Heartbreaking Facts About Queen Jadwiga, The Tragic Ruler

May 2, 2023 | Kyle Climans

Heartbreaking Facts About Queen Jadwiga, The Tragic Ruler

The first ruling queen in Polish history, the beautiful Jadwiga ensured that her name would be written in stone. Despite her short life, the young ruler would spend her reign giving back to the people of Poland, to the point where historians have called her one of their greatest monarchs. But Jadwiga also faced intense darkness and utterly heartbreaking family tragedy. Don't believe us? Read these 42 facts about this formidable monarch and decide for yourself.

1. Long May She Reign

Jadwiga’s reign as Queen of Poland lasted just under 15 years, from October 16, 1384 until her death at the tender age of 25.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland

2. Welcome to the World

Jadwiga was born in the city of Buda (now part of Budapest), which used to be the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary. She was the third and youngest child of Elizabeth of Bosnia and Louis I, King of Hungary and Poland. Her family was incredibly wealthy and powerful, but their sad plight proves that money and status can't buy happiness.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland factsPixabay

3. High Prize Within the Patriarchy

Louis I, Jadwiga’s father, was a fierce warrior, but there was one battle he couldn't win. Louis just couldn't seem to produce a male heir. Instead, he had three daughters and made the best of an awkward situation. Already seen as beautiful potential brides for any European prince, the Polish princesses only became more popular when Louis revealed his controversial plan. He made it clear that he wanted his daughters to inherit his titles and lands.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

4. Tragedy in Childhood

Most people don't realize that Jadwiga was never supposed to be Queen. Instead her older sister Catherine of Hungary should have inherited the throne. Catherine's parents were so certain that they even engaged her to be married at just four years old. But all these plans were for naught. Tragedy struck when Catherine tragically perished at the tender age of seven. As Louis grieved, he also struggled with his reign. When the engagement fell through, the united kingdoms that Louis built started to crumble.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikipedia

5. Getting Hitched Early

Evidently, in the Polish royal family, being single at four years old made you a spinster. After Catherine's death, Jadwiga's father had her engaged to William of the Hapsburg family before she was even a year old. Her fiance William was just four years old, but a very eligible baby bachelor. He as the eldest son of Leopold III, the Duke of Austria.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

6. Best Laid Plans

After Catherine's early demise, Polish lords flocked Jadwiga's eldest sister Mary with elaborate oaths of loyalty. She probably felt complimented, but these pledges didn't exactly happen organically. Instead, King Louis demanded that Polish royals praise his daughter and her fiance Sigismund of Luxembourg. But after Louis' passing, everything came crumbling down. In the end, Mary took over Hungary while Jadwiga reigned over Poland.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

7. Lost in Translation

While history remembers the Polish Queen as Jadwiga, her name could also be spelled and pronounced much more magically. For Hungarians, Jadwiga would look a lot more like "Hedwig".

Queen Jadwiga FactsShutterstock

8. Elizabeth's Choice

When Jadwiga was a young child, the Polish nobility insisted that their ruler actually live in the country. Jadwiga’s mother Elizabeth was heartbroken. She desperately tried to make a deal where Jadwiga would spend three extra years in Hungary, hoping to hold onto her daughter. Sadly, this deal fell apart as contenders for the throne rose up. The Polish nobles threatened to elect the popular and charismatic Duke of Masovia.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

9. Goodbye, Mommy

Elizabeth eventually conceded defeat in 1384. Ten-year-old Jadwiga was taken to Poland and crowned, while Elizabeth had to stay behind and look after her other daughter’s ascension in Hungary. She would never see Jadwiga, her own beloved daughter, again.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

10. Cruel Twist of Fate

Soon after Jadwiga went to Poland for her coronation, her mother Elizabeth and her sister Mary faced a terrifying situation. They rapidly lost ground in Hungary when a powerful enemy, Charles III of Naples, attempted to take it for his own. Elizabeth knew she had to do something extreme or lose her territory forever. She had Charles executed, thinking this would mean victory. Tragically, she was so, so wrong. 

