Charles V

(Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, Charles I of Spain)


Charles V was the heir to the Spanish kingdom, including the discoveries in America from his mother, and also to the kingdoms of Burgundy and Austria from his father. During his forty year reign, he therefore ruled a large part of Europe. His reign corresponded with a period of great turmoil in Europe which included the Protestant Reformation, aggressive inroads by the Ottoman Turks into Southeast Europe, and dramatic discoveries in the New World. His reign was therefore very significant, and crowded with events of significance.

Although the reformation occurred only a year after Charles rose to power in Spain, and it remained an important issue throughout his reign, Charles saw the movement entirely in politcal, rather than theological terms. Charles' most significant enemies, from his point of view, were Catholic France and the Moslem Turks. As long as Protestant princes were willing to fight for the Empire, he permitted religious freedom to some degree, but he sought to prevent the Protestant doctrines from spreading within his realms because he believed the would lead to politcal dissentions.

There are a number of incidents that demonstrate these priorities, foremost of which was the fact that the Imperial army sacked Rome in 1527 and drove the Pope into exile because he allied himself with Charles' enemy Francis I. Charles also used Protestant troops in is wars against the Moslem Turks and came to the a Protestant prince during the Schmalkadic Wars.

Charles was born and raised in the Netherlands, but spent most of his time as a monarch in Spain, leaving his German provinces to be governed by Hapsburg cousins. He was not at first accepted by the Spaniards, but by reversing many of Isabel's reforms and allowing more autonamy for the nobles, he gained their support; largely at the cost of the interests of the Spanish peasants, who were taxed mercilessly to pay for Charles Wars in Italy and the Mediterranean.

It was also during Charles reign the the colonies in the new world began producing enormous amounts of Gold and Silver. Because Charles depended on these revenues to fight his wars in Europe, and because the Spanish nobles were bribed to be supportive of his schemes, an enormous bureaucracy of nobles living off new-world gold was established which eventually corrupted and destroyed the Spanish economy. Although Spain was exceedingly wealthy during the age of Charles V, the seeds of its ultimate demise were already sown.

Charles dedicated a great deal of energy and resources to fighting the Moslems both in the Mediterranean and in Austria. While his wars in Italy were expensive and benefited no one, all of Europe profited from his wars against the Moslems. He resisted the Ottomans while they were at the height of their power, and were a real threat to all of Europe. He had both success in his battles with the Ottomans, such as the sieges of Vienna and Tunis, and failures such as the Battle of Mohcz, which left Hungary open to the Turks, and the campaign against Algiers, which ended in abject failure. At the very least however, he led the tide against the Moslem swell at a critical time in history.

Although Charles V is often demonized by protestant historians, in fact he was reasonably tolerant and not extravagently corrupt. His wasteful and incessant wars with France were usually triggered by French aggression rather than his own designs, and his worst enduring legacy was the seeds of corruption and bureaucratic malfeasance implanted in the Spanish nobility, but that was perhaps the inevitable result of the enormous, unearned wealth infusing the country than it was Charles particular policies.

Key events during the life of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.:

Birth of Prince Charles to Juana of Castile and Philip the Handsome
Death of Charle's Father, Philip the Handsome, leaves him heir to Burgundy and Austria
Raised to the throne of Spain on the death of his grandfather, Ferdinand.
Protestant Reformation breaks out in Germany
Civil War in Spain opposing the integration of Spain into the Hapsburg Empire.
Conquest of Mexico by Cortez
Diet of Worms declares Protestant faith in error.
Italian War breaks out when Francis campaigns in Italy to drive Charles from Naples.
Francis I captured at the Battle of Pavia, forced to surrender Italian claim.
Battle of Mohacz leaves Hungary at the mercy of the Turks
Charles V besieges and sacks Rome after Pope Clement joins forces with his rival Francis I.
Austrians resist the Ottoman Turks at the Siege of Vienna.
Conquest of Peru by Pizarro
Saint Ignatius founds the Society of Jesus.
Successful campaign against Tunis destoys the Barbary pirates based there.
Third Italian war between Charles V and Francis I is fought without resolution.
Fourth Italian war occurs when Francis I allies himself with Solyman.
Unsuccessful compaign against Algiers is a disaster for the Christians.
Council of Trent introduces reforms to the Catholic Church.
Schmalkaldic War puts down a Protestant rebellion in Saxony.
Final Italian war begins; Henry II of France takes Metz.
Abdication and retirement to the Monastery at Yuste.
Death of Charles V

