Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles IV (Czech: Karel IV., German: Karl IV., Latin: Carolus IV; 14 May 1316 – 29 November 1378), born Wenceslaus, was the second King of Bohemia from the House of Luxembourg, and the first King of Bohemia also to become Holy Roman Emperor.
He was the eldest son and heir of King John of Bohemia, who died at the Battle of Crécy on 26 August 1346. Charles inherited the County of Luxembourg and the Kingdom of Bohemia from his father. On 2 September 1347, Charles was crowned King of Bohemia.
On 11 July 1346, prince-electors elected him King of the Romans (rex Romanorum) in opposition to Emperor Louis IV. Charles was crowned on 26 November 1346 in Bonn. After his opponent died, he was re-elected in 1349 (17 June) and crowned (25 July) King of the Romans. In 1355 he was crowned King of Italy on 6 January and Holy Roman Emperor on 5 April. With his coronation as King of Burgundy, delayed until 4 June 1365, he became the personal ruler of all the kingdoms of the Holy Roman Empire.
Charles IV was born to King John and Queen Elizabeth in Prague. He was originally named Wenceslaus (Václav), the name of his maternal grandfather, King Wenceslaus II. He chose the name Charles at his confirmation in honor of his uncle, King Charles IV of France, at whose court he was resident for seven years.
He received French education and was literate and fluent in five languages: Latin, Czech, German, French, and Italian. In 1331 he gained some experience of warfare in Italy with his father. At the beginning of 1333, Charles went to Lucca (Tuscany) to consolidate his rule there. In an effort to defend the city, Charles founded the nearby fortress and the town of Montecarlo (Charles' Mountain). From 1333 he administered the lands of the Bohemian Crown due to his father's frequent absence and deteriorating eyesight. In 1334, he was named Margrave of Moravia, the traditional title for heirs to the throne. Two years later, he assumed the government of Tyrol on behalf of his brother, John Henry, and was soon actively involved in a struggle for the possession of this county.
King of the Romans
On 11 July 1346, in consequence of an alliance between his father and Pope Clement VI, relentless enemy of the emperor Louis IV, Charles was chosen as Roman king in opposition to Louis by some of the prince-electors at Rhens. As he had previously promised to be subservient to Clement, he made extensive concessions to the pope in 1347. Confirming the papacy in the possession of wide territories, he promised to annul the acts of Louis against Clement, to take no part in Italian affairs, and to defend and protect the church.
Charles IV was initially in a very weak position in Germany. Owing to the terms of his election, he was derisively referred to by some as a "Priest's King" (Pfaffenkönig). Many bishops and nearly all of the Imperial cities remained loyal to Louis the Bavarian. Worse yet, Charles backed the wrong side in the Hundred Years' War, losing his father and many of his best knights at the Battle of Crécy in August 1346, with Charles himself escaping wounded from the field.
Civil war in Germany was prevented, however, when Louis IV died on 11 October 1347, after suffering a stroke during a bear hunt. In January 1349, House of Wittelsbach partisans attempted to secure the election of Günther von Schwarzburg as king, but he attracted few supporters and died unnoticed and unmourned after a few months. Thereafter, Charles faced no direct threat to his claim to the Imperial throne.
Charles initially worked to secure his power base. Bohemia had remained untouched by the plague. Prague became his capital, and he rebuilt the city on the model of Paris, establishing the New Town of Prague (Nové Město). In 1348, he founded the University of Prague, which was named after him and was the first university in Central Europe. This served as a training ground for bureaucrats and lawyers. Soon Prague emerged as the intellectual and cultural center of Central Europe.
Charles, having made good use of the difficulties of his opponents, was again elected in Frankfurt on 17 June 1349 and re-crowned at Aachen on 25 July 1349. He was soon the undisputed ruler of the Empire. Gifts or promises had won the support of the Rhenish and Swabian towns; a marriage alliance secured the friendship of the Habsburgs; and an alliance with Rudolf II of Bavaria, Count Palatine of the Rhine, was obtained when Charles, who had become a widower in 1348, married Rudolph's daughter Anna.
In 1350 the king was visited at Prague by the Roman tribune Cola di Rienzo, who urged him to go to Italy, where the poet Petrarch and the citizens of Florence also implored his presence. Turning a deaf ear to these entreaties, Charles kept Cola in prison for a year, and then handed him as a prisoner to Clement at Avignon.
Outside of Prague, Charles attempted to expand the Bohemian crown lands, using his imperial authority to acquire fiefs in Silesia, the Upper Palatinate, and Franconia. The latter regions comprised "New Bohemia," a string of possessions intended to link Bohemia with the Luxemburg territories in the Rhineland. The Bohemian estates were not, however, willing to support Charles in these ventures. When Charles sought to codify Bohemian law in the Majestas Carolina of 1355, he met with sharp resistance. After that point, Charles found it expedient to scale back his efforts at centralization.
