Jadwiga (1374–1399)

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Jadwiga (1374–1399)

Queen of Poland whose reign is seen as the beginning of the golden age in Poland's history and whose policies and foundations continued to bear fruit after her death. Name variations: Hedwig, Hedwiga, Hedvigis; Jadwiga of Anjou. Born in Hungary on February 18, 1374; died in Poland from complications of childbirth three days after the death of her only child on July 17, 1399; buried with her daughter in the cathedral on Wawel Hill, Cracow; youngest daughter of Louis I the Great, king of Hungary (r. 1342–1382) and Poland (r. 1370–1382) and Elizabeth of Bosnia (c. 1345–1387); married Jagello or Jagiello (1377–1434), grand duke of Lithuania, who became Vladislav also known as Ladislas II (or V) Jagello, king of Poland (r. 1386–1434), on February 18, 1386, in the cathedral on Wawel Hill, Cracow, Poland; children: Elizabeth Bonifacio (June 22, 1399–July 14, 1399).

Crowned king [sic] of Poland (October 15, 1384) in the cathedral on Wawel Hill, Cracow; refounded Cracow University; beatified by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Poland (1979).

Jadwiga died a queen, venerated as a saint, in July 1399, at the age of 25 years. As a queen, she is acknowledged to have been "one of Poland's great rulers." Her concern for the spiritual well-being of her nation and her devotion to the poor and to charitable works earned her the love of her people and the special recognition and continuing support of the Catholic Church. Her personal sacrifice in giving up her betrothed, William of Austria, in order to marry Jagiello, grand duke of Lithuania, and so unite their two countries under the banner of Roman Catholicism, pushed forward the frontier of Western civilization and made possible the emergence of that region described as Central East Europe. Although of tender years, she exhibited a remarkable strength of character, skilled diplomacy, and inspired political acumen. She was a model of Christian virtue in both her public and private life and dedicated to solving her country's problems by peaceful means. Her purely human approach to legal issues and her charitable care for the poor contributed to the popularity of the diarchy. Her premature death was mourned by all, not least by Jagiello, who wore her ring for the remainder of his days, despite three further marriages. Her reign is seen as the beginning of the golden age in Poland's history. The great events that followed her death were the result of her personal efforts. In the waning days of the 20th century, she was still a hero of the Polish people, and her canonization was being actively pursued in the Vatican.

Jadwiga was born on February 18, 1374, at the Hungarian court, probably at Buda, her father's capital, and lived there for the first four years of her life. She was the youngest daughter and last-born child of Louis I, king of Hungary (r. 1342–1382) and Poland (r. 1370–1382), and his second wife, Elizabeth of Bosnia . Her ancestry contained both kings and saints, and monarchy and sainthood went hand in hand throughout her life. Through her father, she was a direct descendant of the house of Anjou, which at the time of her birth ruled over France, Hungary, and Poland. Her paternal grandparents were of the Polish Piast dynasty. She was named for her ancestress, St. Jadwiga of Silesia (Hedwig of Silesia ), who was renowned for her ascetic piety, and she also numbered Louis IX, king of France, Elizabeth of Hungary (1207–1231), Salome of Hungary and other saints among her antecedents. It was both as a queen and as a saint that Jadwiga left her own mark on history.

Elizabeth of Bosnia (c. 1345–1387)

Queen and regent of Hungary. Born before 1345; executed in January 1387; daughter of Stefan Kotromanic of Bosnia (a district governor); became second wife of Louis I the Great, king of Hungary (r. 1342–1382) and Poland (r. 1370–1382), betrothed in 1353; children: unnamed daughter (1365–1365); Catherine (1370–1378);Maria of Hungary (1371–1395);Jadwiga (1374–1399), queen of Poland (r. 1384–1399).

