The Story of Prague (1920)/Chapter 2


From the Reign of Charles IV. to the Executions at Prague in 1621

CHARLES died in 1378 and was succeeded by his son Wenceslas, who, at least in his earlier years, certainly does not deserve the exaggerated censure of German historians. These historical judgments are, to a great extent, founded on the opinions unfavourable to Wenceslas that were expressed by strongly Romanist chroniclers, who were influenced by the favour that the King, and yet more his consort, Princess Sophia of Bavaria, for a time showed to Hus and the movement in favour of Church reform. Wenceslas, who was only seventeen when he ascended the throne, maintained all the trusty councillors of his father in their official positions, and Palacky is no doubt right in stating that, during the first years of Wenceslas’s reign, Bohemia was as prosperous as it had been during that of his father. It was said that such perfect security prevailed in the country that one carrying a bag of gold on his head could have traversed Bohemia from end to end without incurring any risk.

Unfortunately for Wenceslas the old councillors of Charles soon followed their master to the grave, while the difficulties caused by the Papal schism (which will be mentioned later in connection with the Church reform movement) from the first confronted the young King. In this case, as indeed in his foreign policy generally, Wenceslas did not follow the example of his father, who had been a firm friend of France. He concluded an alliance with England, which was strengthened by the marriage of Wenceslas’s sister Anne to King Richard II. of England.

Wenceslas followed his father’s example in mainly residing at Prague, and he soon became very popular with the citizens. It was said he visited the shops of bakers and butchers and inquired the prices of their goods. If these proved higher than was authorised by the regulations, Wenceslas ordered the goods to be given away to the poor and the vendors to be severely punished. Less praiseworthy than these mediæval methods of enforcing justice were the King’s nocturnal excursions through the streets of Prague, on which he was accompanied by boon companions not generally chosen from the higher ranks of the nobility. The King thus became estranged from the proud Bohemian aristocracy, and civil war eventually broke out. It was, as Dr Tomek has shown, in consequence of his desire to mix more freely with the citizens that Wenceslas abandoned the royal residence on the Hradcany and took up his abode in a building close to the Celetna ulice and the powder tower. The young King is said to have greatly enjoyed his comparative privacy, and even to have arranged public festivities on the neighbouring Staromestske Námesti.

The animosity of the Bohemian nobles against their Sovereign, as already mentioned, eventually led to civil war. In 1393 most of the prominent Bohemian nobles formed a confederacy against Wenceslas, which is known in history as the ‘league of the lords.’ The King’s own cousin, Jodocuo of Moravia, as well as Albert III., Duke of Austria, and William, Margrave of Meissen, joined the confederacy. On Wenceslas refusing to grant the demands of the confederates, who wished to limit his power, and especially his right to choose his councillors, he was seized by the lords at his castle near Beroun and conveyed as a prisoner to Prague. The citizens of Prague, however, with whom Wenceslas was still popular, took the part of their King and besieged the castle of the Hradcany, where he was confined. In June 1394 an army, led by Duke John of Görlitz, a brother of Wenceslas, arrived before Prague to attempt to liberate the imprisoned Sovereign. The citizens of the new town joyfully received the Duke of Görlitz and joined his forces, while those of the old town, who—intimidated by the league of lords—at first attempted some resistance, were soon forced to capitulate. The lords, no longer believing their prisoner safe at Prague, conveyed him first to Kruman, a castle of the lords of Rosenberg, one of the leaders of the league, and afterwards to Wildberg. A temporary compromise was concluded soon afterwards, and, after granting most of the demands of the confederates, Wenceslas regained his liberty.

Discord soon again broke out between the King and the nobles, who were encouraged by Rupert, Elector Palatine, whom the Germans had chosen as King after deposing Wenceslas. In 1401 an army led by the Margrave of Meissen, an ally of the Elector Palatine, entered Bohemia, and, after devastating a large part of the country, besieged Prague. The city that had not seen a foreign enemy at its gates for more than a hundred years was terrified, while the horrible cruelties committed by the Germans excited the indignation of the people. The young preacher Hus here for the first time gave expression to the feelings of his country-men when, in one of his first sermons in the Bethlehem Chapel, he declared that the Bohemians ‘were more wretched than dogs or snakes, for a dog defends the couch on which he lies, and, if another dog tries to drive him away, he fights with him, and a snake does the same; but us the Germans oppress without resistance.

Prague was, however, not captured by the Margrave of Meissen, and another of the many temporary agreements between the King and the Bohemian nobles, which were so frequent in the reign of Wenceslas, was concluded.

In the following year Wenceslas again became a prisoner. By order of his brother Sigismund, King of Hungary, whom he had foolishly invited to Prague, Wenceslas was seized in the royal residence, near the powder tower, and conveyed first to the Hradcany castle and afterwards to Vienna, where Sigismund entrusted him to the custody of his ally the Duke of Austria. In the following year, however, Wenceslas succeeded in making his escape from Vienna. He returned to Bohemia, where he was now joyfully received by the people, who had suffered greatly during the time that the rapacious Sigismund had illegally ruled over Bohemia.

King Wenceslas’s nature seems to have deteriorated with increasing years; his tendency to drink became stronger; his capacity for work decreased; he became more and more incapable of controlling his always violent temper. A proof of this is the King’s well-known conflict with John of Pomuk or Nepomuk. The size of this book—perhaps fortunately for the writer—entirely precludes entering into controversial matters. I will therefore only remark that recent historians have thrown some doubts on the tale of John of Nepomuk. Palacky declared that St. John Nepomucene belongs solely to legend, in no wise to Bohemian history. Recently even some Roman Catholic writers have agreed with him. I will now give the legend in its earliest form, as it appears in Hajek’s chronicle. Hajek writes under the date of 1383 that ‘King
Wenceslas gave himself over to much disorder, frequenting various games, plays and dances. His wife, a very noble and honourable lady, blamed him. . . .

In consequence of such reproof the King was incensed against his wife, and conceived great hatred for her, so that he sought for some cause enabling him to deprive her of her life. The day after the feast of the Holy Sigismund he summoned before him the priest, John of Nepomuk, a master of the University of Prague, canon of the Prague Church, and confessor of the Queen. He requested him to tell him what sins the Queen had confessed to him before God. The priest answered, ‘O King, my lord, I have assuredly not retained this in my memory, and if I had, it would not be beseeming for me to do this, neither is it beseeming for you to make such inquiries.’ The King was incensed, and caused him to be thrown into a grievous subterranean dungeon; then, being unable to obtain anything from him, he sent for the executioner, and ordered that he should be cruelly tortured; but being unable even then to obtain any information from him, he ordered that he should be brought at night to the bridge of Prague, fettered, and thrown into the waters to drown. After this had been done, on that night and on the following one many lights could be seen over the body that was floating on the stream. The King, hearing of this miracle, left for his Castle of Zebrák, and the prelates of the cathedral took the body out of the water and carried it solemnly to the Monastery of the Holy Cross on the citadel of Prague’ (i.e., the Hradcany), ‘then they buried it in St. Vitus’s Cathedral. . . afterwards many and manifold wonders took place there, and therefore many declared that he was one of God’s martyrs and a saint.’

The principal event of the later years of the reign of Wenceslas was the Hussite movement, of which Prague was the centre. As has already been mentioned, a strong feeling hostile to the corruption of the Church
of Rome had existed during the reign of Charles. Subsequent events had not unnaturally strengthened this feeling. Two, afterwards three, rival candidates claimed the Pontificate, and employed the terrible threats usual among mediæval theologians against the adherents of their rivals. It was inevitable that the authority of the Church of Rome should suffer from this discord, particularly in Bohemia, where Waldhauser and Milic had left many successors. Of these, by far the greatest was Hus, whose career is so closely connected with Prague that I shall briefly allude to it here.

John Hus, or of Husinec, was born at the village of that name about the year 1369. The 6th of July was traditionally believed to be the day of his birth, and as it was also the day of his death, the day was always celebrated in the Bohemian Church up to the time when the battle of the White Mountain re-established the Church of Rome in Bohemia. He arrived at Prague at a very early age, and in September 1393 took the degree of Bachelor of Arts at the University there. In the following year he became a Bachelor of Divinity, and in 1396 Master of Arts. His reputation for great learning spread very rapidly at the University. In 1401 he became Dean of the Faculty of Arts, and in the following year, at an unusually early age, for the first time Rector of the University. But it was only from the time that he began preaching in the Bethlehem Chapel that his name became widely known to those also who were not connected with the University.

The Bethlehem Chapel, situated in what is still known as the Bethlehem Place—‘Betlemské Námesti’—was founded in 1391 by John of Milheim, one of King Wenceslas’s courtiers, together with ‘Kriz the Shopkeeper,’ as he is called in the contemporary records, a wealthy tradesman of Prague.

Following the example of Milic, whose foundation had been called ‘Jerusalem,’ Milheim and Kriz also gave a Biblical name to the new chapel. Both founders were favourable to Church reform and partisans of the national movement. Sermons were always preached in Bohemian at Bethlehem, and the brilliant eloquence of Hus, of which we can still judge, as some of his sermons have been preserved, attracted the general attention of the people of Prague. It is noteworthy that during the first years of his priesthood—he was consecrated as a priest about the year 1400—Hus was on good terms with his ecclesiastical superiors. Even after the first disputes concerning Wycliffe’s teaching had arisen, Hus was, as he himself mentions, requested by the newly appointed Archbishop of Prague ‘to bring all irregularities contrary to the rules of the Church’ to the Archbishop’s notice. It should here already be mentioned that the teaching of Hus differed from that of Rome far less than was the case with most Church Reformers. As Dr. Harnack has written,[1] Hus, like Wycliffe, ‘only denied the alleged right of the clergy to represent the Church and administer its sacraments even when they did not fulfil God’s commandments. How—he declared—can the functions of priests be valid if the presupposition of all they do in the Church and for the Church, namely, obedience to the law of God, is absent. The quintessence of that law is the Sermon of the Mount and the example of the humble life of Jesus; yet the whole of Scripture is the law of God.’

The first disputes between Hus and his ecclesiastical superiors broke out in 1403. On May 28th of that year a full meeting of the members of the University, memorable as the beginning of the Hussite struggle, took place at the Carolinum. It was finally decided that forty-five so-called ‘articles’ culled from the writings of Wycliffe, twenty-four of which had already been condemned by the Council of Blackfriars, should be declared heretical, and that all members of the University should be forbidden to circulate them. Hus and his friends, who were accused of spreading the heretical opinions of Wycliffe in Bohemia, protested against this sentence and maintained that the ‘articles’ contained many statements that were not to be found in Wycliffe’s writings.

Shortly after this first debate, Zbynek Zajic of Hasenburg became Archbishop of Prague, and it seemed for a time that religious peace had returned to the country. But in 1408 the clergy of Prague and of the whole archbishopric of Prague brought forward a protest against Hus’s preaching at the Bethlehem Chapel,
stating that he had, ‘in opposition to the decisions of the Holy Church and to the opinions of the Holy Fathers, and to the injury, shame, detriment and scandal of the whole clergy and the people generally,’ declared heretics the priests who took payment for ecclesiastical functions, and blamed the ecclesiastics who held numerous benefices. Hus, indeed, defended himself eloquently, but he was none the less deprived of the office of preacher before the Synod, which the archbishop had conferred on him some time before.

Relations between the archbishop and Hus became yet more embittered when the latter addressed to his ecclesiastical superior a letter of remonstrance which Dr. Lechler, a Protestant divine, describes as ‘reaching the extreme limit of what is permissible to a priest when writing to his ecclesiastical superiors.’ In this letter, written on behalf of Velenovic, a priest of Prague, who was accused of favouring Wycliffe’s views, Hus admonished the archbishop ‘to love the good, not to be influenced by flattery, to be a friend of the humble and not to hinder those who work steadfastly at the harvest of the Lord.’

At this period the racial and the religious struggle in Bohemia proceeded simultaneously; those who favoured the movement for Church reform were also warm friends of the Bohemian nationality. It was therefore a great triumph for this party, of which Hus was now the leader, when King Wenceslas, in January 1409, issued the ‘Decrees of Kutna Hora,’ which secured the permanent supremacy of the Bohemian nation at the University of Prague. The result was the departure of the German masters and students from Prague. They left the University probably in the number of five thousand, though some Bohemian writers give a much higher figure. After Archbishop Zbynek had recognised Alexander as the legitimate Pope, the proceedings against Hus had a much more rapid development. On July 15, 1410, Wycliffe’s writings were solemnly burnt in the courtyard of the archiepiscopal palace that was then situated in the Malá Strana, near the bridge.

The burning of Wycliffe’s works met with almost universal disapproval at Prague. A contemporary chronicler writes: ‘Instantly a great sedition and discord began. Some said that many other books besides those of Wycliffe had been burnt; therefore the people began to riot, the courtiers of the King were incensed against the canons and priests; many opprobrious songs against the archbishop were sung in the streets.’

Hus, at a meeting of the University, energetically defended Wycliffe’s teaching; he also, contrary to the positive orders of the archbishop, continued his sermons in the Bethlehem Chapel. On March 15, 1411, the sentence of excommunication which had been pronounced against Hus some time previously was published in the churches of Prague, while the town itself was placed under interdict. Endeavours to effect a settlement indeed still continued.

