As soon as Charles had finished this long address to his subjects and to their new sovereign, he sank into the chair, exhausted and ready to faint with the fatigue of such an extraordinary effort.
Continuing The Peace of Augsburg and the Abdication of Charles V,
our selection from History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V by William Robertson published in 1769. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The Peace of Augsburg and the Abdication of Charles V.
Place: Augsburg, Germany
Then, turning toward Philip, who fell on his knees and kissed his father’s hand–“If,” said he, “I had left you by my death this rich inheritance, to which I have made such large additions, some regard would have been justly due to my memory on that account; but now, when I voluntarily resign to you what I might have still retained, I may well expect the warmest expression of thanks on your part. With these, however, I dispense, and shall consider your concern for the welfare of your subjects, and your love of them, as the best and most acceptable testimony of your gratitude to me. It is in your power, by a wise and virtuous administration, to justify the extraordinary proof which I this day give of my paternal affection, and to demonstrate that you are worthy of the confidence which I repose in you. Preserve an inviolable regard for religion; maintain the Catholic faith in its purity; let the laws of your country be sacred in your eyes; encroach not on the rights and privileges of your people; and if the time should ever come when you shall wish to enjoy the tranquillity of private life, may you have a son endowed with such qualities that you can resign your sceptre to him with as much satisfaction as I give up mine to you.”
As soon as Charles had finished this long address to his subjects and to their new sovereign, he sank into the chair, exhausted and ready to faint with the fatigue of such an extraordinary effort. During his discourse the whole audience melted into tears, some from admiration of his magnanimity, others softened by the expressions of tenderness toward his son, and of love to his people; and all were affected with the deepest sorrow at losing a sovereign who, during his administration, had distinguished the Netherlands, his native country, with particular marks of his regard and attachment.
Philip then arose from his knees, and after returning thanks to his father, with a low and submissive voice, for the royal gift which his unexampled bounty had bestowed upon him, he addressed the assembly of the states, and, regretting his inability to speak the Flemish language with such facility as to express what he felt on this interesting occasion, as well as what he owed to his good subjects in the Netherlands, he begged that they would permit Granvelle, bishop of Arras, to deliver what he had given him in charge to speak in his name. Granvelle, in a long discourse, expatiated on the zeal with which Philip was animated for the good of his subjects, on his resolution to devote all his time and talents to the promoting of their happiness, and on his intention to imitate his father’s example in distinguishing the Netherlands with peculiar marks of his regard. Maes, a lawyer of great eloquence, replied in the name of the states, with large professions of their fidelity and affection to their new sovereign.
Then Mary, Queen dowager of Hungary, resigned the regency with which she had been intrusted by her brother during the space of twenty-five years. Next day Philip, in the presence of the states, took the usual oaths to maintain the rights and privileges of his subjects; and all the members, in their own name and in that of their constituents, swore allegiance to him.
A few weeks after this transaction, Charles, in an assembly no less splendid and with a ceremonial equally pompous, resigned to his son the crowns of Spain, with all the territories depending on them, both in the Old and in the New world. Of all these vast possessions, he reserved nothing for himself but an annual pension of a hundred thousand crowns, to defray the charges of his family, and to afford him a small sum for acts of beneficence and charity.
As he had fixed on a place of retreat in Spain, hoping that the dryness and the warmth of the climate in that country might mitigate the violence of his disease, which had been much increased by the moisture of the air and rigor of the winters in the Netherlands, he was extremely impatient to embark for that kingdom, and to disengage himself entirely from business, which he found to be impossible while he remained in Brussels. But his physicians remonstrated so strongly against his venturing to sea at that cold and boisterous season of the year, that he consented, though with reluctance, to put off his voyage for some months.
He retained the imperial dignity, not from any unwillingness to relinquish it, for, after having resigned the real and extensive authority that he enjoyed in his hereditary dominions, to part with the limited and often ideal jurisdiction which belongs to an elective crown was no great sacrifice. His sole motive for delay was to gain a few months for making one trial more, in order to accomplish his favorite scheme in behalf of his son. At the very time Charles seemed to be most sensible of the vanity of worldly grandeur, and when he appeared to be quitting it not only with indifference but with contempt, the vast schemes of ambition, which had so long occupied and engrossed his mind, still kept possession of it. He could not think of leaving his son in a rank inferior to that which he himself had held among the princes of Europe. As he had, some years before, made a fruitless attempt to secure the imperial crown to Philip, that, by uniting it to the kingdoms of Spain and the dominions of the house of Burgundy, he might put it in his power to prosecute, with a better prospect of success, those great plans which his own infirmities had obliged him to abandon, he was still unwilling to relinquish this flattering project as chimerical or unattainable.
Notwithstanding the repulse which he had formerly met with from his brother Ferdinand, he renewed his solicitations with fresh importunity, and during the summer had tried every art, and employed every argument, which he thought could induce him to quit the imperial throne to Philip, and to accept of the investiture of some province, either in Italy or in the Low Countries, as an equivalent. But Ferdinand, who was so firm and inflexible with regard to this point that he had paid no regard to the solicitations of the Emperor, even when they were enforced with all the weight of authority which accompanies supreme power, received the overture, that now came from him in the situation to which he had descended, with great indifference, and would hardly deign to listen to it. Charles, ashamed of his own credulity in having imagined that he might accomplish now that which he had attempted formerly without success, desisted finally from his scheme. He then resigned the government of the empire, and, having transferred all his claims of obedience and allegiance from the Germanic body to his brother the King of the Romans, he executed a deed to that effect, with all the formalities requisite in such an important transaction. The instrument of resignation he committed to William, Prince of Orange, and empowered him to lay it before the college of electors.