Here goes my second timeline!

Since I won`t have a lot of time to write it because our second kid is going to be born in 2-3 weeks` time, I´ll keep this more tabular and in the form of sketches, each post covering one year, with the different events and developments taking place in different places during that year being condensed into factual summaries.

It´s going to be a timeline about the Hussites.

If people are interested, I`d like to make this as open to your assessments of the arising allohistorical situations and their likely outcomes as possible – guest contributions are very welcome, and I think I´ll do some polls, too, as a low-threshold interaction format with which you can help keep me away from an implausible Hussite-wank.

Perhaps it´s better to consider this a moderated, iterative “What If”-thread and not a fully-fledged timeline like Res Novae Romanae.

What I have already settled on is a small initial PoD in 1420, and a definitely bigger divergence in 1422. From then on, the future is open. I have considered lots and lots of variants and possibilities – and finally decided to let you decide where things are going. Throughout next week, I´ll post 1420, 1421 and 1422 and an open question (at least I hope that I´ll be able to do that).

For today, though, I´ll test the waters with a very short introduction of what happened before the PoD.

A Different Chalice

Since 1402, Jan Hus, the son of a carter and avid reader of the writings of John Wycliffe, was professor at the University of Prague and preached in the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague in the Czech language. He criticized moral failings of the clergy, simony, indulgences and politically motivated crusades. He believed in predestination and that in the worldly church, the pure and pious lived alongside the sinful and the evil. He preached that laymen did not have to obey or listen to morally questionable clergymen. And he thought that the clergy should not wield worldly power.

His ideas were wildly popular with (especially Czech) commoners in Prague, both rich and poor, as well as with parts of the Bohemian nobility. They chimed in not only with widespread criticism of clerical wealth and power, whose roots were at least as old as the apostolic poverty movement of the 12th century, but also with a nascent Czech nationalism aimed against German dominance. King Wenceslaus cautiously protected Hus and his followers for a while.

Since it was the time of the Western Schism, Jan Hus was excommunicated by two popes in 1409 and 1410 respectively, then banned from Prague by the German Roman King Sigismund. In 1412, Hus left Prague and toured the Bohemian countryside, where his reformist movement gained more and more support, and celebrated the Eucharistic communion in both kinds in his masses.

When Hus was burned at the stake in Constance in 1415, in spite of Sigismund`s guarantee of free conduit, the reform movement turned into an outraged protest movement across Bohemia. The reformers had a most prominent martyr. The symbol of their movement was the chalice – for they demanded that both bread and wine be shared by all believers, laymen and clergy alike, during the Eucharist, like Hus had practiced and justified.

Growing, enraged, endangered and bereft of its charismatic central figure, the Hussite movement attracted a wide variety of groups and individuals espousing very different and sometimes contradictory views concerning church and state, the order of the Christian society, the nature of the Eucharist and whether infants should receive communion, too, the possibility of a coexistence with loyalist Catholics, the roles of men and women, the imminence of Judgment Day, the lengths to which their protest should go and many other questions. A league of Bohemian Hussite clergy and gentry formed – for mutual defense, but also as an attempt to stay on top of what increasingly looked like a social avalanche. A Catholic counter-league formed, too. All the while, significant amounts of zealous reformers, among them the nobleman Nicholas of Hus, left Prague and toured the Bohemian countryside, holding mass on hilltops and spreading the idea of change.

On July 30th, 1419, a group of Hussites led by their priest Jan Želivský marches through the streets of Prague to the town hall of the New Town, where they demand the liberation of Hussite prisoners. Allegedly, a stone is hurled from within the town hall building towards Želivský. The enraged mob storms the town hall and throws the burgomaster, the judge and thirteen town councilors, who were Catholic loyalists, out of the window, killing some of them. A few weeks later, King Wenceslaus dies. His brother, the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund, - in the eyes of the Hussites, the traitorous murderer who is responsible for Jan Hus´ death – is to succeed him as King of Bohemia.

The Bohemian Diet meets in late August. Nobility, gentry and the representatives of towns – both Catholic and Hussite – demand a recognition of their rights and of the rule of Czechs over the majority Czech population. They do not reject Sigismund`s claim outright.

The population in Prague and throughout Bohemia has gone past that point already, though. In September, a large crowd gathers on an open field near Plzen and pledges to leave the corrupted society behind and build their own morally pure, classless community. As more and more men set forth, occupying abandoned fortresses like Zelená Hora and Hradište, royalists pillage their unprotected homes and threaten the lives of their families. While Nicholas of Hus` group fails to defend Zelená Hora against Bohuslav ze Švamberka, a large group (among whom the charismatic Martin Húska stands out) successfully occupies Hradište, which becomes henceforth known as Tabor. In four other cities – Hradec Králové, Žatec, Pisek and Louny – the proponents of a new society who felt that the Bohemian Diet no longer represented them gained the upper hand already in 1419. In Prague, the German Catholic quarters of Malá Strana are assaulted by a Hussite mob in November, while those nobles and town representatives who remain loyal to the Diet continue their negotiations with Sigismund.
OK, we`re still on OTL territory, here`s more introduction:

Winter 1419/1420

A majority of Prague`s City Councillors, backed by the league of Hussite noblemen and representatives of the towns of Mělnik and Chrudim, returned control over Vyšehrad Castle to Queen Sophie of Bavaria in exchange for an armistice, which was declared on November 13th, 1419.

