Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain and Duke of Burgundy (1500–1558)

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (French: Charles Quint; Spanish: Carlos I, Dutch: Karel V, German: Karl V.) (February 24 1500September 21 1558) was Holy Roman Emperor and Archduke of Austria from 1519 to 1556, King of Spain (Castile and Aragon) from 1516 to 1556, and Lord of the Netherlands as titular Duke of Burgundy from 1506 to 1555. As he was head of the rising House of Habsburg during the first half of the 16th century, his dominions in Europe included the Holy Roman Empire, extending from Germany to northern Italy with direct rule over the Austrian hereditary lands and the Burgundian Low Countries, and the Kingdom of Spain with its southern Italian possessions of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia. Furthermore, he oversaw both the continuation of the long-lasting Spanish colonization of the Americas and the short-lived German colonization of the Americas. The personal union of the European and American territories of Charles V was the first collection of realms labelled "the empire on which the Sun never sets".

My life has been one long journey.


  • My life has been one long journey.
    • As quoted at his last public speech, in reference to the peripatetic nature of his reign.
  • You know that my ancestors were the most Christian emperors of the great nation of Germany, the Catholic kings of Spain, the archdukes of Austria, and the dukes of Burgundy, who all were, until death, faithful sons of the Roman Church.… I am therefore resolved to maintain everything which these my forebears have established to the present…and to settle this matter I will use all my dominions and possessions, my friends, my body, my blood, my life, and my soul. It would be a disgrace for you and me, the illustrious and renowned nation of Germany, privileged and pre-eminent as protector and defender of the Catholic faith, if heresy, or even just the suspicion of heresy, and the degradation of the Christian religion were to return to the hearts of men in our time to our perpetual dishonour.
    • Diet of Worms (1521)
    • Detlef Ploese and Guenther Vogler, eds., Buch der Reformation. Eine Auswahl zeitgenössischer Zeugnisse (Berlin: Union Verlag, 1989), pp. 245-53
  • I have a glove into which I can put your whole city of Paris.
    • Allegedly told to Francis I of France. The glove, gant in French, is a reference to the city of Ghent (Gandes in French), where Charles was born.
  • In view of Our special love for and inclination to the German Nation and the Holy Roman Empire…as Roman emperor and supreme steward of Christendom, it pertains to Our Imperial office to confess Our obligation to guard, protect, and maintain the holy Christian faith as it has been preserved until now.
    • Diet of Augsburg (1530)
    • Ruth Kastner, ed., Quellen zur Reformation 1517-1555 (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1994), pp. 501-20
  • "Francis and I are in perfect accord. He wants Milan and so do I."
    • As quoted in Will and Ariel Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. 5: The Renaissance (1953)
  • "Leave him alone. He has already met his judge. I wage war on the living, not the dead."
    • In response to the Duke of Alva who proposed to desecrate the tomb of Martin Luther, burn his body, and scatter his ashes to the wind.
    • Michael Grzonka, Luther and His Times (2016)
  • "Fortune hath somewhat the nature of a woman; if she be too much wooed, she is the farther off."
    • As quoted in Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning (1605), Book II

