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The Abdication of Emperor Charles V (1555/56)

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B. Charles Transfers the Imperial Title to King Ferdinand

August 3, 1556

[ . . . ] First, the envoys to His Roman Royal Majesty shall advise and urge him to accept the complete administration of the Empire and the Imperial dignity, title, and majesty, and relieve His Imperial Majesty of all these burdens.

If His Royal Majesty is willing, the envoys are instructed to visit each of the Empire's electors and inform them of the following points.

First, that His Imperial Majesty most graciously thanks them for electing him, above all other monarchs and princes, to this Imperial dignity and lordship. Further, that His Majesty can say with certainty from his own knowledge that, since the inception of His Imperial rule, they have faithfully sought the interest, honor, welfare, and health of the Holy Roman Empire.

[Charles continues to thank the electors for their support, then details his poor health, and announces his desire to give up his rule over the Empire, and he recommends Ferdinand to them as his already elected successor. If they accept this act, the electors are to be relieved of their oaths to Charles.]

If, however, His Royal Majesty cannot be persuaded to accept the Roman Imperial title, dignity, and administration, the envoys are empowered and ordered to negotiate with him so that he accepts the Imperial dignity and administration, leaving the title alone to His Imperial Majesty. If he agrees, the envoys shall secure the electors' agreement, as stipulated above.

If, however, His Royal Majesty will not accept this [solution], the envoys have a third instruction, namely, that His Royal Majesty shall have the administration of the Holy Empire, as is proper for the Roman King in His [Imperial] Majesty's absence. And they shall admonish the electors and other Imperial Estates to be properly obedient.

For these three distinct proposals, the envoys have three different powers and instructions, to be brought forward serially, so that the second and third are to be proposed only if the first is clearly hopeless.

Source: Alfred Kohler, ed., Quellen zur Geschichte Karls V. Darmstadt: WBG, 1990, pp. 466-68, 480-82.

Translation: Thomas A. Brady

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