Wenzel (HRR)

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King Wenceslaus. Illustration from the Wenceslas Bible , c.1398 / 1395

Wenzel von Luxemburg from the family of the Luxemburgers , nickname the lazy (also Wenceslaus , Czech Václav ; *  February 26, 1361 in Nuremberg ; † August 16, 1419 in the Wenceslas Castle , Czech Nový hrad u Kunratic , today in the urban area of Prague ), was from his childhood coronation in 1363 until his death in 1419 as Wenceslaus IV King of Bohemia and from 1376 until his deposition in 1400 as a Roman-German king . From 1373 to 1378 he was also Margrave of Brandenburg .


Election and first years of government

Wenceslaus was the eldest son of Emperor Charles IV from his third marriage to Anna von Schweidnitz . It was intended to be the main heir from early childhood. Karl had seals made for him and taught him as a toddler to behave as a true ruler. Ernst von Pardubitz , later Johann Očko von Wlašim , served as his educator , who brought him up to be an educated but dependent and indecisive person. Wenceslaus was crowned King of Bohemia as early as 1363 . From August 1373 to 1378 he was also Margrave of Brandenburg ; However, in the event of a king being elected, the House of Luxembourg did not unite both electoral votes, the Bohemian and the Brandenburg, until 1379 with the death of the Wittelsbacher Otto V. Wenzel was elected Rex Romanorum in Frankfurt am Main on June 10, 1376 while his father was still alive , and was elected by the Archbishop of Cologne, Friedrich III. von Saar are crowned on July 6, 1376 in Aachen . After the death of his father in 1378, Wenzel succeeded him as King of the Holy Roman Empire . In the same year Brandenburg fell to Wenzel's younger brother Sigismund .

As early as 1380, Duke Stephan of Bavaria was negotiating imperial affairs with the Pope on Wenzel's order, but Wenceslas did not move to Rome. In the disputes with the Church ( Occidental Schism ), where he, like his father Pope Urban VI. recognized as a legitimate pontiff, and the imperial city federations he had no happy hand. There was fighting with a southern German city league when he wanted to transfer the Swabian bailiffs held by the Wittelsbachers to the Habsburgs . Wenzel paid almost no attention to imperial affairs. He did not come to Nuremberg until 1383, but the city federation did not want to recognize the peace that he had decreed , which for the first time provided for the division of the empire into circles, as this would have meant its dissolution. With the peace treaty of Eger , he sided with the princes, but against the urban leagues. What he did to some extent in Bohemia, namely to maintain order, failed in Germany. In addition, Wenzel's behavior took on more and more despotic traits. His incompetent advisors also contributed to the general dissatisfaction. After Wenceslas also surrounded himself with the lower nobility and bourgeois advisers, resistance from the nobility also formed in Bohemia, who had enough of Wenceslaus' incompetence and his brutality, as expressed in the torture and murder of Prague vicar general Johannes Nepomuk .

Wenzel was initially married to Johanna von Bayern from 1370 until her death in 1386 . Three years later he married Sophie von Bayern . Both marriages remained childless.

Power struggles within the family

Finally, power struggles broke out within the Luxembourg dynasty, fueled by his cousin Jobst of Moravia . On May 8, 1394, Wenceslaus was captured by representatives of the nobility in the royal court . The king was fixed in Prague and Jobst took over the administration. At the same time, Wenzel's younger brother Johann von Görlitz tried to free him. Wenzel was then moved to Wildberg Castle in Upper Austria . There were successful negotiations about the regent's release, albeit with tough conditions for him, which Wenzel later did not comply with. After his return he had to commit himself to the rebels, including Kaspar I and Gundaker VII of Starhemberg, Heinrich III. von Rosenberg , Heinrich III. von Neuhaus and other Bohemian aristocrats who participated in the uprising were not to be punished.

In 1394 Jobst von Moravia invited leading members of the Bohemian nobility to Prague , including Heinrich von Rosenberg auf Krumau , Heinrich the Elder von Neuhaus , Brenek von Fels and Schwihau , Otto the Elder von Bergow , Heinrich Berka von Duba auf Hohenstein , Wilhelm von Landstein , Jan Michalec z Michalovic a na Mladé Boleslavi , Boček II of Podebrady and Boresch IX. von Riesenburg the Younger . On May 5, 1394, they published a joint declaration against the king.

