It Ended In A Bed Chamber – A Tale of Murder At Cesky Krumlov Castle (A Czech Winter’s Journey: Part Nine)

Most of what is known about European History in the Renaissance era comes from written sources. If an event or incident was documented in writing than it became part of the historical record. If something was not written down, then it might as well have never happened. For many events, the ending is much more well-known than the beginning. Finding an exact starting point for an event can be an exercise in futility. Chroniclers were most likely to document a significant event after it occurred, not at its very beginning. The historical importance of an event is rarely known until it is already in progress or after its conclusion. This is the case with a sensational murder committed by Don Julius Caesar d’Austria, the son of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. Due to the efforts of Cesky Krumlov’s chronicler Vaclav Brezan we know the details of how Don Julius’ most notorious affair ended. Just exactly how it started is open to speculation and relies on generalization rather than specifics. Nonetheless, the beginning of this most sadistic of affairs is open to the imagination. This makes what occurred even more terrible to contemplate.

At The Mercy Of A Madman – Bound By Fate
In the year 1607, Don Julius had been placed in a pseudo-exile at Cesky Krumlov by his father Rudolf II. He took up residence at the magnificent castle that loomed over the town. From there, Don Julius could look down from his quarters at the citizenry of Cesky Krumlov. He would see hundreds of innocents – potential prey for him – going about their business with little knowledge of the fate that would soon befall one of them. Despite his crazed mania, Don Julius was so powerful that to displace him would have taken an act of his father, who had installed him at Cesky Krumlov in the first place. This was not about to happen despite the schizophrenic madness which plagued Don Julius. Like the most powerful royalty of that age, he held the power of life and death over many people. They were at his mercy, a precarious and soon to be deadly position for one of them.

Exactly when and how Don Julius Caesar d’Austria first met Marketa Pichlerova, the daughter of a local barber in Cesky Krumlov, is open to question. Was it during one of his drunken rampages? While passing though the town with his entourage of misfits? Or just by happenstance? No one can say for sure, but the questions do not end there. What was it about Marketa that caused Don Julius to become obsessed with her? He had attacked and sexually assaulted many women in his life up to that time, but he usually moved on from one conquest to the next. That would not be the case with Marketa. Perhaps it had something to do with their initial encounter. What is known, Marketa’s father Zikmund was using his barbering skills to “bleed” Don Julius. Just the type of useless medical treatment that was going to do nothing for Don Julius’ overwhelming mental problems other than exacerbate them. Somewhere in that mad mind of his clouded by schizophrenia, Don Julius must have fallen for Marketa. The reason will never be known, unlike the outcome. Whether brought together by luck or chance, they would be bound forever together by fate.

Bound By Fate - Don Julius Caesar d'Austria after committing the murder of Marketa Pichlerova

Bound By Fate – Don Julius Caesar d’Austria after committing the murder of Marketa Pichlerova

The First & Final Cuts – A Lethal Bloodletting
Don Julius chose Marketa as a pseudo-consort/concubine. Her parents allowed Marketa to move into the castle with him. This was quite a step up in society for Marketa. She went from being the daughter of a humble barber to the wife of the Habsburg Emperor’s oldest son. Conversely, she had also become the virtual prisoner of a debauched degenerate who was descending ever deeper into the throes of madness. Marketa would soon realize this for herself. When Don Julius grew weary of her, rather than send Marketa back home to her parents he instead acted out his violent impulses upon her. A fight between the couple escalated into a near lethal bloodletting. Don Julius attacked her with a rapier. He managed to stab her several times, then proceeded to fling her out of a castle window to what he surely supposed would be her death. Rather than perish, Marketa instead landed on a trash heap which saved her life for the time being.

