Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V
Holy Roman Emperor;
King of the Romans;
King of Italy
Reign 28 June 1519 – 27 August 1556[1]
Coronation 26 October 1520, Aachen (German royal)
22 February 1530, Bologna (Italian royal)
24 February 1530, Bologna (imperial)
Predecessor Maximilian I
Successor Ferdinand I
King of Spain
with Joanna the Mad to 1555
Reign 23 January 1516 – 16 January 1556
Predecessor Joanna of Castile
Ferdinand II of Aragon
Successor Philip II of Spain
Duke of Burgundy, Lord of the Netherlands and Count Palatine of Burgundy
Reign 25 September 1506 – 25 October 1555[2]
Predecessor Philip I of Castile
Successor Philip II of Spain
Spouse Isabella of Portugal
Philip II, King of Spain
Maria, Holy Roman Empress
Joan, Princess of Portugal
John of Austria (illegitimate)
Margaret, Duchess of Florence and Parma (illegitimate)
House House of Habsburg
Father Philip I of Castile
Mother Joanna of Castile
Born 24 February 1500
Ghent, Flanders
Died 21 September 1558 (aged 58)
Yuste, Spain
Burial El Escorial, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain
Religion Roman Catholicism

Charles V (Spanish: Carlos I, German: Karl V., Italian: Carlo V, Dutch: Karel V, French: Charles Quint; 24 February 1500 – 21 September 1558) was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.

As the heir of three of Europe's leading dynasties—the House of Habsburg of the Habsburg Monarchy; the House of Valois-Burgundy of the Burgundian Netherlands; and the House of Trastámara of Crown of Castile-León & Aragon—he ruled over extensive domains in Central, Western, and Southern Europe; and the Spanish colonies in North, Central, and South America, the Caribbean, and Asia.

Charles was the eldest son of Philip the Handsome and Joanna of Castile. When Philip died in 1506, Charles became ruler of the Burgundian Netherlands, and his mother's co-ruler in Spain upon the death of his maternal grandfather, Ferdinand the Catholic, in 1516. As Charles was the first person to rule Castile-León and Aragon simultaneously in his own right, he became the first King of Spain (Charles co-reigned with his mother Joanna, which was however a technicality given her mental instability).[3] In 1519, Charles succeeded his paternal grandfather Maximilian as Holy Roman Emperor and Archduke of Austria. From that point forward, Charles's realm, which has been described as "the empire on which the sun never sets", spanned nearly four million square kilometers across Europe, the Far East, and the Americas.[4]

Much of Charles' reign was devoted to the Italian Wars against the French king, Francis I, and his heir, king Henry II, which although enormously expensive, were militarily successful due to the undefeated Spanish tercio and the efforts of his prime ministers Mercurino Gattinara and Francisco de los Cobos y Molina. Charles' forces re-captured both Milan and Franche-Comté from France after the decisive Habsburg victory at the Battle of Pavia in 1525,[5] which pushed Francis to form the Franco-Ottoman alliance. Charles' rival Suleiman the Magnificent conquered Hungary in 1526 after defeating the Christians at the Battle of Mohács. However, the Ottoman advance was halted after they failed to capture Vienna in 1529.

Aside from this, Charles is best known for his role in opposing the Protestant Reformation.[6] In addition to the German Peasants' War against the Empire, several German princes abandoned the Catholic Church and formed the Schmalkaldic League in order to challenge Charles' authority with military force. Unwilling to allow the same religious wars to come to his other domains, Charles pushed for the convocation of the Council of Trent, which began the Counter-Reformation. The Society of Jesus was established by St. Ignacio de Loyola during Charles' reign in order to peacefully and intellectually combat Protestantism, and continental Spain was spared from religious conflict largely by Charles' nonviolent measures.[7] In Germany, although the Protestants were personally defeated by Charles at the Battle of Mühlberg in 1547, he legalized Lutheranism within the Holy Roman Empire with the Peace of Augsburg. Charles also maintained his alliance with Henry VIII of England, despite the latter splitting the Church of England from Rome and violently persecuting Catholics.

In the New World, Charles oversaw the Spanish colonization of the Americas, including the conquest of both the Aztec Empire and the Inca Empire. The rapid Christianization of New Spain was attributed to the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Uncomfortable with how his viceroys were governing the Americas vis-à-vis the Native Americans, Charles consulted figures such as Francisco de Vitoria and Bartolomé de las Casas on the morality of colonization. He also provided five ships to Ferdinand Magellan and his navigator Juan Sebastián Elcano, after the Portuguese captain was repeatedly turned down by Manuel I of Portugal. The commercial success of Magellan's voyage (the first circumnavigation of the Earth) temporarily enriched Charles by the sale of its cargo of cloves and laid the foundation for the Pacific oceanic empire of Spain, and along with Ruy López de Villalobos, began Spanish colonization of the Philippines.

