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Elizabeth of Bosnia
Middle-aged woman holding a young woman in her arms
Soma Orlai Petrich's depiction of Elizabeth with her daughter Mary in captivity, painted in 1894
Personal details
Born c. 1339
Died January 1387
Novigrad Castle, Novigrad
Kingdom of Hungary (today's Croatia)
Spouse(s) Louis I, King of Hungary and Poland

Elizabeth of Bosnia[1] (c. 1339 – January 1387) was queen consort and later regent of Hungary, as well as queen consort of Poland. Her regency was marked by political unrest that led to her death.

Daughter of Ban Stephen II of Bosnia, Elizabeth married King Louis I of Hungary in 1353. In 1370, she gave birth to a long-anticipated heir, Catherine, and became queen of Poland when Louis succeeded his uncle, Casimir III. The royal couple had two more daughters, Mary and Hedwig, but Catherine died in 1378. When Louis died in 1382, Mary ascended to the throne of Hungary with Elizabeth as regent. Unable to preserve the personal union of Hungary and Poland, the queen dowager secured the Polish throne for her youngest daughter, Hedwig.

During her regency in Hungary, Elizabeth faced several rebellions led by John Horvat and John of Palisna, who attempted to take advantage of Mary's insecure reign. In 1385, they invited King Charles III of Naples to depose Mary and assume the crown. Elizabeth responded by having Charles murdered two months after his coronation, in 1386. She had the crown restored to her daughter and established herself as regent once more, only to be captured, imprisoned and ultimately strangled by her enemies.

Descent and early years[edit | edit source]

Born about 1339, Elizabeth was the daughter of Ban Stephen II of Bosnia, the head of the House of Kotromanić.[2] Her mother was Elizabeth of Kuyavia, a member of the House of Piast[3] and grandniece of King Vladislaus I of Poland.[4]

In 1349, the fourteen-year-old queen of Hungary, Margaret of Luxembourg, died from the Black Death.[5] Elizabeth of Poland, the mother of the widowed and childless King Louis I of Hungary, insisted on immediately bringing the daughter of the ban of Bosnia to her court in Visegrád for fostering. Stephen was reluctant at first, but he eventually dispatched Elizabeth,[6] whose mother had already died.[7]

In 1350, Tsar Stephen Uroš IV Dušan of Serbia attacked Bosnia in order to regain Zachlumia. The invasion was not successful, and the tsar tried to negotiate peace, which would be sealed by arranging Elizabeth's marriage to his son and heir apparent, Stephen Uroš V. The tsar expected Zachlumia to be ceded as Elizabeth's dowry, which her father refused.[8] Later that year, she was formally betrothed to the 24-year-old Louis,[9] who hoped to counter Dušan's expansionist policy either with her father's help or as his eventual successor.[10] The two were related in the fourth degree through Duke Casimir I of Kuyavia, Elizabeth's great-great-grandfather and Louis' great-grandfather, making Pope Innocent VI's consent necessary.[11]

Marriage[edit | edit source]

Elizabeth married Louis in Buda on 20 June 1353.[11] He was dismayed when, upon his father-in-law's death later the same year, Elizabeth's young and ambitious cousin Tvrtko succeeded as ban.[10] In 1357, Louis summoned the young ban to Požega and compelled him to surrender most of western Zachlumia as Elizabeth's dowry.[2][12]

The new queen of Hungary subjected herself entirely to her controlling mother-in-law. The fact that her retinue consisted of the same individuals who had served the queen mother indicates that Elizabeth may not even have had her own court. Her mother-in-law's influence prevailed until 1370, when Louis succeeded his maternal uncle, Casimir III, as king of Poland according to the Privilege of Buda, and sent his mother to govern the kingdom as regent.[5] Elizabeth, though queen of Poland, was never crowned as such.[13] On his return from Poland, Louis brought Casimir's underage daughters, Anne and Hedwig, to be raised by Elizabeth.[14] Elizabeth's maternal uncle, Vladislaus the White, was also a candidate for the throne of Poland. As the queen's uncle, he remained closely tied to the royal court despite failing to gain control of any part of the kingdom.[15]

Woman handing a sarcophagus to a saint with her three daughters kneeling in front of her

