Casimir III of Poland

Casimir III of Poland

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Casimir III the Great (30 April 1310 – 5 November 1370), last King of Poland from the Piast dynasty
Piast dynasty
The Piast dynasty was the first historical ruling dynasty of Poland. It began with the semi-legendary Piast Kołodziej . The first historical ruler was Duke Mieszko I . The Piasts' royal rule in Poland ended in 1370 with the death of king Casimir the Great...

 (reigned 1333–1370), was the son of King Władysław I the Elbow-high and Hedwig of Kalisz.


Born in Kowal
Kowal is a town in Włocławek County, Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland, with 3,478 inhabitants .The town is the birthplace of Casimir III, King of Poland .Kowal is also a common last name in the Ukraine, which means Smith....

, Casimir the Great first married Anna, or Aldona Ona, the daughter of the Prince of Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

, Gediminas. The daughters from this marriage were Cunigunde (d 1357), who was married to Louis VI the Roman
Louis VI the Roman
Louis the Roman was the eldest son of Emperor Louis IV the Bavarian by his second wife, Margaret II, Countess of Hainault, and a member of the House of Wittelsbach. Louis was Duke of Bavaria as Louis VI and Margrave of Brandenburg as Louis II...

, the son of Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Louis IV , called the Bavarian, of the house of Wittelsbach, was the King of Germany from 1314, the King of Italy from 1327 and the Holy Roman Emperor from 1328....

, and Elisabeth, who was married to Duke Bogislaus V of Pomerania.
Aldona died in 1339 and Kazimierz then married Adelaide of Hesse
Adelaide of Hesse
Adelaide of Hesse was a daughter of Henry II, Landgrave of Hesse, and his wife Elisabeth of Thuringia. Adelaide was a member of the House of Hesse.-Unhappy marriage:...

. He divorced Adelheid in 1356, married Christina, divorced her, and while Adelaide and possibly also Christina were still alive (ca. 1365) married Hedwig (Jadwiga) of Głogów and Sagan.

His three daughters by his fourth wife were very young and regarded as of dubious legitimacy because of their father's bigamy. Because all of the five children he fathered with his first and fourth wife were daughters, he would have no lawful male heir to his throne.

When Casimir, the last Piast
Piast dynasty
The Piast dynasty was the first historical ruling dynasty of Poland. It began with the semi-legendary Piast Kołodziej . The first historical ruler was Duke Mieszko I . The Piasts' royal rule in Poland ended in 1370 with the death of king Casimir the Great...

 king of Poland, died in 1370, his nephew King Louis I of Hungary succeeded him to become king of Poland in personal union with Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...


The Great King

Casimir is the only Polish king who both received and kept the title of Great in Polish history (Bolesław I Chrobry is also called the Great, but his title Chrobry (Valiant) is now more common). When he received the crown, his hold on it was in danger, as even his neighbours did not recognise his title and instead called him "king of Kraków
Kraków also Krakow, or Cracow , is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life...

". The economy
Economic system
An economic system is the combination of the various agencies, entities that provide the economic structure that defines the social community. These agencies are joined by lines of trade and exchange along which goods, money etc. are continuously flowing. An example of such a system for a closed...

 was ruined, and the country was depopulated and exhausted by war. Upon his death, he left a country doubled in size (mostly through the addition of land in today's Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, then the Duchy of Halicz), prosperous, wealthy and with great prospects for the future. Although he is depicted as a peaceful king in children's books, he in fact waged many victorious wars and was readying for others just before he died.

Casimir the Great built many new castle
A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

s, reformed the Polish army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

 and Polish civil and criminal law
Criminal law
Criminal law, is the body of law that relates to crime. It might be defined as the body of rules that defines conduct that is not allowed because it is held to threaten, harm or endanger the safety and welfare of people, and that sets out the punishment to be imposed on people who do not obey...

. At the Sejm
The Sejm is the lower house of the Polish parliament. The Sejm is made up of 460 deputies, or Poseł in Polish . It is elected by universal ballot and is presided over by a speaker called the Marshal of the Sejm ....

 in Wiślica
Wiślica is a village in Busko County, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, in south-central Poland. It is the seat of the gmina called Gmina Wiślica. It lies on the Nida River, approximately south of Busko-Zdrój and south of the regional capital Kielce...

, 11 March 1347, he introduced salutary legal reforms in the jurisprudence of his country. He sanctioned a code of laws for Great and Lesser Poland, which gained for him the title of "the Polish Justinian" and founded the University of Kraków which is the oldest Polish university, although his death temporarily stalled the university's development (which is why it is today called the "Jagiellonian" rather than "Casimirian" University).

