René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke was born in Prague, capital of Bohemia (then part of Austria-Hungary, now the Czech Republic) on the 4th of December 1875. He was the only child of a German-speaking family. His father, Josef Rilke (1838–1906), was a retired officer in the Austrian army who worked as a railroad official. His mother, Sophie ("Phia") Entz (1851–1931), was a socially ambitious and possessive woman. She came from a well-to-do Prague family, the Entz-Kinzelbergers, who lived in a house on the Herrengasse (Panská) 8, where René also spent many of his early years. A crucial fact in Rilke's life was that his mother called him Sophia and forced him to wear girl's clothes until he was aged five - thus compensating for the earlier loss of a baby daughter. However, his father gave him toy soldiers and dumbbells for exercise. Later Rilke blamed his mother for his dark childhood, but she also encouraged him to read and write poetry. Rilke also learned early many of Schiller's ballads by heart. His parent’s marriage fell apart in 1884 when Rilke was only nine.