Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia

Last updated

Wenceslaus
Vaclav of Bohemia.jpg
King Wenceslaus sitting on the throne, detail from the Wenceslas Bible, 1390s
King of Bohemia
Reign29 November 1378 16 August 1419
Coronation 15 June 1363
St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague
Predecessor Charles IV
Successor Sigismund
King of Germany
(formally King of the Romans)
Reign10 June 1376 20 August 1400
Coronation6 July 1376
Aachen Cathedral
Predecessor Charles IV
Successor Rupert
Elector of Brandenburg
Reign2 October 1373 29 November 1378
Predecessor Otto VII
Successor Sigismund
Duke of Luxembourg
Reign7 December 1383 1388
Predecessor Wenceslaus I
Successor Jobst of Moravia
Born26 February 1361
Nuremberg,
Holy Roman Empire
Died16 August 1419 (aged 58)
Kunratice, Prague, Bohemia
Burial
Spouse
House Luxembourg
Father Charles IV
Mother Anna von Schweidnitz

Wenceslaus (also Wenceslas; Czech : Václav IV.; German : Wenzel, nicknamed der Faule ("the Idle"); [1] 26 February 1361 16 August 1419) was, by inheritance, King of Bohemia (as Wenceslaus IV) from 1363 and by election, German King (formally King of the Romans) from 1376. He was the third Bohemian and fourth German monarch of the Luxembourg dynasty. Wenceslaus was deposed in 1400 as King of the Romans, but continued to rule as Bohemian king until his death.

Contents

Biography

Wenceslaus was born in the Imperial city of Nuremberg, the son of Emperor Charles IV by his third wife Anna von Schweidnitz, a scion of the Silesian Piasts, and baptized at St. Sebaldus Church. He was raised by the Prague Archbishops Arnošt of Pardubice and Jan Očko of Vlašim. His father had the two-year-old crowned King of Bohemia in June 1363 [2] and in 1373 also obtained for him the Electoral Margraviate of Brandenburg. When on 10 June 1376 Charles IV asserted Wenceslaus' election as King of the Romans [2] by the prince-electors, two of seven votes, those of Brandenburg and Bohemia, were held by the emperor and his son themselves. Wenceslaus was crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle on 6 July. [2]

In order to secure the election of his son, Charles IV revoked the privileges of many Imperial Cities that he had earlier granted, and mortgaged them to various nobles. The cities, however, were not powerless, and as executors of the public peace, they had developed into a potent military force. Moreover, as Charles IV had organised the cities into leagues, he had made it possible for them to cooperate in large-scale endeavors. Indeed, on 4 July 1376, fourteen Swabian cities bound together into the independent Swabian League of Cities to defend their rights against the newly elected King, attacking the lands of Eberhard II, Count of Württemberg. The city league soon attracted other members and until 1389 acted as an autonomous state within the Empire.

Rule

Wenceslaus took some part in government during his father's lifetime, [2] and on Charles' death in 1378, he inherited the Crown of Bohemia and as Emperor-elect assumed the government of the Holy Roman Empire. In the cathedral of Monza there is preserved a series of reliefs depicting the coronations of the kings of Italy with the Iron Crown of Lombardy. The seventh of these depicts Wenceslaus being crowned in the presence of six electors, he himself being the seventh. The depiction is probably not accurate and was likely made solely to reinforce the claims of the cathedral on the custody of the Iron Crown.

In 1387 a quarrel between Frederick, Duke of Bavaria, and the cities of the Swabian League allied with the Archbishop of Salzburg gave the signal for a general war in Swabia, in which the cities, weakened by their isolation, mutual jealousies and internal conflicts, were defeated by the forces of Eberhard II, Count of Württemberg, at Döffingen, near Gafenau, on 24 August 1388. The cities were taken severally and devastated. Most of them quietly acquiesced when King Wenceslaus proclaimed an ambivalent arrangement at Cheb (Eger) in 1389 that prohibited all leagues between cities, while confirming their political autonomy. This settlement provided a modicum of stability for the next several decades, however the cities dropped out as a basis of the central Imperial authority.

