Stamps of Charles V (1500-1558)

Perhaps the most widely-known member of the House of Habsburg, Charles V ruled over an empire spanning the whole world. It was not the British Empire but rather his empire which first earned the epitaph of beginning with “the rising and the setting of the sun.” His patrimony was the product of his grandfather, Maximilian I’s designs for a nuptial conquest of European dynasties. United for the first time in the body of Charles, the Spanish dignities of Castille and Aragon became unified irrecoverably along with their New World possessions spanning most of the American hemisphere. In addition, Charles oversaw other kingdoms such as Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia which together with the Burgundian inheritance in the Low Countries, projected his power across the European mainland.

Charles V in military apparel by his most celebrated artist Tiziano Vecelli 

Unafraid of war, Charles championed the defense of his lands against rival aggression, particularly from French aggrandizement. The frequent heroic depictions of Charles on horseback or fully clad in armor could not mask the physical deformities emerging within the House of Habsburg as a result of close generational intermarriage and consanguinity. Like many of his future successors, Charles sported a narrow, elongated face dominated by an aquiline nose and a heavy, protruding lower jaw together with thick, fleshy lips. It is said that the deformation of his jaw was so extreme that he could not close his mouth properly and had problems with his speech, something which came to define the future heirs of his line.

The world of philately has not proven ignorant of these attributes. Charles’s worldly omnipotence is celebrated on postage stamps in almost equal measure with his physical Habsburg conformity and his military prowess. Appropriately Charles V is featured on a plethora of worldwide stamps from Belgium to Bhutan, from Angola to Ecuador. His dream of a universal monarchy might have failed in his own time, but in philatelic terms he might have succeeded. He enjoys the most extensive geographical issues of any member of the House of Habsburg.