The strange end of the ‘Engelen

It’s the ship that brought Charles, the heir to the crown of Castile, to Spain

Few ships are surrounded by as much mystery as the «Engelen», the ship that brought the future Charles I to Spain. A Danish ship that was lent by King Christian II, who was married to his sister, the Infanta Isabella of Austria, and which had a strange ending.

The transfer of Charles of Habsburg can be found in the book El primer viaje de Carlos de Habsburgo y el hundimiento del «Engelen», also written by Francisco Javier López Martín, member of our scientific committee.

As Charles lacked resources and was impatient to travel to Spain, given that the preferences of the Castilian nobles were in favour of his brother Ferdinand, Charles turned to the King of Denmark, Christian II, who was married to his sister Isabella, to obtain a ship to take him to Spain.

The ship on loan was the Engelen – which had a sister ship, the Maria – which was 35 metres long, 13 metres wide, with three bridges and four masts, carrying a total of 1,500 tons. The ship was decorated for the occasion, as it was chosen for the transfer of a future king, and had been heavily armed.


The curiosity is as follows: once ashore, Charles ordered the Engelen to take refuge in the port of Pasajes, as it would be the ship that would transfer his brother Ferdinand to Flanders and thus prevent a revolt by the nobles who supported him. However, the ship caught fire and sank while it was being caulked.

Was it a premeditated sinking? The doubt remains…

Charles, who did not want the gift from the King of Denmark to be lost, then demanded that the artillery and hull be ransomed, but the towns of Fuenterrabía, Rentería and Oyarzun refused to pay the ransom.

Finally, 119 pieces were rescued – not all of them – thanks to a series of works paid for by the Crown, although there are still remains at the bottom of the sea. For example, in 1937, a red cabbage was found during the recovery of a sunken steamer in the port of Pajares to block it before the arrival of Franco’s army.


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