In the communities of Tabor, Oreb (another new foundation near Třebechovice in the vicinity of Hradec Králové), Žatec, Pisek and Louny, new forms of social and religious life were experimented with. Chiliastic expectations of Judgment Day, which priests like Petr Kaniš considered to be due in the next February, gained ground in the ambivalent atmosphere between newfound freedom and community and the violent persecution they faced from royalist Catholics. But not all the men and women who gathered in these communes believed that the end of the world was nigh. They all shared an enthusiastic Christianity, but it had many different facets. Aiming to emulate the apostolic community of the “uncorrupted” earliest Christians, they left the distinction between nobility and commoners behind them, threw their old savings and new earnings into common pools, decided together about their allocation, and elected representatives who would run day-to-day affairs and maintain liaison with other radical communes and the rest of Hussite Bohemia. While often initiated by educated townfolk, Hussite priests and knights, peasants and simple craftsmen were soon a large and self-confident majority in these communes, leaving behind feudal and corporatist ties which had bound them.

It was these communes who would soon lead the defense of Hussite Bohemia in the face of massive Catholic imperial aggression. In no small part, this was owed to the ingenuity of an impoverished radical Hussite knight named Jan Žižka. Žižka, who was infuriated by how Prague`s leaders had given away the Vyšehrad, left the capital in November for Plzeň. Here, like in Prague, the supporters of radical reforms and a defiant new social order still struggled for municipal power against more cautious groups and against German Catholic burghers. Radical reformers were in a considerably better position in Plzeň, though, where the Hussite priest Václav Koranda had already declared the city a bastion of reformed theocracy under the label of the “City of the Sun”, in 1417. Yet, Catholic royalists repeatedly attempted to regain control over the city in attacks launched from strongholds in the vicinity. During an attempt to reduce one such royalist castle at Nekměř, Žižka and his horde of about 400 revolutionaries were confronted by 2000 royalist knights led by Bohuslav of Schwamberg.

Not only were Žižka`s forces outnumbered; they were also much more ill-equipped. Against Bohuslav`s heavy cavalry, they only had their improvised weapons made of farming tools: spiked flails, poles with scythes mounted on them and the like – and seven cannons from Plzeň, which they had brought for the siege. At Nekměř, Žižka for the first time improvised wagons into a sort of movable fortress where his ragtag army could hide and from where the cannons could be operated comparatively safely

– a strategy which proved highly efficient, led to the triumph of his outnumbered Hussite crowd over Bohuslav`s knights, and would be used often and improved upon throughout the next decade.

In spite of such early victories and increasing linking up between communes throughout Bohemia, all was not well in the new communes. February 1420 came, yet the apocalypse did not take place. In Tabor, the largest radical obec (commune), Martin Húska attempted to channel the disappointment and frustration away from Kaniš and himself and towards other groups who held different beliefs and followed different rituals than those he preferred. Conflicts about the Eucharist escalated into violence.

Sigismund had not been idle, either. He convinced Pope Martin V. to declare a crusade against the heretics in Bohemia, and gathered an impressive army from all across Europe as winter moved into spring in 1420.
Ah excellent!

I'll follow this, but don't expect any insightful comments, I don't know anything about the early modern era except what I learned in school. :p
I am glad to know you two are on board!

Here comes the next installment, including the point of departure...!

Spring 1420

The threat of the crusaders` building up bridged some gaps in Bohemian society while it opened new rifts. Even before the arrival of the great crusading army, it caused violence to escalate to new levels in Bohemia. But most importantly, the political dimensions of the conflict slowly began to overshadow the religious ones.

Rumour had it that the most likely targets of crusader aggression would be the radical towns, which the November Diet had placed under a ban in a futile attempt to appease Sigismund. This turned the mood in Plzeň against Koranda and his theocracy. Under Catholic attack, Žižka and his co-commander Břeněk of Švihov fled with a group of 400 Hussites Eastwards, towards Tabor. While camped in a marshy valley near Sudoměř, they were attacked by a Catholic force five times their strength. Once again, the Hussites hid behind their war wagons, which only had to form a semi-circle, for their back was protected by a pond, and fired their handgonnes from there. They managed to inflict massive losses on the Johannite cavalry from Strakonice, whose commander, Jindřich of Hradec, fell along with most of his fellow knights, and when the other half of the royalist cavalry pushed for a flank in the Hussite wagon formation where Petr Konopišt of Sternberg sensed a weak spot, they rode into a bog and were forced to dismount. (Legend provides the alternative explanation that Žižka ordered the Hussite women to lay down their veils on the ground so that the horses` legs got entangled in them.) Less mobile and on dangerous ground, the Catholic knights suffered more losses attacked by increasingly confident and even uplifted Hussite men and women armed with flails. As night fell, the fighting subsided, and under the veil of darkness, the Hussites, who had suffered little losses, but among whom was Břeněk, managed to escape. The legend of the invincibility of Jan Žižka, the one-eyed commander whom God seemed to favour, was born.

Žižka and his group arrived in Tabor towards the end of March. With his newfound authority, he helped alleviate the conflict between those, like Nicholas of Hus, who believed in Christ`s real presence in the bread and wine, and the followers of Martin Húska, who denied it, by referring the dispute to a Hussite synod in Prague.

In Prague, in the meantime, the threat of the crusade, and the execution of the Hussite rebel Jan Krása in Wroclaw, brought about an atmosphere of fear. Realising that their pursuit of a negotiated settlement had been futile, and receiving news about Jan Žižka`s miraculous victory at Sudoměř, Prague`s city council and the assembled Hussite nobility decided to reach out to the radical faction, for whom the umbrella term “Taborites” began to establish itself, and seal a military pact.