Once Don Julius discovered that Marketa had survived, he demanded that her parents turn her back over to him. They refused. This led Don Julius to imprison her father for over a month. He sadistically tortured Zikmund and threatened to kill him. Marketa’s mother finally gave in to this insidious blackmail. She offered to allow Marketa to return if her husband was freed. This was done on Sunday, February 17th. A day later Don Julius exacted revenge in a fit of ultraviolent anger. According to chronicler Vaclav Brezin, “Julius, that awful tyrant and devil, bastard of the Emperor, did an incredibly terrible thing to his bed partner, the daughter of a barber, when he cut off her head and other parts of her body, and people had to put her into her coffin in single pieces.” Eyewitnesses reported that they found Don Julius covered in blood, guts and feces. Even by the standards of that time, the crime was shocking in the extreme. Rudolf II was scandalized by his son’s crime. He vowed that Don Julius would never go free again.

Historic painting of the Minorite Monastery in Cesky Krumlov - Within the walls are buried the bones of Don Julius Caesar d'Austria

Historic painting of the Minorite Monastery in Cesky Krumlov – Within the walls are buried the bones of Don Julius Caesar d’Austria

Disturbing Truths – The Last Days Of Don Julius
While Don Julius avoided capital punishment – almost certainly due to his lineage – he still suffered massive anguish. His mental state had deteriorated to such an extent that he began living more like an animal than a human being. His personal hygiene eroded to the point that he would not bathe or take care of himself at all. Servants were so fearful of Don Julius that they avoided him. The rancid smell coming from his quarters was overpowering and only grew worse with time. He took to laying in the floor naked while using his soiled clothing for bedding. His health declined precipitately. It was reported that in the days before his death he let out full throated howls. The bellowing finally stopped on June 25, 1809 when Don Julius died of a ruptured ulcer. He was interred at the Minorite monastery in Cesky Krumlov.

Rudolf II once again turned tender hearted. His wish was to have Don Julius moved to a burial site more worthy of an heir to the emperor. Before this could happen Rudolf died. Don Julius’ remains were later moved to another area of the monastery. He is said to be buried somewhere within the walls. The exact place is not known. If only those walls could talk, they would howl in derision. Don Julius Caesar d’Austria was a deeply troubled man who was destined for a very bad end. His schizophrenia was uncontrollable. His father could only do so much to protect him, but no one could protect Don Julius from himself. Tragically, the innocent Marketa suffered a horrible death due to his madness. It is impossible to know what exactly drew Don Julius to Marketa. Just as it is impossible to know the exact place he is buried. Some things can never be known and that is probably for the best. The truth is disturbing enough on its own.

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


Patron’s Place – Cesky Krumlov & The Eggenbergs (A Czech Winter’s Journey: Part Seven)

If Cesky Krumlov Castle and its surroundings are largely the history of three families than the middle child of that triumvirate, the Eggenbergs, get the least notice. There are two reasons for this oversight. First and foremost, their reign over the region was by far the shortest. The Rozmberk family held Cesky Krumlov three times as long as the Eggenbergs. While the Schwarzenberg family’s reign was over twice as long. One of the more prominent members of the Eggenberg family, Johann Ulrich von Eggenberg received Cesky Krumlov Castle and the surrounding lands as payment from Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand II in 1622. Less than a century later, in 1719, the family would lose their holdings after failing to produce an heir.

The Eggenberg’s are also overlooked because they neither started not ended the period of family reign over Cesky Krumlov. It is always easier to remember the beginning or the end of something, the in between period is another story altogether. A story that is most often not told. Historically, the Eggenberg’s act as a bridge, stuck between the medieval and the modern, the Renaissance and Baroque eras. They were gifted ownership of Cesky Krumlov during a time of war and would later die out in a period of peace. It is little wonder that they have languished in relative obscurity when it comes to the history of the castle they once lorded over.

A Man Of Taste And Style - Johann Christian I von Eggenberg

A Man Of Taste And Style – Johann Christian I von Eggenberg

Opposites Attract – The Rise Of A Family, The Decline Of A Castle
Originally a merchant family from the region of Styria, the Eggenberg’s enjoyed a meteoric rise to power and prominence. The family member most responsible for their ascendancy was Johann Ulrich von Eggenberg. His conversion to Catholicism at a time when Protestant families were losing their power and property to the Habsburgs sealed his position among the most powerful men in central Europe. He became Emperor Ferdinand II’s closest advisor. According to several accounts Johann Ulrich was present for everyone of the Emperor’s most important decisions. He was awarded several noble titles and vast compensation for his services. Among these were governor of Inner Austria, First Minister to the Emperor and Duke of Krumlov. The Eggenberg’s newly acquired land in southern Bohemia would soon be designated as a Duchy. They were even given the right to mind their own coinage. The family now radiated wealth and power.

