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Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.jpg
Biographical Information
Real Name: Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Title: Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Predecessor: Joanna and Ferdinand II
Next in Line: King Philip
Born: 24 February 1500
Age: 58
Religion: Roman Catholic
Wife: Isabella of Portugal †
Family: Queen Elisabeth Valois

Catherine of Aragon (Aunt)

Alessandro de' Medici, Duke of Florence (Son-in-law)

Children: King Philip (Son)

Margaret of Parma (Daughter)

Affiliations: Kingdom of Spain

House of Habsburg

Physical Description
Gender: Male Male.png
Status: Deceased
Signature: Charles V's Signature.png
Character Information
First appearance: Pilot

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I as Holy Roman Emperor and his son Philip as King of Spain in 1556.

Early Life

Charles was born as the eldest son of Philip the Handsome and Joanna the Mad in the Flemish city of Ghent in 1500. The culture and courtly life 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 languages: he was fluent in French, and Flemish, later adding an acceptable Spanish which was required for becoming King of Castile. He also had a decent command of German, though he did not speak it as well as French. A witticism 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.

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" He was betrothed to both Louise and Charlotte of Valois, daughters of King Francis I of France, but they both died in childhood. 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.

King of Spain

In the Castilian Cortes of Valladolid of 1506, and of Madrid of 1510 he was sworn as prince of Asturias, heir-apparent to his mother the Queen Joanna. Wwith the death of his grandfather, King Ferdinand II of Aragon 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. Nevertheless, the Flemings wished Charles to assume the royal title, and this was supported by his grandfather the emperor Maximilian I and the Pope Leo X.

Due to the irregularity of Charles assuming the royal title while his mother, the legitimate Queen, was alive, the negotiations with the Castilian Cortes in Valladolid proved difficult, 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 crown of Aragon. He managed to overcome the resistance and he was finally recognized as king of Aragon and count of Barcelona jointly with his mother. The Kingdom of Navarre had been invaded by Ferdinand of Aragon jointly with Castile in 1512, but he pledged a formal oath to respect the kingdom.

Charles was confronted again with the hot issue of Navarre when King Henry II attempted to reconquer the kingdom. Main military operations lasted up to 1524, when Hondarribia surrendered to Charles's forces, but frequent cross-border clashes in the western Pyrenees only stopped in 1528

The enormous budget deficit accumulated during Charles's reign resulted in Spain declaring bankruptcy during the reign of King Philip.


The Crown of Aragon inherited by Charles included the Kingdom of Naples, the Kingdom of Sicily and the Kingdom of Sardinia. Charles succeeded in re-capturing Milan in 1522 when Imperial troops defeated the Franco-Swiss army at Bicocca. Yet in 1524 King Francis I of France retook the initiative, crossing into Lombardy where Milan, fell to his attack. Pavia alone held out and it was here on 24 February 1525 (Charles's 25th birthday), Charles's Imperial forces captured Francis and crushed his army. Spain successfully held on to all of its Italian territories.

Holy Roman Empire

After the death of his paternal grandfather in 1519, he inherited the Habsburg Monarchy. He was also the natural candidate to succeed his grandfather as Holy Roman Emperor. He defeated the candidacies of King Francis I of France, and Henry VIII of England, amung others. In 1530, he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Clement VII in Bologna, the last emperor to receive a papal coronation.

Despite holding the imperial throne, Charles's real authority was limited by the German princes. They gained a strong foothold in the Empire's territories, and Charles was determined not to let this happen in the Netherlands. In 1550, the death penalty was introduced for all cases of unrepentant heresy.

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 until 24 February 1558. Up to that date, Charles continued to use the title of emperor.


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. In 1520, Charles visited England, where his aunt, Catherine of Aragon, urged her husband, Henry VIII, to ally himself with the emperor. In 1508 Charles was nominated by Henry to the Order of the Garter. His Garter stall plate survives in Saint George's Chapel.

The first war with Charles's great nemesis King 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 King Francis I at the Battle of Pavia in 1525. To gain his freedom, the French king was forced to cede Burgundy to Charles in the Treaty of Madrid, as well as renouncing his of support of Henry II's claim over Navarre.

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, to resist imperial domination of Italy. In the ensuing war, Charles's sack of Rome 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, so Henry eventually broke with Rome, thus leading to the English Reformation. 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, Charles installed his own son, King 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, 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.

A final war erupted with Francis' son and successor, King Henry II, in 1551. Charles abdicated midway through this conflict, leaving further conduct of the war to his son, Philip and his brother, Ferdinand I.

Later in Life

Charles abdicated the parts of his empire piecemeal. First he abdicated the thrones of Sicily, Naples, and the Duchy of Milan to his son King Philip in 1554. The most famous—and public—abdication of Charles took place a year later, on 25 October 1555, when he announced to the States General of the Netherlands his abdication of those territories and the county of Charolais and his intention to retire to a monastery. He abdicated from his Spanish Empire in January 1556, with no fanfare, and gave it to Philip.

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. 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 were symbols of his reign and his lack of time. Charles's brother Ferdinand, already in possession of the dynastic Habsburg lands, succeeded as Holy Roman Emperor on Charles's final abdication of that title in 1558, shortly before his death.

Charles died on 21 September 1558 from malaria. 26 years later, his remains were transferred to the Royal Pantheon of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.

Historical Notes

  • A young King Henry II and his older brother Duke Francis were traded by their father as hostages to Spain's King Charles in 1525 for 3 years, and were released when Henry was about 10 years old.
  • Had 6 children, and 5 of them made it to adulthood.
  • Charles spoke several languages: French, Flemish, and Spanish.
  • Went to war against King Francis I and King Henry VIII of England in 1521, in The Italian Wars for 4 years.
  • During The Sack of Rome against Pope Clement VII, The Swiss Guards saved The Pope's life, at the cost of their own. Resulting in all Guards' of the Pope would have to be citizens of Switzerland from then on.
  • Was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Clement VII in Bologna in 1530.
  • In 1547, he was invited to stay at Château de Chambord during a visit with King Francis I.
  • The nephew of Catherine of Aragon.

Family Tree

Isabella of Portugal
Charles V
Maria Manuela †
King Philip
Queen Elisabeth
Archduchess Maria
Princess Joanna
John of Austria
Don Carlos
Isabella Clara Eugenia
Catherine Michelle