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Jadwiga of Poland

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Jadwiga (1373/4 – 17 July 1399) was monarch of Poland from 1384 to her death. Her official title was 'king' rather than 'queen', reflecting that she was a sovereign in her own right and not merely a royal consort. She was a member of the Capetian House of Anjou, the daughter of King Louis I of Hungary and Elisabeth of Bosnia. She is known in Polish as Jadwiga, in English and German as Hedwig, in Lithuanian as Jadvyga, in Hungarian as Hedvig, and in Latin as Hedvigis.

She is venerated by the Roman Catholic Church as Saint Hedwig, where she is the patron saint of queens and a United Europe.

Royal titles

Queens regnant being relatively uncommon in Europe at the time (see Empress Matilda), she was officially crowned a king rather than a queen.[1]



Jadwiga was the youngest daughter of Louis I of Hungary and of Elizabeth of Bosnia. Jadwiga could claim descent from the House of Piast, the ancient native Polish dynasty on both her mother's and her father's side. Her paternal grandmother Elisabeth of Cuyavia was the daughter of King Władysław I the Elbow-high, who had reunited Poland in 1320.

Jadwiga was brought up at the royal court in Buda and Visegrád, Hungary. In 1378, she was betrothed (sponsalia de futuro) to Habsburg scion William of Austria, and spent about a year at the imperial court in Vienna, Austria. Jadwiga's father Louis had, in 1364 in Kraków, during festivities known as the Days of Kraków, also made an arrangement with his former father-in-law Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV to inter-marry their future children: Charles' son and future Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund of Luxemburg was engaged and married, as a child, to Louis' daughter and future Queen Mary. One of Louis' original plans had been to leave the kingdom of Poland to Mary, whose marriage with Sigismund was more relevant to this end as Sigismund was an heir in his own right to Poland and was intended to inherit Brandenburg, which was nearer to Poland than to Hungary. Jadwiga's destiny as Austrian consort was a better fit for Hungary, as it was an immediate neighbor of Austria.

Jadwiga was well-educated and a polyglot, speaking Latin, Bosnian, Hungarian, Serbian, Polish and German, interested in the arts, music, science, and court life. She was also known for her piety and her admiration for Saints Mary, Martha, and Bridget of Sweden, as well as her patron saint, Hedwig of Andechs.


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 his surviving sister Elizabeth of Poland and her son, 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 lords 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, was crowned King of Poland — Hedvig Rex Poloniæ, not Hedvig Regina Poloniæ, as the Polish law had no provision for a female ruler (queen regnant). The masculine gender of her title was also meant to emphasize that she was monarch in her own right, not a queen consort.

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 and rival, 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 in March 1385 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, probably on the order of Mary's husband and consort Sigismund.

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.[2] 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.[2] 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. 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.[3]

Death and inheritance

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.

It is not easy to state who was Jadwiga's heir in line of Poland, or Poland's rightful heir, since Poland had not used primogeniture, but 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 Jagiełło married next,who had a daughter Jadwiga of Lithuania born in 1408. Jadwiga died in 1431, reputedly poisoned by Sophia, Władysław's last wife, after a faction of Polish nobles supported Jadwiga against Sophia's sons. Emperor Sigismund himself was an heir of 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 Gediminaitis Aldona 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 Jagiello kept the throne, mostly because no claimant with clearly better stature appeared. He was never ousted, not 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.

Legends and veneration

From the time of her death, Jadwiga was venerated widely in Poland as a saint, though she was only beatified by the church in the 1980s. She was canonized in 1997, by the Polish-born Pope John Paul II. 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.

Jadwiga liked to smuggle food from the castle to give to the poor, and carried it in her apron. King Jagiello was informed of these excursions at night, and was told that Jadwiga might be giving information to rebels. King Jagiello was, of course, very angry. He decided to find the meaning of these wanderings after dark. One night, while Jadwiga was leaving by a secret door, Jagiello sprang out of the bushes and demanded to see what was in her apron. A miracle occurred and the food she was carrying (which would have earned her a death sentence), turned into a garland of roses. To this day, Jadwiga is always depicted wearing an apron of roses. 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. [1]

Another story was when Jadwiga was taking part in a Corpus Christi Day procession. During this time, a coppersmith’s son drowned by falling into a river. Jadwiga threw her mantle over the boy’s body, and he regained life.[4]

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 canonized Jadwiga in Kraków on 8 June 1997.

Exhumations and sarcophagus

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 above).

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 queen 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 the queen had been buried – she had sold her jewels to finance the renovation of the Kraków Academy, known today as Jagiellonian University.


Charles II of Naples
Charles Martel of Anjou
Maria Arpad of Hungary
Charles I of Hungary
Rudolph I of Germany
Klementia of Habsburg
Gertrude of Hohenburg
Louis I of Hungary
Kazimierz I Kujawski
Władysław I the Elbow-high
Euphrosyne of Opole
Elisabeth of Poland
Boleslaw the Pious
Hedwig of Kalisz
Jolenta of Poland
Jadwiga of Kalisz]]
Prijezda I, Ban of Bosnia
Stephen I of Bosnia
Stephen II of Bosnia
Stephen Dragutin of Serbia
Elisabeth of Serbia
Catherine of Hungary
Elisabeth of Bosnia
Ziemomysł of Kuyavia
Casimir II of Kuyavia
Salome of Pomerania
Elizabeth of Kuyavia


  1. Hedvigis Rex Polonie: M. Barański, S. Ciara, M. Kunicki-Goldfinger, Poczet królów i książąt polskich, Warszawa 1997, also Teresa Dunin-Wąsowicz, Dwie Jadwigi
  2. 2.0 2.1 (Polish) Paweł Jasienica (1988). "Władysław Jagiełło". Polska Jagiellonów. Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy. pp. 80–146. ISBN 83-06-01796-X. 
  3. (English) Stanisław Waltos (2004). "The Past and the Present". Jagiellonian University's web page. Jagiellonian University. Retrieved 2006-08-04. 
  4. Catholic World Culture Chapter XXIII, pp. 146-151

Further reading

  • Heinze, Karl (8 December 2003). Baltic Sagas. Virtualbookworm Publishing. ISBN 1-58939-498-4. 
  • Lukowski, Jerzy; Hubert Zawadzki (20 September 2001). A Concise History of Poland. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-55917-0. 
  • Turnbull, Stephen; Richard Hook (30 May 2003). Tannenberg 1410. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-561-9. 
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Jadwiga of Poland. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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