Jogaila, later Władysław II Jagiełło1 (b. about 1362 - d. June 1, 1434), was a Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland. He ruled in Lithuania from 1377, at first with his uncle, Kęstutis. In 1386, he converted to Christianity, was baptized as Władysław, married the young Queen Jadwiga of Poland, and was crowned Polish king as Władysław Jagiełło.2 His reign in Poland lasted a further forty-eight years and laid the foundation for the centuries-long Polish-Lithuanian union. He gave his name to the Jagiellon branch of the Gediminids dynasty, which ruled both states until 1572,3 and became one of the most influential dynasties in medieval Central and Eastern Europe.4
Jogaila was the last pagan ruler of medieval Lithuania. He held the title Didysis Kunigaikštis.5 As King of Poland, he pursued a policy of close alliances with Lithuania against the Teutonic Order. The allied victory at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, followed by the First Peace of Toruń, secured the Polish and Lithuanian borders and marked the emergence of the Polish-Lithuanian alliance as a significant force in Europe. The reign of Władysław II Jagiełło extended Polish frontiers and is often considered the beginning of Poland's "Golden Age".
Little is known of Jogaila's early life, and even his date of birth is not certain. Previously historians have given his date of birth as 1352, but some recent research suggests a later date-about 1362.6 He was a descendant of the Gediminid dynasty and probably born in Vilnius. His parents were Algirdas, Grand Duke of Lithuania, and his second wife, Uliana, daughter of Alexander I, Grand Prince of Tver.
The Lithuania to which Jogaila succeeded in 1377 was a political entity composed of two different nationalities and two political systems: ethnic Lithuania in the north-west and the vast Ruthenian territories of former Kievan Rus', comprising lands of modern Ukraine, Belarus, and parts of western Russia.7 At first, Jogaila-like his father, who had besieged Moscow in 13708-based his rule in the southern and eastern territories of Lithuania, while his uncle, Kęstutis, the duke of Trakai, continued to rule the north-western region.9 Jogaila's succession, however, soon placed this system of dual rule under strain.4
At the start of his reign, Jogaila was preoccupied with unrest in the Lithuanian Rus' lands. In 1377-1378, for example, his own half-brother, the russified Andrii the Hunchback, prince of Polotsk, maneuvered to secede to Moscow.10 In 1380, Andrii and another brother, Dmytro, sided with Prince Dmitri of Moscow against Jogaila's alliance with the Tatar Khan Mamai.11 Jogaila failed to arrive with his troops in time to support Mamai,10 who was defeated by Prince Dmitri at the Battle of Kulikovo, after which the principality of Moscow posed a heightened threat to Lithuania. In the same year, Jogaila began a struggle for supremacy with Kęstutis.
In the north-west, Lithuania faced constant armed incursions from the monastic state of the Teutonic Order-founded after 1226 to fight and convert the pagan Baltic tribes of Prussians, Yotvingians and Lithuanians-which had established itself as a centralized regional power. In 1380, Jogaila secretly concluded the Treaty of Dovydiškės with the Order, in which he agreed to the Christianization of Lithuania in return for the Order's backing against Kęstutis;4 when Kęstutis discovered the plan, he seized Vilnius, overthrew Jogaila, and pronounced himself grand duke in his place.12Equestrian statue of Wladyslaw II Jagiello, Central Park, New York City
In 1382, Jogaila raised an army from his father's vassals and confronted Kęstutis near Trakai. Kęstutis and his son Vytautas, under a promise of safe conduct from Skirgaila, Jogaila's brother, entered Jogaila's encampment in Vilnius for negotiations but were tricked and imprisoned in the castle of Kreva, where Kęstutis was found dead, probably murdered, a week later.13 Vytautas escaped to the Teutonic fortress of Marienburg and was baptized there under the name Wigand.12
