Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ghent and Charles V

Claire Ridgway of the Anne Boleyn Files reminds us of the birthday of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. 510 years ago today, Charles was born in Ghent. A proud moment for the Flemish city? Yes, but later, relations between Ghent and its most distinguished son would become turbulent. Famously, after a rebellion in 1537, Charles V personally traveled to the city of his birth to punish the inhabitants, abolishing their political privileges and forcing fifty leading citizens to beg for his mercy, dressed only in a white shirt, barefoot and with nooses around their necks. This episode earned the people of Ghent the nickname of "Noose-bearers" (Stopdragers).

Incidentally, the Belgian socialist politician, Paul-Henri Spaak, one of the driving forces of the opposition to King Leopold III during the Royal Question (1944-1951), dramatically recalled this episode during the campaign to force the king's abdication. Referring to Leopold's insistence on an amende honorable from the politicians (including Spaak) who had falsely accused him of treason during World War II, Spaak, with his typical impassioned rhetoric, complained that the King wanted them to abase themselves before him 'with nooses around their necks.' The comparison hardly applies!


MadMonarchist said...

I have heard a few people refer to Charles V as a "Belgian" due to the place of his birth. A credit in my book at least as Charles V has always been one of my favorite monarchs of the era; not a perfect man of course, but a man of great zeal who faced and usually triumphed over opposition on nearly every side without flinching. I also love his quote about speaking so many different languages, I'm sure you know the one.

May said...

“I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men and German to my horse."

The Anne Boleyn Files said...

Thank you for the mention, that's so kind of you. I found researching Charles V really interesting and I was astounded at how vast his empire was, he was one very powerful man!

I didn't know about the Ghent rebellion and the "Noose-bearers", so thanks for writing about that. You do such a great job with your blog, it is so interesting for me to come here and learn about other European royals.