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Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
as Charles I, king of Spain

1500 - 1558


Charles V, Holy Roman emperor (1519-58) and, as Charles I, king of Spain (1516-56), was the son of PHILIP I and JOANNA of Castile, and grandson of Emperor MAXIMILIAN I and MARY OF BURGUNDY.

Charles was the greatest of all HAPSBURG emperors. He inherited a vast empire: the Spanish kingdoms, Spanish America, Naples, Sicily, the Low Countries, and the hereditary Austrian lands.

The chief problems he faced were the Protestant REFORMATION in Germany; the dynastic conflict with FRANCIS I of France, particularly for supremacy in Italy; and the Ottoman Turks, then at the height of their power. He also had difficulties with his Spanish subjects, who at first regarded him as a foreigner.

Initially successful against the Protestant princes in Germany, he eventually was forced to compromise with them and to accept (1555) the Peace of Augsburg. He was more successful in promoting the Catholic REFORMATION.

The imperialist struggle with France was a Pyrrhic victory for Spain. His efforts to halt the advance of the Ottomans under SULAYMAN I resulted in at best a standoff.

As king of Spain, he was triumphant. The conquest of Mexico and Peru represented the high point of the Spanish empire.

In 1556 Charles abdicated all his titles and retired to a monastery. His son PHILIP II received Spain, America, Naples, and the Netherlands; and his brother became emperor as FERDINAND I.


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