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Rich old bachelor and his bequest

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On the absolute level, 16th-century property estimates made for the purposes of taxation need to be taken with reserve. With a certain level of caution, however, they can be used as indicators of property proportionality of tax payers (Mika 1967; Sterneck 2006, pp. 10, 187, 221-3). According to a preserved list for the Bechyne Region in 1523, the tax estimate of Petr Doudlebsky of Doudleby’s own property was 2,000 threescore of Meissen groschen (the knight did not show any land rent property at that time). He probably had 900 threescore from the sale of the estates from his brother Jink at his disposal already but it did not reflect in the valuation because it had not been invested in loans as yet. Even so, a comparison with the assessments of other payers from among the lower nobility indicates that, at that time, Doudlebsky was one of the less affluent knights in the region (Buzek 1985, p. 79). In 1543, however, Petr’s dominicalis property was valued at 5,940 threescore of Meissen groschen for tax purposes, and his peasants’ property at 630 threescore. By that time, the invested capital certainly already comprised a considerable part of the knight’s own property (Sterneck 2004, pp. 287-8).

Regrettably, we do not know the property proportionality of the lower nobility in the Bechyne Region at the very end of the first half of the 16th century. As regards Petr Doudlebsky, the (solitarily recorded) tax valuation of his property as of 1543 is not followed by any other we would have at our disposal. Let us call to mind, however, the reliable estimate of his property Petr made for his own needs in the last months of his life. An absolute majority of the total of 14,865 threescore of Meissen groschen was covered by the value of debentures and land possessions (c. 13,650 threescore), that is of regularly taxed parts of property. In view of the temporally closest preserved earlier and later tax sources depicting payers in the Bechyne Region (from 1523 and 1557), we can say that towards the end of his life, Doudlebsky was among the property elite of the knighthood (not only) in this region (Placht 1950, pp. 24-32, 81—4).

Petr Doudlebsky did not start his own family; he never married and probably had no illegitimate children, either. He therefore faced the question of to whom he would bequeath his considerable fortune. King Ferdinand I of Habsburg complied with the knight’s application for the right to freely make his last will on June 7, 1536. In a testament drawn up in Cesky Krumlov on January 28,1547, Petr established two groups of heirs between which his estate was to be divided after his death. He bequeathed half of his property to William and Peter Vok of Rosenberg, minor sons of Jobst III of Rosenberg (d. 1539), and the other half to his own relatives, Divis and Fridrich Doudlebsky of Doudleby. Before the division of the inheritance, however, William and Peter Vok of Rosenberg as well as their three unmarried sisters were to receive a hundred threescore each for gold chains in memory of the Cesky Krumlov governor (SOA Tfebon, CR - listiny, z Doudleb 6, 8, kart. 7, no. 394, 414; NA Praha, Salbuchy, Majestalia 283, f. 110v; SOA Tfebon, CR - listiny, z Rozmberka 27/17, kart. 75, no. 415).

Petr died on March 18,1550 at Cesky Krumlov Castle. His last will was registered in the Land Tables on April 23, and the division of his estate took place in several stages by the summer of that year. Lady Anna Rozmberska of Rogendorf gained numerous garments, textile, furs, and other items within the framework of the settlement, and some of Petr’s weapons were ceded to the Rosenberg armoury (NA Praha, Desky zemske, DZV 9, ff. E 16-17; SOA Tfebon, CR - listiny, z Doudleb 9, kart. 7, no. 423; SOA Tfebon, pobocka C. Krumlov, VS C. Krumlov, sign. I 5AE 7a).

The heirs did not retain Petr Doudlebsky’s Land-Table estates. On May 12,1551, William of Rosenberg, acting also on behalf of his younger brother Peter Vok, together with Divis and Fridrich Doudlebsky of Doudleby, sold them for 1,940 threescore of Meissen groschen (SOA Trebon, CS - listiny, Katov II-195-1, II-195-2, kart. 48, no. 342, 343; NA Praha, Desky zemske, DZV 16, f. C 12; DZV 49, f. D 27; DZSt 45, f. E 21). As for the deceased’s debentures, documents are preserved of inheritance claims made to the relevant receivables (SOA Trebon, CR - registratura, Doudlebstf z Doudleb, no. 20). The heirs used the respectable fortune of the deceased knight above all to strengthen their financial potential.

Conclusion

Petr Doudlebsky of Doudleby could base his property rise on capital inherited from his forebears and on economically favourable circumstances under which he started his career in the service of the Rosenbergs. Later, he also repeatedly enriched himself thanks to good fortune rather than his own merit. However, he was always capable of making perfect use of his luck for business activities in which he found a resource for another, systematic augmentation of his property. His motivation demonstrably did not lie in an outlook of building his own extensive knightly domain or in an effort to secure his offspring. Next to Petr’s generous investments, however, we can see manifestations of his excessive parsimoniousness in relation to minor amounts. Several preserved documents prove his unwillingness in the fulfilment of his financial obligations towards persons standing on lower levels of the social ladder (SOA Trebon, pobocka C. Krumlov, VS C. Krumlov, sign. I 5AE 7a).

The unmarried and childless knight found a home in the proximity of his aristocratic employers, the lords of Rosenberg, whom he served in a loyal and model manner. The main content of his bachelor life, however, was diligent ‘multiplication’ of money, not only through efficient large-scale lending investments but also on the level of petty skimping (bordering on ludicrousness in the context of his large financial transactions). It was from this contradictory and somewhat curious background that one of the pioneers of systematic lending business of the Bohemian lower nobility grew in the early modern period.

References

Archival sources

NA - Narodni archiv Praha.

SOA - Statni oblastni archiv Trebon.

SOkA - Statni okresni archiv C. Budejovice.

Literature

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