Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Today on the Almanac, we remember the election of Charles V to the title of Holy Roman Emperor in 1519.

It is the 28th of June, 2023. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at I'm your guest host, Sam Leanza Ortiz.


It’s a new day, but we aren’t ready to leave the period of the Reformation, much less ready to leave the family of Mary Tudor.

Today, we talk about her first cousin…and future father-in-law: Charles V, and his election as Holy Roman Emperor on this day in 1519, an event that one historian has called “one of the most hotly contested and significant political events of sixteenth-century Germany.”

Charles was born in 1500 to Philip “the Handsome” of the Habsburgs, and Joanna “the Mad” of Castille, sister of Katherine of Aragon.

By virtue of his birth and connections, Charles was Duke of Burgundy and King of Spain and Sicily by the time he was a candidate for emperor.

The Habsburg family had been dominant in their possession of the imperial crown but given that the emperor is subject to election by ecclesiastical and secular electors, Charles was by no means a shoo-in, and his already extensive control on the Continent made some, including the pope, nervous about giving him even more.

The other major dynastic power, the Hohenzollerns, were making a push to secure electors well before the death of the current emperor, Maximilian (who, by the way, was Charles’s grandfather).

Joachim of the Hohenzollerns was a contender, while Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, and perhaps most notably to fans of Luther – Frederick the Wise of Saxony were strong contenders.

But the rules of elections are somewhat of a constant, and he who spends the most often wears the crown. With the help of the Fugger banking family and a million gulden, Charles secured the votes to become emperor.

Now, the political climate in which Charles became emperor could be described as less than ideal, and he was able to do little about it as he barely won the crown, to begin with.  

The Reformation was fomenting in the German states, the Ottoman Turks were knocking on Europe’s door, and the French, Italian, and German nobility were all vying for European hegemony.

This was simply too much for one man to take on. Historian Carter Lindberg writes that “he inherited everything but conquered nothing.”

For the reformers challenging ecclesiastical power, Charles’s imperial mission sprawl was a godsend.

Charles was hardly present in the German states in the first half of his reign, but he made an effort to fight perceived heresies when he could, such as at the Diets at Worms and Augsburg, but in many cases, he sent his younger brother Ferdinand as his representative.

Efforts to restrain heresies became even more complex when imperial armies sacked Rome in 1527 in their war against the French, rendering the papacy effectively powerless.

In 1530, Charles V was crowned by Pope Clement VII in Bologna, making him the last Holy Roman Emperor to be crowned by the Pope.

As the rift between the pope and the emperor was healing, the Schmalkaldic League was forming among Protestant princes in response to Charles’s denunciation of the Augsburg Confession.

The war between the emperor and the League was put off by fifteen or so years as external threats from the Turks and the French continued to rear their heads.

On top of all of this continental chaos, Charles is also still the king of Spain, and Spain is rapidly expanding in the New World in the mid-sixteenth century, which, turns out, is really expensive.

More persuasive measures were considered at the Council of Trent, which opened in 1545. The fact that it did not close until 1563 might be part of its lackluster results, but Protestants were also put off by the Schmalkaldic War of the late 1540s.

While the Protestants lost on the field, they remained a substantial enough force to leverage threats from France as a bargaining chip for religious toleration that eventually led to the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, giving Lutherans legal standing within the empire.

Aging and gout-ridden, Charles spent the last year of his reign saving what was left of the empire. He abdicated the thrones on which he ruled, though splitting them between his brother Ferdinand, who took the imperial crown, and his son, Philip II, who ruled Spain and the Netherlands.

In a last-ditch effort to bring England back into the fold, Charles married Philip off to Mary Tudor, but Philip was never crowned king of England, and she died within a few years of their marriage.

Charles spent his few remaining years in a Spanish monastery following his abdication, a retired emperor whose reign oversaw incredible upheaval within Western Europe, a reign that began on this day in 1519.


The last word for today comes from the daily lectionary from Matthew 10:

I am sending you like lambs into a pack of wolves. So be as wise as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Watch out for people who will take you to court and have you beaten in their synagogues. 18 Because of me, you will be dragged before rulers and kings to tell them and the Gentiles about your faith. 19 But when someone arrests you, don't worry about what you will say or how you will say it. At that time you will be given the words to say. 20 But you will not really be the one speaking. The Spirit from your Father will tell you what to say.

21 Brothers and sisters will betray one another and have each other put to death. Parents will betray their own children, and children will turn against their parents and have them killed. 22 Everyone will hate you because of me. But if you remain faithful until the end, you will be saved. 23 When people mistreat you in one town, hurry to another one. I promise you before you have gone to all the towns of Israel, the Son of Man will come.


This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 28th of June 2023, brought to you by 1517 at

This show has been produced by Christopher Gillespie.

This show has been written and read by Sam Leanza Ortiz, who wonders what the designated hitter rule is in the Schmalkaldic League. 

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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