Oldřich II of Rosenberg

Jan Škvrňák
Oldřich of Rosenberg (Rožmberk in Czech) was an important Czech nobleman, one of the leaders of the Catholic lords in Bohemia. His efforts increased the power and wealth of the House of Rosenberg, as he was able to take advantage of the weakening of the royal power during the Hussite wars, but he did not hesitate to use dishonest methods to expand his possessions, such as forging royal documents. He also began to promote the fictitious origins of the House of Rosenberg and the kinship with the Roman Orsini

His father was the powerful South Bohemian nobleman Henry III of Rožmberk (+1412), his mother was the daughter of an equally important family, Eliška (Alžběta) of Kravař and Plumlov (+1444). Oldřich is said to have been born on 13 January 1403, he had a daughter Katerina two years younger. Oldřich’s father dies on 28 July 1412, but he suspects his death and therefore appoints guardians for his underage son - Čeňek of Vartenberk, Jan of Hradec and Jindřich of Kravař (all relatives and all prominent noblemen).

In fact, his only guardian was Čeněk of Vartenberk, one of the leading Utraquist lords at that time - young Oldřich was under his influence. In 1417, by order of Čeněk, it was possible to take communion at the Rozmberk Domain under both methods.

At the beginning of 1418, Oldřich of Rožmberk became of age and began to administer his estate himself. One of his first decisions was the engagement of his sister Katherine to Reinprecht the Younger of Wallsee.

Original coat of arms of Rosenbergs

At the beginning of the Hussite Revolution, Oldřich found himself in Prague, where together with other Bohemian lords he promised to help the Queen Dowager Žofia and later (in November) accompanied her from rebellious Prague to the New Castle near Kunratice. A week later a truce was signed.

At this time, he still stands on the positions of moderate utraquism (as does a large part of the Czech nobility), however, throughout 1420 he gradually begins to get closer to King Sigismund of Hungary, in April he still rejects him as King of Bohemia, however, in June the two become allies and Oldřich of Rožmberk renounces his acceptance under both at Žebrák Castle. He soon expels the Hussite priests from his domain.

The change of faith, and with it of political party, is a key moment in the career of this Rosenberg. Even his contemporaries did not know why he had changed sides - to the Hussite party, Oldřich was a traitor who had betrayed his faith for power and property gains. Likewise, Oldřich could have been protecting his possessions from the growing radical Tabor and did not see the possibility of cooperation. That may be true, too. How far Oldřich’s negative character traits are to blame and how far an objective sense of threat and other reasons are to blame cannot be decided.

At the same time, Oldřich began to besiege Tabor on Sigismund’s orders (which he certainly did not mind). Similarly, the Catholic side was defeated at Vítkov, but Sigismund nevertheless allowed himself to be crowned king and gave away estates and titles to the faithful. Oldřich, together with Václav of Dubá and Peter of Šternberk, was appointed governor of the Prácheň and Bechyně regions, and the possessions of the monastery at the Zlatá Koruna, which had already been destroyed, were seized from him.

After the victory at Tábor, the Hussite offensive against Catholic posts in southern Bohemia began. Oldřich lost the towns of Prachatice and Voďnany, the castles of Příběnice and Příběničky, Trhové Sviny and many smaller towns were plundered.

At that time, Oldřich’s dispute with Lipolt Krajíř of Krajk, governor of Budějovice and owner of Landštejn, began. Oldřich also gets into debt and sells the Austrian town of Haslach.

In June 1421 he is elected as one of two Catholics in the 20-member provincial assembly. Why did Oldrich do this? Probably for influence, perhaps he also kept his back door open, pressured by the Taborites in the South Bohemian area.

Oldřich II of Rosenberg accord Bartoloměj Paprocký of Hloholy, 17th Century

In 1422, Sigismund granted Rožmberk the right to mint royal coins (Kutná Hora was not in the hands of Catholics), and in July Nuremberg held talks about helping Rožmberk in southern Bohemia. In the same year a plot against Oldřich was revealed, which sought his life. The conspirators eventually lost their lives.

