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§ 50. Charles V.


Most of the works on Charles V. are histories of his times, in which he forms the central figure. Much new material has been brought to light from the archives of Brussels and Simancas. He is extravagantly lauded by Spanish, and indiscriminately censured by French historians. The Scotch Robertson, the American Prescott, and the German Ranke are impartial.

I. Joh. Sleidan (d. 1556): De Statu Religionis et Reipublicae Carlo V. Caesare Commentarii, Argentor. 1555 fol. (best ed. by Am Ende, Frf.-a.-M., 1785). Ludw. v. Seckendorf: Com. Hist. et Apol. de Lutheranism sive de Reformatione Religionis, Leipzig, 1694. Goes to the year 1546.—The English Calendars of State-Papers,—Spanish, published by the Master of the Rolls.—De Thou: Historia sui Temporis (from the death of Francis I.).—The Histories of Spain by Mariana (Madrid, 1817–22, 20 vols. 8vo); Zurita (Çaragoça, 1669–1710, 6 vols. fol.); Ferreras (French trans., Amsterdam, 1751, 10 vols. 4to); Salazar de Mendoza (Madrid, 1770–71, 3 vols. fol.); Modesto Lafuente (Vols. XI. and XII., 1853), etc.

II. Biographies. Charles dictated to his secretary, William Van Male, while leisurely sailing on the Rhine, from Cologne to Mayence, in June, 1550, and afterwards at Augsburg, under the refreshing shade of the Fugger gardens, a fragmentary autobiography, in spanish or French, which was known to exist, but disappeared, until Baron Kervyn de Lettenhove, member of the Royal Academy of Belgium, discovered in the National Library at Paris, in 1861, a Portuguese translation of it, and published a French translation from the same, with an introduction, under the title: Commentaires de Charles-Quint, Brussels, 1862. An English translation by Leonard Francis Simpson: The Autobiography of the Emperor Charles V., London, 1862 (161 and xlviii. pp.]. It is a summary of the Emperor’s journeys and expeditions ("Summario das Viages e Jornadas"), from 1516 to 1548. It dwells upon the secular events; but incidentally reveals, also, his feelings against the Protestants, whom he charges with heresy, obstinacy, and insolence, and against Pope Paul III., whom he hated for his arrogance, dissimulation, and breach of promise. Comp. on this work, the introduction of Lettenhove (translated by Simpson), and the acute criticism of Ranke, vol. vi. 75 sqq.

Alfonso Ulloa: Vita di Carlo V., Venet., 1560. Sandoval: Histoiria de la Vida y Hechos del Emperadòr Carlos Quinto, Valladolid, 1606 (Pampelona, 1618; Antwerp, 1681, 2 vols.). Sepulveda (Whom the Emperor selected as his biographer): De Rebus Gestis Caroli V. lmperatoris, Madrid, 1780 (and older editions). G. Leti: Vita del Imperatore Carlo V., 1700, 4vols. A. de Musica (in Menckenius, Scriptores Rerum Germanicarum, vol. I., Leipzig, 1728). William Robertson (d. 1793): The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V., London, 1769, 3 vols.; 6th ed., 1787, 4 vols.; new ed. of his Works, London, 1840, 8 vols. (vols. III., IV., V.); best ed., Phila. (Lippincott) 1857, 3 vols., with a valuable supplement by W. H. Prescott on the Emperor’s life after his abdication, from the archives of Simancas (III., 327–510). Hermann Baumgarten: Geschichte Karls V., Stuttgart, 1885 sqq. (to embrace 4 vols.; chiefly based on the English Calendars and the manuscript diaries of the Venetian historian Marino Sanuto).

