Collecting royalty on stamps: King Wenceslas of Bohemia

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imports_CCGB_cechoslovakiastamp1929_47894.jpg Czechoslovakia stamp 1929
To many people, King Wenceslas is little more than a name in a Christmas Carol but in his day he was a well-known and much beloved monarch, and has appeared on numerous stamps, as William Silvester reveals ...
To many people, King Wenceslas is little more than a name in a Christmas Carol but in his day he was a well-known and much beloved monarch.

Few stamps have been released in honour of the Good King of the song, though Czechoslovakia issued a commemorative set in 1929 celebrating the millenary of his death with the low values showing King Wenceslas mounted on his horse. 

Bohemia & Moravia issued a commemorative set in 1944 showing St. Vitus’ Cathedral, founded by King Wenceslas. 

In 1953 Czechoslovakia issued a single of Prague Castle, the royal seat of the Premysl dynasty. 

A stamp from a 1967 Czechoslovakian set publicizes Prague Castle, with a depiction of the interior of the Hall of King Wenceslas. 

A 1969 set was issued to publicize Castle Prague’s art treasures that include a mural showing King Wenceslas pressing wine and a coronation banner with St. Wenceslas and coats of arms of Bohemia and Czech crown lands.          

Wenceslas was born around 907 in Stochov Castle near Prague the eldest son of Prince Ratislav who became king in 915.  When Wenceslas was thirteen his father died in battle and as the young prince had not yet reached his majority, his mother became regent.  She began persecuting the Christian priests in the kingdom, attempting to reinstate her pagan religion.

The young prince secretly continued with his private Christian services garnering support from the Christian nobles and when he turned 18 they rose in rebellion and deposed his mother. The young king soon became renowned for his acts of charity, especially the help he gave to the poor whom he sheltered and clothed.
 
All was not well within the king’s domain, however, for many of his pagan nobles still resented the return to Christianity, including his brother Boleslav. The nobility convinced Bolesalv that the king was plotting to have him murdered and that he should join them in their plot against Wenceslas.

They invited the king to attend a feast in Boleslav’s castle. The next morning, 20 September, 929, he went to the chapel for his morning prayers.  Just before he arrived Boleslav and his henchman caught up with him and stabbed him to death on the steps of the church.

In time the good king became the patron saint of Czechoslovakia. His statue stands today in Wenceslas Square in Prague. The carol, 'Good King Wenceslas' was written by John Mason Neale and published in 1853.

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