Before negotiations between the party of the nobility and the towns aligned to Prague, led by Čeněk of Wartenberg, and the Taborites commenced, a political assassination heated up the mood on the streets of Prague [Point of Departure:] Jan Želivský, the radical and politically ambitious priest who enjoyed great popularity among the petty craftsmen and the paupers in Prague`s New Town, was found dead in an alley on March 17th, 1420, apparently stabbed in the back by someone who knew his job well [1]. The lower classes in the city were enraged. Želivský, the leader of the defenestration, killed by a coward from the shadows, immediately became their latest martyr. At first, no suspect could be found. Čeněk of Wartenberg, who had been one of Želivský`s staunchest enemies within the Hussite camp, feigned shock and grief as best he could, and publicly spread rumours about a Jewish assassin. A violent mob haunted the Jewish quarters of Prague, killing many innocent and utterly uninvolved members of this minority.

Želivský`s death was also mourned by the synod which convened in early April. For many Taborite obce, this was a summit of political and military leaders, too, for priests and political or military leaders were often not distinguished from one another among them. A notable exception was Petr Chelčický, who abhorred any attempts to bring about the Kingdom of God with the sword (or the flail, for that matter) [2]. When the Taborite religious leaders, presided over by Nicholas of Pelhrimov, discussed the matter of the Eucharistic dissension between Húska and the calixtines, Chelčický was the leading voice of a group who, in spite of their own convictions about the question, fervently argued for each group`s right to follow their own beliefs, opining that, as the Scripture left the question unanswered and the human mind had no way of discerning truth from falsehood here, only God could settle this dispute, and no number of believers, be they an overwhelming majority or standing in a long tradition of orthodoxy, could or should ever arrogate such divine rights to themselves.

This minority was unable to prevent the majority of the synod from defining the nature of the Eucharist in the terms of Wycliffite realism and against Húska`s position, but at least they were able to prevent them from declaring Húska`s groups as heretics. But Chelčický`s arguments set the mood for the negotiations with the alliance of the Hussite nobility and the representatives of the towns aligned with Prague.

As all parties mobilised throughout Bohemia and beyond for the epic battle which had to follow, the leaders of various Hussite factions from their different social and regional backgrounds settled on Four Articles, which embodied the minimal common ground of their demands which they assured each other would be the non-negotiable requirement for peace talks with the enemy:
freedom of the chalice;
freedom of the sermon;
freedom from worldly church power and
freedom from unjust worldly power [3].

While the last article was deliberately left vague - so as to be acceptable for both antifeudalist and democratic Taborites and Hussite nobility - the third article was like the priming for a Hussite onslaught against clerical holdings all across Bohemia. Now it was Catholics who, all over Bohemia, fled to secure positions.

[1] IOTL, Želivský headed a successful popular revolt against the patrician- and guild-dominated city council in July 1420, and had himself invested with unlimited powers for one year, in which he disposed of quite a number of political rivals ruthlessly, before another rebellion checked his powers by installing a Council of Twenty alongside him in 1421. One year later, his political enemies had him executed.

[2] The second stone falls in the domino of digression from OTL. IOTL, Chelčický left Prague and retreated from the broader movement, developing his anarchist theology over the next few decades. Since the exact historical circumstances are somewhat unclear, let us assume that Želivský`s machinations and attempts to monopolise political power in his hands played a significant role in Chelčický`s retreat IOTL. With Želivský dead, Chelčický stays with the flock for the moment.

[3] The articles are left unchanged from OTL. The power balance within Hussitism at this point was not significantly shifted to allow anything else as common ground.
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NOTE: I edited my last post because I had got the months of OTL history confused last night. Now, we also have the Four Articles (although just as in OTL).
Summer 1420

Various Hussite groups grabbed almost all Bohemian church lands and plundered countless monasteries throughout late April and early May 1420. Čeněk of Wartenberg, who claimed some sort of legitimacy for his leadership over the assembled cavalry of the Hussite nobility and the troops of the moderate Hussite cities, including Prague, due to his title as Highest Burgrave of Bohemia, began with a conquest of the Hradčany, where he had the prelate killed along with a sizable number of Catholic refugees, and personally partook in the plundering of Břevnov and Postelberg monasteries, while overseeing the division of large tracts of clerical land holdings among Hussite barons and knights loyal to him. His ward, the 17 year-old Ulrich of Rosenberg, likewise annexed church lands in Southern Bohemia, sacked Zlatá Koruna monastery and declared it his own property. The city of Prague undertook its own conquering mission, sacking and keeping Nelahozeves monastery. The Taborites under Nicholas of Hus participated as well: they stormed Strakonice and Nepomuk, killed all the monks they could get their hands on and burned the places down. In contrast to the afore-mentioned attacks, though, they did not assume the feudal privileges previously held by the church for themselves. In their assaults, they had relied on massive support from the local peasantry; after their common victory, they declared the feudal titles null and void and often burned the registers.