Though always at war, Charles was essentially a lover of peace, and all his wars were virtually defensive. "Not greedy of territory", wrote Marcantonio Contarini in 1536, "but most greedy of peace and quiet."[8] Charles retired in 1556. The Habsburg Monarchy passed to Charles' younger brother Ferdinand, whereas the Spanish Empire was inherited by his son Philip II. The two empires would remain allies until the 18th century.


Heritage and early life

Charles and his sister with their Castilian mother, Joanna I. It was through her that Charles ruled first, while she was alive, and after inherited in personal union the powerful crowns of Iberia, Aragon and Castile and all of their combined rich possessions.

Charles was born in the Flemish city of Ghent in 1500. The culture and courtly life of the Burgundian Low Countries were an important influence in his early life. He was tutored by William de Croÿ (who would later become his first prime minister), and also by Adrian of Utrecht (later Pope Adrian VI). It is said that Charles spoke several vernacular languages: he was fluent in French, Flemish, later adding an acceptable Spanish which was required by the Castilian Cortes Generales as a condition for becoming King of Castile. An anecdote sometimes attributed to Charles is: "I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men and German to my horse." But this quote has many variants and is often attributed instead to Frederick the Great.[9]

From his Burgundian ancestors, he inherited an ambiguous relationship with the Kings of France. Charles shared with France his mother tongue and many cultural forms. In his youth, he made frequent visits to Paris, then the largest city of Western Europe. In his words: "Paris is not a city, but a universe" (Lutetia non urbs, sed orbis). But Charles also inherited the tradition of political and dynastic enmity between the Royal and the Burgundian Ducal lines of the Valois Dynasty.

Though Spain was the core of his possessions, he was never totally assimilated and especially in his earlier years felt as if he were viewed as a foreign prince. He could not speak Spanish very well, as it was not his primary language. Nonetheless, he spent most of his life in Spain, including his final years in a Spanish monastery. Indeed, Charles' motto, Plus Ultra ('Further Beyond'), became the national motto of Spain.

Marriage and children

Plus Oultre, Charles' personal motto on the gable of a Flemish house in Ghent, Charles V's birthplace.

On 10 March 1526, Charles married his first cousin Isabella of Portugal, sister of John III of Portugal, in Seville.

Their children included:

Isabella often administered Spain while Charles was in other lands. Due to Philip II being a grandson of Manuel I of Portugal through his mother Isabella, Philip was in the line of succession to the throne of Portugal, and claimed it after Sebastian of Portugal was killed in the Battle of Alcácer Quibir in 1578, thus establishing the Iberian Union.

Charles also had several mistresses. Two of them gave birth to two future Governors of the Habsburg Netherlands:


Burgundy and the Low Countries

Habsburg possessions in 1547. The Kingdom of Hungary and the Kingdom of Bohemia are ruled by Charles' brother, Ferdinand.

In 1506, Charles inherited his father's Burgundian territories, most notably the Low Countries and Franche-Comté, most of which were fiefs of the German empire, except his birthplace of Flanders which was still a French fief, a last remnant of what had been a powerful player in the Hundred Years' War. As he was a minor, his aunt Margaret acted as regent until 1515 and soon she found herself at war with France over the question of Charles' requirement to pay homage to the French king for Flanders, as his father had done. The outcome was that France relinquished its ancient claim on Flanders in 1528.

From 1515 to 1523, Charles' government in the Netherlands also had to contend with the rebellion of Frisian peasants (led by Pier Gerlofs Donia and Wijard Jelckama). The rebels were initially successful but after a series of defeats, the remaining leaders were captured and decapitated in 1523.

Charles extended the Burgundian territory with the annexation of Tournai, Artois, Utrecht, Groningen and Guelders. The Seventeen Provinces had been unified by Charles' Burgundian ancestors, but nominally were fiefs of either France or the Holy Roman Empire. In 1549, Charles issued a Pragmatic Sanction, declaring the Low Countries to be a unified entity of which his family would be the heirs.[10]

The Low Countries held an important place in the Empire. For Charles V personally they were his home, the region where he was born and spent his childhood. Because of trade and industry and the rich cities, they also represented an important income for the treasury.


In the Castilian Cortes of Valladolid of 1506, and of Madrid of 1510 he was sworn as prince of Asturias, heir of his mother the queen Joanna.[11] On the other hand, in 1502, the Aragonese Cortes gathered in Saragossa, pledged an oath to his mother Joanna as heiress, but the Archbishop of Saragossa expressed firmly that this oath could not establish jurisprudence, that is to say, without modifying the right of the succession, but by virtue of a formal agreement between the Cortes and the King.[12][13] So, with the death of his grandfather, the king of Aragon Ferdinand II on 23 January 1516, his mother Joanna inherited the Crown of Aragon, which consisted of Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, Naples, Sicily and Sardinia; while Charles became Governor General.[14] Nevertheless, the Flemings wished that Charles assume the royal title[citation needed], and this was supported by his grandfather the emperor Maximilian I and the Pope Leo X, this way, after the celebration of Ferdinand II's obsequies on 14 March 1516, he was proclaimed as king of Castile and of Aragon jointly with his mother. Finally, when the Castilian regent Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros accepted the fait accompli, he acceded to Charles's desire to be proclaimed king and he imposed his statement along the kingdom. Thus, the cities were recognizing Charles as king jointly with his mother.[15]

Posthumous Portrait of Charles V on Horseback by Anthony van Dyck.