He organized a meeting of kings at Kraków
Congress of Kraków
The Congress of Kraków was a meeting of monarchs initiated by King Casimir III the Great of Poland and held in Kraków around September 22-27, 1364...

 (1364) in which he exhibited the wealth of the Polish kingdom.

Concession to the nobility

In order to enlist the support of the nobility
The szlachta was a legally privileged noble class with origins in the Kingdom of Poland. It gained considerable institutional privileges during the 1333-1370 reign of Casimir the Great. In 1413, following a series of tentative personal unions between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of...

, especially the military help of pospolite ruszenie
Pospolite ruszenie
Pospolite ruszenie , is an anachronistic term describing the mobilisation of armed forces, especially during the period of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The tradition of wartime mobilisation of part of the population existed from before the 13th century to the 19th century...

, Casimir was forced to give up important privileges to their caste, which made them finally clearly dominant over townsfolk (burghers
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

 or mieszczaństwo).

In 1335, in the Treaty of Trentschin, Kazimierz relinquished "in perpetuity" his claims to Silesia
Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland, with smaller parts also in the Czech Republic, and Germany.Silesia is rich in mineral and natural resources, and includes several important industrial areas. Silesia's largest city and historical capital is Wrocław...

. In 1355 in Buda
For detailed information see: History of Buda CastleBuda is the western part of the Hungarian capital Budapest on the west bank of the Danube. The name Buda takes its name from the name of Bleda the Hun ruler, whose name is also Buda in Hungarian.Buda comprises about one-third of Budapest's...

, Casimir designated Louis I of Hungary as his successor. In exchange, the szlachta's tax burden was reduced and they would no longer be required to pay for military expeditions expenses outside Poland. Those important concessions would eventually lead to the ultimately crippling rise of the unique nobles' democracy
Nobles' Democracy
Nobles' Democracy may refer to* History of Poland * Golden Liberty, the political system of that time in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth...

 in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

His second daughter, Elisabeth, Duchess of Pomerania
Elisabeth of Poland (1326–1361)
Elisabeth of Poland was the eldest child of Casimir III of Poland and his first wife Aldona of Lithuania.- Family :Elisabeth had one full-blood sister, Cunigunde of Poland, who married Louis VI the Roman. After Aldona's death, Casimir went on to marry three more times. His second wife was...

, bore a son in 1351, Casimir IV of Pomerania. He was slated to become the heir, but did not succeed to the throne, dying childless in 1377, 7 years after King Casimir. He was the only male descendant of King Casimir who lived during his lifetime.

Also, his son-in-law Louis VI the Roman
Louis VI the Roman
Louis the Roman was the eldest son of Emperor Louis IV the Bavarian by his second wife, Margaret II, Countess of Hainault, and a member of the House of Wittelsbach. Louis was Duke of Bavaria as Louis VI and Margrave of Brandenburg as Louis II...

 of Bavaria, Margrave
A margrave or margravine was a medieval hereditary nobleman with military responsibilities in a border province of a kingdom. Border provinces usually had more exposure to military incursions from the outside, compared to interior provinces, and thus a margrave usually had larger and more active...

 and Prince-elector
The Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire were the members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire, having the function of electing the Roman king or, from the middle of the 16th century onwards, directly the Holy Roman Emperor.The heir-apparent to a prince-elector was known as an...

 of Brandenburg
Brandenburg is one of the sixteen federal-states of Germany. It lies in the east of the country and is one of the new federal states that were re-created in 1990 upon the reunification of the former West Germany and East Germany. The capital is Potsdam...

, was thought as a possible successor as king of Poland. However, he was not deemed eligible as his wife, Casimir's daughter Cunigunde, had died already in 1357, without children.

The Poles repulsed many raids of the Tatar-Mongols. However, Casimir III the Great submitted to the Golden Horde
Golden Horde
The Golden Horde was a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate that formed the north-western sector of the Mongol Empire...

 and undertook to pay tribute in order to avoid more conflicts. The 7 Mongol princes were sent by Jani Beg
Jani Beg
Jani Beg was a khan of the Golden Horde from 1342 to 1357, succeeding his father Uzbeg Khan.After putting two of his brothers to death, Jani Beg crowned himself in Saray-Jük. He is known to have actively interfered in the affairs of Russian principalities and of Lithuania...

 khan to assist Poland.

