Boleslaus III, Duke of Bohemia

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Bolesław III Rudy.jpg

Boleslaus III (Czech: Boleslav III. Ryšavý) (c. 965–1037), called the Red(-haired) or the Blind, was Duke of Bohemia from 999 until 1002 and also briefly during the year 1003. He was the "worst of all men who ever sat on the Bohemian throne."

The eldest son of Boleslav II "the Pious", Boleslav III was a weak ruler in whose chaotic reign Bohemia became a pawn in the long war between the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II and Bolesław the Brave, King of Poland.

By 1002, a revolt organized by Vršovci grandees (along with Boleslav's son-in-law) forced Boleslav to flee to Germany, where he was received by Henry I, Margrave of Austria. At first Henry ordered his guest's arrest because of an old offence, but soon forgave him and promised support. Boleslaus' kinsman Vladivoj took the Czech throne, but he was an alcoholic who died within a year. After the death of Vladivoj in 1003, the Bohemian nobles invited Jaromír and Oldřich, sons of Boleslaus II, back from exile. In turn, they each later assumed the throne of Bohemia.

On 9 February 1003, Boleslav the Red was restored to authority with armed support from Bolesław the Brave of Poland. Boleslav's brothers Jaromír and Oldřich fled to Germany and placed themselves under the protection of Henry II. Boleslav soon undermined his own position by ordering a massacre of his leading nobles, the Vršovci, at Vyšehrad. According to Thietmar, Boleslav slashed his son-in-law to death with his own sword. The tragedy occurred during Lent.

Nobles who survived secretly sent messengers to Bolesław the Brave of Poland and entreated him to save them. The Polish duke willingly agreed and invited his Czech namesake to visit him at his castle (probably in Kraków). There, Boleslav III was trapped, blinded and imprisoned, probably dying in captivity some thirty years later. Bolesław claimed the ducal throne for himself, invaded Bohemia in 1003 and took Prague without any serious opposition, ruling as Boleslaus IV for a little over a year. He then gave up his claim to the duchy of Bohemia and was replaced first by Jaromír, then Oldřich.


See also

Preceded by
Boleslaus II
Duke of Bohemia
Succeeded by