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Władysław II Jagiełło

Władysław II Jagiełło, son of Olgierd Giedyminowicz, great prince of Lithuania and Julianna, daughter of Alexander, the prince of Twer, was born in 1351 (although it isn't certained). After his father's death in 1377 he assumed supreme authority in Lithuania, originally sharing the rule with his uncle Kiejstut, reigning the western Lithuania, defender of pagan tradition and foe of the German Knights of the Teutonic Order. In 1382, after Kiejstut's attempt to oust him from the throne, he eliminated his uncle, gaining independent rule in the country. Endangered by the Knights of the Teutonic Order, where Witold, Kiejstut's son found asylum, he made a treaty with them in 1382 over the river Dubissa, upon which he promised, among other things, to become christened within four years along with the whole country of Lithuania. This agreement already in 1383 was breached and in 1384 Jagietto, reconcilied with Witold, undertook an armed campaign against the Teutonic Knights. Jagietto saw the real possibility of fignting off the Teutonic threat and fulfilling his ambitions for the royal title as well as for a prevalence in a competition with Witold in Lithuania in liaisons with Poland. Moreover, the reception of Christendom in western ritual would have cjreatly reinforced the position of Lithuania both towards the Teutonic Knights and orthodox Russia subdued to the Lithuania. Soon Jagietto established contacts with magnates in Little Poland, inspired by them to pretend to Jadwiga s hand and to the Polish crown. In 1385 in Krewa he made a treaty for a marriage with Jadwiga, Queen of Poland, ana the unification of Great Duchy of Lithuania with Poland. Half a year later a congress of lords and knight-hood in Lublin acclaimed Jagietto king. So he became a Polish monarch not only thanks to the marriage contract but also in virtue of choice, i.e. an election. In 1386 ne was baptised in Krakow under the name of Wtadystaw, he married Jadwiga and became crowned king of Poland. He confirmed the privileges of nobles and committed himself to regain the territories lost by Poland. Soon he started to christianise his native country. Already in 1387 a bishopric for Lithuania was created in Vilnius, building works on a cathedral began, first parishes were established. Jagietto, within his estate, granted the Church land and exempted it from taxes. Thanks to queen Jadwiga's foundation the Lithuanians could receive education for priests first in Prague, then in the reestablished Academy of Krakow.

After several years Jagietto came to a long lasting understanding with Witold: in 1392 they made an agreement in Ostrow according to which he yielded rule in Great Duchy of Lithuania and in 1401 - in virtue of the union of Vilnius and Radom, Jagietto acknowledged Witold great prince of Lithuania, keeping supremacy over it with the title of the highest prince of Lithuania. Right at the beginning of his rule he expanded an active foreign policy. In 1387—1388 he incorporated to the Crown a part of the Russian lands, in 1387 he received a feudal homage of governor of Moldavia and later governor of Walachia, he also established friendly contacts with the princes of Mazovia and Stupsk. Jadwiga's death in 1399 without progeny weakened the position of Wtadystaw Jagietto as the king of Poland, which resulted in confirming in the union of Vilnius and Radom of 1401 a relationship between Great Duchy of Lithuania and Poland. Aiming to reinforce his rights to the Polish crown Jagietto married in 1402 a granddaughter of Kazimierz III Wielki, Anna Cylejska. Tension in the contacts with the Teutonic Order grew steadily. A treaty in Racigz in 1404 was followed in 1409 by an invasion of the Teutonic army on the land of Dobrzyn, which initiated the so called great war with the Teutonic Order. On 15 July, 1410 a big battle took place on the fields of Grunwald (Tannenberg) where after strenuous fighting and bloodshed the Teutonic Order was annihilated by joint Polish and Lithuanian army under the command of Wtadystaw Jagietto. The triumph at Grunwald had an enormous significance for Poland and Lithuania. For the first time weakening the power of the Teutonic State, it restrained for several centuries the German expansion towards the east, noticeably consolidating the international significance of the Polish-Lithuanian State and the position of Wtadystaw Jagietto himself. An excellent victory was not, however, politically turned to good account and real benefits resulting from a peace treaty, signed in 1411 in Torun, were very little. In accordance with its resolutions, Samogitia was meant to be returned to Lithuania for the time of Jagietto's and Witold's life (after that it was supposed to come back to the Teutonic Order, which after all never happened). Poland managed to receive from the Teutonic state high indemnity but should have given back to the great master Teutonic castles seized during the war. The treaty of Torun did not solve a Teutonic question completely hence military operations resumed a couple of times. Wtadystaw Jagietto sought a solution to the disputes with the Teutonic Knights, after unsuccessful wars of 1414, 1419 and 1422, in peaceful mediations and treaties, finally terminated by a peace concluded over the lake of Melno (nowadays: Metno) in 1422.

