The Battle of Bilá Hora in 1620 determined Czech history for the next three centuries. The battle will be re-enacted Sept. 21 and 22 on part of the original battlefield.
A temporary tent encampment will be set up at Vypich, the field in front of Letohrádek Hvězda in Prague 6. In English, the event is known as the Battle of White Mountain.
This year is the 399th anniversary of the battle. While the broad outline of history stays the same, every year the re-enactment is a bit different. There are small, personal dramas taking place on the battlefield if one watches closely.
“For this year we have more troops from foreign countries and we have new story for the battle. This means the ‘small story.’ Last year it was story between father and son. This year we will change it,” event organizer Martin Cholinský said, adding that there will also be new musical groups.
He declined to reveal the new plot, as it is mean to be a surprise.
The program is the same each day, with gates opening at noon each day and the battle at 3 pm. Before the battle, people can shop at stands with historical-style goods including reproduction weapons, figurines, medallions, toys and games, and clothing. Food and beverages will of course be available.
There will be a battle camp and weapons demonstrations, and displays of fencing.
As with previous years, hundreds of male and female re-enactors in period uniforms with black-powder guns and other weapons will participate, many on horseback. The units represent the actual participants in the brief battle. Many units come from other countries.
The battle itself has Czech narration over loudspeakers, but the events are very visual and self-explanatory. A quick look at an online history site should get you up to speed — or you can go in cold and let the end of the battle be a surprise.
The bulk of the action usually takes part in the center of the field, but it does move around so there are no truly bad spots to watch from.
The organizers point out that they are not celebrating war and militarism, but trying to remind people of historical events and their impact. Specifically, they want people to understand the role of Bohemia in the broader context of European history. At the same time, they want to support tourism with interesting events.
If you are not familiar with the battle and want the outcome to be a surprise, the rest of this article contains spoilers.
The battle is tied to another famous event in Prague history, the Second Defenestration. This was when a meeting at Prague Castle ended with representatives of Emperor Ferdinand II, a Catholic, being thrown out of a window in 1618. This event is also sometimes called the Third Defenestration, as historians argue over the numbering.
The defenestration was followed by the election of Frederick V, a Protestant, as King of Bohemia in 1619. The move further antagonized the Catholic emperor, who sent an army consisting of his imperial troops and soldiers from the German Catholic League.
The resulting battle was so short that by the time King Frederick V arrived, it was already over. History remembers him as the Winter King because his reign was so short.
The battle was the beginning of the end for Czech nobility. The loss was followed a year later by the execution of 27 Protestant rebellion leaders in Old Town Square at the hands of the Catholic Hapsburgs. Protestants were forced to either convert or leave the country. Czechs would not be free of foreign rule again until 1918 when the First Republic was established.
The actual battle took place Nov. 8, 1620, but the re-enactment is in September because the weather is better. A short way from the site of re-enactment, there is a small stone monument marking the event in the middle of a field.
The main organizer is the Czech group Rytíři Koruny České (Knights of the Bohemian Crown), and the event is put on with the financial support of Prague 6, among others.