Charles V


Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

Anecdote 1...

When Hernando Cortéz, the celebrated explorer of the New World, returned to Spain and made a report of his findings to the king, one of his chief recommendations was that a passage to India be effected by digging a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. Charles considered this suggestion with his advisers and finally rejected it: “What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.”


I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men and German to my horse.

~Charles V

Anecdote 2...

In 1521, when Charles renewed his struggle with the French king, Francis I, over the empire’s Italian lands, the emperor remarked, “My cousin Francis and I are in perfect accord — he wants Milan, and so do I.”

Biographical Note: 

Charles V was Holy Roman Emperor (1519-56) and king of Spain (1516-56). Having inherited vast and far-flung estates in Europe, Charles spent much of his reign in warfare and diplomacy; in the east his empire was threatened by the Ottoman Turks and in Italy the French determinedly challenged him for hegemony. Charles tried to prevent the spread of the Reformation, but was eventually compelled to take up arms against the Protestants (1546). The Peace of Augsburg (1555) established the coexistence of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism in Germany; Charles then abdicated and retired to a Spanish monastery.

More Information: 

Read a biography of Charles V.
Read the second letter from Hernan Cortéz to King Charles V.

Photo Info

Portrait of the Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (also Don Carlos I of Spain), after Titian. Public Domain.