This book was originally intended as a journal, the diary of a journey in Spain which I made between February and April, 1948. But wherever I went the personality of Charles V met me and impressed itself so vividly on my mind that my notes gradually evolved into a kind of history.
My first plan, to do a volume of Pictures from Spain, might have been dropped at that point, but it became evident that Spain belonged to Charles V, intrinsically. In Spain he spent his happiest years; that essentially Spanish quality, tenacity, became second nature to him; the spirit of Spain sustained him, and Spanish money supported him in his fight for the unity of the Faith, a cause that repeatedly called him away from Spain to Germany.
Spain was his base, Germany his battle-field; Spain signified continuity, Germany, change. His was a great life, lived in perpetual tension between the eternal values and the spirit of the times. And loyalty to the former was to mean his defeat by the latter.
So it is more than a coincidence that in the following pictures the background is Spanish.
And it is certainly no coincidence at all that the last great European Emperor has in our day regained his significance: his personality appeals to us because today the idea of universality once more makes sense. His failure grips us because we know he was fighting for a basic principle of Europe's. His lifelong endeavour to give precedence to a conception of the whole over the component parts, with their self-centred interests, takes on a new meaning for us, today, too, for Europe has to be put together again and welded into a whole, loyal once more to the old common Christian values.
True enough, the tendency is still centrifugal, that is to say, splintered by nationalistic and individualistic forces hitched exclusively to this world--forces which asserted their independence in Charles V's time and are still dividing and subdividing the peoples of Europe. But it may be true, as Fichte held at the beginning of the nineteenth century, that 'in the process of achieving full expansion egoism has met its doom', and that the new era of which we are experiencing the birth-pangs will no longer be wholly under the sign of materialism. In the old cathedrals, the mediaeval wall-paintings whitewashed by the Reformation are coining to light again, and simultaneously the Christian idea is once more finding its way to the surface of our minds; now, in the midst of our ruins and lurking . . .