Charles V: The Turkish Threat

An overview of the problems with the Ottoman Empire

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Why did charles worry about the Ottoman Empire?

  • The Muslims threatened to expand their influence through south east Europe. By doing this they could invade Charles' dominions(both his Hapsburg lands and those of the Empire)
  • he Turks (in league with the french occasionally and the barbary pirates) also threatened the western med. This concernec Charles because:
    • They could disrupt the Spanish Road
    • They could disrupt trade- grain from sicily went to spain
    • they could encourage rebellion against Charles' moorish subjects in Spain
  • Charles was a devout and loyal catholic. As HRE he had a duty to protect the church as well and he was desperate to launch a crusade to the holy land.
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Turkish Threat in South East Europe

  • In the C15th Ottoman armies had advanced into the balkans and overrun Serbia and bosnia. The O armies had a great reputation.
  • Hungary was the last border between Isalm and Christianity.
  • This danger created a great fear
  • Charles and Ferdinand were very conscious of the threat to japsburg lands in central Europe
  • 1521: Suleiman II attacked and captured Belgrade, the city that provided a gateway to Hungary and Austria
  • 1526: S decided to advance into Hungary as the H nobles were argueing amongst themselves.
  • O army of 100000 met loiis of Hungary's forces at Mohacs, and Louis was routed and killed
  • O armies siezed the capital buda, continued to hold all Hungary south of Buda
  • L had dies without an heir, so Ferdinand was elected, thoguh he only succeeded to the parts unoccupied by S
  • F also had to contend with John zapolya(D of Transylvania). Z was defeated in 1527 and fled back to T.
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Turkish Threat in South East Europe Continued

  • Charles not happy:
    • Zapolya could become anti-Hapsburg
    • he was prepared to abandon hungary
  • 1529: Suleiman attacked Vienna. He recaptured Buda
  • Charles was preoccupied in the empire so in September the O army lay siege to Vienna but were hampered by disease and bad weather. It lasted 3 weeks.It still made a huge psychological impact.
  • 1532: Suleiman was planning another attack, Charles was more optimistic as things were going better in germany
  • Carles began to assemble an army
  • Suleiman attacked with a force of 25000
  • However, o forces were checked at fortress of Guns so S retreated( he was also fighting in persia)
  • 1533: F and C agreed to a truce with s. S only gained a small part of NW Hungary. Charles happy becasue situation settled.
  • More conflict in te 40s
  • Zapolya died in 1540, so f decided to sieze Buda from os and to claims Z's Transylvainian lands.
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Turkish Threat in South East Europe Continued

  • F was driven out of Buda and S installed Z's son as his puppet ruler in transylvania
  • Charles could not help F; tried to get german ps to help by adopting a conciliatory approach
  • 1543:the sultan advanced to hungary and got control over most of the country
  • 1547: F recognised O power in Hungary so signed a truce, F only got his corner of Hungary, and only under the protection of the Sultan, to whom he had to pay money.
  • hungary was always a potential springboard for an o offensive
  • Generally, defense of the east was delegated to F, except in 1532
  • C had other priorities
  • the brothers have been seen as the sword and the shield
  • Hapsburgs were unable to focus on any one enemy
  • possible to defend c's policy of containment;
    • the threat was nmore apparent than real, o's armies were far from home, short campaigning season
    • perhaps some kind of stalemate was inevitable.
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Turkish Threat by Sea

  • Since the late C15th Ottomans had built up a large well equipped fleet
  • It posed a paticular threat to isolated christian communities such as the island of Rhodes
  • It was also a threat the Hapsburg shipping
  • biggest danger came form Muslim cosairs(pirates) based on the barbary coast of n Africa, who came from anti-spanish communities. The port of Algiers was their naval base.
  • The Cosair Fleet was formidable,large and mobile. It was lead by barbarossa.
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Hapsburg sucesses and defeats in the 20s/30s


  • 1528 Andrea Doria abandoned his french ally and transferred his fleets to Charles
  • 1532 Doria siezed the ports of Coron and Patras in Greece
  • 1535 Charles recaptured Tunis, his 'only decisive victory.' To much of christendom he was now a champion, a conqueror of the infidel.


  • 1522, S captured Rhodes, which gave the Ottomans supremacy in the E med and provided a base
  • 1529 barbarossa expelled a spanish Garrison from the Penon, a fort at the harbour of Algiers
  • 1534 B took Tunis and ousted the ruler
    • he now commanded the narrow sea between Africa and Sicily
    • exposed hapsburg shipping
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Turkish Threat by Sea Continued

  • In 1536 the ottomans concluded an alliance with Francis I
  • They can eb seen to work togeher against Charles, for example, in 1537, the Os attacked Naples to coincide with a french land offensive.
  • In the 30s and 40s Barbarossa was given valuable haven for his ships in Marseilles and Toulon
  • When the need arose, Charles was capable of making deals with Islam.
    • He was periodically in diplomatic contact with the shah of persia
    • He was prepared to co-exist with muslim leaders as liong as they were not loyal to Barbarossa
    • 1547, 5 year truce with Suleiman
  • Huge defeat at Prevesa 1538
  • 1541, charles wanted to try and get revenge again, he planned a massive expedition to Algiers.
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Turkish Threat by Sea Continued

  • Doria counselled that this was too late in the season to offer safe weather.
  • his supplies and forces were inadequate, a french agent reported that he lost his clthes and had to eat cats,dogs and grass.
  • 150 ships and 17000 men were lost
  • humiliating and reputation crushing
  • Ottoman-french alliance renewed, in 1543 together they took the Port of Nice.
  • 1546, Barbarossa dies, his son Dragut took over. D continued sucessful raids on the spanish coastline, the Blaleiric islands and siciliy
  • 1547, Suleiman and Charles cal a truce, C hoping for some respite in the med.
  • However dragut continued his activities throughout the truce
  • 1551 the truce ended and the alliance between istanbul and algiers resumed, and in that year the sultan's navy captured Tripoli.
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Turkish Threat by Sea Continued

  • Tripoli gave Charles' enemies an important base in the central basin of the med
  • 1552: a spanish fleet commanded by Doria was defeated off the coast of Italy. In charles' last years the Turks made futher in roads into hapsburg territory.
  • 1554: the Os captured penon de velez and in 1555 Bougie, leaving only 4 spainsih outposts in North Africa.
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Was Charles a failure?

  • measured against his personal aims -Yes;
    • failed to revive crusading zeal in europe
    • failed to crush muslim naval strongholds
    • failed to defend Naples and Sicily
    • very damaged international reputation
  • However
    • It was very difficult to be everywhere at once
    • he lacked the resources to protect the east and the west
    • he did secure southern Europe from all but coastal raids.
    • Malta remained an important christian Garrison
    • and though he never fully checked muslim raids in the med, they never reached full ascendancy there because of him.
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