Jadwiga of Poland

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For the 13th-century duchess and saint canonized in 1267, see Hedwig of Silesia.
Jadwiga by Bacciarelli.jpg
Portrait of King Jadwiga by Bacciarelli, painted during 1768-1771
King of Poland
Reign 16 October 1384 – 17 July 1399
Coronation 16 October 1384
Wawel Cathedral, Kraków
Predecessor Louis
Successor Władysław II Jagiełło
Spouse Władysław II Jagiełło
Issue Elizabeth Bonifacia
House Capetian House of Anjou
Father Louis I of Hungary
Mother Elizabeth of Bosnia
Born Between 3 October 1373 and 18 February 1374[1]
Buda, Kingdom of Hungary
Died 17 July 1399 (age 25)
Kraków, Kingdom of Poland
Religion Roman Catholic

Jadwiga ([jadˈvʲiɡa]), also known as Hedwig (Hungarian: Hedvig; 1373/4 – 17 July 1399), reigned as the first female monarch of the Kingdom of Poland from 1384 to her death. She was a member of the Capetian House of Anjou, the third daughter of Louis the Great, King of Hungary and Poland, and Elizabeth of Bosnia. Through his grandmothers, she was descended from the native Piast dynasty of Poland.

Her marriage with William of Habsburg was decided in 1375 and she lived in Austria between 1378 and 1380. After Jadwiga's eldest sister, Catherine, died in 1379, King Louis regarded Jadwiga and William as his successors in Hungary. On Louis's demands, the representatives of the Polish noblemen paid homage to Jadwiga's elder sister, Mary, and Mary's fiancé, Sigismund of Luxemburg. However, Louis died and his widow had Mary crowned "King of Hungary" to secure the government of Hungary for herself against Sigismund in 1382. Sigismund attempted to seize Poland, but the Polish noblemen declared that they were only willing to obey to one of King Louis's two daughters, stipulating that their monarch were to settle in Poland.

Queens regnant being relatively uncommon in Europe at the time, Jadwiga was officially crowned a "king" (rex) rather than "queen" (regina). She is an important link in the transition of the Polish monarchy from the Piast to the Jagiellon dynasty.

Childhood (1373 or 1374–1382)[edit]

Jadwiga with her mother and sisters as depicted on Saint Simeon's casket in Zadar

Jadwiga was the youngest (third) daughter of Louis I, King of Hungary and Poland, and his second wife, Elizabeth of Bosnia.[2][3] Her grandmothers were Polish princesses, connecting her to the native Piast dynasty of Poland.[4] Historian Oscar Halecki emphasizes that her "genealogical tree clearly shows that [she] had more Polish blood than any other".[4]

She was born in Buda,[5] but the date of her birth is unknown.[6] Her father's charter for Poznań, which was issued on 3 October 1373, only listed Jadwiga's two older sisters, Catherine and Mary, suggesting that she was born after this date.[7] She was first mentioned in a document issued on 17 April 1384 which contained Louis's instructions for his envoys to France.[5] According to a scholarly theory, Jadwiga was born before 19 February 1374 because she must have been at least 12 years old at the time of her marriage on 18 February 1386.[8] She was named after her distant ancestor, Saint Hedwig of Silesia who had been canonized in 1267.[9] She was brought up at the royal court in Buda and Visegrád, Hungary.[citation needed]

King Louis did not father sons which made his daughters especially attractive brides for European royals.[3] Leopold III, Duke of Austria opened negotiations about the marriage of his eldest son, William, and Jadwiga already on 18 August 1374.[10] Louis wanted to ensure his daughters' right to inherit his realms.[11] After he issued the Privilege of Koszyce, confirming and extending the liberties of the Polish nobles, the Polish lords acknowledged that one of his daughters would succeed him in Poland on 17 September 1374.[11][12] On Louis's demand, the lords took an oath of loyalty to his eldest daughter, Catherine.[13]

Louis agreed to give Jadwiga in marriage to William of Austria on 4 March 1375.[10] The two children's sponsalia de futuro (a ceremony establishing the legal framework for the consummation of the marriage without any further ecclesiastical act as soon as they both reached the age of maturity) was celebrated at Hainburg on 15 June 1378.[14][15] Leopold of Austria agreed that Jadwiga would only receive Treviso, a town which was to be conquered from the Republic of Venice, as dowry from her father.[16] After the ceremony, Jadwiga stayed in Austria for almost two years; she mainly lived in Vienna.[17]

