Czech Genealogy and History: Do you know the Přemyslid (Přemyslovci) family?
If you have been working on your Bohemian (Czech) genealogy I am curious to know if you are familiar with the surname Přemyslid, Přemyslovci in Czech. While this name may, or may not, be in your family tree, it is a surname you should become familiar with. At least I believe all of us Czech genealogy and family history fanatics should.
While I have only researched and documented my two Bohemian family branches back to the 1600s with Matej Vicha of Rataje (1659-1729) and Jan Knecht (1756-18320), this family goes back much farther in Bohemian history and played a far more significant role than did anyone in my Vicha or Knechtl families.
You see, most often when you find the surname of Přemyslid, you find the word ‘Dynasty’ tagged onto the end of it!
So let’s dig into this Bohemian dynastic family a bit, which endured in Bohemia from the 9th Century all the way to 1306.
To begin we need to go back in time. Way back actually to the 800s, when the first Premyslid is historically documented. This was Bořivoj, who along with his wife, Ludmilla, reigned over what at first was a small area around the city of Prague. As the family’s wealth and power increased so did their realm and soon it was expanding throughout what is today’s Bohemia.
Historically Prague was an important crossroad of trade and with this lucky location came great wealth, prestige, and of course, power. This was also the time of great activity by the religious communities to take greater control over the people, wealth, and structure of nations. In the case of the Přemyslid family, Bořivoj was a new Christian while his wife was still a pagan. You may recognize the names of Bořivoj and Ludmilla as they are the grandparents of one of the most beloved of all the Přemyslid dynasty members, ‘Good King’ Wenceslaus I (907-935).
During the early centuries of the Premyslids’ reigns, there was much interfamilial fighting, which greatly retarded the formation of a stronger and more robust Bohemia, but then in 1197 Otakar I (ca. 1155-1230) was named overlord of all the Přemyslid lands and eventually secured the hereditary title as King (1198-1230) for his descendants as well.
The King of the Holy Roman Empire gave his approval of this title and so gave up control of Bohemia and King Otakar I then began to rule the established state of Bohemia. Thus began the time when Bohemia would reach its greatest wealth, prestige, and power. Otakar I was followed by his son, King Wenceslaus I, who reigned 1230-1253.
He in turn was followed by his son, Otakar II, who reigned from 1253 to 1278 and the prominence of Bohemia continued under his rule, while he was destined to be seen as one of the greatest leaders ever of Bohemia. Otakar II came to be known as ‘The Iron and Golden King’ as he was a strong ruler, who also improved Bohemian society greatly by building over 50 cities, a multitude of castles, improved trade, and made many positive changes in the legal system in Bohemia.
At this point I will add it was interesting to me to begin to realize many of these given names were used by my Bohemian ancestors over the generations. I have family members with the names of Otakar, Ludmilla, Wenceslaus, and Václav throughout my family tree. It gave me a wonderful sense of continuity and certainly a better understanding of given names, which earlier had seemed somewhat peculiar to me.
Unfortunately for the Přemyslid family and Bohemia in general, the good times of Otakar II did not last. In 1278, during one of his battles fought for expansion of Bohemia, King Otakar II was killed. He was succeeded by his son, Wenceslaus II, who also gained the title of King of Poland in 1300, was another very strong Přemyslid family member, but he died prematurely in 1305.
Sadly his son, Wenceslaus III was murdered in 1306, only a year into his reign. No one knows who it was who murdered Wenceslaus III or exactly why, but as with almost all unsolved murders, there are a bushel of theories! As Wenceslaus III was the last male in the family, thus ended the 500+ years’ duration of the Přemyslid dynasty of Bohemia.
The Luxembourg family rose to the throne and so began hundreds of years of European kings reigning over Bohemia.
Eventually this opened the way for the dreaded Habsburg monarchy and the Holy Roman Empire (aka the Catholic church) to take over. A group who, by and large, tried their best to destroy the nation, culture, language, and people of Bohemia.