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

11. Heartbreaking News

Just three years after Jadwiga went to Poland for her coronation, she received utterly heartbreaking news. Her mother died, and not just that, it was a truly horrible end. After Elizabeth had Charles slain, his furious allies captured her and her daughter Mary. When the enemy forces heard that Mary’s husband, Sigismund, was approaching with an army to save them, they did the unthinkable. They strangled Elizabeth to death before Mary’s eyes.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland factsWikimedia Commons

12. I Can Never Remember Her Birthday!

We’re not actually sure when Jadwiga was born, but historians have narrowed it down to somewhere between October 3, 1373, and February 18, 1374.

Queen Jadwiga FactsShutterstock

13. Dear Old Dad

Jadwiga’s family drama was barely confined to her cut-throat mother. Her father was Louis the Great, the King of Hungary. But one country wasn't enough for Louis: He also became the King of Poland when his uncle tragically perished without a son. When Louis took the throne,  he was determined to make his uncle and his people proud. He led fierce battle campaigns to restore Hungary's glory. After decades of defeat against chilling enemies like the Golden Horde, Louis became Hungary's most powerful and ruthless monarch.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland factsWikipedia

14. Ill-Fated Sister

Jadwiga’s older sister Mary would survive her imprisonment thanks to the rescue by her husband, Sigismund. She would rule Hungary as its queen for nearly ten years, beginning in 1387.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

15. Dark Day

In 1395, Mary was out riding in a forest when her world came crumbling down around her. Her horse tripped and threw her to the ground. Mary was terribly injured, but her mind wasn't on her own pain: it was on her unborn baby. Mary was pregnant at the time, and the horse's throw made her go into premature labor. While Mary managed to give birth, she succumbed to her injuries soon after. Tragically, her son perished as well.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

16. For Education

One of Jadwiga’s most lasting achievements as Queen was bringing education to her people. The monarch restored the esteemed University of Krakow. After falling into disrepair, Jadwiga used her powers of persuasion to get Pope Boniface IX to sanction a new faculty. She even made sure to put her money where her mouth was, personally buying property for the new school. If only this was where the story ended.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland facts Wikipedia

17. Straight A

Tragically, Jadwiga didn’t live to see her crowning glory. She passed on before the university started up again, but even in death, she made sure to take care of her brain child. In her heartbreaking will, she asked that her jewelry be sold with proceeds funding the university that was so near to her heart. Because of Jadwiga's generosity, the institution is still open today.

Queen Jadwiga FactsPicryl

18. King in Name

When Jadwiga and Mary were crowned the rulers of Poland and Hungary, respectively, they weren’t actually crowned as queens. Instead, they were both crowned "king" of their respective kingdoms. This fancy title hid a dark secret: the girls were crowned "King" so that their spouses couldn't seize power from them after marriage. Sadly, such intimate betrayals weren't uncommon in European royalty.

Queen Jadwiga FactsShutterstock

19. Wasn’t She Named After an Owl?

Jadwiga was named after her ancestor Saint Hedwig of Silesia. While Hedwig may have passed on in a monastery, her life was full of drama. She got married at 12 years old, then risked her life to save her husband from a rival duke. After her husband passed on, poor Hedwig was dealt another heartbreaking blow as she watched her only son die.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland factsWikimedia Commons, Bestbudbrian

20. Hail!

All the strife that was brought about with the demise of Jadwiga’s father ended when the young girl-king was finally brought to Poland. She was crowned on October 16, 1384.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

21. A Polish Lyanna Mormont?

Given how young Jadwiga was when she began her reign over Poland, historical records disagree over how many decisions made were actually her own. Most sources insist that Jadwiga depended on her advisors for everything, but one historian suggests otherwise. Oscar Halecki says that Jadwiga was wise beyond her years, and quickly adapted to ruling from a very young age.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

22. A Bad In-Law Relationship

With the death of her sister, Mary, Jadwiga made a claim on the throne of Hungary, since she claimed to be Mary’s heir by blood. However, Mary’s husband, Sigismund, refused to give up his own crown to Jadwiga. The relationship between Jadwiga and her power-hungry brother-in-law would, er, not improve.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland factsWikipedia