III. Documents and Treatises on special parts of his history. G. Camposi: Carlo V. in Modena (in Archivio Storico Italiano, Florence, 1842–53, 25 vols., App.). D. G. van Male: Lettres sur la vie intérieure de l’Empéreur Charles-Quint, Brussels, 1843. K. Lanz: Correspondenz des Kaisers Karl V. aus dem kaiserlichen Archiv und der Bibliothèque de Burgogne in Brussel, Leipzig, 1844–46, 3 vols.; Staatspapiere zur Geschichte des Kaisers Karl V., Stuttgart, 1845; and Actenstücke und Briefe zur Geschichte Karls V., Wien, 1853–57. G. Heine: Briefe an Kaiser Karl V., geschrieben von seinem Beichtvater (Garcia de Loaysa) in den Jahren 1530–32, Berlin, 1848 (from the Simancas archives). Sir W. Maxwell Stirling: The Cloister-Life of Charles V., London, 1852. F. A. A. Mignet: Charles-Quint; son abdication, son séjour et sa mort au monastère de Yuste, Paris, 1854; and Rivalité de François I. et de Charles-Quint, 1875, 2 vols. Amédée Pichot: Charles-Quint, Chronique de sa vie intérieure et de sa vie politique, de son abdication et de sa retraite dans le cloître de Yuste, Paris, 1854. Gachart (keeper of the Belgic archives): Retraite et mort de Charles-Quint au monastère de Yuste (the original documents of Simancas), Brussels. 1854–55, 2 vols.; Correspondance de Charles-Quint et de Adrien VI., Brussels, 1859. Henne: Histoire du règne de Charles V. en Belgique, Brussels, 1858 sqq., 10 vols. Th. Juste: Les Pays-bas sous Charles V., 1861. Giuseppe de Leva: Storia documentata di Carlo V. in correlazione all’ Italia, Venice, 1863. Rösler: Die Kaiserwahl Karls V., Wien, 1868. W. Maurenbrecher: Karl V. und die deutschen Protestanten, 1545–1555, Düsseldorf, 1865; Studien und Skizzen zur Geschichte der Reformationszeit, Leipzig, 1874, pp. 99–133. A. v. Druffel: Kaiser Karl V. und die röm. Curie 1544–1546. 3 Abth. München, 1877 sqq.

IV. Comp. also Ranke: Deutsche Geschichte, I. 240 sqq., 311 sqq.; and on Charles’s later history in vols. II., III., IV., V., VI. Janssen: Geschichte des deutschen Volkes, II. 131 sqq., and vol. III. Weber: Allgemeine Weltgeschichte, vol. X. (1880), 1 sqq. Prescott’s Philip II., bk. I, chaps. 1 and 9 (vol. I. 1–26; 296–359). Motley’s Rise of the Dutch Republic, vol. I., Introduction.

Before passing to the Diet of Worms, we must make the acquaintance of Charles V. He is, next to Martin Luther, the most conspicuous and powerful personality of his age. The history of his reign is the history of Europe for more than a third of a century (from 1520–1556).

In the midst of the early conflicts of the Reformation, the Emperor Maximilian I. died at Wels, Jan. 12, 1519. He had worn the German crown twenty-six years, and is called "the last Knight." With him the middle ages were buried, and the modern era dawned on Europe.

It was a critical period for the Empire: the religion of Mohammed threatened Christianity, Protestantism endangered Catholicism. From the East the Turks pushed their conquests to the walls of Vienna, as seven hundred years before, the Arabs, crossing the Pyrenees, had assailed Christian Europe from the West; in the interior the Reformation spread with irresistible force, and shook the foundations of the Roman Church. Where was the genius who could save both Christianity and the Reformation, the unity of the Empire and the unity of the Church? A most difficult, yea, an impossible task.

The imperial crown descended naturally on Maximilian’s grandson, the young king of Spain, who became the most powerful monarch since the days of Charles the Great. He was the heir of four royal lines which had become united by a series of matrimonial alliances.

Never was a prince born to a richer inheritance, or entered upon public life with graver responsibilities, than Charles V. Spanish, Burgundian, and German blood mingled in his veins, and the good and bad qualities of his ramified ancestry entered into his constitution. He was born with his eventful century (Feb. 24, 1500), at Ghent in Flanders, and educated under the tuition of the Lord of Chièvres, and Hadrian of Utrecht, a theological professor of strict Dominican orthodoxy and severe piety, who by his influence became the successor of Leo X. in the papal chair. His father, Philip I., was the only son of Maximilian and Mary of Burgundy (daughter of Charles the Bold), and cuts a small figure among the sovereigns of Spain as "Philip the Handsome" (Filipe el Hermoso),—a frivolous, indolent, and useless prince. His mother was Joanna, called, "Crazy Jane" (Juana la Loca), second daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, and famous for her tragic fate, her insanity, long imprisonment, and morbid devotion to the corpse of her faithless husband, for whom, during his life, she had alternately shown passionate love and furious jealousy. She became, after the death of her mother (Nov. 26, 1504), the nominal queen of Spain, and dragged out a dreary existence of seventy-six years (she died April 11, 1555).298298    Her sad story is told by the contemporary historians Gomez, Peter Martyr, Zurita, and Sandoval (from whom the scattered account of Prescott is derived in his Ferdinand and Isabella, III. 94, 170 sqq., 212 sqq., 260 sqq.), and more fully revealed in the Simancas and Brussels documents. It has been ably discussed by several modem writers with reference to the unproved hypothesis of Bergenroth that she was never insane, but suspected and tortured (?) for heresy, and cruelly treated by Charles. But her troubles began long before the Reformation, and her melancholy disposition was derived from her grandmother. She received the extreme unction from priestly hands, and her last word was: "Jesus, thou Crucified One, deliver me." See Gustav Bergenroth (a German scholar then residing in London), Letters, Despatches, and State Papers relating to the negotiations between England and Spain preserved in the archives of Simancas and elsewhere. Suppl. to vol. I. and II., London, 1868; Gachard, Jeanne la Folle, Bruxelles, 1869; and Jeanne la Folle et Charles V., in the Bulletin of the Brussels Academy, 1870 and 1872; Rösler, Johanna die Wahnsinnige, Königin von Castilien, Wien, 1870, Maurenbrecher, Johanna die Wahnsinnige, in his "Studien und Skizzen zur Gesch. der Reformationszeit." Leipzig, 1874, pp. 75-98.

