Henry V, Duke of Legnica

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Henry V "the Fat"
Duke of Legnica
Henryk V Brzuchaty seal 1289.PNG
Henry V's seal, dated to 1289
Spouse(s) Elisabeth of Greater Poland
Noble family House of Piast
Father Bolesław II the Bald
Mother Hedwig of Anhalt
Born c.  1248
Died 22 February 1296(1296-02-22)
Buried Poor Clares monastery in Wrocław

Henry V the Fat (German: Heinrich V der Dicke, Polish: Henryk V Brzuchaty) (c.  1248 – 22 February 1296) was a Duke of Jawor (Jauer) from 1273, of Legnica (Liegnitz) from 1278, and also Duke of Wrocław (Breslau) from 1290.

He was the eldest son of Bolesław II the Bald, Duke of Legnica by his first wife, Hedwig, daughter of Henry I, Count of Anhalt.


Early Years. Duke of Jawor, Battle of Stolec[edit]

Little is known about the earliest years of Henry's life. As a youth, he was present at the court of King Ottokar II of Bohemia in Prague, where he became a knight.[1]

In 1273, Henry's father gave him the town of Jawor (Jauer) as an independent duchy. Four years later, Henry's father Bolesław II the Bald, acting on behalf of his ally, king Rudolph of Habsburg, kidnapped his own nephew Henry IV, the ruler of the Duchy of Wrocław. This act aroused the anger of the nobility in Lesser Poland and the neighbors of Henry IV, who then organized an expedition to free him and punish Bolesław. At the head of the Greater Poland-Głogów-Wroclaw coalition were Dukes Przemysł II of Greater Poland and Henry III of Głogów. The armies fought at Ząbkowice Śląskie near Stolec. This was one of the most bloody battles of the Polish Middle Ages. In the course of battle, Bolesław, suspecting that the battle was about to be lost, fled the field. However, at this point the young Henry led a charge, turned the tide and achieved a great victory, taking both Dukes Przemysł II and Henry III as prisoners. Thanks to the action of the young Duke of Jauer, his father and family were saved from disastrous defeat.

Death of Bolesław II the Bald. Henry V, Duke of Legnica[edit]

Bolesław II died on 26 December 1278 and Henry was now able to succeeded him as a Duke in Legnica. Shortly afterwards, Henry in turn gave lands to his younger brothers: Bolko I and Bernard received Jawor and Lwówek as co-rulers, but Henry retained the town of Środa Śląska, a town obtained in 1277 in exchange of Henry IV's freedom.

Henry continued the hostile relations with the other Piast Silesian Dukes characteristic of his father's rule. In 1281 he committed the mistake of accepting the invitation of Henry IV Probus to a meeting in Sądowel. Henry IV imprisoned the Duke of Legnica together with his former allies Henry III of Głogów and Przemysł II of Greater Poland, in order to obtain political concessions from them. Henry regained his freedom only in return for the recognition of Henry IV as Duke of Wrocław. However, Henry IV couldn't maintain his sovereignty for too long, because immediately the Duke of Legnica began close communication with the King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia, who asserted his own claim to that land.

Henry V, Duke of Wroclaw. War with Henry III of Głogów[edit]

On 23 June 1290 Henry IV Probus died suddenly, supposedly poisoned. In his testament, the late duke named Henry III of Głogów as his heir. That decision, however, was opposed by the Wrocław nobility and townspeople, who feared that the Duke of Głogów would be a harsh ruler. The power of the city was sufficient to force Henry III to flee. Thereafter, the citizens invited Henry V to take the place of Henry III.

Henry III, however, refused to step aside and began to take by force his inheritance, and war followed which saw territories change hands back and forth.

Henry couldn't prevent the next move of the Duke of Głogów. On 11 November 1293 Henry was betrayed by Lutka Zdzieszyca, son of a Wrocław noble whom Henry had earlier sentenced to death. Lutka captured him and gave to Duke Henry III, who put him in prison for almost six months. Henry V only obtained his freedom after surrendering the towns of Namysłów, Bierutów, Oleśnica, Kluczbork, Byczyna, Wołczyn, Olesno, Chojnów, and Bolesławiec with their respectives fortresses to Henry III, paying of a ransom of 30,000 pieces and promising to assist the Duke of Głogów for the next five years in all his wars.

During his imprisonment in Głogów, Henry's brother Bolko I was named regent of his states. In 1291, Henry V gave him the towns of Świdnica (Schweidnitz), Ziębice, Ząbkowice Śląskie, and Strzelin as a price for his help against Henry III.

Death and legacy[edit]

Because of the conditions of his confinement (he was locked in an iron cage), Henry was ill after his release and indeed until his death. He never recovered his health, and seems to have known that he was not going to live much longer. Fearing for the future of his duchy, in 1294 he decided to put himself under the protection of the Holy See.

Henry died on 22 February 1296 and was buried in the monastery of the Poor Clares at Wroclaw. At this time, all his sons were minors, and because of this, they were put under the tutelage of his brother Bolko.

Marriage and issue[edit]

Around 1273, Henry married Elisabeth (c. 1263 – 28 September 1304), daughter of Boleslaw the Pious, Duke of Greater Poland. They had eight children:

  1. Hedwig (c. 1277 – aft. 3 February 1347); married by 1289/95 to Prince Otto of Brandenburg-Salzwedel, second son of Margrave Otto V. After her husband died, she became a nun in St. Klara, Wrocław.
  2. Euphemia (c. 1278 – June 1347); married in 1300 Otto III of Carinthia. Through this union, Henry was a direct ancestor of the Kings of Sicily, Aragon, and Castile.
  3. Anna (1284 – 2/3 October 1343); Abbess of St. Klara, Wrocław.
  4. Elisabeth (c. 1290 – Nov 1357/58); Abbess of St. Klara, Wrocław.
  5. Bolesław III the Generous (23 September 1291 – 21 April 1352).
  6. Helena (c. 1293 – aft. 1300); nun in St. Klara, Gniezno.
  7. Henry VI the Good (18 March 1294 – 24 November 1335).
  8. Władysław (b. posthumously, 6 June 1296 – 13 January aft. 1352).



Henry V, Duke of Legnica
Born: c.  1248 Died: 22 February 1296
Preceded by
Bolesław II the Bald
Duke of Jawor
Succeeded by
Bolko I the Strict and
Bernard the Lightsome
Duke of Legnica
Succeeded by
Bolesław III the Generous
Henry VI the Good
Preceded by
Henry IV Probus
Duke of Wroclaw
Duke of Ścinawa
Succeeded by
Henry III
Duke of Oleśnica
Duke of Namysłów
Duke of Świdnicą
Succeeded by
Bolko I the Strict
Duke of Ziębice