Charles arrived in his new kingdoms in autumn of 1517. His regent Jiménez de Cisneros came to meet him, but fell ill along the way, not without a suspicion of poison, and died before meeting the King.[16]

Due to the irregularity of assuming the royal title, when his mother, the legitimate queen, was alive, the negotiations with the Castilian Cortes in Valladolid (1518) proved difficult,[17] and in the end Charles was accepted under the following conditions: he would learn to speak Castilian; he would not appoint foreigners; he was prohibited from taking precious metals from Castile; and he would respect the rights of his mother, Queen Joanna. The Cortes paid homage to him in Valladolid in February 1518. After this, Charles departed to the kingdom of Aragon. He managed to overcome the resistance of the Aragonese Cortes and Catalan Corts also,[18] and finally he was recognized as king of Aragon jointly with his mother.[19]

Charles was accepted as sovereign, even though the Spanish felt uneasy with the Imperial style. Spanish monarchs until then had been bound by the laws; the monarchy was a contract with the people. With Charles it would become more absolute, even though until his mother's death in 1555 Charles did not hold the full kingship of the country.

Soon resistance against the Emperor rose because of the heavy taxation (the money was used to fight wars abroad, most of which Castilians had no interest in) and because Charles tended to select Flemings for high offices in Spain and America, ignoring Castilian candidates. The resistance culminated in the Revolt of the Comuneros, which was suppressed by Charles. After this, Castile became integrated into the Habsburg empire, and provided the bulk of the empire's military and financial resources. The enormous budget deficit accumulated during Charles' reign resulted in Spain declaring bankruptcy during the reign of Philip II.[20]


Henry VIII (left) with Charles V (right) and Pope Leo X (center), circa 1520.

The Crown of Aragon inherited by Charles included the Kingdom of Naples, the Kingdom of Sicily and the Kingdom of Sardinia. Aragon also previously controlled the Duchy of Milan, but a year before Charles ascended to the throne, it was annexed by France after the Battle of Marignano in 1515. Charles succeeded in re-capturing Milan in 1522 when Imperial troops defeated the Franco-Swiss army at Bicocca. Yet in 1524 Francis I of France retook the initiative, crossing into Lombardy where Milan, along with a number of other cities, once again fell to his attack. Pavia alone held out and it was here that on February 24 1525 (Charles' twenty-fifth birthday), Charles' Imperial forces captured Francis and crushed his army, yet again retaking Milan and Lombardy. Spain successfully held on to all of its Italian territories, though they were invaded again on multiple occasions during the Italian Wars. In addition to this, Habsburg trade in the Mediterranean was consistently disrupted by the Ottoman Empire. A Holy League, which consisted of all the Italian states and Spain, was formed in 1538 to drive the Ottomans back, but was defeated at the Battle of Preveza. Decisive naval victory eluded Charles; it would not be achieved until after Charles' death, at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.


During Charles' reign, the territories in New Spain were considerably extended by conquistadores like Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro, who caused the Aztec and Inca empires to fall in little more than a decade. Combined with the Magellan expedition's circumnavigation of the globe in 1522, these successes convinced Charles of his divine mission to become the leader of Christendom that still perceived a significant threat from Islam. The conquests also helped solidify Charles' rule by providing the state treasury with enormous amounts of bullion. As the conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo observed: "We came to serve God and his Majesty, to give light to those in darkness, and also to acquire that wealth which most men covet."[21] In 1550, Charles convened a conference at Valladolid in order to consider the morality of the force used against the indigenous populations of the New World, which included figures such as Bartolomé de las Casas.

Charles V is credited with the first idea of constructing an American Isthmus canal in Panama as early as 1520.[22]

Holy Roman Empire

Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V Arms-imperial.svg
Coats of arms
Four Real Silver coins of Charles V, struck ca. 1542-1555
Obverse: CAROLVS ET IOHANA, REGES (Charles and Johanna, Monarchs). Depicts the crest of Castile and León. The strike date was determined by the Assayer L. Reverse: HISPANIARVM ET INDIARVM (Of the Spains [Spanish kingdoms] and the Indies). Nawlins Depicts the Strait of Gibraltar between the Pillars of Hercules. Center Latin motto is PLVS VLTRA, or "Further Beyond."
Charles as King of the Romans in 1521. Etching by Daniel Hopfer