These attacks did not just happen because of the Third Article, or because they were possible, or because Bohemian Catholics had become the target of popular Hussite wrath. In some cases – especially in the case of the Hradčany and of Strakonice – they served defensive goals, aiming to gain better fortifications for oneself or to eliminate an immediate threat. Generally, though, they were not a distraction from the Hussite build-up to the war; they were vital for it. Čeněk of Wartenberg, who in the absence of a united radical opposition in Prague increasingly interpreted his position as that of a quasi-king, needed a lot of resources, spoils and promises to keep hundreds of extremely frightened Hussite barons and knights from surrendering to Sigismund and his seemingly enormous crusader army [1]. The Taborites had to swell their ranks if they wanted to withstand major attacks on their strongholds. (This is why the seizure of power of radical Hussite groups, aided by Taborites, in Sedlice and Prachatice was extremely important at this moment, too. By mid-May, Tabor and its allies had liberated, as they saw it, a solid portion of Southern Bohemia.) And all sides needed any resources they could get their hold on in the attempt to build more weapons and improve their fortifications.

For many Catholics – many, but not all of them of German nationality – who were unable to reach a safe haven, these weeks were full of suffering and horror. Uprooted and hoping to reconquer their homes, many of them joined the crusading armies.

The bulk of the crusading army had gathered in Švidnica in April. Around the end of the month, they set themselves in motion and entered Bohemia. On May 3rd, the Orebites under the leadership of Ambrož Hradecky had to surrender Hradec Kralové and flee Westwards.

[1] IOTL, he and the Rosenbergs switched allegiances themselves in favour of Sigismund in the face of the impending attack and after they had carved out juicy slices of church land for their families and retainers. ITTL, faced only with a multitude of bickering radical factions in Prague not united behind a charismatic Zelivsky, the lure of quasi-royal power may suffice to overcome his fear.
Love this so far!
I´m so glad!

The (first?) showdown of the Hussite Wars is near now. 50,000-100,000 crusaders are marching into Bohemia.
The situation in the Hussite camp is only slightly different from OTL, but still maybe significantly so.
IOTL, the First Crusade against the Hussites went down in flames, and the Battle of Vitkov Hill became a legend.
Does anyone have an opinion about how the crusade should go this time, given the slightly altered starting positions?
The March on Prague

After the crusaders had captured Hradec Kralové, they subjected the town not just to plundering, but to a wholesale destruction. From here, Sigismund`s army split into three groups. Less than a quarter of the crusaders were sent South-Westwards, where they should pinch the Taborite strongholds in Southern Bohemia in a two-pronged attack together with a Bavarian army which should arrive from across the forests. The Hungarian cavalry was sent quickly down the Elbe and up the Ohře rivers against the radical strongholds in the North-West: Louny, Žatec and Slany, while the bulk of the crusade would slowly roll Westwards towards Prague.

After an initial success – the quick surrender of the city of Časlav, where the last Bohemian Diets had taken place and which stood relatively firmly behind Čeněk –, the military fortunes of the first group soon took a turn for the worse. Like the crusaders, the Hussite defenders consisted of different groups, too, each one primarily defending their own grounds. The crusading army sent against Tabor was commanded by Philippo Scolari and consisted of excellent professional cavalry from various parts of Europe and much less excellent infantry, equally gathered from all over the continent in pursuit of fame and fortune but lacking both in experience, discipline and morale. Their opponents – a hard core of holy warriors trained by Žižka in his new innovative tactics, supplemented by thousands of peasants who defiantly clung to their new-won freedom – were commanded by Petr Konopišt of Sternberg when they encountered the crusaders near Benešov. Once again, the Taborites used the war wagons to great effect and inflicted heavy losses on the crusaders. Scolari`s advance was halted for the moment, as he had to struggle to keep his demoralized motley crew together, retreating behind the walls of Benešov, a royalist holdout which was crammed to the utmost possible extent after Scolari`s army insisted that they share the space and the resources of the town with its initial inhabitants and over a thousand Catholic refugees from the surrounding countryside who had fled to Benešov before.

In the same manner, the Bavarian army led by duke Ernest of Bavaria-Munich, approaching from the South-West, was utterly defeated by Jan Žižka and his strong Taborite contingent from Pisek. Meanwhile, several hundred Taborites led by Nicholas of Hus inflicted serious losses on the troops of Duke Albert of Habsburg, but were unable to prevent a sizable contingent from breaking through and advancing down the Vltava Valley against Tabor, which they began to besiege on May 27th. Not receiving any support from either Scolari or Ernest, though, Albert was forced to abandon his siege after eight days, laying waste to Sezimovo Usti in the vicinity instead before heading Northwards for Prague without further incursions against Taborite strongholds in the South. On their way, they informed Scolari about the failure of their mission against Tabor. Albert and Scolari agreed to leave a few men behind to secure the supply lines and to attempt to prevent Taborite breakthroughs from the South, and march towards Prague, the main prize in this crusade, too.

While the main crusader army kicked in open doors at Kutná Hora, a town whose military relevance was limited to its silver mines, the Hungarian vanguard laid siege to Louny, then Žatec, then Slaný, each time in vain. They did succeed at Mělnik, though – Čeněk`s staunchest ally in the North –, causing the Supreme Burgrave to ride with a few hundred followers against the attackers, only to suffer clear defeat and be forced to ingloriously retreat to Prague, where even more emphasis would have to be put to securing the town`s protective perimeters and producing weaponry for the capital`s defenders.

With the radical obce of the North and the South busy with defending their own towns and the moderately Hussite towns in the Elbe valley being overwhelmed by the huge force of Sigismund`s army of approximately 50,000, Prague received much more refugees than experienced defenders. Standing out among the latter, though, were the Orebites led by Ambrož Hradecký. They reached Prague before the Hungarians, before Albert and before Sigismund. On their way, they had plundered Mnichovo Hradiště. Now, they were a last straw of hope for the rebellious Golden City, the heart of the proud Bohemian nation.