Her father, Louis I of Hungary, was a strong influence on her early life. He was the son of Charles I, king of Hungary (r. 1308–1342), and Elizabeth of Poland (c. 1310–1386), daughter of Ladislas I Lokietek, king of Poland (r. 1306–1333), and sister of Casimir the Great, king of Poland (r. 1333–1370). In Hungary, Louis I was respected as a ruler who was a clever politician and had been a distinguished soldier. He was also a champion of the Roman Catholic Church with a special devotion to Mary the Virgin . Scholars, writers, artists, and musicians from all over Europe were attracted to his court, which revolved around the services and rites demanded by his religion. Mass was said daily and fasting and feasting were faithfully observed according to the Church calendar. Jadwiga was therefore familiar from an early age with the cultures and traditions and religion of the Western civilized world. She was surrounded by young people of her own age and country as well as children from visiting royal families. She learned many languages including Latin, Hungarian, French, and German, as well as Polish and probably Italian. Her father encouraged a love of books and literature, music, and dancing. She became an expert needlewoman. These early experiences bore fruit in her adult life. As queen of Poland, Jadwiga pioneered the translation of books and manuscripts, including religious texts, into the vernacular; she inaugurated church choirs and music, and personally stitched altar cloths and vestments for her various foundations.

Jagiello's forces had looted and pillaged the area. When Jadwiga heard of it, she was distraught, and, to ease her distress, Jagiello made recompense for damage caused and possessions lost. But "who will give them back their tears?" she asked.

—Margaret Lynch

Her mother Elizabeth of Bosnia was the daughter of Stefan Kotromanic of Bosnia, who held the position of ban, that is a district governor who takes command in time of war. Jadwiga had Serbian and Croatian roots. In contrast to her father, her mother had few admirable qualities, and it was fortunate that she took little interest in the upbringing of her daughters. Although commended as a devout woman, Elizabeth of Bosnia was reputedly of a deceitful, conniving nature. The marriage of Elizabeth and Louis was a relatively happy one. Louis had chosen her as his second wife in 1353 in the hope that her father, the ban, would aid him in his efforts to bring his Croatian subjects under control. The greatest disappointment of their union was their failure to produce a male heir. By 1374, they had three surviving daughters, Catherine born in 1370, Maria of Hungary in 1371, and Jadwiga in 1374. Their first-born, an unnamed daughter, had been born in 1365, dying one year later.

It was from her paternal grandmother that Jadwiga, destined to live and rule in Poland, learned of its language, traditions, culture, myths and legends. Elizabeth of Poland was an energetic woman and a strong moral influence on the young Jadwiga. Her marriage in 1320 to the king of Hungary had made allies of their two countries. When her brother, Casimir the Great, had died in a hunting accident in 1370, without leaving an heir, the crown of Poland had passed to her son, Louis.

In 1374, therefore, Jadwiga's father ruled over both Hungary and Poland. But where in Hungary he was highly regarded, in Poland he was resented, since he spared little time for the Poles, not bothering to learn their language and rarely visiting them. Instead, Louis had entrusted the regency of Poland to his mother, Elizabeth of Poland. From 1370 to 1375, 1376 to 1377, and 1379 to 1380, she had exercised real power on her son's behalf, but overall her rule had been unhappy and ineffectual since the Poles had disliked being governed by a woman, even if she was of Polish Piast descent, and had considered her to be too old to cope with the problems arising from the power struggles taking place within the various factions of nobility encouraged by the apparent laxity in government.

