Koruna Ćeská would rebuild the ancient Czech Kingdom
Former Prime Minister Miloš Zeman called them “one of the parties that could fit in an elevator.” Social Democrat Party Chairman Jiří Paroubek once referred to them as “not even small fish, but plankton.”
The members of Koruna Česká, a national party that wants to transform the government into a constitutional monarchy, are used to condescendence.
But, with between 400 and 500 members and government representation in four municipalities, Koruna Česká is not just some farcical movement.
“We’re not satirists, and we’re not some virtual party,” says party Chairman Václav Srb. “We’re simply the political embodiment of a movement to reunify the historic territories of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia under the Czech crown.”
Today, the crown jewels of the old Czech kingdom are locked away by seven keys, asleep in a secured chamber within the St. Vitus Cathedral. But if Srb and his fellow party members have their way, the storied St. Václav crown — the very same headpiece conceived by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV in the 14th century — would once again adorn the head of a Czech monarch.
Koruna Česká was founded in 1990 as the reincarnation of České děti, a monarchist movement that sprang up in the revolutionary atmosphere of 1988. That year, the dissident members of České děti published a manifesto advocating the renewal of the Czech kingdom, which was reprinted by communist newspaper Rudé právo in an effort to discredit the group. “By showing the public that the dissidents had become monarchists, the comrades wanted to prove that [the dissidents] had gone completely insane,” Srb says. “However, it had the opposite effect.”
By publishing key passages of the manifesto, Rudé právo brought the movement to the attention of dozens of like-minded individuals who had previously thought they were alone in their views. In 1991, over 400 people filled the Realistické (now Švandovo) theatre in Smíchov for Koruna Česká’s first official assembly. “Until then, each of us thought that we were isolated in our persuasion,” Srb says. “Every monarchist was therefore pleasantly surprised to learn that there were more of us who had found the same solution.”
Srb, a historian, says he came to the conclusion while studying central European wars and political conflicts of the 20th century. “Today, not just the monarchists, but any historian will admit that the fragmentation of the central Danube territory was nonsensical,” Srb says. “By breaking up this territory, which for centuries served as a buffer for outside invasion, it was only a matter of time before these little countries fell prey to Germany or Russia.”
In the case of the Czech lands, the Treaty of Versailles only ensured its security for the next 20 years, when Hitler “stopped liking it,” Srb says.
While he admits that the Austro-Hungarian Empire could not have survived without major reforms that would have increased the autonomy of individual regions, “those reforms were already on the program — their implementation was only interrupted with the onset of World War I,” Srb says.
Return of the king
Instead of its current republican form, which he calls “unsettled” and “artificial,” Srb and his fellow monarchists would strengthen the political integrity of the state by restoring the traditions of the Czech kingdom. To do this, it would be essential to replace the current presidential institution with a royal one. Aside from Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the venerated founding father of the Czechoslovak republic, “an overwhelming majority of our presidents have been either outwardly criminal or pitiful,” Srb says, whereas locals continue to refer to Charles IV as the “most revered Czech persona.”
Unlike the president, who is elected to his post, the king would be groomed for his reign since childhood, which would raise respect for his position and elevate him above politics, Srb says.
Apart from gaining national support for their reforms, the monarchists face the obvious challenge of finding a luminary who would be able and willing to take the crown.
According to Srb, the most obvious choice would be former European Parliament representative Otto von Habsburg. As the eldest son of the last Austro-Hungarian emperor Charles, the 95-year-old crown prince of Austria is the heir to the Czech throne.
But, because the Habsburg dynasty was for decades demonized by local republicans, “it’s understandable that this dynasty isn’t the right one at the moment,” Srb says.
An alternate solution is to turn to foreign ruling dynasties. “I say, if not the Habsburgs, then anyone —let’s not be Eurocentric,” says Srb, whose own provocative suggestion is Norodom Sihamini, the current king of Cambodia. “His father stowed him away here during Cambodia’s period of upheaval … he is the only currently ruling monarch in the world who is fluent in Czech.”
Regardless of the feasibility of its agenda, Koruna česká’s presence on the political scene points to a deep disillusionment with the nation’s current identity. “Through our ideals, we want to rehabilitate a non-pathetic, cultured patriotism and the values that coincide with it,” the party’s manifesto says.
“Although our republic is a woeful 90 years old, it’s a negligible episode in our nation’s thousand years of statehood,” Srb adds. “The old traditions still dwell in each of us, but, in most cases, they’re asleep.”
Most Influential Monarchs
With roots dating back to the Great Moravian Empire, the Czech kingdom is over a thousand years old. Here are some of its most noteworthy rulers.
Hailed as the patron saint of the Czech lands, the “good king Václav (Wenceslaus)” is credited with bringing the kingdom greater autonomy and strengthening Christianity. According to legend, he was murdered in a power struggle by his brother, Boleslav.
Charles IV (13161378)
A member of the Luxembourg dynasty, this Holy Roman Emperor was responsible for bringing the Czech kingdom to its height of glory. His reign saw the establishment of Charles University and New Town, as well as signature structures like Karlštejn castle and Charles Bridge.
Franz Joseph I (18301916)
As the world’s longest-reigning emperor, this Habsburg saw the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His wife, Elisabeth of Bavaria, or “Sissi,” is revered by Czechs and Austrians for her beauty and charisma.