Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

Orfeas Katsoulis | Dec 17, 2022

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Charles V of Habsburg (Ghent, February 24, 1500 - Cuacos de Yuste, September 21, 1558) was emperor of the Holy Roman German Empire and archduke of Austria from 1519, king of Spain (Castile and Aragon) from 1516, and sovereign prince of the Netherlands as duke of Burgundy from 1506.

At the head of the House of Habsburg during the first half of the 1500s, he was emperor of an "empire on which the sun never set," which included in Europe the Netherlands, Spain and southern Aragonese Italy, the Austrian territories, the Holy Roman Empire extended over Germany and northern Italy, as well as the extensive Castilian colonies and a German colony in the Americas.

Born in 1500 in Ghent, Flanders, to Philip the Fair (son of Maximilian I of Austria and Mary of Burgundy) and Joan the Mad (daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon), Charles inherited all the family possessions at a young age, given his mother's mental illness and his father's early death. At the age of six, Philip having passed away, he became duke of Burgundy and therefore prince of the Netherlands (Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg). Ten years later he became king of Spain, also taking possession of the Castilian West Indies, and the Aragonese kingdoms of Sardinia, Naples and Sicily. At the age of nineteen he became archduke of Austria as head of the House of Habsburg and, as a result, thanks to his Austrian heritage, was designated emperor of the Germanic-Italian complex (Holy Roman Empire) by the seven prince electors.

A beneficiary of Austria's ambitious dynastic policy, Charles V took up the project of the medieval emperors and set himself the goal of uniting much of Europe into a universal Christian monarchy. To this end he set up a vast army consisting of German lansquenets, Spanish tercios, Burgundian knights, and Italian condottieri. To support the enormous cost of his troops, Charles V used silver from the conquests conducted against the Aztecs and Incas by Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro and sought other sources of wealth by entrusting the Welsers with the search for the legendary El Dorado. Even greater were the tax revenues secured by the economic power of the Netherlands.

In line with his universalist design, Charles V traveled continuously throughout his life without settling in a single capital. He encountered three major obstacles on his path, all of which threatened imperial authority in Germany and Italy: the Kingdom of France, hostile to Austria and surrounded by the Carolingian possessions of Burgundy, Spain and the Empire; the nascent Protestant Reformation, supported by the Lutheran princes; and the expansion of the Ottoman Empire to the eastern and Mediterranean borders of the Habsburg dominions.

Appointed Difensor Ecclesiae by Pope Leo X, Charles promoted the Diet of Worms (1521) that banned Martin Luther, who was, however, rescued by Protestant princes. That same year military conflict broke out with Francis I of France, ending with the latter's capture at the Battle of Pavia in 1525. The shelved Lutheran issue exploded again in 1527, when troops of Germanic mercenaries of the Protestant faith stationed in Italy defected, descended on the Church State and sacked Rome. Both because he had liberated Lombardy from the French and because he had caused the imperial troops to withdraw from the Papal States, Charles V was granted the iron crown of Italy by Pope Clement VII at the Congress of Bologna in 1530.

Between 1529 and 1535 Charles V faced the Islamic threat, first defending Vienna from the Turkish siege and then defeating the Ottomans in North Africa and conquering Tunis. However, these successes were thwarted in the 1940s by the unsuccessful Algiers expedition and the loss of Budapest. Meanwhile, Charles V had come to an agreement with Pope Paul III to initiate the Council of Trent (1545). The refusal to take part in the Lutheran League of Smalcalda provoked a war, which ended in 1547 with the capture of the Protestant princes. When things seemed to be looking up for Charles V, Henry II of France granted support to the rebellious princes, again fueling Lutheran dissensions, and came to terms with Suleiman the Magnificent, sultan of the Ottoman Empire and an enemy of the Habsburgs since 1520.

Faced with the prospect of an alliance among all his disparate enemies, Charles V abdicated in 1556 and divided the Habsburg empire between his son Philip II of Spain (who got Spain, the Netherlands, Naples, Sicily and Sardinia, as well as the American colonies) and his brother Ferdinand I of Austria (who received Austria, Croatia, Bohemia, Hungary and the title of emperor). The Duchy of Milan and the Netherlands were left in a personal union to the king of Spain, but continued to be part of the Holy Roman Empire. Charles V retired in 1557 to Spain to the monastery of Yuste, where he died a year later, having abandoned the dream of universal empire in the face of the prospect of religious pluralism and the emergence of national monarchies.

Charles was the son of Philip "the Fair," son in turn of Emperor Maximilian I of Austria and Mary of Burgundy, heir to the vast estates of the Dukes of Burgundy. His mother, on the other hand, was Joan of Castile and Aragon, known as "the Madwoman," daughter of the Catholic kings Ferdinand II of Aragon and his consort Isabella of Castile. By virtue of these exceptional ancestors, Charles was able to inherit a vast empire, moreover ever expanding, and extending over three continents (Europe, Africa and America). Indeed, in his veins flowed blood of the most diverse nationalities: Austrian, German, Spanish, French, Polish, Russian, Italian and English.

Through his father he was in fact descended not only, of course, from the Habsburgs, who had now reigned over Austria for three centuries and for almost 100 years uninterruptedly over the Germanic Empire, but also from the Polish House of Piast, of the branch of the Dukes of Masovia, through his great-great-granddaughter Cimburga of Masovia. The latter was also materially descended from the Princes of Tver' of the House of Rurik, among whom St. Michael of Tver, hero of the resistance to the Mongols and revered by the Russian Orthodox Church, stands out. Cimburga's husband, the Duke of Styria Ernest the Iron, on the other hand, was the son of Verde Visconti, making Charles a direct descendant of the Visconti of Milan and thus a legitimate claimant to the Duchy of Milan. Through his grandmother Maria, duchess of Burgundy, he was instead descended from the kings of France of the House of Valois, direct descendants of Hugh Capet, founder of the Capetian dynasty. From the Burgundian line Charles also boasted as ancestors the Dukes of Brabant, heirs of the last Carolingian prince, Charles I of Lorraine, a direct descendant of the founder of the Holy Roman Empire.

His mother Joan, on the other hand, brought him descendants from the great Castilian and Aragonese lineage of Trastámara. They in turn had brought together in their coat of arms the legacies of the ancient Iberian lineages of Barcelona, first kings of Aragon, León, Castile, and Navarre, descendants of the ancient kings of Asturias, of Visigothic origin. The kings of Aragon were also descendants of the Hohenstaufen through Constance, daughter of King Manfred; this fact allowed Charles (who was thus descended from Emperor Frederick II of Swabia, known as the "Stupor Mundi"), to inherit the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily. Finally, two of his great-great-granddaughters on his maternal side were Catherine and Philippa of Lancaster, both daughters of John of Ghent, cadet son of Edward III Plantagenet, King of England.

1500-1520: from birth to coronation at Aachen

On Oct. 21, 1496, Maximilian I of Habsburg, archduke of Austria and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, through a shrewd "marriage policy," arranged for his own son and heir to the throne, Philip, known as "the handsome," to take as his wife Joan of Castile, the youngest daughter of the Catholic rulers of Spain Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. The two moved in 1499 from Brussels to the ancient capital Ghent, located in the County of Flanders, where Charles was born on February 24, 1500.