The origins of the Poles are obscure since little documentary evidence has survived, but they are believed to be Slavic in nature. The country's earliest history is based mostly on myth and legend. It was Christianized in the 10th century and has had close relations with the West, especially the Roman Catholic Church, ever since. Its geographical features and its location have always had a profound influence on its development and character. It is, effectively, a huge flat plain—the name Poland is derived from pole meaning "plain"—and lacks any natural boundaries, except the Carpathian Mountains which separate it from Hungary and Slovakia. Poland, therefore, was difficult to defend, an easy target, open to attack from her enemies, but, at the same time, it could itself encroach upon its neighbors. The boundaries were ever-changing. As a result, in the 14th century, Poland had become cosmopolitan, tolerant, and hospitable to visitors and a refuge for the persecuted. By the reign of Casimir the Great, it had a well-developed monarchial system of government, was highly cultured, a part of Western civilization, and strongly supportive of Roman Catholicism. Casimir had followed the policies of his father, Ladislas I Lokietek, king of Poland, in making allies of Bavaria and Hungary, in striving to curb the spread of the power of the Teutonic Order and Bohemia, and in seeking to exert Poland's control towards the south and the east. Domestic policy had been centered around the need to keep harmony between the four principal sovereignties of Silesia, Little Poland, Greater Poland, and Mazovia. Their uneasy relationship threatened to disintegrate during Louis' reign, and it was the power struggles between these factions that had stretched Elizabeth of Poland beyond her capability and threatened civil order. That the youthful Jadwiga should succeed in reconciling these factions under one banner during her reign is a tribute to her character and her moderate policies. After his mother's death in 1380, Louis set up a Council of Five headed by the bishop of Cracow, but the personal ambitions of the bishop denied it any chance of success.

As 1374 progressed, and it seemed unlikely that Louis would have any more children, it became increasingly important that he should settle the question of his successor. The Polish nobility made it clear that they would not accept another regent, they wanted their own ruler. Louis summoned their representatives to a meeting in Koszyce (or Kassa) in northern Hungary. The result of their deliberations is recorded in the privilege of Koszyce dated September 17, 1374. Louis offered the Poles one of his daughters as their next monarch, and the conditions under which they agreed to this are laid down in this important document. It guaranteed all the rights of the Polish nobility and exempted them from all taxes except for the traditional tax of twopence per acre on landed property, and promised that only nobles from the province concerned would be appointed to office in that province, and that only Poles would be appointed as starosta or governors of the royal castles. The Polish nobility had never been granted so much before. Louis named his eldest daughter Catherine as the next ruler of Poland. But Catherine died, aged eight years, in 1378. Maria was designated to take her place. At the same time, it was announced that Jadwiga would inherit the crown of Hungary.

The marriage alliances Louis had arranged for his daughters would, he hoped, provide them with the necessary support when they came to claim their inheritances. Catherine's betrothed was Louis Valois, duke of Orleans, son of Charles V, king of France; Maria was betrothed to Sigismund of Luxemburg, the margrave of Brandenburg, son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV; and Jadwiga to another German, William of Habsburg, the eight-year-old son of King Leopold III of Austria, Hungary's Western neighbor. Jadwiga and William's betrothal took place in Austria in June 1378 in the cathedral of Hainburg on the river Danube. The solemn ceremony was conducted by the Cardinal Archbishop Demetrius, and the contract was binding in every respect, lacking only consummation (sexual maturity was considered to begin at the age of

12 years). Only the pope could annul it. As was customary, Jadwiga was sent to Vienna to continue her education under the care of the Austrians while William remained in Buda; both were young hostages to the marriage alliance. Compensation for failure of either side to consummate the marriage was set at 200,000 florins for Jadwiga and 300,000 florins for William.

At the Austrian court in Vienna, Jadwiga was fortunate to be placed in the care of Albrecht, brother of King Leopold. Albrecht was a good teacher, well-versed in the arts and sciences, and a devout and caring man. He was a complete contrast to Leopold who had earned the reputation of leading a corrupt court and of being a blatant opponent of the pope. Jadwiga lived here for the next four years, seeing William on occasional exchange visits and apparently untainted by the immorality around her. Jadwiga grew to know and to love William whom she regarded as her future husband. Her affection for him made her personal sacrifice in agreeing to marry another much older than herself all the more poignant. In 1382, Jadwiga was recalled to Buda when her father suddenly fell ill and died on September 11 at Nagy Zombat in northern Hungary.

Jadwiga's world was turned upside down for, only three days after her father's death, it was her sister Maria of Hungary, not herself, who was crowned king of Hungary. Elizabeth of Bosnia, acting in her capacity as regent and queen mother, had acted swiftly, taking advantage of the absence of Sigismund, whom she disliked, and putting Maria on the throne instead of the younger and less experienced Jadwiga. She also hoped that, since the Hungarians had no liking for the German either, Sigismund would be refused reentry into Hungary, and Maria could rule alone while another husband was found. Sigismund, however, did return, and Elizabeth, with the apparent support of Maria, continued to intrigue against him and, disregarding their betrothal, sought a French marriage for Maria.