As the heat of June descended upon Bohemia, the various contingents of Sigismund`s crusading army all converged on Prague. The Emperor himself reached the camps within range of Prague`s walls on June 12th.

To be continued.
Here goes the next installment - and it ends with the first poll. I´m feeling courageous and curious which direction you think things are likely to take.

Fight Fire With Fire

While Sigismund commanded over 50,000 to 80,000 crusaders, Prague`s defenders, including the allies who came to its help, counted between 15,000 and 20,000 at most. But Prague was a formidably fortified city. The Hussites commanded over both the Hradčany and Výšehrad and various smaller fortresses and countless towers, and two massive stone walls from the last century encompassed and protected the entire city. In the months leading to the ultimate confrontation, the security of the islands in the Vltava and the river`s banks were improved upon, and the number of guns of all sizes was massively increased.

Thus, with hindsight, it was ultimately not surprising that repeated attempts by the crusaders to storm the city were successfully repelled throughout June, at disproportionate and heavy costs of human lives among the crusaders – especially since before the last crusaders had reached Prague, the Orebite rearguard commanded by Diviš Borěk of Miletínek managed to destroy or carry away much of Sigismund`s baggage train, including most of the siege weaponry, in a surprise attack somewhere to the North-East of Prague. The capital city was well-provisioned and showed no signs of breakdown even as the siege went into its third week.

On Wednesday, July 3rd, though, the crusaders finally broke through the Western defensive perimeter – according to some voices in the heated contemporary debate, they may have been aided by Catholic inhabitants of Prague´s mostly non-Hussite quarter of Malá Strana in this endeavor. Hundreds of crusaders poured over the breeched wall. Then, thousands after thousands more marched in through opened gates. As soon as they found themselves in the city´s narrow alleys, they were caught in a chaotic melee nobody could effectively oversee.

Sigismund and his generals did their best to lead their troops uphill towards the Hradčany, where they suspected Čeněk and the rest of his insurgent government to hide. Quite a few crusaders were not reached by these calls – some of those who managed to escape for a moment from close-range combat against the city´s defenders seized the opportunity to break into houses and steal any valuables they could easily carry away. Malá Strana was, after all, the wealthy quarter of the Golden City. (It was also, ironically, the only quarter whose population might have accepted or even welcomed Sigismund`s rule – but this mood began to change…)

When it became clear that Sigismund`s assault on the Hradčany had to fail, orders were given to cross the Vltava and take on the much larger part of town located on the river´s Eastern shore. Yet more crusaders “got lost” within Malá Strana during this diversion.

The crusaders` attempts to cross the Vltava came to nothing. Among the various Hussite groups, both light and heavy artillery was exclusively operated by commoners – be they moderate guildsmen or more radical groups. Such groups were only found in the Old and New Town, though – and consequently, the only guns in Western Prague outside of the Hradčany were those installed in the wall, while the Old and New Town on the Eastern bank were full of them. In an operation in which Hradecký played an important role, they were brought to the bulwarks on the Eastern shore. From there, virtually everything – cannonballs, cobblestones, tens of thousands of iron spikes… – was fired at the boats, rafts and improvised pontoons with which the crusaders attempted to cross the river.

When Čeněk of Wartenberg realized, to his surprise, that the riverine defenses would indeed hold, he ordered his followers into a fight to regain control over the wall and gates of the Western part of town; a task they swiftly achieved. Unable to cross the Vltava, tens of thousands of crusaders were trapped in Malá Strana now.

And then, the fire broke out. Nobody knows if it was set by the crusaders themselves, by the defenders, by ordinary burglars, or even by accident – the sun had burned down on Prague for a while now, and the dry wood of those houses which had withstood last year`s fire was easily ignited. Panicking, tens of thousands of people tried to escape. But the defenders who held the bulwarks on the Eastern shore were merciless – they had few other options –, and even the defenders of the wall and the gates held their ground for quite a while, even though this meant condemning their own co-citizens to death by fire. During these desparate minutes, countless soldiers and civilians alike jumped into the river and swam, if they could, to safety, Northwards, out of the town.

The fire of 1420 destroyed almost all of Malá Strana. The death toll was enormous. Even though Sigismund miraculously escaped after the panicking mob had finally broken through one of the gates in the Western wall, the fire had broken the neck of the crusade. The Hussites read it as a divine sign: the Almighty Lord had saved them because they were righteous; He had sent a fire to consume the army of the Satan and the quarter of the unfaithful along with them.

Quite a number of those who had embarked on the crusade and survived the disaster of Malá Strana were inclined to believe something similar, and they took this weird story back home to Germany, to Denmark, to Hungary, to the valleys of the Balkans, to Poland and Lithuania, to Italy and to the many other places they came from. More educated listeners would sniff at such superstition, and the Inquisition was not amused, either, but quietly, secretly, the weird tales found their ways into ear after ear.

A Tale of Two Kings

After the disaster of Prague, there were still tens of thousands of crusaders around in central Bohemia – but only very few of them still obeyed Sigismund`s orders. Most of the groups, some smaller, some larger, tried to plunder and pillage their way back out of Bohemia. Scattered as they were, not few of them were confronted, defeated and killed by Bohemians – no longer only by Hussites, but also by the occasional Catholic vladik or German craftsman who also objected to having their dwellings sacked. The Habsburg Duke Albert, who had been fortunate enough not to enter Malá Strana, led a sizable and one of the most disciplined groups Southwards out of Bohemia and home.