In addition to Charles, five other children were born to the couple. Eleanor, the eldest, who went in marriage first to Emmanuel I of Aviz, king of Portugal, and then to François I of Valois-Angoulême, king of France. After him, in succession, were born: Isabella who went in marriage to Christian II of Oldenburg, king of Denmark; Ferdinand who married Anna Jagellon of Hungary, starting a renewed Austrian branch of the Habsburgs; Maria who went in marriage to Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia; and finally Catherine who went in marriage to John III of Aviz, king of Portugal.

Charles would soon become the most powerful ruler in the world. The maternal grandparents' only son had already passed away in 1497, leaving no heirs. Immediately afterwards their eldest daughter also died, and in the same year 1500 the latter's only male son, Michael of Peace, who would inherit Castile of Aragon and Portugal, also disappeared. Hence, in the year 1504, with the death of Queen Isabella, her daughter Joan, mother of Charles, became the heir to all the property of Castile and Charles himself became, in turn, the potential heir.

Upon his father's death on September 25, 1506, Maximilian quickly found in Charles's aunt, Archduchess Margaret of Habsburg, the new regent, who was appointed governor of the Netherlands in 1507. His mother Joan was stricken with alleged insanity and found herself unable to rule, so the regency of Castile was assumed by his father Ferdinand the Catholic. Because of this infirmity, Joan of Castile became commonly known as "Joan the Mad." Charles thus found himself at the age of six to be the potential heir not only of Castile but also of Austria and Burgundy on his paternal grandparents' side, as his grandfather Maximilian of Habsburg had married Mary of Burgundy, the last heir of the dukes of Burgundy.

Charles was educated by Robert de Gand, Adrian Wiele, Juan de Anchieta, Luis Cabeza de Vaca and Charles de Poupet lord of Chaulx. His tutor was in 1507 Adriaan Florensz of Utrecht, then dean of St. Peter's and vice-chancellor of the university, the future Pope Adrian VI. From 1509 his tutor was Guillaume de Croÿ, Lord of Chièvres. The young prince's entire education took place in Flanders and was cloaked in Flemish and French-language culture, despite his Austro-Hispanic birth. He practiced fencing, was a skilled horseman and expert in tournement, but of poor health, even suffering from epilepsy in his youth. On January 5, 1515, in the Hall of States of the Brussels palace, Charles was declared an adult and proclaimed the new duke of Burgundy. He was, therefore, flanked by a select council that included Guillaume de Croy, Hadrian of Utrecht and Grand Chancellor Jean de Sauvage, while the court at the time was large and required substantial funding.

At the time of the coronation of Francis I of France, the king invited Charles as duke of Burgundy to the celebratory feast; he sent Henry of Nassau and Michel de Sempy in his stead, who also dealt with affairs of state: in particular, a possible marriage between Charles and Renata of France (the second daughter of Louis XII of France and Anne of Brittany) was discussed. Ferdinand II of Aragon would have wanted the infant Ferdinand, Charles' younger brother, as heir, so Adrian of Utrecht was sent to Spain with diplomatic intent. On January 23, 1516, his maternal grandfather King Ferdinand of Aragon died.

Charles, when he was only sixteen years old, also inherited the throne of Aragon, concentrating all of Spain in his hands, so he was able to bear the title of king of Spain in his own right, taking the name Charles I.

On March 14, 1516, there was the official proclamation. As for the true heir to the throne of Castile, his mother Joan, because of her acknowledged mental infirmity, had to cede her actual powers to her son Charles, although dynastically she was queen until her death in the year 1555. In 1516 Erasmus of Rotterdam accepted the post of adviser to Charles I of Spain; he, in a letter sent to Thomas More, was somewhat perplexed about the actual intellectual abilities of the prince who, although he had become king of Spain, was of French mother tongue, and learned Spanish only later and superficially. Once he inherited the Spanish throne, Charles needed to be recognized as king by his subjects, since although he had Castilian-Aragonese rulers as ancestors, he was still a Habsburg. The request made to this effect on March 21, 1516 was refused.

At the time Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, archbishop of Toledo, was regent of Castile, the archbishop of Zaragoza regent of Aragon, and Adrian of Utrecht was regent sent by Charles. Charles hesitated while Jimenez had to deal with Sicilian unrest (culminating in the flight of viceroy Hugo de Moncada) and renegades Aruj Barbarossa and Khayr al-Dīn Barbarossa. The Treaty of Noyon was reached, in which the marriage between Charles and Madame Louise, the daughter of Francis I, was established, but such arrangements aroused Spanish indignation. Negotiations with England were left to the diplomacy of James of Luxembourg, who managed to strike a favorable deal. Meanwhile, his sister Eleanor had reached the age of 18 and Charles was planning a diplomatic marriage, but she was in love and corresponded with Count Palatine Frederick. Correspondence between the two was discovered as the girl was destined for the king of Portugal.

On September 8 Charles left Flessinga with forty ships for the Spanish coast: the voyage lasted 10 days. After a long journey on land they met his brother Ferdinand and arrived in the city of Valladolid. News arrived that Jiménez had died on November 8. Charles sent his brother to their aunt Margarita while he tried to ingratiate himself with the people by holding a tournament that was suspended by him because of the heinousness with which they were dueling. In those days he bore on his shield the motto Nondum (not yet). Summoning the Cortes of Castile in late 1517, he was finally recognized as king in February 1518 while the Cortes made no less than 88 demands including that the ruler speak Spanish. On March 22 he left the city bound for Zaragoza, where he faced the Cortes of Aragon with difficulty, so much so that he remained in the city for several months.

Meanwhile, Grand Chancellor Jean de Sauvage died on June 7, 1518; he was succeeded by Mercurino Arborio of Gattinara, while negotiations continued with the Cortes of Catalonia, convened in Barcelona, where Charles remained for much of 1519 until his sovereignty was recognized. One of the king's acts before he left Spain was to support the arming and formation of a league against the Muslim pirates who infested the Spanish and European coasts and made navigation in the Mediterranean dangerous.

Subsequently, he had to travel to Austria to collect the Habsburg inheritance as well. Indeed, on January 12, 1519, with the death of his paternal grandfather Maximilian I, Charles, who had already been king of Spain for three years, competed for the imperial succession. The other pretenders were Henry VIII of England and Francis I. The emperor was elected by seven electors: the archbishops of Mainz, Cologne, and Trier, and the lay lords of Bohemia, the Palatinate, Saxony, and Brandenburg.

On the occasion, to finance the bid and pay the electors, Charles was supported by the Fugger bankers of Augsburg, in the person of Jacob II, while Cardinal Thomas Wolsey pledged himself to Henry VIII. The election was resolved when the position of Pope Leo X, who had in the person of Frederick the Wise of Saxony the successor, was clear; the latter declined the offer in favor of Charles. Charles was elected by the electoral princes by unanimous vote, and at only nineteen years of age he also ascended the throne of Austria, taking full possession of his paternal grandmother's Burgundian inheritance. In the same year, precisely on June 28, 1519, in the city of Frankfurt, he was elected Emperor of H.R.I. Charles was crowned King of the Romans by the Archbishop of Cologne on October 23, 1520, in Aachen Cathedral. Charles of Ghent, at the head of the Holy Roman Empire, would take the name Charles V and as such went down in history.

