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Loans and debts of the last Přemyslids

The expansion of silver production in the Bohemian-Moravian highlands from the late 1230s and the expanding power of Ottokar II Premysl, king of Bohemia (1253-1278) to the Alpine lands and the Venetian region in the 1260s and 1270s started trade connections between Italy, especially Venice and Bohemia. The Bohemian king set three currency reforms in 1253, 1260-1261, and 1268-1270 in order to make trade contacts with Venice easier (Zaoral 2019, pp. 213-14). The first loans of the king Ottokar

II Pfemysl from abroad are documented in 1262 in Italy. The king’s creditors were financiers of Florence (the papal banker Dulcis de Burgo and his business partners) and it cannot be ruled out that king’s debts were covered by the Bohemian export of precious metals to Venice (Zemlicka 2011, p. 349). Before introducing Prague groschen in 1300, the kings of Bohemia were able to multiply their incomes by regular re-coinage or coin renewal (renovatio monetae), pursued twice a year. In the Czech lands, there were about 12 mints that produced royal coins, mostly leased to burghers (Jan 2015, pp. 496, 501). The leading royal officers of these mints-the so-called urbureri - were certainly the main regular creditors of Bohemian kings.

The sources of Bohemian royal economy - the royal chamber - were considerably exhausted by Ottokar’s war with the King of the Romans Rudolph I of Habsburg and with rebellious nobility between 1276 and 1278 (Zemlicka 2011, pp. 246, 450). In the early 1280s, the Czech lands seemed to have to pay 15,000 silver marks from the taxation to Otto V the Long, Margrave of Brandenburg, for the returning of the Premyslid prince and the heir of the Bohemian throne, Wenceslaus II (Jan 2015, pp. 46, 61). His successful politics and territorial expansion of the kingdom from the 1290s was conditioned by increasing of silver production in Bohemia after the discovery of silver ore in Kutna Hora (Zaoral 2019, p. 216). Florentine merchants Rinieri, Apardo, and Cyno called the Lombardian anticipated fabulous gains from conducting business in the lands of the ‘silver’ king. That is why they ‘acted as a bank and rented the office of mint master and a mine from the king, including royal income from smelted precious metals (so-called urbura) with the aim of carrying out a complete monetary reform’ (Zaoral 2019, p. 216). The introduction of the Prague groschen in 1300, that should maintain permanent value, finished the period of inflationary regular recoinage.

The Florentines carried on business in real estate and lent the king as well as his nobility huge amounts of money. Apardo became an administrator of the royal economy in the office of chamberlain (subcamerarius). It seems that loans from the Florentine consortium were never repaid during the reign of the last Pfemyslids - one of the merchants’ claims the amount of 28,000 silver marks from their successor King John the Blind (of Luxembourg) in 1311. The burdensome financial situation of the royal economy after 1305 was result of expensive foreign policy and the war with the Roman King Albert I of Habsburg. The terminally sick Wenceslaus II ordered his heir as well as his most important courtiers to settle royal debts. After the premature death of Wenceslaus III in 1306, his royal treasure carried to the expedition to Poland was stolen and his successor, the Bohemian king Rudolph I of Habsburg, started to pay the old debts by instalments of 1000 silver marks per week from the royal income from smelted precious metals and from the royal chamber (de urbura et fisco regio) (Jan 2015, p. 499).

During the anarchy in Bohemia after Rudolph’s death in 1307, the amounts from precious metals in Kutna Hora as well as other royal incomes and real estates became the means of haggle over the political benefits of aristocracy, namely Raimund of Lichtenburg, Henry of Lipa, and John of Wartenberg. The Bohemian nobility began to look for a more capable successor than Henry of Carinthia and the young king John the Blind (of Luxembourg) had to take over the indebted kingdom (Zalud 2016, p. 61).

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