In May 1412, however, the difficulties caused by the Papal schism brought the reform movement in Bohemia to a crisis. King Ladislas of Naples, who still recognised Gregory the Twelfth as Pope, had thus incurred the enmity of John XXIII., who had succeeded Alexander V. as Roman Pope. John, therefore, resolved to go to war with the King of Naples, and—a proceeding which it must be added was not exceptional in those days—to obtain the necessary funds by the granting of indulgences. It was declared that all those who either took part in the campaign against Naples, or assisted the enter prise by grants of money, should receive the same remission of sins which had formerly been promised to the Crusaders who had liberated the sepulchre of Christ. The Bohemians, who were not long after to suffer from a ‘crusade’ similar to that now proclaimed against Naples, received the news of the Papal decision with great displeasure. When Wenceslas Tiem, Dean of Passau, arrived at Prague, with the purpose of collecting, by the sale of indulgences, funds for the Papal See, public excitement was naturally yet greater. Boxes to receive the donations of the faithful were placed before the Cathedral Church of St. Vitus, the Tyn Church, and on the Vysehrad. These proceedings caused particular indignation at the University, where the party favourable to Church reform now had entirely the upper hand. Hus summoned the members of the University to a disputatio, according to the mediæval custom. It took place in the large hall of the Carolinum, and the subject of the disputatio was formulated in the question ‘whether according to the law of Jesus Christ it was permissible and befitting for the honour of God, the salvation of the Christian people and the welfare of the kingdom, that the faithful of Christ should approve of the Papal bulls which proclaimed a crusade against Ladislas, King of Apulia, and his accomplices?’ Both Hus and Jerome of Prague violently attacked the use of indulgences for the purpose of supplying the Roman See with funds for temporal purposes. The theological faculty soon after again condemned the forty-five ‘articles’ from Wyclitfe’s writings, and added six more that were attributed to Hus and said to contain the views on indulgences which he had expressed at the recent disputatio. Pope John also took action against Hus, and decreed the ‘aggravation’ of the sentence of excommunication that had already been pronounced against him. The movement had thus taken a distinctly revolutionary character, and Hus fled from Prague in November 1412, after having published an ‘Appeal from the Sentence of the Roman Pontiff to the Supreme Judge, Jesus Christ.’ He first retired to Kozi Hradek, a castle belonging to one of his adherents, John of Usti.

Shortly after his departure from Prague an attempt was made there to assuage the religious discord. A diocesan synod met there in the archiepiscopal palace. Hus was not present, but was represented by Magister John of Jesenic. Little is known of the deliberations of this assembly, though the documents in which both the Hussite and the Romanist divines formulated their views have been preserved. ‘I’his conference proved abortive, as did also a subsequent attempt of King Wenceslas to bring the disputed questions before a committee, which was to consist of four members and over which Albik, then Archbishop of Prague, was to preside. When it was decided to affirm that both parties were in accordance with the Church with regard to the doctrine of the Sacrament of the Altar, the Romanist divines immediately protested, declaring that they were not a ‘party,’ and demanding that the word ‘Church’ should be defined as the Holy Roman Church, of which Pope John XXIII. is the head, and of which the cardinals are the members. The negotiations thus failed from the first, to the great indignation of King Wenceslas, who, indeed, exiled from Prague some of the German Romanist divines. The racial struggle, as so frequently in Bohemia, continued simultaneously with the religious one, and about this time, through the influence of the King, the majority of the town council of the old town, which had been German, became Bohemian, and, therefore, favourable to the cause of Hus.

Hus, who appears to have several times visited Prague secretly at this time, had meanwhile left the castle of Usti, and was, on the invitation of Lord
Henry of Lazan, one of the King’s courtiers, residing at the castle of Krakovec, situated considerably nearer to Prague. Contrary to the Papal commands he frequently visited the neighbouring towns and villages, preaching in favour of Church reform.

All attempts to settle the religious differences in Bohemia having failed, the questions raised by Hus were finally brought before a wider forum. On the suggestion of Sigismund, King of Hungary, and afterwards German Emperor, Hus proceeded to the council that met at Constance in November 1414. He had previously, according to the momentous words of Professor Tomek, received from Sigismund a safe-conduct, according to which he was ‘to come unmolested to Constance, there have free audience, and return unharmed, should he not submit to the authority of the council.’

None the less Hus was imprisoned shortly after his arrival at Constance, and was—as will be known to most readers—burnt alive on July 6, 1415.

The death of Hus caused general indignation in Prague. Almost all the parish priests who ventured to praise, or even to excuse the execution of Hus, were driven from their homes. The Bohemian nobles who met at Prague in September (1415), and who were joined by many Moravian nobles, also expressed their indignation strongly. They, addressed to the council a letter known as the ‘Protestatio Bohemorum,’ accusing it of having ‘condemned the venerable magister (i.e., Hus) without having convicted him of any error, merely on the strength of evil statements of treacherous enemies and traitors, and of having deprived him of his life in the most cruel fashion, to the eternal shame and offence of Bohemia and Moravia.’ They further declared ‘before the council and the whole world that Magister John Hus was a man of pure life and irreproachable fame, who taught the law of Scripture according to the doctrine of the fathers and of the Church, who loathed all errors and heresies, who, by word, writing and deed, admonished us and all the faithful to desire peace and to love our neighbours, and by his own quiet and edifying life guided us in the path of godliness.’

A few days after sending to Constance this declaration that caused great indignation there, the knights and nobles united in a solemn covenant for mutual defence. They pledged themselves to defend the liberty of preaching the word of God, to obey the Pope and the bishops of Bohemia as long as their commands were not contrary to Scripture, and meanwhile to recognise the University of Prague as the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine. The University thus first acquired the important position of arbiter in matters of doctrine which it held during the Hussite wars, and, indeed, only entirely lost after the battle of the White Mountain. The fact that the King and Queen were known to favour the national movement alone prevented an immediate general out-break. Matters became yet more serious when—following the advice of his treacherous younger brother, Sigismund—Wenceslas endeavoured to stem the current.

In 1419 the King issued a decree ordaining that all priests who had been deprived of their livings because—of their disapproval of communion in the two kinds, should be reinstated. Only in three churches were the Utraquists, as the adherents of the new doctrine were called, to continue to hold their religious services. The Utraquists, to show their strength, instituted processions through the streets of Prague, during which the sacrament was carried before the faithful. One of the most zealous Utraquists was the priest, John of Zelivo, a former Præmonstrate monk. On July 30, 1419, he headed a procession which, after violently interrupting a religious service which was being held in the Church of St. Stephen, according to the Roman rites, marched to the town hall of the Nové Mesto, situated in the Karlovo Námesti. The release of some adherents of the new faith who had been imprisoned there was demanded, but refused by the burgomaster, who was a Romanist. The Utraquists then, ‘as an affront, called him a German and a hater of the chalice.’[2] Meanwhile the town councillors had barricaded their hall and threw stones on the crowd below, one of which struck the monstrance that Zelivo was carrying. The crowd—led, it is said, by Zizka, afterwards famous as a Hussite leader—stormed the town hall and threw the town councillors into the market-place below, where they were killed by the people.

This ‘defenestration,’ as it was called in Bohemia, marks the beginning of the great religious struggle in Bohemia, as the defenestration from the Hradcany windows in 1618 marks its end; for only two years after the last-named event the battle of the White Mountain established religious uniformity in Bohemia.

The defenestration was followed almost immediately by the death of Wenceslas, who succumbed to repeated apoplectic fits on August 16, 1419. His death was the signal of yet more serious riots, during which many churches and monasteries were destroyed and many valuable relics of Bohemian art perished. The Puritan character of the movement is proved by the fact that no plundering took place and that many houses of evil fame were destroyed. Temporary quiet was established when it became known that Queen Sophia, who was favourable to the national movement, had assumed the Regency. Yet the interval of peace was but short. Armed meetings of Hussites were held in all parts of Bohemia, and it became known that such a meeting had been planned at Prague also for November 10. The Queen and her councillors therefore considered it necessary to take precautions. The Hradcany Castle, the Strahov Monastery and the archbishop’s palace received strong garrisons of German mercenaries. The defence of the Vysehrad was entrusted to the former bodyguard of King Wenceslas. This fortress was carried by assault by the Hussites on October 25; the soldiers of Wenceslas, who probably sympathised with the national cause, offering but very slight resistance. The Praguers, reinforced by allies from the surrounding country, now attacked the Malá Strana. They stormed the bridge (November 4) and occupied the buildings immediately beyond it; and it seemed for a time possible that they should even obtain possession of the Hradcany Castle, from which Queen Sophia fled hastily. Nightfall for a time put a stop to the fighting, but all foresaw that the battle would continue. As an ancient chronicler writes: ‘This night was a dreadful and anxious one for all Prague; during all night the large bells rang, summoning the citizens to remain under arms for the continued battle in the Malá Strana; only long after midnight there was quiet for a short time.’

Fighting was resumed on the following day, and the Royal troops, commanded by Cenek of Wartenberg, who had replaced Queen Sophia as Regent, also received reinforcements.. The Royal troops destroyed the town hall of the Malá Strana, and also burnt down the monastery of St. Nicholas in the same part of the town, while the Praguers entirely destroyed the archiepiscopal palace that is said to have contained
many art treasures. Zizka, the great leader of the Taborites—as the more advanced Hussites were called, from the name of the town that was their centre—here first showed his great military ability. The citizens now became desirous for peace, while the Utraquist nobles who had remained faithful to the Royal cause were yet reluctant to continue warfare against those whose creed they shared. A truce was concluded on November 13, according to which the Praguers were to give up the Vysehrad to the Royal troops, while the Utraquist nobles promised to aid their countrymen in defending the Hussite creed. Zizka and the more advanced Church reformers, distrusting the compromise, left Prague for the time, proceeding to Plzen, and afterwards to Tabor.

Meanwhile King Sigismund arrived in the Bohemian lands, of which he claimed the succession as heir of his brother. He first proceeded to Brünn (or Brno), the capital of Moravia. Many Bohemian nobles and officials appeared at his court, and a deputation of the citizens of Prague also appeared before him on December 29. The Praguers assured the King of their loyalty, begging only ‘to be allowed to remain faithful to that which they had learnt from the Holy Writ.’ Sigismund received the envoys most ungraciously, obliged them to continue kneeling longer than was customary, and overwhelmed them with reproaches and insults. He finally dismissed them with the solemn command that they should, as a proof of their obedience, cause the chains that had been placed at the corners of the Prague streets for purpose of defence to be instantly removed, and the fortifications which the citizens had constructed opposite the Hradcany Hill to be destroyed. He also enjoined them to inflict no further injury on the monks.

The magistrates of Prague did not dare to disobey the Royal commands. On January 4, 1420, the chains that had been placed in the streets were deposited in the town hall of the Staré Mesto, and the fortifications that had been erected on the approaches of the Hradcany were destroyed. Many monks, priests and Germans who had left Prague during the recent disturbances returned, believing that the hour of their triumph had come. A contemporary chronicler[3] tells us that ‘the Germans laughed and joyfully clapped their hands, saying, “now these heretical Hussites and Wycliffites will perish, and there will be an end of them.”’ The Bohemian and Hussite citizens, on the other hand, not unnaturally looked forward to the future with great apprehension.

Sigismund did not, as was expected, immediately proceed to Prague. He for a time took up his residence at Breslau, the capital of Silesia, where he collected a large armed force. Through his influence Pope Martin V. issued a bull in which he called the whole Christian world to arms against ‘the Wyclefites, Hussites, and other heretics, their furtherers, harbourers and defenders.’

It is not perhaps easy for a modern reader to conceive the effect such a declaration of war produced on the Bohemians, for a crusade had hitherto almost always only been preached against heathens, infidels and Turks. The whole nation rose in arms against Sigismund. The indignation was particularly great at Prague, where the news was received that, by orders of Sigismund, John Krasa, one of the leading citizens, had been dragged through the streets of Breslau by horses and then burnt at the stake. John of Zelivo, in his sermons, denounced Sigismund violently in language drawn from the Apocalypse. The audience, inflamed by his eloquence, swore to sacrifice life and fortune for the cause of the chalice. Those hostile to Church reform not unnaturally dreaded the outbreak of hostilities, and we read that seven hundred families from the old, and seven hundred families from the new town, either sought refuge in the castles of Hradcany and Vysehrad, that were held by Sigismund’s troops, or left Prague altogether. The citizens in no way hindered their departure, which, indeed, in view of the coming siege, was advantageous to the Hussite cause. ‘l’hose who remained were yet more determined to resist Sigismund to the utmost. On the suggestion of John of Zelivo the citizens who remained in the town, the Hussite preachers, and the members of the University, met on April 3 (1420) at the town hall of the Staré Mesto. All present swore to. defend, to the last drop of blood, the right of receiving communien according to the Utraquist faith, and to resist all, and particularly the so-called ‘Crusaders,’ who might endeavour to harm the Utraquists. As leaders in the defence of the menaced capital they elected eight captains—four from the old and four from the new—to whom the keys of the town gates and those of the town hall were entrusted. The assembly addressed a manifesto to all the towns of Bohemia, begging them to send envoys to Prague to concert on the common defence. This manifesto attacked the Church of Rome in the most violent manner. It was stated that the Roman Church ‘was not their mother, but their stepmother; that she had poured out her poison like the most furious serpent, and had raised up the cross, the emblem of love and peace, for the purpose of inciting to hatred and murder; that she had, by false promises of absolution, incited the Germans, born enemies of Bohemia and of the Slav race, to begin the war of extermination which they had always contemplated.’

Even the Regent, Cenek of Wartenberg, for a time sided with his countrymen. Together with other great noblemen he summoned ‘all Bohemians and Moravians who were zealous for the Word of God and the welfare of the Bohemian nation to join him in opposing the Hungarian and Roman King Sigismund.’ Continuation of warfare was thus a certainty, and the Hussites unfortunately again began to destroy the churches and monasteries belonging to adherents of Rome.

