With the death of Charles IV in 1378 and the accession of his son Wenceslas IV, Prague’s golden age ended. Years of religious dissent, civil war and unstable sovereignty followed, where the great and glorious city of Prague foundered.
Religious dissent, between the Catholic establishment and the followers of the protestant reformer Jan Hus, escalated until, in 1419, the Hussites threw the City Councillors from a window in Prague Castle. Sixteen days later, Wenceslas IV died. The establishment’s outrage at the “Defenestration”, (as the practice of throwing unpopular leaders out of windows became rather pompously known) along with the Hussites refusal to accept Wenceslas’ half-brother Sigismund as King, resulted in war. In 1420 Sigismund’s army was defeated at the Battle of Vitkov Mountain.
Still the war raged on. Bohemia was torn apart, both literally and metaphorically. Buildings and national treasures were destroyed and Prague Castle fell into disrepair. Finally, in1434, the Hussites were defeated at the battle of Lipany and Sigismund became King.
Sigismund’s reign was short lived. He died in 1437, the last male of the Luxembourg Dynasty. There followed several more brief reigns. Sigismund’s son-in-law, Albert II of Austria ruled for two years. Sigismund’s grandson, Ladislaw Posthumous (so named because he was born after his father’s death) was next to the throne. When he died, aged 17, his advisor George of Podebrady was unanimously chosen as King by the Hussites and the Catholics. However, this displeased the Pope who mounted a Crusade, led by Matthius Corvinus of Hungary. After the Crusade, Bohemia became a Dual Monarchy, with Matthius of Hungary as Emperor and George of Podebrady as King of Bohemia.
Vladislav Jagellon succeeded George of Prodebody. Son of the Polish King Casimir IV and the sister of Lasilaw Posthumous, he was descended from both the Luxembourg and the Premyslid Dynasties. When he died in 1526, so did the Jagellon line and this sorry era came to a close.
Take a stroll around Prague Castle and look down at the River Vlata. Imagine the City Councillors’ last minutes!