were married into the families of the Medici, Farnese, and Gonzaga.
Opposition and War. The maintenance of his wide power brought him into conflict from the inception of his reign.
Spain. Charles, with his French speech, Flemish background, and Burgundian councilors, was looked upon as a foreigner in Spain, and he had to face attempts to seize or limit his royal right. These he thwarted by defeating the comuneros in the Battle of Villalar (April 23, 1521) and executing their leader, Juan de Padilla; the next year he captured Vicente Pirez, captain general of the Germanía; in 1525 he put down the Valencian Moriscos.
France. Charles's relations with the king of France narrowed into a contest for the control of the Italian peninsula and the hegemony of Burgundy. He challenged Francis I rights to Milan, which had been reconquered by the French king at the Battle of Marignano (1515), as well as his dynastic claims to Naples. Four wars followed, interrupted by inconclusive and violated truces. On Feb. 24, 1525, the imperial army, commanded by the condottiere, Fernando Pescara, captured Francis at Pavia. By the terms of the Treaty of Madrid (Jan. 14, 1526), Francis relinquished his titles to Italy and his suzerainty over Artois and Flanders, ceded Burgundy, and surrendered his two sons to Charles as hostages. The French king, upon liberation, repudiated the treaty and entered the Holy League of Cognac (May 22, 1526) with clement vii, Venice, Florence, and the deposed Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza II; he was also allied with Henry VIII of England. The next year imperial troops under the command of Constable Charles de Bourbon sacked Rome (May 7, 1527) and besieged Clement VII in the castelsant' angelo. Charles made peace with the pope (Treaty of Barcelona, June 29, 1529) and with Francis (Peace of Cambrai, Aug. 2, 1529), winning favorable terms and a ransom of two million gold crowns for Francis' sons. At Bologna, on Feb. 23, 1530, Charles was crowned King of Lombardy and Holy Roman Emperor by Clement VII. He was the last Holy Roman Emperor to be crowned by a pope. When Sforza, who had been reinstated as Duke of Milan, died childless in 1535, the contest was reopened. Francis invaded Savoy and Piedmont in his third attempt to capture Milan, but his early successes were checked by Charles' invasion of Provence (1536). This war terminated with the Treaty of Nice (June 18, 1538), which reaffirmed the conditions of the Treaty of Cambrai, but left Francis in occupation of two-thirds of Piedmont. In 1542 Francis tried again, this time with the aid of Süleyman I, Ottoman emperor. His victory at Ceresole (1544) was again nullified when Charles invaded the valley of the Marne and marched on Paris. By the Treaty of Crépy (Sept. 18, 1544), Francis abandoned claims on Italy, Flanders, and Artois, and Charles renounced Burgundy. In secret clauses of the treaty Francis promised to help the Emperor fight Protestantism, regain Calvinist Geneva for the Duke of Savoy, and further the Council of trent.
German Estates. The element of universalism in Charles' political conception met its strongest test from the German Estates. When he outlawed Martin luther at the Diet of Worms (1521), he believed he was removing not only an innovator in doctrine, but an opponent to authority, his own and leo x's. In effect he established the reformer as a mustering-point for anti-Romanists and for German princes who sought territorial independence and chafed under the annoyance of heavy imperial taxation. While Charles proceeded to the French Wars, his brother Ferdinand, whom he appointed president of the Reichsregiment (council of regency), faced the problems of religious and political unrest. The Knights' Revolt (1522 to 1523), in which Franz von Sickingen and Ulrich von hutten led troops against the ecclesiastical princes, was followed by the peasants' war (1524 to 1525). In 1526 princes sympathetic to the reformers formed the League of Torgau and at the second Diet of Speyer (1529) they protested against its strict reaffirmation of the terms of the Diet of Worms. Thus, when Charles returned to Germany after his coronation to preside in splendor at the Diet of Augsburg (1530), he confronted an assembly factionally divided. Conciliatory religious formulas failed (see interims), and on Feb. 27, 1531, the Protestant princes and representatives of the free cities met in the town hall of Schmalkalden to form the league that provoked the Schmalkaldic Wars (1546 to 1547). The emperor's victory at Mühlberg (April 24, 1547) and the capture of John Frederick of Saxony and Philip of Hesse were high points of power, but they later faded in the French capture of Metz, Toul, and Verdun, and in the great triumph of territorialism, effected by the Peace of augsburg (Sept. 25, 1555), which gave recognition to Lutherans (but not Calvinists) within the Empire, provided they followed the religion of their prince (cujus regio, ejus religio ).
