Książ Castle (Poland)

Lower Silesian Voivodeship     See list of castles in Polonia

Książ’s first centuries were marked by a number of stormy events. It changed hands often, belonged to various states, and was destroyed during the numerous wars that were waged there. We indeed know little about the beginnings of today's castle, and much is missing and unclear, and even contradictory, in its earliest records.

1288 – 1292
The first written mention of today's Książ Castle (in German, Fursteinstein). During these years, one of the many strategically significant defensive castles of Bolko I "the Strict", Prince of Świdnica and Jawor, was being built; the construction was thus acknowledged to be the "key to Silesia". The newly-built fortress, known from the beginning as “Książęca Góra” or "The Prince’s Heights", was distinguished from other buildings of this type not only by its militarily advantageous setting, but also for its picturesque location, in the heart of the forest. Bolko I also conferred upon himself the title "Lord of Książ," which his successors also held.

1392 - 1463
After the extinction of the Piasts from the Świdnica-Jawor line, Czech kings from the Luxembourg dynasty became the castle's owners, by virtue of the succession treaty. Later, from 1463 to be exact, Książ belonged to the Czech King Jiř (George) of Poděbrady.

1482 – 1490
Książ came under the authority of the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus, and was governed by the commander of his army, Georg von Stein. It was this officer who first brought about changes in Ksiaz's character, from that of a fortress to one of a castle, transforming the majority of its defensive areas into residential ones. During this period, the south part of the castle arose, known from that time as the Matthias Wing in honour of the sovereign.
From 1497 to 1508 the castle belonged to Vladislaus II (Władysław Jagiellończyk), the Czech and Hungarian king. Later, the ruler transferred the Książ property to his chancellor, Johann von Haugwitz.

11 June 1509
For an undisclosed sum, Johann von Haugwitz transferred the castle, and its neighbouring property, to the knight Konrad I von Hoberg (until 1714, the name was written without the letters "ch"), also known as Kunz von Hoberg. It was his line that most influenced the history of Książ (which stayed in the hands of the von Hochberg family until its confiscation by the Nazis in 1941). It is thanks to this powerful Silesian family that the castle experienced numerous "metamorphoses." They began with Hans Heinrich I, who brought about the creation of the French gardens, replacing the ramparts, trenches and moats, as well as part of the walls.
Two dates stand out among the most important for the Hochbergs: they received the hereditary title of count in 1683 and, in 1848, the hereditary title of prince.

5 April 1605
Konrad III von Hochberg received, from the Emperor Rudolf III, the right of inheritance to the castle, in place of a lease. The castle became the hereditary property of the Hochberg line.

1705 – 1742
Konrad Ernest Maximilian von Hochberg initiated what became known as the first great castle reconstruction. During that time, there arose: the distinctively Baroque extension, the Honorary Courtyard and buildings near the entrance to the castle (outbuildings, baths, gate building, sentry post and library). On the Poplar Heights, the summer pavilion was also constructed, becoming the family mausoleum in the second half of the nineteenth century (the sepulchral chapel).

1789 – 1833
Hans Heinrich VI developed the castle's immediate surroundings. Christian Wilhelm Tischbein's plan provided for new structures, as well as imitation ruins on medieval foundations, known as Old Książ.

Hans Heinrich XI became the new master of Książ, and would go on to be one of the outstanding figures in the castle's history: Count von Hochberg, the Prince of Pless and, in his final years, Herzog von Pless. The title of archduke was one of the highest ducal titles that one could receive outside of the governing family; unfortunately it was not a hereditary privilege.
It is difficult to number, today, the projects and changes that Hans Heinrich XI brought about. However, the following stand out: the establishment of roads, parks, and wooded areas; the creation of free cooking schools for the daughters of Walbrzych's miners; the organization of evening classes for young workers; and support for those in the parish, regardless of their faith or financial means. He provided for burials, for help for those who needed medical care, and for the widowed, disabled and elderly. The Hochberg family was strongly committed to helping the poorest; at the end of the nineteenth century, the family members' charity amounted to 60,000 marks per year.
Hans Heinrich XI's reforms became the basis of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck's later social reforms.

8 December 1891
In London Hans Heinrich XV, Hans Heinrich XI's son, married Mary Theresa Cornwallis-West, known today as Princess Daisy. Queen Victoria herself conferred her personal blessings upon the newly married couple.
Princess Daisy, a woman well ahead of her time, was to become one of the best-known figures in the history of Książ Castle. To this day, her story fascinates visitors. She wrote her thoughts in her memoirs, Better Left Unsaid (published in Polish as Lepiej przemilczeć by the Książ Castle Management Group, in Walbrzych, and available in its internet shop. Her memoirs contain an unusual description of the relations that prevailed in the Hochberg family, as well as a great deal of information about the character of the epoch that the princess lived through.