In detail, Charles V's possessions were composed as follows:

1520-1530: from the coronation of Aachen to the coronation of Bologna

The untimely demise of all the male descendants of the Castilian-Aragonese dynasty, together with the untimely death of his father Philip "the handsome" and the infirmity of his mother Joanna of Castile, meant that Charles V, at the age of only 19, turned out to hold an "empire" as vast as had ever been seen before, not even in the time of Charlemagne. The navigator Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Seville on October 20, 1517, and succeeded in being heard by Charles V on March 22, 1518; the emperor signed the contract by which he financed the explorer's venture. Charles removed every obstacle the navigator encountered.

Magellan set out and throughout the voyage was very grateful to the emperor, his devotion can be observed even in his last days of life: in April 1521, on the island of Sebu or Cebu he removed the pagan name of the king, Humabon, to call him Charles and to his consort he gave the name Joan. Magellan died on the voyage where he discovered the strait that will bear his name, and Juan Sebastian del Cano returned in his place on September 8, 1522 on the Victoria. The English wanted him to visit, and he arrived in Canterbury on May 27, 1520, which led to the May 29 alliance and a promise of a new meeting for details on June 11. When these took place, marriage between Charles and an Englishwoman was discussed. There was also talk of the purchase of the Duchy of Württemberg, which came about thanks in part to the support of Zevenbergen, who became its governor.

Warned by Juan Manuel some time earlier in 1520 he was faced with the problem of Martin Luther. The two met at the Diet of Worms in April 1521; the monk had been summoned a few months earlier. On April 17 Charles V sat on the throne attending the diet. On the agenda was the issue concerning the monk. He began the questioning posed by Johannes Eck, the next day because of his language he was interrupted twice by Charles V. It was the emperor himself who wrote the declaration made the next day where he condemned Luther, but with the safe-conduct provided granted him return to Wittenberg. The diet ended on May 25, 1521.

Contrary to common practice in those times, Charles contracted only one marriage, on March 11, 1526, to his cousin Isabella of Portugal (1503 - 1539) by whom he had six children. He also had seven natural children. Charles V had also inherited from his paternal grandmother the title of duke of Burgundy, which had also been the prerogative of his father Philip for a few years. As duke of Burgundy he was a vassal of the king of France, since Burgundy was territory that had long belonged to the French crown. Moreover, the dukes of Burgundy, his ancestors, belonged to a cadet branch of the Valois, a dynasty reigning in France at that very time.

Burgundy was a vast territory located in northeastern France, which, in the past and for common interests, had been joined by other territories such as Lorraine, Luxembourg, Franche-Comté, and the Dutch and Flemish provinces, making these lands the richest and most prosperous in Europe. They were located, in fact, at the center of European trade lines and were the port of call for overseas trade to and from Europe. So much so that the city of Antwerp had become the largest commercial and financial center in Europe. His grandfather Emperor Maximilian, upon the death of his consort Maria in 1482, attempted to retake the duchy and bring it under the direct rule of the Habsburgs, seeking to take it away from the French crown. To this end he engaged in a conflict with the French that lasted for more than a decade, from which he emerged defeated.

He was then forced, in the year 1493, to sign with Charles VIII of Valois, king of France, the Peace of Senlis, by which he definitively renounced all claim to the Duchy of Burgundy, while retaining sovereignty over the Netherlands, Artois, and Franche-Comté. This forced renunciation was never really accepted by Maximilian, and the desire for revenge against France similarly transferred to his nephew Charles V, who, throughout his life, never gave up the idea of regaining possession of Burgundy.

Charles, as king of Spain, was supported by a Council of State that exercised considerable influence over royal decisions. The Council of State consisted of eight members: one Italian, one Savoyard, two Spaniards, and four Flemish. From its establishment, two camps formed in the Council: one was headed by the viceroy of Naples Charles de Lannoy and the other by the Piedmontese Mercurino Arborio di Gattinara, who was also the king's Grand Chancellor. Mercurino Arborio di Gattinara, in his capacity as Grand Chancellor (a position he held continuously from 1519 to 1530) and Charles's trusted man, had much influence on the latter's decisions, although within the Council of State there continued to be those two quite discordant factions, especially about the conduct of foreign policy. In fact, the faction headed by Lannoy was pro-French and anti-Italian; the one headed by Mercurino Arborio of Gattinara was anti-French and pro-Italian.

In the course of his rule Charles V also reaped many successes, but certainly the presence of other contemporary and conflicting realities with the Empire, such as the Kingdom of France and the Ottoman Empire, together with the ambitions of the German princes, constituted the strongest impediment to the Emperor's policy, which tended toward the realization of a universal government under the leadership of the Habsburgs. Indeed, he intended to tie the imperial title permanently and hereditarily to the Habsburgs, albeit in an elective form, in accordance with the provisions contained in the Golden Bull issued in 1356 by Emperor Charles IV of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia. The King of France, François I de Valois-Angoulême, in fact, through his strongly autonomistic position, together with his aims of expansion into Flanders and the Low Countries, as well as into Italy, always opposed the Emperor's attempts to bring France back under the Empire's control.

This opposition he exercised through numerous bloody conflicts. Worth mentioning in this regard is the Battle of Pavia (1525). So too was the Ottoman Empire of Suleiman the Magnificent, which, with its expansionist aims toward Central Europe, was always a thorn in the side of the Empire. In fact, Charles V was forced to sustain several conflicts against the Turks as well; often on two fronts simultaneously: in the east against the Ottomans and in the west against the French. On both fronts Charles emerged victorious, although not so much on his own merit as on that of his lieutenants. Victorious, yes, but bled economically, especially since the enormous costs of military campaigns were compounded by the pharaonic costs of maintaining his court into which he had introduced the unbridled luxury of Burgundian customs.

Throughout the course of his life, Charles V also had to deal with the problems raised first in Germany, and soon after in other parts of his empire and Europe in general, by the newly emerging religious doctrine due to the German monk Martin Luther in opposition to the Catholic Church. These problems manifested themselves not only in doctrinal disputes, but also resulted in open conflicts. Charles, who on the religious level proclaimed himself the staunchest defender of the Catholic Church, was neither able to defeat the new doctrine nor, much less, to limit its spread. So much so that two Diets, the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 and the Diet of Regensburg in 1541, ended in a deadlock, postponing any decision on doctrinal disputes to a future ecumenical council.

