1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wladislaus

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WLADISLAUS (Wladislaw), the name of four kings of Poland and two Polish kings of Hungary.[1]

Wladislaus I. (1260–1333), king of Poland, called Lokietek, or "Span-long," from his diminutive stature, was the re-creator of the Polish realm, which in consequence of internal quarrels had at the end of the 13th century split up into fourteen independent principalities, and become an easy prey to her neighbours, Bohemia, Lithuania, and, most dangerous of all, the Teutonic Order. In 1296 the gentry of Great Poland elected Wladislaus, then prince of Cujavia, to reign over them; but distrusting the capacity of the taciturn little man, they changed their minds and placed themselves under the protection of the powerful Wenceslaus, king of Bohemia, who was crowned at Gnesen in 1300. Wladislaus thereupon went to Rome, where Pope Boniface VIII., jealous of the growing influence of Bohemia, adopted his cause; and on the death of Wenceslaus in 1305 Wladislaus succeeded in uniting beneath Iiis sway the principalities of Little and Great Poland. From the first he was beset with great difficulties. The towns, mostly of German origin, and the prelates headed by Muskata, bishop of Cracow, were against him because he endeavoured to make use of their riches for the defence of the sorely pressed state. The rebellious magistrates of Cracow he succeeded in suppressing, but he had to invoke the aid of the Teutonic Order to save Danzig from the mar graves of Brandenburg, thus saddling Poland with a far more dangerous enemy; for the Order not orJy proceeded to treat Danzig as a conquered city, but claimed possession of the whole of Pomcrania. Wladislaus thereupon (1317) appealed to Pope John XXII., and a tribunal of local prelates appointed by the holy see ultimately (Feb. g, 1321) pronounced judgment in favour of Wladislaus, and condemned the Order not only to restore Pomerania but also to pay heavy damages. But the knights appealed to Rome; the pope reversed the judgment ot his own tribunal; and the only result of these negotiations was a long and bloody six years' war (1327–1333) between Poland and the Order, in which all the princes of Central Europe took part, Hungary and Lithuania siding with Wladislaus, and Bohemia, Masovia and Silesia with the Order. It was not till the last year but one of his life that Wladislaus succeeded with the aid of his Hungarian allies in inflicting upon the knights their first serious reverse at Plowce (27th of September 1332). In March 1333 he died. He had laid the foundations of a strong Polish monarchy, and with the consent of the pope revived the royal dignity, being solemnly crowned king of Poland at Cracow on the 20th of January 1320. His reign is remarkable for the development of the Polish constitution, the gentry and prelates being admitted to some share in the government of the country.

See Max Perlbach, Preussisch-polnische Studien zur GescMchle des Milldallers (Halle, 1886); Julius A. G. von Pflugk-Harttung, Der deulsche Orden im Kampfe Ludwigs des Bayern mit der Kurie (Leipzig, 1900).

Wladislaus II, Jagiello (1350–1434), king of Poland, was one of the twelve sons of Olgierd, grand-duke of Lithuania, whom he succeeded in 1377. From the very beginning of his reign Jagiello was involved in disputes with the Teutonic Order, and with his uncle, the valiant Kiejstut, who ruled Samogitia independently. By the treaty of Dawidyszek (June 1, 1380) he contracted an alliance with the knights, and two years later, acting on the advice of his evil counsellor, Wojdyllo, enticed Kiejstut and his consort to Krewo and there treacherously murdered them (Aug. 15, 1382). This foul deed naturally drove Witowt (q.v.), the son of Kiejstut, into the arms of the Order; but both princes speedily recognized that the knights were the real enemies of Lithuania, and prudently composing their differences invaded Prussian territory. This was the beginning of the fifty years' struggle with the Teutonic Order which was to make the reign ot Jagiello so memorable. He looked about him betimes for allies against the common enemy of the Slavonic races, and fortune singularly favoured him. The Poles had brought their young queen Jadwiga home from Hungary, and in 1384 Jagiello sent a magnificent embassy to Cracow offering her his hand on condition that they shared the Polish crown. Jadwiga had long been betrothed to William of Austria; but she sacrificed her predilections for her countr>s good. On the 1 5th of February 1386 Jagiello, who had previously been elected king of Poland under the title of Wladislaus II., accepted the Roman faith in the cathedral of Cracow, and on the iSth his espousal's with Queen Jadwiga were solemnized.