Sigismund gathered his remaining supporters in Časlav, where he had a hand-picked “Diet” crown him King of Bohemia on July 12th. He promised support for the fortification of the remaining royalist towns (Časlav, Kutná Hora, Mělnik, Benešov, Jihlava, Plzeň, České Budějovice, Chomutov and Brüx/Most) and rode off into Hungary.

Sigismund`s coronation was derided not only among Bohemian Hussites, who were enthusiastic about their unbelievable redemption, but also among Europe`s Catholic elites abroad. Of course, they recognized the claim of the Holy Roman Emperor to the throne of Bohemia, but everyone was well aware that Sigismund had next to no factual control over Bohemia anymore – and anxious about the future of the other lands of the Bohemian crown: Silesia, Lusatia, Moravia.

In Prague, the victory suddenly had many fathers. Undoubtedly the most ambitious among them, Čeněk of Wartenberg was no longer content with the title of Highest Burgrave. He pulled all the strings he had in preparation of a counter-Diet destined to make him King of Bohemia. To this end, he was compelled to include not only representatives of the barons, the knights and the city councils of the royal towns loyal to him in his Diet, but also Hradecký and Borěk of Miletínek, the radicals who had become heroes in Prague and to whom he promised a recognition of the specific status of their radical obce.

He did not invite the Taborites of Southern Bohemia as well as of Žatec, Louny and Slany, though. Not only did he dislike Žižka, Húska, Nicholas of Hus and Konopišt of Sternberg (a mutual sentiment), who were men no less ambitious than he was, but more charismatic. He was also acutely aware that the Taborites would have far-reaching demands concerning local and church constitutions and an abolition of feudal privileges – and they would not even agree among themselves about their goals, carrying their disputes into the national plenum, where Čeněk really did not wish radical theological theses discussed in too much detail. Any concession vis-à-vis the Taborites would not only hurt the Wartenbergs themselves, but also much of the rest of the Hussite nobility and annoy them all. Negotiating it out could become an endless process which cost time he did not have. No Taborites (if one no longer counted the Orebites among them) at the Diet, thus.

Čeněk`s counter-diet met in Prague on July 27th. An iron crown was forged from the metal of a cannon from the Vltava defense, and placed on Čeněk´s head after he had guaranteed everyone present (including the two leaders of the Orebites) their pre-negotiated privileges and rights.

… and here is the first poll of this timeline!

How will the Taborites react?

a) Accept and submit to the first Hussite King of Bohemia, which includes accepting him as arbiter in legal disputes

b) Ignore Čeněk and pursue their own agenda in Southern Bohemia

c) Turn against Čeněk and attack Prague

The poll is open until Sunday evening. On Monday, I´ll try to write a next installment depending on how you think history would most likely evolve.

Arguments for why you think option a, b or c is more likely, are of course extremely welcome...!
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A) seems unlikely given the logic you've laid out.
C) seems dangerous given how easily Prague just repulsed the Crusader army, and even if they disagree on matters of theology, there's much bigger enemies.

I'd say B) is both most likely and best. Perhaps combined with some token submission or alliance?
Thanks to everyone for participating and sharing your opinions!
Here are the results:
With 70 % in favour, option B has won.
So, the Taborites are going to simply ignore Cenek and pursue their own agenda primarily in Southern Bohemia.
We`ll see how that goes.. but unfortunately, I have no spare time tonight, so it might be tomorrow or Wednesday evening until I`ll have finished the next installment, covering late 1420 and 1421.
A) seems unlikely given the logic you've laid out.
C) seems dangerous given how easily Prague just repulsed the Crusader army, and even if they disagree on matters of theology, there's much bigger enemies.

I'd say B) is both most likely and best. Perhaps combined with some token submission or alliance?
The disagreements are not just theological. They were social, economic and political as well - both IOTL and ITTL. The two Hussite polities represent very different models of society; they were anathema to each other IOTL, and that difference is not going away ITTL, either. The Taborite model is egalitarian, democratic, antifeudal and theocratic - it was this way IOTL at this early stage, and ITTL, this has not changed yet. Cenek`s model, on the other hand, relies on traditional (oligarchic and aristocratic) power structures with new people in the positions of power and a new theological doctrine.
But I agree, C is too dangerous.

Voted A as most likely in that time period.
It would have been for many movements. There are countless reports about how the early Taborites were outraged at plans for installing a monarch IOTL, though. Nicholas of Hus stormed out of Prague and rode to his death in december 1420 because he was so enraged about the Diet`s plan to offer the Bohemian crown to Wladislaw Jagiello. When Zelivsky was killed and the upper classes regained control in Prague and Sigismund Korybut was asked to come and reign as King of Bohemia, a civil war between Praguers and Taborites broke out, which IOTL the Taborites won; one of Zizka´s last victories.

But ITTL, Prague defended itself without the help of the Taborites, and the Taborites were busy with protecting their own territory. Cenek`s coronation may seem a little less outrageous to them.

So, I agree with you guys, B looks like a sensible option.

And here goes the next installment:

Late 1420 / Early 1421

The four hejtmans of the Taborite alliance reacted with a letter. They congratulated “our dear brothers and sisters in Prague” on their victory, mentioned Čeněk with not a single word, renewed their commitment to cooperation on the basis of the Four Articles, and suggested another synod where terms and modes of a deepened collaboration could be worked out.

