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As the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V commanded several states all over Central Europe.
the Holy Roman Empire was a Roman Catholic Church-controlled political body that existed until 1806. During the middle ages, the royals in Europe used to marry only other royals. Back then, marriage was considered a tool for diplomacy.
Charles V believed in the Roman Catholic faith and transformed the continent using war as an instrument.
Charles V belonged to three main bloodlines; the Hapsburgs of Austria, Trastamara from Spain, and Dutch Valois-Burgundy. His father, Philip I, was from Austria, and his mother, Joanne, from Spain. Charles V was born in February 1500 near the modern-day Belgian city of Ghent. His father passed away when he was just six years old, and his mother was not publicly active since she suffered from insanity.
His aunt Margaret brought him up, and they lived in Brussels. During those days, a person’s religious beliefs were considered of prime importance. Studies centered around religion, and Adrian of Utrecht, who went on to become Pope Adrian VI mentored Charles V. When Philip I died in 1506, Charles V inherited the country of Holland and became a king at a very young age.
Charles V was the grandson of Ferdinand II and Isabella I from Spain. Isabella died in 1504, and Ferdinand II died in 1516. Philip I’s father, Maximilian I, the original Holy Roman Emperor, died in 1519, and Charles V succeeded his paternal grandfather.
In 1526, Charles V married his first cousin, Isabella of Portugal. She was the sister of the Portuguese King John III, and it was love at first sight. Isabella was charming and beautiful, and she liked Charles from when they met. They married after midnight, spent an extended honeymoon, and remained faithful.
They had seven children, but only three survived until adulthood. Isabella developed complications after their seventh child was born, and she died of an infection in 1539. She was just 35, and the Holy Roman Emperor never healed from the shock, did not remarry, and dressed in black until his death.
Philip II of Spain, Maria, and Joanna reached adulthood. The Holy Roman Emperor also fathered four children born out of royal marriage, Margaret of Austria, Tadea, John, and Juan, of which only two reached adulthood. Inbreeding is said to have caused the death of a majority of his children.
By the early 1490s, the Spanish empire had grown pretty significant. Ferdinand and Isabella also won a Catholic holy war against Islamist invaders from Turkey. That war gave Spain control of the Iberian mountain range between Portugal and Spain. Just eight years before Charles V was born, under Ferdinand II, Christopher Columbus discovered the New World in 1492.
His reign saw Spain rule over large parts of Western Europe, some parts of Asia, and north and south America. The Holy Roman Emperor ruled over two million sq m of territory; it was indeed an empire where the sun never set. Charles V not only inherited the kingdom but expanded it even further.
During those days, the legitimacy of European kings was at the mercy of the Roman Catholic church. The Pope was the one who had the right to overthrow kings. As economies prospered, nationalism too was on the rise. Europeans resented the Pope’s feudalism and opposed the absolute power that the Catholic church enjoyed.
The middle class wanted a change from a corrupt church and from the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Meanwhile, Charles bribed the church and took control of other European regions. Rulers of Germany, Italy, France, and England resented his moves leading to several skirmishes. By then, Charles V had established dominance over many regions.
It was not easy, though, for the young ruler. Charles V was not born in Spain, and since he grew up in the Flanders, he learned French, German, Dutch, and Italian but not Spanish. When he returned to Spain in 1517, he brought a bunch of advisors from Flanders. He also asked the Spanish parliament for money to bribe the church, and though it was granted, many Spanish felt let down. A rebellion broke out, and the Holy Roman Emperor agreed to his fellow citizen’s demands and lived in Spain between 1522 to 1529 to crush the revolt.
Under his rule, Spain expanded its territory all over Europe. The Holy Roman Emperor conquered large parts of Holland, Austria, Germany, France, and Italy. He developed the Spanish navy and expanded into Peru and Mexico in South America and North Africa. Since Charles V was the Holy Roman Emperor, he considered himself the leader of the whole Christian world. The emperor crushed the Protestant rebellions and drove away Muslim invaders from Europe.
Pope Adrian VI had become pretty unpopular even among the Catholics from Holland, and he died in 1523. Incidentally, Adrian was the only Pope who was not from Italy until John Paul II, elected in 1978. Cardinals were unable to elect a new one, and ultimately, they selected Giulio de' Medici as Pope Clement VII. He was a weak candidate for the position and could never make decisions independently.
The French King, Francis I, and Pope Adrian VI allied against the Holy Roman Emperor. Meanwhile, the Holy Roman Emperor conspired with French rebels and helped the English invade France. The French were defeated in 1525, and Francis I was detained, but Charles freed him after agreeing to give up territory. The fighting renewed, and Charles destroyed the city of Rome. He took the Pope captive and later settled for a peace truce in 1530.
The Ottomans were followers of Islam from Turkey, and they tried to conquer Austria in 1532. Charles V and his army defeated the Ottoman Empire. He also fought the Protestant forces from Germany. When the Spanish troops tried to capture Algiers, the French military supported the Ottoman Turks. By 1544, the Holy Roman Emperor agreed to a truce with his neighbors, but the fighting never indeed ended.
By 1552, the Spanish army was on the verge of losing against the combined forces of Germany, France, and the Islamists from Turkey. By then, France had a new king named Henry II, and they captured many Holy Roman Empire cities in Germany. Charles V tried his luck and married off his son Philip II to the English queen Mary I, but the English refused to accept him as their king.
A frustrated Charles V gave up his throne in 1556, left the royal palace, and retired to a secluded country villa in Spain. He handed over the reign of Spain and Holland to his son Philip II. Charles V handed over the Holy Roman Emperor to Ferdinand I, his younger sibling. Charles V suffered from arthritis and he died from ill health in 1558.
Charles V did not win any awards but won many battles.
The Holy Roman Emperor patronized chapel music, and his singers always accompanied him.
He encouraged painters, sculptors, and poets from all over his empire.
Main image credit: Morphart Creation / Shutterstock.com
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