The Emperor Charles the Fifth

The Emperor Charles the Fifth

The Emperor Charles the Fifth

The Emperor Charles the Fifth

Excerpt

At a time of rapid change, when medieval Europe was merging into modern and the national state replacing the proprietary realm; when the unity of western Christendom was threatened as never before, the Turkish flood surging westward and a traditional economic mechanism giving way before the influx of precious metal from America, there appears a man who lived these happenings more fully than did any other: Charles, the First of Spain and Fifth of the Empire. Hardly was he out of his cradle when fortune added to a patrimony including the Low Countries and the County Palatine of Burgundy as well as the Habsburg dominions, his mother's presumptive inheritance of the Spains and the New World. Before he had reached man's estate, came the Imperial dignity. But this was more than the King of France could bear; he declared war. And when the Pope gave young Caesar the investiture of Naples, Charles, in order to secure lines of communication with his new kingdom, undertook to turn the French out of Italy.

He had acquired a majority of shares in the European concern. But he abandoned a policy of appeasement with France which had permitted the remaining Burgundian lands to recuperate after the loss of the Duchy itself. Recovery of the Duchy, which his early advisers had hoped to encompass by means of a marriage, was now a war-aim, and one the achievement of which would have ruined the edifice of national unity laboured at by a long succession of French kings and but recently completed. Nothing less than a crushing defeat confirmed by military occupation such as France had known one hundred years previously would have been needed to wrench that sacrifice from her.

Even without counting the Habsburg lands, Charles owned roughly twice as much of Europe as Francis I did; and Flanders was the richest community north of the Alps. But France's central position and well- knit national fabric left the adversaries too evenly matched for either to win a lasting victory. The disaster which overtook Francis I in 1525, however, and the redoubled efforts he was afterwards obliged to sustain impelled him to seek the alliance of anyone, anywhere, who had a grievance against Charles, or hoped to profit at the Emperor's expense.

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