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John I, Count of Luxemburg.

John the Blind (Luxembourgish: Jang de Blannen; German: Johann der Blinde von Luxemburg; Czech: Jan Lucemburský; 10 August 1296 – 26 August 1346) was the Count of Luxembourg from 1309 and King of Bohemia from 1310 and titular King of Poland. He was the eldest son of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII and his wife Margaret of Brabant.

He is known for having died while actively fighting in a military battle at age 50, after having been blind for a decade.

Contents

Life

Raised in Paris, John was French by education, but deeply involved in the politics of Germany. In 1310 his father arranged the marriage of the 14-year-old with Elisabeth from the Přemyslid dynasty, sister of the deceased King Wenceslaus III of Bohemia. John campaigned Bohemia and was elected king by deposition of Henry of Carinthia, he thereby became one of the seven prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire and - in succession of Wenceslaus III - claimant to the Polish and Hungarian throne. His attempts to follow his father as King of the Romans failed with the election of Louis IV of Wittelsbach in 1314. He later would support Louis in his rivalry with Frederick the Fair of Habsburg, culminating in the 1322 Battle of Mühldorf and in return receive the Egerland as lien.

John's wedding with Elisabeth of Bohemia at Speyer

Like his predecessor Henry the object of the hostility of the Czech nobility, "alien king" John soon gave up the administration of Bohemia and embarked on a life of travel, spending time in Luxembourg and the French court. His travels took him to Silesia, Poland, Lithuania, Tyrol, Northern Italy and Papal Avignon. A rival of King Władysław I the Elbow-high to the Polish crown, John supported the Teutonic Knights in the Polish–Teutonic War from 1326 to 1332. He also made several Silesian dukes swear an oath of allegiance to him until the conflict was settled by the 1335 Treaty of Trentschin: Władysław's successor King Casimir III the Great of Poland renounced all claims to Silesia in exchange for John's waiver of the Polish throne, confirmed by the Congress of Visegrád in the same year.

John lost his eyesight at age 39 or 40 from ophthalmia in 1336, while crusading in Lithuania. A treatment by the famous physician Guy de Chauliac had no positive effects. At the outbreak of the Hundred Years' War in 1337 he allied with King Philip VI of France and even was governor of Languedoc from 30 November 1338 to November 1340. He was killed at age 50 in 1346, while fighting alongside the French against the English at the Battle of Crécy. The medieval chronicler Jean Froissart left the following account of John's last actions:

...for all that he was nigh blind, when he understood the order of the battle, he said to them about him: 'Where is the lord Charles my son?' His men said: 'Sir, we cannot tell; we think he be fighting.' Then he said: 'Sirs, ye are my men, my companions and friends in this journey: I require you bring me so far forward, that I may strike one stroke with my sword.' They said they would do his commandment, and to the intent that they should not lose him in the press, they tied all their reins of their bridles each to other and set the king before to accomplish his desire, and so they went on their enemies. The lord Charles of Bohemia his son, who wrote himself king of Almaine and bare the arms, he came in good order to the battle; but when he saw that the matter went awry on their party, he departed, I cannot tell you which way. The king his father was so far forward that he strake a stroke with his sword, yea and more than four, and fought valiantly and so did his company; and they adventured themselves so forward, that they were there all slain, and the next day they were found in the place about the king, and all their horses tied each to other.

After the battle, legend states that John's personal crest (a pair of black wings) and motto Ich dien ("I Serve") were adopted in slightly modified form by Edward, the Black Prince, and since then they have been part of the badge of the Prince of Wales.

John was succeeded as King of Bohemia by his eldest son Charles (later Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor). In Luxembourg, he was succeeded by his son by his second wife, Wenceslaus.

The manner of his death gave rise to the obsolescent idiom, "to fight like King John of Bohemia", meaning "to fight blindly".

Quotes

According to the Cronica ecclesiae pragensis benesii krabice de weitmile, before he died at the Battle of Crécy, he cried: "Let it never be the case that a Bohemian king runs [from a fight!]"

Family and children

Coat of Arms of John the Blind, Count of Luxemburg and King of Bohemia.

He was married twice:

First, to Elisabeth of Bohemia (1292–1330). In this marriage he had the following children:

  1. Margaret of Bohemia (8 July 1313–11 July 1341, Prague), married in Straubing 12 August 1328 to Henry XIV, Duke of Bavaria.
  2. Bonne (21 May 1315–11 September 1349, Maubuisson), married in Melun 6 August 1332 to King John II of France.
  3. Charles IV (14 May 1316–29 November 1378), King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor.
  4. Ottokar ("Otto") (22 November 1318–20 April 1320), Prince of Bohemia.
  5. John Henry (Jan Jindřich) (12 February 1322, Mělník–12 November 1375), Margrave of Moravia.
  6. Anna (1323–3 September 1338), twin of Elizabeth, married 16 February 1335 to Otto, Duke of Austria.
  7. Elizabeth (1323–1324), twin of Anna.

Second (December 1334), to Beatrice of Bourbon, daughter of Louis I, Duke of Bourbon. This marriage produced one son:

  1. Wenceslaus I of Luxembourg (25 February 1337, Prague–7 December 1383, Luxembourg), Duke of Luxembourg and Brabant.

References

  • The Chronicles of Froissart, translated by Lord Berners, edited by G.C. Macaulay. The Harvard Classics. [1]
  • CRONICA ECCLESIAE PRAGENSIS BENESSII KRABICE DE WEITMILE [2]
John of Bohemia
Born: 10 August 1296 Died: 26 August 1346
Preceded by
Henry of Carinthia
King of Bohemia
1310 – 1346
Succeeded by
Charles IV
Preceded by
Henry VII
Count of Luxemburg
1313 – 1346
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