King of Bohemia

King Wenceslaus depicted in his Bible (the so-called Wenceslas Bible, late 14th century) Bible Vaclav4 1.jpg
King Wenceslaus depicted in his Bible (the so-called Wenceslas Bible, late 14th century)

During his long reign, Wenceslaus held a tenuous grip on power at best, as he came into repeated conflicts with the Bohemian nobility led by the House of Rosenberg. On two occasions he was even imprisoned for lengthy spells by rebellious nobles.

But the greatest liability for Wenceslaus proved to be his own family. Charles IV had divided his holdings among his sons and other relatives. Although Wenceslaus upon his father's death retained Bohemia, his younger half-brother Sigismund inherited Brandenburg, while John received the newly established Duchy of Görlitz in Upper Lusatia. The March of Moravia was divided between his cousins Jobst and Procopius, and his uncle Wenceslaus I had already been made Duke of Luxembourg. Hence the young king was left without the resources his father had enjoyed, although he inherited the duchy of Luxembourg from his uncle in 1383. [2] In 1386, Sigismund became king of Hungary and became involved in affairs further east.

Wenceslaus also faced serious opposition from the Bohemian nobles and even from his chancellor, the Prague archbishop Jan of Jenštejn. In a conflict surrounding the investiture of the abbot of Kladruby, the torture and murder of the archbishop's vicar-general John of Nepomuk by royal officials in 1393 sparked a noble rebellion. In 1394 Wenceslaus' cousin Jobst of Moravia was named regent, while Wenceslaus was arrested at Králův Dvůr. King Sigismund of Hungary arranged a truce in 1396, and for his efforts he was recognized as heir to Wenceslaus.

In the Papal Schism, Wenceslaus had supported the Roman Pope Urban VI. As Bohemian king he sought to protect the religious reformer Jan Hus and his followers against the demands of the Roman Catholic Church for their suppression as heretics. This caused many Germans to withdraw from the University of Prague, and set up their own university at Leipzig.

He then met Charles VI of France at Reims, where the two monarchs decided to persuade the rival popes, now Benedict XIII and Boniface IX, to resign, and to end the papal schisms by the election of a new pontiff. Many of the princes were angry at this abandonment of Boniface by Wenceslaus, who had also aroused much indignation by his long absence from Germany and by selling the title of duke of Milan to Gian Galeazzo Visconti. [2]

Hus was eventually executed in Konstanz in 1415, and the rest of Wenceslaus' reign in Bohemia featured precursors of the Hussite Wars that would follow his death during the Defenestrations of Prague.

Dethronement

In view of his troubles in Bohemia, Wenceslaus did not seek a coronation ceremony as Holy Roman Emperor. This did little to endear him to the pope. He also was long absent from the German lands. Consequently, he faced anger at the Reichstag diets of Nuremberg (1397) and Frankfurt (1398). The four Rhenish electors, Count Palatine Rupert III and the Archbishops of Mainz, Cologne and Trier, accused him of failing to maintain the public peace or to resolve the Schism. They demanded that Wenceslaus appear before them to answer to the charges in June 1400. Wenceslaus demurred, in large part because of renewed hostilities in Bohemia. When he failed to appear, the electors meeting at Lahneck Castle declared him deposed on 20 August 1400 on account of "futility, idleness, negligence and ignobility". The next day they chose Rupert as their king at Rhens. Although Wenceslaus refused to acknowledge this successor's decade-long reign, he made no move against Rupert. [2]

