Charles V (1500-1558) of the House of Habsburg became lord of the Netherlands at a young age, and king of Spain and archduke of Austria several years later. He inherited these countries. Thanks to financial and military displays of power, Charles was subsequently elected emperor of Germany.

Charles’ talent was military in nature, which he constantly had to steer and deploy in defence of his vast empire. However, he was unable to realize his dream of a realm in which everyone adhered to the Catholic faith. The Lutheran princes in the German territories took little notice of him. In spite of his fierce persecution of heretics, Protestantism steadily gained ground throughout Europe, including the Low Countries. The threat posed by the Turkish Ottoman expansion in the east and the wars with France cost enormous sums of money, much of which had to be provided by the prosperous Low Countries.

Upon Charles V’s abdication in 1555, the Habsburg Empire was divided up. His son Philip became king of Spain and lord of the Netherlands and his brother Ferdinand succeeded him as head of the Holy Roman Empire.



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