Queen Elizabeth presenting a chest to St. Simeon, with her daughters praying

The problem of the succession marked Louis' reign. Elizabeth was long considered barren, and a succession crisis was expected after the childless king's death. Her brother-in-law Stephen was heir presumptive until his death in 1354, when his son John replaced him. John's own death in 1360 made the extinction of the dynasty a real possibility.[16] A daughter was born to the queen and king in 1365, but the child died the next year.[17] For a few years, John's sister, Elizabeth, was promoted to heiress presumptive and a suitable marriage for her was being negotiated. Things suddenly took a different course when the queen had three daughters in quick succession; Catherine was born in July 1370, Mary in 1371, and Hedwig in 1373 or 1374.[16] Elizabeth is known to have written a book for the education of her daughters, a copy of which was sent to France in 1374. However, all copies have been lost.[18][19]

On 17 September 1374, Louis granted various concessions to the Polish nobility by the Privilege of Koszyce, in exchange for their promise that a daughter of his would succeed him and that he, Elizabeth or his mother could indicate which one.[20] In Hungary, he focused on the centralization of power as means of ensuring that his daughters' rights would be respected.[21] Securing marriage to one of the princesses was a priority in European royal courts.[16] Mary was scarcely one year old when she was promised to Sigismund of Luxembourg.[22] In 1374, Catherine was betrothed to Louis of France,[16] but died towards the end of 1378, sometime after Hedwig's betrothal to William of Austria.[23]

The king, weakened by illness, became progressively less active in the last years of his reign, devoting an increasing amount of time to prayer, as did his aging mother, who had returned from Poland in 1374. These circumstances allowed Elizabeth to assume a more prominent role at court. Her influence had grown steadily since she had given her husband three possible heiresses. It appeared probable that the crowns would pass to one of Elizabeth's underage daughters and by 1374, their rights were confirmed.[24] Behind the scenes, Elizabeth began ensuring that the succession would be as smooth as possible by encouraging a slow but decisive change in the personnel of the government. Warlike and illiterate barons were gradually replaced by a small group of noblemen who excelled in their professional skills but were not distinguished by birth or military ability. Palatine Nicholas I Garay led the movement and enjoyed the full support of the queen, and their power eventually became virtually unrestricted.[24]

Widowhood and regency[edit | edit source]

Map of Eastern and Southeast Europe

Lands held by Louis the Great and inherited by Elizabeth's daughters, including vassal states

Louis died on 10 September 1382 and Mary succeeded to the throne of Hungary. Elizabeth, now queen dowager, acted as regent on behalf of the eleven-year-old sovereign, with Garay as her chief adviser. The queen dowager's rule was not to be peaceful; the first to rise against her, in 1383, was John of Palisna, Ban of Croatia, who was mainly opposed to the centralizing policy which her husband had enforced. Her cousin Tvrtko also decided to take advantage of Louis' death and Elizabeth's unpopularity by trying to recover the lands he had lost to the king in 1357. Tvrtko and John formed an alliance against Elizabeth, but they were ultimately defeated by her army, with John being forced to flee to Bosnia.[25]

Polish succession[edit | edit source]

Although Louis had designated Mary as his successor in both of his kingdoms, the Polish nobles, seeking an end to the personal union with Hungary, were not willing to recognize Mary and Sigismund as their sovereigns.[26] They would have accepted Mary if she had moved to Kraków and reigned over both kingdoms from there rather than from Hungary, ruling according to their advice rather than that of the Hungarian nobles and marrying a prince of their choosing. Their intentions, however, were not to Elizabeth's taste. She too would have been required to move to Kraków, where a lack of men loyal to her would have rendered her unable to enforce her own will. Elizabeth was also aware of the difficulties her mother-in-law had faced during her regency in Poland, which had ended with the old queen fleeing her native kingdom in disgrace.[27]

An agreement was reached between Elizabeth's and Polish delegates in Sieradz on 26 February 1383.[28] The queen thereby proposed her youngest daughter Hedwig as Louis' successor in Poland,[27][29] and absolved the nobles from their oaths to Mary and Sigismund.[28][29] She agreed to send Hedwig to be crowned in Kraków but requested that, in view of her age, she spend three more years in Buda following the ceremony. The Poles initially conceded to the requirement, but soon found it unacceptable for their monarch to reside abroad for so long. At the second meeting in Sieradz, held on 28 March, they contemplated offering the crown to Hedwig's distant relative, Duke Siemowit IV of Masovia.[29] They eventually opted against it, but at the third Sieradz meeting, on 16 June, Siemowit himself decided to lay claim to the crown. Elizabeth reacted by having an army of 12,000 men devastate Masovia in August, forcing him to drop his pretensions.[30] Meanwhile, she realized that she could not expect the nobles to accept her request and instead resolved to delay Hedwig's departure. Despite continuous Polish demands to expedite her arrival, Hedwig did not move to Kraków until the end of August 1384.[31] She was crowned on 16 October 1384.[32][33] No regent was appointed, and the 10-year-old exercised her authority according to the advice of Kraków magnates.[34] Elizabeth never saw her again.[35]