Čeněk had not anticipated anything else. He fumed, but he knew that he could little about the Taborite nuisance. He had yet to conquer the kingdom which the counter-Diet had entrusted him to govern. In August 1420, his control was limited to Prague and its environs (and it was shaky even there), plus a handful of towns in central Bohemia, plus what power the few hundred members of the Hussite nobility loyal to him were able to project from their several dozen castles scattered throughout the Bohemian landscape. Tabor`s forces may well have been stronger at this moment.

And they would grow over the next weeks, as the Taborites found new allies and companions on their revolutionary path, as the Chodové (literally “patrollers”) in Western Bohemia, an ethnic group closely related to the Czech, who dwelled in the forests between Bohemia and the Palatinate, rose up in rebellion. The Chodové were, for the most part, simple peasants, but they enjoyed time-honoured rights and privileges unparalleled in this part of the Holy Roman Empire. They had been soldier-farmers who guarded the border; they worked on their own land, elected their own mayors and judges and looked after their own business. In the more recent past, though, they had come under the overlordship of a baronial dynasty – the Schwanbergs. The Schwanbergs collected taxes and tithes and conscripted Chodové in support of Sigismund`s crusade. When the crusaders were defeated in Prague, more than a thousand of them returned to Southern Germany or other Western countries and marauded the lands of Chodové. The castellans continued to collect taxes and dues for the Schwanbergs, yet the latter offered no protection. Worse, they were in league with those who now plundered their villages.

When the Chodové rose up in righteous anger, they appealed to the closest potential allies: the Taborites of Pisek. Pisek, in turn, alerted its allies, and soon, a common army of Taborites and Chodové stormed and conquered Horaždovice, Sušice, Klatovy, Domažlice, Stříbo, Žlutice and the entire surrounding countryside. The Schwanbergs and more German Catholic members of the upper echelons on society were turned into refugees, who soon arrived in the various warring Bavarian states.

The Chodové joined the Taborite alliance and organised their obce in a mixture of what they considered to be their ancient laws and the fashionable Taborite model. Now, Tabor`s allies stretched in a crescent from Louny all the way along the border with the Palatinate to Tabor itself and the surrounding Central-Southern Bohemian countryside.

King Čeněk of Wartenberg had to prioritise the consolidartion of his control over the territories loyal to him, which included chasing away the last crusaders-gone-plunderers from the countryside between pro-Čeněk towns, and the conjoining of the areas he controlled into a territorial core in Central Bohemia along the Elbe with the reconquests of Mělnik and Časlav. With the help of majority pro-Hussite populations, the latter were gained relatively easily from Sigismund`s outnumbered loyalists.

By October, Sigismund`s control over Bohemia had shrunk to a few last pockets of resistance. In contrast to Čeněk, though, Sigismund could always bring in fresh forces from abroad, and he had ample resources at his disposal. The Hussite King was acutely aware of both of these problems. He decided to deal with the latter problem himself, and delegate the former to his vassals. Any castle and any town they were able to conquer would be theirs to hold forever, Čeněk guaranteed – this referred specifically to clerical land holdings, but was by no means restricted to them –, establishing his rather idiosyncratic interpretation of the Four Articles.

On November 2nd, Čeněk commanded a joint attack of Praguer and Orebite infantry and artillery on Kutná Hora, which came to mark the end of his ascending trajectory. The town`s population was predominantly German and wealthier than that of most other Bohemian towns. There were very few Hussites among them – and the ranks of the staunchly anti-Hussite German silversmiths and other craftsmen were swelled with Catholic refugees from surrounding areas. They would hold out as best they could. Sigismund had endowed the town`s defenders amply, for Kutná Hora was key to controlling Bohemia`s main silver deposits and a royal mint.

The siege was long and costly, and when the town was finally stormed, it ended in a massacre. Contemporary sources relate that half the town`s population was massacred, while the other half fled in panic overland towards Benešov, the last Catholic bastion in Central Bohemia. Exact estimates are difficult, but the Battle of Kutná Hora must have been cruel if we judge by the imprint it left on the consciousness of less hawkish Hussites like Petr Chelčicky.

The toll on the attackers was high, too, and this had wider implications. It would be the last time Čeněk could rely on Orebite forces. After Kutná Hora, Ambrož Hradecký led his radicals into a military campaign of their own in Eastern Bohemia. The Orebites saw their influence increasingly curtailed and marginalized both by Čeněk`s easy successes along the Elbe and by his Pyrrhic victory at Kutná Hora: the former had brought urban Czech patricians, conservative guild leaders and the big baronial dynasties (back) to power, while the latter was a massive blood-letting for the urban underclass of Prague who formed Čeněk`s infantry – the one group which tended to be receptive or at least sympathetic to the radical views espoused by the Orebites.

Thus, while the Orebites focused on agitating the peasant population of Eastern Bohemia in preparation for an assault on the towns of Jaroměř and Trutnov, which were held by Hynek of Červená Hora and others loyal to Sigismund, Čeněk assailed Benešov with a reduced army in December. Packed with refugees, but poorly provisioned, the town soon fell to Čeněk`s siege. A pandemonium ensued. This time, the losses of Čeněk`s infantry were lower. The human suffering, on the other hand, was much worse than at Kutná Hora. Eventually, the town burned down. Thousands of Catholics had nowhere else to go. Some put up desperate resistance to the end. Many more gave themselves in – but Čeněk`s generals purportedly left only a handful of them alive (“just about enough to bury their neighbours”, as one source states). Čeněk stripped the town of all of its rights and privileges and installed a governor, who administrated little more than a heap of smouldering ruins.

