Britain and Bohemia in the Fifteenth Century: The English Struggle Against the Hussite Movement


050321 MarkWhelan cFoCHOn 5th March 2019 Dr. Mark Whelan, an historian of late medieval and early modern Germany and Central Europe who is currently working at King’s College, London, gave a lecture explaining how and why the English kings and senior clerics became involved in the early-fifteenth-century struggle between the Hussites of Bohemia and the rulers of Central Europe.

This struggle came to a head after the Bohemian reformer Jan Hus was tried as a heretic and burned at the stake in the German city of Constance in 1415 during an ecclesiastical Council held ther. Its primary purpose was to deal with a situation in which three church leaders were simultaneously claiming to be Pope. The church in England was particularly criticised because the Hussites were alleged to be followers of HussiteWagenburgJohn Wycliffe, an English reformer considered to be a heretic who had died thirty years earlier, though Dr. Whelan was at pains to explain the differences as well as the similarities between the teachings of Wycliffe and Hus. The English King Henry VI was asked by the Holy Roman Emperor to raise an army to defeat the Hussites but in the event that army was controversially used only to defend the English possessions in France against the French kings.

Eventually the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund and the Hussites agreed peace terms, but Jan Hus was promoted later during the reign of Henry VIII as a martyred forerunner of the Reformation in a way that Wycliffe could not be, as he had not been martyred.

Images: above, Mark Whelan at the lectern in the Czech Embassy, London, copyright FoCH; right, a Hussite Wagenburg, in which a series of wagons could be turned into a mobile castle, Public Domain

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