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Charles IV

Charles IV was born in 14th of May 1316. He got the name Wenceslas IV. Father of Charles was King John of Luxemburg known as well as “Foreign King” because he was usually everywhere else than in his homeland. King John loves battles and helped his friends and alliances in neighbourhood to fight their battles. He took just a little bit stands to local politics in Czech. In the other hand he strength Czech position in Europe during the battles.

Early Years

Mother of Charles IV was Elisabeth Premysl, who was the daughter of Wenceslas II, the previous King of Bohemia. The male bloodline of Premysl royal family died out because there was no boy to inherit the crown. That is why John of Luxemburg became a King of Bohemia. Mother Elisabeth taught to Czech forebears to young Charles. Later there was some break-up between John and Elisabeth and John took his 3-year-old son from Elisabeth. John’s sister took care of Charles after that.

When Charles was 7-years old he was sent to Paris according to family tradition. Charles rose up and got his education in the court of France. One of his teachers was abbot Peter Roger, who would be a Pope Clement VI in the future. The Queen Mary of France was a sister of John of Luxemburg and hers husband King Charles IV became as godfather of young Charles when he was baptized in 1323. Godfather gave his own name to Charles in baptism. Unlike usually Charles kept his confirmation name at the rest of his life.

In the court of France Charles got married in 1324 when he was only 8 years old. His first wife Margaret/Blanche of Valois was daughter of Charles of Valois, who was uncle of king Charles IV of France. In 1328, when King Charles IV died without male heir, his cousin and brother of Blanche Philip VI became to king of France.

Charles started to take part to politics

Charles lived also in Luxemburg and Northern Italy before he came back to Bohemia. In eastern 1331 during his time in Luxemburg someone tried to poison his retinue. Charles avoided poisoning because he was going to Eastern mess and planned to take part of communion. That is why he didn’t eat poisoned food. Many men of his retinue died to poison. Later catch the poisoner who confess his crime after tree day torture and tell also who was behind the assassin. In Italy he took care of the administration of his father's temporary acquisitions.

Charles came back to Bohemia at 1333. He was a clever boy who spoke French, Italian, German and Latin fluently. He had forgotten Czech language almost all, but learned it very quickly after his arriving. He also called his wife Blanche to Prague from Luxemburg and after on year his first daughter Margaret of Luxemburg was born in 1335. Second daughter Catherine of Luxemburg was born in 1342.

The kingdom was almost deserted and thing were quite badly in Bohemia when Charles came there. There was for example no free castle where Charles could live. Even Prague castle were so bad condition that it was impossible to live. Charles needed to build up a new palace. He also recovered castles of Krivoklát, Týrov, Lichnice, Litice, Hradec Králove, Písek, Nectiny, Zbiroh, Tachov, Trutnov, Lukov, Telc, Veveri, Olomouc, Brno and Znojmo with high cost and great help of the people of Bohemia. They also recovered and returned a lot of other property to the crown.

Charles had good political and administrative skills, but deceitful advisors told lies to King John about him and so Charles dismissed in 1335. Even after reconciliation with his father Charles spend a lot of time outside Bohemia. When his father was already blind and Charles was escorting him he met an old friend from count of France. Cardinal Peter Roger invited Charles to visit his home and there they made famous foretell conversation. Cardinal said to Charles ”You will yet be King of the Romans.” And Charles responded to him, ”You will be pope before that.” Both of these were filled quite soon and his friend became as pope Clement VI.

Charles came again back to Bohemia with his father in early 1341. King John transferred the administration of kingdom to his son Charles IV but also set some conditions. Charles had to give 5000 marks to John and John would not come back to Bohemia during next two years or demand any more money. When King John was gone, Charles started to arrange things to better way in whole Bohemia. After two years King John came back to Bohemia and took Charles again to battles with him.

This way Charles took part to local and foreign politics even before he became a real king. He for example made a really successful campaign that finally leads for that pope Clement VI promoted the bishopric of Prague to an archbishopric in 1344. That means that Bohemian lands got an ecclesiastical autonomy. Related to that Charles gave also order to reconstruct St. Vitus Church to huge gothic cathedral and he also founded a new seat of bishopric to Litomyšl in East Bohemia.

The King of Bohemia

According of prophetical discussion with Cardinal Peter Roger later Pope Clement IV Charles was elected to King of Romans on 22 May 1346. Just after few months his father fights with French army against English black prince and died at the battle of Crécy. Charles became also the King of Bohemia and the new archbishop in Prague crowned him in 1347. Soon after his coronation he made a law concerning coronation and king’s position in the state. He made Bohemia as a hereditary monarchy, which means that first-born son and his line will inherit the crown. If there is no male heiress, succession will devolve upon the daughters.

Contemporary people describe Charles as a medium-sized man. He had a black hair and wide face. Charles didn’t like fighting so he got a nickname “Popish King”. At the same time Charles was Slav and Western so people liked him all over his kingdom and outside of it. The French education gave him Western manners but he also liked to emphasize his Slavonic roots. Later he founded a monastery for monks who followed Slavonic liturgy. In this and many other ways he spread information of Slavonic Saints to the Western Europe.

