Many see Charles V as a precursor of European unity - even though he waged war three times on François I of France and his relationship with Henry VIII of England was equally stormy. But it was in their era that medieval Europe moved into the modern age and of the three, Charles was the most powerful. Why Brussels? During Charles’s 40-year reign, beginning in 1515, he spent a lot of time at the Coudenberg palace, where he abdicated in 1555. So Brussels was a major hub of the first empire “on which the sun never set”. The festival includes a focus on the Coudenberg archaeological site.