St. Wenceslas of Bohemia

Cecil Parrott describes how the elderly monarch from a Christmas carol was based on the character of a young and vigorous sovereign, assassinated on his birthday by his own brother.

Murder of Wenceslas by his brother Boleslaw, 10th century. Wiki Commons.

The Wenceslas of history was very different from the picture we have of him in the familiar carol. He was a young and vigorous man, who was still in his twenties when he met his death. Although a reigning prince, he never had the title of King, and his existence was by no means peaceful. On the contrary, it rivalled Renaissance drama in its cruelty and bloodshed.

When Wenceslas was a boy, his grandmother, who looked after him and to whom he was deeply attached, was driven out and strangled by his mother; and he, in his turn, was treacherously murdered on his birthday by his own brother, just as he was about to go into church to attend morning mass.

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