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WENCESLAUS (1361-1419)

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 518 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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WENCESLAUS (1361-1419), German king, and, as Wenceslaus IV., king of Bohemia, was the son of the emperor Charles IV. and Anna, daughter of Henry II., duke of Schweidnitz. Born at Nuremberg on the 26th of February 1361, he was crowned king of Bohemia in June 1363, and invested with the margraviate of Brandenburg in 1373. In September 1370 he married Joanna (d. 1386) daughter of Albert I., duke of Bavaria, and was elected king of the Romans or German king at Frankfort on the loth of June 1376, and crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle on the 6th of July following. He took some part in the government of the empire during his father's lifetime, and when Charles died in November 1378 became sole ruler of Germany and Bohemia, but handed over Brandenburg to his half-brother Sigismund. His reign was a period of confusion both in church and state, and although he appears to have begun to rule with excellent intentions, he was totally unfit to cope with the forces of disorder. Germany was torn with feuds, the various orders for the establishment of peace were disregarded, and after 1389 the king paid very little attention to German affairs. In 1383 he inherited the duchy of Luxemburg from his uncle Wenceslaus and in 1387 assisted his half-brother Sigismund to obtain the Hungarian throne. For some time Wenceslaus ruled Bohemia successfully, but he fell under the influence of favourites and aroused the irritation of the nobles. A quarrel with John II., archbishop of Prague, which led to the murder of John's vicar-general, John of Pomuk, at the instigation of the king, provoked a rising led by Jobst, margrave of Moravia, a cousin 'of Wenceslaus; and in 1394 the king was taken prisoner and only released under pressure of threats from the German princes. Having consented to limitations on his power in Bohemia, he made a further but spasmodic effort to restore peace in Germany. He then met Charles VI., king of France at Reims, where the monarchs decided to persuade the rival popes Benedict XIII. and Boniface IX. to resign, and to end the papal schisms by the election of a new pontiff. Many of the princes were angry at this abandonment of Boniface by Wenceslaus, who had also aroused much indignation by his long absence from Germany and by selling the title of duke of Milan to Gian Galleazzo Visconti. The consequence was that in August 1400 the four Rhenish electors met at Oberlahnstein and declared Wenceslaus deposed. He was charged with attempting to dismember the empire to his own advantage, with neglecting to end the schism in the church, with allowing favourites to enrich themselves, and was further accused of murder. Though he remained in Bohemia he took no steps against Rupert III. count palatine of the Rhine, who had been elected as his successor. He soon quarrelled with Sigismund, who took him prisoner in 1402 and sent him to Vienna, where he remained in captivity for nineteen months after abdicating in Bohemia. In 1404, when Sigismund was recalled to Hungary, Wenceslaus regained his freedom and with it his authority in Bohemia; and after the death of the German king Rupert in 1410 appears to have entertained hopes of recovering his former throne. Abandoning this idea, however, he voted for the election of Sigismund in 1411, but stipulated that he should retain the title of king of the Romans. His concluding years were disturbed by the troubles which arose in Bohemia over the death of John Huss, and which the vacillating king did nothing to check until compelled by Sigismund. In the midst of these disturbances he died at Prague on the 16th of August 1419. His second wife was Sophia, daughter of John, duke of Bavaria-Munich, but he left no children. Wenceslaus was a capable and educated man, but was lacking in perseverance and industry. He neglected business for pleasure and was much addicted to drunkenness. He favoured the teaching of Huss, probably on political grounds, but exercised very little influence during the Hussite struggle. See Th. Lindner, Geschichte des deutschen Reiches vom Ende des 141en Jahrhunderts bis zur Reformation, part i. (Brunswick, 1875—188o), and " Die Wahl Wenzels," in the Forschungen zur deutschen Geschichte, Band xiv. (Gottingen, 1862—1886) ; F. M. Pelzel, Lebensgeschichte des romischen and bohmischen Konigs Wenceslaus (Prague, 1788—179o) ; F. Palacky, Geschichte von Bohmen, Bande iii. and iv. (Prague, 1864—1874) ; H. Mau, Konig Wenzel and die rheinischen Kurfiirsten (Rostock, 1887). The article by Th. Lindner in the Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, Band xli., should also be consulted for a bibliography, and also the same writer's work, Das Urkundenwesen Karls IV. and seiner Nacl folger (Stuttgart, 1882). WEN-CHOW-FU, a prefectural city in the province of Chehkiang, China, and one of the five ports opened by the Chifu convention to foreign trade, situated (28° 1' N., 120° 31' E.) on the south bank of the river Gow, about 20 M. from the sea. The population is estimated at 8o,000. The site is said to have been chosen by Kwo P'oh (A.D. 276—324), a celebrated antiquary who recognized in the adjacent mountain peaks a correspondence with the stars in the constellation of the Great Bear, from which circumstance the town was first known as the Tow or Great Bear city. Subsequently the appearance in its vicinity of a white deer carrying a flower in its mouth was deemed so favourable an omen as to more than justify the change of its name to Luh or Deer city. Its present name, which signifies the " mild district," and is correctly descriptive of the climate, though not of the inhabitants, was given to it during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The walls, which were built in the loth century, are about 4 M. in circumference, 35 ft. in height, and 12 ft. broad at the top. The streets are paved with brick and are wide, straight and clean. The gates, seven in number, were erected in 1598. Wen-chow is about 156o m. S.S.E. by road from Peking and 600 m. E.S.E. of Hankow. The British consul and the customs' outdoor staff occupy foreign-built houses on Conquest Island, which lies abreast of the city. The neighbourhood is hilly and pretty, while opposite the north-west gate Conquest Island forms a picturesque object. The island is, however, more beautiful than healthy. The port, which was opened to foreign trade in 1876, has not justified the expectations which were formed of it as a commercial centre, and in 1908 the direct foreign trade was valued at £19,000 only. There is no foreign settlement at Wen-chow, and the foreign residents are mainly officials and missionaries. The tea trade of Wen-chow-Fu, formerly important, has declined owing to care-less cultivation. A considerable native export trade in wood, charcoal, bamboo, medicines, paper umbrellas, oranges, otter skins and tobacco leaf is carried on. The imports are chiefly cotton yarn and piece goods, kerosene oil, palm-leaf fans, aniline dyes, sugar and matches.
End of Article: WENCESLAUS (1361-1419)
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