PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Hussite partisans of George of Podebrad (or Podebrady) vs. Hapsburg rulers of Bohemia
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Bohemia
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: George of Podebrad’s Utraquist party opposed the Hapsburg party’s candidate for the Bohemian throne, Ladislas V (“Posthumous”).
OUTCOME: Although Ladislas V became nominal king of Bohemia, George of Podebrad governed as the true power behind the throne; upon the untimely death of Ladislas in 1457, George was elevated to the throne.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
TREATIES: No formal treaty
Before he ascended the Bohemian throne on the death of Wenceslaus (1361–1419), Sigismund (1368–1437) was elected king of Germany in 1411. Seeing an opportunity to become famous as the savior of church unity, he forced the convocation of the Council of Constance, which tried the Protestant religious reformer John Huss (1369–1415). Found guilty of heresy, Huss was burned at the stake, thereby triggering the Hussite Wars (1419–1436). The Hussites remained a powerful force in Bohemia during the 15th century and played a key role in establishing the succession when Sigismund failed to produce an heir. The Bohemian nobility split over the issue, with the conservatives accepting Sigismund’s son-in-law, Albert II of Austria (1397–1439), while the Hussites demanded a Polish candidate. Albert’s death ushered in an interregnum during which an assembly established provincial administration for Bohemia as its leaders debated the best course to follow.
The problem of succession grew more urgent when Albert’s widow gave birth to a boy called Ladislas, and several foreign princes suddenly showed interest in the throne. In 1443 the Hussite majority opted to recognize the child’s claims, even though he resided at the Hapsburg court of German king Frederick III (1415–93). He was to become Ladislas V (called “Ladislas Posthumous”) (1440–57) and rule under a Hapsburg regency.
Meanwhile, George Podebrad (or Podebrady) (1420– 71) emerged as one of the most important Hussite leaders. Born to a baronial family in central Bohemia, George became head of the Utraquist party, a moderate Hussite faction, which opposed Ladislav for the Bohemian throne.
George rallied his followers against the introduction of German rule in Bohemia and in the cause of Bohemian nationalism. In 1448 he captured Prague, capital of Bohemia, without bloodshed and successfully held it against immense political pressure from the Hapsburgs and their Bohemian champions. By 1451 the Hapsburgs effectively gave up their claims by allowing George of Podebrad to govern. The Bohemian diet in 1451 elected George regent governor, and although Ladislas V became nominal king of Bohemia in 1453, George of Podebrad
was the true power behind the throne. When the youthful Ladislas suddenly died in 1457, George was elevated to the Bohemian throne.