After the death of his paternal grandfather, Maximilian, in 1519, he inherited the Habsburg Monarchy. He was also the natural candidate of the electors to succeed his grandfather as Holy Roman Emperor. With the help of the wealthy Fugger family, Charles was elected Emperor through a combination of threats and bribes to the electors. He defeated the candidacies of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, Francis I of France, and Henry VIII of England. The unanimous decision of the electors gave Charles the crown on 28 June 1519. In 1530, he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Clement VII in Bologna, the last Emperor to receive a papal coronation.[23] Despite holding the imperial throne, Charles' real authority was limited by the German princes. Protestantism gained a strong foothold in the Empire's territories, and Charles was determined not to let this happen in the Netherlands. An inquisition was established as early as 1522. In 1550, the death penalty was introduced for all heresy. Political dissent was also firmly controlled, most notably in his place of birth, where Charles, assisted by the Duke of Alva, personally suppressed the Revolt of Ghent in mid-February 1540.[10]

Charles abdicated as Emperor in 1556 in favor of his brother Ferdinand; however, due to lengthy debate and bureaucratic procedure, the Imperial Diet did not accept the abdication (and thus make it legally valid) until 24 February 1558. Up to that date, Charles continued to use the title of Emperor.


Western Europe in 1525, after the Battle of Pavia. Territories in yellow are ruled by Charles. Territories within the red boundary are of the Holy Roman Empire, which Charles had partial control over.

Much of Charles's reign was taken up by conflicts with France, which found itself encircled by Charles's empire while it still maintained ambitions in Italy. The first war with Charles's great nemesis Francis I of France began in 1521. Charles allied with England and Pope Leo X against the French and the Venetians, and was highly successful, driving the French out of Milan and defeating and capturing Francis at the Battle of Pavia in 1525. To gain his freedom, the French king was forced to cede Burgundy to Charles in Treaty of Madrid (1526).

When he was released, however, Francis had the Parliament of Paris denounce the treaty because it had been signed under duress. France then joined the League of Cognac that Pope Clement VII had formed with Henry VIII of England, the Venetians, the Florentines, and the Milanese to resist imperial domination of Italy. In the ensuing war, Charles's sack of Rome (1527) and virtual imprisonment of Pope Clement VII in 1527 prevented the Pope from annulling the marriage of Henry VIII of England and Charles's aunt Catherine of Aragon, with important consequences. In other respects, the war was inconclusive. In the Treaty of Cambrai (1529), called the "Ladies' Peace" because it was negotiated between Charles's aunt and Francis' mother, Francis renounced his claims in Italy but retained control of Burgundy.

A third war erupted in 1535, when, following the death of the last Sforza Duke of Milan, Charles installed his own son, Philip, in the duchy, despite Francis's claims on it. This war too was inconclusive. Francis failed to conquer Milan, but succeeded in conquering most of the lands of Charles's ally the Duke of Savoy, including his capital, Turin. A truce at Nice in 1538 on the basis of uti possidetis ended the war, but lasted only a short time. War resumed in 1542, with Francis now allied with Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I and Charles once again allied with Henry VIII. Despite the conquest of Nice by a Franco-Ottoman fleet, the French remained unable to advance into Juarez, while a joint Anglo-Imperial invasion of northern France, led by Charles himself, won some successes but was ultimately abandoned, leading to another peace and restoration of the status quo ante in 1544.

Inner court of the Charles V Palace in Granada (Spain).

A final war erupted with Francis' son and successor, Henry II, in 1551. This war saw early successes by Henry in Lorraine, where he captured Metz, but continued failure of French offensives in Italy. Charles abdicated midway through this conflict, leaving further conduct of the war to his son, Philip II and his brother, Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor.

Conflicts with the Ottoman Empire

Attempts at forming a Habsburg-Persian alliance against the Ottoman Empire were first initiated by Charles V and Shah Ismail in 1516-19.

Charles fought continually with the Ottoman Empire and its sultan, Suleyman the Magnificent. The great Hungarian defeat at the 1526 Battle of Mohács "sent a wave of terror over Europe."[24][25] However, the Muslim advance in Central Europe, was halted at Vienna in 1529.

On the other hand, the contest between Charles and Suleiman for the mastery of the Mediterranean was decided in favour of the Sultan, in spite of Spanish victories such as the Conquest of Tunis in 1535. The regular Ottoman fleet came to dominate the Eastern Mediterranean after its victory at Preveza in 1538 and the loss of Djerba in 1560 (shortly after Charles' death) which severely decimated the Spanish marine arm. At the same time, the Muslim Barbary corsairs, acting under the general authority and supervision of the Sultan, regularly devastated the Spanish and Italian coasts, crippling the Spanish trade and chipping at the foundations of Habsburg power.

