The election took place on 28 June 1519, following the death months earlier of his grandfather, Emperor Maximilian I
The death of Maximilian I in January 1529 necessitated the election of a new emperor. The choice fell to his grandson Charles, but it was not an easy one…
Maximilian I was convinced that his grandson Charles would replace him at the head of the Holy Roman Empire. He devoted the last years of his life to securing his election. For with it he also secured the rule of the empire for the House of Habsburg, as had been the case for almost a century.
But after his death, many German prince-electors doubted the suitability of the proposed candidate. Charles had been born in 1500, making him only 19 years old at the time, although he was the lord of a large number of territories (in the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, etc.). His election would, on the other hand, have given him a power in the hands of the same person that had been unknown for centuries.
Young, but not inexperienced, and far from being distrustful of his possibilities. In fact, he considered himself the natural heir to the crown of the empire as Maximilian’s eldest grandson, as well as the one chosen to succeed him. Moreover, Charles saw himself as the only one capable of ensuring the defence of Habsburg interests.
What followed Maximilian’s death was a race of interests, propaganda and even money to win the favour of the prince electors, since the other candidate was Francis I of France. Months of negotiations, a veritable game of thrones in which the bankers, the House of Fugger, finally decided to elect Charles as Holy Roman Emperor, as Charles V. This is how the seven eligible electors voted on 28 June 1519.
Charles learned of the news almost a week later, in the early hours of 6 July, while he was in Barcelona. A crucial period in the history of Europe was beginning, characterised by alliances that were as easily sealed and broken as they were signed, with the Turk threatening the gates of the continent, and a German monk – Luther – starting a fire that would burn even the emperor himself.