In 1385, Elizabeth received an official delegation from Grand Duke Jogaila of Lithuania, who wished to marry Hedwig. In the Act of Kreva, Jogaila promised to pay compensation to William of Austria on Elizabeth's behalf and requested that Elizabeth, as widow of King Louis and heiress of Poland herself as great-grandniece of King Vladislaus I (whose name Jogaila had purposely assumed on his baptism), legally adopt him as her son in order to give him the right to retain the Polish crown in the event of Hedwig's death.[36][37] The marriage was celebrated in 1386.[32]

Mary's marriage[edit | edit source]

Mary's fiancé Sigismund and his brother Wenceslaus, King of Germany and Bohemia, were also opposed to Elizabeth and Garay. The queen and the palatine, on the other hand, were not enthuasiastic about Sigismund reigning together with Mary. Both Sigismund and Mary's relative, King Charles III of Naples, threatened to invade Hungary; the former intended to marry Mary and become her co-ruler, while the latter intended to depose her. Elizabeth was determined to allow neither and, in 1384, started negotiating Mary's marriage to Louis of France, notwithstanding her daughter's engagement to Sigismund. Had this proposal been made after Catherine's death in 1378, the Western Schism would have represented a problem, with France recognising Clement VII as pope and Hungary accepting Urban VI. However, Elizabeth was desperate to avoid an invasion in 1384 and unwilling to let the schism stand in the way of the negotiations with the French. Clement VII issued a dispensation which annulled Mary's betrothal to Sigismund, and her proxy marriage to Louis was celebrated in April 1385, but it was not recognized by the Hungarian noblemen, who adhered to Urban VI.[38]

Young woman crying at a tomb with her mother standing above her

Sándor Liezen-Mayer's depiction of Elizabeth and Mary mourning at Louis' tomb during Charles' coronation, painted in 1864

Elizabeth's plan to have Mary married to Louis of France divided the court. The House of Lacković, the master of the treasury Nicholas Zámbó and the judge royal Nicholas Szécsi openly opposed it and renounced their allegiance to the queen dowager in August, which resulted in her depriving them of all their offices and replacing them with Garay's partisans. The kingdom was on the verge of a civil war when the king of Naples, invited by John Horvat and his brother Paul, Bishop of Zagreb, arrived to claim the throne for himself. His arrival forced Elizabeth to yield and abandon the idea of French marriage. While her envoys in Paris were preparing for Louis's journey, Elizabeth came to terms with her opponents and Szécsi was appointed palatine.[39] Four months after her proxy marriage to Louis, Sigismund entered Hungary and married Mary, but the marriage turned out to be too late; he fled to his brother Wenceslaus' court in Prague in the autumn of 1385.[39]

Deposition and restoration[edit | edit source]

Charles's arrival was well-prepared. He was accompanied by his Hungarian supporters and Elizabeth was unable to raise an army against him or prevent him from convoking a diet, in which he obtained an overwhelming support. Mary was forced to abdicate, opening the path for Charles to be crowned on 31 December 1385,[39] with Elizabeth and Mary compelled to attend the coronation[40] and swear allegiance to him.[41]

Deprived of authority, Elizabeth feigned friendly feelings for her husband's kinsman while his retinue was at the court, but after his supporters had returned to their homes, he was left defenseless.[42] She acted quickly and invited him to visit Mary in Buda Castle. Upon his arrival there on 7 February 1386, Elizabeth had Charles stabbed in her apartments and in her presence. He was taken to Visegrád, where he died on 24 February.[40][42]

Having had the crown restored to her daughter, the queen dowager immediately proceeded to reward those who had helped her, giving Jelenec Castle to Blaise Forgach, the Master of the Cupbearers, whose blow had mortally wounded Charles. In April, Sigismund was brought to Hungary by his brother Wenceslaus and the queens were pressured into accepting him as Mary's future co-ruler by the Treaty of Győr.[42] Having Charles murdered did not help Elizabeth as much as she hoped it would, however, as the Neapolitan party immediately recognized Charles' son Ladislaus as heir[43] and fled to Zagreb, where Bishop Paul pawned church estates in order to collect money for an army against Elizabeth.[44]

Death and aftermath[edit | edit source]

