Charles V: 1519-1558
Hello once again students, or as our Spanish brethren would say "hola estudiantes."...Alright that was cheesy, let's just forget I ever tried to be the cool teacher and get to the lesson.
So, as we touched upon a little bit yesterday, Charles V was a member of the powerful Habsburg dynasty, and came to inherit all of the family's land, making him the ruler of one hell of an empire. When he just one years old, he was already Duke of Burgundy and Lord of the Netherlands. Then, when we has six years old, he became King of Spain, being the first king to unite the crowns of Castille and Aragon. And finally, he was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1519, cementing all of his possessions together into the Empire we know today.
Here's some other random events during his reign, before we get to the really important stuff. Sure, these were fairly large wars which solidified the Empire's borders, but they pale in comparison to whats on the next couple of slides. As we may know, explorers from Spain spread Spanish, and later Imperial, rule throughout the Americas, absolutely crushing the Aztecs and Inca through advanced technology, psychological warfare, and of course, smallpox. Also, from about 1521 to the late 1530s, the Empire was in an on and off war with France over dominance of northern Italy. The Battle of Pavia in 1526 solidified Imperial rule there, but the French did continue to try to wrest control for the next ten years or so. Though their continued wars and defeats only continued to give the Empire more excuses to centralize and dominate northern Italy as a true province of the Empire. And in the Balkans, the Empire was also fighting against the Ottoman Empire, after defeating them at Vienna and Mohacs, the Ottoman surge was significantly stopped, and Imperial troops were even able to conquer Tunis from the Ottomans, though the troops there would have to deal with rebellions there for decades after
OK, now here's the really important stuff, and where this class truly begins. As I'm sure you all learned, Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation in 1517, sending shockwaves throughout Europe. Although Charles V was a devout Catholic, he didn't want to jeopardize the stability of the Empire, so he didn't take the spread of Lutheranism seriously and didn't actively fight against it. By the time the Schmalkaldic League was formed in 1531, of Protestants and princes, Lutheranism had gathered quite a following in the northern areas of the Empire, areas quite far from the capital of Vienna. Once the Schmalkaldic League was formed, the Reformation turned from a religious affair to a violent political one, bringing on a ruthless 16 year civil war across the German areas of the Empire.
Immediately upon hearing of the formation of this defiant alliance, which demanded a more decentralized Empire and freedom of religion, Charles V brought in thousands upon thousands of troops from the areas of the Empire not affected by the Reformation, namely Spain and Hungary. He ordered these men to spread throughout northern Germany fairly evenly, where they stationed themselves in towns, crushing the frequent riots and uprisings. But the leaders of the League, Philip of Hesse and John Frederick of Saxony we able to form a powerhouse of Lutheranism and elector power in northeastern Germany, mostly the province of Brandenburg. They gathered their troops there, and were able to hold off Imperial troops in bloody back and forth warfare, that resembled the trench warfare that would develop in the late 19th century, or early 20th.
This bloody stalemate continued on until 1544, when Imperial troops broke the Lutheran lines at Nienberg, killing or capturing over 10,000 League troops. Ignore the squiggly red lines, apparently Microsoft hates German. Anyway, this same Imperial army marched swiftly towards Berlin, the Leagues center, and laid siege to it. This siege would last until 1547, when the Imperial army finally retreated, after peace had been signed. Although it would hold out for the rest of the war, it was devastated by the constant three year siege. The League's cause was finally broken at Muhlberg, where Charles V, frail and carried on a litter, directed a battle that killed John Frederick and over 12,000 Lutherans.
So, that same year, peace was signed at Augsburg. The document reaffirmed that Charles V was the legitimate and total Holy Roman Emperor. It made sure to note that the Holy Roman Empire was now a centralized state, a true monarchy and empire, thus ending the power of princes and electors and reducing them to a mere ceremonial role. It also made sure that Charles V was the sole ruler of all Habsburg family lands. It may seem strange as to why none of his family members challenged his power, considering the intrigue and dynastic bickering of the day, but we must understand that Charles V was also King of Spain, and therefore he held the power of the most powerful part of the Empire. Any opposition to his rule and legitimacy would have been crushed by Spanish troops, just like the Lutherans were. And despite his opposition to the Reformation, Charles V realized that many of his subjects were still Lutheran, so he decreed that Protestantism could be freely practiced in the Netherlands and Brandenburg, something that would have big consequences for the future, as those two areas would become majority Protestant provinces. We have to understand that the Augsburg Peace was simply the most important document in the history of the modern Empire. Without it, the Empire would have probably fallen apart after Charles V’s death, and Germany proper would have remained a decentralized region of microstates. But instead, the treaty was enforced, and all of Charles V’s lands were cemented together as one Holy Roman Empire. It is also interesting to note that there was fighting over whether or not to call this empire something else, other than Holy Roman. There was concern that Hungary and Spain, areas not traditionally part of it before, would reject the union. Thought alternatives like Karlian and Habsburg empires were considered, they decided to continue being called the Holy Roman Empire, as it was discovered that Hungary and Spain would embrace their ancient Roman heritage.
Finally, this is a map, not including American colonies, of the Holy Roman Empire upon Charles V’s death in 1558. The late emperor, who would be called “the Great” posthumously, suffered greatly in his final years. The infamous Habsburg chin caused his many digestional and chewing problems. And gout caused him severe pain, rendering him to a litter for the last decade of his life. Finally, malaria took his life in 1558 and he was interred next to Charlemagne in the Aachen Cathedral. As you can see, Papal lands in Germany were not incorporated into the Empire just yet, as Charles V had been a devout Catholic. Anyway, here are Imperial lands in Europe upon the ascension of Philip I, the son of Charles V, whose reign we’ll cover tomorrow.