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Wenceslaus I Premyslid (Czech Václav I.) (c. 1205 – September 23, 1253) was King of Bohemia from 1230 to 1253.


Wenceslaus was a son of Ottokar I of Bohemia and his second wife Constance of Hungary. He was a younger, paternal half-brother to Margarethe of Bohemia and Božislava of Bohemia. His half-sisters were respectively the first Queen consort of Valdemar II of Denmark and the first wife of Henry I, Count of Ortenburg. His sister Judith of Bohemia was married to Bernhard von Spanheim, Duke of Carinthia.His sister Anna of Bohemia was married to Henry II the Pious, Duke of Wrocław. His sister Agnes of Bohemia was Mother Superior of the Franciscan Poor Clares nuns of Praguemarker. In 1989, Agnes was canonized as a saint by Pope John Paul II.

His maternal grandparents were Béla III of Hungary and his second wife Agnes of Antioch (Agnes de Châtillon). Agnes was a daughter of Raynald of Chatillon and Constance of Antioch (joint princes of Antioch).

Marriage and children

In 1224, Wenceslaus married Kunigunde of Hohenstaufen, second daughter of Philip of Swabia, King of Germany and his wife, Irene Angelina. Her paternal grandparents were Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor and Beatrice I, Countess of Burgundy. Her maternal grandparents were Isaac II Angelos, Byzantine Emperor and his first wife Herina. Wenceslaus encouraged large numbers of Germans to settle in the villages and towns in Bohemia and Moravia. Stone buildings began to replace wooden ones in Prague as a result of the influence of the new settlers.

Wenceslaus and Kunigunde had five known children:

Early reign

On 6 February 1228, Wenceslaus was crowned as co-ruler of the Kingdom of Bohemia with his father. On 15 December 1230, Ottokar died and Wenceslaus succeeded him as the senior King of Bohemia.

His early reign was preoccupied by the threat to Bohemia posed by Frederick II, Duke of Austria. The expansionism of Frederick caused the concern and protestation of several other rulers. In 1236, Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor was involved in a war against the Lombard League. The Emperor demanded Wenceslaus and other rulers of the Holy Roman Empire to lend him part of their own troops for his war effort. Wenceslaus led a group of princes who expressed their reluctance to divert any troops from the defense of their own territories, citing fear of invasion from the Duchy of Austriamarker. They requested imperial intervention in the situation.

In June, 1236, the Emperor imposed an imperial ban on the Duke of Austria. Troops dispatched against the Duke, forced him to flee Viennamarker for Wiener Neustadtmarker. He would continue to rule a rump state for the following year. The Emperor declared direct imperial rule in both Austria and the Duchy of Styria, also held by the fleeing Duke. Ekbert von Andechs-Meranien, former Bishop of Bamberg was installed as governor in the two Duchies. Ekbert would govern from February to his death on 5 June 1237. Wenceslaus was hardly pleased with this apparent expansion of direct imperial authority close to his borders. Wenceslaus and Duke Frederick formed an alliance against the Emperor. Frederick the Emperor chose to lift the ban in 1237 rather than maintain another open front. Wenceslaus managed to negotiate the expansion of Bohemia north of the Danube, annexing territories offered by Duke Frederick in order of forming and maintaining their alliance.

Wenceslaus and Frederick also found another ally in the person of Otto II Wittelsbach, Duke of Bavaria. In June, 1239, Wenceslaus and Otto left the Reichstag at Egermarker, abandoning the service of excommunicated Emperor Frederick II. Despite their intent to elect an antiking no such election would take place until 1246. In 1246, Henry Raspe, Landgrave of Thuringia was elected King of Germany in opposition to Emperor Frederick II and Conrad IV of Germany.

Mongol invasion

Portrait of Wenceslaus in the Gelnhausen Codex (15th century)
In 1241 Wenceslaus successfully repelled a raid on Bohemia by forces serving under Batu Khan and Subutai of the Mongol Empire as part of the Mongol invasion of Europe. The Mongols did not send their main army to the Kingdom of Poland, Bohemia and Silesia and only Moravia suffered devastation at their hands. The raids into these four areas were led by Baidar, Kadan and Orda Khan with a force of around 20,000 Mongols. Following the Mongol victory at the Battle of Legnica, Wenceslaus fell back to gather reinforcements from Thuringiamarker and Saxony, but was overtaken by the Mongol vanguard at Kłodzkomarker. However, the Bohemian cavalry easily fended off the Mongol detachment. As Baidar and Kadan's orders had been to serve as a diversion, they turned away from Bohemia and Poland and went southward to join Batu and Subutai, who had crushed the Hungarians at the Battle of Mohimarker.

