Emperor: A New Life of Charles V by Geoffrey Parker - review by Anthony Pagden

Anthony Pagden

Not Quite Master of All He Surveyed

Emperor: A New Life of Charles V


Yale University Press 700pp £25 order from our bookshop

From 1519 until his abdication in 1556, Charles V, ‘By the Grace of God Holy Roman Emperor, Forever August King of Germany, King of Italy, King of all Spains, of Castile, Aragon, León, Navarra, Grenada, King of Jerusalem, King of the Western and Eastern Indies, Lord of the Islands and Main Ocean Sea, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Lorraine, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Limburg, Luxembourg, Gelderland…’, to list just a few of his titles, ruled over – or claimed to rule over – possibly the largest and (with the sole exception of the Ottoman Empire) most heterogeneous monarchy then in existence. Much of the territory over which he ruled had been acquired through what Geoffrey Parker in his exhaustive new biography nicely calls ‘matrimonial imperialism’. ‘Others make war’, it was said of Charles’s dynasty, ‘you, happy Habsburgs, marry.’

From his paternal grandfather, Emperor Maximilian I, Charles inherited most of what is now central and eastern Europe, as well as the duchy of Burgundy, which included what is now Holland and Belgium. From his maternal grandfather, Ferdinand of Aragon, he acquired the kingdoms of Spain, Castile and

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