Helen of Bosnia

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Jelena Gruba
Queen regnant of Bosnia
Reign September 1395 – April 1398
Predecessor Dabiša
Successor Ostoja
Queen consort of Bosnia
Tenure 1391–95
Born c. 1345
Died after 18 March 1399
Spouse Dabiša, King of Bosnia
Issue Stana Kotromanić
House Nikolić

Helen (Serbo-Croatian: Jelena/Јелена; c. 1345- after 18 March 1399), also known by the name Gruba (Груба), was queen of Bosnia, first as queen consort from 1391 until 1395 and then as queen regnant until 1398. Born probably into the Nikolić noble family, which ruled a part of Zachlumia, she was the widow and successor of King Dabiša, a member of the House of Kotromanić. She remains the only female head of state in the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Queen consort[edit]

A charter issued by Dabiša and endorsed by Helen, granting the village Veljaci to their daughter Stana, to be inherited by her daughter Vladava and further heirs

Nothing is known for certain about Helen's origin. She was most likely a member of the Nikolić noble family from Zachlumia.[1] A charter dated 17 July 1392 is the earliest extant source naming Helen as queen and wife of Dabiša, who had ascended the throne in March 1391, and places her at Dabiša's side in Lušci. As queen consort, Helen endorsed her husband's acts, and he emphasized in his charters that he had consulted with his wife.[2] Queen Helen's family gained significant influence in state affairs during her husband's reign, as well as the right to collect the tribute of Ston from the Republic of Ragusa in 1393.[1] The royal couple had a daughter named Stana, whose daughter Vladava married the nobleman Juraj Radivojević during Dabiša's lifetime.[3]

Queen regnant[edit]

In 1394, Helen agreed to Dabiša's decision to designate King Sigismund of Hungary as his heir. When Dabiša died on 8 September the following year, however, the leading noblemen – Grand Duke Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić, Prince Pavao Radinović, Duke Sandalj Hranić and Juraj Radivojević – refused to honor the agreement Dabiša had made with Sigismund.[2] Sigismund raised an army and marched to nearby Syrmia with the aim to claim the Bosnian throne, but the noblemen convoked a stanak and elected Helen as Dabiša's successor. Not willing to engage the united nobility in war, Sigismund withdrew; the death of his wife Mary, heiress of Hungary and relative of Dabiša, made his position too precarious to attack Bosnia, as did the defeat by the Ottomans at the Battle of Nikopolis.[1] By mid-December, Helen had successfully consolidated her grasp on the throne.[2]

Queen Helen fostered notably good relations with Ragusa; the Republic regularly paid their tributes to her, while she relieved them of certain customs duties.[2] As queen regnant, however, Helen was a mere puppet of the nobility. All her surviving charters specifically note that they had been approved by the major noblemen.[4] The emancipation of Bosnian nobility reached a peak during Helen's reign. Having become virtually autonomous, her vassals engaged in internal warfare which significantly weakened the kingdom, which was particularly evident in 1398.[2]

Queen dowager[edit]

It seems that Helen's family attempted to take further advantage of their royal relations and free themselves from vassalage to the House of Kosača to become second only to the monarch.[4] This may have been the reason for Helen's deposition,[4] which took place sometime between 3 April and 10 May 1398.[2] The deposition was opposed by her brothers and nephews. They were thus forced to take refuge in Ragusa, but Helen remained in Bosnia, where she was treated with honor due to queen dowager.[4]

During the reign of her successor, King Ostoja, she used the name Gruba (likely her "folk name", as opposed to one from the calendar of saints) and the title of queen, but without the official royal style ("by the Grace of God Queen of Serbs, Bosnia, etc"). Gruba is last mentioned in a letter sent by Ragusan authorities on 18 March 1399. She may have died of an epidemic that plagued Zachlumia at that time.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Fine 1994, p. 458.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Ćošković 2005.
  3. ^ Ćošković 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d Fine 1994, p. 459.


  • Ćošković, Pejo (2005), "Jelena", Kotromanići (in Serbo-Croatian), Miroslav Krleža Institute of Lexicography 
  • Ćošković, Pejo (2009), Kotromanići (in Serbo-Croatian), Miroslav Krleža Institute of Lexicography 
  • Fine, John Van Antwerp (1994). The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08260-4. 
Helen of Bosnia
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Queen regnant of Bosnia
Succeeded by
Royal titles
Title last held by
Dorothea of Bulgaria
Queen consort of Bosnia
Title next held by