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George of Podebrady

George of Podebrady, also known as Podebrad or Podiebrad (Czech: Jiř z Poděbrad), King of Bohemia (1458-1471), was the first King in Europe to renounce the Catholic faith when he adopted the religon of Jan Hus. This was then established throughout Bohemia with a sculpted chalice being set up ouitside every church as a symbol of the reformed religion.

He was the son of Victoria of Kunstat and Podebrady, a Bohemian nobleman, who was one of the leaders of the Orphans or modern Taborites during the Hussite wars. George himself as a boy of fourteen took part in the great Battle of Lipany, which marks the downfall of the more advanced Taborites. Early in life, as one of the leaders of the Calixtine[?] party, he defeated the Austrian troops of the German King Albert II, son-in-law and successor of King Sigismund. He soon became a prominent member of the national or Calixtine party, and after the death of Ptacek of Pirkstein[?] its leader. During the minority of Ladislaus, son of Albert, who was born after his father's death, Bohemia was divided into two parties: the Romanist or Austrian one, led by Ulrich von Rosenberg[?] (1403-1462), and the national one, led by Podebrad. After various attempts at reconciliation, Podebrad decided to appeal to the force of arms. He gradually raised an armed force in north-eastern Bohemia, where the Calixtine cause had most adherents and where his ancestral castle was situated. With this army, consisting of about 9000 men, he marched in 1448 from Kutna Hora to Prague, and obtained possession of the capital almost without resistance.

Civil war, however, broke out, but Podebrad succeeded in defeating the Romanist nobles. In 1451 the emperor Frederick III, as guardian of the young king Ladislas, entrusted Podebrad with the administration of Bohemia. In the same year a diet assembled at Prague also conferred on Podebrad the regency. The struggle of the Bohemians against Rome continued uninterruptedly, and the position of Podebrad became a very difficult one when the young king Ladislas, who was crowned in 1453, expressed his sympathies for the Roman Church, though he had recognized the compacts[?] and the ancient privileges of Bohemia. In 1457 King Ladislas died suddenly, and public opinion from an early period accused Podebrad of having poisoned him. It's been considered as a calumny. On February 27, 1458 the estates of Bohemia unanimously chose Podebrad as king; even the adherents of the Austrian party voted for him, not wishing at that moment to oppose the popular feeling, which demanded the election of a national sovereign. A year after the accession of Podebrad Pius II became pope, and his incessant hostility proved one of the most serious obstacles to Podebrad's rule. Though he rejected the demand of the pope, who wished him to consent to the abolition of the compacts, he endeavoured to curry favour with the Roman see by punishing severely all the more advanced opponents of papacy in Bohemia. Podebrad's persecution of the newly-founded community of the Bohemian brethren[?] is certainly a blemish on his career. All Podebrad's endeavours to establish peace with Rome proved ineffectual, and though the death of Pius II prevented him from carrying out his planned crusade against Bohemia, his successor was a scarcely less bitter enemy of the country. Though the rule of Podebrad had proved very successful and Bohemia had under it obtained a degree of prosperity which had been unknown since the time of Charles IV, the Calixtine king had many enemies among the Romanist members of the powerful Bohemian nobility. The malcontent nobles met at Zelena Hora (Gruneberg) on November 28, 1465, and concluded an alliance against the king, bringing forward many (mostly untrue) accusations against him. The confederacy was from its beginning supported by the Roman see, though Podebrad after the death of his implacable enemy, Pius II, attempted to negotiate with the new pope, Paul II. These negotiations ended when the pontiff grossly insulted the envoys of the king of Bohemia. On December 23, 1466 Paul II excommunicated Podebrad and pronounced his deposition as king of Bohemia, forbidding all Romanists to continue in his allegiance. The emperor Frederick III, and King Matthias of Hungary[?], Podebrad's former ally, joined the insurgent Bohemian nobles. King Matthias conquered a large part of Moravia, and was crowned in the capital of that province, Brno, as king of Bohemia on May 3, 1469. In the following year Podebrad was more successful in his resistance to his many enemies, but his death on March 22, 1471 put a stop to the war. In spite of the misfortunes of the last years of his reign, Podebrad's memory has always been cherished by the Czechs. He was the only non-catholic Czech king.

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