Charles V, the most Titled Monarch in European History

Charles V, the most Titled Monarch in European History
30 October 2017 Comments are off

And so it was said, “God has raised you above all kings and princes of Christendom,” by the chancellor of Charles V, Mercurino Gattimana, “to a power such as no sovereign has enjoyed since your ancestor Charlemagne. He has set you on the way towards a world monarchy, towards the unity of all Christendom under a single shepherd.”

And so it was that Charles V (24 February 1500 – 21 September 1558), like the Roman emperor Augustus, was born with the sign of Capricorn in the ascendant in the first degree, an omen seen as presaging greatness. Grandson on his mother’s side of Ferdinand and Isabella, the so-called Catholic Kings, who drove the Moors and Jews from Spain, and on his father’s side of Emperor Maximilian I, the great architect of Habsburg hegemony in central Europe, Charles inherited a greater share of the European continent than any other ruler before or since.

Duke of Burgundy at six, he became King of Aragon, Castile and Léon and of Naples and Sicily at sixteen, Archduke of Austria, King of the Romans and Holy Roman Emperor Elect at nineteen. He voluntarily stepped down from these and other positions by a series of abdications between 1554 and 1556. Through inheritance, he brought together under his rule extensive territories in western, central, and southern Europe, and the Spanish colonies in the Americas and Asia. As a result, his domains spanned nearly four million square kilometers and were the first to be described as "the empire on which the sun never sets".

Born in Ghent in Flanders his first language was French, his second Flemish. Slight in build, born with a lantern jaw so pronounced that it was impossible for him to fully close his mouth or chew his food, he cultivated manly skills, riding, hunting, and swordsmanship and developed a steely, distant manner. As King of Spain, Charles didn’t speak a word of Spanish when he first visited these lands at the age of seventeen. German emperor, he visited his German lands only nine times. There was no official language to his rule, no official residence, and no capital. Wherever Charles was at any given time, from Andalusia to the marches of Hungary, was the center of the Empire. Like the emperors of Rome, he was a living God.

The story goes when Charles V was visiting his favourite artist in his studio, the door was flung open and a group of halberdiers, the elite imperial guard, entered the room and cried in unison Cesar! Titian was stranded on a platform in front of a large canvas as Charles V entered the space and walked towards the artist and his newest work. Blind-sided by the unexpected presence of the Emperor, Titian stumbled forward dropping his brush before gaining his balance. Everything seemed to stop and all eyes were now staring at the brush on the studio floor and before any of the assistants had the chance to rush forward and pick it up, the Emperor, who had probably never picked up anything in his life before, took a few steps forward and stooped to pick up the filthy instrument of Titian’s trade. Straightening himself up he passed the brush up to Titian, who bowed low saying, “Sire, one of your servants does not deserve such an honour.” To which the Emperor looked him directly in the eye and said, “Titian well deserves to be served by Caesar.”

That day two Gods were in the same room expressing their respect for one another.

Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

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