Charles V Research Paper

This sample Charles V Research Paper is published for educational and informational purposes only. Free research papers are not written by our writers, they are contributed by users, so we are not responsible for the content of this free sample paper. If you want to buy a high quality research paper on history topics at affordable price please use custom research paper writing services.

As heir to the Castilian crown and the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V inherited rule over a great deal of Europe in 1519. His refusal to delegate power, his rejection of Protestantism, and wars to the east and west left a fragile, bankrupt empire in the hands of his successor.

Charles V (b. Ghent, Belgium, 24 February 1500; d. Yuste, Spain, 21 September 1558) ruled over about 28 million subjects in Europe, or some 40 percent of the continent’s population, from the time of his election as Holy Roman emperor on 28 June 1519 until he gradually abdicated power in the fall and winter of 1555–1556. Moreover, during his reign, Hernan Cortes conquered Mexico (1519), and Francisco Pizarro subjugated Peru (1530–1532). These expeditions were carried out in Charles’s name, as both King Charles I of Castile and Holy Roman emperor. They led to the creation of colonies in the New World, ruled directly from Spain in the interest of the Castilian crown.

A series of dynastic events made Charles the sole heir of an extraordinarily large number of countries. His father, Philip the Handsome, son of the Holy Roman emperor Maximilian I, of the house of Habsburg, ruled over the Low Countries and then in 1504 also became king of Castile, on behalf of his wife Joan; he died in 1506. At the death of Charles’s maternal grandfather Ferdinand, in 1516, Charles was to inherit the crowns of Castile and Aragon from Ferdinand and Isabella (who died in 1504), thus uniting for the first time the two Spanish kingdoms under a single ruler. Moreover, the Aragonese legacy also included the kingdoms of Sicily, Naples, and Sardinia, as well as the Balearic Islands. Control over all these territories implied hegemonic power over the western Mediterranean. In September 1517, Charles arrived in Spain to be inaugurated by the cortes (assemblies of estates) of his various kingdoms. Having been educated in French, and being surrounded by councillors from his northern territories, he experienced great difficulties in gaining control of his situation and having his authority accepted. As a reaction against decades of bad governance and the intrusion of foreign councillors, revolts broke out in various cities in 1520, lasting until 1522.

The death of Charles’s paternal grandfather, Holy Roman emperor Maximilian, raised a new challenge in 1519. Although other German princes, especially Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony, might have been chosen to succeed him, the House of Habsburg strove to keep the title in the family. And although Ferdinand (the younger son of Philip the Handsome) might have been more available than his brother, the king of Spain, Sicily, Naples, and a variety of other lands, Charles nevertheless insisted on his primogeniture with the argument that the fearsome expansion of the Ottoman Turks required all Christendom to unite. Important political concessions were made to the electors and huge sums were spent to bribe them.

Charles managed with great difficulty to keep his empire together, even adding to it the duchy of Milan in 1535, and winning control over or alliances with the other powers in Italy, but he obviously was a victim of imperial overreaching. He tried to keep all decisions in his own hands, keeping in close contact by correspondence with members of his family and the high-ranking noblemen he had installed as regents, governors general, viceroys, and councillors in the territories where he was unable to reside in person. Further, he was convinced that he had to deal with the most urgent matters personally, which forced him to travel around Europe nearly constantly. This created long delays in decision-making processes in the other territories (in which he was not currently traveling).

The main challenge to his authority arose from his ambition of keeping all his subjects loyal to the Catholic Church in a time when religious reformers were rapidly gaining followers, while the church hierarchy proved highly unwilling to understand the need to reform itself. Charles finally lost this battle, especially in the German Empire, where several princes turned to the Reformation for reasons that had as much to do with faith as with their desire for autonomy. He was late to understand the gravity of the challenge Luther had launched against him personally at the Diet of Worms in 1521, and slow to react to it, mostly because of the multiplicity of his duties. He saw no other method of dealing with the Reformation movement than to postpone decisions, make provisional concessions, and try to convince the pope to convene a general council. When the Council of Trent finally opened in 1545, its first decisions were totally unacceptable for the Protestants, who had been strengthening their positions for nearly three decades. Charles was never able to accept the Religious Peace of Augsburg that his brother Roman King Ferdinand (since 1531) negotiated with the Diet in 1555, and he sent his letter of abdication to the Diet during its meeting in 1555. However, they did not choose his younger brother as his successor until 1558.

The second major challenge of Charles’s reign was the external military threat from France and the Ottoman Empire, sometimes even in conjunction with each other. His nearly continuous efforts to build fortresses and to mount campaigns with ever larger armies exhausted his subjects’ resources, including those of his colonies, and finally left his successor Philip II—who succeeded him in his Spanish and Italian kingdoms and in the Low Countries—with a bankrupt state. Charles’s reign showed the impossibility of keeping western Christendom united politically and ecclesiastically, and his failure to understand this caused his demise.


  1. Blockmans, W. (2002). Emperor Charles V, 1500–1558. London: Arnold.
  2. Carande, R. (2000). Carlos V y sus banqueros [Charles V and his bankers]. Barcelona, Spain: Critica.
  3. Fernandez Alvarez, M. (1999). Carlos V. El Cesar y el hombre [Charles V. The Caesar and the man]. Madrid, Spain: Espasa Calpe.
  4. Fuentes, C. (1992). The buried mirror: Reflections on Spain and the new world. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  5. Kohler, A. (1999). Karl V. 1500–1558. Eine Biographie [Charles V. 1500–1558. A biography]. Munich: C. H. Beck.
  6. Rodriguez Salgado, M. J. (1988). The changing face of empire: Charles V, Philip II, and Habsburg Authority, 1551–1559. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
  7. Soly, H. (Ed.). (1999). Charles V, 1500–1558 and his time. Antwerp, Belgium: Mercatorfonds.
  8. Tracy, J. D. (2002). Emperor Charles V, impresario of war. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

See also:

Free research papers are not written to satisfy your specific instructions. You can use our professional writing services to buy a custom research paper on any topic and get your high quality paper at affordable price.


Always on-time


100% Confidentiality
Special offer! Get discount 10% for the first order. Promo code: cd1a428655