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13. století

Premyslid Ottokar II of Bohemia

The Iron and Golden King, one of the most powerful rulers of the Premyslid dynasty
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The third King of Bohemia and a prominent knight in his time. The princedom of the Premyslids grew into a vast territory (even if not the largest) during his reign.
He was the second-born son of King Wenceslas I and ever since his childhood he had a hard time putting up with being raised in the shadow of his older brother Vladislas, the future king.
Ottokar was a good-looking man and possessed an unfaltering energy. His wild personality sometimes showed. Legend has it that when his much older wife Marketa blamed him for not being able to have children, he reacted by asking her to choose a girl among her female companions, adding that within a year he would have a son with her and thus demonstrate that he wasn’t the one to hold the shame of infertility.
In 1247, his brother suddenly died and Ottokar hence became the successor to the throne. He felt that his father Wenceslas dedicated too much time to boisterous drinking sprees and hunting trips and didn’t take care of the country. He received the support of part of the discontent nobles, who maneuvered him into a conflict with his father the king and named him the younger king. After a few successful feats at first, Ottokar was eventually forced to capitulate, although unwillingly and after being urged by his aunt Agnes. His father severely punished his supporters but kept his son in prison only for a short time before releasing him.
In 1251, Ottokar acquired Austria through his marriage with the 30 years older Marketa, of the Babenberg family. This event led to a quarrel of many years with the King of Hungary Béla IV, who was also interested in the Babenberg heritage and mainly in Styria.
In 1253, Ottokar became king following the death of his father and he immediately focused on expanding the territory

to the North towards the Baltic region. He tried to extend his power over Prussia and Lithuania in cooperation with the Order of the Teutonic Knights. He was only little successful until 1255 because of the minimal support of the Curia.
In 1260, the battle of Kressenbrunn solved the Austrian issue. The Hungarian army suffered a crushing defeat and Ottokar’s epithet “Iron” suited him particularly well on this occasion. The consequence was a new union between Ottokar and Béla’s granddaughter Kunigunda, who would play a major role in the Czech history.
Ottokar reached the peak of his power in the following decade, when he managed to seize the Egerland, Carinthia and Carniola, and later also added Friuli. This huge expansion of his territory provoked a war against the new King of Hungary Stephen V, who wasn’t in the end strong enough to face Ottokar’s army. In the meantime, a decision was soon to be taken that would be crucial for Ottakar’s position in the Empire. He wanted the imperial crown, but it was denied to him in favor of the insignificant count of Habichtsburg. Ottokar didn’t acknowledge the election and their enmity resulted in a mighty conflict between the Witigonens and the Rosenbergs in 1276, and eventually to the tragic battle of Durnkrut (Moravian field) in 1278, where Ottokar died. The Czech land then entered a critical period of chaos while King Wenceslas II was still a child.
Ottokar was the founder of numerous new towns and he also developed the town system. His reign is marked by his exceptional relation to the nobility, over which he exerted his authority with maybe too much severity. This was one of the causes of his fall. Still he belongs to one of the most powerful European rulers of his time and his importance is undisputed.


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