Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor

The Emperor Charles IV of Luxembourg (May 14, 1318 - 1378) succeeded his father John of Luxembourg as king of the Romans in 1346, king of Bohemia in 1347 (as Charles I), and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1355 on the death of Louis IV. He retained the imperial title until his death in 1378.

During his reign imperial policy refocused on the Germanic sphere and abandoned the ideal of the Holy Roman Empire as a universal monarchy. Charles IV concentrated his energies chiefly on the economic and intellectual development of Bohemia, founding the University of Prague in 1348 and encouraging the early humanists - he is known to have corresponded with Petrarch. Owing to his activity as a builder and patron, art and architecture flourished in his capital - e.g., construction of the Charles Bridge and of the Hradcany, completion of Saint Vitus' Cathedral by Peter Parler. From the reign of Charles IV dates the first flowering of manuscript painting in Prague. In 1356 he issued the Golden Bull, which codified the procedures for imperial elections, but had the disastrous effect of causing minor princes who were left out of the electoral process to lose allegiance to the empire.

His French education left a lasting mark on Charles. His father, known as John the Blind, king of Bohemia, was an ardent francophile and patron of the poet Guillaume de Machaut (he died at Crécy in 1346 while fighting on the French side). Charles's sister Bona, married the eldest son of Philip VI of France, the future John II of France, in 1335. Thus, Emperor Charles IV of Luxembourg was the maternal uncle of King Charles V of France, who solicited his relative's advice at Metz in 1356 during the Parisian Revolt. This family connection was celebrated publicly when Charles IV made a solemn visit to his nephew in 1378, just months before his death. A detailed account of the occasion, enriched by many splendid miniatures, can be found in Charles V's copy of the Grandes Chroniques de France.

Charles married four times. His first wife was Blanche, daughter of Charles, Count of Valois, a half-sister of Philip IV of France. They had one daughter, Margaret (1135-1249), who married Louis I of Hungary.

He secondly married Anne, daughter of the Elector Palatine Rudolph II, but they had no children.

His third wife was Anne of Swidnica, by whom he had a son Wenceslaus, Charles's successor as Emperor and king of Bohemia.

His fourth wife was Elizabeth of Pomerania. They had four children:

  • Anne of Bohemia, who married Richard II of England
  • Sigismund, emperor, king of Hungary and Bohemia and margrave of Brandenburg.
  • John, Duke of Görlitz (1370-1396)
  • Margaret (1373-1410), who married John III, Burgrave of Nuremburg

Preceded by:
Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor
List of German Kings and Emperors Succeeded by:
Wenceslaus, Holy Roman Emperor

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