Cenek of Wartenberg and the other Bohemian nobles were naturally indignant at the conduct of their new allies. They therefore lent a willing ear to the envoys of Sigismund. Wartenberg, abandoning the national cause, concluded a private treaty with the King, that at first remained secret. On the condition that he, his family, and the tenants on his estates, should be allowed to worship according to the Utraquist creed, he consented to admit the Royal troops into the castle on the Hradcany. The citizens, exasperated by Wartenberg’s treachery, endeavoured to recover possession of the castle, but their desperate attack was repulsed by the Royal troops. Simultaneously, fighting also began in the new town, the Royal troops that held the Vysehrad making a successful sortie and defeating the citizens of the new town.

The Praguers now wished to negotiate with the King, while the Royal troops had also suffered severe losses. An armistice of six days was concluded, and the citizens sent another deputation to the King. Sigismund, who was then at Kutna Hora, received the envoys even more ungraciously than before. As the Praguers afterwards wrote to the Venetians: ‘The King became harder than steel; as one stung by fury, he began to agitate his limbs as a madman.’ He declared that it was his duty to destroy all heresy by fire and sword, even should he have to extirpate the whole population of Bohemia and colonise the country with foreign immigrants.

On the return of the envoys another meeting of the citizens took place in the town hall of the Staré Mesto, where great enthusiasm prevailed. It was again decided that all should risk their lives and fortunes for the cause of religious freedom, and fight to the last. An Utraquist nobleman, Hynek Krusina of Lichtenberg, was chosen as commander-in-chief. A message was also sent to Zizka and the other Taborite leaders, stating that ‘if they wished verily to obey God’s law they should march to their aid without delay, and with as many men as they could muster.’ After some skirmishing with the Royal troops, Zizka and his men arrived at Prague (May 20, 1420), where they were joyfully received by the citizens. From other parts of Bohemia also many nationalists hurried to the defence of the menaced capital.

Hearing that the Praguers had received reinforcements, Sigismund did not march straight on Prague, but proceeded to Melnik, where he halted for some time. By his orders and those of the Papal Legate, Ferdinand, Bishop of Lucca, horrible cruelties were committed against the population of the neighbouring country, and particularly the citizens of Slané and Litomerice.[4] In a period of intense religious passion such cruelties inevitably led to reprisals. We read that the Hussites who were besieging the Hradcany burnt alive nine Romanist monks in view of the Royal garrison.

Sigismund, whose army had been reinforced by numerous ‘Crusaders,’ now decided to march on Prague. Almost all countries of Europe contributed to this vast army. According to a contemporary writer there were numbered among the Crusaders ‘Hungarians, Croatians, Dalmatians, Bulgarians, Sicilians, Wallachians, Cumanians, Jazyges, Ruthenians, Racians, Slovacks, Carniolians, Styrians, Austrians, Bavarians, Francs, Swabians, Switzers, Frenchmen, Arragonians or Spaniards, Englishmen, men of Brabant, Dutchmen, Westphalians, men of Saxony, Thuringia, the Voigtland, Meissen, Lusatia, and the march of Brandenburg, Silesians, Poles, Moravians and “renégate” Bohemians.’ A letter written by the Praguers merely states that innumerable men from more than thirty kingdoms and provinces arrived before their city, while Monstrelet, a contemporary, writes: that ‘Il arriva tant de gens qu à peine se pouvaient ils nombrer.’ Most of the princes who ruled these countless countries had accompanied their troops. We read that all the German Electors, except the Elector of Saxony, Albert Duke of Austria, forty-three men of princely rank, Brunorius della Scala of Verona, the Patriarch of Aquileja, many counts of the empire, knights and nobles, were with the crusading army.

Sigismund and his forces first entered the Vysehrad fortress, and then, crossing the river, provisioned the Hradcany Castle, the siege of which the Hussites were obliged to abandon. The vast army—according to the chroniclers it consisted of 100,000 or 150,000 men, but the latter figure is probably nearer to truth—-now encircled Prague in every direction. The German soldiers, who were encamped on the left bank of the Vltava, opposite the Staré Mesto, insulted—their enemies by incessant cries of ‘Ha, ha! Hus! Hus! Ketzer![5] Ketzer!

The Praguers and their scanty allies meanwhile fearlessly and confidently prepared to encounter the world in arms against them. With them, as afterwards with the Puritans, absolute confidence in Scripture rendered despondency impossible; for, to borrow the words of Mr. John Morley, ‘No criticism had then
impaired the position of the Bible as the direct Word of God, a single book one and whole, one page as inspired as another.’ A thorough knowledge of the Old Testament is evident in all the contemporary records of those stirring times. No man or woman of Prague doubted that the Lord, who had once struck—down the forces of Sennacherib, would now strike down those of Sigismund.

The 14th of July was fixed by Sigismund for the general attack. It was decided that the Royal forces that were quartered in the Hradcany Castle should attack the adjoining Malá Strana and the bridge tower on the left bank of the Vltava, while the forces on the Vysehrad would endeavour to storm the new town, which was at the foot of that fortress. A third army was to attack the old town from the so-called Spitalské Pole (hospital field), which was situated on the spot where the suburb of Karlin, or Karolinenthal, now stands. An attack was also to be made on the hill then known as the Vitkov, but which has, after the victorious Taborite leader, since that day been called the Zizkov, or Zizka’s Hill. This hill was the key of the position of the defenders, who depended on its possession for maintaining their communications with the country. The Zizkov was held by Zizka and his Taborites, who had thrown up slight fortifications. The Germans attacked the hill with a strong force, and, in spite of the heroism of Zizka, who fought in the front rank, for a time drove the Bohemians back. One of the al earthworks was held for a long time by only twenty-six men, two women and one girl, against—several hundred Germans. When the Taborites were for a time forced to retreat, one of these women refused to leave her post, saying that a true Christian must never give way to Antichrist. She was immediately cut down by the Germans. This incident is very characteristic of the indomitable religious enthusiasm that for a time rendered the Bohemians invincible. The clanging of all the church bells hastily summoned the citizens, who, led by a priest carrying the monstrance, hurried to the aid of their allies, The Germans were completely routed; many were killed during their flight from the hill—then much steeper than at the present day—and many perished in the Vltava. As soon as victory seemed certain, the Taborites and Praguers knelt down on the battlefield and intoned the ‘Te Deum Laudamus,’ while the whole town was filled with unspeakable joy. The other attacks on the city were also unsuccessful. Sigismund had remained in the rear with part of his army, and returned to his camp as soon as he saw the defeat of his troops. According to the Austrian chronicler, Ebendorf of Haselbach, the King ‘smiled—it is said—over the fate of the brave Christians who had succumbed to the heretics, who had triumphed over them.’

On Monday, July 15—the battle had been fought on a Sunday—solemn processions through the streets of Prague, led by the Hussite clergy, took place in celebration of the great victory. Zizka, however, who believed a new attack probable, hastily collected a large crowd of men and women, who, under his direction, strengthened and enlarged the fortifications on the Vitkov, the scene of the victory of the day before.

The supposition of the Taborite leader, however, proved erroneous, for the victory on Zizka’s Hill practically ended the siege of Prague. It is as impossible to explain this as it is to account for the fact that the by no means decisive defeat of Marathon should have induced the Persians to abandon for a time their intention of conquering Greece. It is certain that dissensions broke out in the vast camps of the Crusaders. The foreign allies of Sigismund distrusted all Bohemians, even those who were on the side of the King, while the latter, who had, as Palacky writes, learnt that ‘even the largest force is insufficient to subdue a strong and resolute people,’ now felt more disposed to listen to the words of those Bohemian nobles who, indeed, sided with their Sovereign, but did not share the German desire to extirpate the whole Bohemian nation. These men suggested negotiations between the King and his Hussite subjects. Such negotiations were facilitated by the fact that the united Hussites had, meanwhile, drawn up a summary of their demands, which is known as ‘The Articles of Prague.’[6] It will here be sufficient to state that the Bohemians demanded freedom of preaching, the use of the chalice at communion, obligatory poverty of the clergy and severe regulations against mortal sins. It was decided that a conference should take place in the open air among the ruins of the Malá Strana, at which the magisters of the University, with the chiefs of the Praguers and Taborites, were to meet some German nobles, envoys of King Sigismund, and the Patriarch of Aquilya, and Simon, Bishop of Trace, who acted as representatives of the Papal See. The meeting led to no result, as the representatives of the Roman Church declared that no decision of the Church could be contested or discussed. The magisters of the Prague University expressed surprise that the Papal envoys attributed greater authority to the ‘fallible Church than to the infallible words of Christ.’

The failure of these negotiations no doubt confirmed Sigismund in his resolution of leaving the neighbourhood of Prague. The dissensions in his army became more and more envenomed; serious epidemics broke out among the troops; a great fire destroyed large parts of the encampments. Before abandoning the siege, however, Sigismund caused himself to be crowned King of Bohemia in St. Vitus’s Cathedral.

The writers hostile to Sigismund lay stress on the absence of many nobles whose Court dignities rendered their presence at coronations necessary. They also mention that no representatives of the Bohemian cities, none in particular of Prague, ‘the mother of all Bohemian cities,’ assisted at the ceremony.

Two days afterwards Sigismund broke up his camp and retired to Kutna Hora, thus giving the signal of departure to the Crusaders, who hurriedly returned to their countries. Royal troops, however, continued to hold the castles of Vysehrad and Hradcany. The citizens now immediately began the siege of the Vysehrad. After a time the defenders, who were suffering from hunger, were compelled to conclude a truce for three days, according to which they would capitulate if they had received no aid by the morning of November 1. Sigismund meanwhile had returned to the neighbourhood of Prague with an army consisting mainly of Moravians, and containing many Utraquist nobles from that country. On the other hand many of the Bohemian nobles, such as Hynek Krusina of Lichtenberg, who was first in command, Victor of Podebrad (father of the future King), and many others openly joined the national cause.

The Vysehrad Castle was now surrounded in every direction. Zavis Bradaty, with the citizens of Zatec and Loun, and a large force of armed peasants, were encamped between the Karlov[7] and the Botic stream. Next to them were the troops of the Utraquist nobles and of the Orebite[8] community, while the citizens of Prague held the post of honour nearest to the village of Pankrac, whence the attack of the relieving army was expected. At the last moment forty Taborite horsemen, led by Nicholas of Hus,[9] joined the Praguers.

The King arrived at the village of Pankrac on October 31, and sent a message to the commander of his troops on the Hradcany telling him that he would attack the citizens on the following morning, and ordering him also to attack the bridge from the Malá Strana. ‘But’—as a contemporary chronicler writes—‘God, who is ever an enemy of the haughty and a friend of the humble, caused this message to fall into the hands of the Praguers.’ The citizens and their allies therefore spent the whole night in preparing for battle. The former trenches had, of course, been constructed for besieging the Vysehrad; but the Praguers, who held the most important position, hastily threw up earth-works on a spot where the fish ponds, still frequent in that neighbourhood, rendered the attack more difficult.

In the morning (November 1) Sigismund rode to the summit of a little hill beyond the village of Pankrac, and in view of the Vysehrad, and waved his sword as a signal to the garrison to attack the rear of the enemy’s army. ‘But, as according to God’s will,’ the chronicler writes, ‘the hour had already passed, the garrison did not stir.’ A few German soldiers who formed part of the garrison, indeed attempted to come to Sigismund’s aid, but were held back by their Bohemian comrades. Seeing that no sortie from the Vysehrad was intended, several of the Moravian nobles rode up to the King and advised him not to attack the Praguers, otherwise both he and his people would suffer much evil, The King answered, ‘I must war with these peasants to-day.’ Then Henry of Plumlov, Captain of Moravia, said, ‘Be certain that this day will have an evil end; I dread the fighting-clubs[10] of the peasants.’ The King answered, ‘I know that you Moravians are cowards and faithless to me.’ Then Lord Henry and the other Moravian lords mounted their horses and cried, ‘ We will obey your order and we shall be there, where you will not be.’ The nobles attacked the strong position of the Praguers with great vigour, and for a moment the citizens wavered. Then Krusina hurried to the spot where they stood, and exclaimed with a loud voice, ‘Dear brethren! turn back again and be to-day brave knights in Christ’s battle, for it is God’s, not our fight, that we are fighting to-day. You will see for sure that God will deliver all His and our enemies into our hands.’ Hardly had he ceased speaking when the cry, ‘The enemy is flying,’ was heard. The citizens speedily rallied, and, assuming the offensive, drove the Moravian nobles back into the marshy ground that extended from the Vysehrad to the village of Pankrac. A great massacre of the nobles, whose heavy armour impeded their movements, took place, and flight soon became general. Sigismund himself, who, regardless of the taunts of the Moravian nobles had again remained with the rear of his army, did not halt till he had reached the town of Cesky Brod. A very large number of Moravian nobles fell in this battle, and many also died of their wounds at the village of Pankrac, after receiving communion in the two kinds, as the pious chronicler states. It is touching to note that the Praguers sorrowed over the death of the Moravian nobles, who, though they had fought against the city, yet belonged to the same race as the citizens. The citadel of Vysehrad surrendered on the day of the battle, and on June 7, 1421, the garrison of the Hradcany—which had unsuccessfully attempted a diversion during the battle of the Vysehrad—also capitulated.

