Elizabeth of Poland, Duchess of Pomerania, does not have the fame and accomplishments that her namesake aunt has. However, she is fondly remembered in the Pomeranian city of Szczecinek, which shows that she must have been a popular duchess in her lifetime. Everything known about her suggests that she was an ideal duchess consort.
Early years and marriage arrangements
Elizabeth was the first of two daughters born to Casimir III, King of Poland and his first wife, Aldona-Anna of Lithuania. She had one younger full sister named Kunigunde. The girls seem to have been born in the early years of their parents’ marriage before Casimir became king in 1333. Elizabeth’s birth occurred between 1326 and 1331, probably closer to the first date.
As the oldest daughter of a king, marriage arrangements were underway for Elizabeth from an early age. Casimir wanted to form a marriage alliance with the Wittelsbach dynasty that ruled Bavaria. At the time, the Wittelsbachs were one of Europe’s most powerful dynasties. The head of the family, Louis, was the Holy Roman Emperor since 1328. In 1335, a possible marriage between Elizabeth and Louis the Roman, the eldest son of the Emperor from his second marriage to Margaret of Hainault, was planned. However, a formal betrothal never happened, and by the end of the year, Casimir was looking at another branch of the Wittelsbach dynasty instead. This time, an agreement for the engagement of Elizabeth to John, the son of Henry, Duke of Lower Bavaria, was signed. This arrangement was broken off by 1338.
In September 1338, plans for Elizabeth to marry Louis the Roman returned. On 26 November 1338, the two were betrothed. However, in 1341, Casimir wanted to make an alliance with the dukes of Pomerania. He agreed to marry one of his daughters to Bogislaw V, Duke of Pomerania-Wolgast. Elizabeth, as the older daughter was eventually chosen as Bogislaw’s bride. Just like her parent’s marriage, Elizabeth’s marriage was arranged as an alliance against the Teutonic Knights. Her sister, Kunigunde, instead would be married to Louis the Roman in 1345.
Elizabeth and Bogislaw were married on 24 or 25 February 1343. At the time, the Duchy of Pomerania was divided between two branches of the Griffins dynasty. Bogislaw ruled the eastern side (known as Pomerania-Wolgast) with his younger brothers Barnim IV and Wartislaw V. The western side, know as Pomerania-Stettin, was ruled by their cousin, Barnim III. The Duchy of Pomerania was located on the Baltic coast in present-day Poland and East Germany.
Elizabeth and Bogislaw had three children; a daughter Elizabeth, born between 1345 and 1347, a son Casimir, born around 1351, and an unnamed daughter who probably died in infancy. Not much is known about Elizabeth’s activities, and she was not politically active. She, however, introduced elements of Polish culture to Pomerania, which was becoming more and more German and Danish. Elizabeth’s seal, which shows her royal origin has been preserved.
In 1356, Bogislaw and his brothers founded an Augustine monastery near Szczecinek. Elizabeth probably supported the building of the monastery and was connected to it for the rest of her life. In 1357, Casimir began efforts to Christianize Lithuania, the homeland of her mother. Elizabeth probably supported this. Lithuania was still largely pagan at the time. However, it was not successfully Christianized until about thirty years later.
Since Casimir did not have any sons of his own, he looked at Elizabeth’s son, also named Casimir, as his possible successor. In 1360, to secure peace with Lithuania, King Casimir had his grandson married to Kenna, the daughter of the Lithuanian duke, Algirdas, who also happened to be Elizabeth’s maternal uncle. Just like Elizabeth’s mother, Aldona-Anna, Kenna was raised as a pagan and needed to be baptised. She was baptised with a new name, Joanna, soon before the marriage.
In 1356, a plague swept through Pomerania. Elizabeth and her sister-in-law, Sophia of Mecklenburg (wife of Barnim IV) took refuge at the Augustine monastery near Szczecinek that their husbands had founded. Elizabeth died there in 1361, but it’s unclear if it was from the plague or not. She was no more than thirty-five. The year of her death is known from some chronicles, but the exact date has not been recorded. Elizabeth was buried in this monastery, according to her own wish. Bogislaw married secondly to Adelaide of Brunswick-Grubenhagen. He died in 1374.
Soon after Elizabeth’s death, her father took her two children to his court. By this time, Casimir did not have any surviving legitimate children left, so his grandchildren were very important in his plans. In 1363, Elizabeth’s namesake daughter was married to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV. Elizabeth’s son was seen as his grandfather’s heir to the Polish throne, but on Casimir’s death in 1370, his nephew Louis I, King of Hungary took the throne instead. It is interesting to think that if Elizabeth outlived her father, her son may have had a better chance of becoming king.
Although she was not politically active, Elizabeth seems to be one of the most memorable Pomeranian duchesses. Largely forgotten today, she is still well-remembered in Pomerania, especially Szczecinek. She is considered an important figure in Polish-Pomeranian relations. In Szczecinek, she is a patron of a school that is named after her. Every year, the school hosts a festival called Elzbietanki. There is also a street named after her in the city. There are various legends about her around Szczecinek, and in 1965, a local poet wrote a poem about her. Most recently, Elizabeth has been a character in the Polish television series Korona Krolow (Crown of Kings), which dramatizes the reign of her father.1