Jadwiga of Poland (1373/4-1399)
Art by Aonasis (tumblr)
Jadwiga was the daughter of Elizabeth of Bosnia and Louis the Great of Hungary. At the age of ten, she was crowned King of Poland. Jadwiga was crowned king rather than queen because although Polish law had no provision for a queen regent, the law did not state a king must be male.
In 1386, Jadwiga married Grand Duke Jogaila of Lithuania, uniting the two regions. Prior to their marriage, Lithuania was the last pagan state in Europe. As part of the marriage agreement, Jogaila was baptized as a Roman Catholic and took the name Władysław. Mass baptisms and church building followed across Lithuania. In 1389, Pope Urban VI recognized Lithuania as a Roman Catholic country, although paganism continued among the common people for decades.
Władysław and Jadwiga were co-regents, but Władysław is believed to have overseen most of the political responsibilities with two notable exceptions. In 1387, Jadwiga led a successful, mostly peaceful campaign to recover the province of Halych from Hungary. In 1390, she personally negotiated with the Teutonic Order for a cessation of hostilities, although the problem was not fully resolved until 1410.
Jadwiga focused most of her efforts on cultural and charitable works. She donated all of her jewelry to the failing Kraków Academy, Poland’s first university which was then only 35 years old. Thanks in part to this generous donation, the university flourished and set up Europe’s first independent chairs in mathematics and astronomy. Today Kraków Academy is known as Jagiellonian University in honor of the royal couple.
On June 22, 1399 Jadwiga delivered her only child, a daughter named Elizabeth Bonifacia. Both mother and child died within a month. The two were buried in a single casket at Wawel Cathedral in Kraków. Although Jadwiga’s death undermined Jogaila’s position as King of Poland, he retained the throne until his death 35 years later at which point his son by his second wife took power.
Jadwiga was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1997. She is the patron saint of queens.