Holy Roman Emperor
In 1354 he crossed the Alps without an army, received the Lombard crown in St. Ambrose Basilica, Milan, on 5 January 1355, and was crowned emperor at Rome by a cardinal in the April of the same year. His sole object appears to have been to obtain the Imperial crown in peace, in accordance with a promise previously made to Pope Clement. He only remained in the city for a few hours, in spite of the expressed wishes of the Roman people. Having virtually abandoned all the Imperial rights in Italy, the emperor re-crossed the Alps, pursued by the scornful words of Petrarch, but laden with considerable wealth. On his return, Charles was occupied with the administration of the Empire, then just recovering from the Black Death, and in 1356 he promulgated the famous Golden Bull to regulate the election of the king.
Having given Moravia to one brother, John Henry, and erected the county of Luxembourg into a duchy for another, Wenceslaus, he was unremitting in his efforts to secure other territories as compensation and to strengthen the Bohemian monarchy. To this end he purchased part of the upper Palatinate of the Rhine in 1353, and in 1367 annexed Lower Lusatia to Bohemia and bought numerous estates in various parts of Germany. On the death of Meinhard, Duke of Upper Bavaria and Count of Tyrol, in 1363, Upper Bavaria was claimed by the sons of the emperor Louis IV, and Tyrol by Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria. Both claims were admitted by Charles on the understanding that if these families died out both territories should pass to the House of Luxembourg. At about the same time he was promised the succession to the Margravate of Brandenburg, which he actually obtained for his son Wenceslaus in 1373.
Casimir III and Louis I entered a conspiracy against Charles, and managed to persuade Otto V to join. After the repeal of the estate contract by margrave Otto, in early July 1371, Charles IV declared hostilities and invaded Brandenburg, the Margraviate of Brandenburg then after two years of conflict in 1373 became part of the Czech lands. He also gained a considerable portion of Silesian territory, partly by inheritance through his third wife, Anna von Schweidnitz, daughter of Henry II, Duke of Świdnica and Catherine of Hungary. In 1365 Charles visited Pope Urban V at Avignon and undertook to escort him to Rome; and on the same occasion was crowned King of Burgundy at Arles.
His second journey to Italy took place in 1368, when he had a meeting with Pope Urban V at Viterbo, was besieged in his palace at Siena, and left the country before the end of the year 1369. During his later years, the emperor took little part in German affairs beyond securing the election of his son Wenceslaus as king of the Romans in 1376, and negotiating a peace between the Swabian League of Cities and some nobles in 1378. After dividing his lands between his three sons and his nephews, he died in November 1378 at Prague, where he was buried, and where a statue was erected to his memory in 1848.
Charles IV suffered from gout (metabolic arthritis), a painful disease quite common in that time.
Evaluation and legacy
His reign was characterised by a transformation in the nature of the Empire and is remembered as the Golden Age of Bohemia. He promulgated the Golden Bull of 1356 whereby the succession to the imperial title was laid down, which held for the next four centuries.
He also organized the states of the empire into peace-keeping confederations. In these, the Imperial cities figured prominently. The Swabian Landfriede confederation of 1370 was made up almost entirely of Imperial Cities. At the same time, the leagues were organized and led by the crown and its agents. As with the electors, the cities which served in these leagues were given privileges to aid them in their efforts to keep the peace.
He assured his dominance over the eastern borders of the Empire through succession treaties with the Habsburgs and the purchase of Brandenburg. He also claimed imperial lordship over the crusader states of Prussia and Livonia.
Patronage of culture and the arts
Prague became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire during the reign of Charles IV. The name of the royal founder and patron keep many monuments and institutions, for example Charles University, Charles Bridge, Charles Square. High Gothic Prague Castle and part of the cathedral of Saint Vitus by Peter Parler were also built under his patronage. Finally, it is from the reign of Charles that dates the first flowering of manuscript painting in Prague. In the present Czech Republic, he is still regarded as Pater Patriae (father of the country or otec vlasti), a title first coined by Adalbertus Ranconis de Ericinio at his funeral.
Charles also had strong ties to Nuremberg, staying within its city walls 52 times and thereby strengthening its reputation amongst German cities. Charles was the patron of the Nuremberg Frauenkirche, built between 1352 and 1362 (the architect was likely Peter Parler), where the imperial court worshipped during its stays in Nuremberg.
Charles's imperial policy was focused on the dynastic sphere and abandoned the lofty ideal of the Empire as a universal monarchy of Christendom. In 1353 he granted Luxembourg to his nephew, Wenceslaus. He concentrated his energies chiefly on the economic and intellectual development of Bohemia, where he founded the university in 1348 and encouraged the early humanists. He corresponded with Petrarch and invited him to visit the royal residence in Prague, whilst the Italian hoped — to no avail — to see Charles move his residence to Rome and reawaken tradition of the Roman Empire.
Charles's sister Bona married the eldest son of Philip VI of France, the future John II of France, in 1335. Thus, Charles was the maternal uncle of Charles V of France, who solicited his relative's advice at Metz in 1356 during the Parisian Revolt. This family connection was celebrated publicly when Charles made a solemn visit to his nephew in 1378, just months before his death. A detailed account of the occasion, enriched by many splendid miniatures, can be found in Charles V's copy of the Grandes Chroniques de France.
