‘God has been very merciful to you’, wrote one of Charles V’s counsellors after the imperial election of 1519, ‘He has raised you above all the kings and princes of Christendom to a power such as no sovereign has enjoyed since your ancestor Charles the Great. He has set you on the way towards a world monarchy, towards the uniting of all Christendom under a single shepherd.’ The map of Charles’s possessions would appear to give substance to this view (especially if we anticipate a few years and add to it Bohemia and Hungary), but in reality the position was much less simple. Charles’s monarchia, as contemporaries called it to distinguish it from the Holy Roman Empire, was a personal union of crowns. Charles ruled, for example, as a king in Valencia, an archduke in Austria, a duke in Luxemburg, a count in Hainault, a landgrave in Alsace, a marquis in Antwerp — and each of these separate territories had its own separate constitution. Consequently, his ability to cope with the perennial problems arising from the French wars, the Osmanli Turks and the Reformation in Germany, depended in the last analysis upon his ability to govern by different means the different states which comprised his monarchia.
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