Książ Castle in Wałbrzych is a special place. The third biggest castle in Poland and one of the biggest in Europe is a perfect example of the rich heritage of Wałbrzych area –part of Lower Silesia, a region of Poland with a complicated history, numerous artefacts and intellectual attainment, full of splendid views and mysteries.
Today’s Castle is very di erent from what it was years ago. In the Middle Ages, it was a typical fortress, which played an important role in the protection system of the Piast principalities. Original alkazar was erected by the end of 13th century by a Piast Prince Bolko I the Strict, and eventually became Prince’s residency. The castle, which is often referred to as ‘The key to Silesia’, played a strategic role, as it protected the trade routes from Silesia to Bohemia.
Since the 14th century, the history of Książ has been very turbulent and dramatic – the grounds on which it was situated, were changed by kings and baili s; it was a war victim, robbed and burnt,as well as a target for fortune-hunters. The new chart in the history of Książ opened in 1509 when the castle and its goods were purchased by Conrad I von Hochberg.
Once the Hochbergs became proprietors of the Castle in 1605, they kept it in possession for the next three centuries, becoming one of the most in uential and richest family lines in Prussia. Nineteenth century brought them the Duke title. Thanks to the marriage of John Henry II with Anna Anhalt-Pless, the family came into possession of extensive goods of the Pless Principality in Upper Silesia. From then on, proprietors of the Książ Castle were addressed to as Princes Hochberg of Pless.
With the e orts of new owners, Książ changed from a fortress into a palace residency, which later became admired seat of the highest aristocracy.
In its pre-war history Książ has undergone two major conversions. The so-called baroque one, took place in the beginning of the 18th century. During that time a monumental east facade with the main entry was created, together with the Maximilian Hall and the run of baroque salons, as well as the gate building, in which a library was held. In 1797 on the hill on the opposite side of the valley a romantic ruin was built, the so called Old Książ – which was at the time considered a showplace. Second conversion of the Castle is dated 1909–1923. The Castle’s north and west wings were extended. Two towers were added to the west wing. Adverse political circumstances and personal problems of the Hochberg family did not allow nishing the conversion, and contributed to a nancial crash of the family. The Hochbergs had to leave Książ; their goods were supervised by a litigation trust, and in 1941 were con scated by the Reich. During WWII, as the Castle was adapted for a war quarter of a paramilitary Todt Organisation, a part of it was drastically destroyed. The furnishing was removed. The prisoners of the Gross-Rosen concentration camp dug enormous tunnels under the building as part of the Riese (Giant) complex built in the Owl Mountains. Its purpose remains a mystery. It is believed that there was a plan to open a weapon factory here, and Książ was being prepared as one of Führer’s quarters. Basements were partially camou aged by the Nazis in the last months of the war. Once the turmoil was over, the Castle continued to dilapidate. Książ was secured as late as in the 1950’s and rst renovation works began in 1970’s. Currently the castle belongs to the community of Wałbrzych.
One of the most vivid individuals in the history of the castle was the last Lady of the Książ Castle – Princess Daisy – a famous English beauty who married John Henry XV at the age of 18. She was a great lover of beautiful jewellery, owers, at the same time involved in charity. She is often associated with the world longest pearl necklace – which was almost 7 meters long. The legend says that the pearls were cursed and a spell was casted on Daisy. Even though she was beautiful, wealthy and in uential, she was not truly happy. After the divorce and later con scation of the Książ goods by the Nazis, ailing Daisy stayed in the castle for a short while and then was moved to a castle villa in Wałbrzych where she died on June 29, 1943. Daisy may have asked to be buried in the pearls, but one thing is for certain – even today no one knows where her grave is.
Katarzyna Matuła i Magdalena Woch