Casimir III of Poland

From Academic Kids

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Casimir the Great

Casimir III or the Great (Kazimierz Wielki), (1310-1370), King of Poland, son of king Władyslaw I Łokietek (Wladyslaw the Elbow High), 1305-1333 and Jadwiga of Gniezno and Great Poland.



Casimir the Great married firstly Anna, or Aldona Ona, the daughter of the prince of Lithuania, Gediminas. Their daughters were Cunigunda (d 1357), who was married to Louis VI the Roman, the son of Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor, and Elisabeth, who was married to Duke Bogislaus V of Pomerania. Casimir then married Adelheid of Hessen, and this was the start of his bigamous marriage career. He divorced Adelheid in 1356, married a lady named Christina, divorced her, and fourthly (when at least Adelheid and possibly also Christina were alive) c 1365 married Jadwiga of Glogow and Sagan. His daughters with the fourth wife, very young, were also regarded as on dubious legitimacy because of the bigamity.

When Casimir, the last Piast king of Poland, died in 1370, his nephew king Louis I of Hungary succeeded him to become king of Poland in personal union with Hungary.

The Great King

Casimir is the only Polish king who did receive and maintain the title of the great in Polish history (Boleslaw I Chrobry was once also called the great, but not today), and the title is well deserved. When he received the crown, his hold on it was in danger, as even his neighbours did not recognise his title and instead called him "king of Krakw". The economy was ruined, and country was depopulated and tired with wars. When he left the country, it has doubled in size (mostly through joining lands in today's Ukraine, then Duchy of Halicz), grew prosperous, wealthy and had great prospects to the future. Although he is depicted as a peaceful king in children books, he in fact waged many victorious wars and was preparing other ones just before he died.

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Royal seal of Casimir the Great.

He built many new castles, reformed the Polish army and Polish civil and criminal law. At the Sejm in Wislica, March 11, 1347, he introduced salutary legal reforms in the jurisprudence of his country. He sanctioned a code of laws for Great and Little Poland, which gained for him the title of "the Polish Justinian"; and he also limited the interest rate charged by Jewish money-lenders to Christians to 8 per cent per annum, while a 108-180% was previously common (owing to extremely high and unstable inflation rates, significantly lower interest rates would result in net losses for the lender. For example, in 1264 the King of Austria had capped Jewish money-lenders' interest rates at 8 dinars on the talent, approximately 170% at the time). This measure was passed after consistent pressure by the szlachta of the Sejm (who were primary clients of Jewish money-lenders). This measure was to the detriment of the King, who later affirmed that Jews be allowed to loan on interest as "property" of the King, in order to supplement the King's income when needed. He founded the University of Krakw, although his death stalled the development of the university (and that's why today it is called Jagiellonian instead of Casimirian).

He organised a meeting of kings in Krakw in 1364 which showed the wealth of Polish kingdom.

Concession to szlachta

In order to enlist the support of nobleman (szlachta), especially the military help of pospolite ruszenie, Casimir was forced to give up important priviliges to their caste, which made them finally clearly dominant over townsfolk (burghers or mieszczanstwo).

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A wiec in the time of King Kazimierz Wielki, 14th century Poland.

In 1355 in Buda Casimir designates Louis of Anjou (Louis I of Hungary) as his successor. In exchange, szlachta's tax burden has been reduced and they would be no longer required to pay for military expeditions expences outside Poland. Those important concessions would eventually lead to the rise of unique noble's democracy in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

His second daughter, Elisabeth, Duchess of Pomerania, bore a son 1351, named after maternal grabdfather as Casimir of Pomerania. He was thought to become the heir, but did not succeed. He died childless 1377, 7 years after King Casimir. He was the only male descendant of King Casimir who lived during his lifetime.

Also, his son-in-law Louis of Bavaria-Brandenburg was thought as a possible successor. However, he was not deemed very capable, and his wife died already 1357, without children.

Casimir was sonless. Apparently he deemed his own descendants either unsuitable to inherit or too young. Thus, and in order to provide a clear line of succession instead of problems of uncertainty, he arranged his sister Elisabeth, Dowager Queen of Hungary, and her son Louis king of Hungary to be his successors in Poland. Louis was proclaimed king in Casimir's death 1370, and Elisabeth held much of the practical power until her death in 1380.

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50 zloty banknote of Poland with face of Casimir III the Great

Many of the influential lords of Poland were unsatisfied with any personal union with Hungarians, and 12 years after Casimir's death, and only a coupole of years after Elisabeth's death, they refused 1382 to accept Louis's eldest surviving daughter Mary (Queen of Hungary) to succeed in Poland too. They therefore chose Mary's younger sister, Hedvig, as their new monarch, and she became "King" (=Queen Regnant) Jadwiga of Poland, thus restoring the independence enjpyed until the death of Casimir, twelve years earlier.

Relationship with Polish Jews

He was favorably disposed toward Jews. On October 9, 1334, he confirmed the privileges granted to Jewish Poles in 1264 by Boleslaus V. Under penalty of death, he prohibited the kidnapping of Jewish children for the purpose of forcible Christian baptism. He inflicted heavy punishment for the desecration of Jewish cemeteries.

Although Jews were living in Poland earlier, Casimir allowed them to settle in Poland in great numbers and protected them as king's people.

Template:Kings and Dukes of Polandbe:Казімір III Вялікі cs:Kazimr Velik de:Kasimir III. (Polen) ja:カジミェシュ3世 (ポーランド王) nl:Casimir III de Grote pl:Kazimierz Wielki zh:卡西米尔三世


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