It took nearly 500 years for researchers to crack Charles V’s secret code

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AdvertisementCharles V's three-page letter to his ambassador was written against the backdrop of a fierce struggle against the rising Protestant religion—the emperor was a devout Catholic who denounced Martin Luther as an outlaw at the Diet of Worms in 1521—and continued tensions with Francis I of France. Cecile Pierrot, a cryptographer with the Loria laboratory in France, first heard of the letter's existence at a dinner in 2019 and finally managed to track it down two years later, where it was languishing in the basement of the historic library in Nancy. Charles V began inheriting various family titles at a young age, and his dominion eventually encompassed the Holy Roman Empire—which extended from Germany to northern Italy in the early 16th century and included Austrian hereditary lands, the Burgundian states, and the Kingdom of Spain.

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