Benešov would remain the last town Čeněk of Wartenberg conquered himself. The Hussite barons and knights loyal to him, and the allied Orebites, too, were more successful, though. The latter successfully instigated and led a peasant revolt, which wrestled control over the town of Jaroměř from the pro-Sigismund forces commanded by Hynek of Červená Hora, burned the registers, killed a sizable number of opponents, converted the town into an Orebite fortress and transformed the municipal constitution after the model of the obec of Oreb: the Great Obec (great commons; general assembly of all adult Hussite men) decides about the communal budget and all matters of war and peace, elects the judges and two hejtmans for one year (who are both in charge of civil administration issues and of military leadership at the same time) and decides on communal rules / laws, with the specific (some say, “radical”) character that any provision, be it as time-honoured as it may, can be repealed if the majority finds it to be in contradiction to the Holy Writ. (In all Orebite obce – just like in the Taborite obce, where a similar political model had developed – feudal privileges were considered such unbiblical laws. Guild privileges, on the other hand, would persist in some obce while being abolished in others.)

After the conversion of Jaroměř, the town councils of nearby Dvůr Kralové and Trutnov decided to switch their allegiances. They refused to pay rent to Sophie of Bavaria, stabbed the few pro-Sigismund guards, burned three obstinate Catholic priests, and negotiated their way out of the impending threat of wholesale Orebite-style socio-economic and political transformations. Hradecký agreed to desist from any further agitation among the peasantry of the regions concerned if Dvůr Kralové`s and Trutnov`s militia submitted to the supreme military command of the Orebite Alliance (instead of directly to the king).

Čeněk`s closest ally and ward, Ulrich of Rosenberg, was rather successful in his separate campaigns, too. Between September 1420 and April 1421, the Rosenbergs had brought all castles and villages and almost all towns between the Šumava and the Třebonsko ranges (Černov, Prčice, Vyšši Brod, Soběslav, Nové Hrady, Třebon, and Winterberg) in addition to their traditional holdings of Sedlčany and Rosenberg under their control – except for České Budějovice, which Ulrich besieged twice to no avail. This way, young Ulrich had become a de facto duke in Čeněk`s kingdom in all but name, and he guarded the Southern border against incursions by soldiers fielded by the neighbouring Wittelsbach and Habsburg principalities.

Another baron loyal to Čeněk, Hynek Krušina of Lichtenburg, successfully secured the Kladsko region on the border between Bohemia and Silesia, swallowing various clerical holdings in the process.

The Hrabišic dynasty in North-Western Bohemia was less successful in their pursuit of similar goals, though. From Osek, they attempted to establish control over the Ore Mountains and to seize the opportunity to regain possessions their family had had to pawn to the Margraves of Meißen. Chomutov, Bilina and a number of castles were attacked with mixed success, until, at Most, Hrabišic` forces suffered a catastrophic defeat against the army of Friedrich, Margrave of Meißen. Friedrich, who had found the weak spot in Hussite Bohemia`s defenses, took his time to ravage the North-Western Bohemian countryside, leaving behind only scorched earth and riding home before he was confronted by any Bohemian army.

In Pest, King and Emperor Sigismund had attempted, with very limited success, to drum up forces for a second anti-Hussite crusade. As the situation went from bad to worse for him in Bohemia, he had begun to pursue a parallel strategy of containment. The borders of Hungary and of the Holy Roman Empire`s other principalities with Bohemia were to be shut down for any travelers and merchants, unless they bore with them a sealed guarantee from one of Sigismund`s last loyal administrators in Bohemia. The aim was both to prevent Hussite priests and agitators from spreading their ideas, and to cripple Bohemia`s economy. Wladislaw Jagiełło joined this pact in early 1421, too.

But now, there was a clear military victory after so many defeats. Sigismund invited Friedrich into the Order of the Dragon, a signal that promised yet more support and reward from the Emperor in the future. If limited incursions were the only remedy against the heretics he had at his disposal, then he`d have to make do with it. Following this logic, Sigismund conducted talks with the quarrelling Bavarian dukes, making it clear that he would judge their various disputes in accordance with how each one performed in the wars against the Hussites.

I am aware that a map of Bohemia has become necessary by now. I hope that I´ll be able to draw it next week.
Glad you like it!

The successful defense of Prague, the spreading of Hussite control all over Bohemia - all of that is very much OTL still.

The big difference is, with Zelivsky dead, Prague is not radical yet. IOTL, the radicals inofficially led this phase of the revolution, it was them who developed and used innovative tactics, but they also relied on the knightly class, most of whom were afraid of them and plotted to get rid of that mob rule while still keeping their secularisation gains. Being de facto in charge, but not officially, an inofficial process of hierarchisation set in with Zizka at the top.

ITTL, the Hussite elites run their own state, and the radical communes keep on going without adapting and streamlining very fast. I doubt, though, how long I can make this coexistence last...
Here`s the map of *Bohemia in early spring 1421!
Red areas are controlled by Tabor and its allies.
Blue areas are controlled by Cenek of Wartenberg and his vassals. I´ve sprinkled the Taborite areas with blue dots to indicate castles of pro-Cenek nobles; there should be more of these, but I grew tired...
Purple areas are Orebite-controlled parts of Cenek`s kingdom; I decided to single them out since although they`re loyal to Cenek, their political model is more similar to that of the Taborites.
Yellow areas are loyal to Sigismund.
Bohemia 1420 1421.jpg