Man defending a carriage containing two women from a group of armed men

Mihály Kovács's representation of Palatine Garay defending Elizabeth and Mary from the attackers, painted in c. 1895. Garay was killed by the rebels and his head was sent to the queen of Naples.[42]

Elizabeth believed that her daughter's mere presence would help calm the opposition.[42] Accompanied by Garay and a modest following,[42] she and Mary set out for Đakovo.[43] However, Elizabeth had seriously misjudged the situation. On 25 July 1386, they were ambushed en route and attacked by John Horvat in Gorjani.[42][43] Their small entourage failed to fight off the attackers, and the queens were imprisoned in the bishop of Zagreb's castle of Gomnec.[42] Elizabeth took all blame for the rebellion and begged the attackers to spare her daughter's life.[45]

Elizabeth and Mary were then sent to Novigrad Castle, held by their new jailer, John of Palisna.[43] Charles' widow Margaret insisted that Elizabeth be put to death.[46] She was tried and, after the Christmas adjournment of the proceedings, found guilty of inciting Charles' murder.[47] Sigismund marched into Slavonia in January 1387, with the intention to reach Novigrad and rescue the queens.[48] Towards the middle of January, when news of Sigismund's approach reached Novigrad, Elizabeth was strangled by guards before Mary's eyes.[43][47][48]

Mary was released from the captivity by Sigismund's troops on 4 June.[47] Having been secretly buried in St Chrysogonus's Church in Zadar on 9 February 1387, Elizabeth's body was exhumed on 16 January 1390, transferred by sea to Obrovac and then carried overland to Székesfehérvár Basilica.[49]

Legacy[edit | edit source]

A street sign

"Street of Queen Elizabeth Kotromanić, donor of St. Simeon's casket" in Zadar

Modern historians tend to describe Elizabeth as a formidable woman, while her contemporaries regarded her as an efficient but ruthless politician who used political intrigues to protect and successfully defend her daughters' rights.[40][50]

Elizabeth was a caring parent, but was neither politically talented nor qualified to prepare Mary and Hedwig for their roles as monarchs. She failed to set a good example for her daughters, and her unbalanced character and questionable methods in politics would serve more as a warning to the young sovereigns. Hedwig was disappointed by her mother's procrastinations and inability to make clear decisions, while Mary was most distressed by her endless problems with Croatian nobles and failure to improve relations with her native Bosnia.[35]

Queen Elizabeth is known to have commissioned the creation of the Chest of Saint Simeon in 1381. The chest, located in Zadar, is of great importance for the history of the city, as it depicts various historical events – such as the death of her father – and Elizabeth herself. According to legend, Elizabeth stole the saint's finger and paid for the creation of the casket in order to atone for her sin.[51] The casket contains a scene which allegedly depicts the queen gone mad after stealing the relict.[52]

Family tree[edit | edit source]

Casimir I of Kuyavia
Mary of Hungary
Vladislaus I of Poland
Ziemomysł of Kuyavia
John of Durazzo
Charles Martel of Anjou
Casimir III of Poland
Casimir II of Kuyavia
Elizabeth of Serbia
Stephen I of Bosnia
Charles of Durazzo
Louis of Gravina
Charles I of Hungary
Elizabeth of Poland
Vladislaus of Kuyavia
Elizabeth of Kuyavia
Stephen II of Bosnia
Vladislaus of Bosnia
Margaret of Durazzo
Charles III of Naples
Louis I of Hungary
Elizabeth of Bosnia
Tvrtko I of Bosnia
Ladislaus of Naples
Catherine of Hungary
Mary of Hungary
Hedwig of Poland