In Poland, the situation became more acute as the Poles waited for the conditions of Koszyce to be implemented, but they no longer wanted Maria of Hungary as their king. The German Sigismund was far from popular there too, and they were not prepared to accept another absentee monarch. They asked rather that Jadwiga be sent to Poland. Elizabeth agreed to their request but in various ways contrived to let two full years elapse before Jadwiga finally left Buda for Cracow. She traveled alone except for her attendants. She was ten years old.

On October 15, 1384, her name-day, Jadwiga was crowned king of Poland in Wawel Cathedral in Cracow, a title that raised her to an exceptional position. On the following day, October 16, wearing her crown and coronation robes, she descended the hill into the city where she received the homage of the burghers of Cracow. Within days, she was signing official documents and sending money and gifts to found a convent. This would be the pattern for the rest of her life; service to the state and to the Church at one and the same time.

Jadwiga had received a tremendous welcome and had been accepted, but the welcome did not extend to William of Austria, her betrothed. Public opinion was hostile to the idea of a king of German birth, and Austria was at that time engaged in a hopeless struggle against the Swiss which was unlikely to be of any benefit to Poland. Her marriage to William was to be put aside and a replacement husband urgently sought before Jadwiga reached her 12th birthday. There were two eligible candidates, Ziemovit II of Mazovia, a Piast and a Christian, who had strong support from Greater Poland, and Jagiello, the grand duke of Lithuania, who, despite his lack of Christian faith, was favored by those nearest to the queen. It was Jagiello's suit that gained momentum as Jadwiga's reign began, since union of Poland with Lithuania would be of enormous benefit to both countries. But Jagiello and his compatriots would have to become Christians.

Jagiello was the seventh son of Olgierd, grand prince of Lithuania (died 1377), and Julianna of Ruthenia . Olgierd, a strong and vigorous leader, had conquered much of Russia and had successfully defended his country against the Knights of the Teutonic Order. Lithuania, which was still pagan, despite the fact that her leaders had married Christian princesses, was seen as a legitimate target by the Knights, and many prominent representatives of European noble families had, over the years, joined their crusades, attracted by the ideal of fighting pagans and saving souls. But now in 1384, Jagiello, having succeeded his father, found himself heavily involved in domestic crises, and increasingly vulnerable to attacks by the Order and by Russia, with the ever-growing threat from the Ottoman Empire. Union with Poland could save Lithuania from possible extinction and, at the same time, bring it into the sphere of Western civilization with all the advantages that would offer. Further, Christianization would put it forever beyond the reach of the crusaders.

To the young Jadwiga there was no need for a contest. She was "married" to William. Vows made before God were binding. But when William arrived in Cracow to take his place by her side, he found the gates of the city barred against him. There is much of Jadwiga's story that has become legendary. Few documents have survived, and those that have must be considered with care. It is very difficult sometimes to disentangle fact from fiction. This is one of those occasions. Legend has it that Jadwiga not only met with William at a Franciscan monastery but that she arranged to flee with him to Austria. It is said that she was only prevented from taking such drastic action by the intervention of an elder diplomat, Demetrius of Goraj, treasurer of the kingdom, who respectfully asked her to reconsider her decision. The dramatic potential of this scene, during which Jadwiga is supposed to have asked for an axe to break down the door no one would open for her, has inspired many writers and artists, as has the aftermath when, after spending the night in prayer at the foot of a standing cross, she acceded to the pleas of her counselors and agreed to a marriage with Jagiello. This same cross is preserved in the cathedral of Cracow. In fact, it is doubtful whether she could ever have done otherwise. She was fully aware of the responsibility of her position, having been trained for leadership from a child. Devotion to God and to her duty had, likewise, been instilled from an early age. Flight with William would have betrayed these ideals. However, it would be wrong to underestimate the magnitude of the personal sacrifice she made or the strength of mind required to make it. Jagiello was quite unknown to her and, at 36, was three times her age. Moreover, as a child she had listened to the heroic tales of the crusades against the formidable heathen Lithuanians; crusades, indeed, in which her own father had participated.