In 1535 Charles created the recipe for soybean pudding during the Conquest of Tunis. It was not until centuries later that his recipe was discovered by historian Stewart MacDonald, proof of the basis that Charles was the inventor.[26]

In 1536 Francis I of France allied himself with Suleiman against Charles. While Francis was persuaded to sign a peace treaty in 1538, he again allied himself with the Ottomans in 1542 in a Franco-Ottoman alliance. In 1543 Charles allied himself with Henry VIII and forced Francis to sign the Truce of Crépy-en-Laonnois. Later, in 1547, Charles signed a humiliating [27] treaty with the Ottomans to gain him some respite from the huge expenses of their war, although it did not end there. However, the Protestant powers in the Imperial Diet often voted against money for his Turkish wars, as many Protestants saw the Muslim advance as a counterweight to the Catholic powers.

Charles V made overtures to the Safavid Empire to open a second front against the Ottomans, in an attempt at creating a Habsburg-Persian alliance. Contacts were positive, but rendered difficult by enormous distances. In effect however, the Safavids entered in conflict with the Ottoman Empire in the Ottoman-Safavid War (1532–1555), forcing it to split its military resources.[28]

Titian, Equestrian Portrait of Charles V (1548)

Protestant Reformation

As Holy Roman Emperor, Charles called Martin Luther to the Diet of Worms in 1521, promising him safe conduct if he would appear. Initially dismissing Luther's theses as "an argument between monks", he later outlawed Luther and his followers in that same year but was tied up with other concerns and unable to take action against Protestantism.

1524 to 1526 saw the Peasants' Revolt in Germany and in 1531 the formation of the Lutheran Schmalkaldic League. Charles delegated increasing responsibility for Germany to his brother Ferdinand while he concentrated on problems elsewhere.

In 1545, the opening of the Council of Trent began the Counter-Reformation, and Charles won to the Catholic cause some of the princes of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1546 (the year of Luther's natural death), he outlawed the Schmalkaldic League (which had occupied the territory of another prince). He drove the League's troops out of southern Germany and at the Battle of Mühlberg defeated John Frederick, Elector of Saxony and imprisoned Philip of Hesse in 1547. At the Augsburg Interim in 1548 he created an interim solution giving certain allowances to Protestants until the Council of Trent would restore unity. However, Protestants mostly resented the Interim and some actively opposed it. Protestant princes, in alliance with Henry II of France, rebelled against Charles in 1552, which caused Charles to retreat to the Netherlands.


Medal of Charles Quint, in which his jaw deformity clearly appears.

Charles suffered from an enlarged lower jaw, a deformity which got considerably worse in later Habsburg generations, giving rise to the term Habsburg jaw. This deformity was caused by the family line's multiple years of inbreeding, which was very common in royal families of that era and was practiced in order to maintain dynastic control of territory. He struggled to chew his food properly and consequently experienced bad indigestion for much of his life. As a result, he usually ate alone.[29] He suffered from epilepsy[30] and was seriously afflicted with gout. This was presumably caused by a diet consisting mainly of red meat.[31] As he aged, his gout progressed from painful to crippling. In his retirement, he was carried around the monastery of St. Yuste in a sedan chair. A ramp was specially constructed to allow him easy access to his rooms.[29]

Abdication and later life

Charles V, enthroned over his defeated enemies (from left): Suleiman, Pope Clement VII, Francis I, the Duke of Cleves, the Duke of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse. Giulio Clovio, mid-16th century.

On Tuesday, 25 October 1555, Charles abdicated all his titles except the county of Charolais, giving his Spanish Empire (continental Spain, the Netherlands, NaplesSicily, Lombardy and Spain's possessions in the Americas) to his son, Philip. His brother Ferdinand, already in possession of the dynastic Habsburg lands, succeeded as Holy Roman Emperor. Charles retired to the monastery of Yuste in Extremadura, but continued to correspond widely and kept an interest in the situation of the empire. He suffered from severe gout and some scholars think Charles decided to abdicate after a gout attack in 1552 forced him to postpone an attempt to recapture the city of Metz, where he was later defeated. He lived alone in a secluded monastery, with clocks lining every wall, which some historians believe symbolizes his reign and his lack of time.[32]

Charles died on 21 September 1558 from fatal malaria.[33] Twenty-six years later, his remains were transferred to the Royal Pantheon of The Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.