Jogaila conducted further talks with the Order, renewing his promises of Christianization and granting the Knights an area of Samogitia up to the Dubysa river. The Knights, however, pretending to assist both cousins at once, entered Lithuania in summer 1383 and seized most of Samogitia, opening a corridor between Teutonic Prussia and Teutonic Livonia further north. Having taken arms with the Knights, Vytautas then accepted assurances from Jogaila about his inheritance and joined him in attacking and looting several Prussian castles.14
Baptism and marriageSee also: Jadwiga of Poland
When the time came for Jogaila to choose a wife, it became clear that he intended to marry a Christian. His Russian mother urged him to marry Sofia, daughter of Prince Dmitri of Moscow, who required him first to convert to Orthodoxy.15 That option, however, was unlikely to halt the crusades against Lithuania by the Teutonic Order, who regarded Orthodox Christians as schismatics and little better than heathens.124Wawel Cathedral's towers
Jogaila chose therefore to accept a Polish proposal to become a Catholic and marry the eleven-year-old Queen Jadwiga of Poland.1617 He was also to be legally adopted by Jadwiga's mother, Elisabeth of Hungary, retaining the throne in the event of Jadwiga's death.12 On these and other terms, on August 14, 1385 at the castle of Kreva, Jogaila agreed to adopt Christianity, repatriate lands "stolen" from Poland by its neighbours, and terras suas Lithuaniae et Russiae Coronae Regni Poloniae perpetuo applicare, a clause interpreted by historians to mean anything from a personal union between Lithuania and Poland to a prenuptial agreement superseded when the marriage took place.18 The agreement at Krėva has been described as either far-sighted or as a desperate gamble.19
Jogaila was duly baptized at the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków on February 15, 1386, and from then on formally used the name Władysław or Latin versions of it.20 An official declaration of the baptism was sent to Grand Master Ernst von Zöllner, who had declined an invitation to become the new Christian's godfather, at the Order's capital, Marienburg.21 The royal baptism triggered the conversion of most of Jogaila's court and knights, as well as mass baptisms in Lithuanian rivers,22 a beginning of the final Christianization of Lithuania. Though the ethnic Lithuanian nobility were the main converts to Catholicism-both paganism and the Orthodox rite remained strong among the peasants-the king's conversion and its political implications created lasting repercussions for the history of both Lithuania and Poland.22
Reception in PolandCross of Jagiellons, Władysław's personal insignia, acquired after his marriage
Before Władysław's arrival in Kraków for the wedding, Queen Jadwiga dispatched one of her knights, Zawisza the Red, to confirm that her future husband was really a human, as she had heard he was a bear-like creature, cruel and uncivilized.23 Despite her misgivings, the marriage went ahead on March 4, 1386, two weeks after the baptism ceremonies, and Jogaila was crowned King Władysław. In time, the Poles discovered their new ruler to be a civilized monarch with a high regard for Christian culture, as well as a skilled politician and military commander. An athletic man, with small, restless, black eyes and big ears,24 Władysław dressed modestly and was said to be an unusually clean person, who washed and shaved every day, never touched alcohol, and drank only pure water.2325 His pleasures included listening to Ruthenian fiddlers and hunting.26 Some medieval chroniclers attributed such model behavior to Wladyslaw's conversion.27
Ruler of Lithuania and PolandJadwiga's sarcophagus, Wawel Cathedral
Władysław and Jadwiga reigned as co-monarchs; and though Jadwiga probably had little real power, she took an active part in Poland's political and cultural life. In 1387, she led two successful military expeditions to Red Ruthenia, recovered lands her father had transferred from Poland to Hungary, and secured the homage of Petru I, Voivode of Moldavia.28 In 1390, she also personally opened negotiations with the Teutonic Order. Most political responsibilities, however, fell to Władysław, with Jadwiga attending to the cultural and charitable activities for which she is still revered.28