One of the most important results of the battles of the Zizkov and of the Vysehrad was the temporary hegemony over Bohemia, or at least the greatest part of the country, which the city of Prague obtained. The ‘mother and head of the Bohemian cities,’ which had gloriously and successfully defended the religious and political liberty of the country, not unfairly claimed the leadership. The once powerful Bohemian nobility had been weakened by dissension. Some of its members still, though reluctantly, remained faithful to Sigismund. Others, perhaps also reluctantly, recognised the city of Prague as their over-lord, though they never—as was the case in some Italian cities—became merged in the mass of the citizens. The Taborites, who had taken but little part in the ‘crowning mercy’ of the Vysehrad, had not yet attained the height of their power.

The strong attitude assumed by the predominant city appears very clearly in the manifesto[11] which the Praguers, in union with some of their allies among the nobles, issued a few days after the victory of the Vysehrad. This document is a stirring appeal to the national feeling, and such an appeal has rarely remained unheeded in Bohemia.

After violent denunciations of Sigismund, who, it was stated, had preferred to the Bohemians ‘the Germans and Hungarians, the cruellest enemies of our nation,’ and who was ready to sacrifice a kingdom, were there but no Bohemians in Bohemia, the citizens declared that they would consider all who favoured such a King as men who desired the ruin of the country. They would, therefore, consider such men as open enemies of God and of the nation.

It is interesting to give a brief outline of the
constitution of Prague at the moment of her greatest power. This constitution may be defined as that of a theocratic republic, though attempts to obtain a new Sovereign in succession to Sigismund always continued. The principal legislative authority was at this period concentrated in the ‘great assembly’ (Veliká Obec), of which almost all citizens formed part, and which met in the open air in the market-places. The executive power was in the hands of the burgomaster and of the town councillors, who were elected by the great assembly. Though the separation between the old town and the new town continued, it seems at this period to have been an almost nominal one.

Less easy to define, but perhaps yet greater, was the influence of the preachers, mainly founded on the almost exclusive interest in theological controversy that was then general in Bohemia. John of Zelivo, who has already been mentioned, for a time acquired boundless popularity among the citizens. His influence largely contributed to securing to Prague the hegemony over Bohemia, and after his downfall and death, to which I shall presently refer, Prague soon lost its predominant position.

Warfare with Sigismund continued in spite of his great defeat, and the citizens of Prague played a prominent part in it. Their party, to accentuate the hegemony of the city, is generally called ‘the Praguers’ by the old chroniclers, in distinction both from the Romanists and the Taborites. The scene of the subsequent Hussite warfare was, however, generally distant from Prague, and therefore requires no notice here. It is only occasionally that Prague again becomes the centre of events.

Such was the case when, on April 21, 1421, ‘to the surprise and horror of all Christendom,’ the Archbishop of Prague, Conrad of Vechta, declared that he accepted ‘The Articles of Prague,’ thus joining the national Church. The news was joyfully received by the citizens of Prague. The Te Deum Laudamus was sung and the bells of all the churches were rung. All swore to obey the archbishop and to defend him. Only a few of the preachers who were favourable to Tabor looked with displeasure on the ‘healing of the anti-Christian monster.’ On the other hand, Conrad was not unnaturally overwhelmed with abuse by the Romanists. Dr. Tomek writes: ‘Archbishop Conrad was neither better nor worse than the majority of the Bohemian ecclesiastics of high rank at that period.’ To the student of the times a certain amount of scepticism may, in an exalted Bohemian ecclesiastic of the period, appear, though unpardonable, hardly inexplicable. Shortly afterwards, in accordance with a decision of a meeting of the Estates at Caslav, a synod of the Bohemian clergy assembled at the Carolinum in Prague.

Archbishop Conrad was indeed not present, but he had. delegated as his representatives several Hussite clergymen, of whom Magisters Pribram and Jacobellus were the most eminent. The synod resulted in a failure, mainly in consequence of the obstinacy of the delegates of Tabor.

Internal discord broke out in Prague not jong after the failure of the synod. Under the leadership of John of Zelivo, the democratic party in the city acquired ever-increasing strength, and opposed the provisional government of comparatively moderate views, which had been established at the assembly of Caslav. The more moderate party firmly believed in the possibility of securing an agreement with Rome, if the Bohemians but limited their demands to ‘The Articles of Prague,’ and eschewed ultra-revolutionary tendencies both in Church and State. That the views of the moderate Hussites were to a certain extent justified is proved by the fact that a settlement on the lines they contemplated was eventually obtained at the Council of Basel. But compromises are as distasteful to religious as to political fanatics, and Zelivo’s influence rendered all attempts at conciliation illusory. Zelivo’s undefined power became more and more pronounced, and it is undoubtedly through his influence—though evidence is not quite conclusive—that an Utraquist noble of moderate views, John of Sadlo,[12] who had come to Prague to justify himself against probably untrue accusations, was, when he appeared in the town hall, immediately arrested and decapitated without trial or judgment.

Reaction against the ultra-democratic, or rather anarchist, party soon increased among the citizens, and the influence of their aristocratic allies was also used to the detriment of Zelivo. An eye-witness of his fall and death has left us a detailed account of the events. John was enticed to the town hall of the Staré Mesto, under the pretext of seeking his advice concerning a new campaign against Sigismund. He was at first kindly received, but the magistrates suddenly called in their officials, who seized Zelivo. He attempted to remonstrate, but the burgomaster of the old town said, ‘It cannot be otherwise, priest John!’ Zelivo was allowed time for confession, and then decapitated. Rioting almost immediately ensued, particularly after a priest had shown John’s head to the people. Many houses in the old town, particularly in the Jewish quarter, were pillaged. The people insisted on the election of new town councillors, and several men, who were principally instrumental in plotting Zelivo’s death, were decapitated. His death none the less greatly diminished the power of the democratic party, particularly in the old town, as no demagogue of equal ability succeeded Zelivo.

Order was to a certain extent re-established in Prague during the short rule of Prince Sigismund Korybut of Lithuania, a nephew of the King of Poland, whom the Utraquist nobles wished to substitute to Sigismund of Hungary as their ruler. Korybut arrived at Prague in May 1422, and remained there to—the end of that year. He unsuccessfully attempted the siege of the Karlstyn that was still held by the Royal troops. This failure, as well as the influence of the King of Poland, induced Korybut to leave Prague, though, as events proved, only temporarily.

Shortly afterwards dissensions, ending in civil war, arose between the Praguers and the Taborites. The internal dissensions were not, however, of long duration, as the news of a new ‘crusade’ reunited all Bohemia, and the Treaty of Konopist (1423) for a time restored internal tranquillity. Unfortunately the truce lasted but for a short time. The new crusade proved a yet greater failure than those that had preceded it. The Germans and other crusaders speedily recrossed the frontier without even having encountered the Hussites on the field of battle, and we find the Praguers and Taborites again at war in 1424. Through the intervention of Korybut, who had meanwhile returned to Prague, another conference took place on the so-called Spitalské Pole (hospital field). Mainly through the eloquence of a young preacher at the Tyn Church, Rokycan, afterwards famous as Utraquist Archbishop of Prague, an agreement was obtained. It is a curious proof of the mutual distrust that prevailed that an agreement had been previously made, according to which the party that violated the truce should be fined a considerable sum, and that a large heap of stones should be placed in the Spitalské Pole for the purpose of stoning immediately all disturbers of the peace.

After the meetings at Konopist and on the Spitalské Pole, many others took place, in all of which the minutiæ of theology were discussed with that intense interest in religious controversy that was characteristic of the Bohemians of that time; of such meetings we may mention that held in the Hradcany in 1424, and the somewhat later one at the Carolinum.

Religious dissensions also caused the downfall of Korybut in 1427. The clergy of Prague were then divided into two parties: the more moderate one led by Magister Pribram, which Korybut favoured, and the advanced one, which was more in sympathy with the Taborites, and which had as leaders Rokycan, Jacobellus, and Peter Payne, who, in consequence of his English origin, was known as ‘Magister Englis.’ He played a considerable part in the contest, as a contemporary song tells us that—

The devil sent us Englis;
He walks stealthily through Prague,
Spreading doctrines from England
That are not wholesome for the Bohemians.’[13]

In consequence of Korybut’s support of the moderate party the advanced Hussites resolved to depose him. On April 17, 1427, he was surprised, captured without bloodshed, and conveyed to the Castle of Waldstein, near Boleslav. In September some of the nobles of his party attempted to obtain possession of Prague with the aid of Korybut’s partisans in the city. They succeeded in entering the town, and penetrated as far as the Staromestské Námesti. Desperate fighting ensued, but the advanced Hussites were finally victorious, and almost all the invaders were killed or made prisoners. Shortly afterwards Korybut was released and allowed to return to his own country.

It is only quite at the end of the Hussite Wars that the capital again becomes the scene of strife. After the great defeat of the troops of the last crusade at—Tauss (or Domazlice), the Church of Rome had for a time abandoned the idea of subduing Bohemia by force of arms. A Council assembled at Basel, and after prolonged negotiations the Bohemians consented to be represented there. Their envoys, among whom were Rokycan, afterwards Archbishop of Prague; Prokop the Great, leader of the Taborites; Nicholas of Pelhrimov, surnamed Biskupec; Peter Payne, the ‘English Hussite,’ and many others arrived at Basel on January 4, 1433. The negotiations began there, and afterwards continued at Prague, where the Council sent envoys, and where the Estates met in the Carolinum on June 12. Though these negotiations with the Council as yet proved unsuccessful, the delegates of the Council, before leaving Prague in January 1434, urgently exhorted the Utraquist nobles to take a more active part in the politics of their country, and to use their influence in favour of an agreement with Rome.

These words made a great impression on the Bohemian nobility, which viewed with great displeasure the almost complete extinction of its formerly overwhelming power. The struggle in Bohemia now became rather one between aristocracy and democracy than between contending religious parties. In direct connection with this new phase of the Bohemian struggle are the troubles that broke out at Prague. Ever since 1429 great antagonism, founded partly on local, partly on political differences, existed between the old and the new town. The former gradually became an ally of the Utraquist, and even of the Romanist nobles, while the men of the new town drew nearer and nearer to the Taborites. In 1434 Ales of Riesenburg was elected Regent of Bohemia, and a league ‘for the restoration of peace and order in the country’ was formed. It was joined by almost the entire nobility of Bohemia and by the citizens of Plzen, Melnik, and the Staré Mesto of Prague. The citizens of the Nové Mesto refused to join the confederacy; guided by the Taborite general, Prokop the Great, they began to prepare for war, and barricaded their streets that were nearest to the old town. Called in by the citizens of the old town, the nobles marched to their aid. Unable to arrive there directly, they crossed the Vltava to the Malá Strana, that was then under the rule of the old town. Joining the citizens here they together attacked the new town, which was subdued after some fighting. The men of the new town, who defended their town hall, resisted for some time, but capitulated after receiving permission to leave the city. A large part of the new town was pillaged by the army of the nobles, and their allies, the victorious citizens of the Staré Mesto, henceforth claimed supremacy over the new town.

Prokop hurriedly left Prague and wrote to Prokupek, the commander of the Taborite forces before Plzen, that ‘by God’s permission the false barons with the citizens of the old town have attacked our dear brethren, the citizens of the new town; they killed some and conquered the town.’ A few months later the great battle of Lipan resulted in the victory of the aristocratic party, and the ‘fall of Tabor,’ to use the words of the great Bohemian historian Palacky.

The defeat of the democratic party paved the way to the recognition of Sigismund as King. After prolonged negotiations at the Council of Basel and meetings of the Estates at Brno and Jihlava,[14] the Bohemians recognised Sigismund as their King, while he promised to obtain for them certain religious concessions, of which the permission to receive communion in the two kinds was the most important. A document known as the—‘Compacts’ enumerated these concessions.

On August 23, 1436, Sigismund arrived at the gates of Prague, where he was met by the magistrates of the three cities.[15] Amidst great rejoicings of the people, he proceeded to the Tyn Church, where Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Rokycan according to the Utraquist rites.

On the following Sunday, August 26, the magistrates of the three towns, in the market-place of the old town, appeared before Sigismund, who was sitting on a throne in his imperial robes, but wearing the Bohemian crown. They brought to him the keys of the town gates, which Sigismund immediately returned to them in proof of his entire reliance on their fidelity. He also confirmed all the ancient privileges of Prague, and again granted the men of the Nové Mesto independence from the old town.

The short period during which Sigismund was destined to reign over Bohemia was yet sufficiently prolonged to witness the destruction of the short-lived friendship between the King and his Bohemian subjects. Sigismund, who was during his whole life a fervent adherent of the Church of Rome, had accepted the Compacts as reluctantly as they had been granted
by the Church of Rome. He had also promised to use his influence with the Papal See to obtain the recognition of Rokycan as Archbishop of Prague. The Estates had elected him to that office at a meeting which they held in September 1435, but Rome now, and indeed always, refused to recognise him as Archbishop of Prague. The attitude of Sigismund in this matter was undoubtedly propitious. As Dr Tomek writes: ‘Publicly Sigismund wrote to the Council recommending it to confirm Rokycan’s nomination as Archbishop; secretly he advised the contrary.’ Bishop Philibert of Contances, who had taken part in the previous negotiations between the Council of Basel and the Bohemians, had accompanied Sigismund to Prague. Though without any recognised position in the country, Philibert endeavoured to exercise archiepiscopal functions at Prague, thus encroaching on the rights of Rokycan. Discord between the two ecclesiastics very soon began, and Philibert, who had assisted at a religious service held by Rokycan in the Tyn Church, noted with great displeasure that the sermon was preached in Bohemian, and that several hymns were also sung in that language.

