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Respekt: Charles IV’s European spirit not taking roots in Czech land

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Prague, May 9 (CTK) – Paradoxically, not the openness and European spirit of Charles IV (1316-1378), King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, but rather the “Against All” Hussite slogan from the following civil war became a tradition in the Czech Lands, Marek Svehla writes in weekly Respekt out yesterday.
He comments on the cosmopolitan character of the “most popular Czech monarch” on the occasion of the mass celebrations of the 700th anniversary of his birth.
Svehla writes that Charles IV, whose father was King John of Luxembourg and mother was Elisabeth of the Premyslids, the only Czech royal house, and who spent his childhood in France and commanded several languages, including Czech, would hardly understand the current Czechs’ fears of being “dissolved” in Europe.
Svehla refers to an episode from Charles’s life when he returned to Prague at the age of 17 and had the Prague Castle rebuilt into his residence. His French wife Blanche of Valois then joined him, accompanied by a large group of courtiers from France.
However, Praguers considered them alien due to their eccentric fashion and incomprehensible language and Charles IV sent them back to France (except for Blanka) to accommodate the Czech nobility.
This episode indicates that the Czech Lands of the 14th-century were closed to the world and lagged behind Western Europe by about 100 years in accepting foreign cultural influences, Svehla says.
He writes that Charles IV brought from France the liking to a centralist way of rule and typical anti-Semitism as well as good manners and a sense of diplomacy and compromise, but above all the all-European way of thinking, common for the high West European aristocracy then.
The Czech nobility hoped that Charles IV will improve the miserable economic situation of the kingdom, and he fulfilled their expectations. He gradually founded the archbishopric and the first Central European university in Prague, whcih he expanded by the New Town and turned it into an open town of European importance, Svehla says.
The story of Charles IV is about a strong personality living in the period when kings had to reinforce their position by their personal participation in battles, the art of diplomacy and a political compromise, but this is also a story about how quickly the situation in a country can twist.
Charles IV failed to build up a stable dynasty, his sons had no male heirs to the throne and the Czech Lands plunged into the radical Hussite movement and isolation in the 15th century, Svehla writes.
After the 17th-century recatholisation, following the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, in which Czech Protestants lost to the Catholic Habsburg emperor, Czechs approached the European traditions of King Charles IV again.
The Hussite legacy was revived, to a large extent by an artificial legend, in the times when Czechs were striving for their independent state, established in 1918, and strengthened under the communist regime (1948-89) that described the Hussite wars as a model of the Bolshevik revolution, Svehla points out.
This is why it is positive that apart from the Hussite leader Jan Zizka, Czechs also celebrate Charles IV, he adds.
“Charles IV shows how self-confidence and openness towards the surrounding world does not cause ´dissolving´ [in it], but on the contrary, it leads to stability and greatness,” Svehla writes in conclusion.
hol/t/ms

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