Even that his wife Blanche died in 1348 was that year very remarkable in a reign of Charles IV. In that year Charles gave a constitutional charter where he legally and officially confirmed the creation of the lands of Bohemian Crown. That includes Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia and later also the whole Lusatia. The Crown of Bohemia was in its strength until Thirty Years’ War.

Building Projects

Charles chooses Prague as his living place and so Prague became as remarkable place and the capital of Bohemian kingdom. He was a great town planner and enlarged city and use a lot of money by building Prague New Town. Soon Prague was bigger town than contemporary Paris or London. In 1348 he also founded university that is nowadays called as Charles University (Universitas Carolina) of Prague. Charles University was first university in Central Europe and it was created at the same model that was University of Sorbonne. He wanted to create a new educational centre in Prague and also raise the importance of the Kingdom of Bohemia. First lectures were kept in monasteries and churches but soon Charles also initiated the building project of university main building Carolinum. When other universities were founded in Central Europe Charles University looses its status a little bit, but still in nowadays it is very remarkable education centre in Czech and Slovak.

Charles initiated also numerous of other building projects in Prague and Czech lands. He lived a time of gothic architecture so he had a lot of fine gothic building built all over the Prague. Clean simple lines and solid structure characterize gothic architecture. He restored Prague Castle and Vyšehrad and many of churches. He also builds a very famous stone bridge over Vltava River in the same place where was earlier the Old Judith Bridge. At today thousands of tourist like to walk over Charles Bridge. On the right bank of Vltava Charles build the Old Town Bridge Tower to guard important bridge.

For the safeguard of his crown jewels and other treasures he founded Karlštejn Castle near Prague. Building project started in 1348 and ended in 1357. Numerous artists made all decorations inside castle. Then he had build the Prague’s “Hunger Wall” that is said to be first project in the World which meaning was create employment for poor and starving mob. Parts of the “Hunger Wall” stood still in Petrin Hill.

Kingdom Expands

During his reign time Charles expands his kingdom to east, where his son Sigismund became as King of Hungary. He also expands to west and put his first-born son Wenceslas to lead the Luxemburg. Soon his kingdom was very massive and there were no competitors of Luxemburgs anymore. Charles even called himself as the heir of the Great Moravian Empire. Something could be imagined about his power when he was asked to mediate negotiations between England and France.

Charles was also the first Bohemian ruler who was at the same time the King of Romans and the Holy Roman Emperor. He was crowned in Rome in 1355. Because The Holy Roman Empire contains geographically present-day Germany, Prussia, Hungary, Bohemia, Switzerland and Italy was Charles leading the whole Western Christendom and it made impact also his politics.

When he came back from Rome he gave an order known as the Golden Bull. It was some kind of imperial constitution and orders about elections of the German King. According to the Golden Bull, seven officials formed a college of electors. Those seven officials were the Archbishop of Mainz, the Archbishop of Triers, the Archbishop of Cologne, the King of Bohemia, the Count Palatine of Rhine, the Margrave of Brandenburg and the Duke of Saxony. What was interesting that Pope wasn’t included to electoral. The Golden Bull also effected so that electoral princes excluding archbishops came more independent. The Golden Bull didn’t actually increase autonomy, but it supports it and so princes got for example right to mint coins and collect tolls. Non-electoral princes got these same rights quite soon.

Family of Charles VI

Charles was married in four times. With his first wife Blanche Charles had two daughters Margaret and Catherine but no male heiress. After Blanche’s death Charles get married with Anne Wittelsbach (born 1329), who died without kids in 1353. Anne was daughter of Elector Palatine Rudolph II. Third wife of Charles was Anne of Swidnica (born 1339). She gave birth for the first son of Charles IV. Wenceslas IV was born in 1361 and year after that Anne died. Charles’ fourth wife was Elizabeth of Pomerania (born 1345 or 1347). Elizabeth gave four more children to Charles. Anne of Bohemia was born in 1366. She married later Richard II of England. Two years later bore hers brother Sigismund. John, who was going to be Duke of Görlitz, was born in 1370 and youngest child was Margaret, who born in 1373. Elizabeth died in 1393.

Charles IV died in 29 December 1378 and he was buried to St. Vitus’ Cathedral. During his reign Bohemia has became one of most powerful state of Europe. The crown of Bohemia was inherited by to his eldest son Wenceslas IV.


Autobiography of Emperor Charles IV and his Legend of St. Wenceslas (2001) Edit. Nagy, B. & Schaer, F. Introd. Seibt, F. Cntral European University Press, Hungary.

Cornej, P., Pokorný, J. (2000) A Brief History of the Czech Lands to 2000. Práh Press, Prague.

Polišenský, J.V. (1991) History of Czechoslovakia in Outline. Bohemia International, Prague.