On August 14, 1385, at Krewo, near Vilno in Lithuania, Jagiello further strengthened his cause by promising to unite his Lithuanian and Ruthenian lands with the crown of Poland forever. By this Treaty of Krewo, he also promised to restore Poland's lost lands, to release all Polish prisoners of war, to defend a united Poland and Lithuania against the Teutonic Order, and to pay the forfeit of 200,000 florins to the Austrians. But most important, he promised to become a Christian and all his people with him. This must have been the deciding factor for Jadwiga. Reared on the stories of her ancestor saints and their battles to save souls, she could not have held out any more. William was banished from Poland, and her envoy was sent to Pope Urban VI to request an annulment of her marriage to him. This was eventually granted on March 12, 1388, two years after her marriage, when the pope had received confirmation of the Christianization of Lithuania.

In 1386, Jagiello arrived in Poland, at Lublin, where, on February 2, according to official records, he was "unanimously accepted as king and lord of Poland." Ten days later, he entered the capital, Cracow, with his brothers, cousins, and associates. Jadwiga and Jagiello met for the first time. Ceremonies followed rapidly one after another. On February 15, Jagiello was baptized and received the Christian name of Ladislas; on February 18, Jadwiga's 12th birthday, they were married; on March 4, 1386, he was crowned Ladislas II, king of Poland, and, as Jadwiga had done, the following day he received the homage of the burghers in the city of Cracow. During the 16 days between marriage and coronation, the Polish nobles were granted the privileges they had held under Louis of Hungary and were compensated for their expenses and losses due to military service, especially for fighting outside Poland. From 1386 to 1399, there was a diarchy in Poland, that is two rulers both crowned as king. Jadwiga's generosity of spirit and complete lack of selfishness were major factors in its success. She demanded and received from her people complete loyalty to Jagiello as her co-ruler, as indeed she herself gave him her loyalty. At the same time, the Poles, more significantly, promised, at her insistence, that they would continue to serve him should she die before he did.

The reign was characterized by their different personalities, which complemented each other. As Jadwiga matured as a diplomat, so Jagiello's faith deepened. Jadwiga had little interest in the nobility and was always more concerned for the spiritual and material needs of the poor, while Jagiello looked for support from the nobles as a means to advance his dynasty. Jagiello settled his problems with a show of force but the sight of Jadwiga was sufficient for men to lay down their arms and pay homage instead. Jadwiga always favored the peaceful solution. Particular problems were created for them by the distances and diversities of their countries and by the ambitions of their subjects and of Jagiello's family. They needed regents they could trust to govern in the provinces and these were rarely found. Thus constant control and vigilance were demanded. They were always on the move, more often than not separately. In the spring of 1387, Jagiello went to Vilno, the capital of Lithuania, to oversee his country's conversion and to initiate the process whereby the Lithuanians would in time achieve those privileges accorded to their Polish counterparts; at the same time, Jadwiga traveled to Lwow in Ruthenia. The borderlands of Ruthenia had long been a source of friction between Poland, Lithuania, and Hungary. Jadwiga's purpose was to establish Polish authority specifically in Volhynia, lately Lithuanian, and Halicz, which had a Hungarian governor. Although accompanied by her personal bodyguard and at the head of an army, a force of arms was not necessary as everywhere she was welcomed and honored. She issued charters granting new privileges and promised them that they would always be part of Poland. Hungary was in no position to protest as, since 1385, civil war had been raging there.