The sign of a successive tightening of bonds between Poland and Lithuania, on the grounds of equal and stable relationship, was the union of Horodto in 1413. Poland's influences on Pomerania increased, prince's Mazovia became more dependent from Poland.

Under the influence of Polish clergy, Jagietto, personally interested himself in maintaining good relationship with the papacy, rejected in 1420 the offer made by Hussites for taking over the Bohemian throne and what is more — in 1424, under the pressure of the episcopate he issued an antihussite decree of Wieluri. He definitely denied his possible liking for Hussitism threatening it with the most severe penalties, he also called off Polish aids for Hussites.

Not having a male progeny, after the death of his third wife Elzbieta Granowska, already seventy year's old Jagietto married in 1422 a Russian princess Zofia Holszanska. After the birth of his sons Wtadystaw (later Wtadystaw Warneiiczyk) and Kazimierz IV Jagiellonczyk in 1424 and 1427, Jagietto pursued to guarantee them a succession to the Polish throne. The approval of his ambitions from the part of magnates and Polish nobles was secured by issue of the king documents guaranteeing nobles former privileges and introducing new ones (privilege of Czerwihsk in 1422 and those of Jedlno in 1430). In return the king obtained the assured election of one of his sons. The reign or the Jagiellons was not based on the right of heirdom but on an election, practically not reaching farther than the progeny of Jagietto. So he was the founder of a dynasty which owed its rule to permanent consent of states, resumed at every change of the throne.

Wtadysfaw Jagiełło was an able politician, full of moderation and persistence as well as an outstanding diplomat and leader. Through reasonable compromise he managed to neutralise Lithuanian-Russian separatism and to establish stable cooperation with an original enemy, Witold. He was a ruler caring about the state's well-being. To a great extent he ruled personally and was available for his subjects. Regularly, every year, he used to travel around the territory of the Kingdom, supervising the monarch's estate, solving disputes on the spot, making judgements and controlling the activity of local governors (starosta) and land functionaries.

Not being educated himself, he understood however the need for learning and science — his ever lasting accomplishment was the reestablished in 1400, founded by Kazimierz Wielki, Academy of Krakow. Before she died Jadwiga assigned for this purpose her jewellery but the merit of Jagiefio was the realisation of this project which until the present day is commemorated by the name of the university — Jagiellohski. For the renewed university Jagiełło obtained consent from the papacy to open a new theological faculty— which was previously denied to Kazimierz III Wielki (the Great). Jagiełło was able to use the scholars of Cracow to defend Poland and Lithuania at the council of Constance in 1415 aiming to put end to a large ideological split in the Latin Church. There Pawet Wtodkowic made a memorable speech, presenting a doctrine about the independence of countries, also pagan ones and the concept of just and unjust wars. The latter - in his opinion — were waged by the Teutonic Order invading peacefully oriented Samogitians and Lithuanians under the guise of converting them to the Christian religion.

Jagiełło supported artistic activity, he was particularly fond of Russian painters. He died on 1 June, 1434 in Grodek, called later Jagiellonian. He was buried in the Wawel cathedral.