1907- 1938
The period when Hans Heinrich XV ruled the castle. The son of Hans Heinrich XI, he brought about what is known as the second great castle reconstruction. In the years 1908 to 1923, there arose the neo-Renaissance west and north wings. The tower was to reach a height of 47 metres, covered by a domed helmet with a lantern. The castle terraces took their present shape. In 1908, Hochberg also began the construction of the Walbrzych Palm House, a present for his wife, Princess Daisy.

The Nazi regime confiscated the castle. During the Second World War, the collection of Berlin’s Royal Prussian Library was kept in Książ. It should be pointed out that Daisy and Hans Heinrich XV's sons fought against Hitler: Hans Heinrich XVII in the British forces, and Alexander in the Polish army.

1943 – 1945
"Todt", a Nazi paramilitary organization, occupied Książ Castle. Intensive works were carried out including, apparently, what was meant to be one of Hitler's main quarters. The changes brought about by Hitler's soldiers are called the third castle reconstruction, though owing to their barbaric character, this reconstruction is not designated as "great".
During this time, underground tunnels were also dug below the castle and the Honorary Courtyard. Historians have various opinions as to what purpose was intended for the land under the castle, as well as for the tunnels which were built in the nearby Sowa Mountains at the same time.

1945 – 1946
The Russian army was stationed here and lay further waste. The library, part of Książ’s entailment, was plundered. It is probable that the better part of the collection, which had numbered over 64,000 volumes, was transported to what was then the Soviet Union.
In April 2015, one of these volumes, the "XVIIIth-century Saxon Chronicles" by Johann Christian Crell(ius), returned to Książ. The management group dares to hope that it will succeed in recovering part of the remaining lost library volumes, as well as other articles associated with the castle in general. It is worth adding that the management group has also found in its collection a stamp made by Alvin Kaiser, in Wrocław at the beginning of the XXth century, in which the following words appear: PRIVAT SEKRETARIAT DES FURSTEN VON PLESS”(translated from German: "private secretary of the Prince of Pless"). According to the donors, Mr. and Mrs. Zbigniew and Gabriela Pecherzewski, the stamp belonged to Hans Heinrich XV, the last lord of the castle and the husband of the legendary Princess Daisy. In May 2015, the famousporcelain of Carl Tielsch, dating from 1873, was also returned to the castle. It probably was in the castle at the beginning of the XXth century. This authentically Silesian (even Walbrzych) porcelain was taken away in the war's confused aftermath, and was returned by anonymous donors. The castle has had to wait over 70 years for its collections to be restored, gradually, to it.

1946 -1967
The castle fell into further ruin, plundered by local people. As it was considered a legacy of the Germans, it attracted looters. Only from  1956 - 1962 was protection provided for Książ, gradually, by the Provincial Conservator of Monuments in Wrocław. Damaged and missing parts of exterior doors and windows were repaired and replaced, so that break-ins were no longer possible. During this period there was found, under the Honorary Courtyard, a huge lift shaft dug by the Nazis; it was filled in in 1967.

A team lead by Professor Zofia Wnuk, of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk, began extensive renovation works in the Baroque rooms. The beautiful wall tapestries in the Baroque salons were designed; today these rooms are the most distinctive areas of Ksiaz Castle.

The Walbrzych district government (gmina) became the owner of the castle. The building was in the hands of the Walbrzych Książ Castle Management Group (Zamek Książ w Walbrzychu Sp. z.o.o.). Among the most important transformations that have taken place to 2015 are:
changes to the east face of the castle (reconstructing the North Terrace, and making it accessible to visitors); the modernization of the third floor, creating the Conference-Cultural Centre there; the merging, once again, of the management of Walbrzych's Palm House with that of the castle, forming one complex of facilities, two stages of the Hochberg mausoleum's renovation (the sepulchral chapel); installation of new castle lighting; the many-staged renovation of the roof (changed from a copper sheet to ceramic tile), and the reconstruction of the area in front of the castle (the terrace lookout and Ida's Gardens).

The opening of the exhibition titled "The Metamorphoses of Książ Castle", organized with the National Museum in Wroclaw. The former Hochberg works have returned to the castle after 70 years. The opening of the exhibition to visitors, on 11 July 2015, has been recognized as the most important event in Ksiaz Castle's post-war history: ten works of art, from the collection of Hans Heinrich XV von Hochberg and his wife Princess Daisy, have returned to the castle after several decades. Up to 38 works may be found, each associated either with the history of the building or the pursuits of the former owners. All the works are from the collections of the National Museum in Wrocław, and have been selected to decorate the castle rooms.

Images of the castle

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Latitude: 50.8422547
Longitude: 16.2918571
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Map of Książ Castle