On 29 June 1402 Wenceslaus was captured by Sigismund, who at first intended to escort him to Rome to have him crowned emperor, but Rupert heard of this plan and tried to prevent the passage to Italy, so that Sigismund had Wenceslaus imprisoned, at first in Schaumberg, and from 16 August in Vienna, in the charge of William, Duke of Austria. [3] On 20 November, Wenceslaus was forced to sign his renunciation of all his powers to Sigismund and the Dukes of Austria. In exchange, the conditions of his imprisonment were relaxed. [4] In early 1403, Rupert made diplomatic overtures to Sigismund, attempting to get him to forgo his attempt to secure the imperial crown. But Sigismund invaded Bohemia with Hungarian forces, looting and imposing heavy taxes, and persecuting the supporters of Wenceslaus. He also plundered the royal treasury to pay for his military campaigns against the supporters Rupert and of Jobst of Moravia. An armistice between Sigismund and Jobst was agreed to be in effect from 14 April until 20 May. This gave Sigismund's opponents time to prepare, and after the end of the armistice, Sigismund could make no further gains and retreated from Bohemia, reaching Bratislava on 24 July. [5] On 1 October 1403, Pope Boniface IX finally acknowledged the deposition of Wenceslaus and the election of Rupert as King of the Romans. As a coronation of Wenceslaus was now no longer a possibility, and while he was nominally still prisoner in Vienna, he was no longer under strict guard, and he managed to escape on 11 November. He crossed the Danube and was escorted by John of Liechtenstein via Mikulov back to Bohemia, meeting his supporters in Kutná Hora before moving on Prague, which he entered on Christmas. [6]

Among the charges raised by Rupert as the basis for his predecessor's deposition was the Papal Schism. King Rupert called the Council of Pisa in 1409, attended by defectors from both papal parties. They elected Antipope Alexander V, worsening the situation because he was not acknowledged by his two rivals, and from 1409 to 1417 there were three popes.

After the death of Rupert in 1410, his succession at first proved difficult, as both Wenceslaus' cousin Jobst of Moravia and Wenceslaus' brother Sigismund of Hungary were elected King of the Romans. Wenceslaus himself had never recognized his deposition and hence still claimed the kingship. Jobst died in 1411, and Wenceslaus agreed to give up the crown, so long as he could keep Bohemia. This settled the issue, and after 1411 Sigismund reigned as king and later also became Holy Roman Emperor.

The bishops and secular leaders, tired of the Great Schism, supported Sigismund when he called the Council of Constance in 1414. The goal of the council was to reform the church in head and members. What made it work was the translation of supreme authority from the popes to the council. In 1417, the council deposed all three popes and elected a new one, maintaining all the while that the council, and not the pope, was the supreme head of the church. By resolving the schism, Sigismund restored the honour of the imperial title and made himself the most influential monarch in the west.

Personal life

Wenceslaus was married twice, first to Joanna of Bavaria, a scion of the Wittelsbach dynasty, on 29 September 1370. Following her death on 31 December 1386 (according to an unproven legend "mangled by one of Wenceslaus' beloved deer-hounds"), he married her first cousin once removed, Sofia of Bavaria, on 2 May 1389. He had no children by either wife.

Wenceslaus was described as a man of great knowledge and is known for the Wenceslas Bible, a richly illuminated manuscript he had drawn up between 1390 and 1400. However, his rule remained uncertain, varying between idleness and cruel measures as in the case of John of Nepomuk. Unlike his father, Wenceslaus relied on favouritism, which made him abhorrent to many nobles and led to increasing isolation. Moreover, he probably suffered from alcoholism, which was brought to light in 1398 when he was unable to accept an invitation by King Charles VI of France for a reception at Reims due to his drunkenness. [7]

Wenceslaus died in 1419 of a heart attack during a hunt in the woods surrounding his castle Nový Hrad at Kunratice (today a part of Prague), leaving the country in a deep political crisis. His death was followed by almost two decades of conflict called the Hussite Wars, which were centred on greater calls for religious reform by Jan Hus and spurred by popular outrage provoked by his martyrdom.

