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Jagiellons on the Bohemian Throne

After the death of George of Poděbrady in 1471, a Polish prince, the Catholic Vladislav Jagiellon (1471–1516), was actually elected king. From the outset he had to fight for the Czech lands with Matthias Corvinus. While Corvinus ruled in Moravia, Upper and Lower Lusatia and Silesia, Vladislav only reigned in Bohemia. The break-up of the state was a real threat, but because Corvinus died without any legitimate male heirs, Vladislav re-established his rule in the neighbouring lands and even gained the Hungarian crown. He also moved the royal court from Prague to Hungary.

Growing tension between the Ultraquists and Catholics in Bohemia culminated in the events called the second defenestration of Prague in 1483. This happened when the Ultraquists anticipated a prepared Catholic takeover.  They occupied the town halls in Prague and removed the pro-Catholic town councillors. The killed the alderman of one of the town halls and threw him out of a window.  They “merely” threw the rest into jail.  At an estates assembly held in Kutná Hora in 1485 a religious settlement was concluded. Even Czech Catholics recognized the Compactata as a basic state law. This thereby established the tolerance and coexistence of two religious denominations in one land.

The turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries brought with it a dispute between the cities and the nobility over economic privileges, political representation and the jurisdiction of the towns. The aristocracy began conducting business in areas that infringed upon earlier town privileges (particularly in the brewing industry). The treaty of St. Wenceslas concluded at the estates assembly in 1517 was meant to end the discord. This established the principle of the right to one’s own jurisdiction, i.e. burghers were judged by city courts while justice for the nobles was administered in an estates court. The voting right of cities at the estates assembly was recognized and, last but not least, all the markets in the cities were declared to be free.

In 1526 at a battle near Mohacs, the forces of the Bohemian and Hungarian king Louis Jagiellon clashed with the army of the Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.  After losing the battle Louis drowned in a river while trying to escape. The danger of Turkish expansion affected not only the Czech lands for several centuries, but also impacted on the whole of Christian Europe. The Turks first laid siege to Vienna as early as in 1529. In the imperial city of Wittenberg, Martin Luther made his demand for Church reforms in 1517. The Reformation movement began in Europe and it gave rise to a wave of religious wars between Catholics and Protestants.