In 2016, the Czech Republic celebrates the 700th anniversary of the most significant personality of Prague’s history – Charles IV. He was the man who ordered the construction of the bridge over the Vltava River known all over the world and founded the renowned Charles University in 1348, the first university in central Europe. The busy quarter New Town or the magnificent castle called Karlštejn were also founded during his reign. In his era, Prague was as a flourishing city and Charles was commonly known as the father of Prague. You can read about his reign and deeds in practically any Prague guidebook you can get your hands on. But you might not find there that Charles IV…
…got first married at the age of seven
Charles IV was married four times, which makes him the king with the most wives in the history of Bohemian kings. On the day of his wedding with the first one, Blanca, they were both seven years old. Due to their youth, they continued growing up separately and met again when they were around fifteen. Blanca died young, as well as Charles’s next two wives. The four women in his life gave birth to 12 children. Not bad, uh?
…beat the most popular hockey player of the Czech Republic Jaromír Jágr
As you’ve probably guessed, not personally, but he did beat him! In 2005, the Czech public television broadcaster carried out a national survey, asking a very simple question: Who is the greatest Czech personality ever? More than 68,000 people voted for Charles IV putting him on the top of the list, closely followed by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia. Apart from historical personalities, the top 100 included such names as inventor of contact lenses Otto Wichterle, director Forman (e.g. Flight vver the Cuckoo’s Nest), hockey player Jaromír Jágr, athlete Emil Zátopek, writer Franz Kafka (e.g. Metamorphosis) and many more personalities who represent the Czech Republic all over the world. Headed by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor.
…is actually Wenceslas
The son of Elisabeth Premyslid and John of Luxembourg was baptized as Wenceslas. He got his name Charles after his confirmation when he was seven. In the Czech Republic, everyone knows him as Karel, which is the Czech version of the name.
…could speak Czech, German, French, Italian and Latin
In the old times, most people, monarchs included, did not know how to read or write. In addition to these skills, Charles IV was also fluent in five languages. Such polyglots are rare even today, in the age of online language courses and movies with original sound. But Charles acquired these skills in the 14th century! This is one of the reasons why he is considered as one of the smartest and most educated historical personalities.
…said “in vino veritas”
Have you ever heard the saying that at there is truth in wine? It means that after a couple of glasses of wine, you will say whatever is on your mind. It actually goes back to Charles IV, who was a true wine lover. He promoted wine production and strived to improve its quality and the wine making process. Cheers!
Does he deserve to be the greatest Czech personality ever? We say yes, if only because the other 99 winners would never walk across his beautiful bridge if it wasn’t for him. ☺