Charles IV

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Charles IV

, Holy Roman emperor

Charles IV, 1316–78, Holy Roman emperor (1355–78), German king (1347–78), and king of Bohemia (1346–78). The son of John of Luxemburg, Charles was educated at the French court and fought the English at Crécy, where his father's heroic death made him king of Bohemia. Pope Clement VI, to whom he had promised far-reaching concessions, helped secure his election (1346) by the imperial electors as antiking to Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV. Louis's death (1347), the popular desire for peace, which was fostered by the ravages of the Black Death (bubonic plague), and the absence of a strong leader to unite the opposition enabled Charles to make good his claim to the crown by 1349.

In 1355 he journeyed to Rome, where, on Easter Sunday, he was crowned emperor by the papal legate (the pope was then residing at Avignon). His coronation with papal approval ended years of conflict between popes and emperors, during which time the imperial rulers had tried to regain control of Italy and the papacy. Although the emperors continued to be crowned at Rome, they were excluded from Italian affairs. At the same time, Charles's Golden Bull of 1356 ended papal interference in the Holy Roman Empire by eliminating the need for papal approval and confirmation of emperors. Although he had virtually renounced imperial pretensions in Italy through his treaty with Clement VI, Charles supported the plans of Urban V to return the papacy from Avignon to Rome.

Charles's major concern was to strengthen his dynasty. Through skillful diplomacy he acquired Brandenburg (1373) and added to his territories in Silesia and Lusatia. He ensured the succession of his son Wenceslaus by bribing the electors to name him German king (1376). To raise the money for the bribes, he imposed even higher taxes on the cities. This led to a revolt by a league of Swabian cities. Charles obtained peace (1378) by granting concessions.

During Charles's reign Bohemia flourished. His imperial capital was at Prague, where he founded (1348) Charles Univ. (the oldest in Central Europe) and rebuilt the Cathedral of St. Vitus. By introducing new agricultural methods and by expanding industries, he fostered economic life. He drew up a code of laws, the Maiestas Carolina (1350)—which, however, was rejected by the diet—and he protected the lower classes by giving them courts in which to sue their overlords. Through Charles's efforts as margrave of Moravia, Prague was elevated (1344) to an archbishopric, thus gaining ecclesiastic independence. By the Golden Bull, which strengthened the electors at the expense of the emperor, he confirmed Bohemia's internal autonomy. As Holy Roman emperor, his reputation rests mainly on the Golden Bull, which, although it confirmed the weakness of the imperial power, provided a stable constitutional foundation for its exercise.

Bibliography

See biographies by G. G. Walsh (1924) and B. Jarett (with a translation of Charles's autobiography, 1935).


Charles IV

, king of France
Charles IV (Charles the Fair), 1294–1328, king of France (1322–28), youngest son of Philip IV, brother and successor of Philip V. Charles continued his brother's work of strengthening the royal power. He also increased the royal revenues, notably by debasing the coinage. Pope John XXII, having declared Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV deposed, offered (1324) to support Charles for emperor, but the plan came to nothing. Charles invaded (1324) Guienne (Aquitaine), a possession of the English king, and in 1327 he compelled England to cede to France the Guienne districts around Agen and Bazas and to pay a large indemnity. The English, however, retained the rest of Guienne. Charles, the last king of the Capetian dynasty, was succeeded by Philip VI, of the Valois line.

Charles IV

, king of Hungary
Charles IV, king of Hungary: see Charles I, emperor of Austria.

Charles IV

, king of Spain
Charles IV, 1748–1819, king of Spain (1788–1808), second son of Charles III, whom he succeeded in place of his imbecile older brother. Unlike his father, Charles IV was an ineffective ruler and in 1792 virtually surrendered the government to Godoy, his chief minister and the favorite of his wife, María Luisa. Spain entered the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, but in 1795 made peace with France in the second Treaty of Basel. By the Treaty of San Ildefonso (1796) Spain allied itself with France and became involved in the war with England. It suffered major naval defeats at Cape St. Vincent (1797) and Trafalgar (1805). The convention of Fontainebleau (1807) precipitated the events leading to the Peninsular War. As French troops marched on Madrid in Mar., 1808, a popular uprising led to a coup at Aranjuez; the king was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Ferdinand VII. Napoleon I tricked both father and son into a meeting with him at Bayonne, France, and forced them to abdicate in turn. The royal family was held captive in France until 1814, while Joseph Bonaparte was king of Spain. Charles IV and his family have been frankly portrayed by Goya, one of their court painters.

Charles IV

, duke of Lorraine
Charles IV, 1604–75, duke of Lorraine. He succeeded to the duchy in 1624 but was to lose it several times because of his anti-French policy. In 1633, French troops invaded Lorraine in retaliation for Charles's support of Gaston d'Orléans. Forced to make humiliating concessions to France, he abdicated (1634) in favor of his brother and entered the imperial service in the Thirty Years War. He briefly recovered his lands in 1641 and 1644, but he was excluded from the Peace of Westphalia (1648) at the war's conclusion. Although he joined the Spanish during the Fronde, he communicated with the French government and as a result was imprisoned by the Spanish (1654–59). In 1661, at the price of heavy concessions to King Louis XIV, Charles recovered Lorraine and the duchy of Bar. Expelled once more by the French in 1670, Charles later helped to instigate the alliance of Spain and the Holy Roman emperor with the Dutch in the third of the Dutch Wars. In 1675 he defeated François de Créquy at Konzer Bruck.
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Charles IV

1. known as Charles the Fair. 1294--1328, king of France (1322--28): brother of Isabella of France, with whom he intrigued against her husband, Edward II of England
2. 1316--78, king of Bohemia (1346--78) and Holy Roman Emperor (1355--78)
3. 1748--1819, king of Spain (1788--1808), whose reign saw the domination of Spain by Napoleonic France: abdicated
4. title as king of Hungary of Charles I (sense 5)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005