Ride of the kings, this year's king Filip Šobána (center) with his entourage around the village, May 28, 2023, Vlčnov, Uherskohradišťsko.
Vlčnov (Uherskohradišť region) – Dressed in a woman's starched costume and with a rose in his mouth as a sign of secrecy, today thirteen-year-old Filip Šobáň set out on horseback through the streets of Vlčnov in the Uherskohradišť region. On his way through the village during the Ride of the Kings, he was accompanied by a group of young men, the procession was watched by hundreds of visitors who lined the streets of the village. The Šobáňov family has many years of experience with this tradition – Filip's two older brothers and his father were already kings. The Ride of the Kings was inscribed on the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2011.
The solemn ride was preceded by a morning mass. After that, the royal entourage and the king went to the municipal office, where the mayor symbolically authorized the ride. And around noon, the King of Vlčnov rode a decorated horse with his entourage into the streets of Vlčnov. The whole of Vlčnov was alive with celebrations, not only the royal retinue, the king's family, but also many neighbors dressed in colorful costumes.
Having a king in the family is prestigious, but it also brings a lot of preparation and worries, whether it's making crepe decorations, preparing costumes or baking traditional dumplings and desserts. Liquid refreshments in the form of wine and slivovica must not be missing either. “It's difficult to prepare, we will prepare a lot of things ourselves with the help of family and especially friends and acquaintances, it would not be possible without these kind souls,” the king's father Petr Šobáň told ČTK today.
The new king of Vlčnov attends an eight-year high school in nearby Uherské Brod. His great hobby is dancing, he competes in standard and Latin American dances. He presented himself in his new role already in January at the costume ball, during the Easter round, the king and his entourage were also waiting for the building in May. At the Ride of the Kings, he mainly had to hone his horse riding, the advantage for him was that the royal white horse was stabled on his parents' family farm. “He trained on horses, he went riding. He is not afraid of horses, he will sit on them, he has no problem with them,” said Petr Šobáň. He added that even according to his experience, holding a paper rose in the mouth cannot be trained in advance.
In 2008, Šobáň's son Petr was king, in 2014 František. However, according to Father Šobán, the principle was always the consent of the sons. The family has one more potential adept for this honorable position. “We have one more son, Filip's ten-year-old brother. We have a total of five sons and three daughters, we are a slightly larger family,” added Petr Šobáň senior, who himself led the procession through the village in 1985, with a smile.
Ride of kings is one of the most famous folklore customs in the country. It probably comes from pagan times. The boys competed with each other in driving the cattle, and the best of them became the king. Ethnographers see the second origin of the tradition in the escape of the Hungarian king Matthias Corvín from George of Poděbrady. In order not to reveal himself by his appearance and speech, he is said to have dressed in a woman's costume and put a rose in his mouth. Since 2011, the Ride of the Kings has been included in the UNESCO list. The Wolf Ride is the most famous, others are held in Kunovice and Hluk in the Uherskohradišť region and in Skoronice in the Hodonín region. The only one in Vlčnovská, if circumstances permit, goes every year. Since 1909, the village has experienced 96 kings.