Soon after Władysław's accession to the Polish throne, Władysław granted Vilnius a city charter like that of Kraków, modeled on the Magdeburg Law; and Vytautas issued a privilege to a Jewish commune of Trakai on almost the same terms as privileges issued to the Jews of Poland in the reigns of Boleslaus the Pious and Casimir the Great.29 Władysław's policy of unifying the two legal systems was partial and uneven at first but achieved a lasting influence.2830
One effect of Władysław's measures was to be the advancement of Catholics in Lithuania at the expense of Orthodox elements; in 1387 and 1413, for example, Lithuanian Catholic boyars were granted special judicial and political privileges denied the Orthodox boyars.31 As this process gained momentum, it was accompanied by the rise of both Rus' and Lithuanian identity in the fifteenth century.32
Władysław's baptism failed to end the crusade of the Teutonic Knights, who claimed his conversion was a sham, perhaps even a heresy, and renewed their incursions on the pretext that pagans remained in Lithuania.1233 From now on, however, the Order found it harder to sustain the cause of a crusade and faced the growing threat to its existence posed by a genuinely Christian Lithuania.3435
If anything, Władysław and Jadwiga's policy of Catholicizing Lithuania served to antagonize rather than disarm their Teutonic rivals. They sponsored the creation of the diocese of Vilnius under bishop Andrzej Wasilko, the former confessor of Elisabeth of Hungary. The bishopric, which included Samogitia, then largely controlled by the Teutonic Order, was subordinated to the see of Gniezno and not to that of Teutonic Königsberg.12 The decision may not have improved Władysław's relations with the Order, but it served to introduce closer ties between Lithuania and Poland, enabling the Polish church to freely assist its Lithuanian counterpart.22
In 1390, Władysław's rule in Lithuania faced a revived challenge from Vytautas, who resented the power given to Skirgaila in Lithuania at the expense of his own patrimony.14 On September 4, 1390, the joint forces of Vytautas and the Teutonic Grand Master, Konrad von Wallenrode, laid siege to Vilnius, which was held by Władysław's regent Skirgaila with combined Polish, Lithuanian and Ruthenian troops.436 Although the Knights, "with all their powder shot away," lifted the siege of the castle after a month, they reduced much of the outer city to ruins.37 This bloody conflict was eventually brought to a temporary halt in 1392 with the secret Treaty of Ostrów, by which Władysław handed over the government of Lithuania to his cousin in exchange for peace; Vytautas was to rule Lithuania as a grand duke until his death, under the overlordship of a supreme prince or duke in the person of the Polish monarch.38 Vytautas accepted his new status but continued to demand Lithuania's complete separation from Poland.3928Lithuania and Poland, ca. 1400.
This protracted period of war between the Lithuanians and the Teutonic Knights was ended on October 12, 1398, by the treaty of Sallinwerder, named after the islet in the Neman River where it was signed. Lithuania agreed to cede Samogitia and assist the Teutonic Order in a campaign to seize Pskov, while the Order agreed to assist Lithuania in a campaign to seize Novgorod.28 Shortly afterwards, Vytautas was crowned as a king by local nobles; but the following year his forces and those of his ally, Khan Tokhtamysh of the White Horde, were crushed by the Timurids at the Battle of the Vorskla River, ending his imperial ambitions in the east and obliging him to submit to Władysław's protection once more.439
King of Poland
On June 22, 1399, Jadwiga gave birth to a daughter, baptized Elżbieta Bonifacja; but within a month both mother and baby were dead from birth complications, leaving the 50-year-old king sole ruler of Poland and without an heir. Jadwiga's death, and with it the extinction of the Angevin line, undermined Władysław's right to the throne; and as a result old conflicts between the nobility of Lesser Poland, generally sympathetic to Władysław, and the gentry of Greater Poland began to surface. In 1402, Władysław answered the rumblings against his rule by marrying Anna of Celje, a grand-daughter of Casimir III of Poland, a political match which re-legitimized his monarchy.
