A Brief History
On October 16, 1384, Jadwiga, a woman, was crowned KING of Poland.
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! Question for students (and subscribers): Who is your favorite woman ruler in history? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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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.