Charles was able to increase the transatlantic possessions of the Spanish crown through the conquests made by two of the most skilled conquistadores of the time, Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro. The emperor esteemed the audacity of Cortés, who defeated the Aztecs and conquered Florida, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Yucatán. The conqueror knew that the emperor had long before liked the name to be given to those lands: the "New Spain of the Ocean Sea," and he became governor in 1522. Charles V first made him marquis of the valley of Oaxaca and then thanks to his interest made him marry the daughter of the Duke of Bejar. Pizarro defeated the Inca Empire and conquered Peru and Chile, that is, the entire Pacific coast of South America. Charles appointed Cortés governor of the subjugated territories in North America, which thus went to form the Viceroyalty of New Spain, while Pizarro was appointed governor of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Under the young Charles V the first circumnavigation of the planet was also accomplished, financing in 1519 the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan in search of the westward passage, sailing for the first time in the Pacific landing at the Spice Islands and beginning the Spanish colonization of the Philippines.

In the aftermath of his imperial coronation Charles V had to deal with revolts in Castile and Aragon in the years 1520-1522, essentially due to the fact that Spain was not only in the hands of a ruler of German descent, but also that the latter had been elected Emperor of the S.R.I., and, as such, tended to be more concerned with problems related to Austro-Germanic Europe than with those of Spain. In Castile there was the revolt of the comuneros (or Castilian comunidades), which had as its goal the achievement of greater political weight in the Empire by Castile itself. In Aragon there was the revolt of the Germanìes against the nobility. The "Germanìa" was a confraternity that brought together all the city guilds. Charles was able to quell these revolts without any damage to his throne.

Two years after his coronation at Aachen, Charles reached a secret agreement with his brother Ferdinand about the hereditary rights due to each of the two. Under this agreement it was determined that Ferdinand and his descendants would have the Austrian territories and the imperial crown, while Charles' descendants would get Burgundy, Flanders, Spain and the overseas territories. From 1521 to 1529, Charles V fought as many as two long and bloody wars against France for possession of the Duchy of Milan, necessary for a passage from Spain to Austria without passing through French territory, and the Republic of Genoa. Decisive for the conclusion of the first was the battle of Pavia in which, thanks to the Forlivian mercenary captain Cesare Hercolani, King Francis I was captured. In both conflicts, therefore, Charles emerged victorious: the first concluded with the Peace of Madrid and the second with the Peace of Cambrai.

In the course of the second war between the two sovereigns, in 1527, the invasion of the city of Rome by the Landsknechts under the command of General Georg von Frundsberg is recorded. The Germanic soldiers completely devastated and sacked the city, destroying everything that could be destroyed and forcing the Pope to barricade himself in Castel Sant'Angelo. This affair is infamously known as the "sack of Rome." These events aroused such fierce outrages throughout the civilized world that Charles V distanced himself from his mercenaries and strongly condemned their actions, justifying himself on the grounds that they had acted without the control of their commander, who had to return to Germany for health reasons.

The Roman nobility resented a Medici pope, so they asked the young emperor to send mercenary troops to induce him to give up. Some Roman families financed the expedition. In Mantua, the Landsknechts secretly purchased cannons from Alfonso I d'Este, duke of Ferrara, which they were then forced to sell in Livorno because the agreed funding did not arrive. Upon arrival in Rome, the Lansquenets were exhausted, badly armed and ravaged by the plague, which they then spread throughout Europe. After a siege made futile by a lack of firepower, by a fortuitous situation they managed to penetrate from the north bank of the Tiber. The Pope, who had not surrendered upon their arrival, managed to take refuge in Castel Sant'Angelo thanks to the sacrifice of the Swiss guard. The horde of Landsknechts pounced on Trastevere sacking it. The Romans then tried to destroy the pons Sublicius to prevent them from invading the other side.

A fight broke out between the Romans and the Trasteverines; the Lansquenets took advantage of this, sweeping through the city. It is said that, before looting the palaces, they checked whether the family had paid their hire. The looting was vicious and heinous, made more cruel by their membership in the Lutheran religion, so much so that the emperor himself was grieved. The siege was enriched with anecdotes such as Cellini's famous arquebus shot from the ramparts of Castel Sant'Angelo. In partial compensation for the Roman events, Charles V undertook to re-establish in Florence the seigniory of the Medici family, of which the Pope himself was a member, but what was supposed to be a quick operation by the imperial troops became a long siege that ended in a painful victory.

1530-1541: from the coronation of Bologna to the Algiers expedition

In compliance with the pacts signed at Cambrai, on February 22, 1530, Clement VII crowned Charles V as King of Italy, with the Iron Crown of the Lombard Kings. The coronation took place in Bologna, perhaps because of the Sack of Rome fearing the reaction of the Romans, in the city's Civic Palace. Two days later, in the church of San Petronio, the coronation of Charles V as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire took place, having received the crown of King of the Romans ten years earlier in Aachen. This time, however, the imperial consecration was directly imposed on him by the hands of the Pontiff. In the same year as the imperial coronation there was the demise of Grand Chancellor Mercurino Arborio Gattinara (1464-1530), the King's most influential and listened to advisor. After Gattinara's demise, Charles V no longer allowed himself to be influenced by any other advisor, and the decisions he made from now on would be the almost exclusive fruit of his own convictions. The maturation process of the ruler was complete.

The year 1530 constitutes a significant turning point for Charles V, for his person and for his role as King and Emperor. Indeed, as a person, he freed himself from the tutelage of any advisor and began to make all his decisions independently, drawing on the experience he had gained at Gattinara's side. As a ruler, through the imposition of the imperial crown at the hands of the Pontiff, he felt invested with the primary task of having to devote himself completely to solving the problems that Lutheranism had created in Europe and in Germany in particular, with the specific aim of saving the unity of the Western Christian Church. To this end, in the same year 1530, he convened the Diet of Augsburg, in which Lutherans and Catholics confronted each other through various documents.

Of particular note was the "Augustan Confession," which was drafted to find an organic and coherent arrangement for the theological premises and composite doctrinal concepts that represented the foundations of the Lutheran faith, without any mention of the role of the papacy vis-à-vis the Reformed churches. Charles V confirmed the 1521 Edict of Worms, i.e., excommunication for Lutherans, and threatened the reconstitution of church property. In response, the Lutherans, represented by the so-called "reformed orders," reacted by forming the League of Smalcalda in the year 1531. This league, equipped with a federal army and a common treasury, was also called the "League of Protestants," and was led by Duke Philip I of Hesse and Duke John Frederick, Elector of Saxony.

It should be clarified that the followers of Luther's doctrine took on the name "Protestants" because they, united in "reformed orders," protested at the Second Diet of Speyer in 1529 against the Emperor's decision to reinstate the Edict of Worms (i.e., excommunication and reconstitution of church property), an edict that had been suspended at the previous First Diet of Speyer in 1526. In that same year Charles resolved a problem that had long caused him embarrassment.

In 1522 the Knights Hospitallers lost, at the hands of the Ottomans, the island of Rhodes, until then their home, and for seven years they had been wandering the Mediterranean Sea in search of a new land. The situation was not easy because the Knights of St. John did not accept being subjects of anyone and aspired to a place where they could be sovereigns in a Mediterranean completely occupied by other powers.

