Jadwiga of Poland

By Gabby Storey

Born c. 1373-1374, Jadwiga was the daughter of Louis I of Hungary, Croatia, and Poland, and Elizabeth of Bosnia. Louis had no sons and provisionally arranged for the divisions of the kingdoms between his three daughters, Catherine, Jadwiga, and Mary. 

The marriage between Jadwiga and William of Austria was proposed in 1374, and a provisional marriage ceremony was celebrated on 15 June 1378. Louis died on 10 September 1382, having been predeceased by Catherine, and throwing the succession to his kingdoms into turmoil.

Elizabeth was proactive in securing the successions for her two daughters, however she was reluctant to send a young Jadwiga to Poland despite the favouring of other candidates to the throne, including Siemowit IV, duke of Moravia.

Jadwiga arrived in Poland in late 1384, her exact date of arrival unknown, as a resolution to the succession strife. She was crowned on 16 October 1384, and as a king, not as queen, according to the sources which are conflicted as to whether she was king or queen regnant.

Many were opposed to Jadwiga’s fiancé William, with Jogalia of Lithuania proposed as an alternative candidate for Jadwiga’s hand. Despite Louis’ arrival in Poland in August 1385, it is unclear if he and Jadwiga were able to consummate the marriage before he was forced to flee.

The Polish lords agreed to Jogalia becoming king and his marriage to Jadwiga. They were married on 18 February 1386, and Jogalia, now known as Władysław-Jogaila, was crowned on 4 March 1386.

Civil strife in Hungary saw the murder of Elizabeth in January 1387 after her involvement in the assassination of Charles III, duke of Naples, who had seized the Hungarian throne and displaced Mary.

Jadwiga intervened in Hungarian affairs after Mary was restored, as Mary effectively held power in name only, with power residing with her husband Sigismund. Sigismund attempted to invade and partition Poland, however Jadwiga successfully mediated against this. Mary’s death on 17 May 1395 left Jadwiga as successor to Hungary.

In addition to her conflict with Sigismund, Jadwiga also faced disputes with the Teutonic Knights in the mid-1390s. Jadwiga and Jongolia had one child, a daughter, on 22 June 1389, named Elizabeth Bonifacia.

Elizabeth Bonifacia died three weeks later, and Jadwiga slightly after from postpartum complications. They were buried together in Wawel Cathedral on 24 August 1399.

Recommended Reading

Armin Wolf, “Reigning Queens in Medieval Europe: When, Where, and Why,” in Medieval Queenship, ed., John Carmi Parsons, 169-188 (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1993)

Oscar Halecki, Jadwiga of Anjou and the Rise of East Central Europe (Boulder: Columbia University Press, 1991)

Robert I. Frost, The Oxford History of Poland-Lithuania, Volume I: The Making of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, 1385–1567 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

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