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Amazing Restitution after Complete Loss: Regaining Six Centuries of Lobkowicz Family Collections

"Attracting the attention of invading armies ... objects in precious metals were the first to disappear from a household ..." -The Lobkowicz Collections, on the value of their family's vast decorative arts collections

 

The Prague Castle, the Lobkowicz Palace at the right-hand end in creamy white

As I look to wrap up my thoughts for 2011, after traveling more than 12 countries and dipping my toes in the Seven Seas in 2011, I must reflect on one event that has changed my thinking and altered my view of the world more than any other. And this event happened just last week, on December 15, in the Prague Castle grounds ... at the Palace of friends we have the immense privilege to get to know a bit.

What do you think of when you hear the word CONFISCATION? Do you recall the bottle shampoo the security agent at the most recent airport you traveled took away because it was too large? Or the contraband you saw taken away at a school event, or other official venue, because it simply wasn't allowed? I can think of a million things that might be confiscated at different places on different occasions ...

But no confiscation ever could be as significant as the one I heard William Lobkowicz speak about last week, in relation to his family, and what the Nazis, and later the Communists so hastily took away.

The Lobkowicz family name gained recognition in Bohemian lands (Czechoslovakia, now Czech Republic) of Central Europe with the first Lobkowicz prince in the late 1500s. With ties to the famed Golden Fleece, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, and having a Spanish royal wife, the first Lobkowicz prince began the tradition of historical collections within his family name. With collections of famed paintings (Brueghel, Canaletto, Bellotto, Rubens, Veronese), ceramics collected over 5 centuries, and copious arms and armor, the finest private library in Central Europe dating back to 1462, and a music archives of over 4,000 manuscripts and scores including Mozart's work on Handel's Messiah and Beethoven's 3rd, 5th, and 6th Symphonies.

But, as the Nazis entered and dominated the region in the late 1930s and early 40s, the Lobkowicz Collections became a target. Ousted from the region, the Lobkowicz family was forced to leave all of their collections, castles and palaces, and name behind -- it was all taken by the Nazis. After the end of the 2nd World War, the Lobkowiczs were briefly restored to their land and name, only to have it all stripped away again by the Communist takeover. This is the truest meaning of confiscation, I think. I cannot imagine anything more horrific to history, or to a family of historical, societal, and political importance.

In 1989, the Velvet Revolution liberated the Czechoslovakian region from Communism, and as the Iron Curtain fell, in 1991, Czech President Vaclav Havel (who passed away just this week) passed laws to allow the return of confiscated property from the Communist and Nazi domination. When the Lobkowicz family heard, exiled in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, they returned to Prague to begin the process of restoring their family's heritage.

And so begins the incredible story I heard last week, of William and Alexandra's journey through restitution, through regaining and reclaiming their family properties, and in igniting a family vision toward the future.

I was most struck with the generosity that shines from all they do and say, in their purpose to designate their family Castles and Palaces and Collections to public touring, learning, and use. Please, go to their website and see for yourself, their generosity: www.lobkowicz.cz .

One comment of William's I would like to carry with me through 2012 and the years to come is this: That when all things are stripped away, we know that things are not what is significant. The most important values for life are in these 3:

1) Family and Friends

2) Faith and Beliefs

3) Education

These, William says his father always told him, are the things in life which have meaning, and which cannot be stripped away.

When you come and visit Prague, and are looking for the most impactful place to see ... the Lobkowicz Palace and their Nelahozeves Castle are must-see and must-visit places. For within their family and palace walls contains many truths about humanity, our pasts, and our brilliant futures. Especially with the generosity of spirit with which they envision it.

For you: Have you visitied the Lobkowicz Palace within the Prague Castle, high above the age-old spires and the Vltava River?