Elizabeth of Bosnia was as unpopular a regent and queen mother as Louis had been a popular monarch. Nothing could illustrate better the sense and maturity of Jadwiga's domestic policies based on negotiation which led to peace and increased her popularity in Poland than the bitter strife in Hungary caused by the aggressive policies and subterfuges employed there by her mother. The strongest challenge to her daughter Maria as queen came from the Croatians who supported the Angevin Charles, duke of Durazzo, who, they claimed, had a more legitimate right to the Hungarian throne. Maria of Hungary, acting on Elizabeth of Bosnia's instructions, set a trap for him by appearing to agree and invited him to Buda, where arrangements were made for his election and coronation as the king of Hungary. Maria and her mother surrendered their crowns and swore allegiance to him. Within days, he was attacked by assassins of Elizabeth of Bosnia's choosing and died from the wounds he received. Status quo was restored and at last Elizabeth withdrew her objection to Maria's marriage to Sigismund. But the unrest continued, now fuelled by the fury of Charles' former supporters. While seeking refuge in southern Hungary, Maria and her mother were ambushed by Croatians and thrown into prison. A court found Elizabeth of Bosnia guilty of inciting murder, and she was executed in the prison in January 1387 in the presence of her daughter. Maria remained in prison until June 4 when she was freed by her husband and they returned together to Buda. Although technically a diarchy as in Poland, Maria was dominated by her husband, and it was Sigismund who ruled in Hungary. In August 1387, Sigismund concluded an armistice with Jagiello, and, while Jadwiga lived, Hungary and Poland were at peace with each other. Maria died in 1395 following a fall from her horse. Her unborn child died with her. As there were no other children, Sigismund ruled alone. Until and unless he remarried and had issue, Jadwiga was heir to the crown of Hungary.

Jagiello's relations also threatened the security of the Polish diarchy. Vitold, cousin to Jagiello, had expected to be awarded a position of authority in Lithuania. When this was not forthcoming, his reaction was to attempt to take the administrative capital, Vilno, by force. Unsuccessful, he fled in 1389 to Prussia and sought help from the Knights of the Teutonic Order. Although suspicious of Vitold's motives, they seized perhaps their last chance to attack their old enemy and test the strength of its new conviction. Further, equally unsuccessful, attempts were made to gain control of Vilno. For two years, the situation remained critical. Only the intervention of Polish forces saved Vilno. Jadwiga's prudence and moderation held the key to the solution. Through the mediation of his wife, Jagiello offered his cousin an administrative role in Lithuania, subject only to the Polish crown. In 1392, at Ostrow, Vitold was reconciled with the queen and king and accepted the position. But he would continue to cause concern, ever seeking to increase his authority, and during the summer of 1399 would align himself with the Knights against the Tartars led by Tamerlane in the hope of increasing his landholding farther east. In August, after Jadwiga's death, he would meet the Tartar army at Worskla River and be defeated. Jadwiga had foreseen the catastrophe and had protested against it. Her words had gone unheeded, and the resulting fiasco would close the shores of the Black Sea to Poland forever.

The problem of the Teutonic Order of Knights remained. Unwilling to accept that they were already in decline and deaf to criticisms of corruption, they continued to harass Lithuania, and even approached Sigismund of Hungary for aid. From as early as 1395, Jadwiga had attempted to negotiate with the Order. In 1397, she went in person to treat with the Grand Master of the Order, then Conrad von Jungingen. She was successful in as much as while she lived there was no further bloodshed. She is reported to have warned him in words, which echoed those of St. Bridget of Sweden , that "so long as I live, the Crown will bear your lawlessness with patience. But after my death the punishment of Heaven for all the wrongs you have done to Poland shall fall upon you. War that cannot be averted will destroy you." Her words would come true in 1410 when at Grunwald (or Tannenberg) Jagiello met with the Knights face to face and destroyed them.

Up to 1388, when the pope finally gave his blessing to their union, Jadwiga's marriage had to withstand accusations of a more personal nature. The Habsburgs, in the name of William and supported by the Teutonic Order, continued to challenge Urban VI on its validity. An embittered William asserted that consummation had taken place and, in fact, refused to marry as long as Jadwiga lived. (He did marry, in 1401, Joanna II of Naples , the sister and heiress of the king of Naples and distant cousin of Jadwiga, and died about five years later.) The Habsburg petition carried little weight since Jadwiga's marriage to the Lithuanian had brought much to Rome. The influence of the Catholic Church was now spread as far as the Baltic Sea, and with Jadwiga's well-known purity of spirit and devotion to Catholicism, the papal decision in favor of her marriage to Jagiello was a foregone conclusion. The slanderous accusations made in the same vein by Gniewosz of Dalewice against Jadwiga were strongly denied by the queen herself who was prepared to swear in open court that her marriage to Jagiello was not bigamous. Faced with such a showdown, Gniewosz was forced to retract his words.

