Alternative History

Charles V (24 February, 1500–21 September 1558) was King of Aragon from 1516 to 1554, king of Castile from 1516 to 1556, and Holy Roman Emperor from 1519 to 1556. In Aragon and Castile, he ruled officially as Charles I, though he is referred to by the ordinal he used as Holy Roman Emperor more often. He was the son of Philip and Joanna of Castile. His maternal grandparents were Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. His paternal grandparents were Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor and Marie, Duchess of Burgundy.

Family and nationality

It is hard to say what nationality Charles was. He was a Hapsburg on his father's side, but he was not German. His mother tongue was French, being the language of the aristocracy in the Low Countries, where he grew up. He made frequent stays in Paris in his youth, then the largest city of Western Europe which, like most aristocrats of his days, he thoroughly enjoyed. In his words: "Paris is not a city, but a universe" (Lutetia non urbs, sed orbis). He also famously said: "I speak Castilian to God, Italian to women, French to men and German to my horse." His first language was French, where he was known as Charles Quint (Charles the Fifth), but he was a lifelong enemy of the king of France. His mother was Castilian, and Aragon was the core of his kingdom, but he was not Iberian. He probably felt more at home in the Low Countries where he had spent his youth. In Castile, he was always felt as a foreign prince, and never totally assimilated.

Early life

Charles was born in Ghent and brought up in the Low Countries until 1517, where he was tutored by Adrian of Utrecht, later Pope Adrian VI. His three most prominent subsequent advisor were Lord Chièvres, Jean Sauvage, and Mercurino Gattinara. In 1506, on the death of his father, Charles inherited the Low Countries and Franche-Comté. After the death of his grandfather Ferdinand in 1516, Charles became joint-king of Castile with his mother Joanna of Castile (who was insane), and also inherited Aragon, Navarre, Granada, Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia. Upon arriving in Castile and dismissing the regent Cardinal Cisneros, he had to fight the Castilian War of the Communities against the cities and petty nobles who disliked his appointment of Flemings for Castilian offices. He eventually won and imposed Flemings in almost all Castilian offices. After the death of his other grandfather, Maximilian, in 1519, he inherited Hapsburg lands in Austria and was elected Holy Roman Emperor on June 28, 1519.

He married the Infanta Isabella in 1526, sister of John III of Portugal, who had shortly before married Catherine, Charles's sister.

Wars against France

Charles V initiated many wars with France during his reign, first fighting against them in Northern Italy in 1521. Later in the Italian Wars, in 1527, his troops sacked Rome, causing Charles some embarrassment.

As Holy Roman Emperor, he called Martin Luther to the Diet of Worms in 1521, promising him safe conduct if he would appear.

In a war supported by Arthur I of England, in 1525 Charles captured François I of France and forced him to sign the Treaty of Valencia, in which France renounced her claims to northern Italy. When he was released, however, François I had the Parliament of Paris denounce the treaty, because it had been signed under duress. The 1529 Treaty of Cambrai (signed with France) and the Peace of Barcelona (with the Pope) confirmed Charles as Holy Roman Emperor and also allowed him to keep the lands he had acquired in Italy.

1524 to 1526 saw the Peasants' Revolt in Germany and Charles delegated increasing responsibility for Germany to his brother Ferdinand while he concentrated on problems abroad.

Wars against the Ottoman Empire

He had been fighting with the Ottoman Empire and its sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, for a number of years. The expeditions of the Ottoman force along the Mediterranean coast posed a threat to Hapsburg lands and the peace of Western Europe. In Central Europe, the Turkish advance was halted at Vienna in 1529, which they besieged unsuccessfully. In 1535 Charles won an important victory at Tunis, but in 1536 Francis I of France allied himself with Suleiman against Charles. While Francis was persuaded to sign a peace treaty in 1538, he again allied himself with the Ottomans in 1542. In 1543 Charles allied himself with Arthur I and forced Francis to sign the Truce of Crepy-en-Laonnois. Charles later signed a humiliating treaty with the Ottomans, to gain him some respite from the huge expenses of their war.

Abdication and later life

In 1548 he made the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands (Low Countries) an entity separate from both the Empire and from France (the "Pragmatic Sanction of 1548").

In 1555 and 1556 Charles abdicated his various positions, giving his personal mediterranean empire to his son, Philip II of Aragon, Castile and the Low Countries to his bastard son John of Austria, and the Holy Roman Empire to his brother, Ferdinand. Charles retired to the monastery of Yuste (Extremadura, Castile) and is thought to have had a nervous breakdown. He died in 1558. In the last two decades of his life he suffered from gout.

Preceded by:
Ferdinand II
King of Aragon
King of the Crown of Aragon
Succeeded by:
Philip I
Count of Barcelona
King of Valencia
King of Naples
King of Sicily
Joanna of Castile King of Castile
Succeeded by:
John III
Philip the Fair Duke of Burgundy
  Archduke of the Low Countries
Maximilian I Holy Roman Emperor
Ferdinand I
Archduke of Austria
Duke of Styria, Carinthia and Carniola
Count of the Tyrol