Casimir III the Great

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Casimir III the Great
Casimir the Great by Leopold Löffler.PNG
Casimir the Great by Leopold Löffler
King of Poland
Reign 1333–1370
Coronation 25 April 1333
Predecessor Władysław I ("the Elbow-high")
Successor Louis the Great
Spouse Aldona of Lithuania
Adelaide of Hesse
Christina Rokiczana
Hedwig of Sagan
Elisabeth, Duchess of Pomerania
Anna, Countess of Cilli
House Piast POL Przemysł II 1295 COA.svg
Father Władysław I ("the Elbow-high")
Mother Hedwig of Kalisz
Born (1310-04-30)30 April 1310
Kowal, Poland
Died 5 November 1370(1370-11-05) (aged 60)
Kraków, Poland
Burial Wawel Cathedral, Kraków
Religion Christianity

Casimir III the Great (Polish: Kazimierz III Wielki; 30 April 1310 – 5 November 1370) who reigned from 1333 to 1370, was the last King of Poland from the Piast dynasty, and the son of King Władysław I ("the Elbow-high") and Duchess Hedwig of Kalisz.[1]

Born in Kowal, Casimir first married Anna, or Aldona Ona, the daughter of Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania. The marriage produced two daughters, Cunigunde (d. 1357), who was married to Louis VI the Roman, the son of Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor, and Elisabeth, who was married to Duke Bogislaus V of Pomerania. Aldona died in 1339, and Casimir then married Adelaide of Hesse. He divorced Adelaide in 1356, married Christina, divorced her, and while Adelaide and possibly Christina were still alive (ca. 1365), he married Hedwig of Głogów and Sagan. He had three daughters by his fourth wife, and they were still very young when he died, and regarded as of dubious legitimacy because of Casimir's bigamy. Because all of the five children he fathered with his first and fourth wife were daughters, Casimir left no lawful male heir to his throne.[citation needed]

Casimir died in 1370 from an injury received while hunting. His nephew, King Louis I of Hungary, succeeded him to become king of Poland in personal union with Hungary.

The Great King[edit]

Poland at the end of the rule of Casimir III (1370) within the dark red border; Silesia (yellow) is lost and the Kingdom is expanding to the east

Casimir is the only Polish king who both received and kept the title of "Great" in Polish history (Bolesław I Chrobry is also called "Great", but his title Chrobry (Valiant) is now more common). When he came to the throne, his hold on it was in danger, as even his neighbours did not recognise his title and instead called him "king of Kraków". The economy was ruined, and the kingdom was depopulated and exhausted by war.

Upon his death, Casimir left a kingdom that had doubled in size (mostly through the addition of lands in modern day Ukraine, then called the Duchy of Halicz), was prosperous, wealthy, and held great prospects for the future. Although depicted as a peaceful king in children's books,[citation needed] he in fact waged many victorious wars and was readying for others just before he died. He built extensively during his reign (Wawel Castle, Orle Gniazda), and reformed the Polish army and the Polish civil and criminal law. At the Sejm in Wiślica, on 11 March 1347, he introduced salutary legal reforms to the judicial system of his kingdom. He sanctioned a codes of laws for Great and Lesser Poland, which gained for him the title of "the Polish Justinian", and founded the University of Kraków, the oldest Polish University. He organized a meeting of kings in Kraków (1364) in which he exhibited the wealth of the Polish kingdom.[citation needed]

In 1335, in the Treaty of Trentschin, Casimir relinquished "in perpetuity" his claims to Silesia. In 1355 in Buda, Casimir designated Louis I of Hungary as his successor, like his father did with Charles I of Hungary for his help against Bohemia. In exchange Casimir gained Hungarian favourable attitude, needed in disputes with the hostile Teutonic Order and Kingdom of Bohemia. We must remember that Casimir was still in his early years and having a son did not seem to be a problem for him (he already had a few bastard children). Unexpectedly Casimir left no legal son, but he tried to adopt his grandson Casimir IV, Duke of Pomerania, in his last will. This part of the testament was invalidated by Louis I of Hungary, who came to Kraków quickly after the death of Casimir and bribed the nobles with future privileges.

His second daughter, Elisabeth, Duchess of Pomerania, bore a son in 1351, Casimir IV of Pomerania. He was slated to become the heir, but did not succeed to the throne, dying childless in 1377, 7 years after King Casimir. He was the only male descendant of King Casimir who lived during his lifetime. His son-in-law Louis VI the Roman of Bavaria, Margrave and Prince-elector of Brandenburg, was considered a possible successor but was deemed ineligible as his wife, Casimir's daughter Cunigunde had died in 1357 without issue. The Polish people repulsed many raids of the Tatar-Mongols. Casimir had no legitimate sons. Apparently, he deemed his own descendants either unsuitable or too young to inherit. Thus, and in order to provide a clear line of succession and avoid dynastic uncertainty, he arranged for his nephew, King Louis I of Hungary, to be his successor in Poland. Louis was proclaimed king on Casimir's death in 1370, and Casimir's sister Elisabeth (Louis's mother) held much of the real power until her death in 1380.[citation needed]

