Charles V was born on 24 February 1500 in Ghent in East Flanders and died in Yuste in Extremadura in 1558. He was the son of Philip the Fair of Hapsburg, archduke of Austria and Giovanna la Pazza, daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. Carlo and his brother Ferdinando, born in Madrid in 1503, after the death of his grandfather Massimiliano I ° (1519) and the early death of his father Filippo (1506), found themselves, still very young and without hurting wounds, at the head of an immense empire , thanks to the heritage of various families: the traditional Hapsburg with Austria, Carinthia, Styria, Tirolo and Carniola with Trieste, that of Burgundy with Flanders and those of Castile and Aragon, with the Kingdom of Spain, with all the territories of the New World and the kingdom of Naples and Sicily. To better understand how this immense empire was born it is useful, even if repetitive, to go back to Maximilian I, the great patron emperor, founder, among other things, of the University of Vienna and organizer of a solid and efficient administration of the empire . Massimiliano's marriage to Maria, daughter of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, assured the family the possession of the Netherlands and Franche-Comté, located in central-eastern France. His son, Archduke of Austria Philip the Fair, married Giovanna la Pazza, daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, the "Catholic kings" who founded the Inquisition in 1478. Upon their death, Giovanna, who became queen, passed the crown to her husband, who ruled her until the age of Charles, who at 16 became King of Spain, Naples and Sicily. The two brothers Carlo and Ferdinando, who were orphans precociously for the death of their father Filippo at age 28, with their mother, Giovanna la Pazza, mentally ill, did not have a different character and education for having spent their childhood far away. one from the other, Ferdinand in Spain from his grandfather King of Aragon and Charles in the Netherlands, thanks to their innate love for peace, always collaborated with each other, getting along perfectly well, except for some slight shadow created for the division of the goods. For Charles, born in Ghent, the true homeland was the world of Burgundy and Flanders, having never had contacts with the Hapsburg Austria of the south-east. There is much influence of the profound Flemish religiosity inculcated by his tutor Adrian of Utrecht, who will later become Pope Hadrian VI. It helped a lot to shape the character of the two princes, but above all to prepare Charles for the task of sovereign, the sister of their father, the Archduchess Margaret, governor of the Netherlands, very similar as character to her father Maximilian. Europe was going through a particularly difficult period, the immense power reached by the Habsburgs, without any war of expansion, with the birth of an empire on which "the sun never set", had something miraculous in itself, so faith in their mission to guide humanity and to defend Christianity from the Turks seemed truly confirmed and blessed by God, who placed the destiny of the world in the hands of Charles and Ferdinand. The two princes were convinced Catholics, but their religious attitude was mainly marked by the spirit of the great humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam, who exercised a persistent influence on both brothers. Like Erasmus, they aspired to a harmonious fusion of evangelical morality and great classical culture, trying to draw from the wisdom and purity of the Gospel the strength to fight against ignorance, immorality, imposture, narrow dogmatism and ecclesiastical intolerance, trying to never close one's moral ideas in the rigid schemes of a system. Like Erasmus, they were deeply disturbed by the Lutheran reform, which they repulsed and fought long to prevent its spread. The difficulties that Carlo had with the papacy, and subsequently also his son Philip, strengthened the spirit of independence of the Habsburgs, who considered themselves, for the divine origin of the monarchy, the true protectors of the Church, with the full right and duty of control it and repress its abuses. Based on this principle, Charles V, during his empire, drew the motivation and justification for all that he decided to do, from the war against the Turks to the struggle against the German Protestant princes, because he considered his task to fight the enemies of Christianity and among the enemies of the faith the king of France, Francis I, excelled, who, in order to oppose and damage him, had allied himself with the Lutherans and even with the Turks who were pressing towards Vienna.
