New royal couple looks Czech gift horse in the mouth

Favory Alta XXI, photo: Archiv of the National Stud in Kladruby

Amid all the disagreements in the cabinet there has also been wrangling of a different sort – apparently the issue of what to give the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, for a wedding present. The powers that be in fact agreed on quite a lot on Wednesday, and between an anti-corruption bill, welfare reform and a ten-year outlook for the armed forces, they also hammered an agreement to give the new royal couple a horse. It is of course a horse as souped up as they come, a rare young stallion with a radiant pedigree, but London apparently wants a look under the bonnet before they welcome the gift horse to the queen’s own stables.

Favory Alta XXI,  photo: Archiv of the National Stud in Kladruby
It’s a grand thing about weddings that they shed a bit of sunshine on the arduousness of daily life. Seeing that life of late has been particularly arduous for the Czech Prime Minister, Petr Nečas, he was notably bemused on Wednesday to announce something other than the bitter affairs of his cabinet.

“The government has given its consent to transfer, free of charge, a Kladruber stallion, Favory Alta XXI, to Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It’s a white Kladruber...”

Three weeks late is better than never; the crisis-prone Czech government has, after all, a lot on its plate at the moment. The present itself was first announced before the wedding – an idea of Agriculture Minister Ivan Fuksa – but it was not approved until just now. The British though have met the gift horse with a matched lack of haste and apparently asked for a peek in its proverbial mouth.

“At the request of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the horse will remain for the time being in the National Stud at Kladruby. Also at their request, however, to give you another detail, a test tube with specific genetic material will be travelling to the United Kingdom. In other words, part of the stallion will arrive in Britain ahead of time.”

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
The genetic materials have been speculated to be the stallion’s strapping sperm cells, sent in order to certify that the mount can indeed be raced: if it is not a thoroughbred then it cannot run in England. But there should be no doubt that the sterling steed that the Czech government has bequeathed his royal highness the Duke of Cambridge and his bonny bride Catherine comes from a line befit a king. Jan Höck is the director of the National Stud in Kladruby, one of the oldest such institutions in the world:

“It was chosen for several reasons, primarily because it is a classic Kladruber which comes from the oldest thoroughbred line, the origin of which goes back to 1779. And lastly it is also because we also have the horse’s half-brother of the same age, which you could say is just as good, so our breeding programme will not be affected if this horse leaves the stable.”

The National Stud in Kladruby,  photo: CTK
According to Mr Höck, it is not as odd as it seems that his British colleagues would want to test the creature’s genetic purity beforehand. Another reason for the delay is apparently that the royal couple had asked for gifts for charity; others must be personally approved. Favory Alta XXI has an outstanding pedigree, with its sire having competed in world and European championships, and a value of 730,000 crowns – a soaring figure for anyone who would be wondering why a Central European republic would be sending presents to a prince in the first place. But Agriculture Minister Fuksa stresses the added value of the gift: that it is an exceptional opportunity to promote the Czech Republic, its famous stud farm and popularise the breed in the royal courts of Europe.