House of Kinsky
|Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau|
Holy Roman Empire
|Current head||Karl, 12th Prince Kinsky of Wchinitz and Tettau (born 1967)|
Kinsky (formerly Vchynští, sg. Vchynský in Czech; later (in modern Czech) Kinští, sg. Kinský; German: Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau) is the name of a prominent Central European noble family originating from Bohemia (in the present-day Czech Republic). During the Thirty Years' War, the Kinskis rose from minor nobles to comital (1628) and later princely status (1747) under the rule of the Habsburgs. The family, recorded in the Almanach de Gotha, is considered to have been one of the most illustrious of Austria-Hungary.
According to romantic medieval legend, the Kinsky story began in Bohemia over 1000 years ago, when a beautiful King's daughter out hunting in the forest was attacked by a pack of wolves. Her attendants all fled the terrible scene except for one young man, who saved the princess by killing some wolves and driving the rest away. In gratitude, the girl's father ennobled the young man, granting him a coat of arms featuring three wolves' teeth as an emblem of his bravery.
The first factual mention of an ancestor of this clan dates back to 1237, during the reign of the Přemyslid king Wenceslaus I of Bohemia. Over the next three centuries they were only minor nobles with estates in northwestern Bohemia, around the village of Vchynice (German: Wchinitz) near Litoměřice. Holding of Vchynice manor was confirmed by the Habsburg emperor Rudolf II in 1596 and in 1611 one of the family's members, Radslav Vchynský of Vchynice the Elder, ennobled as lord (Czech: pán), became a member of the Diet of Bohemia (zemský sněm).
The rise of the family to prominence began in the turbulent era of religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants which finally led to the cataclysm for Bohemia in the Thirty Years' War: Radslav's nephew, the royal official Vilém Kinský, took part in the Protestant revolt against Emperor Ferdinand II, which culminated in the 1618 Defenestration of Prague. Vilém was among the nobles who. without success, offered the Bohemian crown to the Wettin elector John George I of Saxony. After the loss of Czech independence in 1620 (Battle of White Mountain), when the majority of local Protestant aristocracy was banished and their possessions expropriated in favour of nobility faithful to the Catholic House of Habsburg, he retained his possessions and was even elevated to the rank of an Count (Graf) in 1628. Through his marriage with Alžběta (Elisabeth) Trčka of Lípa, he was a brother-in-law of the Imperial generalissimo Albrecht von Wallenstein, with whom he was assassinated at Cheb in 1634.
A branch of the family was even elevated to Princes of the Holy Roman Empire by Empress Maria Theresa in 1747. Many members of the family served in high diplomatic or military positions in the Habsburg Monarchy and subsequently in the Austrian Empire.
Confiscation and restoration
After World War II, estates of the princely (Choceň) branch of the family were confiscated under the Beneš decrees, as late Prince Ulrich (1893–1938) was reproached with his declared German nationality and active collaboration with the Sudeten German Party. Estates of the other branches, Kostelec and Chlumec, which had been confiscated by the Nazis during the German occupation, were returned after 1945, and confiscated again, this time by the ruling Communist Party in 1948. After the Velvet Revolution and the fall of Communism, several possessions – for example Karlova Koruna Chateau and Kost Castle – were restored.
From 2003, the senior member of the princely branch, Prince Ulrich's son Franz Ulrich sued the Czech Republic for return of the properties confiscated in 1945 under the Beneš decrees only because, he maintained, that the confiscation implicitly labeled his family as historical traitors against Czechoslovakia and as willful collaborators during the Nazi occupation. The Kinsky family has denied such charges, arguing that Prince Franz Ulrich was just two years old at the time of his father's death and that he and his mother, Princess Kinsky (née Baroness Mathilde von dem Bussche-Haddenhausen—whose family reputedly plotted against Hitler) had left the occupied country and went into exile in Argentina shortly afterwards. According to a 2005 judgement by the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, at least the expropriations enacted before the Communist coup d'état (1948) are valid. The prince died 2009 in Buenos Aires after a brief illness, being survived by his widow, née Countess Lena Hutten-Czapska. He left as heir to his title, properties and pending claims against the Czech state, his son Karl ("Charlie"), and three grandchildren.
Heads of the princely family
- Stephan Wilhelm (1679–1749)
- Franz Joseph (1700–1749)
- Franz de Paula Ulrich (1726–1792)
- Joseph (1751–1798)
- Ferdinand (1781–1812)
- Rudolf (1802–1836)
- Ferdinand Bonaventura (1834–1904)
- Karl (1858–1919)
- Rudolf (1883–1930)
- Ulrich (1892–1938)
- Franz Ulrich (1936–2009)
- Karl (born 1967)
- Philip Kinsky of Wchinitz and Tettau (1700–1749), Bohemian chancellor
- Countess Franziska Kinsky of Wchinitz and Tettau (1813–1881), princess consort of Liechtenstein
- Bertha von Suttner (1843–1914), née Countess Kinsky of Wchinitz and Tettau, pacifist
- Marie, Princess of Liechtenstein (born 1940), née Countess Kinsky of Wchinitz and Tettau.
Like many of the aristocratic families of the Habsburg Monarchy, the Kinskys were great landowners, and patrons of the arts. They employed between 1713 and 1716 the celebrated architect Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt to build their residence the Palais Kinsky in Vienna, which remained in the family's ownership until 1987. In addition to this home, from 18th century the family also owned the vast baroque Kinsky Palace in Old Town Square, Prague. Another family home was Choceň Chateau, a medieval Bohemian fortress rebuilt in the neo-gothic style in the half of 19th century. All of these homes were filled with priceless treasures and artifacts.
As a patron of the arts along with Archduke Rudolf and Prince Josef Lobkovic, Ferdinand Prince Kinsky of Wchinitz and Tettau contributed 1.800 fl. to a yearly salary of 4.000 fl. (abbr. for florin, gulden, Austrian - Hungarian gold coin from 1754–1892) for Ludwig van Beethoven. Ferdinand arranged his share to be paid on as a pension until Beethoven died in March 1827.
In 1723, Emperor Charles VI ordered the Kinsky family to develop their stud farms, and breed horses of such quality as to provide superior mounts for the officers of the elite cavalry regiments of the empire. In 1776, the quality of the Kinsky horses was further improved by bloodstock from England.
- Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XV, C.A. Starke Verlag, 1997, p.521. German.
- Richter, Karel (1995). Sága rodu Kinských (Saga of the Kinsky Family) (in Czech). Chlumec: [s.n.]
- Brož, Ivan (1997). Velké postavy rodu Kinských (Great Figures of the Kinsky Family) (in Czech). Praha: Petrklíč. ISBN 80-7229-052-5.
- Valenta, Aleš (2004). Dějiny rodu Kinských (History of the Kinsky Family) (in Czech). Praha: Veduta. ISBN 80-86829-05-7.
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