In 1524 Charles offered the Knights the island of Malta, which was under his direct control since it was part of the kingdom of Sicily: the proposal displeased the Hospitallers at first because it implied formal submission to the empire, but eventually, after lengthy negotiations, they accepted the island (which they said was unwelcoming and not easy to defend), making the condition that they be sovereigns and not subjects of the emperor and asking that they be assured of the supply of the necessities of life from Sicily.

Charles' decision, rather than reflecting a real desire to come to the aid of the Order of St. John, was of a strategic nature: Malta, a tiny island in the center of the Mediterranean, located in a position of great strategic importance especially for the ships that transited and stopped there in large numbers, was the target of pirate attacks and looting, so Charles needed someone to take care of its defense full-time, and the Knights were perfect for this.

The decade that opened in the aftermath of Charles V's coronation in Bologna at the basilica of San Petronio on February 24, 1530, by Pope Clement VII, and ended in 1540, was dense with events, which created quite a few headaches for the emperor.

Conflict with France was reopened; there was a resurgence of incursions of the Ottoman Empire into Europe; and there had to be a considerable expansion of Lutheran doctrine. Charles V, as the ultimate bulwark of the integrity of Europe and the Catholic faith, had to juggle all three fronts simultaneously and with considerable difficulty. In the early 1930s, both Charles V and Francis I began to implement the so-called "marriage policy" through which they intended to acquire for themselves the territorial control over the states of Europe that they had not been able to gain through recourse to arms. Charles V, in fact, planned the marriage of his own natural daughter Margaret to the Duke of Florence, as well as that of his niece Christina of Denmark to the Duke of Milan. Francis I, for his part, gave his sister-in-law Renata of France in marriage to the Duke of Ferrara Ercole II d'Este. During his nearly month-long stay in Mantua he was the guest of Federico II Gonzaga to whom he handed over the insignia of first duke on March 25, 1530. On the occasion the emperor proposed marriage to his aunt Giulia of Aragon (1492-1542), daughter of Frederick I of Naples. Federico Gonzaga never married Giulia, but in 1531 he was united in marriage to Margherita Paleologa.

But the masterpiece, in this field, was accomplished by Pope Clement VII, who arranged the marriage between his niece Catherine de' Medici and Francis I's second-born son Henry, who, due to the untimely death of the heir to the throne Francis, would in turn become King of France under the name Henry II. This marriage prompted Francis I to be more enterprising and aggressive toward Charles V. The king of France concluded an alliance with the Sultan of Constantinople Suleiman the Magnificent, who aspired to dominance over the African coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and prompted him to open a second front of conflict against the emperor, in the Mediterranean, by the Ottoman-Turkish admiral Khayr al-Din, known as Barbarossa, chief of Muslim pirates, who infested and plundered European coasts and merchant ships, and in 1533 put him at the head of the sultan's fleet, attempting to recapture Andalusia and Sicily to subjugate them back under Muslim rule.

This move provoked Charles V's decision to embark on a military campaign against pirates and Muslims in North Africa-in part to fulfill promises made to the Parliament of Aragon-which led in June 1535, to the conquest of Tunis and the defeat of Barbarossa, but not his capture, the latter having found refuge in the city of Algiers.

On his return from the Tunis expedition, Charles V decided to stop in his Italian possessions. He was received triumphantly in the kingdom of Sicily as a liberator since he had defeated the Moors who were plundering the coast of the island. He passed through a number of state-owned towns in Sicily. He landed from North Africa in Trapani on August 20: the city was the fourth on the island after Palermo, Messina and Catania, and the emperor called it the key to the kingdom and solemnly confirmed its privileges. He left Trapani at the end of August bound for Palermo; he stayed one night in the Castle of Inici as the guest of Giovanni Sanclemente, a nobleman of Catalan origin who had been his comrade-in-arms in Tunis, and on September 1 he reached Alcamo, the feudal city of the Cabrera family, where he spent two nights, housed in the 14th-century castle. From Alcamo the imperial procession reached Monreale, and from there Palermo: entry into the capital took place on the morning of September 13. The sovereign and his retinue passed through the Porta Nuova and reached the cathedral, where the clergy, praetor Guglielmo Spatafora and many nobles awaited him, and where Charles solemnly swore that he would observe and preserve the civic privileges of the city. During his stay in Palermo he lived in Palazzo Ajutamicristo. On October 14 the emperor left for Messina, reached Termini in the evening of the same day and left again the next day bound for Polizzi Generosa; the procession then reached Nicosia, Troina where Charles V stayed for 3 days, and then continued on to Randazzo. On October 22 Charles triumphantly entered Messina where he stayed for 13 days. In the city of the Strait Charles confirmed the privileges of Messina, Randazzo and Troina, appointed the new viceroy of the island in the person of Ferrante I Gonzaga, and authorized the citizens of Lentini to found a town, which was built in 1551 and would be called Carlentini in his honor. From Messina he then took the route to Naples. He stopped with his entire retinue in Padula, staying at the Carthusian monastery of San Lorenzo, where Carthusian monks prepared a legendary 1,000-egg omelet for the emperor. On Nov. 25, 1535, Charles V entered Naples through the Capuan gate (as depicted in bas-relief on one of the sides of the marble funeral monument that Viceroy Pedro Álvarez de Toledo y Zúñiga had made by Giovanni da Nola, which is in the basilica of S. Giacomo degli Spagnoli in Naples and in which he was later not buried). He listened to the criticism of the Neapolitan nobility against the viceroy's rule, the defense of the People's Elect Andrea Stinca and opted for reappointment. He arrived in Rome in April 1536, partly to meet, and try to make an ally of, the new Pontiff Paul III (Alessandro Farnese), who had succeeded Clement VII who had died in 1534.

The new pontiff declared himself neutral in the more than decade-long dispute between France and the Empire, whereby, Francis I, on the strength of this neutrality, resumed hostilities, initiating the third conflict with the emperor, which did not end until two years later, in 1538, with the Armistice of Bomy and the Peace of Nice, which led to no result, leaving untouched the results of the Peace of Madrid and the Peace of Cambrai, which had concluded the two previous conflicts. At the same time as these events, Charles V also had to cope, as noted above, with the spread of the Lutheran doctrine, which had found its high point in the formation of the League of Smalcalda in 1531, to which more and more Germanic princes were beginning to join.

The emperor engaged again against the Turks in a conflict that ended with much misfortune in a defeat, which accrued in the naval battle of Prevesa on September 27, 1537, where the Turkish array, led by Barbarossa got the better of the imperial fleet, composed of Genoese and Venetian ships. This defeat prompted Charles V to resume relations with the states of Germany, which he still needed, both financially and militarily. His more conciliatory attitude toward the Lutheran representatives, held at the diets of Worms (1540) and Regensburg (1541), won him the support of all the princes, as well as the alliance of Philip I of Hesse.

This led to the realization of another Mediterranean expedition against the Muslims, both to regain credibility and because his eternal rival Francis of France had allied himself with the Sultan.This time the target was Algiers, Barbarossa's logistical base and the starting point of all corsair ship raids against the ports of Spain and its Italian domains. Charles V gathered a sizeable invasion force in La Spezia, entrusted to the commands of valiant and experienced commanders such as Andrea Doria, Ferrante I Gonzaga, and Hernán Cortés. Nevertheless, the October 1541 expedition was a complete failure, as adverse autumn sea conditions destroyed as many as 150 ships laden with weapons, soldiers and supplies. With what remained Charles V was unable to victoriously conclude the venture and had to return to Spain, in early December of that year, bidding a final farewell to his policy of controlling the Mediterranean Sea.

