“Go, I’m here at home,” František Kinský lets the editors into the castle and heads to the hall for wedding ceremonies. He sits in the first row of white-covered chairs divided by an aisle for the bride and groom. “When I started, I used to have 50 weddings here in a year, this year about half are planned. People marry less,” he sighs, looking at the gold-framed portraits on the walls. It is his relatives who lived here, in the castle in Kostelec nad Orlicí in East Bohemia, from its foundation after the Napoleonic Wars until the beginning of the 1950s, when it was confiscated by the communist authorities. František’s portrait may soon be added to the wall.
For many centuries, the Kin family belonged to the most important aristocratic families in the Czech Republic. They went down in history as patrons of the sciences and the arts, but also of important national institutions. Without their support, the creation of the modern Czech nation and Czech society would have been significantly more difficult.
They derive their origin from Martin from Medvědíč, who lived at the beginning of the 13th century. In 1307, they adopted the name after the Vchynice fortress in Litoměřick. The current name Kinský arose from the original Wchynský.
Originally a knightly family, it was elevated to lordly status at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries. In the first half of the 17th century, to the status of imperial counts, and in the 18th century, one of the branches even to the hereditary status of a prince. At that time, the Kin family belonged to the leading Central European aristocracy. In Imperial Austria, they were members of the upper house of parliament.
In the communist era after 1948, the family lost its property, some members emigrated, others remained in Czechoslovakia and faced persecution. After 1989, part of the ancestral property was returned to the Kinský state in restitution.
The current owner and manager of the chateau celebrated success this year with the third series of a documentary series about Czech noble families. It was broadcast by Czech Television under the name Blue Blood. František Kinský accompanied the viewers through the entire series, similar to the editors of Aktuálně.cz around the family residence. The Kinskis got that back in restitution in the early 1990s.
In the corner, on a piano covered with a red tablecloth, there is a photo of the family. But Kinský pays attention to the paintings on the walls and ponders whether his likeness should also hang there. “I’m not sure I want to. I still feel too alive for that,” he laughs.
Unlike his ancestors, he would not have to pose rigidly for hours. Photographer and portraitist Jadran Šetlík would like to immortalize it. Kinski likes his modern technique of combining photography with brush painting. After all, the portrait of grandfather František Josef is also painted differently than his predecessors. It is clear that the author used broader brushes. “Grandma didn’t like the painting and father even considered giving it to his brother. I prevented him from doing so. It’s a beautiful portrait, only the technique is more modern,” he reveals his relationship to art.
Video: František Kinský describes the family residence in Kostelec nad Orlicí
It is lively in the castle and in the surroundings
Blue blood series
The first series of the documentary series Modrá krev, mapping the Czech aristocratic families, was already broadcast by Czech Television in 2017. In the end, three series were created. The first concluded the section on the Kinski family, the second on the Liechtensteins and the third on the Habsburgs. František Kinský guided the audience through the series. It was his participation and the promise that the authors would not go into sensitive family matters that contributed to the fact that the noble families agreed to the filming. The third season achieved record viewing figures this year. The first episode about the Salmo family was watched by 616,000 viewers over the age of 15.
At that moment, it reminds me of Zita Kabátová, who, in the role of the old count’s aunt in the film Zapomenté světlo, draws František’s brother Antonín’s attention to portraits of ancestors. The younger sibling of today’s owner played himself in the film. In the mentioned scene, the family arrives at the castle, which was confiscated by the communist government after the February coup in 1948. The film thus copies the real fate of the Kinskýs in Kostelec. After nationalization, the Pig Breeding Research Institute was located here, the family had to move out. In the 1980s, the building was managed by the preservation department.
It is precisely such fates that the Blue Blood series reminds us of. Noble titles were abolished by the authorities of the newly established Czechoslovakia after 1918, many people call the program guide František Kinski a count. Although today the seventy-five-year-old man has never experienced the time when the nobility formed a privileged group of Czech society.
A visit to the Kostelek castle reminds of old times. The current owner succeeds his father Josef, who started repairing the castle after restitution. His son continues to improve the building, opens it to the public, holds engagements in it, organizes concerts and exhibitions. Once in a while he guides the visitors himself.
“We try to make the exhibition feel as if it is lived in. To make the castle and the surrounding area lively. So that even a historical object lives with the present and culture. I wish that every visitor feels good here and finds what they enjoy,” sums up Kinský’s approach to family heritage.
Other rooms with furniture would not entertain people
The Life in Biedermeier tour is on the ground floor. Adjacent to the ceremonial hall is a library with six thousand historical volumes. Kinský’s most popular weeklies are The Illustrated London News from 1842 to 1936. English has not changed as much as Czech since then, so he reads British magazines better than old Czech books.
Ancestral residences of the Kinskys
The map shows the places where individual branches of the family lived in history. The estate was larger and at different times extended to other parts of the country.
