Accidental History – The Deadly Destiny of Adam Franz zu Schwarzenberg (A Czech Winter’s Journey: Part Ten)

Adam Franz zu Schwarzenberg was a very lucky man who met with terrible misfortune. That statement may seem contradictory, but so was his life and death. He would become the first in a long line from the powerful House of Schwarzenberg that make Cesky Krumlov Castle their prime residence. The Schwarzenberg’s were the third and final family to own the Castle, along with numerous other estates in southern Bohemia. Adam Franz’s rise to power, prestigious reign and sudden demise is a microcosm of the Schwarzenberg’s three centuries in power. One day, one event, one moment can change everything for the better and sometimes for the worse.

Heir To Cesky Krumlov - Adam Franz zu Schwarzenberg

Heir To Cesky Krumlov – Adam Franz zu Schwarzenberg

On The Hunt – Building a Power Base
Adam Franz’s name has become synonymous with Cesky Krumlov Castle. He managed to acquire the castle, along with many other valuable possessions in the surrounding region, because he was nephew of Marie Ernestine von Eggenberg. Marie Ernestine was last in the line of the Eggenberg family that reigned over Cesky Krumlov. She and her husband, Johann Christian, failed to produce an heir. Thus her closest kin, Adam Franz, inherited the family’s vast holdings throughout southern Bohemia in 1719. Adam Franz was already extremely powerful. His holdings included the estates at Trebon and Hluboka. Adding the Eggenberg estates to his own added made the Schwarzenberg’s one of the most powerful aristocratic families in central Europe all the way until the mid-20th century.

Adam Franz built upon his good fortune with sound management practices that kept his estates economically prosperous. He was especially interested in forestry, where he displayed a talent for cultivation. His leadership and management capabilities, along with his aristocratic lineage, brought him into the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. There he held a series of high positions. Adam Franz eventually rose to become the Emperor’s chief advisor. Both men had a shared passion for hunting. Royal hunts were an elite sporting pursuit for the upper echelons of Central European society during the Renaissance era. Emperor Charles, Adam Franz and a host of others would spend many days together in the Bohemian forests hunting game. These hunts brought them closer together, but in one tragic case tore them apart forever.

One Last Shot – A Fatal Mishap
After visiting Cesky Krumlov In the late spring of 1732, Emperor Charles, Adam Franz  and an entourage traveled to the Bohemian countryside not far from Prague. Together they would take part in a deer hunt at Brandys nad Labem, an estate and chateau located on the left bank of the Elbe River. In an area thick with underbrush Charles and Adam Franz positioned themselves to await deer which would be driven to them by beaters. Charles and Adam Franz were only 60 meters (65 yards) from one another. The undergrowth must have camouflaged the spot where Adam Franz was standing. Charles failed to realize just how close they were to one another. When Charles sighted a deer, he took aim and fired. His shot rang out through the underbrush followed by the wounded cries of Adam Franz. The Emperor had shot him.

For all the good fortune Adam Franz had enjoyed in life, he was now beset by the ultimate in misfortune. The bullet had first struck his left hip, then passed through the intestines and a kidney before lodging in his right hip. The best medical care at the time was useless when faced with such a wound. An initial examination by an on-sight imperial physician concluded that the wound would surely prove fatal. While in wrenching pain, Adam Franz was transported by carriage back to Brandys nad Labem. In the evening, a priest was called for and last rites administered. In the early morning hours of June 11, 1732, twelve hours after he had been wounded, Adam Franz slipped out of consciousness and was soon dead. He was fifty-two years old at the time.

The Huntsman - Holy Roman Emperor Emperor Charles VI

The Huntsman – Holy Roman Emperor Emperor Charles VI (Credit: Johann Gottfried Auerbach)

Taking Aim – The Emperor’s Exoneration
Meanwhile, Emperor Charles VI was wracked with guilt. He had just killed one of his closest confidantes and longtime companions. An account taken by Adam Franz’s valet states that he did not blame the Emperor. He said that it had been an act of God. All Adam Franz asked was that Charles see to it that his 10 year old son, family and servants be well treated and receive their just inheritance. The Emperor would make sure Adam Franz’s family was treated with the utmost regard in the years to come.
Of course, the usual rumors cropped up concerning conspiracy theories. Rumors began to circulate that the Emperor purposely murdered Adam Franz. Despite, or perhaps because of Charles’ position as emperor, a special commission was created to carry out a thorough investigation.

The cause of the accident was obvious to investigators, the men had been stationed much to close for comfort, but not for tragedy. They should never have been that close to one another within shooting range. Coupled with ground cover, this was a recipe for an accidental shooting.  Charles VI was exonerated of any wrong doing. There is no compelling evidence to the contrary that it was anything other than a tragic mishap. One does have to wonder, if the shooting had been the other way around, with Adam Franz committing accidental manslaughter, what would the consequences have been for him? It is likely that the investigation would have turned out differently.

One Final Shot - The coat Adam Franz zu Schwarzenberg was wearing when he was accidentally shot by Emperor Charles VI

One Final Shot – The coat Adam Franz zu Schwarzenberg was wearing when he was accidentally shot by Emperor Charles VI (Credit: Cesky Krumlov Castle)

An Astonishing Reminder – The Misfortune Of The Fortunate
An astonishing reminder of Adam Franz and his untimely death can still be seen today. The coat he wore during the hunt is on display at Cesky Krumlov Castle. A small hole can be spotted on the right side of the coat. This is where the bullet first struck before it then tore through Adam Franz’s body. The coat is part of the Castle’s museum collection.  These holdings contain thousands of items related to both the great and terrible times that the House of Schwarzenberg endured at their numerous estates in southern Bohemia. Like Adam Franz, the House of Schwarzenberg enjoyed great fortune until they too were suddenly swept away by misfortune. The difference was that their demise took place in the mid-20th century. It was one from which they would not recover. Proof that historical forces are much more powerful than any individual or family.

Click here: It Will All End In Fears – The Fall Of The House Of Schwarzenberg (A Czech Winter’s Journey: Part Eleven)