1541-1547: in the shadow of the Council of Trent

As a result of this defeat, Francis I, in July 1542, initiated the fourth war against the Emperor, which ended only in September 1544 with the signing of the Peace of Crépy, from which the King of France emerged clearly defeated once again, although he was able to retain some territories occupied during the conflict and belonging to the Duchy of Savoy. Francis, in fact, not only had to definitively give up his dreams of conquering Italy, but also had to commit himself to supporting the opening of a Council on the Lutheran question. Which punctually happened. In June 1543 Charles V, while on his way to Trent, met Pope Paul III in Busseto at the Villa Pallavicino.

Continuing his journey, he entertained himself in the Castle of Canneto with Ferrante Gonzaga, Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga, and Margherita Paleologa, in order to legitimize to his son Francesco the double investiture in the titles of Duke of Mantua and Marquis of Monferrato, as well as to agree on his future marriage to Caterina, the emperor's niece. On June 28 of the same year the emperor was a guest for a day at the court of Marquis Aloisio Gonzaga, who offered him the keys to the fortress. He also visited Medole Castle and the Convent of the Annunciata, giving the Augustinian fathers a precious breviary bound in silver. In fact, Pope Paul III convened an ecumenical council in the city of Trent, whose work was officially opened on December 15, 1545.

It was a Council of which both the king and the emperor would never see the conclusion, nor would the pontiff who had convened it. Because the Protestants refused to recognize the Council of Trent, the Emperor went to war against them in June 1546, strong with an army composed of the Pontiffs under the command of Ottavio Farnese, the Austrians of Ferdinand of Austria, the Emperor's brother, and soldiers from the Netherlands under the command of the Count of Buren. The Emperor was flanked by Maurice of Saxony, who had been cleverly taken from the Smalcaldic League. Charles V achieved a crushing victory at the Battle of Mühlberg in 1547, following which the German princes retreated and submitted to the emperor. Famous is the portrait executed by Titian in 1548 and kept at the Prado Museum in Madrid to celebrate this victory. In it the emperor is depicted on horseback, with armor, crest and a pike in his hands, in the act of leading his troops into battle.

Indeed, chronicles of the time reported that the emperor followed the battle from far away, lying on a litter, as he was unable to move due to one of his frequent attacks of gout. An ailment that plagued him throughout his life, caused by his inordinate passion for the pleasures of good food. For the first two years the Council debated procedural issues, lacking agreement between the pope and the emperor: in fact, while the emperor tried to bring the debate to reformist issues, the pope tried to bring it, instead, more to theological issues. May 31, 1547 saw the death of King Francis I, and since the Dauphin Francis had died prematurely in 1536 at the age of 18, Francis I's second son, with the name Henry II, ascended the throne of France. Not only that, but, in the same year, Paul III moved the seat of the Council from Trent to Bologna, with the express purpose of removing it from the influence of the Emperor, although the official reason for the move was the plague.

1547-1552: from the death of Francis I to the siege of Metz

Charles V had now reached the height of his power. His great antagonist, Francis I, had disappeared. The League of Smalcalda had been won. The Duchy of Milan, in the hands of Ferdinand Gonzaga, was under the Emperor's orders, as were Genoa, Savoy, and the Duchies of Ferrara, Tuscany, and Mantua, as well as the Republics of Siena and Lucca. Southern Italy had long been a Spanish viceroyalty. Pope Paul III, to oppose such overpower, could do nothing but make an agreement with the new king of France.

The peak of his power, however, also coincided with the beginning of his decline. Indeed, in the two-year period 1546-1547, Charles V had to face a number of anti-Habsburg conspiracies in Italy. In Lucca, in 1546, Francesco Burlamacchi attempted to establish a republican state throughout Tuscany. In Genoa, Gianluigi Fieschi unsuccessfully organized a revolt in favor of France. Finally, in Parma, in 1547 Ferdinand Gonzaga conquered Parma and Piacenza at the expense of Duke Pier Luigi Farnese (son of the pontiff), but the conquest failed at the hands of Duke Ottavio Farnese, who regained the Duchy, which was later reconquered once again by Gonzaga.

Pope Paul III died on November 10, 1549. He was succeeded by Cardinal Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte, who took the name Julius III. The new pope, whose election had been favored by the Farnese cardinals present in the Conclave, as a thank you to the Farnese lineage, arranged for the restitution to Ottavio Farnese of the Duchy of Parma, which had been regained in 1551 by Ferdinando Gonzaga. Ottavio, believing Gonzaga about his father-in-law's willingness to take the duchy away from him, approached France, whereupon the pontiff declared him to have forfeited the title, so that he permanently formed an alliance with Henry II. Julius III saw in all this an involvement of the Holy See that would lead it to side with the king.

Which contrasted with the principle of neutrality that the pope had imposed on himself at the time of his election to safeguard his temporal power. This alliance, in fact, provoked a new conflict between the Kingdom and the Empire, in which the pontiff found himself bound, playfully, to Charles V. A few years later, however, the pope made an agreement with Henry II, switching, in effect, to the other camp, citing, in support of his choice, the fact that Lutheranism was also expanding in France and that the coffers of the Papal States were now depleted. This agreement, however, by pact between the two, would have to be ratified by the emperor.

Also during this period in the cultural context, on May 12, 1551, Charles V founded the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Peru, the oldest university in the Americas.

Charles V, finding himself in difficulty for domestic reasons in his territories in Germany, ratified the agreement and thought the conflict with France was over. Instead, Henry II began a new adventure: the conquest of Naples; to which he was urged by Ferrante Sanseverino, Prince of Salerno, who succeeded in persuading the king of France to military intervention in southern Italy with the aim of freeing it from Spanish oppression. As his predecessor Antonello Sanseverino had done when he pushed Charles VIII to conquer Naples. King Henry, knowing full well that alone he would never succeed in wresting southern Italy from Charles V, allied himself with the Turks, and planned the invasion through a joint operation of the Turkish and French fleets. In the summer of 1552, the Turkish fleet, under the command of Sinan Pasha, surprised the imperial fleet, under the command of Andrea Doria and Don Giovanni de Mendoza, off Ponza. The imperial fleet was resoundingly defeated. But because the French fleet failed to rejoin the Turkish fleet, the goal of the Neapolitan invasion failed.

In Germany, meanwhile, the emperor, after the victory at Mühlberg, had adopted an extremely authoritarian policy, which resulted in the formation of an alliance between the Reformed Princes of North Germany, the Duke of Hesse and Duke Maurice of Saxony, in an anti-imperial function. This league, in January 1552, signed an agreement with the King of France at Chambord. This agreement provided for the funding of the League's troops by France in exchange for the reconquest of the cities of Cambrai, Toul, Metz and Verdun. The permission granted to the king of France by the League of Protestant Princes, for the occupation of the cities of Cambrai, Toul, Metz and Verdun, was a real betrayal to the emperor. War with France broke out, therefore, inevitably in 1552, with the invasion of northern Italy by French troops. But King Henry's real goal was the occupation of Flanders, a dream also never fulfilled by his father Francis I. In fact, Henry personally put himself at the head of his troops and began military operations in Flanders and Lorraine.