Emperor: A New Life of Charles V

Geoffrey Parker, Emperor: A New Life of Charles V (2019)
  • “It pleased the emperor, my lord and grandfather, to emancipate me and free me from his ward and guardianship, placing in our hands the governance of our lands and lordships in the Netherlands… our affairs shall in future be transacted in our name… the titles that we intend to use from now on… by the grace of God, prince of Spain, of Sicily and Naples, of Jerusalem and others, archduke of Austria, duke of Burgundy, Lorraine, Brabant, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Limburg, Luxembourg and Gelderland… count of Flanders, Habsburg, Tyrol, Artois, Burgundy and Hainaut, landgrave of Alsace, prince of Swabia, margrave of Burgau, Holland, Seeland, Ferrette, Kyburg, Namur and Zutphen, lord of Frisia, Sclavonia, Pordenone, Salins and Mechelen.”
    • (8th January 1515), Ch. 3: The Difficult Inheritance, 1515-17
  • “Because we cannot by ourselves give sufficient thanks to God, our creator, for the grace, honour, health and success that He has granted us thus far, nor amass sufficient merit to secure the continuation of His grace in the future… to beseech God to continue to raise us in virtue and good customs, to govern our dominions and subjects in peace, union and concord, and to guide our affairs to His honour, our wellbeing, and the prosperity, utility and tranquility of our said dominions and subjects.”
    • (January 1515), Ch. 3. The Difficult Inheritance, 1515-17
  • “Ever since our emancipation and entry into the lordship and governance of our Netherlands provinces, we have constantly tried and strongly desired and wanted to create good order and sound policies in all our affairs and end the disorder that has existed in the past because of the wars and divisions that prevailed, as well as for other reasons, and even in the organisation of our own household on which the wellbeing, honour and tranquility of ourselves and of our ministers, dominions and subjects largely depends.”
    • (late 1515), Ch. 3. The Difficult Inheritance, 1515-17
  • (in regard to a counter attack against the Turks) “…because that is what I have wanted to do since I was a child and also to fulfill the responsibilities of my imperial title as chief protector and defender of our Christian religion. Therefore, despite the vast costs and distractions that I face at present on account of the war against the French, I have resolved to assemble a fleet as soon as I can to relieve Rhodes… ready to spare nothing to preserve, defend and deliver Rhodes from these tyrannical infidel enemies, devoting all our kingdom and dominions and our person if necessary.”
    • (1522, before Rhodes was captured by the Ottomans), Ch. 8. Champion of the Western World, 1528-31
  • “We are more inclined to marry [your] sister the infanta, Isabella, than anyone else because there is no daughter of a king as ready as her.”
    • (January 1522 to King John of Portugal), Portrait of the Emperor as a Renaissance Prince
  • The Nuncio Baldesari Castilione: “[His majesty] should make up his mind and fast, because delay is very dangerous.”
  • Emperor Charles: “[Our policy] has always been to deal first with matters which are easiest to resolve and leave the most difficult ones until last.”
    • (1526), Portrait of the Emperor as a Renaissance Prince
  • “I am wholly decided and resolved to go in person to help my brother because his need is so great and the perils so extreme that it does not merely threaten him but places all Christendom at risk. I cannot and must not abandon him because of the office I hold and because of the obligations of fraternal friendship and also because he is such a good brother to me.”
    • (Charles’ letter to his aunt Margaret, 23rd September 1529), Ch. 8. Champion of the Western World, 1528-31
  • “Without the prior pacification of Italy, it could happen that as soon as I leave to succor you, Venice, Florence, Ferrara and Francesco Sforza will ally together, pull all their resources and invite the French to support them… Since I will need to take with me to Germany the army besieging Florence, we need a swift decision by His Holiness in this matter.”
    • (Charles’ letter to his brother Ferdinand, 23rd September 1529), Ch. 8. Champion of the Western World, 1528-31
  • “Since our Lord, who gave Fernando to us, wished to have him back, we must bend to His will and thank Him and beg Him to protect what is left. With great affection, my lady, I beg you to do this and to forget and leave behind all pain and grief.”
    • (1530, Charles to his wife), Portrait of the Emperor as a Renaissance Prince
  • “These heretics have been so obstinate that no policy has worked or sufficed to get them to recognise their errors… I can see that if there were a way of forcing them we could justly move against them, but that is not the case now, nor do I currently have the means, because I am tired, alone and without help and there are so many of them that great force would be needed to overcome them. The true remedy is to convene a general council.”
    • (Charles to Louiser, 20th October 1530), Ch. 8. Champion of the Western World, 1528-31
  • “…Begging Your Holiness as earnestly as I can that you convene a general council with the urgency that the situation demands and that for optimal effect Your Holiness should write to other princes and potentates explaining why. Namely the need to create a united front against the expected Turkish attack and to prevent the heresies that have recently appeared from spreading further.”
    • (Charles’ letter to Pope Clement VII, 20th October 1530), Ch. 8. Champion of the Western World, 1528-31
  • “I want to be trusted, and will not bargain with my subjects.”
    • (Charles to the ministers of Holland, 1531), Ch. 8. Champion of the Western World, 1528-31
  • “I found great enmities, personal passions, leagues and alliances among [my] officials, constantly turning everyone against the rest. Therefore, to see and ascertain the truth, I followed up the accusations against my fiscal officers made by their adversaries, and I examined their accounts from 1520 to 1530, that is for 10 years, to see if they had robbed me as some claimed. But, although some matters were not as satisfactory as they should have been, I found no fault… If there is a fault here, the principal cause is that everyone desires so many privileges to limit my sovereignty so that we would almost become colleagues and I would no longer be in charge. ”
    • (Charles confided to Ferdinand, in Burgundian French, about the disputes of taxes in Brussels, 1531), Ch. 8. Champion of the Western World, 1528-31
  • “I was writing to my wife when your letter arrived, and now I want to look at her portrait myself, seeing the great beauty it contains. I am such a devoted husband that other beautiful women now do nothing for me.”
    • (1532, Charles’ letter to his sister Marie), Portrait of the Emperor as a Renaissance Prince
  • “It has brought me the greatest sorrow you can imagine, because he was the most handsome little boy for his age that you could find. I feel his death even more than the loss of my own son [Fernando] because he was older and I knew him better and treated him as my own son. Nevertheless we must accept the will of God. May God forgive me, but I wish He had taken Christian instead of his son.”
    • (Charles on the death of his nephew Hans of Denmark, August, 1532), Portrait of the Emperor as a Renaissance Prince