Ancestors

See also

Notes

  1. (in German) Biographie König Wenzels, Elke Greifeneder, Humboldt University of Berlin
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Chisholm 1911, p. 517.
  3. Joseph Aschbach, Geschichte Kaiser Sigmund's vol. 1 (1838), p. 175–177.
  4. Joseph Aschbach, Geschichte Kaiser Sigmund's vol. 1 (1838), p. 183.
  5. Joseph Aschbach, Geschichte Kaiser Sigmund's vol. 1 (1838), p. 186–188.
  6. Joseph Aschbach, Geschichte Kaiser Sigmund's vol. 1 (1838), p. 191–193.
  7. (in German) Wenzel, Deutschlands schlechtester König, Welt Online

Related Research Articles

Hussites Religious and military movement

The Hussites were a Czech pre-Protestant Christian movement that followed the teachings of reformer Jan Hus, who became the best known representative of the Bohemian Reformation.

Jobst of Moravia 15th century King of Germany

Jobst of Moravia, a member of the House of Luxembourg, was Margrave of Moravia from 1375, Duke of Luxembourg and Elector of Brandenburg from 1388 as well as elected King of Germany from 1410 until his death. Jobst was an ambitious and versatile ruler, who in the early 15th century dominated the ongoing struggles within the Luxembourg dynasty and around the German throne.

Rupert, King of Germany 15th century King of Germany

Rupert of the Palatinate, sometimes known as Robert of the Palatinate, a member of the House of Wittelsbach, was Elector Palatine from 1398 and King of Germany (rex Romanorum) from 1400 until his death.

Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor 15th century Holy Roman Emperor of the House of Luxembourg

Sigismund of Luxembourg was prince-elector of Brandenburg from 1378 until 1388 and from 1411 until 1415, king of Hungary and Croatia from 1387, king of Germany from 1411, king of Bohemia from 1419, king of Italy from 1431, and Holy Roman emperor from 1433 until 1437, and the last male member of the House of Luxembourg.

Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor 14th century Holy Roman Emperor of the House of Luxembourg

Charles IV, born Wenceslaus, was the first King of Bohemia to become Holy Roman Emperor. He was a member of the House of Luxembourg from his father's side and the Czech House of Přemyslid from his mother's side; he emphasized the latter due to his lifelong affinity for the Czech side of his inheritance, and also because his direct ancestors in the Přemyslid line included two saints.

Frederick I, Elector of Brandenburg 1371 – 1440, Burgrave of Nuremberg as Frederick VI and Elector of Brandenburg as Frederick I

Frederick was the last Burgrave of Nuremberg from 1397 to 1427, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach from 1398, Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach from 1420, and Elector of Brandenburg from 1415 until his death. He became the first member of the House of Hohenzollern to rule the Margraviate of Brandenburg.

Ottokar II of Bohemia King of Bohemia

Ottokar II, the Iron and Golden King, was a member of the Přemyslid dynasty who reigned as King of Bohemia from 1253 until his death in 1278. He also held the titles of Margrave of Moravia from 1247, Duke of Austria from 1251, Duke of Styria from 1260, as well as Duke of Carinthia and landgrave of Carniola from 1269.

Hussite Wars 15th-century wars fought between Christian Hussites and Catholic forces

The Hussite Wars, also called the Bohemian Wars or the Hussite Revolution, were a series of wars fought between the Christian Hussites and the combined Christian Catholic forces of Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund, the Papacy, European monarchs loyal to the Catholic Church, as well as various Hussite factions. After initial clashes, the Utraquists changed sides in 1423 to fight alongside Roman Catholics and opposed the Taborites and other Hussite spinoffs. These wars lasted from 1419 to approximately 1434.

Duchy of Bohemia

The Duchy of Bohemia, also later referred to in English as the Czech Duchy, was a monarchy and a principality of the Holy Roman Empire in Central Europe during the Early and High Middle Ages. It was formed around 870 by Czechs as part of the Great Moravian realm. Bohemia separated from disintegrating Moravia after Duke Spytihněv swore fidelity to the East Frankish king Arnulf in 895.