The first floor is entirely dedicated to contemporary art, the Kinský Gallery exhibition spaces. The works of the Union of Fine Artists of Hradec Králové are currently on display here. At the end of May, they will be replaced by a large-scale installation of the lifelong work of the photographer Šetlík. “Instead of a gallery, we could have added more rooms with furniture, but that would have been terribly boring,” says the owner.
Apart from the round table and the Biedermeier chandeliers, there are only pictures on the walls. Originally František’s father Josef planned to furnish apartments there for the family and for guests. In the end, he changed his mind and adapted the farm building opposite, where František and his wife Martina and their son Kristian and his family now live. The Kinšts completed the reconstruction in 2012 and opened the castle to visitors. However, František’s father did not live to see it, he died a year before.
The current owner has no further big plans for the building. At least he rearranges the furniture from time to time. For the last time he was flipping through the paintings. He says he’s one of those people who needs a change once a year. He differs from his father in his approach to the building. As a child, Josef Kinský played in the nearby park, rode a pony there, had snacks under the chestnut trees with his parents, and even in his old age perceived it as a private garden.
“Dad was angry when people threw trash in the park. Butts trampled into the paths irritated him. He wanted no one to go into it. I convinced him that times have changed,” František describes. “Even if the park is ours again, we have to give people a chance to come,” he adds.
Father Josef, whom the current owner remembers, went down in history as a patriot at the beginning of the Second World War. After the occupation of the Czech lands by Nazi Germany and the creation of a protectorate, he was one of the signatories of the National Declaration of the Czech Nobility, by which the aristocrats, despite pressure from the Nazis, explicitly declared their belonging to the Czech nation.
Three silver wolf teeth in a red shield have stood for centuries in the coat of arms of the Kinsky family. A similar position was held by the Tetaurs from Tetovo. Radslav Kinský used the same sign at the end of the 16th century. A rich and capable householder became the guardian of the orphaned children of the Tetaur family, had the relevant documents forged and thus secured a higher status for his family. It was not an exceptional move at the time. In addition, both families accepted kinship even in later times.
The family has resolved privacy at the castle. She set aside the part behind the residential building as her garden. In addition, Kristian Kinský runs a cafe in the park called Toniova after František’s late brother Antonín, mentioned above in connection with the film Forgotten Light. During the communist regime, Antonín made a living as a bookseller, gardener and receptionist, in the 1990s he ran a cafe and a restaurant. The family now has a permanently reserved table at the establishment bearing his name.
Supervision of the brickyard in a reflective jacket
The family finances the operation of the château from business, owns forests, a sand pit, and has a one-third share in the nearby brick factory of Wienerberger Czech Republic. Without it, the Kinští could not afford the reconstruction and maintenance of the complex. At the brickyard with 41 employees, František will endure. He makes it a point to visit her every two weeks.
Father Josef invested in it in 1992, this year the brickyard will celebrate 50 years since its foundation. During that time, several generations of employees, often entire families, took turns in the operation. At František Kinski, current employees appreciate that the company is not indifferent to him. “He’s interested in it, he has a personal relationship with the brickyard, he cares about the company’s prosperity,” says director Robert Cerhák, as does operations manager Dušan Jiráček.
Kinský puts on a white helmet, an orange reflective jacket and trades his elegant shoes for work shoes. He understands technical things in the brickyard. It describes the production from clay to firing to preparing the bricks for transport. A large investment worth 140 million crowns is planned here for the anniversary. A new grinder for the production of modern ground bricks will be put into operation.
The company is continuing the robotization that František’s father, Josef, had already started. The family took a loan to operate the brick factory. “I would very much like the loan to be paid off while I am a co-owner. So that I don’t pass the debt on to my son,” says František.
I’d rather be a mayor than a British king
Currently, Maria František Emanuel Jan Silvestre Alfons Count Kinský of Vchynice and Tetovo, as his full name sounds, is also a church representative. He was mayor here for eight years until last October. The citizens’ initiative with the support of the ODS, for which he ran, finished fourth in the municipal elections last year. In the previous elections, she won and Kinský received the largest number of votes.
Staircase in the castle in Kostelec nad Orlicí
“If you want to change something, you don’t change it by sitting at home in a chair and saying what’s wrong. You have to go out and try it. You think you can change everything with the wave of a magic wand. But when you try it, you’ll find out that it’s not that simple,” he says.
Now he is happy that he has a little more peace as a representative. Nevertheless, according to the diary, full of cultural and social obligations and activities around the third season of the series Blue Blood, it does not look like that. He gives interviews with pleasure. He is grateful that people are interested in the history of noble families. Although not as much as, for example, in England, where the royal family occupies leading positions in the media on a daily basis. “They think they are kings. I wouldn’t want to be king, someone would always be watching me. This is how I have peace from time to time,” declares Kinský.
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