  • I speak in Latin to God, Italian to Women, French to Men, and German to my Horse.
    • Also attributed to other historical figures. Several variants exist and have been quoted for centuries. The earliest known citation, itself a secondary source dating from 40 years after Charles's death, gives two versions that both differ from the modern one. Girolamo Fabrizi d'Acquapendente's 1601 De Locutione gives:
      Unde solebat, ut audio, Carolus V Imperator dicere, Germanorum linguam esse militarem: Hispanorum amatoriam: Italorum oratoriam: Gallorum nobilem. ("Whence Emperor Charles V used to say, as I hear, that the language of the Germans was military; that of the Spaniards pertained to love; that of the Italians to prayer; that of the French was noble.")
      Alius vero, qui Germanus erat, retulit, eundem Carolum Quintum dicere aliquando solitum esse; Si loqui cum Deo oporteret, se Hispanice locuturum, quod lingua Hispanorum gravitatem maiestatemque prae se ferat; si cum amicis, Italice, quod Italorum dialectus familiaris sit; si cui blandiendum esset, Gallice, quod illorum lingua nihil blandius; si cui minandum aut asperius loquendum, Germanice, quod tota eorum lingua minax, aspera sit ac vehemens. ("Indeed another, who was German, related that the same Charles V sometimes used to say: if it was necessary to talk with God, that he would talk in Spanish, for the language of the Spaniards suggests itself for graveness and majesty; if with friends, in Italian, for the dialect of the Italians was one of familiarity; if to caress someone, in French, for no language is tenderer than theirs; if to threaten someone or to speak harshly to them, in German, for their entire language is threatening, rough and vehement.")
  • I will not blush like my predecessor Sigismund.
    • This was supposedly said by Charles when Martin Luther appeared at the Diet of Worms (16–18 April 1521) under an imperial safe-conduct; members of the pro-papal party (sometimes Johann Maier von Eck (Eccius) is specified) are supposed to have urged the emperor to seize Luther in despite of the safe-conduct, whereupon Charles alluded to the story that when Jan Huss had appeared before the Emperor Sigismund under a similar safe-conduct and had been arrested anyway, Huss reproached Sigismund, who visibly reddened at his own lack of faith. The quotation appears in various similar forms, e.g., "I shall not blush as Sigismund did at Constance." The saying is attributed to Charles by the German scholars, poets, and brothers Wilhelm and Gabriel Seyfried in their Dissertatio Historica de Johanne Hus (Jena, 1711), p. 99, without a specific source, in the Latin form Nolo cum Sigismondo, Antecessore meo erubescere.