history Eastern_Europe  POLAND  

 

Casimir the Great

by
Phillip Hee Ung Kim

Kazimierz Wielki, Casimir the Great, is the only King in Poland that had been called the Great. He reigned Poland from 1333 to 1370. He was considered as peaceful ruler, peasant king, and skillful diplomat. Through his diplomatic skill, he acquired part of Western Russia and Eastern Germany. He provided country with strong centralized government, built new town, founded the first university in Poland, and applied one written law amongst citizens.

 

   Wladyslav the Short, the father of Casimir the Great was the first ruler of Poland who reunited the divided Poland. However, Reunited Poland was weakly bonded and there were always great potential of breaking into small pieces of providence again. Keeping Poland as one state was the main task for Casimir the Great. In order to do that, Casimir constructed strong central government. During his reign, Polands first written law was made. Both the central government and theone law contributed significantly to the unity of Poland. Casimir was regarded as heir and was prepared for the kingship by Jaroslaw after the death of Casimirs elder brother. Later Jaroslaw became Casimirs counselor. Casimir had three sisters. One of them, Elizabeth married King Charles Robert of Hungary in 1320. This marriage formed great linkage between Poland and Hungary. This marriage was diplomatically beneficial for the Poland because Hungary at that time was one of the great powers in central Europe and Poland needed strong ally for the sake of their country. In 1325, Casimir married Aldona who was the pagan daughter of Gediminas, duke of Lithuania. Aldona brought thousands of Polish prisoners of war as a sign of reconciliation between Poland and Lithuania. However it was not enough to bring real reconciliation between two countries. The marriage was believed to be unhappy and the Queen died in 1339. Casimir and Aldona did not have son. In 1341, Casimir married a German princess, Adelhaid of Hesse. However, she was not able to bear child and was sent back to Germany in 1356. The third marriage was with the Silesian princess Hedwig of Glogau-Sagna in 1365. Still, Casimir could not have a legal heir. After cost of 3 marriages and more than 40 years striving for the son, finally, he appointed his nephew Louis of Hungary as his heir. At that point, Casimir was helpless and desperate about having legal heir from his own blood. However, Louis did not have son either. In case Louis would not have son in the future, Casimir chose a son of his eldest daughter. This resolved the problem of next successor. Casimir had many mistresses. The most famous one was the beautiful Jewess, Esther. Casimirs friendliness toward the Jews was notable. The marriage of his daughters and grandchildren strengthened Casimirs foreign support. His second daughter married Louis of Brandenburg in 1345.The third daughter was married to son of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Fourth in 1369. Also the Emperor, himself, married first a grandniece and later a grand daughter of Casimir.

 

At the beginning of Casimirs reign, Poland was facing several difficulties. The King of Bohemia claimed the Polish crown. The German knight of the Teutonic Order disputed East Pomerania. Lastly, Poland did not have strong allies which would back up Poland in case of war. The first two problems were caused because Poland was weak and did not have a strong ally. Without resolving these three problems, Casimir was not able to expand its territory to Russia. By a series of treaties with Hungary, Bohemia, and the Teutonic Order between 1335 and 1348, Casimir was able to solve the problem. Through these treaties, Casimir could obtained a strong ally with Hungary for dropping his claims to Silesia and East Pomerania. For the East Pomeraina,Casimir would have to solve it by military force which might cause a direct warwith Germany. Bygiving up the East Pomerania, Poland gained strong ally with Hungary andsolved theconflict with Germany without being called coward. Bohemian King dropped his claim for the Poland withdrew force from Kujauia and Dobrzyn. By these treaties, Casimir was able to secure western frontier. Now, Casimir began to expand territory to the East. Russia was occupied by force. Casimir wanted to unite Russia as one nation. By carefully planned policy with patience, although it was never completed, Russians declared themselves as Casimirs vassals. Even in the west, some German nobles preferred Casimirs to Brandenburgs lordship. By 1370, Poland expanded her territory from 50,000 square miles to 90,000. Poland became one of the major power in Central Europe. Casimir was respected as skillful and peaceful ruler throughout Europe. In 1364 in Krakow, Casimir was asked to arbitrate a quarrel between the Emperor of Holy Roman and Louis of Hungary. For the 30 years of his reign, this event was the most glorious moment for Casimir the Great . Beginning with weak and trivial nation, now his Poland was respected as powerful partner in Central Europe.

 

Polish people said Casimir was peasant king. He always had thought for people of Poland. Because of recent unification history, bringing unity was primary concern for Casimir. He constructed one central government, one law, one currency. Moreover, he wanted to make nation with one prince. He founded several new towns. Two of them was named as Kazimierz after Casimir. Casimir adopted new law called Magdeburg Law giving towns privilege of self-government. He built more than 50 castles, fostered church-building, and embellished royal castle at Krakow. He made Book of TeutonicLaw.With this law, major problems were judged at the special court in Krakow. He founded the first university in Poland in order to educate people. He also encouraged people to do economic activities. Especially, the trade became important due to Poland position on the commercial routes leading from East to West and from South to North.

There is a saying that he found Poland built of wood, and left her in stone. From1333-1370, Casimir the Great built Poland into major Central European power increasing her territory two times. He was generous and skillful as founder and planner of Poland.Under Casimir in 1346, the first Polish Legal Code was made, and in 1346 the foundation of Krakow University which was the second oldest in Central Europe were formed. Poland was stronger and richer than ever through its previous history. By Casimir, Poland was blessed by God.

 

 

Sources:

  1. The Great Man and Women Of Poland

  2. Casimir Britannica Online Http://www.eb.com:180/dgi-bin/g?DocF=micro/108/14.html

  3. Http://www.kasprzyk.demon.co.uk/www/RisePower.html

  4. RootsWeb Http://rootsweb.com/~polwgw/history.html

 

 

 

 

 

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