The Eggenberg reign at Cesky Krumlov may have been relatively short, but it was also notable. The family’s ownership would save the castle from falling into total disrepair. It is worth remembering that during the twenty-year period (1602 – 1622) after Peter von Rozmberk sold the castle that the structure was badly neglected. Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II was its owner, but he never took the time to visit the castle. Rudolf did allow an illegitimate son to use it as a base of power for a few years. The son then decided to murder a woman he lured to the castle. At that point Rudolf made sure he got a new home, prison for life. Meanwhile, other calamities plagued the castle. A fire damaged one of the courtyards and Bavarian troops occupied the grounds. This led to the usual excesses of foreign soldiers. The castle had become less than useful. It was no longer the administrative, social or cultural hub for the surrounding region. That would slowly begin to change after the Eggenberg’s took over.

An Eggenberg Legacy - Cesky Krumlov Castle Mint building (on the left)

An Eggenberg Legacy – Cesky Krumlov Castle Mint building (on the left)

Theatrical Personalities – Setting The Scenes
Neither Johann Ulrich nor his son Johann Anton would make the castle their residence. Instead they continued to reside in Inner Austria. It would not be until Johann Anton’s son, Johann Christian, took it upon himself to make Cesky Krumlov the family’s residence that a new era in the castle’s history began. He and his wife Marie Ernestine were lovers of the arts. As such, they would kick start an artistic renaissance at the Castle. This would lead to renovations that transformed it into a structure worthy of the Baroque era. Lavish theatrical productions began to be staged in what was then known as the Deer Hall. The productions were elaborate in the extreme with the creation of 15 different scene settings. Among these were a village, military camp, winter and summer forest scenes, in addition to heaven and hell. This only whetted the appetites of Johann Christian and Marie for more. This led to the creation of the first standalone theater at the castle complex. It was constructed in one of the courtyards.

The theater was far from the only upgrade during the Eggenberg’s reign. The entire upper part of the castle was reconstructed over a five-year period. During this time work also started on the Castle Mint. It is still of the most noticeable buildings at the castle complex still today. This is due to its location, the four-story ochre colored Baroque edifice looming above the Vltava River. The Castle Mint never produced a single coin, instead it became headquarters for the Castle’s hunting master. The reconstruction also included a covered walkway leading to the splendid Castle Gardens. All the work on the castle was done in a style of spectacular refinement, indicative of the Baroque era. The couple succeeded in putting their own indelible personal stamp on the Castle. This would be the most enduring legacy of Eggenberg family rule at the castle.

A Garden To Behold - Castle Gardens at Cesky Krumlov Castle

A Garden To Behold – Castle Gardens at Cesky Krumlov Castle

Short Lived – A Brief Glory
Johann Christian and Marie could afford to focus on their shared passion for high culture. The fact that they did not have children allowed them more time to patronize the arts. It also meant that the Eggenberg family’s reign at Cesky Krumlov Castle was short lived. Johann Christian died in 1710, Marie lived on a bit longer. When she passed away in 1719, Cesky Krumlov went to her nephew Adam zu Franz Schwarzenberg. The Schwarzenberg family name would become synonymous with the early modern and modern periods in Cesky Krumlov’s history. Despite its brevity, the Eggenberg family’s time in power had been a success, one worth remembering for its architectural restorations and cultural achievements. The Eggenberg’s reign was remarkable even though it did not last for very long.

Click here for: It Began In A Bed Chamber – A Tale of Madness At Cesky Krumlov Castle (A Czech Winter’s Journey: Part Eight)