Casimir III the Great
Casimir the Great by Leopold Löffler.PNG
Casimir the Great by Leopold Löffler
King of Poland
Reign 1333–1370
Coronation 25 April 1333
Predecessor Władysław I ("the Elbow-high")
Successor Louis the Great
Born 30 April 1310(1310-04-30)
Kowal, Poland
Died 5 November 1370 (aged 60)
Kraków, Poland
Spouse Aldona of Lithuania
Adelaide of Hesse
Christina Rokiczana
Hedwig of Sagan
Elisabeth, Duchess of Pomerania
Anna, Countess of Cilli
House Piast POL Przemysł II 1295 COA.svg
Father Władysław I ("the Elbow-high")
Mother Hedwig of Kalisz
Religion Christianity
Signature Casimir III the Great's signature

Casimir III the Great (Polish: Kazimierz III Wielki; 30 April 1310 – 5 November 1370) who reigned in 1333–1370, was the last King of Poland from the Piast dynasty, the son of King Władysław I ("the Elbow-high") and Duchess Hedwig of Kalisz.[1]

Born in Kowal, Casimir first married Anna, or Aldona Ona, the daughter of Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania. The daughters from this marriage were Cunigunde (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. Aldona died in 1339, and Casimir then married Adelaide of Hesse. He divorced Adelaide in 1356, married Christina, divorced her, and while Adelaide and possibly Christina as well were still alive (ca. 1365), married Hedwig of Głogów and Sagan. His three daughters by his fourth wife were very young at their father's death, and regarded as of dubious legitimacy because of Casimir's bigamy. Because all of the five children he fathered with his first and fourth wife were daughters, Casimir left no lawful male heir to his throne.[citation needed]

When Casimir, the last Piast king of Poland, died in 1370 from an injury received while hunting, his nephew King Louis I of Hungary succeeded him to become king of Poland in personal union with Hungary.

The Great King

File:Polska 1333 - 1370.png

Poland at the end of the rule of Casimir III (1370) within the dark red border; Silesia (yellow) is lost and the Kingdom is expanding to the east

Casimir is the only Polish king who both received and kept the title of "Great" in Polish history (Bolesław I Chrobry is also called "Great", but his title Chrobry (Valiant) is now more common). When he came to the throne, his hold on it was in danger, as even his neighbours did not recognise his title and instead called him "king of Kraków". The economy was ruined, and the kingdom was depopulated and exhausted by war.

Upon his death, Casimir left a kingdom which had doubled in size (mostly through the addition of lands in modern day Ukraine, then called the Duchy of Halicz), was prosperous, wealthy and held great prospects for the future. Although depicted as a peaceful king in children's books, he in fact waged many victorious wars and was readying for others just before he died. He built extensively during his reign, (Wawel Castle, Orle Gniazda), reformed the Polish army and the Polish civil and criminal law. At the Sejm in Wiślica, on 11 March 1347, he introduced salutary legal reforms to the judicial system of his kingdom. He sanctioned a code of laws for Great and Lesser Poland, which gained for him the title of "the Polish Justinian" and founded the University of Kraków, the oldest Polish University. He organized a meeting of kings in Kraków (1364) in which he exhibited the wealth of the Polish kingdom.[citation needed]

Concession to the nobility

File:Subdue of Ruthenia in 1366 .png

Subjection of Ruthenia by the Crown of the Polish Kingdom (1366), painted by Jan Matejko

File:Wiec Kazimierz Wielki.jpg

Wiec in reign of Casimir the Great

In order to enlist the support of the nobility, especially the military help of pospolite ruszenie, Casimir was forced to grant important privileges to their caste, which made them finally clearly dominant over townsfolk (burghers or mieszczaństwo). In 1335, in the Treaty of Trentschin, Casimir relinquished "in perpetuity" his claims to Silesia. In 1355 in Buda, Casimir designated Louis I of Hungary as his successor. In exchange, the szlachta's tax burden was reduced and they would no longer be required to pay for military expeditions expenses outside Poland. Those important concessions would eventually lead to the ultimately crippling rise of the unique nobles' democracy in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.[citation needed]