For the next few years, Oldřich was mired in debt, trying to stay out of military events and to take advantage of the contradictions in the Hussite camp. However, he was not very successful in this, and under constant pressure he had to conclude a truce with the Taborites in mid-September 1424. At this time, Rožmberk’s financial situation began to improve, one of the reasons being the return to his estate of a number of subjects who had previously fled to Tábor. But even so, he did not completely get out of his financial problems - in 1426-8 he sold the village of Třísov, the Bor estate, the estate of Vítkův Hrádek and the estates of the Vyšebrod monastery.

He was reprimanded several times in 1424 and 1425 by King Sigismund and Cardinal Branda for the truce and for exploring ways to suffer as little damage as possible. He continued to make renewed truces.

In these years he also recorded successes, in 1427 he was appointed governor of České Budějovice, in 1429 at an important meeting in Bratislava Sigismund granted him the definitive pledge of the Zlatá Koruna estate.

He returned to high politics in the 30s. He appeared several times at important meetings, where he obtained Zikmund’s permission to negotiate the transfer of Zvíkov Castle to his administration. Oldřich was also to help the crusade that ended in failure at Domažlice. However, this did not happen.

Oldřich of Rožmberk was the bearer of the invitation to the Prague people to the Council of Basel. In 1434, he was appointed by Sigismund to be the chief negotiator with the Hussite factions on the possibility of accepting Sigismund as King of Bohemia.

Only at this time did he stop making truces with the radical factions. Oldřich sent a large detachment to the Battle of Lipany and a year later defeated the Taborites at the Battle of Křeče. At the same time he began to expand his possessions. He acquired Lomnice nad Lužnicí, and for his participation in the fight against the Hussites he demanded money from Sigismund and the Council. When he received “only” 600 gold coins, he did not attend the provincial assembly in Jihlava, where the compact was adopted.

In October 1436, however, he again became involved in land politics, negotiating a peace with the Taborites, although at that time he was trying to win for himself the villages around Zvíkov. In June 1436 he bought the two castles of Příběnice from Tábor and had them demolished.

Oldřich did not join the campaign against Roháč of Dubá, but in any case even this did not shake the relationship between him and the already recognized Bohemian king Sigismund - Luxembourg appointed him one of the 7 provisional administrators of the kingdom, at the moment he was leaving the country, not knowing that he would die in Znojmo.

At the time of Sigismund’s death, Oldřich of Rožmberk was the most important Czech nobleman, and was the head of the weaker Catholic party. If he wanted to get something through, he always needed the support of at least some of the moderate Hussites. This situation arose in the election of the new King of Bohemia. Albrecht Habsburg was accepted by the Czech Catholics, Oldřich had no problem with him, who had already come into contact with him several times in the past. The radical Hussites and some moderate Utraquists (led by Hynek of Pirkenstein) opposed the election of Albrecht. Oldřich led a delegation to announce Albrecht’s election as King of Bohemia, and the same delegation went with him to Prague for the coronation, which took place at the end of June 1438. There was no serious clash between the parties of Casimir of Poland, although there were plans for fighting at Tabor, in which Oldřich would have taken part. In May 1439, Oldřich, together with his relative Menhart of Hradec (a leading figure of the Utraquists), was appointed administrator and governor of the Bohemian kingdom.

King Albrecht II of Rome, Hungary and Bohemia (anonymous painting from the 16th century)

After the death of Albrecht of Habsburg, talks about a new monarch began between Oldřich of Rožmberk and Menhart of Hradec on the one hand, and Aleš of Šternberk and Hynek Ptáček of Pirkenštejn (who began to unite the moderate Calixtines) on the other. At the beginning of 1440, the so called Moderate Charter was negotiated in Prague. At this time, negotiations with several candidates - Frederick of Habsburg, Ladislaus Posthumous, or his mother (these were preferred by Oldřich) and the Polish court (Hynek’s party). Negotiations failed for many reasons - mainly due to the reluctance of the candidates, sometimes even Oldřich, who is comfortable with the kinglessness, hindered the negotiations.

In the early 1440s a small war (mostly in the form of robberies) between Tábor and Oldřich of Rožmberk takes place, peace is made in 1444 at Lipnice Castle.

At this time Oldřich settled his accounts with Jan Smil of Křemže, the former governor of Tábor, who had been in his prison since 1439. After making peace with the Taborites, he extorted his possessions from him in return for a promise of release, but he continued to keep him in prison and in 1447 Oldřich had Jan Smil beheaded.

