Friday, December 15

The Thrust of Greatness Part 10

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Perhaps more serious is the accusation that, on tow occasions, he was accessory to political murder, the assassination of two French ambassadors to the court of the Sultan in Constantinople, who were travelling through Italy in July 1541 on their way to take up their posts there, and the murder of Pierluigi Farnese in Piacenza in September 1547 six years later.

The deaths of these men certainly came at opportune moments for Charles, and when he was told to them, he does not seem to have been unduly distressed or angry; but neither the fact that they died conveniently for him nor his calm reception of the news proves that he himself was involved. Political assassination was a fact of life, however, in sixteenth-century Europe – especially in Machiavelli’s Italy- and Charles may have been implicated; if so, no one at the time would have blamed him.

Indeed no contemporary statesman with any pretension to realism would have shown much astonishment or wasted much indignation over the murder of Francis I’s ambassadors to the infidel Suleiman, especially since one of them was a notorious Spanish renegade, and few people would have shed many tears over the death of Pope Paul III’s somewhat unsavory son.

In any case, whether Charles knew of the plans to murder them or not, he should be judged by the standards of his own time, not by those or a later age, which likes to think that, give or take an American president or tow, it has banished murder as a political weapon.


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