Ottoman Empire. From his Spanish and Austrian forebears Charles inherited a traditional hostility toward Islam. The reconquest of lands taken by the Turks in Hungary and along the Mediterranean became a chivalric ideal. Under Süleyman I, Belgrade (1521) and Rhodes (1522) fell, and King Louis of Hungary was defeated in the Battle of Mohács (1526), which led to a disputed dynastic succession and the siege of Vienna (1529) by a Turkish army. In 1532 Charles was able to organize resistance, and although the small fortress of Güns in western Hungary withstood assault (Aug. 7 to 28), and German troops overcame the Turkish rear guard in Styria, little was achieved beyond moving the locale of the war to the Mediterranean. In North Africa, Khair ed-Din (Barbarossa), corsair and since 1533 admiral of the Ottoman fleet, had seized the Peñon (1516) and Algiers (1518), making the Barbary States a strong garrison for Mediterranean piracy. When diplomacy failed to win Khair ed-Din away from allegiance to the Sultan, Charles risked a maritime expedition. Commanded by the Genoese admiral, Andrea Doria, it drove the Turks from La Goletta (1535) in an engagement that cost Khair ed-Din 75 sail. Tunis was taken on July 31, and 20,000 Christian slaves were liberated. In 1538 Charles entered a Holy League with paul iii and Venice, but it was ineffective; the Venetian fleet was defeated at Prevesa, and Ferdinand was forced to a truce with Süleyman, after the latter's successes in Hungary in 1547.
Abdication . By 1555 Charles saw how far his policies had fallen from their mark. His vision of a united Germany was permanently blurred by the terms of the Peace of Augsburg; his proposal of the succession of his son Philip to the imperial title was rejected at the Diet of Augsburg (1550 to 1551); Henry II of France continued to harass Italy (the ten-year conflict between Spain and France was not settled until the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559); Gian Pietro Carafa, strong opponent to Spanish interests, was elected paul iv (1555–59); Turkish power was undiminished; and the imperial treasury was drained through continuous warfare. Fatigue, frustration, and long suffering from gout led Charles to surrender the weight of office. On Oct. 25, 1555, in the great Hall of the Golden Fleece at Brussels, he gave the government of the Netherlands to Philip; the next year Spain and Sicily. To Ferdinand he relinquished the Hapsburg Empire (1556), but not the title of Emperor, which he retained until 1558. In September 1557, old beyond his years, he retired to a house that edged the Hieronymite monastery of San Yuste, where he lived until his death, not as a recluse, but quietly giving advice, receiving dispatches, and performing pious acts.
Sobriety, reserve, humorlessness, and self-conscious plainness placed him in contrast to contemporary Renaissance monarchs. Charles, well named the "last of the medieval emperors" (P. Rassow), was loyal to the interests of the Church, but he was also convinced that Rome had scant comprehension of his problems in ruling an Empire that contained a body of subjects stubbornly adhering to popular heresy. Thus, he was initially cool to the idea of a general council at Trent, since he feared that it would end his attempts at conciliation with organized Lutheran churches, sheltered by princes whose support he needed for his warfare. This explains his disregard for Rome in his promulgation of the Augsburg Interim, when he presented the document to the papal legate, Francesco Sfondrati, to be sent to the pope not for opinion or approval, but as a simple announcement of its contents. When criticized, he replied that he was not acting beyond his competence as a Catholic prince. Charles was faithful to his wife during her lifetime. His natural daughter, Margaret of Austria, was born of a liaison with Johanna van der Gheynst five years before his marriage; his natural son, Don Juan, who led the Christian fleet to victory at lepanto (Oct. 7, 1571), was born to him and Barbara Blomberg in 1545, six years after his wife's death.
