Přemyslid dynasty

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Dynasty of Přemyslid
Přemyslovci erb.svg
Country

Blason Boheme.svg Kingdom of Bohemia

Founded 867
Founder Borivoj I
Final ruler Wenceslaus III of Bohemia
Current head

None, last heads according to legitimacy:

Cadet branches

In order of seniority:

  • Bretislian
    • Conradian:
      • Znojmo branch (1035 - 1191)
      • Brno branch (1035 - 1200)
    • Olomouc branch (1045 - 1227)
    • Děpoltian branch (1123 - 1247)
    • Opavian branch (1255 - 1521)

The Přemyslids (Czech: Přemyslovci, German: Premysliden, Polish: Przemyślidzi), were a Bohemian (Czech) royal dynasty which reigned in Bohemia and Moravia (9th century–1306), and partly also in Hungary, Silesia, Austria and Poland. Subsequently, the ruling House of Luxembourg (1310–1437) claimed title to the crown of Bohemia through relation to Přemyslids. The House of Habsburg (1526–1918) claimed title to the crown from its relation to all previously ruling houses, including the House of Přemysl.

The origins and growth of Přemyslid Dynasty[edit]

The dynasty's beginnings date back to the 9th century[1] when Přemyslids ruled a tiny territory around Prague, populated by the Czech tribe of the Western Slavs. Gradually they expanded and conquered the region of Bohemia, conveniently located in the Bohemian basin where it was not threatened by the expansion of the Frankish Empire. The first historically-documented Premyslid Duke was Bořivoj I (867).[1] In the following century, Přemyslids also ruled over Silesia and founded the city of Wroclaw (German: Breslau), derived from the name of a Bohemian duke Vratislaus I, father of Saint Wenceslaus. Under the reign of Prince Boleslaus I the Cruel (935) and his son Boleslaus II the Pious (972), the Přemyslids ruled territory stretching to today's Belarus.[1] They controlled important trade routes. In this time the Czech lands and Prague were an important seat for trading where merchants from all of Europe settled, including many Jews, as recalled in 965 by the Hispano-Jewish merchant and traveller Ibrahim ibn Ya'qub. He Wrote "Prague is a city from the stone, the richest of all states north of the Alps." After their prominent rise, however, internal struggles within the family began a decline in power, and, in 1002, the Polish king Boleslaus the Brave occupied Prague.[1] Boleslaus III, son of Boleslaus II, escaped from Bohemia and this was the start of decades of confusion and anarchy.

The decline ended during the reign of Prince Bretislaus I, grandson of Boleslaus II. He in turn looted the Poland, including the cities of Krakow and Gniezno (1038), where he obtained the relics of St. Adalbert. He sought establishment of the Prague archbishopric and a royal title. His son and successor Vratislaus II became the first King of Bohemia in 1085.

Vratislav's son Sobeslaus I destroyed the Imperial army of King Lothar III in the Battle of Chlumec in 1126. This allowed a further strengthening of Bohemia culminating during the reign of Vratislav's nephew, King Vladislaus II (1158). Vladislav II founded many monasteries and built the first stone bridge across the Vltava river. It was one of the oldest stone bridges in Central and Northern Europe. But then internal struggles again started the decline of the Přemyslids. Many different leaders from the dynasty alternated on the Bohemian throne, leading to their eventual bankruptcy. Upon his rise to the throne, Ottokar I began a series of changes that brought Bohemia out of crisis, and began a period of success[1] that lasted for nearly 220 years.

At the height of its power[edit]

Member of the Přemyslids dynasty: King Wenceslaus II. Drawing by Jan Matejko

Ottokar I was elected as king in the year 1198 and awarded a hereditary royal title. This began significant growth of the Přemyslid's dynastic power. Ottokar's son King Wenceslaus I annexed Austria to Bohemia (1236). There was also a large urban and crafts development.

In the second half of the 13th century, the Přemyslids were one of the most powerful dynasties in Central Europe.[2] King Přemysl Ottokar II, son of Wenceslas I, earned the nickname "Iron and Golden King" because of his military power and wealth.[1] After several victorious wars with the Hungarian Kingdom, he acquired Austria, Styria, Carinthia and Carniola, thus extending Bohemian territory to the Adriatic Sea. They were so powerful that King Ottokar II aspired to the imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire. These aspirations started the conflict with House of Habsburg, who were, until then, little-known princes. Their representative Rudolf was elected as King of Romans. Ottokar II fought Rudolph in several wars. In the Battle of Marchfeld (1278), Ottokar clashed with Imperial and Hungarian armies. In addition, he was faced with the treachery of the Bohemian nobility. He was killed in battle[1] and the Habsburgs acquired Austria, retaining it until the 20th century.

