George of Poděbrady


George of Poděbrady

George of Kunštát and Poděbrady (April 23, 1420 - March 22, 1471), also known as Poděbrad or Podiebrad ( _cs. Jiří z Poděbrad), was King of Bohemia (1458-1471). He was leader of the Hussites.

Life

Early life

George was the son of Victor of Kunštát and Poděbrady, a Bohemian nobleman, one of the leaders of the "Orphans" or "Utraquists", the more moderate faction of the Hussites during the Hussite Wars. At the age of fourteen, George himself took part in the Battle of Lipany, which marked the downfall of the more radical Taborites.

Early in life, as one of the leaders of the Hussite party, he defeated the Austrian troops of the King Albert II, who had succeeded King Sigismund as King of Bohemia, Germany and Hungary. George soon became a prominent member of the Hussite party, and after the death of Ptacek of Pirkstein its leader.

King Albert was succeeded by his posthumously born son Ladislaus, during whose reign Bohemia was divided into two parties: the Catholic party, led by Ulrich von Rosenberg (1403-1462), and the Hussite party, led by George.

After various attempts at reconciliation, George sought a military decision. He gradually raised an armed force in north-eastern Bohemia, where the Hussites were strong and where his ancestral castle Litice was situated. In 1448, he marched this army, about 9000 strong, from Kutná Hora to Prague, and obtained possession of the capital almost without resistance.

Civil war, however, broke out, but George succeeded in defeating the Catholic nobles. In 1451 the emperor Frederick III, as guardian of the young king Ladislas, entrusted Poděbrad with the administration of Bohemia. In the same year a diet assembled at Prague also conferred the regency on George.

Ruler of Bohemia

The struggle of the Hussites against Catholicism continued uninterruptedly, and the position of George became a very difficult one when the young king Ladislaus, who was crowned in 1453, expressed his Catholic sympathies, though he had recognized the compacts and the ancient privileges of Bohemia. In 1457 King Ladislas died suddenly and some voices accused George of having poisoned him. (Research in 1985 gave acute leukemia as the cause of death.)

On February 27, 1458 the estates of Bohemia unanimously chose George as king. Even the adherents of the Catholic party voted for him, some in honour of his moderate policies, some out in deferences to popular feeling, which opposed the election of a foreign ruler.

George proposed a pan-European "Christian League" to unite all states in defense against the Turkish threat in the east. He sent Leo of Rozmital on a tour of European courts to promote this idea. He is thus considered as one of the earliest proponents of European unity.

George attempted to rule in a moderate manner based on the "Compacta of Prague". He won the loyalty of some Catholics, but had to contend with the opposition of Pius II, which proved one of the most serious obstacles to Poděbrad's rule. Pius declared the Compacta null and void in 1462 and wished George to consent to this. George rejected this demand but endeavoured to curry favour with the Roman See by punishing the more extreme Hussites. All George's endeavours to establish peace with Rome proved ineffectual, and though Pius II's plan of a crusade against Bohemia remained unexecuted. After Pius' death in 1464, George attempted to negotiate with the new Pope, Paul II but Paul proved to be an equally determined opponent.

George made enemies among the Catholic Bohemian nobles, who assembled at Zelená hora (Grüneberg) on November 28, 1465 to voice their grievances and conclude an alliance against the king. The confederacy was from its beginning supported by Pope Paul and on December 23, 1466 the Pope excommunicated George and pronounced his deposition as king of Bohemia, releasing all Catholics from their oaths of allegiance. Emperor Frederick III, and King Matthias of Hungary, George's former ally, joined the insurgent Bohemian nobles. King Matthias conquered a large part of Moravia, and was crowned King by the Catholics in the Moravian ecclesiastical metropolis Olomouc, as king of Bohemia on May 3, 1469.

George was successful against Matthias but, contrary to the wishes of his followers, came to an agreement with the Hungarian King in 1470.

He died on March 22, 1471 and his followers chose Vladislaus II, the son of the Polish King, as his successor to continue the fight against Matthias.

Bibliography

Frederick G. Heymann. "George of Bohemia. King of Heretics." Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965.
Otakar Odložilík. "The Hussite King. Bohemia in European Affairs 1440-1471." New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1965.
Josef Macek. "Jiří z Poděbrad." Praha: Svobodné slovo, 1967.


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