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Charles V and his Son Philip  in  The Romance of Spanish History  by  John S.C. Abbott
Charles the First  in  A Child's History of Spain  by  John Bonner
The Boy-Emperor  in  The Story of Liberty  by  Charles C. Coffin
Early Corsairs (continued)  in  Barbary Rovers  by  John Finnemore
Reformation  in  Germany: Peeps at History  by  John Finnemore
Achievements of Charles V.  in  The Story of Old France  by  H. A. Guerber
Charles V of Germany  in  Famous Men of Modern Times  by  John H. Haaren
Spain Under the Hapsburgs  in  Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain  by  Charles F. Horne
Early Struggles  in  The Netherlands  by  Mary Macgregor
Abdication of Charles V.  in  The Netherlands  by  Mary Macgregor
Charles V  in  The History of Germany  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Reformation: Germany  in  The Story of Europe  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
King in Captivity  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris
Invasion of Africa  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris
Emperor Retired from Business  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris
King Incensed  in  Ferdinand Magellan  by  Frederick A. Ober
Charles I and Philip II  in  Spain: A History for Young Readers  by  Frederick A. Ober
Historic Scene  in  The Awakening of Europe  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

Charles the Fifth and His Friends in Marble
 in A Child's History of Spain

Charles the First
 in A Child's History of Spain

Visit of Francis I. and Charles V. at St. Denis
 in The Story of Old France

Charles V at the siege of Metz
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Charles V at Yuste
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Entry of Charles V. into Antwerp, 1515
 in Greatest Nations - Netherlands

Charles V and Barbara Blomberg
 in Greatest Nations - Netherlands

The birth of Charles V.
 in Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain

Charles V in procession with the pope
 in Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain
Charles V. of Germany
Charles V. of Germany
 in Back Matter
Charles V.on his way to the Convent
Charles V.on his way to the Convent
 in Back Matter

They were to humbly implore the Emperor's forgiveness.
 in The Netherlands

The Emperor arrived, leaning on the shoulder of a tall, handsome lad
 in The Netherlands

Charles V. at Yuste
 in Historical Tales: Spanish

The Emperor Charles V
 in Historical Tales: Spanish

Francis I. Refusing the Demands of the Emperor
 in Historical Tales: Spanish

Charles V. Approaching Yuste
 in Historical Tales: Spanish

Charles V.
 in John and Sebastian Cabot

Charles V. and the Tory Prince.
 in  William of Orange

Short Biography
Francis I of France King of France who was a patron of the arts, and was involved in the Italian Wars.
Chevalier Bayard Renowned French knight who was thought to embody the ideals of chivalry.
Count Egmont Powerful Noble in Low Countries during Dutch Revolt. Protested Inquisition and was beheaded.
Martin Luther Leader of the Protestant Reformation. Excommunicated by Catholic Church.
Andrea Doria Renowned Naval Commander from Genoa. Fought in the service of Charles V. Fought Turks and Pirates in the Mediterranean.
Hernando Cortez Conquistador who landed in Mexico with a small army, and allied with local tribes, conquered the Empire of the Aztecs.
Francisco Pizarro With only 160 men, conquered six thousand Inca and took control of Peru.
Ferdinand Magellan Portuguese explorer who commanded the first fleet to circumnavigate the globe. Died in Philippines.
Ignatius of Loyola Founder of the Jesuits order, dedicated to the Pope. Important counter-reformation figure.
Solyman Most famous of the Ottoman Emperors. Extended the empire to the Balkans and North Africa.