Charles V
(1500-1558)
   Charles V was born in Ghent on 25 February 1500. The eldest son of Philip I and Joanna of Castile, and grandson of Ferdinand II of Aragon, Isabella of Castile, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and Mary of Burgundy, he inherited a vast domain, including the Netherlands. He became duke of Brabant on the death of his father in 1506 and was elected Holy Roman Emperor on 28 June 1519. Charles was brought up in Mechelen under the tutelage of his aunt, Margaret of Austria, who served as regent of the Netherlands. On 23 January 1501, he was inducted as a knight into the Order of the Golden Fleece in a ceremony held at the convent of the Grands Carmes. Charles made his Joyeuse Entrée into Brussels on 28 January 1515, and it was Brussels that he would consider his home base during a reign spent traveling through his far-flung possessions. In 1531, his sister Mary of Hungary, the governor of the Netherlands, set up court at the Coudenberg Palace, where it would remain henceforth. The three collateral councils—Council of State, Privy Council, and Council of Finances — created by Charles to assist in governing were established in Brussels and remained there until the end of the ancien régime. The Estates-General of the Netherlands and the Estates of Brabant met henceforth in Brussels.
   Charles backed efforts to limit urban privileges and the prerogatives of the crown were strengthened during his rule. In 1547, he initiated action to secure the written compilation of the urban privileges of Brussels, hitherto undocumented.
   His introduction of the Inquisition led to the first persecutions that would contribute to the outbreak of the wars of religion. In making the city the political and administrative capital of the Netherlands, Charles engendered economic expansion. The court's presence promoted development of luxury trades (see ECONOMY). Immigrants from Brabant and abroad arrived as well as renowned visitors, including Albrecht Dürer (1520) and Erasmus (1521). Elaborate festivities were held at the Hôtel de Ville, notably the ommegang of 1549 attended by Charles and his son Philip. Hunts were staged in the Forêt de Soignes. In 1522, Charles ordered construction of a grand chapel at the Coudenberg Palace, completed by Mechelen-based Rombout Keldermans II (ca. 1460-1531), and of which only the foundations remain.
   In the mid-1550s, Charles made a series of abdications that left the Hapsburg dominions divided between Spain and Austria. The emperor had earlier named his younger brother Ferdinand (1503-1564) regent of his Austrian lands (28 April 1521), a grant confirmed by the Convention of Brussels (30 January 1522). He turned over the Netherlands to Philip (1527-1598) in 1555. Exhausted, racked by gout, and disillusioned from efforts to craft a universal empire, Charles abdicated in a solemn, emotion-filled ceremony before the Estates-General in the Magna Aula of the ducal palace on 25 October 1555. He retired to a small castle he had built next to a monastery near Yuste, in Spain (Castile), where he lived quietly and where he died on 21 September 1558.

Historical Dictionary of Brussels. .

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