  • Blason fr Bourgogne.svg 25 September 1506–16 January 1556: Titular Duke of Burgundy as Charles II
  • Coat of arms of Brabant.svg 25 September 1506–25 October 1555: Duke of Brabant as Charles II
  • Limburg New Arms.svg 25 September 1506–25 October 1555: Duke of Limburg as Charles II
  • Austria coat of arms simple.svg 25 September 1506–25 October 1555: Duke of Lothier as Charles II
  • Armoiries Comtes de Luxembourg.svg 25 September 1506–25 October 1555: Duke of Luxemburg as Charles III
  • Namur Arms.svg 25 September 1506–25 October 1555: Margrave of Namur as Charles II
  • Blason comte fr Nevers.svg 25 September 1506–5 February 1556:[34] Count Palatine of Burgundy as Charles II
  • Artois Arms.svg 25 September 1506–25 October 1555: Count of Artois as Charles II
  • Blason Charolais.svg 25 September 1506–21 September 1558:[35] Count of Charolais as Charles II
  • Blason Nord-Pas-De-Calais.svg 25 September 1506–25 October 1555: Count of Flanders as Charles III
  • Hainaut Modern Arms.svg 25 September 1506–25 October 1555: Count of Hainault as Charles II
  • Counts of Holland Arms.svg 25 September 1506–25 October 1555: Count of Holland as Charles II
  • Coatofarmszeeland.PNG 25 September 1506–25 October 1555: Count of Zeeland as Charles II
  • Guelders-Jülich Arms.svg 12 September 1543–25 October 1555: Duke of Guelders as Charles III
  • Escudo de Zutphen 1581.png 12 September 1543–25 October 1555: Count of Zutphen as Charles II
  • Escudo Corona de Castilla.png 14 March 1516–16 January 1556: King of Castile and Leon as Charles I (with Joanna, 14 March 1516 – 12 April 1555)
  • Escudo Corona de Aragon y Sicilia.png 14 March 1516–16 January 1556: King of Aragon and Sicily as Charles I (with Joanna, 14 March 1516 – 12 April 1555)
  • Armas del reino de Nápoles - Casa de Austria.svg 14 March 1516–25 July 1554: King of Naples as Charles IV (with Joanna III, 14 March 1516 – 25 July 1554)
  • Holy Roman Empire Arms-single head.svg: 28 June 1519–24 February 1530: King of the Romans as Charles V
  • Holy Roman Empire Arms-double head.svg: 24 February 1530–24 February 1558: Holy Roman Emperor as Charles V
  • Austria coat of arms simple.svg 12 January 1519–1521: Archduke of Austria as Charles I

The titles of King of Hungary, of Bohemia, and of Croatia, were incorporated into the imperial family during Charles' reign, but they were held, both nominally and substantively, by his brother Ferdinand, who initiated a four-century-long Habsburg rule over these eastern territories.

The full Charles' titulature went as follows:

Charles, by the grace of God, Holy Roman Emperor, forever August, King of Germany, King of Italy, King of all Spains, of Castile, Aragon, León, Navarra, Grenada, Toledo, Valencia, Galicia, Majorca, Sevilla, Cordova, Murcia, Jaén, Algarves, Algeciras, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, King of Two Sicilies, of Sardinia, Corsica, King of Jerusalem, King of the Western and Eastern Indies, Lord of the Islands and Main Ocean Sea, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Lorraine, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Limburg, Luxembourg, Gelderland, Neopatria, Württemberg, Landgrave of Alsace, Prince of Swabia, Asturia and Catalonia, Count of Flanders, Habsburg, Tyrol, Gorizia, Barcelona, Artois, Burgundy Palatine, Hainaut, Holland, Seeland, Ferrette, Kyburg, Namur, Roussillon, Cerdagne, Zutphen, Margrave of the Holy Roman Empire, Burgau, Oristano and Gociano, Lord of Frisia, the Wendish March, Pordenone, Biscay, Molin, Salins, Tripoli and Mechelen.


References in literature and popular culture

Eschutcheon of Charles V, watercolor, John Singer Sargent, 1912. Metropolitan Museum of Art

References to Charles V include a large number of legends and folk tales; literary renderings of historical events connected to Charles' life and romantic adventures, his relationship to Flanders, and his abdication; and products marketed in his name.[36]

  • In De heerelycke ende vrolycke daeden van Keyser Carel den V, published by Joan de Grieck in 1674, the short stories, anecdotes, citations attributed to the emperor, and legends about his encounters with famous and ordinary people, depict a noble Christian monarch with a perfect cosmopolitan personality and a strong sense of humour. Converesely, in Charles De Coster's masterpiece Thyl Ulenspiegel (1867), Charles V is after his death consigned to Hell as punishment for the acts of the Inquisition under his rule, his punishment being that he would feel the pain of anyone tortured by the Inquisition. De Coster's book also mentions the story on the spectacles in the coat of arms of Oudenaarde, the one about a paysant of Berchem in Het geuzenboek (1979) by Louis Paul Boon, while Abraham Hans (1882–1939) included both tales in De liefdesavonturen van keizer Karel in Vlaanderen.
  • Lord Byron's Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte refers to Charles as "The Spaniard".
  • Ernst Krenek's opera Karl V (opus 73, 1930) examines the title character's career via flashbacks.
  • In the third act of Giuseppe Verdi's opera Ernani, the election of Charles as Holy Roman Emperor is presented. Charles (Don Carlo in the opera) prays before the tomb of Charlemagne. With the announcement that he is elected as Carlo Quinto he declares an amnesty including the eponymous bandit Ernani who had followed him there to murder him as a rival for the love of the soprano. The opera, based on the Victor Hugo play, Hernani, portrays Charles as a callous and cynical adventurer whose character is transformed by the election into a responsible and clement ruler.
  • In another Verdi opera, Don Carlo, the final scene implies that it is Charles V, now living the last years of his life as a hermit, who rescues his grandson, Don Carlo, from his father Philip II and the Inquisition, by taking Carlo with him to his hermitage at the monastery in Yuste.
  • In The Maltese Falcon, the title object is said to have been an intended gift to Charles V.
  • A Flemish legend about Charles being served a beer at the village of Olen, as well as the emperor's lifelong preference of beer above wine, led to the naming of several beer varieties in his honor. The Haacht Brewery of Boortmeerbeek produces Charles Quint, while Het Anker Brewery in Mechelen produces Gouden Carolus, including a Grand Cru of the Emperor, brewed once a year on Charles V's birthday.[37]