Following the tradition of her saintly ancestors, Jadwiga was a zealous saver of souls. The Church had such confidence in her that she was able to nominate her own prelates and repaid the trust by choosing wisely and well. She was anxious to promote the religious development of Poland and Lithuania, and, in order to further this ideal, throughout her reign she founded innumerable churches, libraries, colleges, and schools. During the last years of her life, she began the refounding of Cracow University. The original foundation in 1364 by Casimir the Great had been modeled on the Italian universities of Bologna and Padua. He had envisaged it as a law school, but the revival by Jadwiga included a theological faculty to provide for Poland's missionary activities in the east. Reorganized on the lines of the Sorbonne, it opened, after Jadwiga's death, in 1400. This "Jagellonian" university became the intellectual center of Poland and the basis of its influence on Eastern Europe. In her will, she bequeathed half the proceeds from the sale of her jewelry and belongings to its completion; the other half, she left to the poor and needy. She inaugurated the foundation of a theological college for young Lithuanians at the University of Prague, known as Jadwiga College. With Jagiello, she founded a cathedral in Vilno for the spiritual care of the new Christians of Lithuania. She did not live to see any of her foundations come to fruition.

One thing marred her marriage and her reign, Jadwiga's failure to conceive. Then, after 13 years of marriage, the miracle happened, and Jadwiga announced her pregnancy. There was general rejoicing; a jubilant Jagiello made arrangements for both the birth and the christening of the child who would be heir not only to the crown of Poland but also to that of Hungary if Sigismund died childless. Pope Boniface IX sent congratulations and consented to be the child's godfather. But as the weeks passed, Jadwiga's health declined. A lifelong regime of self-denial had taken its toll. As her reign had progressed and her piety had deepened, she had adopted an even more penitent style, wearing simple plain clothing and increasing the number of days a week when she ate only bread and water. Earlier, as her infertility had become more of a problem, so she had increased the fasting in the hope of finding favor with God, and, when her prayers were answered, she continued to fast as a means of thanking Him for the miracle of birth and in the mistaken belief that He would grant her a safe delivery and a healthy baby. At the same time, her royal duties and responsibilities were heavier than usual because of Vitold's ambitious plans and the ever-increasing menace of the Ottoman Empire.

The child, a daughter, named Elizabeth Bonifacia, was born prematurely on June 22, 1399, in the castle of Cracow. The baby was weak, and the mother exhausted. The Polish people knelt in the cobbled streets surrounding the castle and prayed for their recovery. The child died on July 14, 1399. Three days later, Jadwiga died with her baby's dead body beside her. They were buried in the same coffin, together with the last letters sent by the pope, and placed beneath the stone slabs on the Gospel side of the High Altar in the cathedral on Wawel Hill, Cracow. In accordance with Jadwiga's wishes, the funeral rites and memorials were simple. Her body lay in state for four weeks while all over Europe masses were said for her soul. The last of the funeral ceremonies took place on August 14, 1399, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A black stone tablet now marks the spot where she lies. In 1796, the following was inscribed on it in gold letters: "Jadwiga, daughter of Louis, King of Hungary and Poland, great-niece of Casimir the Great, wife of Ladislas Jagiello, died in the year of Our Lord 1399. Behind this marble she awaits the last day."

Almost immediately her burial place became a site of pilgrimage, and miracles were said to be effected there, though no miracle could be more astounding to her contemporaries than her own achievements as queen. A cult began soon after her death and certainly during her husband's lifetime. Jadwiga was venerated as a saint. Calls for her to be canonized began in the 15th century based on her achievements in the name of Christ. The intense interest in her caused her grave to be opened, first in 1887, when it was noted that she had been "of unusual height," and second in July 1949 on the 550th anniversary of her death when the seals from the papal letters were discovered to be intact.

