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Empeor Charles V's villa at Yuste

The villa of Emperor Charles V at Yuste

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Yuste - the retirement of Emperor Charles V

Set in the woods near the village of Cuacos de Yuste, in Extremadura, Spain, is the monastery of Yuste. It was here that Emperor Charles V, Europe’s most powerful man for nearly forty years in the 16th century, lived from February 1557 until his death in September 1558. He had abdicated as Duke of Burgundy, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor during 1555 and 1556, while in Brussels, and he travelled with his sisters Eleanor and Mary to Spain, in the autumn of 1556. As soon as his accommodation was ready in February the following year he moved in.

His two-story villa, built on the south side of the monastic church, consisted of four rooms on each floor. A ramp provided him with easy access to the upper floor where he usually lived. This led to a shady terrace from where he could enjoy a view of the gardens and pools. Inside, the square rooms opened off a central corridor. From the Audience Room a door led to his personal study. Opposite that was his bedroom, which had a specially constructed opening to enable Charles to look down on the altar in the church. Above the altar was hung Titian’s ‘La Gloria’ (sometimes known as 'The Trinity' or 'The Final Judgement' or 'Paradise'), commissioned by Charles in 1550 and completed in 1554. In it Charles is portrayed with his family at prayer, dressed in shrouds, with his crown at his feet, representing his withdrawal from earthly power.

Useful links:

La Gloria

Monastery of Yuste

Although he wished for a quieter life he was not completely out of touch with the world that he had once dominated. His sisters, Eleanor and Mary, lived in nearby Jarandilla. Charles asked that his natural son, Jeromin (later known as Don John of Austria) be brought to the village of Cuacos and introduced to him. Other visitors came with news and provided the chance to talk about old times. He communicated regularly with his son Philip and received news and requests for advice brought by couriers from the Low Countries. He was always ready to give voice to his concerns when he heard of instances of Lutheranism in his former lands.

Charles developed a daily routine, adjusted in accordance with the season and his health. Breakfast, prayers with his confessor, time spent with his clocks and, after dressing, mass in the church, would take up his mornings. This would be followed by dinner at midday. He always enjoyed his food. Many of his remaining staff were cooks and regular deliveries enabled them to produce roasted wild boar and venison, black hares marinated in wine, bay leaves and onions, and all kinds of fish. After dinner he would frequently read from his small library - mainly theology, history, philosophy and astronomy - before a siesta. Later in the afternoon he fished in the ponds, visited his aviary, talked to visitors, or discussed theological and philosophical points from sermons or bible readings, sitting on his first floor veranda or in the garden with its terraces and ornamental flower beds, which he continued to re-design. He would usually take a light meal before he retired for the night.

It was in his bed, looking through to the church altar, at about 2-30 a.m. on 21st September 1558, that Charles died, surrounded by monks, his confessor and the Archbishop of Toledo.

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.


  1. Greg says:

    Hello Sir, I enjoy your work and its richness in history. I have always wanted to write a fantasy world with the HRE scenery.

    I would love to ask a few questions to make it a bit clearer.
    1. How did the Emperor get funds to maintain his imperial army.
    2. How was the Diet run by the chancellor? Is it similar to the typical house of Commons.
    3. Lands that were conquered by the Empire..were they gifted to anyone of the Emperor’s choosing ?

  2. Dee Ella Jean Greene says:

    Thank you for your wonderful work on Charles and this history period. As a native Californian now living in San Antonio Texas I cannot tell you the wonderful happiest your historical detail has given me for a multitude of reasons.
    FIRST. It is so fantastically “alive”. Growing up in Calif. If course in San Diego our 21 Mission. System beginnings to our State has always made me proud. I am 75 and for my Graduate work a specific period in history always intrigued me when both Mexico and Spain abandoned us around 1821. But Queen Isabella to me was the really 1st liberated woman and her ability and foresight brought into being a WHOLE NEW WORLD. No other monarch could contribute their life to such creation. Today while going over the life of Charles and his world it all came together. And it was your magnificent “curiosity ” that tied for me my WHOLE WIRLD.
    THERE IS so much to say why my excitement in particular. I will start around 1976 when I was married to a San Antonian and because he was an enlisted USAF member we were stationed in Bitburg West Germany. I had just graduated from the Univ of California , San Diego and that was his gift to me (3 years living in Europe). Well of course I want to say I studied German 2+ years as A Guess student at Univ. Of Trier, once the Capital of Gaul and Mosel wine. We once without knowing it was illegal road our bikes to Luxembourg to visit a circus. And often traveled to Belgium to visit sites of interest. It was so close. It was exciting for me to experience book history. I didn’t want to return to ?? I felt I belonged there. And I really do I just found out these last 2 year’s here in San Antonio. I am divorced now my home is 3 blocks from his ? home because he has cancer in Utah but my 2 sins do not know their Gonzalez family from here. They are both grandparents and I felt it imperative that what happened to me didn’t to them.
    I am presently processing membership to the Daughters if the American Revolution(DAR). A national treasure for us decendants of the founders of The ??. But what is my magic ?. My mother died when I was 18 months old in San Diego and I was raised by a paternal ?. Never knowing her family or esp. Our history. We are Scots./English 1600 years that can be traced and not by all these DNA messy things but on paper. But in America and before they married into the Dutch from Spanish Netherlands being in America even before colonies were here. So I didn’t know all I wanted to know on the Low Countries., Spanish Nederlands, the Hapsburgs, or all about our beautiful Spanish History. And I have been to El Escorial by mistake while we were in Europe. We went to Sat. Night Mass there in our way back to the States.
    So not only did you excite my love even more for Beautiful Fernando and Isabella but you actually put my genealogy together. Thank you for clearing up all the mystery. And your love of Academics. I ? to learn and my degree is in Urban and Rural Studies with a minor in Cultural Anthropology.. And a very conservative Roman Catholic so this beautiful KNOWLEDGE was so important to my life I wanted to thank you.

    May some day like the PBS version of Mary of Scots you can get this equal billing. It makes sense Charles would be tied to Isabella I didn’t expect that but I knew her life and about Catherine and the problems but I didn’t know about Mary and Philip. But it tied together the inquisition and the whole puzzle of religion and family feud. . God Bless you and your loved ones always. Enjoy that retirement and if you touched only one students life. It was mine. You are a fabulous Professor. I always go 1st to England for the BEST. Again Thank you.

  3. Hi Richard,
    Nice publication on the Monestary where King Charles V died.

    Did you know the “La Gloria” painting by Titian that you mentioned is not the painting currently in the Prado Museum of Madrid but the original studio oil sketch?

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