23. Talk About an Awkward Thanksgiving

Sigismund keeping Poland looks like chump change when you compare it to what he did next. Jadwiga's brother-in-law quickly dealt her another profoundly ruthless betrayal. next to his most ruthless betrayal. Jadwiga was shocked to learn that he was plotting against her family with the Teutonic Knights. It turned out that Sigismund didn't want to keep Poland for himself. He wanted to divide it up and reap the profits.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons


24. What a Great Guy

And that's not even the worst part. Jadwiga learned that Sigismund was scheming to ravage Poland long before Mary's untimely death. While it would take too long to sum up all the backstabbing that went on while Jadwiga tried to resolve the conflict with the Teutonic Knights, in the end, the Queen conquered. A peace treaty was finally signed in 1398.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

25. The Call Is Coming From Inside Your Marriage

One of the first conflicts that Jadwiga had to deal with was her own fiancé, William. The Polish nobles weren't exactly happy with the idea that a teenage Austrian would be their queen's significant other. Instead, they offered their own contender: Jogaila of Lithuania. As an enthusiastic pagan, Jogaila was a controversial choice, to put it lightly. The fact that the highly Christian Poles chose him tells you a lot about how much they hated the idea of William.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

26. Battle for the Bride

Two men enter the marriage arena. One man leaves with a bride. Jogaila of Lithuania sent elaborate envoys to Jadwiga in Poland and her mother in Hungary to get them to choose him. Meanwhile, William and his father, Duke Leopold III of Austria, traveled east to plead their case with Elizabeth and Jadwiga. Historians argue over exactly what happened, but we do know that someone sent William away from Krakow before he could marry Jadwiga. Looks like Jogaila won this time.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

27. Pass the Tissues

The story of Jadwiga's marriage to Jogaila is shrouded in mystery. One tragic version of events says that William managed to sneak into Jadwiga's bedchamber to declare his love. When Polish noblemen realized what William had done, they chasted him out of the castle. A tearful Jadwiga tried to run after him, but was restrained by the nobles.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikipedia

28. I’m Too Old for This

One person who could have been a dangerous enemy of Jadwiga during her lifetime was her great-uncle, Wladyslaw. Known as Wladyslaw the White, he challenged Jadwiga’s father for the kingship of Poland. But by the time Louis passed on, Wladyslaw had undergone a shocking change of heart. The once-brutal challenger took monastic vows and lived as a humble monk. Even when Louis’ enemies used a doctrinal loophole to release Wladyslaw from his vows, he refused to leave his home within the monastery.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikipedia

29. Not the Happiest Wedding Ever

Jadwiga married Jogaila of Lithuania on February 18, 1386. Under all the pomp and circumstance, the ceremony hid a dark truth: The groom was 35 while the bride was just 12. As part of the marriage agreement, Jogaila promised to convert himself and his followers to Catholicism, and took the new name Wladyslaw-Jogaila.

Jogaila also promised a fortune of 200,000 florins to compensate William for the broken engagement. The heartbroken William refused the payment.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland factsShutterstock

30. Is "Mantle" an Old Name for CPR?

Jadwiga wasn't just a queen. She was also a canonized saint. A legend states that when Jadwiga attended a Corpus Christi Day procession, she saw the young son of a coppersmith fall into a nearby river and drown. However, when Jadwiga threw her mantle over the boy, he came back to life. Let's see another queen pull that!

