Charles V


Charles V Essay, Research Paper

“In 1519, Charles Hapsburg became Charles V. Roman Emperor. Discuss and analyze the political, social, and religious problems he faced over the course of his imperial reign of 1519-1556.”

Born at Ghent, 1500; died at Yuste, in Spain, 1558; Charles V. Roman Emperor, was a descendant of the house of Hapsburg, and to this descent owed his sovereignty over so many lands that it was said of him that the sun never set on his dominions. As soon as Charles received his title of emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, he sought desperately to create a dynasty more powerful than had ever existed. Yet, as the empire grew so did the problems that faced it. Political situations with France and the Ottoman Turks, religious turmoil uprooted by the Lutherans and other revolutionary religious groups, and social clashes which resulted because of the great variety of people encompassed in the empire plagued his imperial reign. The vast empire that Charles V had created outgrew its chance for survival.

During his reign as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V., faced various political situations that led to the downfall of his empire. So vast were his lands, that it was impossible to achieve political stronghold. Charles was always in conflict with other countries over territorial issues and found no time to devote himself to the pressing internal needs of the country. Debt was so vast, that the he was restrained in whatever he did. On May 8th, 1521, Charles V became involved in a war against France. After many years of fighting, the imperial army of the Holy Roman Empire defeated the French, and the Peace of Cambrai brought a close to the French conflicts. Even though the Holy Roman Empire was victorious, they suffered immensely. As soon as one problem was solved, another one needed to be dealt with. Soon enough, another serious war began. Yet, this time against the Ottoman Turks and it went not so successful. Charles? failure to repel the Turks from the town of Vienna, opened the doors to a whole new problem. The failure squashed fear of the empire, and thus provided the German princes with the courage to seek autonomy and independence for their states in an effort to save their country. These political conflicts resulted in a great weakening of his empire. Non-existent money was being poured into defense, religious opposition began to grab a foothold, and opposition to the empire was no longer feared.

Weakness of the empire accounted for a flourishing of new religious ideas. Charles V was a devout Catholic and wanted his entire kingdom to be of the same religion. When Martin Luther, a radical monk, attacked the Church by criticizing such practices as the sacraments, and denouncing the sale of indulgences, people began to question their beliefs. Not only was this revolutionary man giving the church a bad name, but he was gaining many disciples as well. Among the followers of Luther were many princes. At the Diet of Worms, the papacy?s secular representative, Charles V, summoned the monk to deny his religious beliefs. Luther refused and was to be arrested under the orders of Charles, but instead was protected by a German prince. These Lutheran German princes began to defy the Emperor and gain independence. Some of the princes were true in their beliefs of Lutheranism, however most were moved by material interests. They could now confiscate the church?s holdings, and could flaunt their independence from Charles. In the following years, the Lutheran princes proclaimed their support of the teachings of Lutheranism through the Augsburg Confession. Following the confession, Charles immediately declared war on the Lutheran princes and won a crushing defeat in 1547. Yet, the movement was too large, and one loss did not give up their hopes. Finally, Charles could do no more, and in 1555 gave in to the Lutherans and compromised. Known as the Diet of Augsburg, this treaty allowed each prince to determine the religion of his territory. It was becoming obvious that Charles was unable to control his vast empire. Even his own subjects were beginning to turn against him.

Socially, the empire was so diverse that unity was not possible. Difference in customs and beliefs could not just be forgotten. Lack of a government that could satisfy the different groups of people accounted for Charles? loss of power. A prime example was that of the German princes. As they chose their own religion, many began to drift further away from the power of Charles V. The cities became very independent, and refused to remain insubordinate to a central government. It was impossible to maintain control under these conditions. Thus, Charles was steadily losing power to his insubordinate princes.

Charles? dream of a superior unified empire was never fulfilled. The vast amounts of land did not allow for an efficient form of government. Constant warfare distracted Charles and gave him little time to attend to other concerns. While he was fighting a war, a new problem would be brewing. Also, the extensive fighting caused for a gigantic debt. Religious revolts added much to the whole problem. Subjects turned against Charles and again contributed to the weakening of the empire. The social situation also did not do much to help unity. The huge diversity of people contained in the empire almost completely ruled out the chance for unity. In the end, the imperial reign of Charles V., the Roman emperor, left the Roman empire in a state of great disunity that would never be restored.

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