Karl V.


Staged Documentary, 52/58min, ORF

Universum History, ZDF, ARTE

Initial Broadcast on ORF in 2020

Broadcast on ARTE in 2021

"In my empire, the sun never sets!" – Charles V was the most powerful ruler of the 16th century. His empire was the first in modern times to reach from Europe to America, and he himself embodied the medieval need to rule over all Christendom. Yet he ran aground on the incompatibility of cultures, his rivals' thirst for power, and above all his own ego. The last emperor still to be crowned by the Pope abandoned his throne after ruling for three decades. His global empire crumbled.


This film is the first to tell the implausible, yet true story of Emperor and King Charles V, about whose abdication countless myths circle to this day. As Spanish King Carlos I, and elected German King Karl, he ascended the Roman-German imperial throne in Aachen Cathedral 500 years ago on October 23, 1520. He had an unbelievable quantum of power, yet this was merely "bought" with loans from the Fuggers and secured by gold and silver from the Spanish colonies in America.


This docu-drama follows Karl's restless life, with feature film scenes, recovered archive material, footage from the original historical locations, as well as expert testimonies. It's the forgotten story of an ambitious ruler ever prepared to stoop to war to enforce humanist ideals and religious convictions. Financed by looted colonial gold. But the church in Europe underwent a schism and the global empire fell asunder as its ruler finally, resignedly, put down crown and scepter and turned invisible, the ensuing shock signaling to many something akin to the approaching end of the world.

Screenplay and Direction

Wilfried Hauke


Boris Mahlau


Tanja Lesowsky


Christof Unterberger

Production Management

Isabella Lesiak

Executive Producer

Stephan Hönigmann


Niki Klingohr

Commissioning Editors

Caroline Haider ORF, Peter Allenbacher ZDF


Interspot Film Wien