Henry II's initiative took the emperor by surprise, who, unable to reach the Netherlands because of the interposition of the French army, had to fall back on North Tyrol, with a precipitous and, indeed, rather unseemly flight to Innsbruck. Upon returning to Austria Charles V began the strengthening of his military contingent by bringing in reinforcements and money from both Spain and Naples; which induced Maurice of Saxony, leader of the French troops, to open negotiations with the emperor, fearing defeat. In talks, held in Passau, between the Protestant princes led by Maurice of Saxony and the emperor, an agreement was reached that provided greater religious freedoms for the Reformed in exchange for the dissolution of the alliance with Henry II. Which took place in August 1552.

With the Treaty of Passau, the emperor succeeded in nullifying the Chambord agreements between the Protestant princes and the king of France, but he saw all the conquests he had achieved with the victory at Mühlberg nullified. Once he had obtained the isolation of France, Charles V, in the fall of that year, began a military campaign against the French to reconquer Lorraine, laying siege to the city of Metz, defended by a force commanded by Francis I of Guise. The siege, which lasted practically until the end of the year, ended in failure and the subsequent withdrawal of the imperial troops. This episode is historically considered the beginning of the decline of Charles V. It was as a result of this circumstance, in fact, that the emperor began to think about his own succession.

1552-1555: from the siege of Metz to the peace of Augsburg

In the aftermath of the failure of the siege of Metz and the failed reconquest of Lorraine, Charles V entered a phase of reflection: about himself, his life and affairs as well as the state of Europe. Charles V's earthly life was drawing to a close. The great protagonists who together with him had graced the European stage in the first half of the 16th century had all passed away: Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France in 1547, Martin Luther in 1546, Erasmus of Rotterdam ten years earlier, and Pope Paul III in 1549. The balance of his life and what he had accomplished could not be said to be entirely positive, especially in relation to the goals he had set for himself.

His dream of a universal empire under Habsburg leadership had failed; just as his goal of regaining Burgundy had failed. He himself, while professing to be the first and most fervent defender of the Church of Rome, had been unable to prevent the rise of Lutheran doctrine. His possessions across the Atlantic had grown enormously but without his governors being able to give them sound administrative structures. He had, however, laid the foundation for Habsburg-Spanish rule over Italy, which would be made official after his death by the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559, and which would last for one hundred and fifty years. Just as he had succeeded, with the help of Archduke Ferdinand his brother, in stopping the Ottoman Empire's advance towards Vienna and the heart of Europe.

Charles V was beginning to become aware that Europe was about to be ruled by new Princes who, in the name of maintaining their own states, did not intend in the slightest to alter the politico-religious balance within each of them. His conception of Empire was waning and the power of Spain was beginning to assert itself. In 1554, the wedding of Mary Tudor (a wedding strongly desired by Charles V, who saw in the union between the Queen of England and his own son, the future King of Spain, a fundamental alliance in an anti-French function and in defense also of the territories of Flanders and the Low Countries.

To increase the prestige of his own son and heir, the Emperor assigned to Philip, permanently, the Duchy of Milan, the Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of Sicily, which were added to the regency of the Kingdom of Spain, which Philip had already possessed for some years. This growth of power in Philip's hands only increased the latter's interference in the conduct of state affairs, which caused an increase in conflict with his own parent. This conflict resulted in the mismanagement of military operations against France, which had resumed precisely in 1554.

The theater of the conflict was the Flemish territories. The French and imperial armies confronted each other in bitter battles until late autumn, when negotiations for a much-needed truce began, especially because of the financial bleeding on both sides. The truce was concluded, after exhausting negotiations, at Vauchelles in February 1556, and once again, as had often been the case in the past, hostilities ended in a deadlock, meaning that the positions gained remained frozen. This meant that France maintained its occupation of Piedmont and the cities of Metz, Toul, and Verdun. Charles V, at this point in events, was forced to make important decisions for the future of himself, his family, and the states of Europe over which his rule stretched.

He had reached the age of 56, and his health was somewhat shaky. The previous year, on September 25, he had signed with the Protestant Princes, through his brother Ferdinand, the Peace of Augsburg, as a result of which religious pacification was achieved in Germany, with the coming into force of the principle cuius regio, eius religio, by which it was sanctioned that the subjects of a region should profess the religion chosen by their regent. It was the official recognition of the new Lutheran doctrine. These events prompted the new Pope, Paul IV, born Gian Pietro Carafa, a Neapolitan who had been elected just the previous year, to forge a solid alliance with the King of France in an anti-imperial capacity. Paul IV, in fact, believed that the Emperor was no longer the bulwark of the Church of Rome against attacks from the new Lutheran doctrine, especially after the Treaty of Passau and the Peace of Augsburg.

That is why he saw fit to form an alliance with France. Prince Philip now ruled over both Spain and Flanders as well as the Kingdom of Naples and the Duchy of Milan. Philip's marriage to the Queen of England ensured a firm anti-French alliance. His brother Ferdinand had gained power in all Habsburg possessions and exercised it with competence and wisdom as well as considerable autonomy from the Emperor. Ties with the Pope had now loosened, both because of the results of the Peace of Augsburg and because of the turn the Catholic Church had taken with the advent of Carafa to the papal throne.

Abdication and the last years (1556-1558)

All these considerations led him to decide for his own abdication, dividing his reign between two successors, and that took place in a series of successive steps. As Duke of Burgundy he had already abdicated in favor of his son Philip II in the city of Brussels on October 25, 1555.

On January 16, 1556, Charles V ceded the crowns of Spain, Castile, Sicily and the New Indies again to his son Philip, to whom he also ceded the Netherlands and Franche-Comté in June of that year and the Aragonese crown in July.

On September 12 of the same year he ceded the imperial crown to his brother Ferdinand. Soon after, accompanied by his sisters Eleanor and Maria, he left for Spain bound for the monastery of San Jerónimo of Yuste in Extremadura.

Charles set sail from the Flemish port of Flessinga on September 15, 1556, with a fleet of more than sixty ships and a retinue of 2,500 people, destined to dwindle gradually over the course of the voyage. Thirteen days later, the former ruler landed in the Spanish port of Laredo. On October 6, the journey across Castile began, which took him first to Burgos where he arrived on October 13 and then to Valladolid where he arrived on the 21st of the same month. After a two-week stopover, accompanied by a few horsemen and fifty halberdiers, he resumed his journey to Extremadura, which would take him to a place called Vera de Plasencia, near which stood the monastery of San Jerónimo of Yuste, where he arrived on February 3, 1557. Here the monks welcomed him in procession, chanting the Te Deum.

