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Jadwiga of Poland

Jadwiga, from Gallery of Polish Kings. Jan Metejko (1838-1893)
Jadwiga, queen (but read below) of Poland (called also Saint Hedwig or Hedwig of Anjou) (1374 - 1399) succeeded her father, King Louis the Great on the Polish throne in 1384 following a two-year interregnum. Her reign saw the start of Poland's dynastic union with neighbouring Lithuania, and the latter nation's conversion to Christianity.

Both her mother, Elizabeth, and grandmother, Elizabeth Lokietkówna, were from the Piast dynasty which had ruled Poland from 962 until 1370, and she was the granddaughter of King Ladislaus I, who had reunited Poland earlier in the century.

Jadwiga was betrothed to William of Habsburg. From the age of eight she lived at the Imperial court in Vienna. Her father had also made an arrangement with the future Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund for the latter to marry either Jadwiga or her sister Mary, later queen of Hungary (Sigismund married Mary.)

Jadwiga had to return to Poland when her sister Catherine died in 1378. When her father died in 1382, the archbishop of Krakow crowned her as "Jadwiga, king of Poland" - technically speaking, she was king, not queen. The nobility of Poland prevailed upon her to end her engagement with William and instead to marry Jagiello, grand duke of Lithuania, whose country had returned to paganism after a brief peiod of Christian kingship in the 1250s. In February 1386 Jagiello converted to Catholicism, and shortly afterward they were married. Jagiello was crowned king of Poland as Ladislaus II.

Jadwiga died in childbirth in 1399, and Jagiello continued to rule Poland as Ladislaus II until his death 35 years later. Jadwiga gave all of her personal jewellery for re-establising the University of Krakow. She was said to be a blonde, blue-eyed beauty, and an exhumation performed in 1976 showed that she was unusually tall for a medieval woman (1.8m), without physical evidence of any deformity or disability.

Among Jadwiga's accomplishments was the founding of the Bishopric of Vilno (Vilnius). Because of her devotion to the church and a number of miracles recorded throughout her lifetime, she was beatified in 1987. Although this process was not completed, Jadwiga was canonised[?] in 1997 by Pope John Paul II (the former archbishop of Krakow). Her relics are located in the south aisle of Wawel Cathedral[?] in Krakow.

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