bring himself to national schism. Thus, falling back upon his old palliatives, he issued the Interim and the accompanying Reform of the Clergy, pending a final settlement by a satisfactory general council. These measures pleased neither party, and Charles at the very height of his power had failed. He was conscious of failure, and made few attempts even to enforce the Interim. Henceforward political complications gathered round him anew. The only remedy was toleration in some form, independent of the papacy and limitless in time. To this Charles could never assent. His ideal was shattered, but it was a great ideal, and the patience, the moderation, even at times the adroitness with which he had striven towards it, proved him to be no bigot.
The idea of abdication had long been present with Charles. After his failure to eject the French from Metz he had not shrunk from a wearisome campaign against Henry II., and he was now tired out. His mother’s death removed an obstacle, for there could now be no question as to his son’s succession to the Spanish kingdoms. Religious settlement in Germany could no longer be postponed, and he shrank from the responsibility; the hand that should rend the seamless raiment of God’s church must not be his. To Ferdinand he gave his full authority as emperor, although at his brother’s earnest request formal abdication was delayed until 1558. In the Hall of the Golden Fleece at Brussels on the 25th of October 1555 he formally resigned to Philip the sovereignty of his beloved Netherlands. Turning from his son to the representatives of the estates he said, “Gentlemen, you must not be astonished if, old and feeble as I am in all my members, and also from the love I bear you, I shed some tears.” In the Netherlands at least the love was reciprocal, and tears were infectious among the thousand deputies who listened to their sovereign’s last speech. On the 16th of January 1556, Charles resigned his Spanish kingdoms and that of Sicily, and shortly afterwards his county of Burgundy. On the 17th of September he sailed from Flushing on the last of his many voyages, an English fleet from Portland bearing him company down the Channel. In February 1557 he was installed in the home which he had chosen at Yuste in Estremadura.
The excellent books which have been written upon the emperor’s retirement have inspired an interest out of all proportion to its real significance. His little house was attached to the monastery, but was not within it. He was neither an ascetic nor a recluse. Gastronomic indiscretions still entailed their inevitable penalties. Society was not confined to interchange of civilities with the brethren. His relations, his chief friends, his official historians, all found their way to Yuste. Couriers brought news of Philip’s war and peace with Pope Paul IV., of the victories of Saint Quentin and Gravelines, of the French capture of Calais, of the danger of Oran. As head of the family he intervened in the delicate relations with the closely allied house of Portugal: he even negotiated with the house of Navarre for reparation for the wrong done by his grandfather Ferdinand, which appeared to weigh upon his conscience. Above all he was shocked by the discovery that Spain, his own court, and his very chapel were infected with heresy. His violent letters to his son and daughter recommending immediate persecution, his profession of regret at having kept his word when Luther was in his power, have weighed too heavily on his reputation. The feverish phrases of religious exaltation due to broken health and unnatural retirement cannot balance the deliberate humanity and honour of wholesome manhood. Apart from such occasional moments of excitement, the emperor’s last years passed tranquilly enough. At first he would shoot pigeons in the monastery woods, and till his last illness tended his garden and his animal pets, or watched the operations of Torriani, maker of clocks and mechanical toys. After an illness of three weeks the call came in the early hours of the feast of St Matthew, who, as his chaplain said, had for Christ’s sake forsaken wealth even as Charles had forsaken empire. The dying man clasped his wife’s crucifix to his breast till his fingers lost their hold. The archbishop held it before his eyes, and with the cry of “Ay Jesus!” died, in the words of his faithul squire D. Luis de Quijada, “the chief of men that had ever been or would ever be.” Posterity need not agree, but no great man can boast a more honest panegyric.
In character Charles stands high among contemporary princes. It consists of pairs of contrasts, but the better side is usually stronger than the worse. Steadfast honesty of purpose was occasionally warped by self-interest, or rather he was apt to think that his own course must needs be that of righteousness. Self-control would give way, but very rarely, to squalls of passion. Obstinacy and irresolution were fairly balanced, the former generally bearing upon ends, the latter upon means. His own ideals were constant, but he could gradually assimilate the views of others, and could bend to argument and circumstance; yet even here he had a habit of harking back to earlier schemes which he had seemed to have definitely abandoned. Intercourse with different nationalities taught him a certain versatility; he was dignified with Spaniards, familiar with Flemings, while the material Italians were pleased with his good sense. His sympathies were neither wide nor quick, but he was a most faithful friend, and the most considerate of masters. For all who sought him his courtesy and patience were unfailing. At his abdication he dwelt with reasonable pride upon his labours and his journeyings. Few monarchs have lived a more strenuous life. Yet his industry was broken by fits of indolence, which were probably due to health. In his prime his confessor warned him against this defect, and it caused, indeed, the last great disaster of his life. Fortunately he was conscious of his obstinacy, his irresolution and his indolence. He would accept admonition from the chapter of the Golden Fleece, would comment on his failings as a warning to his son. When Cardinal Contarini politely assured him that to hold fast to good opinions is not obstinacy but firmness, the emperor replied, “Ah! but I sometimes stick to bad ones.” Charles was not cruel, indeed the character of his reign was peculiarly merciful. But he was somewhat unforgiving. He especially resented any slight upon his honour, and his unwise severity to Philip of Hesse was probably due to the unfounded accusation that he had imprisoned him in violation of his pledge. The excesses of his troops in Italy, in Guelders and on the Austrian frontiers caused him acute pain, although he called himself “hard to weep.” No great nobleman, statesman or financier was executed at Charles’s order. He was proud of his generalship, classing himself with Alva and Montmorenci as the best of his day. Yet his failures nearly balanced his successes. It is true that in his most important campaign, that against the League of Schmalkalden, the main credit must be ascribed to his well-judged audacity at the opening, and his dogged persistency at the close. As a soldier he must rank very high. It was said that his being emperor lost to Spain the best light horseman of her army. At every crisis he was admirably cool, setting a truly royal example to his men. His mettle was displayed when he was attacked on the burning sands of Tunis, when his troops were driven in panic from Algiers, when in spite of physical suffering he forded the Elbe at Mühlberg, and when he was bombarded by the vastly superior Lutheran artillery under the walls of Ingolstadt. When blamed for exposing himself on this last occasion, “I could not help it,” he apologized; “we were short of hands, 1 could not set a bad example.” Nevertheless he was by nature timid. Just before this very action he had a fit of trembling, and he was afraid of mice and spiders. The force of his example was not confined to the field. Melanchthon wrote from Augsburg in 1530 that he was a model of continence, temperance and moderation, that the old domestic discipline was now only preserved in the imperial household. He tenderly loved his wife, whom he had married for pecuniary and diplomatic reasons. Of his two well-known illegitimate children, Margaret was born before he married, and Don John long after his wife’s death, but he felt this latter to be a child of shame. His sobriety was frequently contrasted with the universal drunkenness of the German and Flemish nobles, which he earnestly condemned. But on his appetite he could place no control, in spite of the ruinous effects of his gluttony upon his health. In dress, in his household, and in his stable he was simple and economical. He loved children, flowers, animals and birds. Professional