Jadwiga's sister, Catherine, died in late 1378.[3] King Louis invited the leading Polish lords to Koszyce and forced them to swear an oath of loyalty to his second daughter, Mary in September 1379.[13][18] Mary was betrothed to Sigismund of Luxemburg,[15] a great-grandson of Casimir the Great who had been Louis's predecessor on the Polish throne.[19] On 12 February 1380, King Louis and Duke Leopold confirmed their 1378 agreement about the marriage of Jadwiga and William at a meeting in Zólyom (now Zvolen in Slovakia).[20][21] Along with Louis's mother and wife, Hungarian lords also approved the new agreement, suggesting that Jadwiga and William were regarded as her father's successors in Hungary.[22]

Louis suffered from a serious skin disease during his last years.[23] On his demand, a delegation of the Polish lords and clergy acknowledged Sigismund of Luxemburg's right to succeed Louis in Poland and paid a formal homage to him as their future king in Zólyom on 25 July 1382.[24][25] The Polish noblemen believed that Louis was planning to held a meeting for the Hungarian lords and prelates to announce that he would make Jadwiga and her husband-to-be, William, his heirs in Hungary.[15] However, Louis died on 11 September 1382.[23] Along with her mother and sister, Jadwiga was present at her father's death bed.[24]

Towards coronation (1382–1384)[edit]

Five days after Louis's death, on 17 September, Jadwiga's sister, Mary, was crowned "king" of Hungary.[24][26] Mary's rapid coronation was organized by their ambitious mother who wanted to govern Hungary on her twelfe-year-old daughter's behalf and to get rid of her fiancé, Sigismund of Luxemburg.[27][28] Sigismund of Luxemburg, whom Louis had sent to Poland to crush a rebellion, adopted the title Herr des Kunygreiches zu Polen ("Lord of the Kingdom of Poland"), demanding oaths of loyalty from many towns in Lesser Poland.[25] However, at a meeting at Radomsko on 25 November, the nobles of Greater Poland decided that they would only obey to the daughter of the late king who was willing to settle in Poland.[29] The noblemen of Lesser Poland who assembled in Wiślica on 12 December passed a similar decision.[29] At the latter meeting, Queen Elizabeth's envoys prohibited the Poles to swear an oath of loyalty to anyone else than one of her daughters which invalidated the homage that the Polish lords had paid to Sigismund.[29]

Polish noblemen who did not want to be ruled by a foreign monarch preferred to proclaim a member of the Piast dynasty king.[30][25] Queen Elizabeth's uncle, Władysław the White, who had already attempted to seize Poland during Louis's reign, was one of their candidates.[31] However, he had taken monastic vows and settled in a Benedictine monastery in Dijon in Burgundy.[25] Antipope Clement VII, whom King Louis had refused to recognize against Pope Urban VI,[32] released Władysław from his vows, but he refused to leave his monastery.[33] Siemowit IV, Duke of Masovia, was a more ambitious candidate.[30] He was especially popular among the nobility and townspeople of Greater Poland; Bodzanta, Archbishop of Gniezno, also supported him.[13][30]

At a new meeting of the Polish noblemen, which was held in Sieradz in February 1383, Queen Elizabeth's representatives released the Polish lords from their 1378 oaths of fidelity to Mary.[34] The envoys also announced that Queen Elizabeth were willing to send Jadwiga to be crowned in Poland, provided that after her coronation she could return to live in Buda until her twelfth birthday.[34] The Polish lords accepted the dowager queen's proposal.[34] However, they soon realized that this solution would extend the period of interregnum by three years.[34] During their next meeting, which was also held in Sieradz, the majority of the noblemen was ready to elect Siemowit of Masovia king on 28 March; according to their plan, Siemowit was to marry Jadwiga.[34] However, a member of the influential Tęczyński family, Jan, convinced them to postpone Siemowit's election.[34] The noblemen agreed to wait for Jadwiga until 10 May, stipulating that she should permanently live in Poland after her coronation.[34]


Until 1370, Poland had been ruled by the native Piast Dynasty. Its last king, Casimir III, had left no legitimate son and considered his male grandchildren either unsuited or too young to reign. He therefore decided that the surviving son of his sister Elizabeth, Louis I of Hungary, should succeed him. Louis was proclaimed king, while Elizabeth held much of the practical power until her death in 1380.

