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Two of the significant internal threats that Charles V failed to appreciate came from his Spanish subjects and from the spread of Protestantism. As was discussed, Charles V failed to understand, or perhaps did not care, how his Spanish subjects would react to his decisions to replace their countrymen in top posts, raise taxes and force them to bear much of the human loss of his military endeavors. The end result, of course, was an uprising among the Spanish people that caused much bloodshed. Eventually, the Spanish did accept Charles V, but his early mistakes caused hardship.
The obvious mistake of Charles V's rule, however, was his failure to quash the growth of Protestantism during its infancy. There is some speculation as to why this occurred. Some historians believe that Charles V was intent on reconciling the Protestants with the Catholic church and bringing them back together under the same umbrella, which kept him from appreciating that it was impossible (Spawn, No date). At any rate, at the Diet of Worms in 1521, Charles V had the opportunity to execute Martin Luther and his followers, but allowed them to leave while he was deciding their punishment, which led to their escape (Charles V, 2005). This fateful decision led to the rise and rapid spread of Protestantism. The end result was that Charles V's army was eventually involved in a significant military conflict with the Protestants at Muhlberg. Further, the Protestants and Catholics were never reconciled and the Protestant Reformation created wide division in Europe, with countries such as Italy and Spain remaining predominantly Catholic, while Great Britain and Germany experienced strong Protestant growth that is a significant characteristic of those nations to this day.
The main threat that Murad III failed to appreciate was the influence of his own harem, and how it was diluting his power. Murad III, by all accounts, largely retreated to his harem and away from his leadership duties during much of his rein. He fathered more than 100 children and had a harem that exceeded 1,000 women during his rule (Murad III, No date). Because Murad III spent a great deal of time with his harem, the women began to exert significant influence over his decision making.
Murad III's favorite wife, Safiye Sultan, exerted a particularly considerable amount of influence. She played a critical role in establishing relations with Queen Elizabeth I of England, and the two frequently corresponded directly (Pedani, 2000). After Murad III died, Safiye became even more powerful in influencing Murad III's successor and son, Mehmed III, even becoming involved in matters of taxation and monetary policy (Sansal, 2007).
The end result of the harem influence on Murad III's rein and the future of the Ottoman Empire is significant. First, there was a great deal of resentment among soldiers and policy advisors about the degree of influence that the harem, and Safiye in particular, had. Murad III had allowed Safiye's influence to grow to such an extent that by the time Mehmed III took power, she was a genuine force in Ottoman politics. Mehmed III even had to banish his mother at one point because her influence was nearly causing a revolt within his inner circle (Sansal, 2007).
The strong political influence of the harem, which was extended greatly under the rule of Murad III, lasted through several successions and historians note that subsequent sultans were frequently manipulated by their harems - which often had hidden objectives - into making poor policy decisions (the sultans, 2002). The other effect of Murad III's zealous dedication to his harem is that he fathered so many offspring that a power struggle ensued upon his death, during which Mehmed III ordered the assassination of sixteen of his brothers (Chronology of, No date).
Worse than they found it
The ultimate test of a ruler's success is whether he or she left their nation in a better state than it was in when they inherited it. In the cases of Charles V and Murad III, the answer seems to be a rather convincing no. In the case of Charles V, he was a devout Catholic who inherited a strong Catholic empire that was divided by Protestantism during his rule. While much of that was arguably the fault of the Catholic church and its excesses, Charles V missed the opportunity to try and nip the movement in its early period. Further, as mentioned, Charles V engaged in decades of warfare that left his empire on the verge of financial ruin and with very little to show for it. His kingdom was literally weaker and more divided than it was when he ascended to power.
But the division after the end of Charles V's rein became more than spiritual. He literally divided his empire as part of his succession plan. While the Austrian and Spanish empires were united under Charles V's rule, he decided to split them after abdicating. To his son Phillip, he transferred power over Spain, the Netherlands, Naples, Milan and Sicily during a process that lasted from 1554-1556 (Spawn, No date). To his son Ferdinand, he transferred the balance of his empire, including Austria, in 1556 (Spawn, No date).
In fairness to Charles V, his rein did not spell the end of the Hapsburg dynasty by any stretch of the imagination. The Hapsburgs continued in power in various nations of Europe, in one form or another, for three more centuries. and, without question, Spain and Austria remained powerful nations, and Spain went on to stake a huge claim in North America, Central America and South America. However, Spain's greatest conquests in the New World occurred after Charles' rule and his empire, by the time he abdicated, was not what it once had been (Charles V, No date). On his watch, a united and predominantly Catholic Europe, controlled by arguably the most powerful family in the world, became religiously divided, nearly broke, and intentionally fractured, never to be fully united again.
One could also argue that Murad III left the Ottoman Empire in worse condition than when he inherited it. For certain, his military exploits against Persia and Austria caused a good deal of bloodshed with minimal gains, and his lack of attention to state affairs led to problems such as a failed monetary policy, a rapidly expanding harem influence that caused internal dissatisfaction, and a bloody succession campaign orchestrated by his son after his death. Worse still, subsequent events showed that Murad III not only failed to strengthen the Ottoman influence in world affairs - he helped to permanently weaken it.
Murad III's rule is considered by many to mark the beginning of the decline of the Ottoman Empire (Inalcik, 1992). Perhaps Murad III was destined for failure. His grandfather, Suleyman the Magnificent, doubled the size of the Ottoman Empire during his rule and is still a Turkish legend (Sansal, Suleyman, 2007). His father, Selim II, was an alcoholic and sex addict who largely withdrew from affairs of state during his short eight-year rein, although the empire still had enough momentum (and the help of Sokollu) to help it stay strong (Sansal, Selim II, 2007). The point is, Murad III inherited a situation where it would have been impossible for him to duplicate his grandfather's success, and a decline or plateau effect was probably inevitable. Murad III was stuck between the unattainable legacy of his grandfather, and the lesson of his father, which was that the empire could be held together with minimal work and great personal pleasure. Perhaps it was inevitable that Murad III would make the choices he did - perhaps it was the only way that made sense to him.
At any rate, the Ottoman Empire began a decline during Murad III's rein that continued well after it. Its explosive growth was brought to a stop, its bureaucracy grew out of control, and its lack of military dominance demonstrated to the world that the empire was no longer what it once was (Hooker, 1996). The wars with Europe that flourished toward the end of Murad III's rein continued for centuries, eventually costing the Ottomans most of the vast empire they had once controlled. By the end of the 17th century, the Ottoman Empire had lost control over much of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and more land was chipped away through conflicts with Russia (Hooker, 1996). Although it took a while for the empire to cease existing - World War I was the death blow - Murad III certainly helped it on its way during a pivotal time in the empire's history.
Not all men born into greatness become great men. Both Charles V and Murad III were handed control of two of the great empires of their day, but with that control came a series of challenges that exceeded each man's abilities. In the case of Charles V, a combination of internal and external conflict caused a gradual weakening of his empire. He let a budding Protestant movement balloon…[continue]
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