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Vlcnov, Czech Republic - May 26, 2014

14-07-28 11:50

To the king, m’lady, to the king!

At the end of May, Vlčnov and several other villages came alive with an archaic ritual of horseback processions – the ride of kings. This custom dates back to the Middle Ages, it is described by many tales and legends but none will ever be able to explain its origin. In the time of Pentecost, 18 years old men select a young boy to be their king. On a designated day they decorate their horses with paper flowers, dress in festive costumes and ride the village while chanting short rhymes which address inhabitants of the village and other onlookers: Outside this house, there are beehives, and the girls there have such beautiful eyes! Or In front of this house there is a tree stub, I see this man likes going to the pub! All the way they ask for small donations: To the king, m’lady, to the king!

The success of the ride of the kings depends a lot on the weather. This year, the riders and organizers were very lucky, the sun was shining all the time. The great celebration of youth and coming summer lured thousands of visitors. During a three-day festival which took place from 23 to 25 of May, they could not only spot the ancient rite of passage, but also enjoy folk music and dance, visit local protected heritage sites and get acquainted with the way of life of people in the past or enjoy a traditional craft market.

The young riders and their horses were in the centre of attention. On Saturday night, all of them were introduced to the public during an official and ceremonial evening event. On Sunday morning, preparations began early. From 6 a.m. riders’ families decorated horses (it takes about 2 hours to decorate a single horse), the youth went to church to pray for success of their big day and then they were invited to the town hall by the mayor. He spoke to them to stress the responsibility they carry while experiencing the hundreds-year-old ritual and the need to pass it on to future generations. After this emotional moment, the royal entourage set out to the streets of Vlčnov, going from house to house, chanting rhymes and guarding their king seated on a white horse in female ceremonial dress and with a rose in his mouth so as not to speak a word. In the evening, the whole event was closed by the last public appearance of the king and his riders. After that, all visitors of Vlčnov as well as riders and organizers were leaving uplifted and looking forward to the next year.

Workshop on making paper flowers

Decorating a horse

Rider entering a house with a chant

The king and his guards

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