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 Catholic 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 environed 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 1411), when the knights skilfully extricated themselves from their difficulties by 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 à outrance. Equally skilful was 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 power, a position she was to retain for nearly two hundred years under the dynasty which Jagiello had founded.
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.
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,