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Friday, July 14, 2023

History of Konopiste Castle

Konopiště is a château (castle) located in the Czech Republic, about 50 km southeast of Prague, outside the city of Benešov. It has become famous as the last residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir of the Austro-Hungarian throne, whose assassination in Sarajevo triggered World War I. The bullet that killed him, fired by Gavrilo Princip, is now an exhibit at the castle’s museum.

The castle was initially constructed as a Gothic fortification in the 13th century. It was later transformed into a Baroque style. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria bought Konopiště in 1887, with his inheritance from the last reigning Duke of Modena, and rebuilt it into a luxurious residence, suitable to the future Emperor, which he preferred to his official residence in Vienna. He invited William II, German Emperor, to see his roses early in June 1914; insofar as they discussed politics, they discussed Romania, but conspiracy theories about their planning an attack on Serbia or a division of the Austro-Hungarian Empire arose at the time and since. (After the Archduke’s assassination, later in the month, the memory of this visit may have moved the Emperor to give Austria more rein in dealing with Serbia than he had in the Bosnian crisis of 1909.). Since 1921, the castle has been a property of the Czechoslovak and later Czech state, one of 90 such in state ownership. The Ministry of Culture is said to spend more than US$ 800,000 per year to maintain the castle and recovers about as much from entrance ticket sales and rental for occasional functions.

Konopiště castle is now open to the public. Visitors can observe the residential rooms of Franz Ferdinand, a large collection of antlers (Franz Ferdinand was an enthusiastic hunter), an armoury with medieval weapons, a shooting hall with moving targets and a garden with Italian Renaissance statues and greenhouses. It is a popular place for weddings.

Currently, HSH Princess Sophie von Hohenberg, a descendant of Franz Ferdinand, is claiming for the restitution of the castle to her family, which was never recognized as part of the House of Habsburg, on the ground that the provisions of Article 208 of the Treaty of Saint Germain, and the Article 3 of Law no.354 of 1921 in Czechoslovakia, do not apply to them. She filed a lawsuit in December 2000 in Benesov, the nearest city, for the Castle and its dependencies comprising 6,070 hectares of woodland and including a brewery.

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Free Prague Walking Tour

During the 4-hour walking tour of Prague, you will be introduced to the most interesting and significant historical sites in Prague, such as the Jewish Quarter, the historical buildings of the Old Town and the renowned Charles Bridge, before finishing off at the Prague Castle.