Emperor Charles V and the Fugger family

Mechelen
November 4, 2018
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Portrait of Jacob Fugger by Albrecht Durer

Emperor Charles V was always short of money.

Charles V and the Fugger family

Charles' election as Emperor in 1519, of which he wrote that 'there is nothing in this world we want more', was achieved by bribery, propaganda and the subtle threat of force. The seven electors regarded the Imperial election as a means to extort money and promises of future privileges from all the candidates. It is estimated that the election cost Charles 835,000 florins, a sum that neither Francis I of France or Henry VIII, Charles' rivals, could possibly match. Of this money, well over half came from Jacob Fugger of Augsburg.

He had developed the flourishing family commercial enterprise into a European wide financial concern over the previous thirty years. His business had been closely connected to the sale of indulgencies that had so angered Martin Luther. After reminding Charles that 'Your majesty could not have gained the Roman crown save with mine aid', he received Charles' support when accused of usury and monopolistic practices. After Jacob's death in 1525 his nephew Anton continued to lend large sums to Charles.

Like all rulers, the emperor needed to pay for increasingly expensive wars, bureaucracy, the administration of justice as well as conspicuous expenditure on palaces, works of art and other displays of wealth. The loans were made on the promise of repayment from future taxes and the growing amounts of bullion arriving in Spain from the New World. Not surprisingly many ordinary people objected to paying more taxation which went to line the pockets of wealthy financiers, but Charles and other rulers could ill afford to cut off the supply of ready funds by non-payment.

- See Chapter 16 of 'Charles V: Duty and Dynasty - The Emperor and his Changing World 1500-1558' by Richard Heath for more details about the Fugger family and Charles' financial problems.

- Visit Augsburg to see the Fugger Palace, the Fugger family home in the city, the Fuggerkapelle in St Anna's church, an early example of Renaissance church architecture in Germany, and the Fuggerei, social housing funded by Jacob Fugger.

Visit Augsburg

Augsburg Tourism

Fuggerei

Richard Heath
Richard Heath
Richard Heath graduated in history from the University of Cambridge and was a history teacher for 35 years. He now enjoys travelling with his wife in their VW camper van, exploring historical sites and appreciating all that Europe has to offer.

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