While Charles's regime in Europe was reduced to a policy of uneasy containment, he was the true parent of a new empire in America. He encouraged Spain's conquista, thereby securing the economic and fiscal advantages of exploration: Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese navigator, was commissioned to chart a western route to the Spice Islands (1519); Hernando Cortés entered Mexico City (1519); Juan Ponce de León made his second expedition to Florida (1521); Pedro de Alvarado conquered Guatemala and Salvador (1523); Sebastian Cabot, the Emperor's pilot, explored the Rio de la Plata (1526–30), on whose estuary Santa María de Buenos Aires was founded by Pedro de Mendoza (1536); Francisco Pizzaro founded Lima, the capital of Peru (1535), after seizing large quantities of gold at Cuzco; Hernando de Soto crossed the Mississippi River (1539); and Francisco Vásquez de Coronado explored the California coast (1540). During his reign, two viceroyalties, 29 governorships, four archbishoprics, and 24 bishoprics were formed; universities were founded at Santo Domingo (1536), Mexico (1551), and Peru (1551); and at Seville the Casa de contratación (bureau of trade) and the Consejo de Indias (council of the Indies) were set up for the central administration of the growing colonies. Merchant cargoes and—most important for the subsidy of Charles's wars—silver bullion from the mines of Zacatecas (Mexico) and Cerro Rico de Potosí (Bolivia) reached the ports of Spain. The wealth of the New World and the complication of its colonial government became the heritage of philip ii (see patronato real).
Bibliography: w. bradford, ed., Correspondence of the Emperor Charles V … (London 1850), also contains his itinerary from 1519 to 1551. k. lanz, ed., Correspondenz des Kaisers Karl V, 3 v. (Leipzig 1844–46); Staatspapiere zur Geschichte des Kaisers Karls V (Stuttgart 1845). l. gross, ed., Die Reichsregisterbücher Kaiser Karls V (Vienna–Leipzig 1930). a. de santa cruz, Crónica del Emperador Carlos V, 5 v. (Madrid 1920–25). p. mexÍa, Historia del Emperador Carlos V, ed. j. de mata carriazo (Madrid 1945). g. de leva, Storia documentata di Carlo V in correlazione all'Italia, 5 v. (Venice 1863–94). h. baumgarten, Geschichte Karls V, 3 v. (Stuttgart 1885–92); Karl V und die deutsche Reformation (Halle 1889). w. robertson, The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V, 3 v. (Philadelphia 1902), with his life after abdication by w. h. prescott. p. rassow, Die Kaiser-Idee Karls V (Berlin 1932); Die politische Welt Karls V (Munich 1942); Karl V, der letzte Kaiser des Mittelalters (Göttingen 1957). a. henne, Histoire du règne de Charles-Quint en Belgique, 10 v. (Brussels 1858–60). f. chabod, Lo stato di Milano nell'impero di Carlo V (Rome 1934); Per la storia religiosa dello stato di Milano durante il dominio di Carlo V (Bologna 1938), heavily documented study of Counter Reformation in Milan. g. coniglio, II regno di Napoli al tempo di Carlo V: Amministratione e vita economico-sociale (Naples 1951). c. hare, A Great Emperor, Charles V, 1519–58 (New York 1917). h. jedin, History of the Council of Trent, tr. e. graf, 2 v. 1–2 (St. Louis 1957–60); Geschichte des Konzils von Trient, 2 v. (Freiburg 1949–57; v.1, 2d ed. 1951), 1 and 2. r. b. merriman, The Rise of the Spanish Empire in the Old World and the New, 4 v. (New York 1918–34) v. 3. m. salomies, Die Pläne Kaiser Karls V für eine Reichsreform mit Hilfe eines allgemeinen Bundes (Helsinki 1953). h. holborn, A History of Modern Germany: The Reformation (New York 1959). w. friedensburg, Kaiser Karl V und Papst Paul III (Leipzig 1932). r. tyler, The Emperor Charles V (Fair Lawn, N.J. 1956). p. rassow and f. schalk, eds., Karl V: Der Kaiser und seine Zeit (Cologne 1960), essays for the quadricentennial of his death. k. brandi, The Emperor Charles V: The Growth and Destiny of a Man and a World-Empire, tr. c. v. wedgewood (New York 1939).
[e. d. mcshane]