The Woman King of Poland

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A Brief History

On October 16, 1384, Jadwiga, a woman, was crowned KING of Poland.


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Digging Deeper

Jadwiga was the daughter of Louis I the Great, who reigned simultaneously as king of Hungary and Poland.  When Louis died, his eldest daughter, Mary, inherited that particular throne.  The Polish nobility, however, instead chose the younger daughter Jadwiga as their ruler.  To make it clear that she was not a mere queen consort, but a ruler in her own right, Jadwiga was crowned as king rather than “queen”.  She is one of maybe only five or so such women in all of human history to take a masculine, rather than feminine royal title.  Moreover, she received this lofty title while still a girl (Jadwiga was born in 1373 or 1374 and became “king” in 1384).

Despite being a child ruler, Jadwiga was something of a Renaissance woman.  She could speak German, Hungarian, Latin, Polish, and Serbian, among other talents.  She personally funded the building of hospitals and even scholarships for academics.  Her charitable nature combined with various legends eventually resulted in her canonization as a patrons saint of queens.  Among the miracles attributed to her was the claim that she revived a boy who had drowned in a river.

Her reign opened, however, with some familial tragedies.  The situation in nearby Hungary became downright horrific for Jadwiga’s mother and sister.  Their opposition within Hungary ambushed Queen Mary and her mother, kidnapped them, and imprisoned them.  Mary and Jadwiga’s mother ended up strangled before Mary’s eyes.  Although Mary was eventually rescued, she died a few years later in an apparent horse riding accident, while pregnant.

Jadwiga died in 1399 after giving birth to a daughter who died within days of her mother, one of Poland’s most celebrated Kings!

Historical Evidence

For more on the saintly king, unfortunately, just about all the books on her incorrectly refer to her as “queen”, but for a fairly concise read, you might check out Saint Jadwiga, Queen of Poland, 1374-1399 and yes, you can also like her on Facebook!  Finally, you can read her entry on the website for Encyclopedia Britannica.

Dr. Zar

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history at multiple universities.

  • Yadja

    My name is Yadwiga and my family claims to have been a part of Queen Yadwigas court thus my name and that of my mother. My grandmothers name was Olga Von Michaelson Sielski. My mothers Yadwiga and mine the same. I was told we have a castle in Latvia.

    • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS

      Neat!

      • Yadja

        When I lived in Europe I did not travel to Latvia but I attempted to find out information, as did so many others who had success in finding their castles, I did not get anywhere.

        Hopefully somebody on this site can give me some clues as to where to look. Thanks for the comment.

        • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS

          Dear Yadja,

          Have you tried posting on forums on Ancestry.com?

          Sincerely,

          Dr. Zarzeczny

          • Yadja

            Dear Dr. Zarzeczny, no I have not. I know so very little about my mother’s side of the family and I don’t care to spend money to find out the rest of the story.

            Thank you for answering me you are such a gentleman.

  • N Sword

    Jadwiga proved that women were fully capable of running the show in the same capacity as men during this time. While her situation in getting to the throne and her desire to actually be in that position are difficult to know, what she accomplished as king obviously propelled the kingdom forward. To me, this means that she was a successful king, and deserves to be among one of the few women to hold the position of king and match or exceed many male kings of the past.

  • JV

    Interesting Article, pretty rough situations for Jadwiga, being that she is one of Poland’s most celebrated kings.

  • Alex Guthrie

    Interesting that someone in her position wasn’t murdered in an attempt to gain power. Or even married? I don’t recall seeing her even being married but obviously still had a child.

  • Lauren Mangan

    Wow a little girl becomes a king and can speak multiple languages and run a country? At that age I was watching Hannah Montana and could say the colors in Spanish.

  • Sammi DiGeronimo

    I still don’t really understand why she couldn’t be considered a queen but she sounds like she was an awesome ruler and person in general

  • KR

    One of the things that will never cease to amaze me is how much people in earlier time periods seem to have been able to learn in such a short span of time. Her choice in reform projects is also admirable.

  • Anthony Jones

    How interesting that a girl so young would take a masculine title of royalty as well as be so well educated and talented.

  • Madison Ertle

    It is amazing to see people educated during this time period ! It is upsetting that childbirth killed her and that her daughter later died!

  • Olivia K

    What a powerful woman. Way to go Yadwiga!!!

  • William Drake

    Jadwiga is admirable. To become king as a woman and a child must have been no simple task at that time. Additionally, her learning as a Renaissance woman is really cool, especially considering the time and place.

  • Connor Lynch

    While women are still in the pursuit of total equality, it is interesting to consider how women such as Jadwiga, albeit in unique circumstances, broke through the social mold and gained notoriety.

  • John Liber

    Wow, at the time this was probably a large step in the realm of women’s rights. I still do not quite understand why she wasn’t named queen.

  • Dan Hennessey

    She sounded effective as a King! Being able to speak multiple languages and providing scholarships is very good for your country.

  • Thomas Robinson

    Wow! Jadwiga certainly accomplished a great deal in her time as king. She is a shining example of female power.

  • Nate haller

    She sounds like a good king that did alot of good things. Also it’s werid to me saying she the king instead of Queen

  • Salih Saritoprak

    She sounded like she did a pretty good job

  • Alexa V

    So this girl was canonized because she performed miracles like reviving a boy from drowning in a river? Are we sure that people didn’t know what CPR was back then…or that some of this was made up?

  • SK

    So cool that a WOMAN was a KING! Girl Power! Sad that her and her daughter died from childbirth.

  • N Beauchemin

    That’s awesome that she had the title of King over Queen, even more so that she was apparently an effective yet benevolent ruler unlike so many others of Medieval times.