"In 1618, the Czech estates took courage"
Site of the second defenestration at Prague Castle
Creative Commons AttributionSite of the second defenestration at Prague Castle - Credit: DigitalExtropy

The 1618 incident described by the narrator is known as “The Defenestration of Prague.” Defenestration is the act of throwing someone out of a window, which is what happened on May 23, 1618 when an assembly of Protestant Czechs tried two Imperial governors (who were also Catholic priests) of violating the Right of Freedom of Religion, found them guilty, and tossed them (along with their scribe, Phillip Fabricius) out the windows of the Bohemian Chancellory in Prague Castle.

The defenestrated officials survived the fall of roughly 50 feet because they landed on a pile of manure in a dry moat. (They and their supporters credited divine intervention.) The Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria, must have had something of a sense of humor because he later made Fabricius a nobleman with the title von Hohenfall (which means “of Highfall”). The black pillar to the right of the tower in this photo is a modern memorial of the event.

In any case, this incident sparked the Bohemian Revolt, which spread to other provinces, and then to most of the continent of Europe, including France and Sweden. The Thirty Years War would destroy and denude large regions of land, provoke famines and disease, and affect colonial growth across the globe. Fully half of the German male population was killed by battle and disease.

Note: This was actually the second (more famous) of two Defenestrations of Prague. The first occurred in 1419 at the town hall, actually killed seven members of the city council, and led to the Hussite Wars (1420-1434) among and against the followers of Jan Hus (see Bookmark, page 97).