Casimir had no legitimate sons. Apparently, he deemed his own descendants either unsuitable or too young to inherit. Thus, and in order to provide a clear line of succession and avoid dynastic uncertainty, he arranged for his nephew, King Louis I of Hungary, to be his successor in Poland. Louis was proclaimed king on Casimir's death in 1370, and Casimir's sister Elisabeth (Louis's mother) held much of the real power until her death in 1380.

Relationship with Polish Jews

King Casimir was favorably disposed toward Jews. On 9 October 1334, he confirmed the privileges granted to Jewish Poles in 1264 by Bolesław V the Chaste. Under penalty of death, he prohibited the kidnapping of Jewish children for the purpose of enforced Christian
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

. He inflicted heavy punishment for the desecration of Jewish cemeteries.

Although Jews had lived in Poland since before the reign of King Casimir, he allowed them to settle in Poland in great numbers and protected them as people of the king.

Aldona of Lithuania

On 30 April or 16 October 1325, Casimir married Aldona of Lithuania. She was a daughter of Gediminas of Lithuania
Gediminas of Lithuania
Gediminas was Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1315 or 1316 until his death. He is credited with founding this political entity and expanding its territory which, at the time of his death, spanned the area ranging from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea...

 and Jewna
Jewna was daughter of Prince Ivan of Polatsk and wife of Gediminas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Ruthenia and Samogitia . She is mentioned in written sources only once – the Bychowiec Chronicle, a late and unreliable source...

. They had two children:
  • Elisabeth of Poland (ca. 1326–1361). She married Bogusław V, Duke of Pomerania.
  • Cunigunde of Poland (1334–1357). Married Louis VI the Roman
    Louis VI the Roman
    Louis the Roman was the eldest son of Emperor Louis IV the Bavarian by his second wife, Margaret II, Countess of Hainault, and a member of the House of Wittelsbach. Louis was Duke of Bavaria as Louis VI and Margrave of Brandenburg as Louis II...


Aldona died on 26 May 1339. Casimir remained a widower for two years.

Adelheid of Hesse

On 29 September 1341, Casimir married his second wife Adelheid of Hesse. She was a daughter of Henry II, Landgrave of Hesse
Henry II, Landgrave of Hesse
Henry II of Hesse called "the Iron" was Landgrave of Hesse from 1328 - 1376.Henry was the son of Otto I, Landgrave of Hesse and Adelheid of Ravensburg...

 and Elisabeth of Meissen. Her maternal grandparents were Frederick I, Margrave of Meissen
Frederick I, Margrave of Meissen
Frederick I, called the Brave or the Bitten was margrave of Meissen and landgrave of Thuringia.-Life:...

 and his second wife Elizabeth of Lobdeburg-Arnshaugk. They had no children.

Casimir started living separately from Adelheid soon after their marriage. Their loveless marriage lasted until 1356.


Casimir effectively divorced Adelheid and married his mistress Christina
Christina Rokiczana
Christina Rokiczanka was the wife of Casimir III the Great, of Poland. She became the King's third wife and married into the House of Piast.- Life :...

. Christina was the widow of Miklusz Rokiczani, a wealthy merchant. Her own origins are unknown. Following the death of her first husband she had entered the court of Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

 in Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

 as a lady-in-waiting
A lady-in-waiting is a female personal assistant at a royal court, attending on a queen, a princess, or a high-ranking noblewoman. Historically, in Europe a lady-in-waiting was often a noblewoman from a family highly thought of in good society, but was of lower rank than the woman on whom she...

. Casimir brought her with him from Prague and convinced the abbot of the Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

An abbey is a Catholic monastery or convent, under the authority of an Abbot or an Abbess, who serves as the spiritual father or mother of the community.The term can also refer to an establishment which has long ceased to function as an abbey,...

 of Tyniec
Tyniec is a historic village in Poland on the Vistula river, since 1973 a part of the city of Kraków . Tyniec is notable for its famous Benedictine abbey founded by king Casimir the Restorer in 1044.-See also:...

 to marry them. The marriage was held in a secret ceremony but soon became known. Adelheid renounced it as bigamous
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

 and returned to Hesse without permission.

Casimir continued living with Christine despite complaints by Pope Innocent VI
Pope Innocent VI
Pope Innocent VI , born Étienne Aubert; his father was Adhemar Aubert seigneur de Montel-De-Gelas in Limousin province. His niece was Catherine Aubert, Dame de Boutheon, also the wife of Randon II baron de Joyeuse; she is La Fayette's ancestor...

 on behalf of Adelheid. The marriage lasted until 1363/1364 when Casimir again declared himself divorced. They had no children.

