The birth of Charles V

Emperor Charles V was born in a latrine, where his mother, Queen Joan, entered thinking that she needed to go to the toilet

There are ways and means of coming into the world, but the one that Emperor Charles V had can be considered one of the least «dignified» that there have been and will be. He saw the first light in the toilet that his mother went into thinking that she needed to go to the toilet.

It’s often said that the way people are born marks them. Especially in those situations that are difficult or when the birth is surrounded by great difficulties. And, without a doubt, that of the birth of Emperor Charles V can be catalogued as one of the strangest and most special.

Because the most powerful emperor that Christianity has ever known was born in an outhouse.

It happened in the early morning of 24 February 1500. That night, Queen Joan accompanied her husband, Archduke Philip of Austria, to a party at the Prinsenhof Palace in Ghent. Despite her advanced state of pregnancy, she was afraid that her husband would have a dalliance with any of the courtesans present at the part.

Palace Prinsenhof of Gante. Photo courtesy of Visit Ghent.

At one point, the queen began to suffer from pains in her belly that, far from stopping, grew in intensity; pains that she attributed to a need to go to the toilet, at no time did she believe she was in labour.

So she went to a latrine, and to her surprise, the stillness of the latrine was broken by the crying of a newborn baby, for what Queen Joan had done was nothing more than give birth.

It’s even said that, according to tradition, births in the Castilian royal family had to be witnessed by numerous witnesses in order to identify the newborn as a member of the family. On this occasion, the Queen’s word was worth more than anything else, and even more so when her ladies-in-waiting came to the scene to check what had happened to her.

A curious birth, isn’t it?


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