Assembly in Kroměříž 1848–1849
From November 1848 until February 1849, sessions of the Austrian Constitutional Assembly took place in the Kroměříž chateau. In response to the March and May revolutions of 1848, it originally began to work in Vienna, the monarchy’s capital, and resulted in reduction of censorship, abolition of corvée (forced labor of subjects at the nobleman’s property) and proclamation of a constitution. However, it did not satisfy the revolutionaries. Elections to the Constitutional Assembly thus took place in June and July and the Assembly gathered for the first time on July 22, 1848. Another reversal happened in October and Emperor Ferdinand I (also known as King Ferdinand V of Bohemia) fled to Olomouc where he found refuge in the Archbishop’s Palace. Short time later, the entire Assembly moved to Moravia as well; due to delays because of the relocation of deputies, the actual sessions started as late as November 22.
At first Brno was considered as the location, because there were suitable premises available, but the city was not recognized as completely safe in the end and Kroměříž was chosen; it is said to be suggested by historian František Palacký who knew the city and its chateau thanks to his research work in the chateau archives. The choice was not accepted unanimously: the German deputies favored Linz, Austria and for other deputies, Kroměříž was just a place between the Olomouc military fortress and the Špilberk prison in Brno.
The so-called Great Dining Room (today’s Assembly Hall) of the chateau was adapted: a tribune with parliamentary benches and tables for the Presidency were transported from Vienna and Prague. In addition to the Assembly itself, the chateau also hosted the ministries of war and of interior as well as apartments of the ministers, a parliamentary post office, a parliamentary café, a patisserie and a restaurant. The Liege Hall served as a meeting place for the Constitutional Committee of the Assembly, among its members being e.g. František Ladislav Rieger,
The long and protracted parliamentary negotiations on the Constitution thus continued in Kroměříž, but due to the actual situation with the revolution gradually suppressed in Prague, Vienna and Budapest, the importance of the Assembly further diminished. The government of Prime Minister Felix Schwarzenberg also drafted, without the Assembly, a new constitution (the “Imposed March Constitution”), which finally came into force on March 4, 1849.
The new emperor Franz Joseph I, who in December 1848 replaced his uncle Ferdinand I, immediately issued an order to dissolve the Kroměříž Assembly. Army occupied the city and dispersed the Assembly. The constitutional document prepared by the deputies in Kroměříž thus ended up as a concept never to be approved. Besides drawing attention to Kroměříž in Moravia, the parliamentary Assembly also brought a number of important and educated people to the city and they stayed here for a long time: not only Czechs, but also from Austrian-German and Polish milieu. Memorial plaques on various Kroměříž houses that housed Czech deputies (e.g. František Palacký, F. L. Rieger and others) are physical reminders of this event. Besides them, there were also historian Václav Vladivoj Tomek, playwright Josef Kajetán Tyl, poet and archaeologist Jan Erazim Vocel, lawyer and politician František August Brauner and journalist Karel Havlíček, who would then resign in December as he sensed that the Assembly is pointless.