Little Bits of History

Nice Guys Finish Last

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 28, 2014
Duke Wenceslaus, Statue by Peter Parler

Duke Wenceslaus, Statue by Peter Parler

September 28, 935: Good King Wenceslaus is only a Duke, but still murdered. Also known as Wenceslas I, he was the Duke of Bohemia. He was born around 907 and was the son of Vratislaus I from the Přemyslid dynasty. Vratislaus benefitted from a Christian upbringing after his own father was converted by Saints Cyril and Methodius. Wenceslaus’ mother, Drahomira, was the daughter of a pagan tribal chief but was baptized at the time of her marriage. Vratislaus died in 921 and his mother, Ludmilla, took over the raising of the children. Ludmilla’s fervent Christianity as well as removal of the children, led to bitterness between her and Drahomira.

Ludmilla fled to Tetin Castle in nearby Beroun. Drahomira was trying to gain support from the nobility and with the loss of control over her son, this was lessened. Therefore, Drahomira arranged to have her mother-in-law strangled on September 15, 921 and get her children back. There are legends which claim that afterwards, she attempted to convert her son to her own pagan roots. Wenceslaus was said to be exceptionally pious and humble as well as highly educated and very intelligent.

Great Moravia fell and the Bohemian rulers were left to deal with raids from many factions. The political landscape changed dramatically when an alliance formed by Vratislaus and King Henry the Fowler disintegrated. At the age of 18, Wenceslaus assumed governmental control for himself and Drahomira was then exiled. He was able to defend his claim against the Duke of Kourim. In early 929, Prague was again attacked and the Duke was once again forced into paying tribute begun in 895 but having been ignored for some time.

On this day, a group of nobles who had aligned themselves with Boleslav, the younger brother of Wenceslaus, plotted to kill the Duke. Boleslav invited his brother to the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian in Stara Beleslav. Tira, Česta, and Hněvsa (Boleslav’s allies) murdered Wenceslas on his way to church after the brothers had quarreled. Boleslav then became the new Duke. Wenceslaus was considered a martyr and became a saint shortly after his murder. Both England and Bohemia had a rich legend built up just decades after the young man’s death. He is immortalized in the Saint Stephen’s Day song in which his temperament and piety are praised. He also got a posthumous upgrade to the status of King.

Truth made you a traitor as it often does in a time of scoundrels. – Lillian Hellman

This principle is old, but true as fate, Kings may love treason, but the traitor hate. – Thomas Dekker

Tis not seasonable to call a man traitor, that has an army at his heels. – John Selden

I would be a traitor to these poor burned bodies if I came here to talk good fellowship. – Rose Schneiderman

Also on this day: Victory – In 1781, George Washington began his assault on Yorktown, the last battle of the Revolutionary War.
Hostage Taking – In 1975, the Spaghetti House siege began.
Black Sox – In 1920, eight Chicago White Sox players were indicted.
Races – In 1919, the Omaha Race Riots began.

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