The Union of Vilnius and Radom of 1401 confirmed Vytautas's status as grand duke under Władysław's overlordship, while assuring the title of grand duke to the heirs of Władysław rather than those of Vytautas; should Władysław die without heirs, the Lithuanian boyars were to elect a new monarch.4041 Since no heir had yet been produced by either monarch, the act's implications were unforeseeable, but it forged bonds between the Polish and Lithuanian nobility and a permanent defensive alliance between the two states, strengthening Lithuania's hand for a new war against the Teutonic Order in which Poland officially took no part.3439 While the document left the liberties of the Polish nobles untouched, it granted increased power to the boyars of Lithuania, whose grand dukes had till then been unencumbered by checks and balances of the sort attached to the Polish monarchy. The Union of Vilnius and Radom therefore earned Władysław a measure of support in Lithuania.28
In late 1401, the new war against the Order overstretched the resources of the Lithuanians, who found themselves fighting on two fronts after uprisings in the eastern provinces. Another of Władysław's brothers, the malcontent Švitrigaila, chose this moment to stir up revolts behind the lines and declare himself grand duke.33 On January 31, 1402, he presented himself in Marienburg, where he won the backing of the Knights with concessions similar to those made by Jogaila and Vytautas during earlier leadership contests in the Grand Duchy.40
DefeatWładysław II Jagiełło's royal seal
The war ended in defeat for Władysław. On May 22, 1404 in the Treaty of Raciąż, he acceded to most of the Order's demands, including the formal cession of Samogitia, and agreed to support the Order's designs on Pskov; in return, Konrad von Jungingen undertook to sell Poland the disputed Dobrzyń Land and the town of Złotoryja, once pawned to the Order by Władysław Opolski, and to support Vytautas in a revived attempt on Novgorod.40 Both sides had practical reasons for signing the treaty at that point: the Order needed time to fortify its newly acquired lands, the Poles and Lithuanians to deal with territorial challenges in the east and in Silesia.
Also in 1404, Władysław held talks at Vratislav with Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia, who offered to return Silesia to Poland if Władysław would support him in his power struggle within the Holy Roman Empire.42 Władysław turned the deal down with the agreement of both Polish and Silesian nobles, unwilling to burden himself with new military commitments in the west.43
Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic warMain articles: Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic WarWładysław II Jagiełło by Jan Matejko
In December 1408, Władysław and Vytautas held strategic talks in Navahrudak, where they decided to foment a revolt against Teutonic rule in Samogitia to draw German forces away from Pomerelia. Władysław promised to repay Vytautas for his support by restoring Samogitia to Lithuania in any future peace treaty.44 The uprising, which began in May 1409, at first provoked little reaction from the Knights, who had not yet consolidated their rule in Samogitia by building castles; but by June their diplomats were busy lobbying Władysław's court at Oborniki, warning his nobles against Polish involvement in a war between Lithuania and the Order.45 Władysław, however, bypassed his nobles and informed new Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen that if the Knights acted to suppress Samogitia, Poland would intervene. This stung the Order into issuing a declaration of war against Poland on August 6, which Władysław received on August 14 in Nowy Korczyn.45
The castles guarding the northern border were in such bad condition that the Knights easily captured those at Złotoryja, Dobrzyń and Bobrowniki, the capital of Dobrzyń Land, while German burghers invited them into Bydgoszcz (German: Bromberg). Władysław arrived on the scene in late September, retook Bydgoszcz within a week, and came to terms with the Order on October 8. During the winter, the two armies prepared for a major confrontation. Władysław installed a strategic supply depot at Płock in Masovia and had a pontoon bridge constructed and transported north down the Vistula.46