In April, Boresch von Riesenberg and Bohuslav von Schwanberg and other gentlemen attacked Toužim Castle and arrested Provost Georg, whom Boresch then held at Riesenburg Castle. The king reacted furiously to this affront and ordered the Prague burgrave Otto von Berg to assemble an army and punish the rebels. Otto followed, but went with the soldiers not against the rebels, but against the king himself. While returning from his Žebrák Castle , Wenceslaus was captured and imprisoned in the White Tower at Prague Castle .

Wenceslaus was forced to appoint his cousin, the Marquis Jobst, captain of the Kingdom of Bohemia. He was then joined by other Bohemian aristocrats. However, his brother Johann von Görlitz took the side of Wenzel and assembled an army in Kuttenberg . The rebels then withdrew with the king to South Bohemia. A bitter war broke out between the two camps. Johann had the Rosenbergs' farms and lands plundered and occupied Budweis . On June 30, 1394, peace was made and Wenceslaus, captured at Wildberg Castle , was released.

The peace did not last, and at the end of 1394 the sovereigns met again , this time in Alttabor . Margrave Jobst received support from Meissen Margrave Wilhelm and Johann von Görlitz, who was disappointed in negotiations with his brother. The new coalition, in which Boresch VII von Riesenburg the Elder also took part, met with the king at his castle Žebrák. In the demands submitted by the higher nobles, they were to receive all important offices and thus control and administer the country. This peace agreement did not last long either. Wenceslaus imprisoned Marquis Jobst and Boček II of Podebrady ; against others, including the giant burgers, an army should be raised, led by Bořivoj ze Svinař .

In 1395 Jobst was released and allowed to negotiate; However, this at the expense of the king's brother Johann von Görlitz. In 1396 Wenzel tried to get the situation under control again and asked his brother Sigismund for help. Through his mediation, another peace was concluded on April 2, 1396, again in favor of the Bohemian rulers.

In 1397, the situation worsened again, as the king, in addition to the members of the high nobility, again considered his favorites in the lower nobility when distributing posts. Boresch also joined the newly formed opposition, led by the Moravian Margrave Prokop , which declared its goal to eliminate the king's favorites using force if necessary. Negotiations took place on June 11, 1397 at Karlštejn Castle . Duke Hanusch represented the interests of the absent king. During the negotiations, the renegades had the king occupy the exits of the courtroom with armed men and summoned four of the advisors loyal to the king to the conference room. As soon as these occurred, Hanusch accused the arrived Burchard Strnada z Janovic of being a traitor, drew his sword and pierced him. Johann Michales von Michalowitz and Boresch von Riesenburg threw themselves on the remaining unarmed councilors and killed them. Only Markolt z Vrutic managed to escape, but died shortly afterwards of his serious injuries. Thereupon the murderers went to the king in the royal court and confessed to him the deed. Wenzel received the news of the death of his followers apathetically. A month later, he himself accused his murdered councilors of treason.

1400 - deselection

On August 20, 1400 four electors - the archbishops of Mainz , Trier and Cologne as well as Count Palatine Ruprecht - met at Lahneck Castle in Oberlahnstein and declared Wenzel deposed. They described him as "eynen useless, merciless, inconsiderable entgleder and unworthy handler of the holy Roman rich" , d. H. a useless, lazy, careless diviner and unworthy owner of the Holy Roman Empire. The following day they elected the Wittelsbacher Ruprecht von der Pfalz as king in Rhens . Soon afterwards, Wenzel also lost the last remains of New Bohemia to Ruprecht.

The last few years

In Bohemia, too, the opposition of the high nobility rose again, this time again with the Meissen Margrave Wilhelm, who, however, had to withdraw from the country after the peace treaty of 1401. Under pressure from the aristocrats, Wenzel summoned his brother Sigismund to Bohemia, with whom he reached an agreement in Königgrätz in 1402, with which he in fact left the administration of Bohemia to him and promised him the Bohemian crown after his death. Sigismund was supposed to help him regain the imperial crown. The Hungarian king took power and gradually occupied the royal castles, but was in no hurry with the promise he had made to his brother.