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

31. From One Holiness to Another

On June 8, 1979, Jadwiga’s sarcophagus was visited by Pope John Paul II, the first Polish Pope in the history of the Catholic Church. John Paul led a prayer at her sarcophagus in honor of the deceased queen and was also responsible for the process which led to her canonization in 1997.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland factsPixabay

32. Love Triangle

Shortly after all the marital paperwork between Jadwiga and her new husband was settled, the couple was plunged into catastrophe. Jogaila's home country of Lithuania was invaded by Teutonic Knights. Three guesses who they supported? Jadwiga's rejected suitor, young William of Austria. The Knights began a vicious propaganda campaign to support William and discredit Jogaila.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland factsWikimedia Commons, Darekm135

33. For the People

During her reign, Jadwiga became well known for her humanitarian and philanthropic actions. Hospitals, churches, and schools all received her support and blessings, whether they were already established or whether they were built during Jadwiga’s reign. She also translated religious texts into Polish for the first time, allowing regular people to read their religious books and sing their hymns in their own language.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland factsShutterstock

34. Jadwiga’s Foot

If you travel to the Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Krakow, you'll see a footprint embedded in the floor of the church. According to legend, that footprint belongs to Jadwiga. One day, she was approached by a poor stonemason who begged for help from his queen. Jadwiga took some jewelry from her foot and gifted it to the man.

This act of charity was said to have caused her foot to be imprinted into the dry plaster of the floor. Years later, this was one of the miracles that helped Jadwiga become a saint.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland factsWikipedia

35. Jadwiga’s Cross

Jadwiga was known to frequently pray before a large black crucifix at Wawel Cathedral. Allegedly, the figure of Christ on this crucifix spoke to her during one of her regular prayers. The crucifix has since become known as Saint Jadwiga’s Cross.

Queen Jadwiga FactsFlickr

36. It’s a Girl!

Like her parents before her, Jadwiga had a terrible time when it came to motherhood. She and her husband spent years as a childless couple despite any and all efforts. Historians report that this put a severe strain on their relationship. Finally, in either 1398 or 1399, Jadwiga was with child. Her daughter, Elizabeth Bonaficia, was born on June 22, 1399.

Queen Jadwiga FactsShutterstock

37. The Queen is Dead

Sadly, history has a way of repeating itself. Poor Jadwiga would live out her sister Mary's awful fate.  Jadwiga's baby Elizabeth Bonaficia passed on three weeks after being born. Jadwiga would follow her tiny daughter four days later. Though Jadwiga passed on at just 25 years old, she had seen enough pain to fill dozens of lifetimes.

Queen Jadwiga Facts Wikipedia

38. Rest in Peace

On August 24, 1399, Jadwiga and her infant daughter were laid to rest together in Wawel Cathedral, the place where Jadwiga had gone so often in life. They have been entombed there ever since.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland factsMax Pixel

39. From the Ashes Rises the Phoenix

After Jadwiga’s passing, her husband Jogaila’s position in Poland got very complicated. Before she passed on, Jadwiga recommended that he marry her distant relation, Anna of Cilli. Jogaila heeded his wife's wise words, marrying Anna after a proper amount of time had passed since Jadwiga’s death. Wladyslaw-Jogaila would live another 35 years and begin what is often referred to as Poland’s Golden Age.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

40. Watch the Queen Conquer

Jadwiga has her mother to thank for the Polish throne. Elizabeth of Bosnia was a loving parent, but in politics, she was cut-throat and utterly ruthless. After the passing of Jadwiga’s father, Elizabeth tried her best to make things work, but just couldn't keep Poland and Hungary united. Instead, she made Jadwiga the "King" of Poland while her older sister, Mary, became "King" of Hungary.

Queen Jadwiga FactsWikimedia Commons

41. Preparation?

After baby Jadwiga was engaged to William of Austria while still in diapers, the infant couple took things to the next level. They took part in a "provisional marriage" when Jadwiga was just a toddler and William was just a kid in 1378. While it was basically a temporary confirmation that she and William were a couple-to-be, the ceremony had a chilling final act. Jadwiga was separated from her family and shipped off to spend two years of her life in Vienna.

Queen Jadwiga Facts Wikipedia

42. Maybe They Were Poker Buddies?

When archaeologists uncovered the casket of Saint Simeon in the Croatian city of Zadar, they gasped. Who should they see engraved on the ornate sarcophagus, but Queen Jadwiga and her sisters? This detail did more than surprise them: The sad story of Catherine's passing also helped them date the casket. After all, the three girls only got to spend a small amount of time together before Catherine was snatched away by death.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland factsWikipedia

Sources1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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