chapter  1
19 Pages

An emperor at the Prague Castle: cosmopolitan society, politics and culture in Bohemia during Rudolf II’s reign


From the sixteenth to the twentieth century, the judgements passed on Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia and Hungary (r. 1576-1611/ 1612) were highly contradictory – ranging from uncritical adulation of the highest representative of Christendom and great defender against Ottoman expansion to a ruthless branding as a madman on the throne, incapable of carrying out his duties as sovereign, whose extreme subjectivism helped to bring to a head the conflicts in Central Europe on the eve of the Thirty Years’ War. Attention focused mainly on the personality of the emperor, the ruler over a conglomeration of Central European countries and, in recent times (after the publication of the famous monograph by Robert J. W. Evans),1 on the great patron of the arts, on the central personality of the intellectual milieu of Prague Mannerism.2