Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Monday, October 15, 2018

Jadwiga of Poland, Queen Regent of Poland

Jadwiga, Queen Regent of Poland (crowned 15 October 1384)


Born in 1373, Jadwiga was the youngest of three daughters born to Elizabeth of Bosnia and Louis, king of Hungary and Croatia--and, after 1370, of Poland--a member of the extended Anjevin line of the French Capetian dynasty.

A sixteenth-century imagined portrait
of Jadwiga of Poland
Without a male heir, Louis made plans for his three daughters, Catherine, Mary, and Jadwiga, to succeed him in Hungary and Poland as well as in Provence and in the kingdom of Naples.* His daughters were not only desirable marital prospects, but their marriages were also a way for Louis himself to consolidate his influence and power. 

In pursuit of his political ends, Louis arranged for the marriage of his eldest daughter, Catherine, to Louis I, duke of Orléans, and he promised the Holy Roman Emperor that his second daughter, Mary, would be married to Charles IV's second son, Sigismund of Luxembourg, an agreement that was signed by deed in 1373. In 1375, Louis arranged Jadwiga's marriage to the Habsburg William of Austria, and the girl was sent to the court in Vienna, where she lived from 1378 until 1380.

After the death of Catherine in 1378, Louis clarified his intentions for Mary and Jadwiga, indicating that Mary was to succeed him in Poland and Jadwiga in Hungary. But after the death of Louis himself in 1382, Elizabeth of Bosnia had Mary crowned "king" of Hungary, with Sigismund of Luxembourg attempting to take control of Poland. 

In resisting Sigismund (and the Habsburg powers), the Polish nobility ultimately ended the personal union of Hungary and Poland that Louis had forged, electing Jadwiga--then a child of nine--as "king" (rex) of Poland on 15 October 1384.** She was crowned immediately--probably as a signal that William of Austria was considered an altogether unsuitable match.

Instead, Jadwiga was married to Jogaila, grand duke of Lithuania, on 15 February 1386. The marriage was desirable for Poland and not only because it would allow them to resist pressures from Austria--the newly combined territories of Lithuania and Poland were larger than the previous union of Hungary and Poland. 

But Leopold of Austria did not relinquish his son's marriage to Jadwiga easily. Leopold demanded that the marriage between Jadwiga and his son be consummated, and William of Austria traveled to Krakow, only to be barred entry to Wawel Castle. A confusion of accounts blurs what might--or might not--have happened when Jadwiga and William did finally meet. Did William and Jadwiga consummate their marriage? 

Contemporary chroniclers provide different answers, and modern historians are also divided, but one fact is clear: William of Austria was ultimately forced out of Poland, and the match with Jogailo was made. 

Jadwiga of Poland,
Wawel Cathedral
There was one still slight problem to be overcome before the marriage could be solemnized--neither Jogailo nor his people were Christian. And so, by the terms of the Union of Krewo, Jogailo converted to Catholicism, was baptized as Władysław Jagiełło, and pledged to promote the conversion of the people of Lithuania. 

(The duke's mother, Uliana of Tver, had hoped her son would marry Sofia, the daughter of Prince Dmitri of Moscow, but that would have required his conversion to the Orthodox faith--and since Lithuania was subjected to a series of crusades by Catholic Teutonic knights, that wouldn't have ended the problems of Lithuania quite the way his conversion to Catholicism did . . . )

By the way, one more note about traditional marriage: on the day of their marriage, 15 February 1386, Władysław Jagiełło was thirty-five years old, and Jadwiga just twelve. Sigh. 

Of course, the rejected William refused to give up, his Teutonic knights invading Lithuania, despite having been offered compensation by Władysław Jagiełło. William persisted in claiming that he had consummated his marriage with Jadwiga, the rumors and claims ultimately leading to a papal investigation, forcing Jadwiga to swear that she had never had a sexual relationship with anyone but Władysław Jagiełło.

When she wasn't defending her marriage against William, Jadwiga and her husband also had to resist invasion by her sister Mary's husband, now king of Hungary, who hoped to add Poland, or parts of it, to his own territory (he had problems of his own, however, and spent a great deal of time defending Hungary against the threatening Ottomans).

After her sister Mary's death in 1395, Jadwiga became the heir to the crown of Hungary. If she and her husband were to succeed there, they would themselves pose a threat to the German empire--and so, after years of turmoil, a peace was negotiated. Jadwiga's claims to Hungary were recognized, but no further conflict with Sigismund followed, though tensions remained. 

On 22 June 1399, Jadwiga, queen of Poland, gave birth to a daughter, named Bonifacia. Within a month, both daughter and mother had died. Jadwiga, queen regnant of Poland, was just twenty-five years old. She is buried in Wawel Cathedral.

After his wife's death, Władysław Jagiełło ruled as king of Poland  

Despite her relatively brief reign, Jadwiga is regarded by historians as one of the most important rulers of Poland--primarily for her marriage, which resulted in the creation of a great state. She is also noted as a patron of religion and scholarship. She founded hospitals and schools, notably a college in Prague. The University of Krakow, which had been founded in 1364, had dissolved; Jadwiga refounded the university, modeling it after the University of Paris.  

Related to Elizabeth of Hungary, Jadwiga was also noted for her holiness. A number of legends attest to her religious faith. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in Kraków on 8 June 1997.

Jadwiga of Poland,
Wawel Cathedral
A brief biography in Europe, 1450-1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World, can be accessed by clicking here. There is also a brief entry on Jadwiga of Poland in the online Encyclopedia Britannica (click here). 

I recommend the entry on Jadwiga in Helen J. Nicholson's The Crusades--you should be able to access it via Google Books. It is particularly good for its account, though brief, of the Jadwiga-William-Jogailo marriage question. And, then, there is Charlotte Kellogg's 1931 biography, Jadwiga: Poland's Great Queen; it is out of print, but used copies do pop up on Amazon occasionally.

*Louis involved himself in Neopolitan power struggles after his brother, Andrew of Hungary was assassinated, and Andrew’s wife, Queen Joanna I of Naples, was held by some to be responsible for her husband's murder. Despite all of Louis' claims and meddling, he could never acquire the kingdom of Naples, and Queen Joanna's successor, Charles of Durazzo, in his turn claimed the crown of Hungary.

**In designating her as rex, the intention seems to have been to emphasize that Jadwiga was a queen regent, and that whomever she married would be her consort, not her replacement.