Wilhelm von Rosenberg (in Czech, Vilém z Rožmberka; in German, Wilhelm von Rosenberg) was a member of a very important noble family of Bohemia. The city of Český Krumlov, in what is now South Bohemia, was very important to the Rosenberg family.
William was born in Schützendorf Castle on March 10, 1535. His father died in 1539, and young William received his education in Bohemia. When he was only sixteen, William became the administrator of the Rosenberg domain. That year (1551), he went on a trip to Italy, where he became enamored of Renaissance art and architecture.
Returning from Italy in 1552, William modified his family’s coat of arms to reflect his close relationship with the Italian family of Orsini. It was also during his time that Český Krumlov Castle began to keep live bears, which are to be seen there to this day.
William was unlucky in marriage. He married his first wife, Katherine of Brunschwig, in February 1557. In May, 1559, Katherine died in childbirth. In 1561, he married Sophie von Branibor; she died in June of 1564. More than a decade later, William married Anna Marie von Baden, who was all of 16 years old at the time.
Their 1578 wedding in Český Krumlov Castle came with a celebration that lasted for several days. The wedding feast included 40 stags, 150 oxen, 5,135 geese, 312,000 crabs, 30 wood grouse, 654 pigs, 30,000 eggs, 3,166 chickens, 10,209 pike, 450 rams, 546 calves, 18,000 carp, and 2,050 partridges. Anna Marie lived until July of 1583, dying at the ripe old age of 21, and was buried in St. Vitus’s Church in Český Krumlov. Finally, in 1587, William married Polyxena von Pernstein, who would outlive him.
Two years after Sophie’s death, in 1566, William was commissioned to lead Czech troops coming to the aid of the Hungarians. The Turks were battling the Hungarians, as they did throughout most of the 16th century. In 1572 and 1573, the Habsburgs (who ruled Bohemia at that time) to conduct negotiations over the next occupant of the throne of Poland. William did his duties so well that the people of Poland grew very fond of him. William himself was nominated as a candidate for the throne, though the crown eluded him.
William contributed to construction works on Český Krumlov Castle, in addition to being the man responsible for the building of a Jesuit college in the city in the 1580s. The building still exists, and is now the Hotel Růže, the only five-star hotel in Český Krumlov. In 1585, King Philip of Spain conferred upon William the highest possible honor for a Catholic nobleman, the Order of the Golden Fleece. For this event, William traveled to Prague, receiving the honor in St. Vitus’s Cathedral.
In past centuries, carp was a popular Christmas dish among the Czechs (many still eat it, though it has fallen out of favor in recent years). William supported carp farming in the Třeboň area, contributing to its economic prosperity. Other forms of livelihood included silver mining, farming, brewing beer, and glassmaking, all of which were overseen by William’s regent.
William of Rosenberg died on August 31, 1592. He was buried in St. Vitus’s Church in Český Krumlov, next to his third wife, Anna Marie.