Charles inherited the shrewdness of Ferdinand, the piety of Isabella, and the melancholy temper of his mother which plunged her into insanity, and induced him to exchange the imperial throne for a monastic cell. The same temper reappeared in the gloomy bigotry of his son Philip II., who lived the life of a despot and a monk in his cloister-palace of the Escorial. The persecuting Queen Mary of England, a granddaughter of Isabella, and wife of Philip of Spain, had likewise a melancholy and desponding disposition.

From his ancestry Charles fell heir to an empire within whose boundaries the sun never set. At the death of his father (Sept. 25, 1506), he became, by right of succession, the sovereign of Burgundy and the Netherlands; at the death of Ferdinand (Jan. 23, 1516), he inherited the crown of Spain with her Italian dependencies (Naples, Sicily, Sardinia), and her newly acquired American possessions (to which were afterwards added the conquests of Mexico and Peru); at the death of Maximilian, he succeeded to the hereditary provinces of the house of Habsburg, and soon afterwards to the empire of Germany. In 1530 he was also crowned king of Lombardy, and emperor of the Romans, by the Pope.

The imperial crown of Germany was hotly contested between him and Francis I. All the arts of diplomacy and enormous sums of money were spent on electioneering by both parties. The details reveal a rotten state of the political morals of the times. Pope Leo at first favored the claims of King Francis, who was the natural rival of the Austrian and Burgundian power, but a stranger to the language and manners of Germany. The seven electors assembled at Frankfurt offered the dignity to the wisest of their number, Frederick of Saxony; but he modestly and wisely declined the golden burden lined with thorns. He would have protected the cause of the Reformation, but was too weak and too old for the government of an empire threatened by danger from without and within.299299    Martin (Histoire de France, VII. 496) says: "L’électeur Frédéric n’a vait ni la hardiesse ni le génie d’un tel rôle." He nominated Charles; and this self-denying act of a Protestant prince decided the election, June 28, 1520. When the ambassadors of Spain offered him a large reward for his generosity, he promptly refused for himself, and declared that he would dismiss any of his servants for taking a bribe.

Charles was crowned with unusual splendor, Oct. 23, at Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle), where the founder of the German Empire lies buried. In his oath he pledged himself to protect the Catholic faith, the Roman Church, and its head the Pope.

The new emperor was then only twenty years of age, and showed no signs of greatness. "Nondum" ("Not yet") was the motto which he had adopted for his maiden shield in a tournament at Valladolid two years before. He afterwards exchanged it for "Plus Ultra." He was a good rider, and skilled in military exercises; he could break a lance with any Knight, and vanquish a bull in the ring, like an expert espada; but he was in feeble health, with a pale, beardless, and melancholy face, and without interest in public affairs. He had no sympathy with the German nation, and was ignorant of their language. But as soon as he took the reins of power into his own hands, he began to develop a rare genius for political and military government. His beard grew, and he acquired some knowledge of most of the dialects of his subjects. He usually spoke and wrote French and Spanish.

Charles V. as Emperor.

Without being truly great, he was an extraordinary man, and ranks, perhaps, next to Charlemagne and Otho I. among the German emperors.

He combined the selfish conservatism of the house of Habsburg, the religious ardor of the Spaniard, and the warlike spirit of the Dukes of Burgundy. He was the shrewdest prince in Europe, and an indefatigable worker. He usually slept only four hours a day. He was slow in forming his resolutions, but inflexible in carrying them into practice, and unscrupulous in choosing the means. He thought much, and spoke little; he listened to advice, and followed his own judgment. He had the sagacity to select and to keep the ablest men for his cabinet, the army and navy, and the diplomatic service. He was a good soldier, and could endure every hardship and privation except fasting. He was the first of the three great captains of his age, the Duke of Alva being the second, and Constable Montmorency the third.

