Author claims scoop; Czech experts doubt links to aristocratic past
Whoever wins the race to the White House this year, the president of the United States is sure to be a direct descendant of the ancient rulers of Bohemia, according to one researcher.
Miloslav Rechcigl, a U.S. author of Czech origin, says he has traced the family trees of both Democratic Party front-runner John F. Kerry and President George W. Bush back to Borivoj I, the earliest known duke of the Premyslid dynasty, who was born around 850.
But a number of historians based in the Czech Republic expressed doubts about Rechcigl’s findings.
The Kerry claim, the latest in a series of claims linking the Massachusetts senator to the Czech lands, appears to prove that everybody wants to be associated with a potential winner. Last year a genealogist revealed that Kerry’s grandfather was a Jew who lived in Horni Benesov, in the Moravo-Silesian region west of Opava, before emigrating to the United States.
In February the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft, a group that campaigns against the postwar Benes Decrees, claimed that Kerry’s grandfather was of German origin. Under the decrees, 2.5 million Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia.
Rechcigl, who traced Bush’s ancestry in 2000, is excited by his new research on Kerry, which he believes is a scoop.
“It is most interesting that both candidates for the presidency in the United States have Czech roots,” said Rechcigl, 73, who has spent 40 years studying ethnic history and genealogy.
“We can thus say with certainty, irrespective who will win the elections, that the next president of the United States will have the blue blood of Bohemian kings in his veins.”
Rechcigl said his research had uncovered that Kerry’s mother, Rosemary Isabel Forbes, was the direct descendant of John Winthrop, who arrived in America in 1630 and served as the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
The family tree stretches back to King Edward I of England, who lived from 1239 to 1307, and through the English royals to the Premyslid dynasty, according to Rechcigl.
Historians accept that there are connections between the ancient rulers of Bohemia and the kings of England, but Rechcigl’s claims do not impress them.
“This is myth or legend. It may be a legend that’s true in America but not here in Europe,” said Antonin Kostlan of the historical sciences department at the Prague-based Academy of Sciences.
Roman Zaoral, a specialist in medieval history at Charles University in Prague, said: “I’m afraid it’s not very convincing.
“It’s very difficult to document something like that because of a lack of sources in the ninth century. It’s a long, long time ago.”
Rechcigl’s research was not helped by the fact that he initially claimed that Kerry’s mother was descended from the Pilgrims, who sailed from England to America on the Mayflower in 1620.
He later concluded that Forbes’ ancestors were not actually on that ship.
However, he stands by his claim that Kerry’s ancestor was Borivoj I.
That Bohemian duke was the first Christian ruler of Prague. He married Ludmila, who was later canonized as a saint for her good deeds and was the first to build a castle on Hradcany.
“I am positive there is a direct link [to the presidential contender],” Rechcigl said.
“This can be confirmed. This is a fact. It’s just that people were not aware of it,” Rechcigl said.
He sent news of his findings to Kerry’s brother by e-mail but has not yet received a reply. “I’m sure he [Kerry] would like to see it. Who wouldn’t?” The researcher added: “If you could say that you have the kings of Bohemia in your blood, well heck, that’s interesting.”
Steve Morgan, a spokesman for Kerry’s campaign office, appeared to agree, describing the findings as undoubtedly interesting.
“The senator believes in a strong relationship between the United States and Europe,” Morgan added.
Asked if a new link between the presidential hopeful and this country could attract more high-spending U.S. visitors, Czech Tourist Authority spokeswoman Hana Cermakova replied guardedly that it was traditional for the family trees of White House candidates to be scrutinized.
“We welcome every interesting article about the Czech Republic,” she added.
In Horni Benesov, where Kerry’s grandfather once worked as a brewer, the latest revelations came as a surprise.
“This is new information for me. I don’t know if it’s true or not,” Mayor Josef Klech said. He wished Kerry good luck in the November presidential election.
Kerry’s grandfather, Fritz Kohn, born in 1873, changed his name to Frederick Kerry at the age of 19, converted to Catholicism and left his home in 1905 to begin a new life in America.
Meanwhile, Kerry’s grandmother Ida Loewe, who became Kohn’s wife, was originally from Boskovice in south Moravia, according to Rechcigl.
Highlighting another possible Kerry connection to this country, newspapers reported in March that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee may be a descendant of the famous 16th-century Rabbi Loew (also known as Rabbi Low or Leow).
Loew was the scholar and mystic who, according to legend, created the Golem of Prague, a man made from clay.
Rechcigl will present the details of his findings on Kerry, with supporting evidence, at an international congress of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences at Palacky University in Olomouc from June 27 to July 4.
The society, of which Rechcigl is president, was founded in 1958 and until 1989 functioned mainly in the West. It describes itself as a nonpolitical cultural organization dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge.
Rechcigl, who emigrated to the United States in 1950, worked for the Agency for International Development at the State Department and is now retired. He has written a number of books on the history of Czechs abroad.
Of his discovery about Kerry, he said: “People say that if you go back far enough, then everyone’s connected. But this is a clear-cut case. How many people do you know who have royal blood, the blood of Duke Borivoj I?”
• February 2003
A genealogist hired by The Boston Globe, Kerry’s hometown newspaper, reveals that Kerry’s grandfather, Fritz Kohn, was a Jew who lived in Horni Benesov before emigrating to the United States in 1905.
• February 2004
The Sudeten German Landsmannschaft, a group that opposes the postwar expulsion of 2.5 million Germans from Czechoslovakia, claims Kerry’s grandfather was of German origin.
• March 2004
A historian announces that Kerry could be a descendant of Rabbi Loew, a 16th-century scholar and mystic who, according to legend, created the Golem.
• June 2004
Researcher claims that Kerry, like President George W. Bush, is descended from the ancient rulers of Bohemia.
– Sandra Hamissova contributed to this report.