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. Bosnian language: Elizabeta Kotromanić/Елизабета Котроманић; Hungarian language: Kotromanics Erzsébet; Polish language: Elżbieta Bośniaczka
  2. 2.0 2.1 Engel, 163.
  3. Kellogg, 9.
  4. Rudzki, 47.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Engel, 171.
  6. Instytut Historii (Polska Akademia Nauk)
  7. Gromada & Halecki, 88.
  8. Van Antwerp Fine, 323.
  9. Várdy, Grosschmid, Domonkos, 226.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Gromada & Halecki, 40.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Długosz, 303.
  12. Van Antwerp Fine, 369.
  13. Rożek, 49.
  14. Jasienica, 6.
  15. Várdy, Grosschmid, Domonkos, 147.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Engel, 169.
  17. Gromada & Halecki, 49.
  18. Jansen, 13.
  19. Johnson & Wogan-Browne, 203.
  20. Reddaway, 193.
  21. Engel, 174.
  22. Engel, 170.
  23. Gromada & Halecki, 69.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Engel, 188.
  25. Van Antwerp Fine, 395.
  26. Goodman & Gillespie, 208.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Varga, 41.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Przybyszewski, 7.
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 Gromada & Halecki, 101.
  30. Przybyszewski, 8.
  31. Przybyszewski, 97.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Goodman & Gillespie, 221.
  33. Gromada & Halecki, 109.
  34. Przybyszewski, 10.
  35. 35.0 35.1 Gromada & Halecki, 85.
  36. McKitterick, 709–712.
  37. Lithuanian historical studies, 10-11.
  38. Goodman & Gillespie, 222–223.
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 Engel, 196-197.
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 Grierson & Travaini, 236.
  41. Gromada & Halecki, 146.
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 42.3 42.4 42.5 42.6 42.7 Engel, 198.
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 43.3 43.4 Van Antwerp Fine, 396–397.
  44. Šišić, 50.
  45. Duggan, 231.
  46. Gaži, 61.
  47. 47.0 47.1 47.2 Gromada & Halecki, 164.
  48. 48.0 48.1 Engel, 199.
  49. Petricioli, 196.
  50. Parsons, 16.
  51. Stewart, 210.
  52. Filozofski fakultet u Zadru, 455.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Długosz, Jan (1997). Annales seu cronicae incliti regni Poloniae, Part 1480. IM Publications. ISBN 1-901019-00-4. 
  • Duggan, Anne J. (2002). Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe: Proceedings of a Conference Held at King's College London, April 1995. Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-881-1. 
  • Engel, Pal (1999). Ayton, Andrew. ed. The realm of St. Stephen: a history of medieval Hungary, 895–1526 Volume 19 of International Library of Historical Studies. Penn State Press. ISBN 0-271-01758-9. 
  • Radovi: Razdio filoloških znanosti. 9. Filozofski fakultet u Zadru. 1976. 
  • Gaži, Stephen (1973). A History of Croatia. Philosophical Library. 
  • Goodman, Anthony; Gillespie, James (2003). Richard II: The Art of Kingship. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-926220-9. 
  • Grierson, Philip; Travaini, Lucia (1998). Medieval European coinage: with a catalogue of the coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Volume 14. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-58231-8. 
  • Gromada, Tadeusz; Halecki, Oskar (1991). Jadwiga of Anjou and the rise of East Central Europe. Social Science Monographs. ISBN 0-88033-206-9. 
  • Instytut Historii (Polska Akademia Nauk) (2004). Acta Poloniae historica, Issues 89–90. Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich. 
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  • Jasienica, Paweł (1978). Jagiellonian Poland. American Institute of Polish Culture. ISBN 978-1-881284-01-7. 
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  • Kellogg, Charlotte (1936). Jadwiga, Queen of Poland. Anderson House. 
  • Lithuanian historical studies, Volume 1. The Institute. 1996. 
  • McKitterick, Rosamond (2000). Jones, Michael. ed. The New Cambridge Medieval History: c. 1300–c. 1415. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-36290-3. 
  • Parsons, John Carmi (1997). Medieval Queenship. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-17298-2. 
  • Petricioli, Ivo (1996) (in Croatian). Srednjovjekovnim graditeljima u spomen. Književni krug. 
  • Przybyszewski, Bolesław (1997). Saint Jadwiga, Queen of Poland 1374-1399. Veritas Foundation Publication Centre. ISBN 0948202696. 
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  • Rożek, Michał (1987) (in Polish). Polskie koronacje i korony. Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza. ISBN 83-03-01913-9. 
  • Rudzki, Edward (1990) (in Polish). Polskie królowe. Instytut Prasy i Wydawnictw "Novum". 
  • Stewart, James (2006). Croatia. New Holland Publishers. ISBN 1-86011-319-2. 
  • Šišić, Ferdo (1902). Vojvoda Hrvoje Vukc̆ić Hrvatinić i njegovo doba (1350–1416). Zagreb: Matice hrvatske. 
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  • Varga, Domonkos (1982). Hungary in greatness and decline: the 14th and 15th centuries. Hungarian Cultural Foundation. ISBN 0-914648-11-X. 

External links[edit | edit source]

Elizabeth of Bosnia
Born: 1340 Died: January 1387
Royal titles
Title last held by
Margaret of Luxembourg
Queen consort of Hungary
1353 –1382
Title next held by
Margaret of Durazzo
Preceded by
Hedwig of Sagan
Queen consort of Poland
1370 –1382
Title next held by
Anne of Cilli

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