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Why and with what success did Charles V spend much of his reign in conflict with the Ottoman Empire

Charles was not very successful in achieving his ambitious aims, which included personal glory and advances into existing Muslim territory, whilst in conflict with the Ottomans. He was in conflict with the Ottoman Empire for much of his reign because as Holy Roman Emperor he saw it as his duty to defend Christendom against the Ottoman threat, he ambitiously aimed to expand his territories and aimed to achieve personal glory for himself by waging a ‘holy war’ against the Ottoman Empire. Although he was largely unsuccessful in expanding his territories and achieving personal glory for himself, Charles’s efforts to defend Europe can be described as successful.Charles V’s aims and ambitions as Holy Roman Emperor meant that he saw it as his duty to defend Christendom against the Ottoman threat. When Charles V became Holy Roman Emperor in 1519 one of his main aims was to defend his dominions of disruptive attack from without. Therefore, in reply to the Ottoman Turks advances, Charles’s primary aim was defend his territories and, as such territories lay on the front line, to defend Christendom as a whole. Such ambitious aims meant that he spent much of his reign trying to achieve them.The defence of the Mediterranean was crucial to Charles. Not only did it give him protection of trade and shipping lanes, it also provided a route between territories such as Italy, Spain and territories within the Holy Roman Empire. Charles also saw one of the main threats to Christendom occurring in the East, where the unstable and dangerous boundary lay between the Ottoman Empire and Christendom.Charles was successful in defending his territory to a large degree. His main success occurred in the Mediterranean and although he did loose land to the Turks in the east, the Ottoman advance was halted and the Muslims were no longer a threat to Christendom. Within the Mediterranean Charles was largely successful in protecting key areas. After Barborossa seized Tunis in 1534, Charles retaliated by personally leading a re-conquest to conquer the ‘gateway to the Western Mediterranean’. (Lotherington pg.197) Charles was also successful in 1537 when he repulsed a combined French and Ottoman attack on Naples. Yet there were key inherited areas of land that Charles was unsuccessful in defending.By 1555 he had lost Tripoli and further failures had occurred along the North African coast, which gave the Turkish fleet possession of key ports such as Prevesa, Bougie and Pennon. Despite such drawbacks, however, the Ottomans were unable to gain permanent supremacy in the Mediterranean and areas such as the vital island of Sicily, Spain and Italy remained safe. The sea route between his territories remained protected, which meant that the Habsburg shipping lanes also remained safe. There were, however, factors other than Charles’s actions, which ensured a relative success within the Mediterranean. Firstly, due to the length of their supply lines and their distance from their strong naval bases, the Ottomans had great difficulty in both taking and holding onto territory within the west Mediterranean.Charles was also fortunate that Barborosa, the key Turkish naval commander died. Charles certainly failed to protect all lands in the east, however. Suleiman the Magnificent was able to take Belgrade in 1521 and in 1526 he won the battle of Mohacs, a direct threat to the lands of Charles’s brother and Regant of the Holy Roman Empire, Ferdinand. When Suleiman launched a follow up in 1529, threatening Vienna and in 1540 when Suleiman invaded again, Charles gave no support to his brother as he was busy elsewhere. By 1543 Suleiman had consolidated most of his control over Hungary and in 1547 Ferdinand was made to agree to a humiliating truce in which he had to pay tribute money for the small area of land that remained under his control.However Charles was not entirely unsuccessful in defending Eastern Europe. In 1532 Charles defeated the Turks at Guns and triumphantly liberated Vienna. Yet Charles was unwilling to further capatalise on this success and left for Italy immediately afterwards. Therefore within Eastern Europe, although Charles did loose some land to the Turks and was unsuccessful in giving aid to his brother because of events and pressures elsewhere, he successfully adopted a policy of containment and stopped the Ottoman advance within Eastern Europe. Therefore Charles was relatively successful in defending in his territory overall. He was most successful in the Mediterranean and although he did loose land in the East he achieved his ultimate aim by ensuring the Turks were no longer a threat to his dominions within Europe.Charles also ambitiously aimed to expand his territories and lead Christendom in a crusade against the infidel forces of Islam to recover Christian land that had been taken by the Turks during the 15th century. This meant that he spent much of his reign in a ‘Holy War’ with the Ottoman s. As a youngster Charles had grown up to become a devout Catholic and he acquired a strong anti-Islamic prejudice through his Burgundian ancestry, who were very proud of their crusades against the ‘infidel’. ‘His determination to revive the Medieval spirit of the crusades has been widely noted by historians…'(Macdonald pg.11) Charles also had outside pressures on him. Many Spaniards, steeped in the traditions of the Reconquista, were extremely intolerant of Islam and were eager to extend the victories of the Reconquista to the Muslim stronghold within North Africa.Charles was completely unsuccessful in his plans to recover territory that had once been Christian. Within the Mediterranean he failed to take any significant area. The only territory that he did take was an area of little value or strategic importance called La Goletta. His attempt to take Algiers in 1541 was a complete disaster. In the east Charles had no realistic hopes of expanding westwards. He gave his commitments elsewhere against the Prostestants and Valois dynasty more attention, which made an attempted attack on the Turkish in the East look rather unrealistic. Charles was therefore totally unsuccessful in achieving his unrealistic aims of extending his territory and recovering areas that had once been Christian.As Holy Roman Emperor Charles aimed to achieve personal glory for himself and became determined to reconvert areas to Christianity, which prolonged his involvement with the Turks. When he became Holy Roman Emperor in 1519, the chivalric Charles regarded himself as the secular leader of Christendom and believed that he had been chosen by god to defend the church and Catholic teachings. Such beliefs were heightened by the traditional view of the Holy Roman Emperors as being the Defender of the Catholic Church. Therefore Charles saw the Ottoman threat as being a threat to the Holy Roman Empire and aimed to defend his territory by waging a Holy War against the Turks and gain personal glory by doing so.Although Charles took some credit for halting the Turkish advance in the east, overall his reputation was damaged through his wars against the Turks. He was therefore largely unsuccessful in gaining personal glory for himself. He did take some personal glory however. Many inhabitants of his territories saw him as their defender and gave him praise and prestige and in 1532 he personally lead a re-conquest to conquer Tunis and considered the victory a personal triumph. His victory at Guns in 1532 was boost for his personal status because he managed to persuade the Protestant princes to support him and he led his armies personally into battle.His reputation, however, suffered in many other areas. Firstly he suffered a humiliating and disastrous defeat at Algiers inn 1541, which shattered his personal reputation. He also was forced to make a series of compromises with the Turks, which humiliatingly contradicted his aims and weakened his personal reputation as the secular leader of Christendom. In 1535 he entrusted Tunis to an Ottoman ally and in 1547 Charles allowed Ferdinand to sign a truce with Suleiman which sealed Hungary’s take over of a Hungary. Therefore Charles’s aim to achieve personal glory whilst in conflict7 and to reconvert Ottoman areas to Christianity was never fulfilled.In conclusion Charles was in conflict with the Ottoman Empire for much of his reign because as Holy Roman Emperor he saw it as his duty to defend Christendom against the Ottoman threat, he ambitiously aimed to expand his territories and aimed to achieve personal glory for himself by waging a ‘holy war’ against the Ottoman Empire. As A whole Charles’s efforts to defend Europe can be described as successful, however he failed to make any substantial advances into Ottoman territory, largely because of distractions elsewhere in his dominions, and did not always achieve his aim of personal glory. On balance, therefore, Charles was not very successful in his conflict with the Ottomans.

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