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George of Podebrady

The name of King George, last of the sovereigns to be of Bohemian origins, is inextricably linked to that of the town of Podebrady. While local tradition holds that he was born in Podebrady Castle, it is impossible to confirm exactly where the son of Viktorin of Kunstát came into the world. Like his father, he was one of the Bohemian Calixtine nobility.

Slovakia all along was known simply as "Upper Hungary." Though the Czechs and the Slovaks had been next-door neighbors since the time that Ancestor Cech and his brothers had come to the area, they have historically had very little in common (until 1918). Similarly, neither country had historically ever had much to do with Poland, which borders both to the north. Beginning in the 14th century, however, closer cultural contacts between Slovakia and Bohemia were formed. Especially during the turbulent Hussite period of the 15th century, many Hussite followers found refuge and support in the Slovak lands, and some of the Slovak nobility fought on the side of the Hussites.

After the Compact of Basel forced King Sigismund of Luxembourg to concede to the Hussites' demands, the position of the regional nobility and of the towns (a grouping known as the "Estates") was strengthened, to the detriment of the centralized royal authority. For some time after Sigismund's death in 1437, anarchy reigned in Bohemia.

Then, after the very brief rule of Ladislav the Posthumous (1453-7) - so named because he was born after his father had died - the Bohemian throne was occupied by the "heretic" King George of Podebrady (1458-71). George, also known as the "Hussite" King, was the first freely-elected Czech ruler. He was chosen as Czech King from among the country's nobility without regard to any previous agreements, hereditary claim to the throne, family connections or dynastic origin. George of Podebrady won recognition throughout the Lands of the Czech Crown through his skillful diplomacy, and gained the respect of all of Central Europe. He also, in the 15th century, authored an ambitious "Peace Plan" for all of Europe, sort of a medeival equivalent to a NATO-like organization.

But few people then, as now, were interested in peace, and nobody subscribed to his plan. On the contrary - the Hungarian monarch at this time, Matthias Corvinus - with the support of the disgruntled Czech Catholic opposition, who didn't like the idea of a Protestant on the throne - declared war against George of Podebrady, who happened to be Matthias' father-in-law. The Hungarian campaigns against Bohemia ceased only after the death of the beloved Hussite King, George of Podebrady, and the ascent of Vladislav Jagellon to the throne.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:53:24 ZULU