The idea of dynasty was central to Charles’ beliefs.

Charles ruled by inheritance, rather than by conquest, more lands than anyone since the days of the Roman Empire. As elected Holy Roman Emperor he considered himself to be the heir to Charlemagne, the first emperor crowned in Aachen seven hundred years before Charles’ birth. His inheritance from his parents was immense and to pass this on intact was one of the guiding principles of his reign. To rule his lands he needed the assistance of his family and his siblings provided loyal and effective support. He used his power as the head of the family to negotiate numerous marriages for his children, nephews and nieces in efforts to strengthen the long-term position of the Habsburgs.

The portrait at the top of the page is a detail from Bernhard Strigel's 'Emperor Maximilian and his family' (painted between 1516 and 1520). It shows Charles' paternal grandparents, the Emperor Maximilian I (left), his wife, Mary of Burgundy (right), and Philip of Burgundy (Charles' father) (centre). The full painting also shows Ferdinand (Charles' brother), Charles and Louis of Hungary (the husband of Charles' sister, Mary) as children (in the lower part of the painting). The whole group could never have been together as some of the subjects had died (Mary of Burgundy in 1482 and Philip in 1506), and Charles and Ferdinand did not meet until 1517, when they were 17 and 14 respectively. It can be seen in full on the 'Charles V' page which introduces this section.