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Good King Wenceslas: The Real Story

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Good King Wenceslas: The Real Story

When you think of Good King Wenceslas, you probably think of the song we sing at Christmas.

Here are some amazing things about the real Saint Wenceslas:

  • Wenceslas’ grandfather, Borivoj I of Bohemia, was converted by Saints Cyril and Methodius, who began the Christianization of Bohemia during Borivoj's reign.
  • His grandmother Ludmila of Bohemia is also a Czech saint and martyr. She was canonized shortly after her death. Her feast is September 16.
  • Wenceslas' father died when Wenceslas was a child. It was his own mother who had his grandmother martyred. When Wenceslas was 18 he assumed leadership of the government and brought in German priests to help strengthen the faith in his duchy
  • Wenceslas himself was martyred by his younger brother known as Boleslav the Cruel at a feast in honor of Sts. Cosmas and Damien.
  • Wenceslas was considered a martyr and a saint immediately after his death. The biographies that were written in the first fifty years after his death had a powerful influence on the Middle Ages conceptualization of the "righteous king" whose power stems mainly from his great piety.
  • In the year 1119 Cosmas of Prague wrote: "But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched."

7535-XRead Treachery and Truth: the new exciting historical novel on Saint Wenceslas filled with the tension between betrayal and belief, godlessness and goodness, selfishness and service.

 

"I wanted to bring Saint Wenceslas alive for twenty-first century readers and so I wrote Treachery and Truth."

by Katy Jones, author of Treachery and Truth

In 1990 my dear writer friend and bibliophile gave me a copy of Pauline Baynes' Good King Wenceslas. This simple picture book fired up my imagination, and I wanted to know MORE about this brave, godly young man, since there was obviously an inspirational life that encompassed more than just the scene portrayed in the Christmas carol.

I did a lot of old-fashioned research, reading everything I could find about Wenceslas. I found a copy of a rare book through interlibrary loan—Francis Dvornik’s "Life of Saint Wenceslas" published in 1929, the thousand year anniversary of his martyrdom (which some now think may have happened in 935). I discovered this early 10th century ruler had been a duke, not a king, and his Czech name was Vaclav. Since Vaclav had a servant named Poidevin, I chose him as the narrator and made him a pagan boy whom Vaclav converts to the faith.

Because Vaclav lived so long ago, many aspects of his life had evolved into legend. All accounts agreed on his piety, kindness, generosity, and fervor for the cause of Christ, so I used inference and imagination to fill in the gaps. My goal was to bring Svaty Vaclav (Saint Wenceslas) to life for twenty-first century readers with the hope that he would inspire them as much as he inspires me. 

After all, we live in dark and dangerous times just as Vaclav did,
but he never hesitated to shine the light of truth in a world
that has always desperately needed it.

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