Charles V - The Emperor and his Mission
Year: 2020
Run-Time: 1 x 52 min.

Directed by Wilfried Hauke

A co-production by ORF, ZDF/ARTE, Interspot Film and DMFILM
Available worldwide except for Germany and France

Languages: German (ORIGINAL) , English (DUBBED) , French (DUBBED) , German (SUB TITLE)

Charles V - The Emperor and his Mission

Charles V - The Emperor and his Mission

Charles V visited every corner of his empire, undertaking more journeys across Europe than any
Holy Roman Emperor before or after him. In addition, he fought more simultaneous wars and
battles than any of his predecessors or successors to expand and consolidate his power. Power
was a fragile commodity both in the Holy Roman Empire as well as among the Spanish kingdoms.
Unlike England and France, these territories were not accustomed to unified rule in the early 16th
century and did not identify as an early nation state. The German lords and the leaders of the
Spanish plutocracy exercised substantial control as regional sovereigns and elected their own
leaders. The young upstart Charles of Burgundy sought to unify both of these realms into one
single empire. He was soon called a new Alexander the Great, but he preferred to present himself
as the legitimate successor of Emperor Charles the Great and sought to found a new universal
empire of Christianity as a response to the increasing power of Islam.
While Charles the Spanish king never visited the Spanish colonies in the New World, he constantly
had to fight to keep them. The conquistadores demanded a share in their conquests, and power
for themselves. According to Charles, the emperor would bring salvation to the New World, just
as Christ had brought salvation to the Old World. The natives therefore had to submit to the
faith of the new world emperor - or face brutal violence. This was the mindset of the New World
conquerors. Charles himself was plagued by his conscience. It was his deep religious conviction
that the natives should be peacefully converted to Christianity and become «free» subjects of his
rule, which was based on divine right. But he was in a difficult situation. Charles V needed the
treasure stolen from «El Dorado» and the prosperous slave empire of the West Indies to finance his
European wars.
Charles is born on 24 February 1500 in Ghent, Flanders as the multicultural descendant of several
dynasties. He is the grandson of Maximilian I, the emperor from the chronically indebted House of
Habsburg. He is the son of the rich Burgundian Philip I «the Fair» and Joanna of Castile, «the Mad»,
heiress of the transatlantic gold empires. Charles is named Duke of Burgundy at the age of 6, and at age 17 becomes the Spanish king. At age 19 he wins an election against the French king, Franz,
and is elected German King of the Romans. His ascension to the throne is bought with generous
bribes to the German prince-electors. Charles borrows the required capital from the Augsburg
banking houses Fugger and Welser. The loans are secured with parts of the colonies won by cruel
conquistadors such as Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro.
Charles is described as the «ugly prince from Burgundy« as he suffers from an underbite, and
rumour has it that he is an alcoholic. Nevertheless, he becomes the first universal emperor. In 1521
he meets his most difficult enemy, Martin Luther, at the Diet of Worms. In 1527 Rome is sacked
by imperial troops, and in 1530 Charles is crowned emperor in Bologna by the Pope. In 1535 he
leads his fleet in the conquest of the Muslim pirate stronghold Tunis. Twelve years later, in 1547, he
defeats the armies of the Protestant lords at Mühlberg. In 1552 he suffers a humiliating setback as
he is forced to flee Innsbruck to escape his German enemies. This marks the beginning of the end
of the great emperor.
We experience the world at the threshold to the modern age, the dawn of the Renaissance
and humanism. We witness the emperor, the Pope and Protestants battle for the true faith of
Christianity. Charles V is the first ruler to embody a contradiction that has played a major role in
world history ever since: on one hand, the global expansion of the European powers in the name of
the Christian God and the conquest and subjugation of foreign peoples by means of the cross and
the sword, and, on the other hand, the humanist ideal of man's equal nature and rights, based on
the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Charles issues the Leyes Nuevas («New Laws») for the protection of the ancient indigenous
civilisations of America, showing a humanist side that is absent in his fight against the Lutheran
Reformation in Europe. The «New Laws» are essentially the first human rights charter of the modern
age. However, as Spanish king, Charles continues to ship gold and silver from the colonies in order
to finance his European wars. At the end of his life, he is no more than a tragic figure. Charles
abdicates at age 55, having failed in his mission. He is gravely ill, tired and exhausted. During his
reign, he has presided over the final schism of the Christian church.
The rule of Charles V is defined by an impossible mission. Resigning, he hands over his royal crowns
to his brother Ferdinand in Vienna and his son Philip in Spain. He withdraws to a secluded Spanish
cloister in Extremadura, where he seeks to make peace with God and with himself. Charles V dies
in 1558. After his death, the question of whether Charles V - friend of Native Americans - and
his humanist advisers were in fact secret followers of Martin Luther becomes the subject of an
investigation by the Spanish Inquisition.
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