1902 Encyclopedia > Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor

Charles IV
(1316-78)
Emperor of the Romans (Holy Roman Emperor)




CHARLES IV. (1316-1378), emperor of the Romans, was the son of John of Luxembourg, king of Bohemia. As a child he spent five years at Paris, but at the age of twelve he returned to his father's court. While only sixteen he was appointed viceroy of Italy.'—a post of the greatest difficulty, from which it was not long before he was obliged to retire. He next took part in the Carinthian war against the Emperor Louis of Bavaria, the great enemy of the Pope. In 1346. on the death of his father at Crecy, he became king of Bohemia; and in the same year he was elected emperor in. place of Louis, through the influence of Pope Clement VI. But Charles only gained this dignity at the cost of many humiliating concessions, which made him appear the mere tool of the Pope and robbed him of the respect of the electors. On the death of Louis in the next year, they refused to recognize him, and chose first Edward III. of England, then the Marquis of Meissen, and lastly, when both of these refused the honour, Count Giinther of Schwarzburg. On the death of the last, how-ever (an event which he was accused of having accelerated by poison), Charles, who had married Anne, daughter of the Elector Palatine, and given his own daughter, with Tyrol as dowry, to the duke of Austria, was unanimously elected. He devoted all his care to the aggrandizement of himself and his family; and the government of the empire was very negligently administered. In 1354 he visited Italy, and was crowned at Milan, Home, and Ostia; but he received many indignities, being, for example, refused entrance to several cities, and only allowed to remain at Rome a single day. He was obliged to confirm the Viscontis in their usurpation ; and he left the country, after amassing a large sum of money,—a mockery to both Guelf and Ghibelline. As third wife Charles took the daughter of the duke of Jauer, to whose dukedom he hoped thus to obtain the succession. He also added Brandenburg, Silesia, and Lower Lusatia to the possessions of the House of Luxembourg; and he obtained from the electors, by means of large bribes, the recognition of Wenceslas as his suc-cessor. He allowed the empire meanwhile to be overrun by banditti, and he only once took up arms. This was at the call of the Pope, to whom he was always submissive ; but even on this occasion he allowed himself to be bought off by his adversaries, the tyrannous Viscontis The only important measure which he effected was the publication of the Golden Bull (1356), which determined the method of election for the dignity of emperor. It decreed that the number of the electors should be seven :—three ecclesiasti-cal, viz., those of Mayence, Cologne, and Treves ; and four secular, viz., the king of Bohemia, the Count Palatine, the duke of Saxony, and the margrave of Brandenburg. The king of the Romans, and future emperor, was to be elected by the majority in a meeting to be held at Frankfort. The Pope thus lost all influence over elections; and to escape his anger Charles granted him a tithe of all ecclesiastical incomes, together with some other concessions. Charles died at Prague in 1378, having immensely enriched the house of Luxembourg, but leaving the empire greatly the worse for his reign.

See Greschien, Be Constitutionibus Caroli IV. (1617) ; Donniges, ffeschichte des Deutschen Kaiserthums im 14 Jahrhundert (1841) ; and Pelzel, Geschichte Kaiser Karls IV. (1780).








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