Thus the faith of the day, thought it expressed itself in forms and ceremonies which may seem trivial and perfunctory to a later age, was far from being a mere matter of empty ritual to the people who practiced it, and who believed what they believed with a good deal more passion than is often evinced by their latter-day critics: a passion, indeed, which was one of the major causes of their disunity.
The other was dynastic. The ambition of their rulers, most of whom were at bitter odds with each other much of the time in a bloody contest for pre-eminence, deeply divided them and divided them and diverted their attention from the common danger of Turkish invasion.
But although their behavior was sometimes peacock-like to the point of absurdity always devious, often brutal and usually unedifying, it is difficult not to find them fascinating as men; for they were the principal actors in one of the great dramas of history, and as they played their parts in the events of their day, they did so with such verve and style that, in retrospect, there is a magnificence about them which makes them appear to be a little larger than life.
In fact, whatever else may be said of the Emperor Charles V, his brother Ferdinand, Francis and many of the men who surrounded them, they were princes of the Renaissance on the grand scale, and even if they had most of the faults typical of their time also embodied much of its splendor, Unlike the succession of dreary dictators, stereotyped generals and pre-packaged politicians who follow each other in the seats of power in our world, the men who ruled the world of the sixteenth century were seldom mediocre or boring.