King Rudolf II, an odd fellow and a master of the occult, governed his kingdoms from a magic castle in Prague. He had no legitimate heir.
He had a ba stard son, however, Julio, whom he adored. He even gave him the vast Cesky Krumlov castle in Krumau as a home, but Julio proved to be not quite normal, and subject to violent episodes. He fell in love with the daughter of the local barber and made her pregnant. When she told him the news, he was enraged and threw her out of a castle window. The emperor did not wish to condemn him and it was declared that Julio was mad and he was locked up in a room inside his own castle.
Krumau later became the property of the Schwarzenbergs, an ancient and illustrious family from the Germanic Holy Roman Empire. In the 18th century, the ruling princess became the subject of some strange rumours. She could not stand daylight, and consumed blood, most likely beef blood, but some said it was human! She was very pale and quite frightful. It was clear to many that she was a vampire. The whole region, and above all her subjects, were convinced of this. And so, when she died, she was not buried in the castle chapel alongside her ancestors, but given a place in the village church, beneath an extremely heavy, anonymous stone slab over 50 centimetres thick, so that she could not escape from her tomb.
This story was told to me by one of her descendants, Alexandre. Her widower had become an intimate friend of the emperor, Charles VI. He liked to hunt but was a terrible shot. He always took Schwarzenberg with him, and one day the emperor fired off a stray shot that killed his best friend. He fell to the ground, murmuring: “I knew the idiot would hit me one day!”
The emperor was horrified, and felt such guilt that he showered the Schwarzenbergs in gifts, titles and lands in compensation.
In the early 19th century came the Prince Schwarzenberg, the general-in-chief of the Austrian armies which fought against Napoleon at the battle of Austerlitz. After the conflict, the new emperor met with the defeated general and quite amicably drew up a battle plan to explain how he, Schwarzenberg, could have won. The document that proves this extraordinary gesture of friendship is still in the family’s hands.
In the 20th century, when Czechoslovakia fell under the Soviets’ control, the Schwarzenbergs lost all their vast properties. They had so much land that a special law had to be introduced to expropriate them all.
When I was young, I knew the Prince Schwarzenberg, who lived with his large family in a small apartment in Vienna. His son, Karl, who became the head of the family, was a leading figure in the opposition to the communists. A close friend of Vaclav Havel, he devoted himself to the resistance, frequently risking his life.
When Czechoslovakia was liberated, he became Foreign Minister, the only aristocrat from a grand family to hold an important political position in a European republic.
The castles and other properties were restored to the family, apart from the Cesky Krumlov castle which is now a museum, and home only to ghosts.