Jagiello's first political act after his coronation was the conversion of Lithuania to the true religion. This solemn act was accomplished at Vilna, the Lithuanian capital, on the 17th of February 1387, when a stately concourse of nobles and prelates. headed by the king, proceeded to the grove of secular oaks beneath which stood the statue of Perkunos and other idols, and in the presence of an immense muUitude hewed down the oaks, destroyed the idols, extinguished the sacred fire and elevated the cross on the desecrated heathen altars, 30,000 Lithuanians receiving Christian baptism. A CathoUc hierarchy was immediately set up. A Polish Pranciscan, Andrew Wassilo, was consecrated as the first Catholic bishop of Vilna, and Lithuania was divided ecclesiastically into seven dioceses. Mainly on the initiative of Queen Jadwiga, Red Russia with its capital the great trading city of Lemberg was persuaded to acknowledge the dominion of Poland; and there on the 27th of September 1387 the hospodars of Walachia and Moldavia for the first lime voluntarily enrolled themselves among the vassals of Poland.

With savage Lithuania converted and in closing alliance with Catholic Poland, the Teutonic Order was seriously threatened. The knights endeavoured to re-establish their position by sowing dissensions between Poland and Lithuania. In this for a time they succeeded (see Witowt); but in 1401 Jagiello recognized Witowt as independent grand-duke of Lithuania (union of Vilna, January 18, 1401), and their union was cemented in the battle of Grünewaid, which shook the whole fabric of the Teutonic Order to its very foundations. Henceforth a remarkable change in the whole policy of the Order was apparent. The struggle was no longer for dominion but for existence. Fortunate for them, in Jagiello they possessed an equally cautious and pacific opponent. Wladislaus II., in sharp contrast to Witowt, was of anything but a martial temperament. He never swerved from his main object, to unite Poland and Lithuania against the dangerous denationalizing German influences which environ ed him. But he would take no risks and always preferred craft to violence. Hence his leaning upon the holy see in all his disputes with his neighbours. Hence, too, his moderation at the peace of Thorn (1st of February 141 1), when the knights skilfully extricated themselves from their dilTicuUies oy renouncing their pretensions to Samogitia, restoring Dobrzyn and paying a war indemnity; Jagiello was content to discredit them rather than provoke them to a war a ottirancc. Equally skilful w^as Jagiello's long diplomatic duel with the emperor Sigismund, then the disturbing element of Central Europe, who aimed at the remodelling of the whole continent and was responsible for the first projected partition of Poland.

Jagiello was married four times. At the dying request of the childless Jadwiga he espoused a Styrian lady, Maria Cillei, who bore him a daughter, also called Jadwiga. His third wife, Elizabeth Grabowska, died without issue, and the question of the succession then became so serious that Jagiello's advisers counselled him to betroth his daughter to Frederick of Hohenzollern, who was to be educated in Poland as the heir to the throne. But in 1422 Jagiello himself solved the difficulty by wedding Sonia, princess of Vyazma, a Russian lady rechristened Sophia, who bore him two sons, Wladislaus and Casimir, both of whom ultimately succeeded him. Jagiello died at Grodko near Lemberg in 1434. During his reign of half a century Poland had risen to the rank of a great pov/cr, a position she was to retain for nearly two hundred years under the dynasty which Jagiello had founded.