When Louis died in 1382, the Hungarian throne was inherited by his eldest surviving daughter Mary, under the regency of their Bosnian mother. In Poland, however, the Szlachtas of Lesser Poland (Poland's virtual rulers) did not want to continue the personal union with Hungary, nor to accept as regent Mary's fiancé Sigismund, whom they expelled from the country. They therefore chose as their new monarch Mary's younger sister, Jadwiga. After two years' negotiations with Jadwiga's mother, Elizabeth of Bosnia, who was regent of Hungary, and a civil war in Greater Poland (1383), Jadwiga finally came to Kraków and at the age of ten, on 16 October 1384 (or 1385, sources vary),[35] was crowned "king" of Poland — Hedvig Rex Poloniæ, not Hedvig Regina Poloniæ, as Polish law had no provision for a female ruler (queen regnant).[citation needed]

Duke Siemowit negotiating ceasefire with Queen Jadwiga

As child monarch of Poland, Jadwiga had at least one relative in Poland (all her immediate family having remained in Hungary): her mother's childless uncle, Władysław the White (d. 1388), Prince of Gniewkowo. Soon after Jadwiga's coronation, new suitors for Jadwiga's hand appeared: Duke Siemowit IV of Masovia and Grand Duke Jogaila of Lithuania, the latter supported by the lords of Lesser Poland. In 1385 (when Jadwiga was eleven years old) William of Austria came to Kraków to consummate the marriage and present the lords with a fait accompli. His plan, however, failed and William was expelled from Poland while Jadwiga declared her sponsalia invalid. William later married Jadwiga's cousin, Joan II of Naples. That same year (1385), Jogaila and the lords of Lesser Poland signed the Union of Krewo whereby Jogaila pledged to adopt Western Christianity and unite Lithuania with Poland in exchange for Jadwiga's hand and the Polish crown. Twelve-year-old Jadwiga and 26-year-old Jogaila — who had earlier been baptized Władysław — wed on 18 February 1386 at Kraków. This was followed by Jogaila's coronation as King of Poland, although Jadwiga retained her royal rights.

In 1386, Jadwiga's mother Elizabeth and her sister Queen Mary of Hungary were kidnapped.[35] In January 1387, Elizabeth was strangled, while Mary was released in July of the same year, by the effort of future Frankopan family and Jadwiga's adopted maternal uncle King Tvrtko of Bosnia. Mary, heavily pregnant, died in 1395 under suspicious circumstances.

As a monarch, young Jadwiga probably had little actual power. Nevertheless, she was actively engaged in her kingdom's political, diplomatic and cultural life and acted as the guarantor of Władysław's promises to reclaim Poland's lost territories. In 1387, Jadwiga led two successful military expeditions to reclaim the province of Halych in Red Ruthenia, which had been retained by Hungary in a dynastic dispute at her accession. As she was an heiress to Louis I of Hungary herself, the expeditions were for the most part peaceful and resulted in Petru I of Moldavia paying homage to the Polish monarchs in September 1387.[36] In 1390 she began a correspondence with the Teutonic Knights, followed by personal meetings in which she opened diplomatic negotiations herself.

Most political responsibilities, however, were probably in Władysław's hands, with Jadwiga attending to cultural and charitable activities.[36] She sponsored writers and artists and donated much of her personal wealth, including her royal insignia, to charity, for purposes including the founding of hospitals.[35] She financed a scholarship for twenty Lithuanians to study at Charles University in Prague to help strengthen Christianity in their country, to which purpose she also founded a bishopric in Vilnius. Among her most notable cultural legacies was the restoration of the Kraków Academy, which in 1817 was renamed Jagiellonian University in honour of the couple.[37]

Death and inheritance[edit]

Queen Jadwiga's Oath, by Simmler

On 22 June 1399 Jadwiga gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth Bonifacia. Within a month, both the girl and her mother had died from birth complications. They were buried together in Wawel Cathedral. Jadwiga's death undermined Jogaila's position as King of Poland, but he managed to retain the throne until his death 35 years later.[38]