Another dark side of the kingless period was Oldřich’s counterfeiting activities. He took advantage of the absence of royal power and the dysfunction of the authorities and the provincial court to enrich himself. Today’s research has found 30 documents in which previous kings (16 Sigismund, 6 John of Luxembourg, …) granted him or his predecessors estates or important privileges (e.g. on the indivisibility of the Rosenberg property). In some cases, even the seals of the monarchy were successfully forged.

It was probably Oldřich II of Rožmberk who asserted the Italian origin of the Rožmberks, deriving them from the Orsini family (he met one of its members, a cardinal, in the 1420s). This fiction took hold under his sons.

In 1444 Hynek Ptacek died and the young George of Poděbrady took the lead of his group. The Utraquist goal now is either to install a king (Ladislaus the Posthumous) or to place a land administrator at the head of the kingdom. Oldřich of Rožmberk tries to prevent this in every possible way (as mentioned above), because the rulelessness suits him. Oldřich discouraged Frederick from delivering Posthumous to Bohemia, and he also prevented the convocation of a general assembly. In 1447 Frederick made a final decision not to extradite his protégé to Bohemia. After this incident, the Utraquist majority elected George of Poděbrady as provincial governor, Prague was occupied by George´s forces (September 1448) and Menhart of Hradec was captured. Oldřich could not face these events, he was living in Vienna at the time. He came to a fait accompli, which he could have prevented earlier by a consensual policy.

At this point he tried to reconcile with the Poděbrady party, even though there were armed skirmishes between Oldřich and George. Shortly after his release, Menhart of Hradec died. Oldřich takes advantage of this and establishes the Strakonice Unity, a union of Catholic feudal lords whose aim is to liquidate the power of George of Poděbrady. This happens in February 1449. In April, the two sides conclude a truce. The Diet of Pelhřimov in 1450 did not bring any reconciliation. The two sides clashed in the field (the Rosenberg forces were led by Oldřich’s son Henry) on 4 June 1450 near Rokycany, after an attack by the Calixtines, the Catholic forces withdrew, negotiations began and a peace of almost a year was negotiated. The two sides met in Prague between November and January, resulting in an embassy to Frederick asking for Ladislaus’ extradition.

Woodcut from the Chronicle of Martin Kuthen (1539)

Oldřich had his son Henry represent him in the negotiations at this time, he seems to have been suffering from illness (gout, possibly urinary stones) and spent almost the whole of 1450 in Český Krumlov. His health deteriorates, and in 1451 he hands over his estates to his sons. But he remains a co-creator of family politics.

None of the Rosenbergs attends the Diet of St. George in Prague, where George is recognized as a land administrator. George then moves against his enemies - Tábor and then against the Rosenbergs, in this situation even the powerful South Bohemian rulers recognize him as head of state.

The accession of Ladislaus to the Bohemian throne paid off for the Rosenbergs, as the new king confirmed most of the forged documents. But then trouble began for the Rosenbergs. Oldřich’s promissory notes were obtained from Frederick III. George of Poděbrady, the arch-enemy.

In 1457, the eldest son Henry died and the younger John became the heir, soon coming into conflict with his father over competencies. King Ladislaus also dies the same year. George’s position is so strong that he begins to consider the Czech royal title himself. It was then that a convention between John II of Rožmberk and George of Poděbrady was apparently formed - George handed over the promissory notes to Rožmberk in return for a promise of support (or at least neutrality). Oldřich never accepted this. The conflict escalated further in 1461, when Oldřich’s second surviving son Jodok (at that time bishop in Wrocław) and the Czech king Jiří dealt with it. The two eventually reconciled. Oldřich II of Rožmberk died on 28 April 1462, a few days after the revocation of the Compacts of Basel.

Oldřich’s family circumstances were only hinted at. Perhaps in 1418 he married Catherine of Wartenberg (died in 1436), with whom he had 3 sons and 3 daughters: Henry (+1457), Jodok (+1467, became bishop of Wrocław), John II (+1472), Agnes (+1488), Perchta (+1476, known as the White Lady) and Ludmila (+1490).