Wenzel protested. His brother had him arrested on March 6, 1402 in Prague. Johann von Bucca , Heinrich III. von Rosenberg , Ulrich von Neuhaus , Břeněk ze Skály and Otto von Berg were appointed state administrators. Accompanied by Sigismund, Wenzel was first brought to Krumau and from there to Schaunberg Castle near Pupping . Now some of the Bohemian rulers, led by Jobst von Moravia, took his side again, as they saw a greater danger in Sigismund than in the manipulable Wenceslas. The battle between the Bohemians and the Hungarian king dragged on until 1403. When riots broke out in Hungary, Sigismund was forced to leave Bohemia. After another internment in Vienna, Wenzel managed to escape on November 11, 1403.

Wenceslaus remained King of Bohemia until his death, especially since he formally insisted on his rights as a Roman-German king. After the death of Ruprecht of the Palatinate in 1410, rule over the Holy Roman Empire fell back to the Luxembourgers: first to Wenceslas cousin Jobst von Moravia and then in 1411 to Wenzel's brother Sigismund . Both brothers came to an agreement so that Sigismund could also hope for Wenceslas' power . From 1308 to 1437 the Luxembourgers provided five German kings, this list was interrupted for a total of 43 years by the two Wittelsbachers Ludwig IV of Bavaria and Ruprecht von der Pfalz.

In 1419 the conflict with the Hussites came to a head. At the end of July 1419 they succeeded in getting Prague into their hands, to which Wenceslas, increasingly perceived as a tyrannical rule, also contributed. Wenceslaus fled, but died on August 16 of the same year. After Wenceslas death, Sigismund also succeeded him as King of Bohemia.


The sources describe Wenzel as a paranoid and a tyrant who, among other things, is said to have beaten about himself with a riding whip, chased his large dogs on unwelcome people in his vicinity and executed courtiers for the most flimsy reasons. He also plays a leading role in the story of Johannes Nepomuk , whom he drowned in the Vltava , allegedly because the priest did not want to reveal his wife's confessional secrets to him. In truth, it was about political differences between Wenceslaus and the Prague Archbishop Johann von Jenstein , his former chancellor, whose vicar general Johannes von Nepomuk had been. Wenceslaus is said to have spent most of his reign locked in a room with his hunting dogs. According to Václav Hájek z Libočan , he is said to have commented on the news of his deposition as Roman-German king with the words that he was glad to be relieved of this burden (compare his nickname "the lazy"). However, this contradicts a contemporary report to Frankfurt am Main , according to which Wenzel, on the arrival of the messenger, angrily and determinedly swore to take revenge, depose Ruprecht and kill him.

On March 23, 1398 a scandal broke out when the drunken King Wenceslas did not attend the feast of the French King Charles VI. could participate in Reims . Wenceslas was arrested twice (1394 and again 1402-1403, the last time with the assistance of his brother Sigismund, who was appointed by Wenceslaus as imperial vicar to be one of his deputies). Wenzel, who never seriously sought the imperial crown (which most of the Roman-German kings of the late Middle Ages did) and did not surround himself with more capable advisers when there was still time to turn the tide, remains a figure without appealing traits. Politically, one must reproach him for the fact that, despite his education, he lacked both the sense of reality and the feeling for the politics that had distinguished his father. He lost his father's advisers and surrounded himself with a court that was mostly made up of members of the lower nobility, who were all the more ambitious and relentless. As a result, new conflicts arose in the country, which hampered not only political but also economic development.

In Bohemia, Wenceslas's ineptitude reinforced the development of a Czech national character, who was primarily defined by the contrast to the Germans.


Web links

Commons : Wenzel (HRR)  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Wenzel (HRR)  - Sources and full texts


  1. ^ Herbert Rosendorfer: German history - an attempt. From the dawn of modern times to the peasant wars. Nymphenburger Verlag , Munich 1998, p. 24.
  2. ^ Wenceslas' certificate of deposition, edited by Karl Zeumer (ed.): Collection of sources for the history of the German Imperial Constitution in the Middle Ages and Modern Times , Leipzig 1907, pages 223–226 ( full text at Wikisource ).
  3. ^ Herbert Rosendorfer: German history - an attempt. From the dawn of modern times to the peasant wars. Munich 1998, p. 23 f.
  4. ^ Julius Weizsäcker : German Reichstag files under King Wenzel. 3. Department: 1397–1400 (= German Reichstag files . Volume 3). Friedrich Andreas Perthes, Gotha 1877, p. 299, no.243 with note 1.
predecessor Office successor
Charles IV Roman-German king
Charles IV (as Charles I.) King of Bohemia
Otto V. Elector of Brandenburg
Wenceslaus I. Duke of Luxembourg
Jobst from Moravia