While Sigismund in these disputes favoured the Roman Church, to the great displeasure of the Bohemians, other causes also contributed to his increasing unpopularity. Sigismund had awarded all the State offices either to Romanists or to such Utraquists as were nearest to Rome, thus excluding the enormous majority of the Bohemians. The King’s cruelty to the Taborite lord, John Rohác of Duba, was also viewed with great displeasure by the people. Rohác had remained in arms even after the general pacification. His castle, to which he had given the biblical name of Zion, long resisted the Royal arms. He was finally obliged to capitulate, and was by Sigismund’s orders executed on the Staromestské Námesti at Prague. This caused renewed warfare, as John Kolda, lord of Zampach, who with Rohác was one of the few nobles who was to the last faithful to Tabor, rose in arms against Sigismund.

Though there was thus no real concord, the short reign of Sigismund was marked by a ceremony that formally concluded the Hussite Wars. Papal legates brought the sanction of the Compacts to Prague. On April 13, 1437, a decree was read out in Corpus Christi Chapel, in the presence of Sigismund, his Consort and the Papal legates, stating ‘that no one should revile the Bohemians and Moravians for receiving communion in the two kinds, or for availing themselves of the other right granted by the Compacts, but that they should be considered true and faithful sons of the Church.’ Tablets containing this statement were placed in the Corpus Christi Chapel.[16]

This ceremony hardly even for a time interrupted the religious struggle. The animosity of the Papal legate and the more veiled hostility of Sigismund induced Rokycan, who had been deprived of his living at the Tyn Church, to leave Prague and seek refuge at the castle of one of the Utraquist nobles. Partly in consequence of incessant political and ecclesiastical troubles, Sigismund’s already weak health now became seriously impaired. He resolved to return to Hungary, but died on the journey at Znaym (December 9, 1437).

Though most of Sigismund’s undertakings proved failures, he was successful in his principal dynastic ambition, which was to secure the succession to the Bohemian throne—Sigismund had no male heirs—to his son-in-law Albert, Archduke of Austria. The
Bohemian Estates, though somewhat reluctantly, elected Albert as their Sovereign, and he was crowned King of Bohemia at Prague on July 29, 1438.

During his short reign Albert obtained but little popularity in Bohemia. A thorough German and a fervent Roman Catholic, his views, both as regards racial and religious matters, were in opposition to those of the majority of his new subjects. Though he had governed Moravia as representative of his father-in-law, Sigismund, for a considerable period, he had always declined to learn the Bohemian language, a point on which the Bohemians have, perhaps not unnaturally, been very susceptible at all times. Albert, who was also King of Hungary, was soon obliged to return to that country. Sultan Murad the Second had invaded Servia and the adjoining districts of Southern Hungary. During the campaign against the Turks Albert was seized with sickness, and died (October 27, 1439) after having only reigned two years over Bohemia.

A very tumultuous, almost anarchical, period in Bohemia followed the death of Albert. The national or Utraquist party, headed by Ptacek, and afterwards by George of Podebrad, was in constant conflict with the Austrian or Romanist nobles, whose leader was Ulrich of Rosenberg. On February 22, 1440, Albert’s widow gave birth to a son, known in history as Ladislas Posthumus; but as the question whether the Bohemian crown was hereditary or elective then was still in dispute, this did not contribute as largely to the stability of the commonwealth as might otherwise have been the case. Religious strife also continued. In 1448 a new Papal envoy, Cardinal John of Carvajal, arrived at Prague, and was at first joyfully received by the people. Public opinion, however, soon changed. Carvajal declared that the Pope would never recognise Rokycan as archbishop, and expressed great disapproval when informed that in a convent he visited communion was administered in the two kinds. His conduct generally did not tend to give the Puritan Praguers a favourable opinion of the dignitaries of the Roman Church. When negotiating with George of Podebrad, the head of the national party, who referred to the Compacts, the cardinal denied all knowledge of them. Podebrad therefore sent him the original of that valuable document. Shortly afterwards, Carvajal, frightened by the hostility of the citizens who threatened him with the fate of Hus, precipitately left Prague. It was immediately discovered that the Compacts had disappeared. Rokycan and Magister Pribram appealed to the magistrates, and the cardinal was pursued by armed forces. When arrested he was unable to deny the theft, but he begged to be allowed, to avoid public disgrace, only to open his luggage on his arrival at Benesov. This was granted to him, and he was escorted to that town. Here the Compacts were found hidden away among his luggage, and were brought back to Prague.

The mission of the cardinal thus proved an entire failure, and, indeed, only envenomed the religious struggle. Civil war was inevitable; it was only doubtful which party would begin hostilities.

It is probable that George of Podebrad and the other national leaders had arrived at the conclusion that the differences between their party and the Austrian one could only be settled by the force of arms, ever since the failure of the negotiations which had taken place at the great meetings of the Estates at Prague in 1446. Podebrad appears to have had evidence proving that the attempts at a reconciliation which the Bohemians had made through frequent—embassies to Rome had been frustrated by the secret machinations of Rosenberg, the leader of the Austrian and Romanist party. Still no warlike steps were taken till after the failure of Carvajal’s mission to Prague. But immediately afterwards Podebrad assembled an army of about gooo men near Kutna Hora and marched on Prague.

Municipal authority in the city was then in the hands of those Utraquists whose views were nearest to those of Rome, but the large majority of the citizens of Prague favoured the national party. To pacify the people the magistrates had, immediately after Carvajal’s departure, assembled the masters and priests at the Carolinum, and enjoined on all present not to speak in a derogatory manner of the Utraquist communion and the Articles of Prague. This decision was made known to the citizens from the town hall, but it did not lessen the distrust of the nationalists. After a vain attempt at negotiations, and after having declared feud to the town, Podebrad obtained possession of the Vysehrad by surprise and almost without loss of life (September 3). Continuing their march before daybreak, Podebrad’s troops then took possession of the adjoming Nové Mesto, and afterwards of the old town. Here also Podebrad’s men met with little opposition. Their war cry, ‘Kunstat Hr,’[17] terrified their enemies, while it rejoiced the large majority of the citizens who sympathised with Podebrad. The march of the national army from the new town to the town hall of the old city, where Podebrad and his principal generals took up their residence, became a triumphal procession. The town-captain, Hanus of Kolowrat, and several of the town councillors succeeded in making their escapes, but the burgrave, Menhard of Hradec, was captured and imprisoned by order of Podebrad.

The capture of Prague by Podebrad caused great internal changes in the capital. Rokycan returned to Prague, and was reinstated in all his former dignities.
On the other hand, the Romanist canons of St. Vitus’s Cathedral mostly fled to Plzen. Podebrad’s rule did not however remain uncontested. The lords and cities that were opposed to him formed a league against him, which, from the town where his opponents met, was called ‘the confederacy of Strakonic.’ A record of the desultory warfare that ensued, in which Podebrad and the national party were generally victorious, is beyond the purpose of this little book.. Podebrad continued to rule the country, and up to the time that Ladislas was able to exercise, at least nominally, the royal power, he governed Prague under the title of ‘Gubernator et rector civitatum Pragensium,’ the same designation that Korybut had formerly assumed.

In 1452 the Estates of Bohemia met at Prague and recognised Ladislas as their King, and in the following year he was, on October 28, crowned as King of Bohemia in St. Vitus’s Cathedal. The ceremony was performed by the Bishop of Olmütz, as King Ladislas, then only fourteen years old, yet refused to be crowned by Rokycan, the Utraquist Archbishop of Prague. In consequence of the youth of the King, Podebrad continued to rule Bohemia, not without much difficulty, as the young King’s open sympathy with Rome and marked hostility to Rokycan embittered the enormous Utraquist majority of the Bohemian population. Ladislas, who had proceeded to Hungary in 1456, returned in the following year to Prague. Shortly after his return the young King, who was on the point of being betrothed to Magdalen, daughter of Charles VII., King of France, was attacked by a mysterious illness that was similar to the Asiatic plague, if not identical with it. That terrible illness had, since the Turkish invasion, spread widely in Hungary, from which country Ladislas had just returned. The King summoned Podebrad to his bedside, took leave of him in touching words, and then died on the third day of his illness (November 23, 1457).

The body of Ladislas was conveyed to St. Vitus’s Cathedral on November 25. The Romanist chronicler, Eschenloer, who was then at Prague, writes: ‘The sorrow and wailing of the people was very great. Rokycan walked nearest to the bier with his sacrilegious clergy, carrying the sacrament and lighted candles. Then the good’ (i.e., Romanist) ‘clergy in small number followed.’

The premature death of Ladislas again brought the difficult question of the succession to the throne before the nobles and citizens of Bohemia. Foreign candidates, such as William, Duke of Saxony, Charles VII. of France, who endeavoured to obtain the crown for his son Charles, and Casimir, King of Poland, were represented by envoys when the Estates met in the town hall of the Staré Mesto on March 1. The Utraquist members of the assembly had, indeed, from the first decided to choose one of their number, Podebrad, whom they considered most worthy of the crown, but the votes of the Romanist envoys were uncertain. Prolonged debates took place, which on the following day were continued ‘with great seriousness and conscientiousness.’ Finally the high burgrave, Sternberg, declared for Podebrad, and kneeling before his old friend, exclaimed: ‘Long live George, our gracious King and Lord.’ All the other nobles and knights followed his example, and the unanimous election[18] was enthusiastically received by the crowd that had assembled outside the town hall. George was then conducted to the neighbouring Tyn Church, where he was received by Archbishop Rokycan.

Though George had been chosen unanimously, difficulties arose almost immediately with regard to his coronation, a ceremony to which the Bohemians have always attached the utmost importance. Finally, through the intervention of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, two Hungarian bishops undertook to crown the King, and the ceremony was performed with much splendour in St. Vitus’s Cathedral on May 7, 1458. The chroniclers state that when the crown was placed on the King’s head one of the largest jewels fell to the ground. This was afterwards interpreted as signifying that Breslau, which as capital of Silesia was one of the greatest towns in the lands of the Bohemian crown, would never be in Podebrad’s power. During his
eventful reign (1458–1471) King George was engaged in constant warfare with the rebellious Catholic nobles and with King Matthias of Hungary. That prince had indeed been an ally of George at the beginning of his reign, but his views changed when it became certain that an agreement between the Papal See and Podebrad was impossible. The King of Hungary now declared war against Bohemia, and attempted to supplant George as ruler of that country.

In 1452 the King assembled the Estates at Prague; the Bohemian envoys, who had just returned from Rome, the Papal legate and the Romanist bishops of Breslau and Olmütz were also present. The King presided, sitting under a baldachin with his consort, Queen Johanna, at his right and his sons at his left. Podebrad spoke strongly of the treachery of the Roman Court, and ended by declaring ‘that the Pope should know that he would not sell his faith for a kingdom, that he, his wife and his children were ready to risk their kingdom and their lives for the blessed blood’ (i.e., communion in the two kinds). This speech greatly affected all present, few of whom could refrain from tears.

The campaigns that occupied the last years of Podebrad hardly belong to a history of Prague.

On February 22, 1471, Archbishop Rokycan died, only a few weeks before his old ally King George, who died of dropsy on March 22 of the same year.

It had, no doubt, originally been a favourite design of Podebrad to found a national dynasty in Bohemia, but the necessities of his frequent wars had obliged him to favour the succession of Prince Vladislav of Poland, thus securing the valuable help of Poland for his country. It had indeed been tacitly settled during George’s lifetime, but the Estates maintained their traditional right of choosing their King, and met for that purpose at Kutna Hora. Besides Vladislav, several other candidates strove to obtain the Bohemian crown. The most important were Albert, Duke of Saxony, and King Matthias of Hungary. The whole influence of Rome was used in favour of the last-named candidate. The letter which the Papal legate, Rudolph, Bishop of Breslau, addressed to the Bohemians, and Praguers in particular, is interesting as formulating the argument against Hussitism, founded on the decline of Prague, that has been, before and since that time, constantly repeated. After stating that Christ on leaving the world had appointed St. Peter his representative, and that the Roman bishops, whom all faithful Christians should obey, were his successors, the legate admonishes the Praguers to remember the former glory of their city, which, while it was faithful to Rome, had surpassed all other towns, even Nuremberg, Cöln and Vienna, in wealth, power and wisdom; even Florence, Venice and Rome had scarcely equalled her.[19] The citizens should therefore abandon their Hussite errors and recognise Matthias as their King. This appeal does not appear to have impressed the Praguers or the other Bohemians much, for Vladislav was elected King with but little opposition. He arrived at Prague on August 19, 1471, and was met outside the town by the clergy and the people, who conducted him to the Royal residence. He was there presented with a Bible by the magisters of the University, ‘that reading it he might learn to rule both himself and his people according to the will of God.’

Vladislav, as Palacky has noted, was the first Bohemian Sovereign who was almost constantly absent from the country, while his consort, Anna de Foix, was the only Queen of Bohemia who never set her foot on the national soil. Vladislav, as was inevitable in consequence of his education, favoured the Romanists as far as it was in his power to do so. Through his influence the principal municipal offices at Prague were entrusted to men who, though nominally Utraquists, favoured the cause of Rome in every way. During the absence of the King riots broke out at Prague in 1483. The more ardent Hussite preachers violently attacked the government both of the King and of the town magistrates. The magistrates of Prague therefore resolved to seize these preachers, and it was rumoured that they had, in union with the magistrates of the Malá Strana and some Romanist lords, resolved a general massacre of the Utraquists in the city. One of the magistrates of the old town, Tomasek, surnamed ‘of the Golden Star,’ was reported to have told a neighbour, a fervent Hussite, that on the Sunday before St. Wenceslas (September 28) ‘they would give the Utraquists bloody cakes to eat.’ The menace was of course understood. Both parties began arming, and on September 24 civic warfare began. The great bells of the Tyn Church were rung, and the people stormed the neighbouring town hall. The burgomaster was, according to what may almost be called a national custom, thrown from the windows of the town hall, and several of the councillors were wounded or imprisoned. Far more sanguinary were the events in the new town. Here, also, the town hall was stormed, many of the town councillors were killed, and a general massacre of Romanists, particularly priests and monks, ensued. Finally, in the new and in the old town, as well as in the Malá Strana—where the revolution appears to have been far less violent—new magistrates were elected, and the magistrates of the three towns concluded an alliance for mutual defence. King Vladislav, who had approved of the plans of the former magistrates—it is impossible to state to what extent—was powerless.