Jadwiga of Żagań

In about 1365, Casimir married his fourth wife Hedwig of Żagań. She was a daughter of Henry V of Iron
Henry V of Iron
Henry V of Iron , was a Duke of Żagań since 1342, from 1349 Duke of half-Głogów, and from 1363 Duke of half-Ścinawa.He was the only son of Henry IV the Faithful, Duke of Żagań, by his wife Matilda, daughter of Herman, Margrave of Brandenburg-Salzwedel.-Life:The young Henry V gained his political...

, Duke of Żagań
Zagan may refer to:*Zagan - a demon in the Ars Goetia*Żagań - a town in west Poland...

 and Anna of Mazovia. They had three children:
  • Anna of Poland, Countess of Celje
    Anna of Poland, Countess of Celje
    Anna of Poland was countess consort of Celje, a medieval Slovenian feudal state, and an influential woman in politics of Poland.She was daughter of King Casimir III of Poland , who was succeeded, not by Anna nor any of Casimir's own descendants, but by Casimir's nephew, King Louis I of Hungary....

     (1366 – 9 June 1422). Married firstly William of Celje. Their only daughter was Anne of Cilli. Married secondly Ulrich, Duke of Teck
    Duke of Teck
    Duke of Teck was, in medieval times, a title borne by the head of a principality named Teck in the Holy Roman Empire, centered around Teck castle in Germany. That territory was held by a branch line of the Zähringen dynasty from 1187 to 1439, known historically as the first House of Teck...

    . They had no children.
  • Kunigunde of Poland (1367–1370).
  • Hedwig of Poland (1368 – ca. 1407). Reportedly married ca. 1382 but the details are obscure.

With Adelheid still alive and Christine possibly surviving, the marriage to Hedwig was also considered bigamous. The legitimacy of the three last daughters was disputed. Casimir managed to have Anne and Cunigunde legitimated by Pope Urban V
Pope Urban V
Pope Urban V , born Guillaume Grimoard, was Pope from 1362 to 1370.-Biography:Grimoard was a native of Grizac in Languedoc . He became a Benedictine and a doctor in Canon Law, teaching at Montpellier and Avignon...

 on 5 December 1369. Hedwig the younger was legitimated by Pope Gregory XI
Pope Gregory XI
Gregory XI was pope from 1370 until his death.-Biography:He was born Pierre Roger de Beaufort, in Maumont, in the modern commune of Rosiers-d'Égletons, Limousin around 1336. He succeeded Pope Urban V in 1370, and was pope until 1378...

 on 11 October 1371.


Casimir also had three illegitimate sons by his mistress Cudka, wife of a castellan
A castellan was the governor or captain of a castle. The word stems from the Latin Castellanus, derived from castellum "castle". Also known as a constable.-Duties:...

  • Niemierz (last mentioned alive in 1386). Oldest son. Survived his father, inherited lands around Stopnica
    Stopnica is a village in Busko County, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, in south-central Poland. It is the seat of the gmina called Gmina Stopnica. It lies approximately east of Busko-Zdrój and south-east of the regional capital Kielce...

  • Pelka (1342–1365). Married and had two sons. Predeceased his father.
  • Jan (d. 28 October 1383). Youngest son. Survived his father, inherited lands around Stopnica.


See also

  • History of Poland (966–1385)
  • Jagiellonian University
    Jagiellonian University
    The Jagiellonian University was established in 1364 by Casimir III the Great in Kazimierz . It is the oldest university in Poland, the second oldest university in Central Europe and one of the oldest universities in the world....

  • Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz
    Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz
    Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz is a university in Bydgoszcz, Poland. It was named after Casimir III the Great , the King of Poland who granted the city municipal rights for Bydgoszcz on 19 April 1346.- School Authorities :* Rector Magnificus: Prof...

  • Kazimierz
    Kazimierz is a historical district of Kraków , best known for being home to a Jewish community from the 14th century until the Second World War.-Early history:...

  • Kazimierz Dolny
    Kazimierz Dolny
    Kazimierz Dolny is a small town in Central Poland, on the right bank of the Vistula river in Puławy County, Lublin Province.It is a considerable tourist attraction as one of the most beautifully situated little towns in Poland. It enjoyed its greatest prosperity in the 16th and the first half of...

External links