Charles never resided inside the monastery, but rather in a modest mansion he had had built years earlier, adjacent to the boundary wall, but outside, facing south and well sunny. Despite the rather distant location from the centers of power, he continued to maintain relations with the political world, without failing in his desire to fulfill the ascetic aspect of his character. He continued to be prodigal with advice both to his daughter Joan, regent of Spain, and to his son Philip, who ruled the Netherlands. Especially on the occasion of the conflict that broke out with Henry II of France, in which Charles, from his hermitage at Yuste and with the help of Spain, managed to reorganize Philip's army, which achieved a crushing victory over the French at the Battle of St. Quentin on August 10, 1557. It should be remembered that the commander-in-chief of Philip II's army was Duke Emanuel Philibert of Savoy, known as "Ironhead."

On February 28, 1558, the German Princes, meeting in the Diet of Frankfurt, took note of the resignation from the title of Emperor that Charles V had presented two years earlier and recognized Ferdinand as the new Emperor. Charles was leaving the political scene for good. On February 18, 1558, his sister Eleanor died. Charles, presaging that his earthly life was now coming to an end, accentuated his ascetic character even more, absorbed more and more in penance and mortification. Nevertheless, he did not disdain the pleasures of good food, to which he indulged, even though he was afflicted with gout and diabetes, and deaf to the advice of doctors who urged him to a less rich diet.

Over the course of the summer his health showed signs of worsening, which manifested itself in increasingly frequent fevers that often forced him to bed, from which he could attend religious rites through a window he had had opened in a wall of his bedroom and which looked directly into the church. On September 19 he asked for last rites, after which he felt revived and his health showed some signs of recovery. The next day, strangely enough, as if he had had a premonition, he asked for and received last rites for the second time.

He died on September 21, 1558, probably of malaria, after three weeks of agony. Chronicles reported that as the moment of his passing approached, Charles, clutching a crucifix to his chest and expressing himself in Spanish, exclaimed, "Ya, voy, Señor" (I am coming Lord). After a short pause, shouting, he would exclaim again, "¡Ay Jesus!" and then take his last breath. It was two o'clock in the morning. His body was immediately embalmed and buried under the altar of the small Church of Yuste. Sixteen years later his body was moved by his son Philip to the Monastery of the Escorial named after San Lorenzo, which Philip himself had built in the hills north of Madrid, earmarking it as the burial place of all the Habsburg rulers of Spain.

From his marriage in 1526 to Isabella of Aviz, Charles had six children:

Charles also had five illegitimate children:

Genealogical table of Habsburgs

Charles, by the grace of God elected Holy Roman Emperor, forever Augustus, king of Germany, king of Italy, king of all Spain, Castile, Aragon, Leon, Hungary, Dalmatia, Croatia, Navarre, Grenada, Toledo, Valencia, Galicia, Majorca, Seville, Córdoba, Murcia, Jaen, Algarves, Algeciras, Gibraltar, Canary Islands, King of Sicily Citeriore and Ulterior, Sardinia and Corsica, King of Jerusalem, King of the West and East Indies, islands and mainland of the Ocean Sea, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Lorraine, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Limburg, Luxemburg, Gelderland, Neopatry, Württemberg, landgrave of Alsace, prince of Swabia, Asturias and Catalonia, count of Flanders, Habsburg, Tyrol, Gorica, Barcelona, Artois, Palatine of Burgundy, Hainaut, Holland, Seeland, Ferrette, Kyburg, Namur, Roussillon, Cerdagne, Drenthe, Zutphen, margrave of the Holy Roman Empire, Burgau, Oristano and Gociano, Lord of Frisia, Marca vindica, Pordenone, Biscay, Molin, Salins, Tripoli and Machelen.

The official portrait painter of Charles V was Titian. The Cadore master portrayed him several times: in 1533 (Portrait of Charles V with Dog) and 1548 (Portrait of Charles V on Horseback, Portrait of Charles V Seated), but other similar works are lost.

A strong intellectual bond was established between the two, such that it even justified legends that the emperor bent down to pick up the paintbrush that had slipped from the artist's hand. The artist described the entire physical and human parabola of the ruler, who loved to be portrayed because, in his view, his ugly, small and sickly appearance would appear less unpleasant if the people were already accustomed to seeing him painted. Time after time, Titian's portraits capture "the reflection of aspirations, tensions, labors, pomp, faith, regret, loneliness, and ardors."

Federico Zuccari reported an anecdote that Philip II of Spain, son of Charles, was once mistaken for a portrait of his father by mistaking it for his living figure.

The character of Charles V is also present in two of Giuseppe Verdi's operas: in Ernani and, as a ghost, in Don Carlo, under the character "Un Frate."


  1. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
  2. Carlo V d'Asburgo
  3. ^ La madre di Carlo, Giovanna, continuò a regnare nominalmente fino al 12 aprile 1555, anche se il potere era di fatto nelle mani del figlio.
  4. ^ Fra gli altri matrimoni combinati quello fra la sorella di Filippo, Margherita d'Asburgo con Giovanni di Trastámara, aveva anche progettato il matrimonio fra il nipote Carlo con la figlia di Luigi XII di Francia, Claudia di Francia portando, nel caso di successo, avrebbe dato un territorio maggiore al futuro Carlo V. Si veda Gerosa, 2009, pp. 32-33. Per dettagli sul rapporto con Claudia si veda Baumgartner, 1994, pp. 141 ss.
  5. ^ Nato il giorno di San Matteo, il suo nome lo si deve all'ultimo duca di Borgogna (Carlo il Temerario, padre di Maria di Borgogna), si veda Gerosa, 2009, p. 5.
  6. Gilian B. Fleming: Juana I. Legitimacy and Conflict in Sixteenth-Century Castile. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, ISBN 978-3-319-74346-2, S. 127–147.
  7. María José Redondo Cantera: Los sepulcros de la Capilla Real de Granada. In: Miguel Ángel Zalama Rodríguez (Hrsg.): Juana I en Tordesillas: su mundo, su entorno. Grupo Página, Valladolid 2010, ISBN 978-84-932810-9-0, S. 190 (spanisch, [1] [abgerufen am 1. Dezember 2019]).
  8. a b Herbert Nette: Karl V. Reinbek 1979, S. 12.
  9. ^ Some sources claim he abdicated on 27 August,[1][2] while others give 3 August[3] or 7 September[4][5] Moreover, his abdication was not recognized by the prince-electors until February 1558, on either the 24th[1][2] or 28th.[6][7]
  10. ^ German: Karl V.Spanish: Carlos VFrench: Charles QuintItalian: Carlo VDutch: Karel VCatalan: Carles VLatin: Carolus V
  11. German: Karl V.
  12. Spanish: Carlos V
  13. Dutch Anabaptism: Origin, Spread, Life and Thought (1450–1600), Cornelius Krahn, Springer, 1968, p. 4, ISBN 978-9401501316
  14. Oranje tegen Spanje van Edward de Maesschalk, pag. 15
  15. Karl Brandi, "Keizer Karel V, 1500-1558", Meulenhoff, Amsterdam, p. 28
  16. Geoffrey Parker, Emperor. A New Life of Charles V, 2019, p. 377

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