Died At Age: 26
Also Known As: Hedwig
Born Country: Hungary
Born in: Buda
Famous as: First Female Monarch of Poland
Empresses & Queens
Spouse/Ex-: Władysław II Jagiełło (m. 1386)
father: Louis I of Hungary
mother: Elizabeth of Bosnia
siblings: Catherine of Hungary, Mary; Queen of Hungary
children: Elizabeth Bonifacia of Poland
Died on: July 17, 1399
Who was Jadwiga of Poland?
Jadwiga, also known as Hedwig, ruled the Kingdom of Poland for more than a decade, as its first female monarch. An Anjou princess and the youngest daughter of Louis the Great, King of Hungary and Poland, and queen consort Elizabeth of Bosnia, Jadwiga was betrothed to William of Austria. It is believed that Louis considered Jadwiga and William as the favored successors of Hungary after the Polish nobility pledged their homage to Louis’s second daughter, Mary, and her fiancé, Sigismund of Luxemburg, following the death of Louis’s first daughter, Catherine. However, following Louis’s death, Mary was crowned the “King of Hungary” on the insistence of Elizabeth. The latter selected Jadwiga to rule Poland after the Polish nobility countered the advances of Sigismund in taking control of Poland. Jadwiga was crowned the “King of Poland.” The Polish nobility then promoted Jadwiga’s marriage with the still-pagan Grand Duke of Lithuania, Jogaila, who pledged to convert to Roman Catholicism and promote the conversion of his pagan subjects by signing the ‘Union of Krewo.’ William’s betrothal to Jadwiga was repudiated, and the subsequent marriage of Jadwiga and Jogaila (or Władysław Jagiełło) marked a centuries-long union of Poland and Lithuania. A patron of religion and scholarship and a skilled mediator, Jadwiga co-ruled closely with Jogaila, who became sole king of Poland upon her death.
Childhood & Early Life
Jadwiga was born between October 3, 1373, and February 18, 1374 in Buda, Hungary. She was the third and the youngest daughter of Louis I and his second wife, Elizabeth. Jadwiga was related to the native Piast Dynasty of Poland through both her grandmothers, who were Polish princesses.
As Louis did not have a son, his three daughters were considered attractive brides by European royals. On August 18, 1374, Leopold III, Duke of Austria, proposed the marriage of Jadwiga with his eldest son, William. Meanwhile, the Polish nobles agreed that Louis would be succeeded in Poland by one of his daughters. They later took an oath of loyalty to his eldest daughter, Catherine, on his insistence.
On March 4, 1375, Louis decided give Jadwiga’s hand in marriage to William. The canon form of engagement, “sponsalia de futuro,” of Jadwiga and William was held on June 15, 1378, in Hainburg. On February 12, 1380, the fathers of Jadwiga and William met in Zólyom, where they confirmed the marriage of their children, signifying that Jadwiga and William were the successors of Louis in Hungary.
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Events Leading to Jadwiga's Ascension to the Polish Throne
Catherine’s untimely death in May 1378 led Louis to convince the Polish nobility in September 1379 to pledge their homage to his second daughter, Mary, and the latter’s fiancé, Sigismund of Luxemburg. On July 25, 1382, Sigismund was paid a formal homage by the Polish nobility, as the future king of Poland.
Nevertheless, after Louis’s death on September 11, 1382, a 12-year-old Mary was crowned the "King of Hungary" on the insistence of the ambitious Elizabeth, who started acting as the regent on behalf of her underage daughter. Many believe that such a hasty step was taken by Elizabeth to exclude Sigismund from the government. On the other hand, Sigismund, who at that time was present in Poland on Louis’s order to suppress a rebellion, declared himself the “Lord of the Kingdom of Poland” and demanded an oath of loyalty from the Lesser Poland towns.
The nobles of Greater Poland then resolved to gather on November 25, 1382, and decided that they would only abide by the late king’s daughter, who would settle in Poland, and also persuaded the nobles of Lesser Poland in passing a similar agreement on December 12 that year. After Elizabeth sent a message to the gathered lords to take an oath of loyalty only to one of her daughters, the oath of loyalty taken by the Polish nobles earlier, to Sigismund, on Louis’s demand became invalid.
Although Elizabeth selected Jadwiga to rule Poland, she did not send her to Kraków to be crowned. The two foreign princes Sigismund and William were unpopular in Poland, and the Polish lords considered the Piast Dynasty members as the favored candidates for the Polish throne. Eventually, Siemowit IV, Duke of Masovia, emerged as a possible candidate for the Polish throne during the interregnum that was marked with internal strife. While the Greater Poland nobles proposed the marriage of Siemowit with Jadwiga, the nobles of Lesser Poland opposed it and convinced Elizabeth to send Jadwiga to Poland.
In a turn of events, the Polish nobles stated that they would wait for Jadwiga till May 10, 1383, and laid down the condition that she would have to live in Poland following the coronation ceremony.
On October 16, 1384, according to the conventional scholarly consensus, Jadwiga was crowned the “King of Poland” at the ‘Wawel Cathedral’ in Kraków by Archbishop Bodzanta. As suggested by Robert W. Knoll, this succeeded in preventing Jadwiga’s future husband from adopting the title of “king” without the consent of the Polish lords. According to some sources, this move probably bolstered Jadwiga’s status as the queen regnant and did not limit her to merely be a queen consort.