See August Sokolowski, History of Poland, vol. i. (Pol.) (Vienna, 1903); Carl Edward Napicrski, Russo-Lithnanian Acts (Rus.) (St Petersburg, 1868); Monumcnta Medii Aevi (Cracow, 1882); Karol Szajnocha, Jadwiga and Jagiello (Pol.) (Lemberg, 1855-1856)

Wladislaus III. (1424-1444), king of Poland and Hungary, the eldest son of Wladislaus II. Jagiello, by his fourth wife, Sophia of Vyazma, was born at Cracow on the 31st of October 1424, succeeding to the throne in his tenth year. The domestic troubles which occurred during his minority had an important influence upon the development of the Polish constitution; but under the wise administration of Zbigniew Olcsnicki Poland suffered far less from her rebels than might have been anticipated, and Wladislaus gave the first proof of his manhood by defeating the arch-traitor Spytek of Melztyn in his camp at Grotnik on the 4th of May 1439., On the sudden death of the emperor Albert, who was also king of Bohemia and Hungary, the Hungarians elected Wladislaus as their king, despite the opposition of the widowed empress Ehzabeth, already big with the child who subsequently ascended the Hungarian throne as Wladislaus V. But Wladislaus III., who was solemnly crowned king of Hungary at Buda by the Magyarprimatein July 1440, had to fight against the partisans of the empress for three years till Pope Eugcnius IV. mediated between them so as to enable Wladislaus to lead a crusade against the Turks. War was proclaimed against Sultan Murad II. at the diet of Buda on Palm Sunday 1443, and with an army of 40,000 men, mostly Magyars, the young monarch, with Hunyadi commanding under him, crossed the Danube, took Nish and Sofia, and advancing to the slope of the Balkans, returned to Hungary covered with glory. Europe resounded with the praises of the youthful hero, and the Venetians, the Genoese, the duke of Burgundy and the pope encouraged Wladislaus to continue the war by offering him every assistance. But at this juncture the sultan offered terms to Wladislaus through George Brankovic, despot of Servia, and, by the peace of Szeged (July i, 1444), Murad engaged to surrender Servia, Albania and whatever territory the Ottomans had ever conquered from Hungary, including 24 fortresses, besides paying an indemnity of 100,000 florins in gold. Unfortunately, Wladislaus listened to the representations of the papal legate, Cardinal Julian Cesarini, w-ho urged him in the name of religion to break the peace of Szeged and resume the war. Despite the representations of the Poles and of the majority of the Magyars, the king, only two days after solemnly swearing to observe the terms of the treaty, crossed the Danube a second time to cooperate with a fleet from the West which was to join hands with the land army at Gallipoli, whither also the Greeks and the Balkan Slavs were to direct their auxiliaries. But the Walachians were the sole allies of Hungary who kept faith with her, and on the bloody field of Varna, November the 10th, 1444, Wladislaus lost his life and more than a fourth of his army.

See Julian Bartoszewicz, View of the Relations of Poland with the Turks and Tatars (Pol.) (Warsaw, 1860); August Sokolowski, History of Poland, vol. ii, (Pol.) (Vienna, 1904); Ignacz Acsady, History of the Hungarian Realm, vol. i. (Hung.) (Budapest, 1905).

