1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/John of Bohemia
JOHN (1296–1346), king of Bohemia, was a son of the emperor Henry VII. by his wife Margaret, daughter of John I., duke of Brabant, and was a member of the family of Luxemburg. Born on the 10th of August 1296, he became count of Luxemburg in 1309, and about the same time was offered the crown of Bohemia, which, after the death of Wenceslas III., the last king of the Premyslides dynasty in 1306, had passed to Henry, duke of Carinthia, under whose weak rule the country was in a very disturbed condition. The emperor accepted this offer on behalf of his son, who married Elizabeth (d. 1330), a sister of Wenceslas, and after Henry’s departure for Italy, John was crowned king of Bohemia at Prague in February 1311. Henry of Carinthia was driven from the land, where a certain measure of order was restored, and Moravia was again united with Bohemia. As imperial vicar John represented his father at the diet of Nuremberg in January 1313, and was leading an army to his assistance in Italy when he heard of the emperor’s death, which took place in August 1313. John was now a candidate for the imperial throne; but, on account of his youth, his claim was not regarded seriously, and he was persuaded to give his support to Louis, duke of Upper Bavaria, afterwards the emperor Louis the Bavarian. At Esslingen and elsewhere he aided Louis in his struggle with Frederick the Fair, duke of Austria, who also claimed the Empire; but his time was mainly passed in quelling disturbances in Bohemia, where his German followers were greatly disliked and where he himself soon became unpopular, especially among the nobles; or in Luxemburg, the borders of which county he was constantly and successfully striving to extend. Restless, adventurous and warlike, John had soon tired of governing his kingdom, and even discussed exchanging it with the emperor Louis for the Palatinate; and while Bohemia was again relapsing into a state of anarchy, her king was winning fame as a warrior in almost every part of Europe. He fought against the citizens of Metz and against his kinsman, John III., duke of Brabant; he led the knights of the Teutonic Order against the heathen in Lithuania and Pomerania and promised Pope John XXII. to head a crusade; and claiming to be king of Poland he attacked the Poles and brought Silesia under his rule. He obtained Tirol by marrying his son, John Henry, to Margaret Maultasch, the heiress of the county, assisted the emperor to defeat and capture Frederick the Fair at the battle of Mühldorf in 1322, and was alternately at peace and at war with the dukes of Austria and with his former foe, Henry of Carinthia. He was a frequent and welcome visitor to France, in which country he had a personal and hereditary interest; and on several occasions his prowess was serviceable to his brother-in-law King Charles IV., and to Charles’s successor Philip VI., whose son John, afterwards King John II., married a daughter of the Bohemian king. Soon after the battle of Mühldorf, the relations between John and the emperor became somewhat strained, partly owing to the king’s growing friendship with the Papacy and with France, and partly owing to territorial disputes. An agreement, however, was concluded, and John undertook his invasion of Italy, which was perhaps the most dazzling of his exploits. Invited by the citizens of Brescia, he crossed the Alps with a meagre following in 1331, quickly received the homage of many of the cities of northern Italy, and soon found himself the ruler of a great part of the peninsula. But his soldiers were few and his enemies were many, and a second invasion of Italy in 1333 was followed by the dissipation of his dreams of making himself king of Lombardy and Tuscany, and even of supplanting Louis on the imperial throne. The fresh trouble between king and emperor, caused by this enterprise, was intensified by a quarrel over the lands left by Henry of Carinthia, and still later by the interference of Louis in Tirol; and with bewildering rapidity John was allying himself with the kings of Hungary and Poland, fighting against the emperor and his Austrian allies, defending Bohemia, governing Luxemburg, visiting France and negotiating with the pope. About 1340 the king was overtaken by blindness, but he continued to lead an active life, successfully resisting the attacks of Louis and his allies, and campaigning in Lithuania. In 1346 he made a decisive move against the emperor. Acting in union with Pope Clement VI. he secured the formal deposition of Louis and the election of his own son Charles, margrave of Moravia, as German king, or king of the Romans, in July 1346. Then journeying to help Philip of France against the English, he fought at the battle of Crécy, where his heroic death on the 26th of August 1346 was a fitting conclusion to his adventurous life.
John was a chivalrous and romantic personage, who enjoyed a great reputation for valour both before and after his death; but as a ruler he was careless and extravagant, interested only in his kingdom when seeking relief from his constant pecuniary embarrassments. After the death of his first wife, who bore him two sons, Charles, afterwards the emperor Charles IV., and John Henry (d. 1375), and who had been separated from her husband for some years, the king married Beatrice (d. 1383), daughter of Louis I., duke of Bourbon, by whom he had a son, Wenceslas (d. 1383). According to Camden the crest or badge of three ostrich feathers, with the motto Ich dien, borne by the prince of Wales was originally that of John of Bohemia and was first assumed by Edward the Black Prince after the battle of Crécy. There is no proof, however, that this badge was ever worn by John—it certainly was not his crest—and its origin must be sought elsewhere.
See J. Schötter, Johann, Graf von Luxemburg and König von Böhmen (Luxemburg, 1865); F. von Weech, Kaiser Ludwig der Bayer und König Johann von Böhmen (Munich, 1860), and U. Chevalier, Répertoire des sources historiques, tome v. (Paris, 1905).