Charles V Becomes Holy Roman Emperor

On 26 October 1520 a genial young man named Charles, who was already King of Spain, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, and Lord of the Netherlands, was also crowned as Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.


This guy, whom I am prone to call The Human Chin, had basically inherited a big chunk of the planet, and this one chin man “brought together under his rule extensive territories in western, central, and southern Europe, and the Spanish colonies in the Americas and Asia. As a result, his domains spanned nearly four million square kilometers and were the first to be described as “the empire on which the sun never sets”. The title of Emperor was basically icing on the cake.

Charles was born 24 February 1500, the eldest son of Philip the Handsome and Joanna of Castile. This means he was Katharina of Aragon’s nephew, and Mary I’s cousin, and he would later give Henry VIII a hard row to hoe over the English king’s attempt to divorce his Spanish wife in favor of Anne Boleyn. In fact, he would keep meddling in English politics for the next several decades, culminating in his son’s marriage to Mary I.

However, that bedevilment was still years in the future when Charles was crowned, so Henry VIII was probably pleased as punch to have an Imperial in-law. In fact, Charles was betrothed to Mary, his cousin and future daughter-in-law, for a while. Ah, the amusing incest of the royal families!

Anyway, Charles went on to have many, MANY historical things happen during his reign that did not (surprising as it is to a Tudor historian like myself) involve either Henry VIII or his children. Charles’s armies humbled several powerful men, including the King of France, Pope Clement VII, the Duke of Cleves, and the Ottoman Empire’s Suleiman the Magnificent.


Strangely, for such a powerful man he was not very power-hungry. When he was in his early 50s, Charles started abdicating his various thrones and giving rule of his territories to his eldest son and his younger brother. Charles retreated from court life to live in seclusion at the monastery of Yuste in Extremadura, where lived alone in a small room with multiple clocks on every wall. Although reclusive in person, the former Emperor maintained correspondence with heirs and acted as a sort of unofficial advisor. Charles died six years after he retired, on 21 September 1558, from what is believed to have been malaria. His mortal remains now lie in the Royal Pantheon of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.

2 thoughts on “Charles V Becomes Holy Roman Emperor

  1. I don’t recall reading in your blog the identity of his wife. Who was she?

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