Wladislaus IV. (1595-1648), king of Poland, son of Sigismund III., king of Poland, and Anne of Austria, succeeded his father on the throne in 1632. From his early youth he gave promise of great military talent, and served his apprenticeship in the science of war under Zolkiewski in the Muscovite campaigns of 1610-1612, and under Chodkiewiczin 1617-1618. Wladislaus's first official act was to march against the Muscovites, who had declared war against Poland immediately after the death of Sigismund, and were besieging Smolensk, the key of Poland's eastern frontier. After a series of bloody engagements (Aug. 7-22, 1632) Wladislaus compelled the tsar's general to abandon the siege, and eventually to surrender (March 1, 1634) with his whole army. Meanwhile the Turks were threatening in the south, and Wladislaus found it expedient to secure his Muscovite conquests. Peace was concluded at the river Polyankova on the 28th of May 1634, the Poles conceding the title of tsar to Michael Romanov, who renounced all his claims upon Livonia, Esthonia and Courland, besides paj'ing a war indemnity of 200,000 rubles. These tidings profoundly impressed Sultan Murad, and when the victorious Wladislaus appeared at Lemberg, the usual starting-point for Turkish expeditions, the Porte offered terms which were accepted in October, each power engaging to keep their borderers, the Cossacks and Tatars, in order, and divide between them the suzerainty of Moldavia and Walachia, the sultan binding himself always to place philo-Polish hospodars on those slippery thrones. In the following year the long-pending differences with Sweden were settled, very much to the advantage of Poland, by the truce of Stumdorf, which was to last for twenty-six years from the 12th September 1635. Thus externally Poland was everywhere triumphant. Internally, however, things were in their usually deplorable state owing to the suspicion, jealousy and parsimony of the estates of the realm. They had double reason to be grateful to Wladislaus for defeating the enemies of the republic, for he had also paid for the expenses of his campaigns out of his own pocket, yet he could not obtain payment of the debt due to him from the state till 1643. He was bound by the pacta conventa which he signed on his accession to maintain a fleet on the Baltic. He proposed to do so by levying tolls on all imports and exports passing through the Prussian ports which had been regained by the truce of Stumdorf. Sweden during her temporary occupation of these ports had derived from them an annual income of 3,600,000 gulden. But when Wladislaus, their lawful possessor, imposed similar tolls in the interests of the republic, Danzig protested and appealed to the Scandinavian powers. Wladislaus's little fleet attempted to blockade the port of the rebellious city, whereupon a Danish admiral broke the blockade and practically destroyed the Polish flotilla.Yet the sejm, so sensitive to its own privileges, allowed the insult to the king and the injury to the state to pass unnoticed, conniving at the destruction of the national navy and the depletion of the treasury, “lest warships should make the crown too powerful.” For some years after this humiliation, Wladislaus became indifferent to affairs and sank into a sort of apathy; but the birth of his son Sigismund (by his first wife, Cecilia Renata of Austria, in 1640) gave him fresh hopes, and he began with renewed energy to labour for the dynasty as well as for the nation.He saw that Poland, with her existing constitution, could not hope for a long future, and he determined to bring about a royalist reaction and a reform along with it by every means in his power. He began by founding the Order of the Immaculate Conception, consisting of 72 young noblemen who swore a special oath of allegiance to the crown, and were to form the nucleus of a patriotic movement antagonistic to the constant usurpation’s of the diet, but the sejm promptly intervened and quashed the attempt. Then he conceived the idea of using the Cossacks, who were deeply attached to him, as a means of chastising the szlachta, and at the same time forcing a war with Turkey, which would make his military genius indispensable to the republic, and enable him if successful to carry out domestic reforms by force of arms. His chief confidant in this still mysterious affair was the veteran grand hetman of the crown, Stanislaw Koniecpolski, who understood the Cossacks better than any man then living, but differed from the king in preferring the conquest of the Crimea to an open war with Turkey. Simultaneously Wladislaus contracted an offensive and defensive alliance with Venice against the Porte, a treaty directly contrary indeed to the pacta conventa he had sworn to observe, but excusable in the desperate circumstances. The whole enterprise fell through, owing partly to the death of Koniecpolski before it was matured, partly to the hastiness with which the king published his intentions, and partly to the careful avoidance by the Porte of the slightest occasion of a rupture. Frustrated in all his plans, broken-hearted by the death of his son (by his second wife, Marie Ludwika of Angouleme, Wladislaus had no issue), the king, worn out and disillusioned, died at Merecz on the 20th of May 1648, in his 52nd year. After his cousin Gustavus Adolphus, whom in many respects he strikingly resembled, he was indubitably the most amiable and brilliant of all the princes of the House of Vasa.

See Wiktor Czermak, The Plans of the Turkish Wars of Wladislaus IV. (Pol.) (Cracow, 1895); V. V . Volk-Karachcvsky, The Struggle of Poland with the Cossacks (Rus.) (Kiev, 1899); Letters and other Writings of Wladislaus IV. (Pol.) (Cracow, 1845).

 (R. N. B.) 


  1. In Hungarian history the Polish Wladislaus (Mag. Ulaszlo) is distinguished from the Hungarian Ladislaus (Laszlo). They are reckoned separately for purposes of numbering. Besides the Wladislaus kings of Poland, there were three earlier dukes of this name: Wladislaus I. (d. 1102), Wladislaus II. (of Cracow, d. 1163) and Wladislaus III., duke of Great Poland and Cracow (d. 1231). By some historians these are included in the numbering of the Polish sovereigns. King Wladislaus I. being thus IV. and so on.