Thursday, November 21, 2019

Estates II - How it all happened?

I explained what's an estate, in the previous blog post. But we have to start much deeper in the history to understand this system.

Hluboká castle and town on a map from the first half of 18th century.
Source: State Regional Archive in Třeboň.

All the land in the historical Czech lands was originally owned by the King. The King then gave the authority to administer the estate to his tenants - it could have been a nobleman (prince, count, knight), the church or a royal town (such as Prague, Písek, Hradec Králové; there will be another blog post about royal towns too).

There were more reasons why the King usually gave away the authority over an estate - he wanted to reward one of his loyal knights (this is how the nobility was created), he wanted to ensure a support from some nobleman (so he gave his the estate to "bribe" him), he needed money, he wanted to build a monastery to secure the church's support and so on. But even the fact the King gave away the authority to administer the estate, in the medieval ages he still owned the land and he was allowed to take it away from the holder.

Situation in the 16th to 19th century was different. As the King was elected by the estates of the realm (nobility, church, towns) he was not anymore an owner of all the land. He owned royal estates and towns, but not the whole country anymore.
Map of Orlík and Zvíkov estates, 1830. Source: State Regional Archive in Třeboň.

There were four different "types" of land owners in the 16th to 19th century - the King (he owned royal estates such as Smiřice), nobility, the church and the royal towns. And one owner could own more than just one estate - for example Schwarzenberg family owned tens of estates all over southern Bohemia.

How it all ended? Why there are no more estates in the Czech lands today? Check in few days for another post!


  1. I'm wondering, when doing 3 centuries of family history in northwest Pilsen area, why my lines didn't move out of a 10 mile radius. Would you please shed some light on this?

    1. Hi, it is easy. Most of the pleople were serfs until the serfdom was abbolished in 1781 and could not move from the estate without the landlords approval. And until the 1848 reforms they were still bonded to the landlord's land.

  2. Do you know of a list of historic Czech estates? Also, would there be a list of estate owners? One more question, as a result of the 30 Years War, were estates managed by Protestant owners confiscated by the Hapsburgs?

    1. There were around 1400 estates, sometimes tens were owned by the same nobleman/noblewoman. There is map of some of them online
      As for the confiscations, not only by king/emperor but land was confiscated by catholic noblemen in a big way.