It is not easy to determine who was Jadwiga's heir in line of Poland or Poland's rightful heir, because Poland had not used primogeniture and therefore kings had ascended by some sort of election. There were descendants of superseded daughters of Casimir III of Poland (d. 1370), such as his youngest daughter Anna, Countess of Celje (d. 1425 without surviving Issue), and her daughter Anna of Celje (1380–1416) whom Władysław II Jogaila married next. Anna had a daughter Jadvyga of Lithuania born in 1408 (the name Jadvyga (Jotvinga) originates from Lithuanian speaking people name Jotvingiai (they called themselves by ethnonime Dainaviai, i.e. singing people) who lived under Kiev Rus command in nowadays Belarus, Ukraine and Poland and who were called Yatviagi by orthodox Slavic sources in Slavic language). Jadvyga died in 1431, reputedly poisoned by Sophia, Władysław's last wife, after a faction of Polish nobles supported Jadvyga against Sophia's sons. Emperor Sigismund himself was an heir of Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas and Casimir III, as eldest son of his mother Elisabeth of Pomerania, who was since 1377 the only surviving child of Elisabeth of Poland, herself daughter of Casimir III from his first marriage with Aldona Gediminaite of Lithuania. The family possession of the principality of Kuyavia belonged to Sigismund, who was the heir with the strongest hereditary claims. However, the leaders of the country wanted to avoid Sigismund and any personal union with Hungary.

Other descendants of Władysław the Short (through the Silesian dukes of Świdnica) included the then Emperor Wenceslas, King of Bohemia, who died without issue in 1419, as well as the Silesian dukes of Opole and Sagan. Male line Piasts were represented most closely by the Dukes of Masovia, one of whom had aspired to marry Jadwiga in 1385. Also various princes of Silesia were of Piast descent, but they had been largely pushed aside since the exile of Vladislas II, Duke of Kraków.

Jadwiga's husband Władysław II Jagiełło (Jogaila) retained the throne primarily because no claimant of greater eminence appeared. He was never ousted, even after the death of his second wife, and eventually succeeded to found a dynasty in Poland by the sons of his last wife, who were not related to earlier Polish rulers.[38]

Legends and veneration[edit]

Jadwiga of Poland
King of Poland
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 8 August 1986, Kraków, Poland
Canonized 8 June 1997, Kraków, Poland
Major shrine Wawel Cathedral, Kraków, Poland
Feast 8 June
Attributes Royal dress and shoes, apron full of roses
Patronage Queens, united Europe

From the time of her death,[citation needed] Jadwiga was venerated widely in Poland as a saint. Numerous legends about miracles were recounted to justify her sainthood. The two best-known are those of "Jadwiga's cross" and "Jadwiga's foot":

Jadwiga often prayed before a large black crucifix hanging in the north aisle of Wawel Cathedral. During one of these prayers, the Christ on the cross is said to have spoken to her. The crucifix, "Saint Jadwiga's cross," is still there, with her relics beneath it. Because of this event, she is considered a medieval mystic.[39][citation needed]

According to another legend, Jadwiga took a piece of jewelry from her foot and gave it to a poor stonemason who had begged for her help. When the king left, he noticed her footprint in the plaster floor of his workplace, even though the plaster had already hardened before her visit. The supposed footprint, known as "Jadwiga's foot", can still be seen in one of Kraków's churches.[citation needed]

In yet another legend, Jadwiga was taking part in a Corpus Christi Day procession when a coppersmith's son drowned by falling into a river. Jadwiga threw her mantle over the boy's body, and he regained life.[40]

On 8 June 1979 Pope John Paul II prayed at her sarcophagus; and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments officially affirmed her beatification on 8 August 1986. The Pope went on to canonize Jadwiga in Kraków on 8 June 1997.[citation needed]

Exhumations and sarcophagus[edit]

Jadwiga's sarcophagus, Wawel Cathedral, Kraków

Jadwiga's body has been exhumed at least three times. The first time was in the 17th century, in connection with the construction of a bishop's sarcophagus next to Jadwiga's grave. The next exhumation took place in 1887. Jadwiga's complete skeleton was found, together with a mantle and hat. Jan Matejko made a sketch of Jadwiga's skull, which later helped him paint her portrait (see below).