The citizens of Prague, indeed, for a time obtained almost complete autonomy, which they preserved up to the reign of Ferdinand I., and to a certain extent up to 1547.

Vladislav died in Hungary in 1516, and was succeeded by his son Louis, who had already been crowned as King of Bohemia when a child of three years. Louis, like his father, was King of Hungary also, and spent a great part of his life in that country. As his representative in Bohemia, he appointed Leo of Rozmital, but afterwards replaced him by Duke Charles of Münsterberg, a grandson of King George, who assumed the title of Regent. Though the latter attempted somewhat to curb the turbulent citizens, yet Prague enjoyed almost complete independence, and feuds not dissimilar from those of ancient Italian cities broke out. Personal ambitions and animosities masqueraded in the garb of religious differences. We possess a precious contemporary account of these struggles in the chronicles of Bartos, surnamed ‘The Writer.’ Two demagogues, Pasek and Hlavsa,[20] contended for the supremacy over the citizens of Prague; both belonged to the Utraquist Church, but while the views of Hlavsa, who was largely influenced by Gallus Cahera, rector of the Tyn Church and a personal friend of Luther, were more advanced, Pasek belonged to that shade of Utraquism that was nearest to Rome. Bartos has eloquently described the conflicts that arose. I can here only allude briefly to the coup d’état of 1524, by which the reactionary party for a time obtained the upper hand. On August 9 a crowd of Pasek’s partisans invaded the town hall of the Staré Mesto and arrested all councillors who were of the Lutheran creed. Pasek henceforth ruled over Prague as a dictator, and issued severe decrees against all who ‘favoured foreign heresies.’

King Louis, who was then residing in Hungary, received the news of the success of the reactionary party with great joy, but the ever-increasing danger from Turkey did not admit of his interfering actively in the affairs of Bohemia.

Two years later King Louis perished at the Battle of Mohác, in Hiungary, and the Bohemian throne was again vacant.

The death of King Louis found the lands of the Bohemian crown in a state of almost complete anarchy, as both Vladislav and Louis had given their attention mainly to the other countries over which they ruled. Yet the question as to the hereditary character of the throne still being undecided, as soon as the news of the death of the King reached Prague, September 9, 1526, it was rumoured that many princes, undeterred by the precarious condition of the country, aspired to the Bohemian throne. These were, besides Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, brother-in-law of the late King, two Bavarian and two Saxon princes, Sigismund, King of Poland, and two great Bohemian nobles, Leo of Rozmital and Charles of Münsterberg. The Estates met at Prague on October 8, and the deliberations were somewhat prolonged. It was finally decided that each Estate should choose four electors from their number. The twelve electors met on October 23 in the Wenceslas Chapel of St. Vitus’s Cathedral. When they had finished their deliberations, they stated that they had chosen a King, but that the choice would only be made public on the following day. On October 24 Leo of Rozmital announced to the Estates assembled in the Hradcany Castle that Archduke Ferdinand of Austria had been elected King. All present then sang the national song ‘Svaty Václave.’ On February 24 of the following year Ferdinand was crowned in St. Vitus’s Cathedral. The following days were spent in great rejoicings, tournaments and balls in the Hradcany Castle. It was noted that—the Queen only excepted—the new King danced with no lady but the wife of Leo of Rozmital, whose exertions had largely aided him in obtaining the Bohemian crown.

The life of Ferdinand, who was also King of Hungary, frequently ruler of Germany, and Roman Emperor during the last years of his life, has only occasional connection with Prague. The fact that he caused the beautiful Renaissance building known as the Belvedere to be erected at Prague proves, however, that he was not devoid of interest in his Bohemian capital. Ferdinand strenuously endeavoured to strengthen the Royal power in Bohemia. He rescinded the decree of the demagogue Pasek, which had united the old and the new town in one community; and Pasek, though he vainly attempted to curry favour with the King, was struck off the list of the magistrates.

Gallus Cahera, preacher of the Tyn Church, who had now joined the reactionary party, was exiled from all the Habsburg dominions, and in 1530 Pasek himself was for a short time expelled from Prague. On the other hand, Hlavsa and some of his Lutheran partisans, who had been exiled by Pasek, were permitted to return to the Bohemian capital.

Though Ferdinand, as these facts prove, showed more moderation—at least at the beginning of his reign—than the Bohemians had expected, he was yet unable to establish religious tranquillity in the country. He was more successful in his endeavours to strengthen the Royal prerogative and limit the power of the Estates. That power was to a great extent founded on their right of electing the Sovereign. It was, therefore, a great success for the Royalist cause when the King, skilfully using the circumstance that a great fire in Prague (1541) destroyed all the ancient State documents, succeeded in persuading the Estates to recognise a new charter, which declared that Ferdinand had been accepted as King in consequence of the hereditary rights of his wife, Queen Anna, who was a sister of King Louis. It must, however, be mentioned that this curtailing of the privileges of the Bohemian Estates contributed to the revolutionary movement of 1547.

In that year troubles broke out in Bohemia in connection with the war that Charles V. and his brother Ferdinand were waging against the leaders of the German Protestants, John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, and Philip, Landgrave of Hessé. Ferdinand claimed military aid from his Bohemian subjects, which the then almost entirely Protestant population of the country was not unnaturally unwilling to grant. Sixt of Ottersdorf, who, as clerk, and afterwards chancellor of the old town, played a considerable part in these events, has left us an interesting account of these troubles.[21] In 1546 Ferdinand assembled the Estates and urged them to equip an armed force against the Turks. They consented, but when it appeared that their levies were to attack, not the Turks, but Saxony, the largest part of the Bohemian army refused to cross the Saxon frontier. On January 1, 1547, Sixt of Ottersdorf presented to King Ferdinand—who, during the then customary interruption of hostilities in winter, had returned to Prague—the usual new-year gifts on the part of the citizens, ‘expressing in a Latin speech hopes that the coming year would end all disturbances and wars in the Christian world; for they were caused only by some unquiet men.’ In reply to this ambiguous speech the King stated that he accepted their gifts and good wishes, and that he hoped that with the aid of the Praguers and his other subjects he would shortly be able to restore peace to the empire. On the following day the King ordered the citizens of the old and new towns to equip 300 armed men each. This, as the contemporary writers state, caused great displeasure, as the citizens had no doubt that they were ordered to arm against the men of their own faith.

A few days later he decreed a general arming of the people, reminding the Bohemians of an ancient decree, according to which those who did not give their aid when Bohemia was in danger should lose their lives and their estates. He therefore summoned all to join him in arms at Litomerice, but a few Romanist lords alone obeyed the Royal command. The feeling was general that the Diet’s sanction was necessary for such a general armament. The Praguers took the lead in the opposition to Ferdinand, and the movement in their city had a strongly democratic character.[22] Mistrusting the energy of their magistrates, the citizens, both of the old and of the new town, at a general meeting on January 23, 1547, resolved that in future all matters of great importance should be decided at general meetings of the citizens, who were to be called together by the town bells. They further declared that a general arming of the people, without the consent of the Diet, was contrary to the law of the land. Many Bohemian towns, such as Kolin, Kourim, Caslav, Cesky Brod, made common cause with Prague, which they recognised as the ‘head of the Estate of the citizens.’ Many knights and nobles, particularly those who belonged to the ‘unity’ of the Bohemian brethren, were in sympathy with the towns, and, indeed, agreed to their suggestion that a meeting of the Estates should take place. This was distinctly unconstitutional, as the King alone had the right of summoning the Estates. On February 13 a private meeting of the nobles took place at the house of Lord Bohus Kostka, in the Celetna Ulice. All present agreed to act in accord with the citizens, and after a prolonged conference proceeded to the Staromestské Námesti singing “True Christians, let us strongly hope”; they then lifted their hats, berets and caps when passing the Tyn Church, and retired to their abodes.’

A more formal meeting of the Estates took place in the following month. King Ferdinand had, indeed, written from Dresden to the high officials of Prague, ordering them to do everything in their power to prevent this meeting of the Estates, who had not been summoned by their King. They, none the less, met on March 18 at the Carolinum, where 800 nobles, knights and representatives of the Bohemian towns (except Plzen and Budejovice) were present. They formed a confederacy and formulated their demands in forty-five articles, which mainly tended to curtailing the Royal prerogative, securing religious freedom, and affirming the elective character of the Bohemian throne. It was resolved to bring these demands before King Ferdinand by a deputation chosen from among the members of the Diet, and the Estates also entered into negotiations with the Protestant princes of Germany, and resolved to equip an army.

Shortly afterwards the news of the great Protestant defeat at Mühlberg (April 24, 1547) reached Prague. The citizens at first discredited the truth of the reports, but when the evil news was confirmed they, as well as the other Bohemians, found themselves obliged to confront the difficult position to which a policy, which was at once venturesome and timid, had led them; for they had acted in a manner that would necessarily irritate their Sovereign, while they had done little or nothing to aid the Protestant cause. It was finally decided to disband their army—this was one of Ferdinand’s principal demands—to congratulate Ferdinand on his victory, to alter the instructions that had been given to the envoys who were to bring their claims before the King, while still maintaining the grievances of the Bohemians. The envoys—among them was Sixt, the historian—joined the King, with whom was his brother, Charles V., in the camp before Wittenberg, which they were then besieging. They were received both by the Emperor and by Ferdinand, who told them that they would later signify their pleasure with regard to Bohemia. The Estates should meanwhile renounce all alliances that were hostile to their King.

Ferdinand had already decided to avail himself of the momentary position for the purpose of strengthening the Royal power. Acute politician as he was, he clearly saw that nothing would so greatly further his purpose as causing dissension among the Bohemian Estates. He resolved to deal more severely with the towns than with the knights and nobles. He e marched to Litomerice with a large force, and here issued a proclamation, stating that he would receive graciously all knights and nobles, who had been merely misled by others; of the townsmen no mention was made. On July 2 Ferdinand arrived at Prague, and first occupied the Hradcany Castle without resistance. His army, consisting principally of Spaniards and Walloons, then surrounded the old and new towns,
committing great depredations in the outskirts of Prague. Some fighting took place, and the lower order of the Praguers began to arm, and decided to defend the bridge. The counsels of the wealthier and wiser citizens, who knew that resistance was hopeless, however, soon prevailed, and the cities surrendered. Ferdinand summoned the more important citizens to appear before him at the Hradcany Castle. On July 8 he received the deputies, about 600 in number, in the hall of Vladislav. With the King were the great dignitaries of Bohemia and Moravia, the Bishops of Olmütz and Breslau, and Prince Augustus, brother of Maurice of Saxony.

It is a proof of the importance of the town of Prague that it was customary that the Bohemian King should give his hand to the magistrates of the city when they appeared before him. On this occasion, however, Ferdinand omitted to do this, and, indeed, turned his back on the citizens as a mark of displeasure. Some time elapsed before he ordered a paper that contained the grievances against the citizens of Prague, who were accused of being the principal instigators of the recent disturbances, to be read to the deputies. The townsmen attempted no defence, and, in their name, Sixt of Ottersdorf declared that the citizens surrendered unconditionally to their Sovereign. The King ordered Ludanic, Captain of Moravia, to inform the citizens that he would shortly convey his decision to them. He had meanwhile ordered Jacob Fikar, burgomaster of the old town, and one of the town councillors, who had both not appeared before him, to be arrested. Then only were the citizens informed of the conditions under which they would be pardoned. They were to abandon all confederacies, even those between the Prague cities, to surrender all papers dealing with their negotiations with the Elector of Saxony, to submit for revision all the papers containing the ancient privileges of the Prague cities, to give up all arms, and to return to the Crown all landed estates that belonged to it, but had been temporarily granted to the citizens. The last paragraph, in a somewhat veiled manner, stipulated the confiscation of considerable estates that had long belonged to the Prague cities. The citizens were, however, obliged to accept all the King’s demands.

The King then convoked the Estates for August 22, but he resolved that, as a deterrent example, the execution of the four most prominent national leaders should immediately precede this meeting of the Diet, which has ever since been known as the Krvavy Snem (i.e., bloody Diet). On August 20 two knights and two citizens, one of whom was Fikar, were decapitated on the market-place before the Hradcany Castle. Other less severe punishments were inflicted on some of the members of the nationalist leaders, particularly on those who were members of the community of the Bohemian Brethren, who were suspected of having strongly favoured an alliance with the German Protestants. The head of that community, John Augusta, was arrested at Litomysl, imprisoned in the ‘White Tower’ on the Hradcany, and cruelly tortured there.

The ‘bloody Diet’ accepted all the King’s proposals, though they largely limited its powers, and comparative quiet continued in Prague during the remaining years of Ferdinand’s rule.

Ferdinand died in 1564, and the news of his death reached Prague on July 28. His eldest son, Maximilian, who had already been crowned King of Bohemia, succeeded his father without any opposition. His well-known inclination to Protestantism rendered the Utraquist majority of the Estates favourable to him, while the Romanists were traditionally partisans of the House of Habsburg.