His son, King Wenceslaus II come to the Czech throne in year 1283. Over time, thanks to deft diplomacy, he gained the Polish crown for himself and the crown of Hungary for his son.[1] Wenceslas II formed a vast empire stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Danube river and established numerous cities, such as Plzeň in 1295. Bohemia became a wealthy nation due to a large vein of silver discovered in the reign of Wenceslaus II.[1] He created the penny of Prague,[1] which was an important European currency for centuries, and planned to build the first university in Central Europe. The power and wealth of the Kingdom of Bohemia gave rise to great respect, but also to the hostility of other European royal families.

The dynasty began to collapse following after the untimely death of Wenceslaus II (1305), and the assassination of his only son, Wenceslaus III in 1306, which brought about the end to their rule.[1][2] On the distaff side, however, the dynasty continued, and in 1355, Bohemian king Charles IV, the grandson of Wenceslaus II, was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in Rome.

Legendary rulers[edit]

The name of the dynasty, according to Cosmas in his Chronica Boemorum (1119), comes from its legendary founder, Přemysl, husband of Libuše.[3]

Dukes of Bohemia[edit]

The first historical Přemyslid was Duke Bořivoj I, baptised in 874 by Saint Methodius. In 895, Bohemia gained independence from Great Moravia. Between 1003 and 1004, Bohemia was controlled by Boleslaus the Brave, Duke of Poland from the Piast dynasty, grandson of Boleslaus I the Cruel.

In 1085, Duke Vratislaus II, and, in 1158, Duke Vladislaus II, were crowned King of Bohemia as a personal award from the Holy Roman Emperor. The title, however, was not hereditary.

Kings of Bohemia[edit]

Maximum extent of the kingdom under Ottokar II,
c. 1276

Bohemia was the only princedom in the Holy Roman Empire which was raised to the status of kingdom prior to the Napoleonic wars. The reason for this was strength: as soon as Bohemia overcame its civil strife, the Czech duke became the principal ally for any candidate for the Imperial throne. The emperor could, thus, use Bohemian forces to punish any rebels who were Czech neighbours simply by raiding their lands. This is evinced by the establishment, by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, of Prince Vratislaus II of Bohemia as the first king of Bohemia, Vratislav I, in 1085. He was raised to this prominent position not very long after his father Bretislaus pacified Bohemia after years of civil conflict. The kingship was disputed whenever Czech internal conflict increased. It was fixed, however, after the position of the emperor in Germany weakened.

In 1198, Duke Ottokar I again gained the title of King of Bohemia as an ally of Philip of Swabia. This title was reconfirmed by Otto IV, Holy Roman Emperor and later on in Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor's Golden Bull of Sicily (1212).

Kings of Bohemia, Poland and Hungary, rulers of Austria[edit]

Territory under the control of the Přemyslids, c. 1301:
  Kingdom of Bohemia
  Kingdom of Poland
  Probable extent of territory under control of Wenceslaus III in Hungary
  Vassals

In 1269-1276, King Ottokar II of Bohemia was the first in history to rule the lands of today's Austria together (except for Tyrol). He also founded the Hofburg Palace in Vienna.

In 1300, King Wenceslaus II was crowned King of Poland. Prior to this, he held the title "High Duke of Poland (Duke of Kraków)" since 1291 and became its overlord upon the death of Przemysł II of Poland in 1296.

The royal line ended in 1306, with the death of King Wenceslaus III. The Bohemian throne went to the Luxembourgs, and the Polish returned to the Piasts.

Dukes of Opava, Krnov, Ratibor and Münsterberg[edit]

In 1269, Nicholas, bastard son of King Ottokar II who was legitimized by pope Alexander IV in 1260, became duke of Opava. In 1337, his son Nicholas II inherited Duchy of Ratibor. His four sons divided the Duchy of Opava (Duchy of Ratibor was inherited only by oldest John). Thus started the partition of once unified land between the descendants of Nicholas II. In 1443 William, Duke of Opava gained the Duchy of Münsterberg, which was held by Přemyslids to 1456. This line of Opavian Přemyslids ended in 1521, with the death of Valentine, Duke of Ratibor.

Legacy[edit]

Territorial efforts of the Přemyslid kings (all arranged or supported by marriage) were not made without purpose. They were predecessors to similar later efforts of the House of Luxemburg, Jagiellon dynasty and finally the House of Habsburg. All of them wanted to create a permanent powerbase enabling to rule Germany without really doing so (Luxemburgs, Habsburgs) or at least dominate its closer parts, and to defend the eastern border of the Empire from invasions coming from time to time from the east. It was the Habsburgs, who in the end (1526) succeeded, but it is not a big surprise, that the Czech Estates willingly consented, as it was the most reasonable alternative, especially in the view of ongoing wars with Turks dating from the time of Sigismund of Luxemburg.

Family tree[edit]

Family Tree of the Premyslid Dukes and Kings of Bohemia

Bořivoj I. + Saint Ludmila

Family tree of Elisabeth of Bohemia and Jagiellonians and Habsburgs[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Přemyslid Dynasty". Czech Republic Government. Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  2. ^ a b "House of Přemysl". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  3. ^ Peter Demetz. Prague in Black and Gold: Scenes from the Life of a European City. Hill and Wang, 1997. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-8090-1609-9

See also[edit]