His insatiable ambition involved him in several wars with France, in which he was generally successful against his bold but less prudent rival, Francis I. It was a struggle for supremacy in Italy, and in the Councils of Europe. He twice marched upon Paris.300300    Martin, from his French standpoint, calls the controversy between Francis I. and Charles V. "la lutte de la nationalité française contre la monstrueuse puissance, issue des combinaisons artificielles de l’hérédité féodale, qui tend à l’asservissement des nationalités européennes." (Hist. de France, VIII., 2.)

He engaged in about forty expeditions, by land and sea, in times when there were neither railroads nor steamboats. He seemed to be ubiquitous in his vast dominions. His greatest service to Christendom was his defeat of the army of Solyman the Magnificent, whom he forced to retreat to Constantinople (1532), and his rescue of twenty thousand Christian slaves and prisoners from the grasp of the African corsairs (1535), who, under the lead of the renowned Barbarossa, spread terror on the shores of the Mediterranean. These deeds raised him to the height of power in Europe.

But he neglected the internal affairs of Germany, and left them mostly to his brother Ferdinand. He characterized the Germans as "dreamy, drunken, and incapable of intrigue." He felt more at home in the rich Netherlands, which furnished him the greatest part of his revenues. But Spain was the base of his monarchy, and the chief object of his care. Under his reign, America began to play a part in the history of Europe as a mine of gold and silver.

He aimed at an absolute monarchy, with a uniformity in religion, but that was an impossibility; France checked his political, Germany his ecclesiastical ambition.

His Personal Character.

In his private character he was superior to Francis I., Henry VIII., and most contemporary princes, but by no means free from vice. He was lacking in those personal attractions which endear a sovereign to his subjects.301301    Motley (I. 118) calls him "a man without a sentiment and without a tear." But he did shed tears at the death of his favorite sister Eleanore (Prescott, I. 324). Under a cold and phlegmatic exterior he harbored fiery passions. He was calculating, revengeful, implacable, and never forgave an injury. He treated Francis I., and the German Protestant princes in the Schmalkaldian war, with heartless severity. He was avaricious, parsimonious, and gluttonous. He indulged in all sorts of indigestible delicacies,—anchovies, frogs’ legs, eel-pasties,—and drank large quantities of iced beer and Rhine wine; he would not listen to the frequent remonstrances of his physicians and confessors, and would rather endure the discomforts of dyspepsia and gout than restrain his appetite, which feasted on twenty dishes at a single meal. In his autobiography he speaks of a fourteenth attack of gout, which "lasted till the spring of 1548."302302    English translation, p. 157.

He had taste for music and painting. He had also some literary talent, and wrote or dictated an autobiography in the simple, objective style of Caesar, ending with the defeat of the Protestant league (1548); but it is dry and cold, destitute of great ideas and noble sentiments.

He married his cousin, Donna Isabella of Portugal, at Seville, 1526, and lived in happy union with her till her sudden death in 1539; but during his frequent absences from Spain, where she always remained, as well as before his marriage, and after her death, he indulged in ephemeral unlawful attachments.303303    Motley (I. 123) says, on the authority of the Venetian ambassador, Badovaro: "He was addicted to vulgar and miscellaneous incontinence." On the same authority he reports of Philip II.: "He was grossly licentious. It was his chief amusement to issue forth at night, disguised, that he might indulge in vulgar and miscellaneous incontinence in the common haunts of vice." (I. 145.) He had at least two illegitimate children, the famous Margaret, Duchess of Parma, and Don Juan of Austria, the hero of Lepanto (1547–1578), who lies buried by his side in the Escorial.

Charles has often been painted by the master hand of Titian, whom he greatly admired. He was of middle size, broad-shouldered, deep-chested, with a commanding forehead, an aquiline nose, a pale, grave, and melancholy countenance. His blue and piercing eye, his blonde, almost reddish hair, and fair skin, betokened his German origin, and his projecting lower jaw, with its thick, heavy lip, was characteristic of the princes of Habsburg; but otherwise he looked like a Spaniard, as he was at heart.

Incessant labors and cares, gluttony, and consequent gout, undermined his constitution, and at the age of fifty he was prematurely old, and had to be carried on a litter like a helpless cripple. Notwithstanding his many victories and successes, he was in his later years an unhappy and disappointed man, but sought and found his last comfort in the religion of his fathers.

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