Wenceslas, Or Wenzel, a German emperor, of the house of Luxemburg, born in Nuremberg, Feb. 26,1361, died near Prague, Aug. 16,1419. He was the eldest son of Charles IV. and his third wife Anna, and was crowned king of Bohemia in his 3d year, and in his 18th succeeded his father as emperor. In a diet at Eger in 1389 he abandoned the cause of the cities, which he had before favored, and soon after annulled all debts due to Jews on the payment to himself of 15 to 30 per cent, of the amount; the mob of Prague having slaughtered 3,000 Jews, he also confiscated to his own use the property of the victims. He compelled the Bohemian nobles to return without payment the estates of the crown, on the pledge of which they had loaned money. He is also said to have tortured John Nepomucen with his own hand, and to have thrown him bound into the Moldau. (See Nepomucen.) In 1394 Wenceslas was seized and imprisoned at Prague by a conspiracy among the nobles, headed by Jodocus of Moravia, but was set free at the instance of the German princes. In the controversy between the popes and antipopes, he adhered to the cause of the former until he finally united with France to urge the abdication of Boniface IX. and Benedict XIII. in order that a new pope might be chosen in place of the two.
Hereupon several powerful German princes formally deposed him at Frankfort in 1400, electing as his successor Rupert of the Palatinate. New troubles in Bohemia resulted in his being seized by his brother Sigismund and imprisoned for 19 months in Vienna. He favored the agitation of Huss and his followers in Bohemia, out of hatred to the Catholic clergy. In 1410 he abdicated his claims to the imperial crown in favor of Sigismund, and, recklessly neglecting the affairs of his Bohemian kingdom, gave himself up to drinking and excesses till he died of apoplexy. His life has been written by Pelzel (2 vols., Prague, 1788-'90).