With the war fought in Italy Carlo had wanted to prove he was the heir of imperial Ghibelline politics, exactly as his grandfather Maximilian had done and in 1527, after an expedition of lansquenets to Rome, with a sack of the city, he reached a complete reconciliation with the pope, who ended up crowning him emperor not in Rome but in Bologna in 1530. The great extension of the empire had created some problems between Charles and Ferdinand, as the center of gravity of the Habsburg power had moved westward and existed the problem of the different laws of succession, which in one part of the empire supported the primogeniture, in another part the collective succession. A first imperial diet at Worms in 1521 had proposed a division of the empire, but the following year in Brussels Ferdinand had obtained a different division, on the basis of which all Habsburg territories passed from Alsace to the Hungarian border, while Charles, besides the imperial crown, obtained Spain with the relative possessions of the New World and of Italy, plus the Burgundian heritage. Thus a Spanish line and a German line were drawn up, which eventually ended up incorporating also Bohemia and Hungary, thus laying the foundations of the Spanish nation on one side and on the other the structure of the future Austro-Hungarian empire. Charles in 1519, with the very interested help of the bankers Fugger, who bought the votes of the electoral princes, had been recognized as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, beating his main competitor Francesco I of France. This qualification created more serious problems for Carlo; first of all because it was practically impossible to create an efficient unitary organization for the whole vast empire, for the spirit of independence of many territories with the continuous internal revolts in various territories, for the continuous wars with Francis I, who had managed to defeat in 1525 near Pavia, adding to the empire also the whole Milanese, then for the problem of the war against the Turks, who continually pressed to the borders with their raids, but above all for all the problems that created him the fight against the Protestant heresy then rapidly spread, with rampant anarchy in Germany and the hostility of many German princes favorable to Luther. Charles, without having a moment of relaxation, immediately had to work hard against the spreading spread of Lutheranism in Germany and at the same time block the advance of the Turks, who had allied themselves with Francis I, arriving at the gates of Vienna. He succeeded in defeating them in 1526, freeing Vienna and this enabled him to work harder against the Protestant German princes who had joined (Lega di Smalcalda), allying even with Francis I. In 1544 Carlo V ° and Francesco I °, given the impossibility of prevailing over one another, concluded a peace at Crépy, which recognized Carlo's possession of Milan and in 1547 in Muehlberg also obtained a great victory against the League of Lutherans. But in reality the truth was quite different, because neither the Lutherans nor the successor of Francis I, the king of France Henry II, considered themselves defeated, so Charles V ° with the peace of Augsburg of 1555 had to recognize the famous principle "Cuius regio eius religio", according to which the principles of the League could follow the religion they preferred, forcing the subjects to adapt. Carlo V °, tired of governing an empire that caused him only worries, arrived at 55, decided to entrust the entire western part of his empire, including the Netherlands and the Italian territories, to his son Philip and to surrender the inherited territories, Germany and the imperial title to his brother Ferdinando, abdicating in his hands in 1556. The abdication of an emperor who more than any other had approached the ideal of the universal monarch left a deep impression in the world at the time.
The reality is that Charles V of Hapsburg did not retire to a convent, as was thought for some time and he did not even build a large palace near the Jeronimo de Yuste monastery, in the Spanish region of Extremadura, but only one small and modest house on one side of the monastery, continuing to be always interested in the empire, remaining adviser to the sons and his former collaborators. Since he was very religious, he wanted a little window in his bedroom to open in the monastery's church, so that he could always follow the sacred functions even when the forces began to fail him and he was no longer able to go. directly in the church. He died peacefully after two years, in 1558, at 58, many for those times, certainly few for today, probably for a slow and progressive renal failure, a disease that allowed him to be polished until the end, always interested in state problems. It is not easy to make a picture of this great emperor, a deeply religious man, especially lover of peace, who had found himself at the top of the greatest empire ever existed and forced him to fight continuously, creating more worries and satisfactions. He accepted the situation for profound discipline and innate sense of duty towards God, who, in his judgment, had placed in his hands the defense of Christianity. At 55 he was probably tired, he realized he could no longer give his best for the good of the state and passed the baton into the hands of his son Philip, who, as King of Spain, had an even more troubled life than father and those of his brother Ferdinando, who, as emperor, had the merit of leaving in Austria an efficient administration, remained in vogue, as it was, until 1918. Titian left us several portraits of Calo V °: one of the first , painted in 1530, is that of the Prado of Madrid, which portrays him on a black horse, with armor and plumed helmet, a picture that I do not love and does not convince me, because Charles V was essentially, by nature and culture, a man of peace. The portrait, in my opinion, more fascinating, painted in 1540 and preserved in the gallery of Munich, portrays him seated on a large armchair of crimson velvet and fringed with gold. Carlo V ° has been here for forty years now, wearing a black suit, very severe, and his face reveals an absorbed melancholy. We can find a very similar picture in Naples at the Capodimonte museum. In all the paintings, Carlo V ° appears to us as a majestic man, though not very tall, energetic, with great self-control, as the Venetian ambassadors describe it.