The Ottomans in Europe Geoffrey Woodward assesses how great an impact the Turks had on sixteenth-century Europe

(ii) The impact on the Holy Roman Empire

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(ii) The impact on the Holy Roman Empire

Largely for reasons of geography, Charles V suffered more than most west European rulers. As ‘the Most Catholic’ King of Spain (1516-56) and Holy Roman Emperor (1519-58), he took his obligations seriously. Centered in Istanbul, the East Roman capitol, the Ottomans saw themselves as inheritors of the Roman tradition, which put them in competition with Rome and the Holy Roman Empire. The western Empire looked to Charles V to counter them, but his political commitments consistently distracted him. To add to his problems, German princes skillfully exploited the Ottoman threat by forcing him to make political and religious concessions. Charles himself later admitted that the Turkish threat had forced him to put aside religious issues. Indeed, at times of greatest peril – in 1527, 1532 and 1541 – Charles compromised religion to attend to the Turks, and significantly his only triumph against the Lutherans in 1547 was secured in the knowledge that Suleiman was engaged in wars against Persia. The Turks also received considerable help from France. It was Francis I who first encouraged them to attack the Habsburgs and allowed them free access to the ports of Marseilles and Toulon to reduce the Emperor’s power, Indeed, it can safely be said that the Ottoman Empire’s western expansion owed a great deal to the political and religious disunity of Europe.

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