On 12 July 1949, her grave was again opened. This time she was reburied in a sarcophagus paid for by Karol Lanckoroński, which had been sculpted in white marble in 1902 by Antoni Madeyski. The female king is depicted with a dog, a symbol of fidelity, at her feet. The sarcophagus is oriented with Jadwiga's feet pointing west, unlike all the other sarcophagi in the cathedral. On display next to the sarcophagus are the modest wooden orb and scepter with which she had been buried – she had sold her jewels to finance the renovation of the Kraków Academy, known today as Jagiellonian University.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sroka, S. A. Genealogia Andegawenów, Kraków
  2. ^ Wolf 1993, p. xliii.
  3. ^ a b c Engel 2001, p. 169.
  4. ^ a b Halecki 1991, p. 78.
  5. ^ a b Halecki 1991, p. 56.
  6. ^ Jackson 1999, p. 190.
  7. ^ Sroka 1999, p. 54.
  8. ^ Sroka 1999, pp. 54-55.
  9. ^ Halecki 1991, p. 89.
  10. ^ a b Halecki 1991, p. 58.
  11. ^ a b Davies 2005, p. 90.
  12. ^ Sedlar 1994, pp. 39-40.
  13. ^ a b c Frost 2015, p. 8.
  14. ^ Halecki 1991, p. 65.
  15. ^ a b c Engel 2001, p. 170.
  16. ^ Halecki 1991, pp. 64-65.
  17. ^ Halecki 1991, p. 93.
  18. ^ Halecki 1991, p. 71.
  19. ^ Halecki 1991, p. 52.
  20. ^ Frost 2015, pp. 8, 10.
  21. ^ Halecki 1991, pp. 72-73.
  22. ^ Halecki 1991, p. 73.
  23. ^ a b Engel 2001, p. 173.
  24. ^ a b c Halecki 1991, p. 75.
  25. ^ a b c d Frost 2015, p. 10.
  26. ^ Engel 2001, p. 195.
  27. ^ Monter 2012, p. 195.
  28. ^ Halecki 1991, p. 97.
  29. ^ a b c Halecki 1991, p. 99.
  30. ^ a b c Halecki 1991, p. 100.
  31. ^ Halecki 1991, pp. 66, 100.
  32. ^ Halecki 1991, pp. 69-70.
  33. ^ Frost 2015, p. 11.
  34. ^ a b c d e f g Halecki 1991, p. 101.
  35. ^ a b c Norman Davies (2005). "Jadwiga (chapter Jogalia)". God's Playground: A History of Poland in Two Volumes, Volume 1. Oxford University Press. pp. 94–96. ISBN 0-19-925339-0. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  36. ^ a b Paweł Jasienica (1988). "Władysław Jagiełło". Polska Jagiellonów (in Polish). Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy. pp. 80–146.   ISBN 83-06-01796-X
  37. ^ Stanisław Waltos (2004). "The Past and the Present". Jagiellonian University's web page. Jagiellonian University. Archived from the original on 19 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-04. 
  38. ^ a b http://www.poczet.com/jadwiga.htm
  39. ^ "Pawel Jasienica, Jagiellonian Poland (American Institute of Polish Culture: Miami, 1988)."
  40. ^ Catholic World Culture Chapter XXIII, pp. 146–151
  41. ^ Halecki 1991, p. 365.
  42. ^ Psałterz floriański


  • Davies, Norman (2005). God's Playground: A History of Poland, Volume I: The Origins to 1795 (Revised Edition). Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-12817-9. 
  • Engel, Pál (2001). The Realm of St Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary, 895–1526. I.B. Tauris Publishers. ISBN 1-86064-061-3. 
  • Frost, Robert I. (2015). The Oxford History of Poland-Lithuania, Volume I: The Making of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, 1385-1567. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-820869-3. 
  • Halecki, Oscar (1991). Jadwiga of Anjou and the Rise of East Central Europe. Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America. ISBN 0-88033-206-9. 
  • Jackson, Guida M. (1999). Women Rulers Throughout the Ages: An Illustrated Guide. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-57607-091-3. 
  • Monter, William (2012). The Rise of Female Kings in Europe, 1300-1800. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-17327-7. 
  • Sedlar, Jean W. (1994). East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000-1500. University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-97290-4. 
  • Sroka, Stanisław Andrzej (1999). Genealogia Andegawenów węgierskich [Genealogy of the Hungarian Angevins] (in Polish). Towarzystwo Naukowe Societas Vistulana. ISBN 83-909094-1-3. 
  • Wolf, Armin (1993). "Reigning Queens in Medieval Europe: When, Where, and Why". In Parsons, John Carmi. Medieval Queenship. Sutton Publishing. pp. 169–188. ISBN 0-7509-1831-4. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Jadwiga of Poland
Born: 1373/4 Died: 17 July 1399
Regnal titles
Title last held by
King of Poland
with Vladislaus II (1386-1399)
Succeeded by
Vladislaus II