Charles V served as holy Roman emperor from 1519 to 1556, ruling over a vast territory that included Spain, Burgundy, and numerous German and Italian states. He vehemently defended Catholicism against Martin Luther* and the growth of the Protestant Reformation, and he maintained Habsburg dynastic policies in the face of external threats from the papacy, France, and the Ottoman Empire.
Charles was born on 24 February 1500 in Ghent, Flanders, to Philip the Handsome, the son of Emperor Maximilian I, and Joanna the Mad, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. He spent his youth in Burgundy influenced by Adrian of Utrecht in religious matters and Guillaume de Croy, sieur de Chievres, who helped him develop chivalrous and missionary tendencies. Charles possessed a medieval character favoring dynastic politics and Catholicism, and he enjoyed an affinity for traditional Burgundian culture. Later influential figures who fur­thered his dynastic outlook were Cardinal Francisco Ximenes in Spain and Mercurino Gattinara, his close political advisor.
Charles became duke of Burgundy in 1515 and the following year became king of Spain. He traveled to Spain in 1517 and was not well received since he was from Burgundy. In 1519, with financial backing from German bankers, Charles was unanimously elected holy Roman emperor and was crowned at Aachen on 23 October the following year. He remained in Germany for only a short time, however, as he was forced to return to Spain in 1522 to put down a revolt by a group of Castilian cities supported by the nobility. Charles re­mained in Spain from 1522 to 1529, where he ultimately gained the support of the Spaniards.
The major problem Charles faced during his reign was the emergence of Protestantism. He confronted Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521 and vowed to defend the Catholic faith against Lutheran Protestantism. Charles had diffi­culty dealing with Protestantism due to several major external pressures and ultimately allowed his brother, Ferdinand, to focus on issues within the empire.
Dynastic politics forced Charles into conflict with Francois I,* king of France. Charles wanted to regain the hereditary territories of Burgundy and Milan, and Francois understandably feared Habsburg encirclement. Fighting between Charles and Francois began in 1521 and resulted in a French defeat at Pavia in 1525. At the same time Charles was at war with France, he was also experi­encing problems with the papacy because it opposed his push for the formation of a church council to manage the threat of Protestantism. Pope Clement VII believed that his authority was being threatened and therefore did not cooperate with Charles. Francois allied with Clement against Charles and, in 1527, Charles sent forces to sack Rome, resulting in Clement's capture and increased imperial control in Italy. Clement was captured and released in 1528, and Charles and Francois agreed to the Peace of Cambrai in 1529. Charles renounced claims to Burgundy, and Francois gave up Milan and Naples. Francois did not remain idle long, for in 1536 he allied with the Turks—who also posed occasional threats to Charles throughout his reign—and invaded Savoy. Francois turned down a personal combat with Charles and agreed to peace in 1538. Fighting resumed in 1542, and Charles pushed his forces close to Paris. The Peace of Crepy was concluded in 1544, which maintained the status quo.
Charles's campaign against Protestantism continued throughout his reign but achieved limited success. Although Clement had eventually crowned Charles in Bologna in 1530, the last pope to crown a holy Roman emperor, he still refused Charles's request to call a council to discuss Protestantism. Clement's successor, Paul III, cooperated with Charles and convened the Council of Trent in 1545. The council failed to produce the reforms Charles wanted, and ultimately, papal fear of Spanish control of Italy prevented papal and imperial cooperation toward the suppression of Protestantism.
Charles still continued his attacks on Protestants and was victorious at the Battle of Mühlberg in 1547. At the Diet of Augsburg (1547-48), he allowed Lutherans to return to Catholicism and granted them Communion and clerical marriages. Both Lutheran and Catholic princes feared Spanish domination over Germany, and several prominent German princes deserted Charles and joined Henri II. Charles was driven from Germany in 1552 and in 1553 eventually turned over German affairs to his brother, Ferdinand; both eventually adhered to the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. Lutheranism and Catholicism were deemed equal, and the religion of the regional authority would be the religion of the land. In October 1555 Charles gave control of the Netherlands to his son, Philip,* and in January 1556 abdicated his rule over Spain in favor of Philip. Charles died on 21 September 1558 in Spain.
Charles remained medieval in outlook throughout his reign, defending his territories from external threats and supporting the church against the rise of Protestantism. Although the Reformation caused a decline in the arts, Charles's popularity was seen in numerous artistic forms. Albrecht von Brandenburg con­structed Neue Stift at Halle, a reaffirmation of Catholicism, which contained a silver bust of Charles on the high altar. Medallions of Charles were found on tombs signifying imperial ties, medalists such as Christoph Weiditz, Hans Rein­hart, Hans Kels the Younger, and Hans Schwarz showed their support of Charles, and portraits by Hans Daucher, Hans Memling, and Titian* showcased Charles's greatness. He was viewed as a great man because of the issues he faced, and he garnered a great deal of support throughout the Holy Roman Empire.
E. Armstrong, The Emperor Charles V, 1902.
K. Brandi, The Emperor Charles V, 1939.
J. C. Smith, German Sculpture of the Later Renaissance, c. 1520-1580, 1994.
Paul Miller

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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