Little need in this sketch of the story of Prague be said of the twelve years (1564–1576) during which Maximilian reigned over Bohemia. He visited Prague and held Diets there in 1567, 1571 and 1575. On these occasions the proceedings were similar and, it may be added, monotonous. Maximilian invariably demanded grants of money to enable him to carry on war against the Turks, and the Estates, with equal regularity, claimed that further concessions should be made to the Utraquists, or rather Protestants as they should now be called. At the Diet of 1575 the Lutherans and Bohemian brethren jointly drew up a profession of faith which is known as the ‘Confessio Bohemica.’ The King did not indeed recognise it, but he granted the Protestants, now the great majority of the population, independence from the old Utraquist consistory. They were allowed to choose fifteen ‘defenders,’ five from each Estate, to whom the government of the Protestant Church was to be entrusted. No doubt, largely in consequence of this concession, the lstates accepted Maximilian’s eldest son, Rudolph, as heir to the throne, and consented to his coronation during the lifetime of his father. Some objections were raised with regard to Rudolph’s ignorance of the Bohemian language, and it was stipulated that he should, in the absence of his father, reside in Prague, that he might thoroughly learn the language and the laws of the country over which he was once to rule.

The Estates deputed seven nobles and seven knights, who proceeded to the Karlstyn on September 20, for the purpose of fetching the Royal insignia of Bohemia that were preserved there. On their return the coronation took place, with the same ceremonial as that of Maximilian, who had also been crowned during the lifetime of his father. According to the custom Rudolph was crowned in St. Vitus’s Cathedral. He first proceeded to the Chapel of St. Wenceslas, where the Romanist Archbishop and his clergy received him. He then entered the main church, and the burgrave, William of Rosenberg, then asked the assembled Estates whether they consented to the coronation of Rudolph as King. They all, with loud voices,
expressed their consent. Rudolph was then crowned by the Romanist Archbishop, with the assistance of William of Rosenberg.

The accession of Rudolph to the Bohemian throne followed very closely on his coronation. Maximilian died in 1576, and his son immediately proceeded to Prague, where he resided almost continually during his reign. His life is therefore in closer connection with Prague than that of almost any other Bohemian ruler, Charles IV. only excepted.

Rudolph’s character was a very singular one, and it is certain that he occasionally suffered from melancholia. With a thorough knowledge and a great love of art, he combined an intense dislike of the affairs of the State. No king did more for the embellishment of Prague. According to a contemporary epigram, Prague, that had been of wood at the time of Libussa, afterwards became marble, but golden under Rudolph. Rudolph was a great collector of paintings, sculpture, and even mere ‘curiosities.’ His agents travelled all over Europe; thus Albrecht Dürer’s ‘Madonna,’ one of the few picture’s from Rudolph’s collection that is still at Prague, was purchased at Venice and carried ‘by four stout men’ across the Alps to Prague. Among the artists who, on Rudolph’s invitation, visited Prague, was the engraver Sadeler, a native of the Netherlands. His engravings of Prague—three of which are reproduced in this volume—are among the most interesting ancient records of the city.

More questionable was Rudolph’s taste for chemistry and astronomy, or rather for alchemy and astrology. The astronomers Keppler, Tycho Brahe, and his assistant Tennagel, who afterwards fell in disgrace, were Rudolph’s guests on the Hradcany. His taste for alchemy attracted many to Prague who were supposed to be adepts in that science. It must, however, be stated in defence of Rudolph that alchemy was by no means, in his day, an utterly discredited science. Even a century later Spinoza considered it as worthy
of consideration. Rudolph by no means hesitated to punish those alchemists whom he considered as impostors. It is interesting to note that among these alchemists there were two English adventurers—Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley.[23]

The earlier years of Rudolph’s reign were a period of peace and prosperity in Bohemia. His latter years were embittered by the treachery and perfidy of his ambitious younger brother Matthias. The real cause of the conflict was that Rudolph, who had no legitimate offspring, refused to make any arrangements as to the succession to the thrones of Bohemia and Hungary. It was as a mere pretext that Matthias brought forward the grievance that Rudolph had refused to sanction a treaty with Turkey that he had concluded in his brother’s name. Matthias occupied Moravia, and took possession of that country almost without resistance. He then entered Bohemia and advanced as far as Caslav. Rudolph, though reluctantly, summoned the Bohemian Estates to Prague on May 8, 1608. Though the usual ecclesiastical grievances were brought forward, it soon became evident that the Bohemians did not wish to abandon Rudolph in favour of his brother. The latter had meanwhile advanced as far as Liben,[24] where peace negotiations took place. A treaty was finally signed there by which Rudolph ceded Upper and Lower Austria and Moravia to his brother, but retained Bohemia for his lifetime. In the evening Matthias gave a large banquet in his camp; there were two tables, at each of which a hundred guests were seated. Many healths were drank, and a somewhat scandalous contemporary writer tells us that many of Rudolph’s envoys ‘only returned to Prague about midnight, and very intoxicated.’

Even the cession of almost all his possessions did not ensure Rudolph’s tranquillity during the remaining years of his life. Many nobles who had sided with him against his brother now again brought their demand of religious freedom before him. The leader of the Protestants was now Wenceslas of Budova, whose pious and somewhat Puritan character renders him one of the most interesting figures of the last years of Bohemian independence. When Rudolph had prorogued the Diet of 1609 the Estates continued their meetings in the town hall of the Nové Mesto. Budova, who presided, always began the deliberations by calling on all present to pray. All then knelt down and sang a hymn.

For a moment civil war seemed inevitable. Rudolph’s attitude, indeed, had at first been conciliatory. He has been credited by various historians with a religious fanaticism that was absolutely alien to his nature. Yet the Spanish ambassador, Zuniga, and Archduke Leopold, a kinsman of Rudolph’s and a brother of Archduke Ferdinand, afterwards King of Bohemia, succeeded in persuading the apathetic Sovereign to send a message to the Estates, in which he promised the Protestants the same amount of toleration which they had enjoyed under Ferdinand I.; he thus withdrew even the concessions that had been made to the Protestants by the more liberal-minded Maximilian. The Protestant Estates considered this message as a declaration of war; they decided to arm, and chose thirty ‘directors’—ten from each order—who established themselves at the town hall of the Staré Mesto, forming, as the historian Gindely says, a provisional government. Rudolph, however, finally gave way, and on July 9, 1609, signed the famed ‘letter of Majesty.’ He recognised the ‘Confessio Bohemica,’[25] granted the Protestants the administration of the University, and empowered them to elect thirty ‘defenders’ from their number who were to act as guardians of the rights of the Protestants.

There is no doubt that Rudolph granted these extensive concessions reluctantly, and that he sought an opportunity for retracting them. He entered into negotiations with Archduke Leopold, who was then Bishop of Passau. Under the pretence of interfering in the religious troubles that had broken out in Germany, Leopold collected a considerable armed force, which in 1611 invaded Bohemia. Leopold, no doubt, wished to free Rudolph from the control of the Protestants, and probably hoped to obtain the Bohemian crown as a reward, to the exclusion of Matthias and of his own brother Ferdinand. The men of Passau soon occupied a large part of Southern Bohemia, marched rapidly on Prague, and encamped on the White Mountain, immediately outside the city walls. After scaling the walls of the Malá Strana they attacked the neighbouring Hradcany Castle, where Leopold was then residing as a guest of Rudolph. Desperate fighting in the Malá Strana took place between the men of Passau and a small force that the Bohemian Estates had hurriedly raised, and which was commanded by Count Thurn. The invaders succeeded in driving the Bohemians from the Malá Strana, but their attempt to obtain possession of the bridge, and thus to secure access to the old town, failed.

Leopold, who thought victory certain, now assumed the command of his troops, and summoned the old and new towns to surrender. This was declined, and as the army of the Estates received constant reinforcements, Leopold and his troops were obliged to leave Prague secretly on the night of March 11. Matthias had meanwhile arrived at Prague, and Rudolph was forced to abdicate in his favour. He did not long survive his deposition, but died on January 10, 1612.

During the brief reign of Matthias (1611–1619) the religious troubles in Bohemia continued and reached their climax in the famous defenestration of Prague. Matthias, like his brother, was childless, and the question of the succession to the Bohemian throne was therefore urgent. The Estates met at Prague in 1617, and through the influence of the Government officials, Archduke Ferdinand of Styria was accepted as heir to the throne. Only one of the officials, Count Thurn, burgrave of the Karlstyn, opposed the acceptation, and was therefore deprived of his office. The decision which assured the Bohemian crown to Ferdinand, a determined persecutor of the Protestants, necessarily hastened the progress of events. The Protestants knew that war to the knife awaited them; the only question was when hostilities should begin. The initiative finally, however, came from the Catholics. In direct violation of the agreements of 1609[26] the Romanist Archbishop of Prague caused the Protestant church at Hrob (or Klostergrab) to be destroyed, while the abbot of Broumov (Braunau) ordered the Protestant church in the town of that name, which was under his jurisdiction, to be closed.

The Protestant ‘defenders’ took immediate action. They summoned their Protestant Estates to a consultation, which began on March 6, 1618, in the Carolinum. Though King Matthias had forbidden the meeting, a large number of nobles and knights and a few townsmen were present.

Count Thurn now became the leader of the Protestant Estates, and there is little doubt that he from the first considered war inevitable. He spoke eloquently of the grievances of the Protestants, alluding particularly to the recent occurrences at Hrob and Broumov, and suggested that a remonstrance should be addressed to the Government officials at Prague. The Protestants agreed to this, and also resolved, should this step prove ineffective, to address their complaints directly to King Matthias, who then resided in Vienna. As an answer could not be immediately expected, it was decided that the Protestants should mect again on May 21. Before that date, however, the leaders of the movement issued a manifesto, that was read in all the Utraquist and Protestant churches of Prague, in which, though the Sovereign was not attacked, the Royal councillors, particularly the chief judge Slavata, and Martinic, the new burgrave of the Karlstyn, who had replaced Thurn, were directly accused of using their influence over the Sovereign in a manner hostile to the Bohemian people. On May 21, the Estates, as had been agreed, met again at the Carolinum. They were immediately summoned to the Hradcany Palace, where a Royal message prohibiting their meetings was read to them. They none the less met again on the 22nd, when Thurn suggested that the Estates should, on the following day, proceed to the Hradcany in a body and in full armour. He threw out dark hints that a small deputation would not be safe in the vast precincts of the Hradcany; if the gates were closed after their arrival, they would be separated from the town, and a general massacre of the envoys might ensue. A more secret meeting took place late in the evening, at the Smiricky Palace.[27] Besides Thurn, a few other leaders, Colonna of Fels, Budova, Ruppa, two nobles of the Kinsky and two of the Rican family were present. Ulrich of Kinsky proposed that the Royal councillors should be poniarded in the council chamber, but Thurn’s suggestion that they should be thrown from the windows of the Hradcany Palace prevailed. This was, in Bohemia, the traditional death penalty for traitors. As the Estates afterwards quaintly stated, ‘they followed the example of that which was done to Jezebel, the tormentor of the Israelite people, and also that of the Romans and other famed nations, who were in the habit of throwing from rocks and other elevated places those who disturbed the peace of the commonwealth.’

Early on the morning of the memorable 23rd of May the representatives of Protestantism in Bohemia proceeded to the Hradcany; all were in full armour, and most of them were followed by one or more retainers. They first proceeded to the hall, where the Estates usually met. The address to the King which the defenders had prepared was here read to them. All then entered the hall of the Royal councillors, where a very stormy discussion arose. Count Slik, Thurn, Kinsky and others violently accused Martinic and Slavata, the two principal councillors, of being traitors. Slik particularly accused Martinic of having deprived ‘that noble Bohemian hero, Count. Thurn,’ of his office of burgrave of the Karlstyn. He added that, ‘as long as old men, honest and wise, had governed Bohemia the country had prospered, but since they (i.e., Martinic and Slavata), worthless disciples of the Jesuits, had pushed themselves forward, the ruin of the country had began.’

What now happened can be best given in the words of the contemporary historian, Skala ze Zhore:—‘No mercy was granted them, and first the Lord of Smecno (i.e., Martinic) was dragged to the window near which the secretaries generally worked; for Kinsky was quicker and had more aid than Count Thurn, who had seized Slavata. Then they were
both thrown, dressed in their cloaks and with their rapiers and decorations, just as they had been found in the councillors’ office, one after the other, head foremost out of the western window into a moat beneath the palace, which by a wall was separated from the other deeper moat. They loudly screamed, “Ach, ach, Ouvé!” and attempted to hold on to the window-frame, but were at last obliged to let go, as they were struck on their hands.’ It remains to add that neither of the nobles nor Fabricius, their secretary, who was also thrown from the window, perished; a circumstance that the Catholics afterwards attributed to a miracle.

Immediately after the defenestration the Estates elected thirty ‘directors’—chosen in equal number from the three Estates—who were to constitute a provisional Government. Ruppa, one of the most gifted of the Bohemian nobles, became head of this Government, while Thurn assumed command of the army which the Estates hurriedly raised. On March 20, 1619, Matthias died, and though the Estates had recognised Ferdinand as his successor, the throne became practically vacant; for it was very unlikely that the Protestants who had risen in arms against Matthias would now accept a far more intransigent Romanist as their ruler.

On July 8 a general Diet, that is to say one consisting of deputies of Moravia and Silesia as well as Bohemia, met at Prague. On August 3 this assembly pronounced the deposition of Ferdinand as King of the Bohemian lands, and on the 26th the crown was offered to Frederick, Count Palatine. There were other candidates, but an eloquent speech of Ruppa decided in Frederick’s favour. He assured the Bohemians that they would obtain powerful allies if they elected Frederick, and specially referred to

Inscription on Picture.

