Portrait of Charles V and I (1500-1558), Holy Roman Emperor (1519-1556), King of Spain (1516-1556), King of Naples (1516-1554), Duke of Brabant, Limburg, Count of Artois, Flanders, Hainaut, Holland, Namur and Zeeland; Count Palatine of Burgundy (1506-1555), 1530
Charles V (Spanish: Carlos; German: Karl; 24 February 1500 – 21 September 1558) was ruler of both the Spanish Empire as Charles I from 1516 and the Holy Roman Empire as Charles V from 1519, as well as of the lands of the former Duchy of Burgundy from 1506. 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 viceroyalties in the Americas and Asia. As a result, his domains spanned nearly 4 million square kilometres and were the first to be described as "the empire on which the sun never sets". Charles was the heir of three of Europe's leading dynasties: the Houses of Valois-Burgundy (through his paternal grandmother), Habsburg, and Trastámara (his maternal grandparents were the Catholic Monarchs of Spain). He inherited the Netherlands and the Free County of Burgundy as heir of the House of Valois-Burgundy. As a Habsburg, he inherited Austria and other lands in central Europe. He was also elected to succeed his grandfather, Maximilian I, as Holy Roman Emperor. From the Spanish House of Trastámara, he inherited the Crown of Castile, which was developing a nascent empire in the Americas and Asia, and the Crown of Aragon, which included a Mediterranean empire extending to Southern Italy. Charles was the first king to rule Castile and Aragon simultaneously in his own right, and as a result he is often referred to as the first king of Spain. Charles was born in 1500 as the eldest son of Philip the Handsome and Joanna of Castile at the Prinsenhof in the Flemish city of Ghent, which was part of the Habsburg Netherlands. The culture and courtly life of the Burgundian Low Countries were an important influence in his early life. He was tutored by William de Croÿ (who would later become his first prime minister), and also by Adrian of Utrecht (later Pope Adrian VI). Charles became a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece in his infancy and later became its grand master. Founded by the Burgundian Philip the Good in 1430, the order emphasised the ideals of the medieval knights and the desire for Christian unity to fight the infidel. It played an important part in the development of Charles' beliefs and he is rarely seen in portraits without its insignia prominently displayed. It is said that Charles spoke several vernacular languages: he was fluent in French and Dutch, later adding an acceptable Castilian Spanish (which Charles called the "divine language") required by the Castilian Cortes Generales as a condition for becoming King of Castile. He also gained a decent command of German (in which he was not fluent prior to his election), though he never spoke it as well as French. From his Burgundian ancestors he inherited an ambiguous relationship with the Kings of France. Charles shared with France his mother tongue and many cultural forms. In his youth he made frequent visits to Paris, then the largest city of Western Europe. In his words: "Paris is not a city, but a world" (Lutetia non urbs, sed orbis). He was betrothed to both Louise and Charlotte of Valois, daughters of King Francis I of France, but they both died in childhood. Charles also inherited the tradition of political and dynastic enmity between the royal and the Burgundian ducal lines of the Valois dynasty. Charles was very attached to the Burgundian Low Countries where he had been raised. These lands were very rich and contributed significantly to the wealth of the Empire. He also spent much time there, mainly in Brussels. This stands in contrast with the attitude of his son Philip who only visited the Low Countries once.
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