Society under the reign of Casimir[edit]

Wiec in reign of Casimir the Great

Casimir was facetiously named "the Peasants' King". The codes of laws of Greater and Lesser Poland, he introduced an attempt to put the overwhelming superiority of the nobility to an end. During his reign all three major classes (nobility, priesthood and the bourgeoisie) were more or less counterbalanced, so that Casimir could strengthen his monarchic position. He was known for siding with the weaker, when the law did not protect them from greedy nobles and clergymen. Reportedly he did even support a peasant, whose house has been demolished against his own mistress, after she ordered to pull it down, because its look disturbed her enjoyment of the beautiful landscape.

Relationship with Polish Jews[edit]

Wojciech Gerson, Casimir the Great and the Jews

King Casimir was favorably disposed toward Jews. On 9 October 1334, he confirmed the privileges granted to Jewish Poles in 1264 by Bolesław V the Chaste. Under penalty of death, he prohibited the kidnapping of Jewish children for the purpose of enforced Christian baptism. He inflicted heavy punishment for the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. Although Jews had lived in Poland since before the reign of King Casimir, he allowed them to settle in Poland in great numbers and protected them as people of the king.[2]

Relationships and children[edit]

Casimir III married four times.

Aldona of Lithuania[edit]

On 30 April or 16 October 1325, Casimir married Aldona of Lithuania. She was a daughter of Gediminas of Lithuania and Jewna. They had two children:

Aldona died on 26 May 1339. Casimir remained a widower for two years.

Adelheid of Hesse[edit]

On 29 September 1341, Casimir married his second wife, Adelaide of Hesse. She was a daughter of Henry II, Landgrave of Hesse, and Elizabeth of Meissen. They had no children. Casimir started living separately from Adelaide soon thereafter. Their loveless marriage lasted until 1356.[citation needed]


Casimir effectively divorced Adelaide and married his mistress Christina Rokiczana, the widow of Miklusz Rokiczani, a wealthy merchant. Her own origins are unknown. Following the death of her first husband she had entered the court of Bohemia in Prague as a lady-in-waiting. Casimir brought her with him from Prague and convinced the abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Tyniec to marry them. The marriage was held in a secret ceremony but soon became known. Queen Adelaide renounced it as bigamous and returned to Hesse without permission. Casimir continued living with Christine despite complaints by Pope Innocent VI on behalf of Queen Adelaide. The marriage lasted until 1363–64 when Casimir again declared himself divorced. They had no children.[citation needed]

Hedwig of Żagań[edit]

In about 1365, Casimir married his fourth wife Hedwig of Żagań. She was a daughter of Henry V of Iron, Duke of Żagań and Anna of Mazovia. They had three children:

With Adelaide still alive and Christine possibly surviving, the marriage to Hedwig was also considered bigamous. The legitimacy of the three last daughters was disputed. Casimir managed to have Anne and Cunigunde legitimated by Pope Urban V on 5 December 1369. Hedwig the younger was legitimated by Pope Gregory XI on 11 October 1371.[citation needed]


Casimir had three illegitimate sons by his mistress Cudka, wife of a castellan.

  • Niemierz (last mentioned alive in 1386); oldest son; survived his father, inherited lands around Stopnica
  • Pelka (1342–1365); married and had two sons; predeceased his father
  • Jan (d. 28 October 1383); youngest son; survived his father, inherited lands around Stopnica


Title and style[edit]

Casimir's full title was: Casimir by the grace of God king of Poland and Russia (Ruthenia), lord and heir of the land of Kraków, Sandomierz, Sieradz, Łęczyca, Kuyavia, Pomerania (Pomerelia). The title in Latin was: Kazimirus, Dei gratia rex Polonie et Russie, nec non Cracovie, Sandomirie, Siradie, Lancicie, Cuiavie, et Pomeranieque Terrarum et Ducatuum Dominus et Heres.[3]

Popular Culture[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Halina Lerski (1996). "Casimir III the Great". Historical Dictionary of Poland, 966–1945. ABC-CLIO Press. pp. 249–250. ISBN 0313034567. Retrieved 8 September 2012. 
  2. ^ "In Poland, a Jewish Revival Thrives—Minus Jews". New York Times. 12 July 2007. Probably about 70 percent of the world's European Jews, or Ashkenazi, can trace their ancestry to Poland — thanks to a 14th-century king, Casimir III, the Great, who drew Jewish settlers from across Europe with his vow to protect them as "people of the king", 
  4. ^ [1],; accessed 11 March 2014. (Polish)

External links[edit]

Casimir III the Great
Born: 1310 Died: 1370
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Władysław I the Elbow-high
King of Poland
Succeeded by
Ludwik the Hungarian
Preceded by
Boleslaw-Yuri II
King of Halych-Volhynia
Succeeded by
Ludwik the Hungarian