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The Ride of the Kings

Photographs by Vova Pomortzeff

Perhaps the most picturesque folklore festival in the Czech Republic takes place every year in the small Moravian village of Vlčnov. One day in May a group of young men ride through the village in a ceremonial procession. The ride is headed by recruits, followed by two pageboys with unsheathed sabres who guard the King, elected by the villagers every year. The King and the pageboys are dressed in women's ceremonial costumes, while the other riders are dressed as men. The entourage rides on decorated horses, stopping to chant short rhymes that comment humorously on the character and conduct of spectators. The chanters receive donations placed either in a money box or directly into the riders' boots. A few years ago the Moravian Ride of the Kings has been inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

1. King of the year, 11-year-old boy Ondřej Franta, crowned by the royal crown and with a white rose in his mouth.

According the folk tradition, the King has to be virgin. Therefore a juvenile boy at the age of 11 to 12 is chosen every year. On the eve of the ride the new elected King is dressed in women's ceremonial costume and crowned by the royal crown. A white rose is put in his mouth afterward. Since then, the King does not dare say a word. The symbolism of this tradition is unclear. The most logical version suggests the salvation of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary is celebrated thus. In 1469 the king had not very successful military operation in this area and afterward he was forced to escape in woman's dress, exactly as the boy king and his bodyguards do during the Ride of the Kings. The king's mouth is closed by the white rose to prevent the king to betray himself by voice.

 

2. King Ondřej Franta rides his horse followed with one of his pageboys.

 

3. Villagers dressed in traditional folk costumes.

 

4. King Ondřej Franta rides his horse followed by two pageboys with unsheathed sabres.

 

5. A young man with a donations box fixed to his boot performs the recruit. All young men from the village, who turn 18 this year, attend the ceremonial procession as the recruits.

 

6. A young man performs the recruit.

 

7. A young girl donates a coin into the boot of one of the recruits.

 

8. A horse decorated with paper ribbons.

 

9. A young woman dressed in traditional ceremonial costume.

 

9. Women's ceremonial costumes.

 

11. King Ondřej Franta surrounded by pageboys and recruits.

 

12. King Ondřej Franta being dressed in women's ceremonial costumes on the eve of the ride.

 

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14. King Ondřej Franta dressed in women's ceremonial costumes with his mother Kristına Frantová.

 

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16. King Ondřej Franta wears women's ceremonial costumes and crowned by the royal crown attends the ceremony of delegation of power to the new king on the eve of the ride.

 

17. King Ondřej Franta with his parents Darek and Kristına and his younger brother Martin.

 

18. Decoration of the horse with paper flowers.

 

19. A young man on a decorated horse performs the recruit.

 

20. A young man performs the recruit.

 

21. A young man performing the recruit takes a glass of slivovitz, a local plum brandy, a local palm brandy.

 

22. A young man performs the recruit.

 

23. A donation box fixed to one of the horses.

 

24. A young man rides a decorated horse performing the recruit.

 

25. A young man performs the recruit.

 

26. A young girl donates a coin into a money box that fixed to the boot of one of the recruits.

 

27. Young woman dressed in traditional folk costumes.

 

28. A young man performs the pageboys of the King.

 

29. King Ondřej Franta rides his horse followed by his pageboys.

 

30. King Ondřej Franta.

 

31. King Ondřej Franta rides his horse.

 

32. Children dressed in traditional folk costumes.

 

33. Villagers dressed in traditional folk costumes.

 

34. A young man rides a decorated horse performing the recruit.

 

35. A young man performing the recruits with a traditional banner from a woman's headscarf.

 

The photographs of this story were shot in May 2013 in the village of Vlčnov, Czech Republuc.

Copyright © 2013 Vova Pomortzeff

   
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