Repudiation of William' Betrothal to Jadwiga & Her Marriage with Jogaila
Still a minor, Jadwiga found the Bishop of Poznań, Dobrogost of Nowy Dwór; the Bishop of Kraków; Duke Vladislaus II of Opole; and Jan Radlica as her most trusted advisors in her early years of reign.
William’s unpopularity among the Polish lords, along with his inexperience, rendered him an unfavorable candidate for the Polish throne. In the meantime, Jan Tęczyński of the powerful Tęczyński family possibly began marriage negotiations of Jadwiga with Jogaila, Grand Duke of Lithuania.
In January 1385, Jogaila, still a pagan, sent his envoys to request for Jadwiga’s hand. After Jadwiga made it clear that the decision would be taken by her mother, two envoys of Jogaila went to Hungary to meet Elizabeth. Eventually, the advisors of Jadwiga started negotiating the marriage proposal after getting Elizabeth’s consent.
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Meanwhile, in July 1385, William's father went to Buda and demanded the finalization of his son’s marriage with Jadwiga, while William traveled hurriedly to Kraków with the hope of marrying Jadwiga. However, William was expelled by the Polish nobles in August 1385.
Contradictory and ambiguous records have been found regarding Jadwiga and William’s relationship. While some believe that the city jail prisoners were granted an amnesty on August 23, 1385, on the occasion of Jadwiga’s marriage, others mention that William escaped a murder attempt by the Poles before he could consummate the marriage. A record even mentioned the physical consummation between Jadwiga and William and Jadwiga’s attempt to leave Wawel and join William after the forceful expulsion of the latter.
On August 14, 1385, Jogaila signed the ‘Union of Krewo,’ in which he made a set of prenuptial promises in exchange for his marriage with Jadwiga. This included a promise of his (and his pagan kinsmen’s) conversion to Catholicism. He also promised to pay 200,000 florins to William, as compensation, which the latter never accepted.
In early February 1386, Jogaila was unanimously declared the "King and Lord of Poland" in a general assembly in Lublin. On February 15, he was baptised at the ‘Wawel Cathedral.’ He was given the Christian name “Władysław.” His marriage with Jadwiga took place 3 days later. It is believed that Jadwiga agreed to marry Jogaila after performing lengthy prayers before a crucifix at the ‘Wawel Cathedral,’ seeking divine inspiration. Władysław-Jogaila was crowned the king by Archbishop Bodzanta on March 4, 1386.
Co-Rule with Jogaila
The Kingdom of Poland was changed into a diarchy following Jadwiga and Jogaila’s marriage. Although the couple spoke different languages, they cooperated with each other and worked closely.
On July 25, 1386, Elizabeth and Mary were captured and imprisoned by a group of Slavonian lords. In January 1387, Elizabeth was murdered by the rebels. Jadwiga then led the Polish troops and marched into the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia, which was under Hungarian rule. There, most of the inhabitants were convinced by Jadwiga to become subjects of the Polish Crown.
In early 1392, Sigismund began negotiating with the ‘Teutonic Knights’ about partitioning Poland. In May that year, Jadwiga met Mary in Stará Ľubovňa. Although Jogaila had decided to make his brother, Skirgaila, Lithuania’s regent, his cousin, Vytautas, sought to become the Grand Duke. The latter also allied with the ‘Teutonic Order’ for this purpose but eventually paid homage to Jogaila on August 4, 1392. In October the following year, Jadwiga, a skilled mediator reputed for her intelligence and impartiality, traveled to Lithuania to mediate between Skirgaila and Vytautas. Amidst eventual tensions between Poland and Hungary, Jadwiga also mediated between Poland and the ‘Teutonic Knights.’
Following Mary’s accidental death on May 17, 1395, according to a 1383 agreement between the Polish lords and Elizabeth, Jadwiga became the heir of the childless Mary, in Hungary. Although Jadwiga and Jogaila made efforts to establish Jadwiga’s legitimate succession in Hungary, the lords of Hungary failed to support the couple.
On July 20, 1397, Wenceslaus of Bohemia, according to Jadwiga’s request, allowed the construction of a college for Lithuanian students in Prague. On November 10 that year, Jadwiga issued a charter of establishment for the college. She also set up new churches, schools, and hospitals and restored the old ones.
Childbirth, Death, & Succession
After remaining childless for over a decade, Jadwiga gave birth to her daughter, Elizabeth Bonifacia, on June 22, 1399. The newborn died after 3 weeks, on July 13, 1399. Four days later, on July 17, Jadwiga passed away. According to sources, while on her deathbed, Jadwiga advised Jogaila to marry Anna of Cilli. On August 24, 1399, according to Jadwiga’s last will, she and her daughter were interred together at the ‘Wawel Cathedral.’ Following her death, Jadwiga was venerated in Poland, while Jogaila became the sole king of Poland.
Pope John Paul II prayed at the sarcophagus of Jadwiga on June 8, 1979. Her beatification was officially affirmed by the ‘Congregation for Divine Worship’ and the ‘Discipline of the Sacraments’ on August 8, 1986. On June 8, 1997, the Pope canonized her in Kraków.
She was portrayed in the third season of the Polish historical drama series ‘Korona królów’ (‘The Crown of the Kings’) and also in the turn-based strategy video game ‘Civilization VI.’