The New Student's Reference Work/Charles V

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Charles V, emperor of Germany, was born at Ghent in 1500. From his father he inherited the Low Countries and from his mother Spain and Naples, together with the Spanish colonies In America. In 1516 he became joint-ruler of Spain with his mother Juana, and in 1519 he was made emperor of Germany. The history of western Europe for the next quarter of a century is largely made up of the rivalry of Charles and Francis I of France. The other powers Henry VIII of England and the different popes favored first one and then the other, which resulted in war between the monarchs during much of the era. Most of the fighting was done in Italy, where the possession of Milan was in dispute. First, Charles V drove the French out of Italy and besieged Marseilles. The next year Francis, in trying to recover Milan, was taken prisoner at the battle of Pavia and had to buy his freedom by giving up all he had been fighting for. Charles was now so successful that the Holy League, with the pope at its head, was formed against him. An army under Constable Bourbon sacked Rome and imprisoned the pope, Charles claiming to have nothing to do with it; but it left him master of Italy. But now trouble called him home to Spain. An insurrection had arisen, which he put down, and at the same time by his tact made himself popular throughout the country. In Germany he found himself opposed by the Protestants, who had formed in defense the League of Smalkald. Threatened by an invasion of the Turks, he was forced to agree to many of their demands. In 1535 he accomplished the most brilliant of all his exploits, the destruction of the power of the great corsair, Barbarossa, and the capture of Tunis. A later expedition to put down the Algerian pirates was badly wrecked, and Charles himself had great trouble in reaching the coast of Spain. By two more wars with France, when Francis went so far as to call on the Turks to help him, he triumphed over the French king. Two things he now wished to effect, but in both of which he failed, were to suppress the Protestant party in Germany and have his son Philip accepted as heir to the empire, and not merely to the throne of Spain. The young and brilliant Maurice of Saxony, by suddenly opposing Charles with a secretly gathered army when his own was scattered, obtained from him lawful recognition for the Protestants. The German princes declared in favor of Philip's brother Ferdinand as their next emperor. Baffled by his unruly German subjects, seeing no way to keep his empire from being divided at his death, the disappointed emperor resigned his throne in 1555. The three remaining years of his life (he died Sept 21, 1558) were spent in retirement in a Spanish monastery. Charles was in person slight, graceful in manner and popular with all classes of his subjects among the various peoples under his sway.