12 July 1275(6) – 24 August 1313
|Margaret of Brabant
4 October 1276 – 14 December 1311
27 September 1271 – 21 June 1305
|Judith of Habsburg
13 March 1271 – 18 June 1297
|John of Bohemia
10 August 1296 – 26 August 1346
|Elisabeth of Bohemia
20 January 1292 – 28 September 1330
Blanche of Valois
1316 – 1 August 1348
OO 15 May 1323
Anna of Bavaria
26 September 1329 – 2 February 1353
OO March 1349
14 May 1316 – 29 November 1378
Anna von Schweidnitz
1339 – 11 July 1362
OO 27 May 1353
Elizabeth of Pomerania
1346(7) – 14 February 1393
OO 21 May 1363
|Margaret of Bohemia
|Catherine of Bohemia
|Elisabeth of Bohemia
King of the Romans
|Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor
|John of Görlitz
|Margaret of Bohemia
Family and children
- a son (b.1334), died young
- Margaret of Bohemia (1335 - 1349); married Louis I of Hungary.
- Catherine of Bohemia (1342–95); married Rudolf IV of Austria and Otto V, Duke of Bavaria, Elector of Brandenburg.
- Wenceslaus (1350–51).
- Elisabeth of Bohemia (19 April 1358 – 4 September 1373); married Albert III of Austria.
- Wenceslaus (1361–1419); later elected King of Germany (formally King of the Romans) and, on his father's death, became King of Bohemia (as Wenceslaus IV) and Emperor-elect of the Holy Roman Empire; married firstly to Joanna of Bavaria in 1370 and secondly to Sophia of Bavaria in 1389.
- son (born and died 11 July 1362).
- Anne of Bohemia (1366–94); married Richard II of England
- Sigismund (1368–1437); later Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary and Bohemia, and Margrave of Brandenburg; married firstly Mary of Hungary in 1385, and secondly to Barbara of Cilli in 1405/1408.
- John of Görlitz (1370–96); later Margrave of Moravia and Duke of Görlitz; married Richardis Catherine of Sweden. His only daughter and heiress was Duchess of Luxembourg.
- Charles (13 March 1372 – 24 July 1373).
- Margaret of Bohemia (1373–1410); married John III, Burgrave of Nuremberg.
- Henry (1377–78)
Castles built or established by Charles IV.
- Karlstein Castle, 1348–55 in Central Bohemian Region for safekeeping the Czech Crown Jewels
- Kašperk Castle (Karlsberg), 1356 in Klatovy District
- Lauf (Wenzelsburg) - built on the way connecting Prague and Nuremberg in Bohemian Palatinate, inside survived 112 coats of arms of the Czech Kingdom
- Montecarlo in Italy
- Radyně (Karlskrone) – around 1360 in Plzeň Region
- Hrádek u Purkarce (Karlshaus) - around 1357
- Tepenec (Karlsburg)
- Karlsfried Castle
Named after Charles IV
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor.|
Other places named after Charles:
- Karlštejn castle, Czech Republic
- Karlštejn (town), Czech Republic
- Charles Bridge, Prague (Karlův most)
- Charles University, Prague (Karlova Univerzita)
- Karlovy Vary spa, Czech Republic
- Carlsbad (several places)
- Charles Square, Prague (Karlovo náměstí)
- Montecarlo (Charles' Mountain) fort and village in Italy
- 16951 Carolus Quartus (an asteroid)
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (May 2015)|
|Ancestors of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor|
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (March 2010)|
- Karl IV. In: Hans Herzfeld (1960): Geschichte in Gestalten (History in figures), vol. 2: F-K. Das Fischer Lexikon 38, Frankfurt 1963, p. 294
- Kavka, František (1998). "Chapter 3: Politics and culture under Charles IV". In Teich, Mikuláš. Bohemia in History. Cambridge University Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-521-43155-7.
- Vita Caroli
- Francesco Petrarca Epistolae familiares X.1, XII.1, XVIII.1; See also: E.H. Wilkins Life of Petrarch (Chicago, 1961) 97, 112, 134 resp.
- František Palacký: Dějiny národu českého v Čechách i v Moravě, books VIII and IX
- Francesco Petrarca: Epistolae familiares XIX.12; See also E.H. Wilkins Life of Petrarch (Chicago, 1961) 147
- Bohemia, Medieval Lands
- Karel IV. - český král
|Latin Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Charles IV (autobiography), edited by Balázs Nagy, Frank Schaer: Autobiography of Emperor Charles IV; And, His Legend of St. Wenceslas: Karoli IV Imperatoris Romanorum Vita Ab Eo Ipso Conscripta; Et, Hystoria Nova de Sancto Wenceslao Martyre, Published by Central European University Press, 2001, ISBN 963-9116-32-7, ISBN 978-963-9116-32-0, 259 pages, books.google.com
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Charles IV, Holy Roman EmperorBorn: 14 May 1316 Died: 29 November 1378 [aged 62]
|Count of Luxembourg
|King of Bohemia
(formally King of the Romans)
(until 1347 in opposition to Louis IV)
|King of Italy
|King of Burgundy
|Holy Roman Emperor
|Margrave of Brandenburg