George of Podebrady
The figure of a king who was democratically voted for, of course by the nobles, was widely praised during the period of totalitarian Soviet-dictated regime in Eastern Europe. George of Podebrady was, more than anything else, a clever and experienced politician whose liberal opinions were unique at the time.
As a young boy, he received clerical education, but soon warmed to Utraquism, the formal Hussite religion. He helped the restrained Hussites end the years of war and then became key figure of the kingdom’s administration. This rise to power turned a shy boy into a self-confident man. Then king, Ladislav of the Jagellon dynasty, was too young to rule and so George who was his trustee took care of the country. Ladislav died in 1457 and George was to become king. Still, there were rumors that he was to blame for the young king’s death because he wanted the crown. Modern researches have proven George’s innocence and that Ladislav died of leukemia.
George was very outspoken and his personality shocked foreign kings and nobles. He believed in absolute religious freedom which provoked the Pope who even had a crusade against the Utraquist king. To make things worse, nobles started plotting against him and joined forces with Mathias Corvinius of Hungary. During minor conflicts with the Hungarian army, in 1471, George died leaving the throne to Mathias.
And what was George’s legacy? In 1463 he tried to negotiate a union between all European Christian rulers. The idea was that all conflicts between European countries should be solved diplomatically. It never happened, because George’s reputation was tarnished by his religion, but historians see a definite similarity between this attempt and the European Union that we know today.