“The crusading spirit characterized Spanish identity well into the modern era. The Middle Ages, which ended well for Christian Spain, led to an age in which the proud nation displayed an imperialist calling, reached out over the seas and exported the Reconquista on a planetary scale.”
From 1519 to 1556 Charles V of the House of Habsburg led an extensive empire stretching from Europe to the New World, over which, as the saying goes, “the sun never set”. Yet not even he was able to exert much control over the central and western parts of the Mediterranean Sea, where uncertainty grew as the Ottoman Empire developed its power. Under the guide of Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566), the Ottoman Crescent equipped itself with a modern fleet and supported the rise of the Barbary State of Algiers, which engaged in an aggressive policy of privateering against Italy, Greece and Spain. In his struggle against these forces, Charles V never succeeded in coordinating an international expedition based on the model of the medieval crusade, due to disunity in Europe and the covert opposition of the Papacy.
Marco Pellegrini teaches Modern History and History of Italian Unification at the University of Bergamo.