Decades: 1500s 1510s 1520s 1530s 1540s - 1550s - 1560s 1570s 1580s 1590s 1600s
Years: 1551 1552 1553 1554 1555 - 1556 - 1557 1558 1559 1560 1561
January 16 - Abdication of Emperor Charles V. His son, Philip II becomes King of Spain, while his brother Ferdinand becomes Holy Roman Emperor
January 23 - The deadliest earthquake in history kills 830,000 people in Shanxi Province, China.
February - Truce of Vaucelles - Temporary end to the fighting between France and Spain.
February 14 - Thomas Cranmer is declared a heretic
March 21 - In Oxford, Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer is burned at the stake for treason.
November - Collapse of the Truce of Vaucelles. War resumes between Henry II of France and Philip II of Spain
November 5 - Second Battle of Panipat - Fifty miles north of Delhi, a Mogul Army defeats Hindu forces of General Hemu to ensure Akbar the throne of India.
Lorenzo Priuli becomes Doge of Venice
Queen Mary establishes the Fort of Maryborough, in what is now Portlaoise, County Laois, Ireland
The kings of Spain take control of the Flanders region, including what is now the French département of Nord
The false Martin Guerre appears in the French village of Artigat.
King John III of Sweden becomes ruler of Finland as Hertig Johan.
Jellaladin Mahommed Akbar ascends to the throne of the Mughal Empire; he rules until his death in 1605
Welser banking families of Augsburg lose colonial control of Venezuela
Ivan the Terrible conquers Astrakhan, opening the Volga River to Russian traffic and trade
Adriaen de Vries, Dutch sculptor
Guillaume du Vair, French statesman and philosopher
Giovanni Gabrielli, Italian composer (birth year estimated)
March 21 - Thomas Cranmer, executed English bishop and Marian martyr
July 31 - St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order
Lorenzo Lotto, Italian Renaissance painter best known for his portraits
Tullia d'Aragona, Italian courtesan and writer adopted by modern feminists
Saito Dosan, daimyo during the Sengoku period of Japan.
Nicholas Udall, English dramatist who wrote Ralph Roister Doister, regarded by many as the first comedy written in the English language.
Count Miklós Zrínyi, Croat-Hungarian war hero who distinguished himself in the seige of Vienna
Luigi Alamanni, Italian poet, credited with introducing the epigram into Italian poetry
Martin Agricola, German composer
Jacob Clemens non Papa, Flemish composer