Remember, Remember the King that died on the 5th of November

‘Remember remember the fifth of November, for Gunpowder, treason and plot.’

We all remember today as the day that Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators tried to blow up King James in the Houses of Parliament, but to some it is of note for other reasons.  Keeping with the Eastern European theme of my last post I have decided to look at someone else whose history is marked on this day.

Casimir III the Great was born 30th April 1310 and died 5th November 1370.  He was the last of the Piast dynasty to be King of Poland reigning between 1333 and 1370.  Born in Kowal, he was the son of King Wladyslaw I the Elbow-high and Duchess Hedwig of Kalisz.

He founded Poland’s first university, at Krakow in 1364.    He was a skilful diplomat also and through his diplomacy he annexed lands from western Russia and eastern Germany.  Casimir was the second king of the reunited Greater and Lower Poland following in his father’s footsteps.  Ciasimir continued to use his diplomacy skills for his father adding both the important regions Red Russia and Masovia to the country.  On the completion of the annexations it brought Poland to the next level of respect within Central Europe earing its place amongst the more powerful nations.   After his elder brother died in 1312 he was regarded as heir and prepared for kingship by Jaroslaw the future archbishop of Gniezno.  He became king in 1333 on his father’s death.  His sister Elisabeth was married to King Charles Robert of Hungary in 1320 and figured within Casimir’s diplomatic relations with Hungary who he treated as a strong ally.  Within the treaties Casimir dropped Poland’s claims on Silesia and East Pomerania.  In exchange for this the King of Bohemia dropped his claims on Poland all together whilst he managed obtain the Teutonic Orders withdrawl from Kujawy and Dobrzyn.

By his death in 1370 Casimir had managed to increase his lands from 50,000 square miles to about 90,000 square miles.  He was renowned throughout Europe.  In 1364 a congress was held in Krakow and was attended by the Kings of Hungary, Bohemia, Denmark and Cyprus as well as many other local princes.

Casimir the Great by Leopold Löffler

He married four times –

He married first Aldona of Lithuania in 1325.  She was the daughter of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas and Jewna.  They had two daughters Elisabeth of Poland (who married Boguslaw V, Duke of Pomerania) and Cunigunde of Poland (who married Louis VI the Roman).  Aldona dies on 26th May 1339.  His second wife was Adelheid of Hesse, they married on 29th September 1341.  She was the daughter of Henry II, Landgrave of Hesse and Elizabeth of Messien.  It was said to be a loveless marriage and Casimir soon started to live away from his wife.  The marriage lasted till 1356.  Casimir then married his mistress Christina.  Christina was the widow of a wealthy merchant called Miklusz Rokiczani.  Casimir met Christina at the court of Bohemia in Prague where she was a lady in waiting after Miklusz death.  Casimir persuaded the abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Tyniec to marry them in secret.  The secret didn’t remain that way for long and on hearing the news Queen Adelaide renounced it as bigamous and returned to Hesse without permission.  Casimir ignored the complaints of Pope Innocent VI and continued to live with Christina until he once again declared himself as divorced in 1363/1364.   In 1365 Casimir married his fourth wife Hedwig of Zagan the daughter of Henry V of Iron, Duke of Zagari and Anna of Mazovia.  They had three children, Anna of Poland, Countess of Celje (who married William of Celje and Ulrich, Duke of Teck), Kunigunde of Poland and Hedwig of Poland.  The marriage was considered bigamous again as Adelaide and possibly Christine surviving still.  The legitimacy of the three children was disputed, although later legitimised by different Popes.  Casimir also had three other illegitimate sons with his mistress Cudka.

Part of Casimir’s legacy is the fact that even though he had no legal heir there was no attempt to split Poland back up, restoring the former duchies and principalities. His governance had given confidence in the monarchy for it to be able to continue.   On his death 642 years ago today the crown of Poland then passed on to his nephew King Louis I Hungary.

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