Konopiště Chateau is a castle in the midst
of charming gardens and a scenic landscape. The interior of the castle,
which was refurbished for Franz Ferdinand d’Este before his
assassination, features a large collection of hunting trophies. There
may not be a lot to do in the surrounding area, but Konopiště makes a
splendid day trip.
Konopiště is a château (castle) located in
the Czech Republic, about 50 km southeast of Prague, outside the city of
Benešov. It has become famous as the last residence of Archduke Franz
Ferdinand of Austria, heir of the Austro-Hungarian throne, whose
assassination in Sarajevo triggered World War I. The bullet that killed
him, fired by Gavrilo Princip, is now an exhibit at the castle's museum.
The castle was initially constructed as a Gothic fortification in the
13th century. It was later transformed in a Baroque style. Archduke
Franz Ferdinand of Austria bought Konopiště in 1887, with his
inheritance from the last reigning Duke of Modena, and rebuilt it into a
luxurious residence, suitable to the future Emperor; which he preferred
to his official residence in Vienna. He invited William II, German
Emperor to see his roses early in June, 1914; insofar as they discussed
politics, they discussed Romania, but conspiracy theories about their
planning an attack on Serbia or a division of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire arose at the time and since. (After the Archduke's assassination,
later in the month, the memory of this visit may have moved the Emperor
to give Austria more rein in dealing with Serbia than he had in the
Bosnian crisis of 1909.). Since 1921, the castle has been a property of
the Czechoslovak and later Czech state, one of 90 such in state
ownership. The Ministry of Culture is said to spend more than US$
800,000 per year to maintain the castle, and recovers about as much from
entrance ticket sales and rental for occasional functions.
Konopiště castle is now open to the public.
Visitors can observe the residential rooms of Franz Ferdinand, a large
collection of antlers (Franz Ferdinand was an enthusiastic hunter), an
armory with medieval weapons, a shooting hall with moving targets and a
garden with Italian Renaissance statues and greenhouses. It is a popular
place for weddings.
Currently, HSH Princess Sophie von Hohenberg, a descendant of Franz
Ferdinand, is claiming for the restitution of the castle to her family,
which was never recognized as part of the House of Habsburg, on the
ground that the provisions of Article 208 of the Treaty of Saint Germain,
and the Article 3 of Law no.354 of 1921 in Czechoslovakia, do not apply
to them. She filed a law suit in December 2000 in Benesov, the nearest
city, for the Castle and its dependencies comprising 6,070 hectares of
woodland and including a brewery.
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