Charles V on Horseback at Mühlberg, Titian, 1548. Detail

The Battle of Mühlberg took place on 24 April 1547 between the forces of Charles V and those of the Schmalkaldic League. The Habsburg army comprised a total of 44,000 infantrymen with an additional cavalry force of 7,000. It ultimately defeated the forces of the League, which were similar in size and composition.

Contemporary accounts note that the League’s troops camped on the banks of the river Elbe near Mühlberg-an-der-Elb in the modern-day state of Brandenburg, at that date the Electorate of Saxony. The forces of the League destroyed the bridges to the other side of the river, believing themselves to be protected by the size and force of the powerful river. They were, however, ambushed and annihilated by Charles V’s forces, which had detected the enemy’s whereabouts and took advantage of a surprise night-time attack. Following this attack and in order to secure victory, Charles V ordered his army to regroup in a clearing in a forest near the Elbe (See the contemporary account by Luis de Ávila y Zúñiga). (Ver crónica de Luis de Ávila y Zúñiga)

The Schmalkaldic Leage was disbanded and its leaders, John Frederick and Philip I of Hesse, imprisoned in the castle at Halle. Charles V emerged triumphant, his imperial power strengthened.

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