The Hussite Wars had a lasting effect on Bohemia and the surrounding area, not least of which was the succession to the throne. King Wenceslas (Vaclav) IV died in 1419, leaving the throne open. As Wenceslas had no children, his brother Sigismund, King of Hungary, King of Croatia, and King of the Romans, claimed the throne.
The Bohemians, however, were still outraged that Jan Hus, the leader of the Hussites, had been guaranteed safe passage to the Council of Constance by Sigismund, only to be tried as a heretic and burned at the stake in 1415. (In all fairness to Sigismund, he was not in Constance when Hus was executed, and he protested when the reformer was imprisoned.) Given that public opinion was so strongly against him, Sigismund allowed Wenceslas IV’s widow, Sofia, to govern the country.
In 1420, one of his successors was born, though nobody could have known it at the time. This successor was George of Podebrady (Jiri z Podebrad). His father was a Hussite, and a leader of the Utraquist faction. George started early in warfare, taking part in the Battle of Lipany. George followed in his father’s footsteps to become a leader of the Hussites, and then the leader.
During the reign of King Ladislaus, Bohemia was divided into two groups. One group was led by Oldrich of Rosenberg, and was faithful to Rome. The other was led by George; this group consisted of Hussites. (Earlier, George scored a victory over the Austrian troops of Ladislaus’s father, King Albert II.)
George, unable to find common ground with Oldrich’s loyalists, finally raised an army in the strongly Hussite area of northeast Bohemia. In 1448, he led the army from Kutna Hora to Prague, which he captured almost without a fight. This sparked off a civil war, with George defeating Oldrich’s followers. In 1451, with the backing of Ladislaus’s guardian, Frederick III, as well as a diet in Prague, George became the administrator of Bohemia.
King Ladislaus was crowned in 1453. Just four years later, he died suddenly. Given that the young king had been sympathetic to Rome, rather than to the Hussite cause, George’s enemies accused him of poisoning Ladislaus. On February 27, 1458, George of Podebrady was crowned King of Bohemia. The Bohemian estates were unanimous in their approval, as were the loyalists to the Pope.
Governing the region was not an easy task. Bohemia’s Catholics were wary of him, and his attempt to rule according to the 1436 Compacta of Prague (a compromise between the Utraquists and the Catholic Church) caused conflict with Pope Pius II. In 1462, the Pope declared the Compacta null and void, demanding that George agree. George refused, though he did make a point of punishing some of the more radical Hussites in an effort to gain the Pope’s approval.
George foresaw the European Union in his suggestion of a united group of Christian nations, meant to stop the Turks from gaining too much power. These nations were to include Italy, the Bohemian Lands, France, Poland, Bavaria, and Hungary, with more nations joining later. His attempts to popularize the idea failed, as did his attempts to reach conciliation with Pius II’s successor, Pope Paul II. This new pope excommunicated George on December 23, 1466. The Pope was not alone in his opposition to George; many nobles who belonged to the papal party had taken sides against him, meeting at Zelena Hora on November 28, 1465 to form an alliance.
With the Pope’s excommunication came another blow: George was deposed as King of Bohemia. King Matthias of Hungary and Emperor Frederick III joined the Bohemian nobles in opposing George, setting off the Bohemian Wars. Matthias, having succeeded in capturing much of what is now Moravia, was crowned King of Bohemia in Olomouc on May 3, 1469.
George of Podebrady died on March 22, 1471. The fight had not ended; Vladislaus II, who was the son of the King of Poland, was chosen by George’s followers to continue the battle against Matthias.