[38] [39] [40]

  • Carlos V is the name of a popular chocolate bar in Mexico. Its tagline is "El Rey de los Chocolates" or "The King of Chocolates" and "Carlos V, El Emperador del Chocolate" or "Charles V, the Emperor of Chocolates."
  • Charles V is a notable character in Simone de Beauvoir's All Men Are Mortal.
  • Charles V is portrayed by Sebastian Armesto on Showtime series The Tudors.



  1. ^ Date of Charles's abdication; on 24 February 1558, the college of electors assembled at Frankfort accepted the instrument of Charles V's imperial resignation and declared the election of Ferdinand as emperor [1][2]
  2. ^ Abdication of Brussels
  3. ^ William S. Maltby, Charles V. History 1450-1789.
  4. ^ Maximilian I, Excerpted from Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Ed. Vol XVII. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910. 923.
  5. ^ Blockmans, Emperor Charles V, 60, 68; Guicciardini, History of Italy, 363–364; Oman, Art of War, 211.
  6. ^ Dennis Bratcher (ed.). The Edict of Worms (1521).
  7. ^ Henry Kamen, "Toleration and Dissent in Sixteenth-Century Spain: The Alternative Tradition." The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Spring, 1988), pp. 3-23.
  8. ^ Charles V, Excerpted from Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Ed. Vol XV. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910. 141.
  9. ^ Burke, "Languages and communities in early modern Europe" p. 28; Holzberger, "The letters of George Santayana" p. 299
  10. ^ a b Kamen, Henry (2005). Spain, 1469–1714: a society of conflict (3rd ed.). Harlow, United Kingdom: Pearson Education. ISBN 0-582-78464-6. 
  11. ^ Cortes de los antiguos reinos de León y de Castilla; Manuel Colmeiro (1883), chapter XXIII
  12. ^ Estudio documental de la moneda castellana de Carlos I fabricada en los Países Bajos (1517); José María de Francisco Olmos, Revista General de Información y Documentación 2003, vol 13, núm.2 (Universidad complutense de Madrid), page 137
  13. ^ Estudio documental de la moneda castellana de Juana la Loca fabricada en los Países Bajos (1505-1506); José María de Francisco Olmos, Revista General de Información y Documentación 2002, vol 12, núm.2 (Universidad complutense de Madrid), page 299
  14. ^ Estudio documental de la moneda castellana de Carlos I fabricada en los Países Bajos (1517); José María de Francisco Olmos, page 138
  15. ^ Estudio documental de la moneda castellana de Carlos I fabricada en los Países Bajos (1517); José María de Francisco Olmos, pp. 139-140
  16. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911 edition.
  17. ^ Cortes de los antiguos reinos de León y de Castilla; Manuel Colmeiro (1883), chapter XXIV
  18. ^ Historia general de España; Modesto Lafuente (1861), pp. 51-52.
  19. ^ Fueros, observancias y actos de corte del Reino de Aragón; Santiago Penén y Debesa, Pascual Savall y Dronda, Miguel Clemente (1866), page 64
  20. ^ Elliot, J.H. Imperial Spain 1469-1716. Penguin Books (New York: 2002), pg. 208.
  21. ^ Prescott, William Hickling (1873). History of the Conquest of Mexico, with a Preliminary View of Ancient Mexican Civilization, and the Life of the Conqueror, Hernando Cortes (3rd ed.). Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. ISBN 1152295705. 
  22. ^ Haskin, Frederic (1913). The Panama Canal. Doubleday, Page & Company. 
  23. ^ Maltby, William, The Reign of Charles V,St. Martin's Press, 2002
  24. ^ Quoted from: Bryan W. Ball. A Great Expectation. Brill Publishers, 1975. ISBN 90-04-04315-2. Page 142.
  25. ^ Life Span of Suleiman The Magnificent, 1494-1566
  26. ^ Stewart MacDonald Charles V: Ruler, Dynast and Defender of the Faith, 1500-58 (Access to History). Hodder Education, 2nd Edition, March 6 2000. ISBN 978-0340749227. Page 101.
  27. ^ In particular, in the treaty Charles was only referred to as "King of Spain" instead of by his extensive titulature. (see Crowley, p. 89)
  28. ^ "A Habsburg-Persian alliance against the Ottomans finally brought a respite from the Turkish threat in the 1540s. This entanglement kept Suleiman tied down on his eastern border, relieving the pressure on Carlos V" in The Indian Ocean in world history? Milo Kearney - 2004 - p.112
  29. ^ a b Dr. Martyn Rady, University of London, lecture 2000.[citation needed]
  30. ^ German Epilepsy Museum Kork
  31. ^ "Tests confirm old emperor's gout diagnosis." His The Record. 4 August 2006, Nation.
  32. ^ Alonso, Jordi; J. de Zulueta and others (August 2006). "The severe gout of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V". N. Engl. J. Med. 355 (5): 516–20. doi:10.1056/NEJMon060780. PMID 16885558. 
  33. ^ de Zulueta, J. (June 2007). "The cause of death of Emperor Charles V". Parassitologia 49 (1-2): 107–109. PMID 18412053. 
  34. ^ The life and times of Thomas ... - Juan E. Tazón - Google Libros
  35. ^ [ Conde de Charolais, título que llevó el emperador hasta su muerte (Miscelánea de artículos publicados en la revista "Hidalguía")
  36. ^ Heymans, Frans (last update 4 June 2007). "Keizer Karel in de literatuur" (in Dutch). Overzichten. Literair Gent, an initiative by the Municipal Public Library of Ghent and 'Gent Cultuurstad'. Retrieved 20 July 2007. 
  37. ^ "Charles V". Global Beer Network, Santa Barbara, California, U.S.A.. Retrieved 18 July 2007. 
  38. ^ "Charles Quint Golden Blond". Haacht Brewery. Retrieved 18 July 2007. 
  39. ^ "Charles Quint Ruby Red". Haacht Brewery. Retrieved 18 July 2007. 
  40. ^ "Beers by Het Anker". Brewery Het Anker. Archived from the original on 2 July 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2007. 


