Karel Chotek

There are hardly any personalities of the 19th century who have contributed to the development of Prague as greatly as Karl Count Chotek. He fulfilled his decision “to transform the provincial Prague into metropolis” to the highest extent. Yet he is almost forgotten and only street leading from Prague to Hradcany, that bears his name, is known.

Under the sign of technological progress

Karel Chotek was born in 1783 as a member of the old Czech noble House of Chotek of Chotkow and between the years 1826-43 served as the senior burgrave of Bohemia.  He supported the construction of modern roads, railway and steam navigation. He had the Prague’s streets and squares paved, he set up public convenience and introduced metal signs with street names. In 1838 he issued regulations on clean streets and initiated the beginning of construction of public sewerage. Karel Chotek contributed to the comfortable access to the Prague Basin from the North and the South. Between the years 1831-32, the first winding road, today’s Chotek, was newly built, connecting Klárov with the Bruská Gate. It replaced a steep path, the so-called mouse hole, which dates back to the times of Albrecht of Valdštejn. Ten years later, the southern access to the city was improved by the construction of a new Táborská road across the Vyšehrad fortress. In the autumn of 1841 the new empire gate was opened, the so-called Brick Gate, which replaced the earlier narrow gate, located in an inconvenient position from the transport point of view. Karel Chotek was also one of the main initiators of construction of the first Prague waterfront, today’s Smetana, and of the second Prague Bridge, chain bridge of Emperor Francis I, which was completed in 1841. At the same time he was dealing with the embellishment of public spaces by planting the avenue and through the establishment of generally beneficial greenery.

One of the most faithfull Czechs

At the impulse of Chotek, the area of Baroque bastions of the New Town fortifications between the River Gate and Rye Gate were adjusted in the years 1829-30. The year 1833 was followed by making accessible the first public city park on the Marian Ramparts under the Queen Anne’s Summer Palace. Initially, it was named the People’s Garden (Volksgarten), but already in 1841 it was renamed in honour of its founder. Karel Chotek also initiated the construction of the social, health and family charity buildings. He supported a series of Czech national activities, for which František Palacký considered him as one of the faithful Czechs from the line of the aristocracy. At the same time he was dedicated to the royal House of Habsburg, and he was in charge of preparing a spectacular coronation of Ferdinand V to become the Czech King. The coronation took place in the St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle on September 7, 1836.

Wheel that spins too fast

However, not everyone accepted Chotek’s activities with appreciation. An influential conservative-minded Klemens von Metternich, for example, declared that “it is a wheel that spins too fast” and defended his efforts to reach the postilion of the Royal Chancellor. In 1843, disappointed Chotek is leaving public life and begins to engage in rural management. In the years 1842-45 he builds late empire castle with adjacent English park in VelkéBřezno in Northern Bohemia. His granddaughter Sophie Chotek, Duchess of Hohenberg, the future successor to the throne of Austria, wife of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand d’Este, spent her youth here. Karel Chotek died on December 28, 1868 in Vienna and he was buried in the family tomb in Valtířov near VelkéBřezno. His appearance was preserved on the oldest Czech portrait photography, daguerreotype from the year 1839, where he is depicted with his entire.

(published 11. 1. 2017 on Blesk.cz)