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Przemysł II

Przemysł II, son of Przemysł I, Duke of Poznań, and Elisabeth, daughter of Henryk II Pobożny (Henry II the Pious), Duke of Wrocław, was born on 14th October 1257, four months after his father's death. Great Poland was ruled at the time by his paternal uncle, Bolesław Pobożny (the Pious), Duke of Kalisz, whose power extended over the whole province, including Przemysł's I Duchy of Poznań. Bolesław Pobożny assumed wardship over his young nephew. Since he had no sons of his own, he used his best endeavours to train Przemysł in the art of government, preparing him for the assumption of power in Great Poland, the very substantial domain he would inherit. Unlike Kujavia, Mazovia, and Silesia, which were all fragmented, Great Poland was a united province. Bolesław entrusted his nephew with important political tasks, such as the nominal leadership of the expedition against Brandenburg in 1272, when Drezdenko Castle, a strategic position on the River Noteć, was regained. But he did not wish to share power with Przemysł, and kept on procrastinating the young prince's appointment to his father's Duchy of Poznań, even though Przemysł had reached fifteen, then considered the age rightfully entitling the prince to come to power.

In 1274 the Brandenburgians burned down Poznań. The ambitious young prince did not want to wait any longer for his inheritance, and with the support of a group of lords, rose in rebellion against his uncle. Taking advantage of difficulties Bolesław was in, Przemysł exacted the transfer of power in his father's Duchy of Poznań. He offered assistance to Henryk IV Probus, Duke of Wrocław, and immediately found himself involved in a conflict between the dukes of Silesia. In 1279, following the death without issue of Bolesław Pobożny, Przemysł inherited his domains and re-united all the Great Poland's territories. However, Henryk IV Probus showed no gratitude for recent favours. In 1281 he imprisoned Przemysł, forcing him to cede the Land of Wieluń. Three years later, Henryk IV Probus gave his support to a rebellion of the Great Poland's knights against their rightful Duke and invaded the Land of Kalisz.

In 1282 at Kępno, Przemysł entered a treaty with Mściwoj II (Mestwin II), Duke of Gdańsk, whereupon Przemysł was to inherit Gdańsk and its vicinal Pomerania after Mestwin's death. This alliance stopped further aggression by Brandenburg in Pomerania. In 1287 at Słupsk, Przemysł and Mestwin made an anti-Brandenburg alliance with Bogusław IV, Duke of Western Pomerania. Przemysł also gained back the Lands of Kalisz and Ruda. In 1290, under Henryk IV Probus's will, he assumed power in Kraków. However, he soon lost Kraków to Władysław Łokietek (the Short), Duke of Sieradz, and in turn to the Czech King Wacław II (Venceslas). Przemysł entered a trilateral treaty with Władysław Łokietek of Sieradz, and Kazimierz (Casmir) of Łęczyca, Dukes of Kujavia, for the conquest of Little Poland.

In 1293 he married Margaret, daughter of Albrecht III, Margrave of Brandenburg. Thanks to this marriage, Przemysł faced no opposition from the margraves of Brandenburg to his assuming power in Pomerania, the province he inherited under Mestwin's II will in 1295. Przemysł became the most powerful prince of the Piast line. This gave him a realistic chance of re-uniting all the Polish territories, all the more so as there was growing support for re-unification, chiefly from the senior clergy, the knights and population of the towns.

Not waiting for his restoration to power in Kraków, Archbishop Jakub Świnka crowned Przemysł King of Poland on 26th June 1295 in Gniezno Cathedral. It was Poland's first coronation since the reign of Bolesław Śmiały (the Bold). It highlighted the principle of unity in the land. Although it did not lead to the full re-unification of all the territories of Poland, it nevertheless restored the Kingdom of Poland. There was opposition to the coronation, at home and abroad. Some of the lords of Great Poland, especially the Nałęcz and the Zaręba families, regarded it as a threat to their interests and entered an alliance with the margraves of Brandenburg. On their instigation and with the Zaręba family acting as accomplices, the King was assassinated at Rogoźno on 8th February 1296. He was buried at the Poznań Cathedral.

Przemysł II was married three times, and left a daughter Rixa Elisabeth by his second wife. The Rogoźno atrocity caused an upsurge of anti-German sentiments in Poland and most probably made the people of Great Poland withdraw their support for the successor to the province established under Przemysł's will, Henryk III of Głogów, in favour of Władysław Łokietek, who was well-known for his anti-German position.