“I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse.”
- Attributed to Charles V (1500 – 1588), Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was effectively the first King of Spain, from 1516 to 1556. In principle he was from 1516 King of Aragon and from 1516 guardian of his insane mother, queen of Castile who died in 1555. Upon his mother’s death he became full king, ruling from 1555 to 1556, and was Holy Roman Emperor from 1519 to 1556. In 1556 he retired, abdicating in favour of his younger brother Ferdinand 1 and his son Phillip 11.
Although there has been conjecture as to whether or not Charles V did actually speak the above words, the sentiments are consistent with views he expressed on other occasions. One author, Girolamo Fabrizi, wrote in 1601:
“. . . another, who was German, related that the same Charles V sometimes used to say:
if it was necessary to talk with God, that he would talk in Spanish, which language suggests itself for the graveness and majesty of the Spaniards;
if with friends, in Italian, for the dialect of the Italians was one of familiarity;
if to caress someone, in French, for no language is tenderer than theirs;
if to threaten someone or to speak harshly to them, in German, for their entire language is threatening, rough and vehement"
“A German singer! I should as soon expect to get pleasure from the neighing of my horse.”
- Frederick the Great on being asked to listen to a female German singer
Frederick 11 (1712 -1786), aka Frederick the Great and “Old Fritz”, was a King of Prussia noted for being a brilliant military campaigner.