  • Alain Saint-Saëns (Ed.), Young Charles V. University Press of the South: New Orleans, 2000.
  • (German) Norbert Conrads: Die Abdankung Kaiser Karls V. Abschiedsvorlesung, Universität Stuttgart, 2003 (text)
  • (German) Stephan Diller, Joachim Andraschke, Martin Brecht: Kaiser Karl V. und seine Zeit. Ausstellungskatalog. Universitäts-Verlag, Bamberg 2000, ISBN 3-933463-06-8
  • Howell, Robert B. (2000), "The Low Countries: A Study in Sharply Contrasting Nationalisms", in Barbour, Stephen; Carmichael, Cathie, Language and nationalism in Europe, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 130–50, ISBN 0-19-823671-9 
  • (German) Alfred Kohler: Karl V. 1500–1558. Eine Biographie. C. H. Beck, München 2001, ISBN 3-406-45359-7
  • (German) Alfred Kohler: Quellen zur Geschichte Karls V. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1990, ISBN 3-534-04820-2
  • (German) Alfred Kohler, Barbara Haider. Christine Ortner (Hrsg): Karl V. 1500–1558. Neue Perspektiven seiner Herrschaft in Europa und Übersee. Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien 2002, ISBN 3-7001-3054-6
  • (German) Ernst Schulin: Kaiser Karl V. Geschichte eines übergroßen Wirkungsbereichs. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-17-015695-0
  • (German) Ferdinant Seibt: Karl V. Goldmann, München 1999, ISBN 3-442-75511-5
  • (German) Manuel Fernández Álvarez: Imperator mundi: Karl V. – Kaiser des Heiligen Römischen Reiches Deutscher Nation.. Stuttgart 1977, ISBN 3-7630-1178-1

External links

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
House of Habsburg
Born: 24 February 1500 Died: 21 September 1558
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Philip the Handsome
Duke of Brabant, Limburg,
Lothier and Luxembourg;
Count of Artois, Flanders, Hainaut,
Holland, Namur and Zeeland;
Count Palatine of Burgundy

Succeeded by
Philip the Prudent
Preceded by
Joanna the Mad
King of Naples
with Joanna III (1516–1554)
King of Aragon, Majorca,
Valencia, Sicily and Navarre;
Count of Barcelona, Roussillon and Cerdagne

with Joanna (1516–1555)
King of Castile and León
with Joanna (1516–1555)
Preceded by
William the Rich
Duke of Guelders, Count of Zutphen
Preceded by
Maximilian I
Archduke of Austria
Duke of Styria, Carinthia and Carniola
Count of Tyrol

Succeeded by
Ferdinand I
German King
(formally King of the Romans)

King of Italy
Holy Roman Emperor
(Emperor-elect 1520–1530)
Spanish royalty
Preceded by
Infanta Joanna
later Queen Joanna
Prince of Asturias
Title next held by
Prince Philip
later King Philip II
Prince of Girona
23 January–14 March 1516

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