When Subutai heard in 1242 that Grand Khan Ögedei had died the previous year, the Mongol army retreated eastward, because Subutai had three princes of the blood in his command and Genghis Khan had made clear that all descendants of the Khagan (Grand Khan) should return to the Mongol capital of Karakorummarker for the kurultai which would elect the next Khagan. The Polish people, unaware of the reason why the Mongols left so suddenly, simply assumed that they had been defeated in battle.

Duchy of Austria for Přemyslids

On 15 June 1246, Frederick II of Austria was killed in a battle against Béla IV of Hungary. The battle took place by the river Leithamarker. He was childless and had never designated an heir. The matter of his succession would result in years of disputes among various heirs. Wenceslaus' foreign policy became focused on acquiring Austria for the Přemyslid dynasty. Meanwhile Emperor Frederick II managed to once again place Austria under direct imperial rule. However imperial governor Otto von Eberstein had to content with an Austrian rebellion, preventing immediate benefits from the annexation of the Duchy.

The Privilegium Minus, the document which had elevated Austria to a Duchy on 17 September 1156, allowed for the female line of the House of Babenberg to succeed to the throne. Gertrude, Duchess of Austria, niece of the late Frederick II, thus was able to claim the Duchy in her own right. Wenceslaus arranged for her marriage to his eldest son, Vladislaus, Margrave of Moravia. Vladislaus was declared a jure uxoris Duke of Austria and managed to secure the support of part of the Austrian nobility. On 3 January 1247, Vladislaus died suddenly and the initial plan of Wenceslaus was negated. Gertrude continued her claim and proceeded to marry Herman VI, Margrave of Baden.

The rebellion

In 1248, Wenceslaus had to deal with a rebellion of the Bohemian nobility, led by his own son Ottokar II. Ottokar had been enticed by discontented nobles to lead the rebellion, during which he received the nickname "the younger King" (mladší král). Wenceslaus managed to defeat the rebels and imprisoned his son. Ottokar II held the title of King of Bohemia from 31 July 1248 to November, 1249.

By the end of 1250, both the Emperor and Herman VI were deceased. The latter having never been accepted by the Austrian nobles. Gertrude and their only son Frederick I, Margrave of Baden continued their claim. Wenceslaus led a successful invasion of Austria, completed by 1251. Wenceslaus released Ottokar II and named him margrave of Moravia. Wenceslaus had Ottokar proclaimed Duke of Austria and acclaimed by the nobility. In order to secure dynastic rights to Austria, Wenceslaus had another female Babenberg proclaimed Duchess and betrothed to his son. Margaret, Duchess of Austria was a sister of Duke Frederick II and an aunt of Gertrude. She was also the widow of Henry of Germany who had died in 1242. However, Margaret was much older than Ottokar. Their marriage took place on 11 February 1252.

Wenceslaus did not enjoy his victory for long. He died on 23 September 1253 and Ottokar II succeeded him.


Cities founded by Wenceslaus

External links


  1. Profile of Ottokar I and his children in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley
  2. Profile of Béla III and his children in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley
  3. Profile of Constance and her children in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley
  4. Profile of Philip of Swabia and his children in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley
  5. Profile of Frederick I and his children in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley
  6. Profile of Isaac II and his children in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley
  7. Profile of Wenceslaus I and his children in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley
  8. Profile of Frederick II of Austria in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley
  9. Aeiou Encyclopedia: article "Ekbert von Andechs-Meranien"
  10. Profile of Otto II in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley
  11. Profile of Henry Raspe in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley
  12. Profile of Vladislaus in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley
  13. Profile of Gertrude in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley
  14. Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition
  15. Profile of Ottokar II in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley
  16. Profile of Margaret in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley

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