Czech King Jan of Luxembourg 1310-1346

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He was born as the only child of Henry VII of Luxembourg in 1296 and was educated as it was customary in those days- to become skilled with the sword, to be courageous in warfare and chivalrous to the ladies. In 1310 he was married to a Czech princess Eliska (Elizabeth) of the Premyslid dynasty and thus became a Czech king. Although the marriage was carefully arranged, it soon became clear that it was a mistake. The partners seemed to be unsuited to each other - both were very stubborn, independent and unyielding. Even though the union produced seven children, Jan was seldom at home where he was unhappy and occupied himself by other pursuits- in diplomatic negotiations, by participating in various skirmishes and battles, including two crusades, and left the running of the country to various members of Czech nobility because he did not understand the complicated Czech politics, and never learned the language. The Czech state treasury was often nearly empty because of the skirmishes among the nobility and because the king was absent and needed much money for his war pursuits. He spent much time in France, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy and Poland. He became famous for his courage and skills in warfare and it was said about him that: "There is no battle without the Czech King being present." Vaclav entered into history as the beloved and famous Czech king Charles IV. In 1331 his wife Elizabeth died at age 38. With his second wife Beatrix of Bourbon he had 2 more children.

Jan of Luxembourg was successful in increasing his kingdom. He added the region around the city of Cheb, also Upper and Lower Lusatia, Silesia, and temporarily a few Italian cities. During his reign no foreign army invaded the Czech lands - thus there was peace at the home front. He contributed to the fact that the Czech kingdom became better known in Europe. The first golden coins, the so-called "florens" were minted during his reign (in imitation of those minted in Florence).

He was called "the last true knight". He suffered from an inherited eye disease that eventually caused his total blindness. Therefore he became known abroad as "Jean the Blind". In spite of this handicap he kept fighting in battles to the end of his days. He was mortally wounded in the battle near Cresy in 1346. The English King Eduard III. had him brought to his tent where he died.

On Jan's helmet there were three ostrich feathers and the motto" I serve..." The English king kept the feathers and gave them to his son. Thus they became a part of the English coat of arms; to this day the symbol of ostrich feathers is used by the princes of Wales.

Jan of Luxembourg was buried in Luxembourg City in 1946.

Jana Volfová
Translation by Marie Dolansky

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