Architecturally stunning and fascinatingly furnished, Karlova Koruna Chateau (in English “Charles’ Crown Chateau”) is only a little more than one hour from Prague by direct train. Visitors have a chance to see the unique Baroque Gothic style of Jan Santini-Aichel, a Czech architect of Italian origin who designed and reconstructed many buildings throughout the Czech lands during the 18th century. Tourists will learn about the Kinský family history, especially about their significant roles in the development of horsebreeding and horseracing. Even those who are not avid fans of horses are sure to be enthralled.
The architectural plan of the chateau is unique, to say the least. Santini elevated Gothic architecture to a new level using Baroque forms. He often employed mathematical symbolism and geometric shapes. This time Santini displayed his brilliance by connecting three one-floor wings to two cylindrical-shaped stories in the middle. The chateau features a central composition. Check out the three-layered gables above a cornice.
The chateau was built for František Ferdinand Kinský from 1721 to 1723. It was named after Emperor Charles VI who stopped by after his coronation in Prague during 1723. Count Václav Norbert Oktavián Kinský wanted to make the chateau his home and called upon Santini and builder František Maxmilian Kaňka to design the dazzling structure. Kanka was a master builder and architect. He had designed Konopiště Chateau, famous as a former residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand d’Este of Austria, stunning Loučeň Chateau near Nymburk and numerous places in Prague.
As you tour Karlova Koruna, the guide will familiarize you with the exciting history and impressive accomplishments of the Kinskýs, who were responsible for establishing the first steeplechase, a big to-do in Chlumec during 1846. Even the well-known steeplechase in Pardubice originated in the Chlumec competitions. Many members of the Kinský nobility nabbed first place trophies at the Pardubice races. Otkavián Kinský’s niece, Lata Brandisová, made a name for herself by becoming the first woman to win this race, doing so in 1937.
Yet the Kinský dynasty’s accomplishments with horses do not end there. Not at all. They also made great advances in the development of horsebreeding. A so-called “Kinský horse,” a breed created by horse guru Otkavián Kinský, would be lauded as the premier horse for sport in Europe. This breed was especially talented at the steeplechase and fox hunting. Oktavián also created his own studbook, a kind still in use today.
The Kinskýs were enemies of the Nazis and the Communists. Many members of the family emigrated, making bold escapes from their totalitarian homeland. During World War II Zdeňko Radslav Kinský took a bold stance against the Nazis, and the Reich punished him by taking over his properties. The Nazis set up administration offices at Karlova Koruna.
Zdeňko’s son Radslav was the only member of the family to remain in Czechoslovakia during totalitarian rule. Thanks to his efforts, the Kinský horse continued to thrive during the Communist era until the middle of the 20th century. In 1958 Radslav emigrated to France. The Kinský family received Karlova Koruna back during restitution after the 1989 Velvet Revolution that toppled Communism. Now the company Kinský dal Borgo is responsible for Karlova Koruna, Kost Castle and other Kinský-owned properties.
The tour itself will leave visitors in awe. In the central area take a look at the 12 impressive armchairs and spectacular paintings displaying Slovak motifs. Other rooms feature a bureau made with intarsia from seven kinds of wood. Green roses adorn the backs of elegant chairs. A desk featuring intarsia hails from the 18th or 19th century. Exquisite Venetian mirrors are not absent, either.
Most of the furnishings reflect the family’s interest in horseracing and horsebreeding. Numerous pictures of horses adorn walls. You will see horses from the Spanish Riding School, dun horses once bred at the Kinský’s stud farm, isabelas (later referred to as the Kinský breed) and horses in action at steeplechase races.
Horses accompanied by dogs during hunts also decorate the chateau. The Kinský clan greatly influenced the method of hunting employed in the Czech lands. At first they favored the French style of hunting “par force” during which the animal was killed. Later they played an integral role in developing the English style of hunting in their homeland. The English method emphasized natural barriers that the participants and their horses had to overcome, and the animal’s life was spared.
The Kinský family is well-represented in portraiture, too. Take a close look at the portrait of Tereza Kinská. The stunningly beautiful woman died young and childless. Another small portrait renders two Kinský women with natural looks, without their wigs or hairstyles.
Perhaps the highlight of the chateau is its lavish Marble Hall. The two elegant fireplaces were made of real marble while much of the marble adorning the room is artificial. The chandelier, a sight to behold, is over two meters high. Geometric shapes make up the floor pattern. The gallery above the hall displays pictures of the Kinský family playing tennis, skiing and rowing boats, for example.
Karlova Koruna Chateau is perfect for those wanting to set their eyes on an architectural wonder and learn about the Kinský family’s numerous accomplishments in the fields of horseracing and horsebreeding. The Marble Hall exudes elegance and grandeur. Furnishings that are not horse-related prove delights as well. For an unforgettable, unique experience, catch the direct train from Prague to Chlumec nad Cidlinou and learn about Czech history from the perspective of the Kinskýs, dominant players in the Czech lands since the 13th century.