A set of rare Czech coins dedicated by President Edvard Beneš to Mr. Jiří Zedtwitz (1889-1967), a prominent member of the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile in London.
The Noble Zedtwitz Family
Jiří Zedtwitz was born in 1889 in Prague's Vinohrady, known at that time as Královské Vinohrady (Royal Vineyards), into the ancient noble Zedtwitz family. The House of Zedtwitz is mentioned as early as the 13th century in records from the area on the border of Bohemia, Saxony and Bavaria. The village of Zedtwitz itself, the original family seat, is located in Bavaria near the Czech border. Since the 14th century, one of the branches of the family settled in the Aš Panhandle area. Several important Austro-Hungarian politicians and public figures of the second half of the 19th century also came from the House of Zedtwitz. One of them was count Karel Max Zedtwitz, who as the chairman of the Executive Committee made an outstanding contribution to the organisation of the General Land Centennial Exhibition in Prague in 1891.
Confirmation of Inkolat in the Kingdom of Bohemia for Jiří Zedtwitz from 1910
Jiří Zedtwitz’s Czechoslovak diplomatic passport from 1927
Jiří Zedtwitz graduated from the Faculty of Law at Charles University (then Charles-Ferdinand University) in 1913 and served as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army during the First World War. In 1919 he entered the civil service. In 1920 he was recruited into the nascent diplomatic service of the Czechoslovak Republic. In the first half of the 1920s he served in various diplomatic posts in Poland, and in the early 1930s in Germany. From 1934 he served as deputy ambassador in Warsaw. After 15 March 1939 he took over the management of the embassy. We can only speculate whether at this time he collaborated with his distant relative, Joachim von Zedtwitz, who organized the escapes of anti-fascists and Jews through Poland after the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939. For these activities, he was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli memorial Yad Vashem in 1994.
Jiří Zedtwitz’s Polish diplomatic identity card from 1938
Jiří Zedtwitz had to flee to France
After Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, Jiří Zedtwitz and his entire family had to flee to France via Romania because of anti-German attitudes. Here he joined the Czechoslovak National Committee. After the fall of France, he flew to Great Britain under dramatic circumstances. One of his daughters later recalled the journey – since they could not take any personal belongings with them, she secretly hid her smallest doll under her blouse. Throughout the Second World War, Jiří Zedtwitz held the extremely important position of Head of the Presidency of the Ministerial Council of the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile in London. In this role, he became one of the closest collaborators of the President of the Republic, Edvard Beneš, and the Prime Minister, Jan Šrámek. After February 1948 he took an early retirement.
Jiří Zedtwitz with his wife Maria née Bechinie of Lazan (1920s-30s). The Bechinie of Lazan was an important Czech aristocratic house elevated to the status of nobility in the 18th century.
At the end of his stay in London, Jiří Zedtwitz received a set of rare coins and medals from the President for his loyal service to the Republic together with his personal thanks. Most of them were Czech and there was also one silver medallion and a Heidelberg ducat of Frederick V. The whole collection of Jiří Zedtwitz passed into the hands of his daughters Irena and Maria. Later it was divided into two parts left in the possession of the original owner’s grandchildren. The set of Czech coins consisted of exceptional pieces, most of which can be considered rare to extremely rare – a John of Luxembourg florin with the symbol of a lion, a Wenceslas IV ducat, Vladislav and Ludwig Jagiellon ducats, the piedfort of Vladislav Jagiellon groschen, the Schlick Prague groschen of Ludwig Jagiellon, the Guttenstein ducat of Ferdinand I 1537, the Sauermann Prague groschen 1539, the coronation oval medal of Frederick V, the Škréta ducat of Ferdinand II 1620, and the Brno thaler 1649. All of them are in very good to excellent condition.
1941 New Year’s greetings from Edvard Beneš to Jiří Zedtwitz
Czech coins and medals from the collection of Jiří Zedwitz will be auctioned in our 29th auction
All items are accompanied by their original paper sachets. On some of them, there is a purchase price stated in British pounds. For example, the John of Luxembourg florin cost £15, the Wenceslas IV ducat £24, the piedfort of Jagiellon groschen £6. It is not clear, however, whether the prices quoted date back to Beneš's time in exile in London. Regardless of the exact time of purchase, the prices were still considerable for the time, since £10 was equivalent to approximately 1,300 pre-war Czechoslovak crowns. By comparison with pre-war prices of rare Czech coins at Czechoslovak auctions and from the sales lists of major numismatic shops we can see that collectors paid similarly high amounts for rare coins in pre-war Czechoslovakia.