The Bohemian leaders—Anhalt the Elder, Hohenlohe, Thurn the Elder and the Younger, Anhalt the Younger, John of Bubna, Henry Slik (of the Moravian allies), Stubenvoll (of the German allies), the Duke of Weimar. The Imperialist leaders—Maximilian of Bavaria, Buguoy, Tieffenbach (of the German league), Tilly, Pappenheim, Des Fours, Caralli and others.

James I. of England, the father-in-law of their new Sovereign.

After some hesitation, Frederick accepted the crown and proceeded to Bohemia accompanied by his consort. They arrived at the ‘Star’ Palace, immediately outside Prague, early in the morning of October 31, and on the same day made their solemn entry into the town. Many Bohemian nobles who had awaited their new Sovereign at the ‘Star’ joined the procession to the Hradcany Castle. At the Strahov gate they were met by the guilds of Prague carrying their banners, and by numerous peasants ‘all clad in the old Bohemian dress and bearing arms that had been used during the Hussite Wars.’ On November 4 Frederick was crowned King of Bohemia in St. Vitus’s Cathedral, and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth took place there three days later.

The winning manners of Frederick at first obtained for him considerable popularity, and when Queen Elizabeth gave birth to a son—Prince Rupert—on December 26 the citizens of Prague greatly rejoiced. Difficulties, however, soon arose. The King was ignorant of the national language, and seems to have made no attempt to acquire it. When Frederick’s Calvinist divines persuaded him to have the altars and paintings removed from St. Vitus’s Cathedral, Lutherans, Utraquists and Romanists were equally indignant.

Queen Elizabeth never secured even that limited amount of popularity that her consort obtained. She was accompanied principally by English ladies, and was believed to have spoken to them in an unfavourable manner of her new country. She had hardly any intercourse with the Bohemian ladies, few of whom knew French, and none English. They strongly disapproved of their new Queen, who, they said, ‘had no settled hours either for her meals or for her prayers,’ and even of the low dresses which she and her English ladies wore.

Frederick remained at Prague up to September 28, 1620, and then only joined his army in Southern Bohemia that was opposing the advance of the Austrians. He found his soldiers already entirely disorganised, and was forced to retreat on Prague. His forces reached the White Mountain, immediately outside the town, on the evening of November 7. The enemies, who were in close pursuit, attacked the Bohemians on the following day. Frederick had meanwhile returned to Prague to join his consort. Neither this proof of conjugal affection, nor the fact that an immediate attack of the Catholic forces may not have appeared probable, can in any way excuse what was practically desertion.

It is certain that the Catholic commanders were not at first unanimous as to the policy of attacking the Bohemians at a moment when the Catholic army was exhausted by prolonged marches. Buguoy I., who commanded the Austrian forces, advised delay, but the opinion of the Duke of Bavaria and Tilly, who insisted on an immediate attack, prevailed. The numerous Jesuits and other friars who accompanied the army also declared that no delay should be granted to the heretics. It was also taken into consideration that Christian of Anhalt, Commander-in-Chief of the Protestant forces, was hastily throwing up earthworks on the plateau of the White Mountain, and endeavouring to re-establish discipline among his troops, which had been demoralised by their continuous retreat. A deferred attack might therefore be more hazardous than an immediate one.

Even before the council of war had decided on an immediate attack, a small Bavarian force—not yet supported by the mass of the Catholic army—attacked the right flank of the Bohemians. The younger Count Slik, who commanded some of the Moravian troops, hurriedly rode up to Christian of Anhalt, begging his permission to attack the Bavarians on their march. ‘It was a weighty and fateful moment in the history of the Bohemian people.’[28] Anhalt at first favoured the suggestion, but on the advice of Hohenlohe, who was second in command, he finally refused his consent. The whole Catholic army soon united, and advanced on the whole line. Though the younger Count Thurn’s infantry successfully beat back an attack of the Austrian infantry, and the son of Christian of Anhalt made a successful cavalry charge, the Catholics were soon victorious, and the earthworks were, after a short defence, carried by the troops of Austria, Bavaria and Spain. Of the Protestant forces the Hungarian horsemen, whom Gabriel Bethlen, Prince of Transsylvania, had sent to Bohemia, first took to flight. They attempted to cross the Vltava by a ford near the present suburb of Smichov, and many perished in the river. Flight soon became general, and the conduct of the Bohemians and their allies was most unworthy of the ancient glory of the country. There were some exceptions to the well-nigh general cowardice. A small Moravian force under Count Slik retreated to the wall of the ‘Star’ Park, where they defended themselves with desperate courage.[29] When almost all had been killed, those who remained surrendered. The battle, and with it the fate of Bohemia, was then decided. As proof of the heroism of the Moravians, contemporary writers tell us that along the ‘Star’ walls[30] the dead at some places lay ten or twelve high.

Inscription above Central Picture.

‘True representation of the executions at Prague. How by the most gracious order and command of his Roman Imperial Majesty the former Bohemian Directors, Counts, Lords, Knights and men of the Estate of the citizens were, on Saturday, the 9th of June of this year 1621, condemned in the royal castle of the Hradcany, and then, on Monday, June 21, punished and executed on the market-place of the old town.’

Inscription under Central Picture.

‘This design shows clearly how the 24 men were decapitated one after the other, and how three others were then hanged,’

Inscription under Upper Engraving Right Side.

‘Here you see the twelve heads exposed on the bridge tower of Prague.’

Inscription under Lower Engraving Right Side.

‘How three men are whipped with rods, while the tongue of one is nailed to the gallows.’

Story of Prague (1920), Execution on the Old Town Square in 1621.jpg
The news that the battle had begun reached Frederick in the banqueting hall of the Hradcany Castle, where he was entertaining the English ambassadors, whom his father-in-law James I. had sent to Prague. He mounted his horse and rode to the Strahov gate, only arriving there in time to witness the rout and flight of his army. The sight of the battlefield and even, as an eye-witness tells us, the terrible wailing of the women,[31] greatly impressed Frederick, and he hurriedly returned to the Hradcany. From here he proceeded with Queen Elizabeth to the old town, and the defeated army also crossed to the right bank of the river. A council of war was held late in the evening, at which most of Frederick’s generals spoke in favour of instant retreat. The King himself made some pretence of resolution. But when, on the following morning, Elizabeth left Prague, the King—a modern Antony, without Antony’s bravery—‘hastily mounted his horse, thus giving the signal for a general flight.’

The battle of the White Mountain is one of the greatest landmarks in the history of Bohemia, and of Prague in particular. I will not here refer to the complete change in the condition of Bohemia which it caused, the complete suppression of Protestantism, the complete annihilation of the ancient constitution of the land, the almost complete, though but temporary, extinction of the national language.

But before ending my account of Prague as the capital of an independent country, I must briefly refer to the executions on June 21, 1621. Immediately after the suppression of the national movement it appeared probable that the Austrian policy would be a lenient one. But sterner councils soon prevailed at Vienna. In February Slik, Budova, Divis Cernin, Kaplir, as well as Jessenius, the rector of the University, and some of the leading townsmen, were arrested. There was no pretence of conducting the trial according to the ancient legal institutions of the country, which granted great privileges to nobles. A special tribunal was constituted, and its members were instructed to judge with the greatest severity.

The judges arrived from Vienna on March 13, 1621, and the court sat for the first time at the Hradcany Castle on the 15th of that month. The judges did not fail to act according to their instructions. Their decision, which Ferdinand confirmed on May 23, the anniversary of the defenestration, pronounced the confiscation of the estates of all the accused. There were twenty-seven death sentences; of the condemned men twenty-four were to be decapitated, three hanged. In some cases torture was added to the death penalty. Thus Divis Cernin, captain of the Hradcany Castle, who had opened the gates of that castle to the Protestants, Count Slik, Bohuslav Michalovic and others were to have a hand cut off before execution, while the tongue of Jessenius, rector of the Prague University, whom the Bohemians had employed in their negotiations with Transsylvania, and whose eloquence the Imperialists dreaded, was to be cut out. Not many of these additional punishments were, however, actually carried out.

Besides these death sentences many Bohemians were condemned to prison for lengthy periods, while others were expelled from Prague, and it was ordered that they should be whipped with rods till they reached the city gates.

On June 19 the prisoners were informed of their fate, and on the following day their wives and children, as well as three Lutheran clergymen, were admitted to visit them. It is on the narrative of these clergymen that the great historian Skála has
based his account of the last movements of the prisoners and their execution.[32] The day fixed for the executions was June 21, and on the previous day all prisoners who were not already confined in the dungeons of the town hall of Staré Mesto were conveyed there, as the executions were to take place in the immediately adjacent market-place. They met their fate with great fortitude, and spent their time mainly in singing hymns. They conversed freely with the Lutheran clergymen. Budova said, ‘I am weary of my days. May God deign to receive my soul, that I may not behold the disaster that, as I know, has overcome my country.’ Count Slik said, ‘I am before the tribunal of the world, and expect immediate death. But those who have judged me will have to appear before the awful tribunal of Him who will judge more justly.’

Early on the morning of June 21 a cannon-shot was fired as a signal that the executioners were to begin. One by one the prisoners were conducted to the market-place, ‘that mournful stage and slaughter-house of Antichrist,’ as Skála calls it. Each man when proceeding to his death took leave of his comrades in a pleasant manner, as if he were going to a banquet or some pastime. ‘I go before you,’ he said, ‘that I may first see the glory of God, the glory of our beloved Redeemer; but I await you directly after me; in this hour grief already vanishes, and a new heartfelt and eternal happiness begins.’ Full preparations had been made by the Imperial authorities to prevent disturbances. The whole market-place was lined with troops, and orders had been given that the drums should beat during the whole time that the executions lasted. A tribune had been erected, from which the Austrian authorities watched the executions. Slik was first led forth, and after him twenty-three others were decapitated. The tongue of Jessenius was cut out before his execution, and a hand of Michalovic was cut off. Three citizens of Prague then suffered death on the gallows. To further accentuate the reign of terror that had begun, the heads of twelve of the nobles who had been decapitated were exposed on the towers of the bridge of Prague, six on the bridge tower of the Malá Strana, six on that of the old town.

  1. Dogmengeschichte, Vol. III., pp. 434–435.
  2. Dubravius, Historia Bohemiæ
  3. Laurence of Brezov.
  4. The German names are Schlan and Leitmeritz.
  5. i.e., Heretic.
  6. Their contents will be found in my Bohemia: An Historical Sketch, p. 164.
  7. See Chapter VII.
  8. The Orebites were a military community similar to that of Tabor. Their centre was a hill near Kralové Hradec (Königgratz), to which they had given the Biblical name of Oreb.
  9. Contrary to what has often been written, he was no relation of John Hus.
  10. In Bohemian, ‘cep.’ Specimens of this formidable weapon can be seen in the Bohemian Museum.
  11. Printed in Palacky’s History of Bohemia.
  12. Laurence of Brezov writes of him that ‘veritatem communionis Utriusque specici fideliter promovendo omnes deordinationes in lege Domini non fundatas quantum valuit persequebatur.’
  13. O Zajeti Sigmunda Korybuta.—Vybor z Literatury Ceské, I.
  14. In German ‘Brünn’ and ‘Jglau.’
  15. i.e., The old town, new town, and ‘small quarter.’
  16. The Corpus Christi Chapel was destroyed in 1798. The tablets are now preserved in the Bohemian Museum.
  17. George was Lord of Kunstat as well as of Podebrad.
  18. A painting by the great Bohemian artist Brozik, representing this event, can be seen in the town hall.
  19. It is of interest to quote in the original the bishop’s words: ‘Recogitate providi viri qualis vestra Praga fuit olim inclita civitas quando sub hoc pontificatu fideliter stetit; quales habuit cives et incolas ditissimos Utriusque status ditissimos; nec fuit Pragae similis urbs in multis nationibus non Norberga, non Vienna, non Wratislawia neque inclita Colonia illi aliquando poterant comparari; nescimus an Roma, Venetia aut Florentia aut alia quaecunque sub coelo civitas Pragae tunc similis fuit.
  20. I have referred to Bartos in my History of Bohemian Literature, pp. 299–303. Mr. Denis has given a good account of the antagonism between Pasek and Hlavsa in his brilliant Fin de l’Indépendance Bohême.
  21. For Sixt of Ottersdorf see my History of Bohemian Literature, pp. 303–304.
  22. It appears that the conduct of Charles V., Ferdinand’s brother, who had in 1539 deprived the city of Ghent of all its ancient privileges, contributed largely to rendering the citizens of Prague suspicious.
  23. The adventures of these two English alchemists in Bohemia are fully described in Mr. Svátek’s (German) Culturhistorische Bilder aus Böhmen.
  24. A village on the outskirts of Prague that has in the present year—1901—been incorporated with the town.
  25. See p. 100.
  26. The size of this book obviously excludes all controversial matter. I have entered fully into the question in my Bohemia: A Historical Sketch, pp. 301–308.
  27. This palace is traditionally identified with the house known as ‘U Montagu,’ between the Malostranské Námesti and the Nerudova Ulice. A tablet stating that the defenestration had been planned here was placed on this house, but almost immediately removed.
  28. Dr Krebs, Die Schlacht am Weissen Berge.
  29. See Chapter VIII.
  30. See Chapter VIII.
  31. ‘Clamore mulierum horrendo rex perterritus arcem repetebat.’—Andreas ab Habernfeld Bellum Bohemicum.
  32. I have translated a small portion of this account in my History of Bohemian Literature, pp. 342–344. The account above is also abridged from Skála.