Saturday 4 October 2014

Baron Franz von der Trenck: The Glass-Coffined Prisoner

Baron Franz von der Trenck (Reggio di Calabria, Italy, 1st January 1711 - Brno, Czech Republic, 4th October 1749)

Baron Franz von der Trenck, 1742
Baron Franz von der Trenck, 1742

This is not the first time we have met a chap who goes by the name of von der Trenck but this is not a return trip to the adventurous world of Friedrich von der Trenck, but an audience with his cousin, Baron Franz. The Baron was a professional soldier with a reputation for a hard line and a bad temper and, unsurprisingly, he made many enemies in his near forty year life.

Trenck's undoing came during the War of Austrian Succession when he was charged with providing military support to Maria Theresa of Austria. However, his band of irregulars lost sight of the main aim somewhat and went on a bit of a spree, looting and plundering as they wished. As a result, once peace broke out in 1745, the Baron was called to account for the actions of the men under his command. 

He was charged with permitting and ordering atrocities against civilians, insubordination and fraud. Trenck did not only have powerful enemies to contend with, he was loathed across Austria and Silesia, and the court martial handed down the sentence of death. An outraged Trenck argued that he had not been given a fair trial and the Empress took mercy on her one-time protector and had the sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

Accordingly, the prisoner was taken to Špilberk Castle and locked away. Unsurprisingly for a man who always seemed to land right side up, his time behind bars was not particularly unpleasant and the Baron was able to enjoy a relatively good standard of living. In fact, Trenck had not been in prison for long when he fell ill, slipping into a long and slow decline.

Baron Franz von der Trenck died in his prison at Špilberk Castle In his will he left a fortune behind and asked that it be used to rebuild one of the towns his men had sacked; in accordance with his wishes, he was laid to rest in the Capuchin Monastery Crypt at Brno. Here he has remained ever since, his remains displayed in a glass coffin that visitors are welcome to view!


Sophie Schiller said...

Did ole Franzie think he was going to get better-looking with age?

Catherine Curzon said...

He just wanted to keep on wooing those ladies!