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This book traces the history of Ferdinand and Isabella in laying the foundations of a single Spanish state. An account is then given of their grandson Charles V's rule of Spain and his search for solutions to the challenges of a new empire in America. The author also charts how Charles bore the increasingly heavy burden of the Holy Roman empire with his struggle to protect it against Lutherans within and Turkish attack from the east. The final chapters concentrate on Francis I as ruler, warrior, defender of the Catholic Church and patron of the arts. Each chapter concludes with extracts from contemporary documents.