Lands of the Bohemian Crown Monarchy in Central Europe, predecessor of modern Czech Republic

The Lands of the Bohemian Crown, sometimes called Czech lands in modern times, were a number of incorporated states in Central Europe during the medieval and early modern periods connected by feudal relations under the Bohemian kings. The crown lands primarily consisted of the Kingdom of Bohemia, an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire according to the Golden Bull of 1356, the Margraviate of Moravia, the Duchies of Silesia, and the two Lusatias, known as the Margraviate of Upper Lusatia and the Margraviate of Lower Lusatia, as well as other territories throughout its history.

Kingdom of Bohemia Monarchy in Central Europe, predecessor of modern Czech Republic

The Kingdom of Bohemia, sometimes later in English literature referred to as the Czech Kingdom, was a medieval and early modern monarchy in Central Europe, the predecessor of the modern Czech Republic. It was an Imperial State in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Bohemian king was a prince-elector of the empire. The kings of Bohemia, besides Bohemia itself, also ruled other lands belonging to the Bohemian Crown, which at various times included Moravia, Silesia, Lusatia, and parts of Saxony, Brandenburg, and Bavaria.

Přemyslid dynasty dynasty

The Přemyslid dynasty or House of Přemyslid was a Czech royal dynasty which reigned in the Duchy of Bohemia and later Kingdom of Bohemia and Margraviate of Moravia, as well as in parts of Poland, Hungary, and Austria.

Limburg-Luxemburg dynasty Noble family

The Limburg-Luxemburg dynasty, one of several families from different periods known as the Luxembourg dynasty was a royal family of the Holy Roman Empire in the Late Middle Ages, whose members between 1308 and 1437 ruled as King of the Romans and Holy Roman Emperors as well as Kings of Bohemia and Hungary. Their rule was twice interrupted by the rival House of Wittelsbach.

Decree of Kutná Hora

The Decree of Kutná Hora or Decree of Kuttenberg was issued on 18 January 1409 in Kutná Hora (Kuttenberg), Bohemia by King Wenceslaus IV to give members of the Bohemian nation a decisive voice in the affairs of the Charles University in Prague.

John of Görlitz Duke of Görlitz

John of Görlitz, a member of the House of Luxembourg, was the only Duke of Görlitz (Zgorzelec) from 1377 until his death.

Margraviate of Moravia

The Margraviate of Moravia was one of the lands of the Bohemian Crown existing from 1182 to 1918. It was officially administrated by a margrave in cooperation with a provincial diet. It was variously a de facto independent state, and also subject to the Duchy, later the Kingdom of Bohemia. It comprised the region called Moravia within the modern Czech Republic.

The imperial election of May 22, 1400 was an imperial election held to select the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. It took place in Frankfurt.

The imperial election of August 21, 1400 was an imperial election held to select the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. It took place in Rhens.

The imperial election of 1411 was an imperial election held to select the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. It took place on July 21.

Lands of the Bohemian Crown (1348–1526)

King John's eldest son Charles IV was elected King of the Romans in 1346 and succeeded his father as King of Bohemia in the same year. Charles IV created the Bohemian Crown lands on the foundation of the original Czech lands ruled by the Přemyslid dynasty until 1306, together with the incorporated provinces in 1348. By linking the territories, the interconnection of crown lands thus no more belonged to a king or a dynasty but to the Bohemian monarchy itself, symbolically personalized by the Crown of Saint Wenceslas.

References

Further reading

Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia
Born: 26 February 1361  Died: 16 August 1419 [aged 58]
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Charles IV
German King
1376–1400
Succeeded by
Rupert
King of Bohemia
1378–1419
Succeeded by
Sigismund
Preceded by
Otto VII
Elector of Brandenburg
1373–1378
Preceded by
Wenceslaus I
Duke of Luxembourg
1383–1388
Succeeded by
Jobst