Meanwhile, both sides unleashed diplomatic offensives. The Knights dispatched letters to the monarchs of Europe, preaching their usual crusade against the heathens;47 Władysław countered with his own letters to the monarchs, accusing the Order of planning to conquer the whole world.48 Such appeals successfully recruited many foreign knights to each side. Wenceslas IV of Bohemia signed a defensive treaty with the Poles against the Teutonic Order; his brother, Sigismund of Luxembourg, allied himself with the Order and declared war against Poland on July 12, though his Hungarian vassals refused his call to arms.4950
Battle of GrunwaldBattle of Grunwald, 1410. Painting by Jan Matejko
When the war resumed in June 1410, Władysław advanced into the Teutonic heartland at the head of an army of about 20,000 mounted nobles, 15,000 armed commoners, and 2000 professional cavalry mainly hired from Bohemia. After crossing the Vistula over the pontoon bridge at Czerwińsk, his troops met up with those of Vytautas, whose 11,000 light cavalry included Ruthenians and Tatars.51 The Teutonic Order's army numbered about 18,000 cavalry, mostly Germans and 5000 infantry. On July 15, at the Battle of Grunwald,52 after one of the largest and most ferocious battles of the Middle Ages,53 the allies won a victory so overwhelming that the Teutonic Order's army was virtually annihilated, with most of its key commanders killed in combat, including Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen and Grand Marshal Friedrich von Wallenrode. Thousands of troops were reported to have been slaughtered on either side.54The Teutonic Order's castle at Marienburg
The road to the Teutonic capital Marienburg now lay open, the city undefended; but for reasons the sources do not explain, Władysław hesitated to pursue his advantage.55 On July 17, his army began a labored advance, arriving at Marienburg only on July 25, by which time the new Grand Master, Heinrich von Plauen, had organized a defense of the fortress.5657 The apparent half-heartedness of the ensuing siege, called off by Władysław on September 19, has been ascribed variously to the impregnability of the fortifications, to high casualty figures among the Lithuanians, and to Władysław's unwillingness to risk further casualties; a lack of sources precludes a definitive explanation. Paweł Jasienica, in his monumental Polska Jagiellonów (Poland of the Jagiellons) suggests Władysław, as a Lithuanian, might have wished to preserve the equilibrium between Lithuania and Poland, the Lithuanians having suffered particularly heavy casualties in the battle.58 Other historians point out that Władysław might have assumed Marienburg was impregnable and therefore seen no advantage in a lengthy siege with no guarantee of success.59
DissentPolish and Lithuanian conflict with Teutonic Prussia, 1377-1434.
The war ended in 1411 with the Peace of Toruń, in which neither Poland nor Lithuania drove home their negotiating advantage to the full, much to the discontent of the Polish nobles. Poland regained Dobrzyń Land, Lithuania regained Samogitia, and Masovia regained a small territory beyond the Wkra river. Most of the Teutonic Order's territory, however, including towns which had surrendered, remained intact. Władysław then proceeded to release many high-ranking Teutonic Knights and officials for apparently modest ransoms.60 This failure to exploit the victory to his nobles' satisfaction provoked growing opposition to Władysław's regime after Toruń, further fueled by the granting of Podolia, disputed between Poland and Lithuania, to Vytautas, and by the king's two-year absence in Lithuania.61
A lingering Polish distrust of Władysław, who never became fluent in Polish, was expressed later in the century by the chronicler and historian Jan Długosz:
He loved his country Lithuania and his family and brothers so much that without hesitation he brought to the Polish kingdom all kinds of wars and troubles. The crown's riches and all it carried he donated towards the enrichment and protection of Lithuania.62
In an effort to outflank his critics, Władysław promoted the leader of the opposing faction, bishop Mikołaj Trąba, to the archbishopric of Gniezno in autumn 1411 and replaced him in Kraków with Wojciech Jastrzębiec, a supporter of Vytautas.61 He also sought to create more allies in Lithuania. In 1413, in the Union of Horodło, signed on October 2, he decreed that the status of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was "tied to our Kingdom of Poland permanently and irreversibly" and granted the Catholic nobles of Lithuania privileges equal to those of the Polish szlachta. The act included a clause prohibiting the Polish nobles from electing a monarch without the consent of the Lithuanian nobles, and the Lithuanian nobles from electing a grand duke without the consent of the Polish monarch.63
