Maybe you know me from your history lessons.
You certainly should, for I am the first Czech king, Vratislaus I. Though I was able to command an entire kingdom, when it came to managing my own family, I was at a complete loss. My brother Conrad, who lived at Brno Castle, had become such a close ally of my enemies that I had ridden – with my entire army – to punish him.
We set up camp on the banks of the Svitava, and that very evening I held a council of war in my tent. The attack was to be led by my favourite courtier, Zderad of Švábenice, who warned the knights against Conrad’s forces: “My Lords, we must exercise extreme caution. I ask especially that none of you go for a bathe again.” With these words Zderad sought to remind everyone of what had happened just a few short years before.
On an expedition against the German Emperor, on scorching hot summer’s day, my son Břetislav had thrown caution to the wind, removed his armour, and leapt into the Elbe. Moments later, my naked boy was captured by Imperial troops and the ransom to buy him back cost us dear. It’s a painful memory. Still, everyone in the tent laughed, and promised they would not repeat the same mistake.
Only one person failed to see the joke: my son, who was with us in the tent. He was thin-skinned, and would lose his temper at the slightest thing. And so he decided to punish Zderad for his affront. That night, when everyone was asleep, he came with his company to Zderad’s tent and stabbed my courtier with a sword. I could not see for the tears I wept that night.
I punished my son, and on the spot where Zderad died I had a column erected, which still stands there today.