In 1979, Queen Jadwiga was beatified by Pope John Paul II during his official visit to Poland. Her relics were solemnly placed on the altar of the Holy Cross in Wawel Cathedral in Cracow. In February 1991, Francis Cardinal Macharski, archbishop metropolitan of Cracow, stated in a letter that the canonization of the Blessed Jadwiga was being actively pursued in the Vatican with the warm support of the pope.

After Jadwiga's death, Jagiello had himself reelected and recrowned as king of Poland in his own right. And, following Jadwiga's advice given to him on her deathbed, he took as his second wife, Anna of Cilli , who was, as Jadwiga had been, a descendant of the Piast dynasty, being a granddaughter of Casimir the Great, and as such could transfer hereditary rights of the Polish crown to Jagiello and his children. But Jagiello was to remarry twice further, including Sophia of Kiev , before he had sons to succeed him.

Jadwiga's express wish for no monuments was observed. She remains a hero to the Poles, however, and they keep her memory alive; her acts of mercy and compassion are faithfully commemorated and recalled in legends told and artifacts preserved. Her compassion is illustrated by the following episode that occurred at Gniezno during the joint visit of Jadwiga and Jagiello to Greater Poland in the autumn of 1386. Jagiello had been ill-advised that a show of strength was necessary, and his forces had, accordingly, looted and pillaged the area. When Jadwiga heard of it, she was distraught, and, to ease her distress, Jagiello made recompense for damage caused and possessions lost. But "who" she is famously said to have said, "will give them back their tears?" In the place of tangible memorials there is, for example, a sculptured plaque set in the wall of the Carmelite monastery in Cracow said to be the imprint of her shoe recalling the time and place where she rested her foot in order to tear the golden buckle from her shoe and give it to a stonemason to buy food for his sick wife. The cross where she accepted her destiny to marry Jagiello is preserved in Cracow cathedral. When a coppersmith dies, a silk mantle is thrown over the coffin in remembrance of the occasion when Jadwiga threw her cloak over a drowned boy, son of a coppersmith, whereupon he breathed again. This tattered cloak was for many years the banner of the Guild of Coppersmiths.

But there is no doubt at all about her political achievements. During her reign, the young queen-saint had successfully preserved the union of Poland and Lithuania, reinforced her country's hold on its peripheral territories (for example, those of Ruthenia), held the Teutonic Order in check, and left instructions that would secure the succession. Her policies and her foundations continued to bear fruit after her death.

Oscar Halecki, Jadwiga's devoted biographer, saw, in the 1989 downfall of the Communist regime in Poland, supported by such creative moral leaders as Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa, the survival of the heritage of Jadwiga. He believed that her joint ideals of duty to her country and devotion to God remained an inspiration.


Halecki, Oscar. "From the Union with Hungary to the Union with Lithuania: Jadwiga, 1374–99" in W.F. Reddaway, J.H. Penson, and O. Halecki, eds. The Cambridge History of Poland, from origins to Sobieski. Cambridge University Press, 1950, pp. 188–209.

——. Jadwiga of Anjou and the Rise of East Central Europe. Edited by Thaddeus V. Gromada. East European Monographs. No. CCCVIII. NY: Columbia University Press, 1991.

suggested reading:

Davies, N. God's Playground: A History of Poland. Vol. 1. Clarendon Oxford Press, 1951.

Gardner, M.M. Queen Jadwiga of Poland. London, 1934.

Halecki, O. A History of Poland. Rev. ed. Routledge, 1983.

Kellogg, C. Jadwiga, Poland's Great Queen. N.Y., 1931, reissued 1971.

Thomson, S. Harrison. Europe in Renaissance and Reformation. R. Hart Davis, 1963, pp. 191–195.

Margaret Lynch , M.A., Teaching Fellow in the Department of History at Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom, and an independent scholar