In 1414, a sporadic new war broke out, known as the "Hunger War" from the Knights' scorched-earth tactics of burning fields and mills; but both the Knights and the Lithuanians were too exhausted from the previous war to risk a major battle, and the fighting petered out in the autumn.61 Hostilities did not flare up again until 1419, during the Council of Constance, when they were called off at the papal legate's insistence.61
The Council of Constance proved a turning point in the Teutonic crusades, as it did for several European conflicts. Vytautas sent a delegation in 1415, including the metropolitan of Kiev; and Samogitian witnesses arrived at Constance at the end of that year to point out their preference for being "baptized with water and not with blood".64 The Polish envoys, among them Mikołaj Trąba, Zawisza Czarny, and Paweł Włodkowic, lobbied for an end to the forced conversion of heathens and to the Order's aggression against Lithuania and Poland.65 As a result of the Polish-Lithuanian diplomacy, the council, though scandalized by Włodkowic's questioning of the monastic state's legitimacy, denied the Order's request for a further crusade and instead entrusted the conversion of the Samogitians to Poland-Lithuania.66
The diplomatic context at Constance included the revolt of the Bohemian Hussites, who looked upon Poland as an ally in their wars against Sigismund, the emperor elect and new king of Bohemia. In 1421, the Bohemian Diet declared Sigismund deposed and formally offered the crown to Władysław on condition he accept the religious principles of the Four Articles of Prague, which he was not prepared to do.67
In 1422, Władysław fought another war, known as the Gollub War, against the Teutonic Order, defeating them in under two months before the Order's imperial reinforcements had time to arrive. The resulting Treaty of Lake Melno ended the Knights' claims to Samogitia once and for all and defined a permanent border between Prussia and Lithuania.68 The terms of this treaty have, however, been seen as turning a Polish victory into defeat, thanks to Władysław's renunciation of Polish claims to Pomerania, Pomerelia, and Chełmno Land, for which he received only the town of Nieszawa in return.69 The Treaty of Lake Melno closed a chapter in the Knights' wars with Lithuania but did little to settle their long-term issues with Poland. Further sporadic warfare broke out between Poland and the Knights between 1431 and 1435.
Cracks in the cooperation between Poland and Lithuania after the death of Vytautas in 1430 had offered the Knights a revived opportunity for interference in Poland. Władysław supported his brother Švitrigaila as grand duke of Lithuania,70 but when Švitrigaila, with the support of the Teutonic Order and dissatisfied Rus' nobles,32 rebelled against Polish overlordship in Lithuania, the Poles, under the leadership of Bishop Zbigniew Oleśnicki of Kraków, occupied Podolia, which Władysław had awarded to Lithuania in 1411, and Volhynia.71 In 1432, a pro-Polish party in Lithuania elected Vytautas's brother Žygimantas as grand duke,70 leading to an armed struggle over the Lithuanian succession which stuttered on for years after Władysław's death.72
Jogaila's reign saw the conversion to Christianity and, through the policy of co-operation with Lithuania, saw the development of the idea of a Greater Poland. He formed the basis for the later Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which would play a significant role in bringing democracy to Eastern Europe.
SuccessionTomb effigy of Władysław II Jagiello, Wawel Cathedral
Władysław's second wife, Anna of Celje, had died in 1416, leaving a daughter, Jadwiga. In 1417, Władysław married Elisabeth of Pilica, who died in 1420 without bearing him a child, and two years later, Sophia of Halshany, who bore him two surviving sons. The death in 1431 of Princess Jadwiga, the last heir of Piast blood, released Władysław to make his sons by Sophia of Halshany his heirs, though he had to sweeten the Polish nobles with concessions to ensure their agreement, since the monarchy was elective. Władysław finally died in 1434, leaving Poland to his elder son, Władysław III, and Lithuania to his younger, Casimir, both still minors at the time.73
Family tree (incomplete)
For more exhaustive relations see:Family tree of Jogaila/Władysław II74
b. ca. 1275
b. ca. 1280
|Alexander I of Tver|
d. 22 X 1339
|Anastasia of Halych|
b. ca. 1296
d. May 1377
|Uliana Alexandrovna of Tver|
b. ca. 1330
Jadwiga I of Poland
d. 17 VII 1399
OO 18 II 1386
Anna of Celje
d. 21 V 1416
OO 29 I 1402
|Jogaila/Władysław II Jagiełło|
b. ca. 1362
d. 1 VI 1434