The fate of several noble women connected with the last Premyslid

11-12 2006 Dějiny English
obálka čísla

Part II - Two cildren - brides

Guta-Judith-Jitka from the Hapsburg dynasty Rychenza-Riksa-Alzbeta-Elizabeth-Rejcka - a Polish princess

The story about the first of them - Guta - will be as short as her life. She was, to be sure, descended from an ancient, but not particularly rich or significant noble family of Swabian-Alsatian counts which lived in the Swiss canton of Argau. The name Habsburg was derived from the name of the castle which was built in the tenth century. The first somewhat important member of the family was Guta's father Rudolph, but it was believed that he would be influenced easily - the opposite turned out to be the case - and so he was elected Roman Emperor of the German nation. Thanks to his skilful and somewhat ruthless political moves he increased his holdings to include part of Austria. This resulted from his victory over the Czech king Premysl ll Otakar. As was common at that time, his skilful marital political moves played a great role - in this case his daughter Guta became queen of Bohemia. After the marriage of his seven year old son Vaclav/Wenceslas to his daughter of the same age, nine years elapsed before she came to Bohemia and became the queen at the side of her husband. Her father Rudolph left nothing to chance and saw to it that two years earlier the so-called "royal consummation" took place in Cheb/Eger, after which a divorce would be much more difficult. When Guta came to Bohemia she was certailly not welcome.

Premysl Otakar's cruel defeat on the Moravian Field was remembered vividly, as was the devastation of the country during the rule of Otto of Brandenburg. Neither was the time after the return of young Vaclav II calm. The easily influenced boy let his guardian Zavis of Falkenstein rule. Vaclav's grandfather hated Zavis, whose capabilities were legendary. Guta also hated and feared this undoubtedly interesting man. This seems to be confirmed by an event which took place when they first met. Zavis, the administrative regent of the kingdom of Bohemia, familiar with courtly manners, brought the young queen a beautiful veil. She not only did not touch it, but gave orders for it to be burned immediately. It could be a warning for Zavis, but he did not heed it. Guta was evidently partly respondible for his removal, but this did not save her from her tragic fate.

She of course did not suspect that since her arrival in Prague she only had ten years of a difficult life left. While her husband's days were filled by intensive learning to rule his inherited land, she during the nine years by his side bore ten children; only four lived to adulthood. My grandmother used to say that the worst thing a mother could experience was to look in the grave of her own child. When I first looked thoroughly through the dates of her children's birth, I did not want to believe my eyes. How could she, still a girl, survive until she was twenty five? What did she and the children look like after those constant pregnancies? Unlike most women, she did not suffer from lack of food, she had wet nurses and servants. I do not know if the couple loved each other. Perhaps? According to the custom of the time, she fulfilled her obligation to the dynasty. Instead of providing a commentary I shall more or less list the bare facts about her children. Women will be able to imagine what the life of the princess was like, whose father was the Roman-German Emperor, and whose husband was one of the ablest Czech kings. But let us return to his barely seventeen year old wife. Nine months after her arrival in Prague the first child was born, a boy, the heir. On May 6th, 1288 he was given the name of the mythical founder of the dynasty, Premysl, and Otakar after his famous grandfather, who perished tragically only ten years earlier. He died on December 10th of the same year. 16 months later, on the 6th of December 1289 the young mother bore twins - a boy and a girl. He was given the name of the first Czech saint, Vaclav. He, Vaclav lll, the last male descentant of the dynasty, was killed by an unknown assassin on August 4th, 1306. The girl Anezka while still a toddler was engaged to Ruprecht of Nassau and died some time after 1290. A year later, on the 15th of October, Anna was born. She was married to Henry of Karinthia, was briefly queen of Bohemia and died at the age of twenty-three. 14 months later, on the 20. of January 1292 the fourth child, again a girl was born. She was given the name Eliska - Elizabeth, and in her children with Jan - John - of Luxemburg the Premyslid dynasty continued until the 15th century. She died at the age of thirty-eight of tuberculosis like her father. In early March of 1293 a girl was born, probably very weak and died after five months. She was given the name Guta, in Czech Jitka - Judith - after her mother. After a mere eleven months, on the 26th of February a boy was born, who died after four days. The mother was 23 years old and the boy was her sixth child in six years. Her organism must by then have been quite exhausted. The next year, on March 21, 1296, another boy, Jan - John - II., was born. He died after one and a half years, but by then the next to last descendant, the daughter Marketa -Margaret - had been born the 19th of February 1296. Her marriage took her to neighboring Poland where she died at the age of 26. 1297 Guta was pregnant again, and in April or May her tenth and last child was born. The date, name and gender are unknown. Her husband decided to arrange for celebrations of their coronation, which were attended by illustrious guests. In the festive ceremony on June 2., in the bazilica of St. Vitus the archbishop of Mainz placed the royal crown on Guta's head. The relatively brief report by the chronicler states that the queen died during the lying in period after the birth of her last child on June 16th 1297, exhausted by childbirth and the activities in connection with the coronation. Her final resting place, along with that of her last born child, is in the main church of St. Agnes' convent in the Old Town of Prague. When you go there, think of the fate of Guta, Jitka of Habsburg, the victim of the marital politics of that time and of her mother in-law, the Galician Kunhuta. In life they were not able to be close to each other, in death they lay side by side.

Jana Volfová, translated by Vilma Iggers

Vydavatelem Českého dialogu je Mezinárodní český klub

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