Front Page Titles (by Subject) 60.: On Charles V - Judgments on History and Historians
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60.: On Charles V - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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On Charles V
(I) His power was at bottom an unhappy and chimerical one, apart from the facts that his financial means were entirely inadequate in relation to the extent and dispersal of his territories, and that the muttering Netherlands could not eternally foot the bill for everyone.
His generally assumed striving for universal monarchy or, at any rate, for supreme command over the entire Occident had a highly irritating effect. His adversaries felt entitled to the most unnatural alliances and to attacks at will.
France he was never able to satisfy or pacify, even though in 1540 he may have dedicated himself to this idea and had the policies of Constable Montmorency in his favor.
For a time he had seriously thought of making great sacrifices, was about to give Milan or the Netherlands to a French prince and make him his son-in-law. But Francis was still hoping to get Milan or something else without Charles’s good will. If they had reached an understanding, they would have crushed the Reformation and would also have been able to subdue the Turks. At the same time they would have finished off all republics. (All this was roughly Montmorency’s program also.)
Instead of this, Francis again took up with the Turks.
Charles, however, had only become more active and belligerent as his health declined, as though he wanted to use the presumptive last years of his strength for decisive blows, so as to be able to close the account.
He let himself be carried away to fight the Schmalkaldic war partly due to his urgent desire to finish the job, partly because of his deep repugnance for the Reformation, which was in such strong ferment in the Netherlands as well. But his alliance with Duke Maurice, who was allowed to trade upon his Protestantism, was a vital defect in the whole undertaking. For Maurice the temptation once more to make deals against Charles with Protestantism in the face of the hated interregnum was entirely too strong, and the alliance with France was too easy for a man like Maurice. The Turks were also on the march again.
Charles later may have stuck too obstinately to the siege of Metz. And yet he acted here in an entirely imperial manner and would have put his opponents to shame if they could have been put to shame.
At the very end, after the alternating of the two lines in the Empire had failed (did Charles give it up quite officially?), he again resorted to the idea of a division. A second son of Philip, expected by the Catholic Mary, was to receive an Anglo-Burgundian empire.
His abdication at Brussels was the most pathos-filled scene of his life. He felt and showed more emotion than at any other moment.
(What would have happened if the house of Hapsburg had in 1519 put Ferdinand instead of Charles on the imperial throne and then nevertheless waged a joint war against Islam? One thing would have been prevented by this: France’s sticking together with the German Protestants.)
At Charles’s abdication at Brussels, when he said that his times of greatest happiness had been marred by so many disagreeable things that he had never felt complete contentment, the hall was still draped in mourning for Juana; there were no funds for special decorations. For the same reason Charles had to wait four months for passage to Spain.
When Charles abdicated, the lands of the house of Savoy and the Lorraine bishoprics were in French hands; Charles, to be sure, kept Milan and Naples.
(II) Charles’s greatest vindication always lies in his leadership against Islam. In his conscience he was always able to feel like the shield of Christendom and to refer back to this. The relationship was an actuality for him when he was king of Spain, and even more so when he was the emperor. Even if he did not get around to this task directly until about 1530, his wars before that date must be recognized as preparatory work. Of course, for the war against the Turks, the forces of the entire Occident gathered in one hand were scarcely sufficient.
Charles’s tendency to rule over the church is reminiscent of Maximilian I’s two-time designs on the papacy.
The two other great tasks were the ecclesiastical problem and the fight against the house of Valois and its allies.
Italians such as Contarini emphasize his seriousness, his brand of devotion to duty, his inclination toward melancholia, and his good memory for insults.
At Worms in 1521 he told the princes very clearly that in addition to his many other crowns he had also desired the imperial one—not out of self-interest, but for the sake of the Empire itself which was only a shadow and which he wanted to bring to the top again, devoting his body and soul to it. This alone may have sounded suspicious to those who had let themselves be bought to elect him.
Marino Giustiniani in 1540 discussed Charles’s chances if he himself were to embrace the Reformation. Instead of that, his permanent desire was a reform of the Catholic clergy, in the Spanish rather than the German sense, which was certainly a heritage of Ferdinand and Isabella and their reform.
Characteristic of his personality is the answer he gave when his councilors held before him the example of Caesar concerning the complete exploitation of victories: “The ancients had only one goal before their eyes, honor. We Christians have two, honor and the salvation of the soul.”
(III) To sum up: In the end, through Charles V, Spain did become and remain the great power. And the Spaniards themselves, no matter how they might fare, considered themselves the only great power. It took the greatest effort to beat Spain to the ground long after Charles V.