His second daughter, Elisabeth, Duchess of Pomerania, bore a son in 1351, Casimir IV of Pomerania. He was slated to become the heir, but did not succeed to the throne, dying childless in 1377, 7 years after King Casimir. He was the only male descendant of King Casimir who lived during his lifetime. His son-in-law Louis VI the Roman of Bavaria, Margrave and Prince-elector of Brandenburg, was considered a possible successor but was deemed ineligible as his wife, Casimir's daughter Cunigunde had died in 1357 without issue. The Poles repulsed many raids of the Tatar-Mongols. Casimir had no legitimate sons. Apparently, he deemed his own descendants either unsuitable or too young to inherit. Thus, and in order to provide a clear line of succession and avoid dynastic uncertainty, he arranged for his nephew, King Louis I of Hungary, to be his successor in Poland. Louis was proclaimed king on Casimir's death in 1370, and Casimir's sister Elisabeth (Louis's mother) held much of the real power until her death in 1380.[citation needed]

Relationship with Polish Jews

File:Gerson Reception of the Jews.jpg

Wojciech Gerson, Casimir the Great and the Jews

King Casimir was favorably disposed toward Jews. On 9 October 1334, he confirmed the privileges granted to Jewish Poles in 1264 by Bolesław V the Chaste. Under penalty of death, he prohibited the kidnapping of Jewish children for the purpose of enforced Christian baptism. He inflicted heavy punishment for the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. Although Jews had lived in Poland since before the reign of King Casimir, he allowed them to settle in Poland in great numbers and protected them as people of the king.[2]

Relationships and children

Casimir III married four times.

Aldona of Lithuania

On 30 April or 16 October 1325, Casimir married Aldona of Lithuania. She was a daughter of Gediminas of Lithuania and Jewna. They had two children:

Aldona died on 26 May 1339. Casimir remained a widower for two years.

Adelheid of Hesse

On 29 September 1341, Casimir married his second wife, Adelaide of Hesse. She was a daughter of Henry II, Landgrave of Hesse, and Elizabeth of Meissen. They had no children. Casimir started living separately from Adelaide soon thereafter. Their loveless marriage lasted until 1356.[citation needed]


Casimir effectively divorced Adelaide and married his mistress Christina Rokiczana, the widow of Miklusz Rokiczani, a wealthy merchant. Her own origins are unknown. Following the death of her first husband she had entered the court of Bohemia in Prague as a lady-in-waiting. Casimir brought her with him from Prague and convinced the abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Tyniec to marry them. The marriage was held in a secret ceremony but soon became known. Queen Adelaide renounced it as bigamous and returned to Hesse without permission. Casimir continued living with Christine despite complaints by Pope Innocent VI on behalf of Queen Adelaide. The marriage lasted until 1363–64 when Casimir again declared himself divorced. They had no children.[citation needed]

Hedwig of Żagań

In about 1365, Casimir married his fourth wife Hedwig of Żagań. She was a daughter of Henry V of Iron, Duke of Żagań and Anna of Mazovia. They had three children:

With Adelaide still alive and Christine possibly surviving, the marriage to Hedwig was also considered bigamous. The legitimacy of the three last daughters was disputed. Casimir managed to have Anne and Cunigunde legitimated by Pope Urban V on 5 December 1369. Hedwig the younger was legitimated by Pope Gregory XI on 11 October 1371.[citation needed]


Casimir had three illegitimate sons by his mistress Cudka, wife of a castellan.

  • Niemierz (last mentioned alive in 1386); oldest son; survived his father, inherited lands around Stopnica
  • Pelka (1342–1365); married and had two sons; predeceased his father
  • Jan (d. 28 October 1383); youngest son; survived his father, inherited lands around Stopnica


Title and style

Casimir's full title was: Casimir by the grace of God king of Poland, lord and heir of the land of Kraków, Sandomierz, Sieradz, Łęczyca, Kuyavia, Pomerania (Pomerelia) and Ruthenia. The title in Latin was: Kazimirus, Dei gracia rex Poloniæ ac terrarum Cracoviæ, Sandomiriæ, Syradiæ, Lanciciæ, Cuyaviæ, Pomeraniæ, Russiequæ dominus et heres.[citation needed]


See also


  1. Halina Lerski (1996). "Casimir III the Great". Historical Dictionary of Poland, 966–1945. ABC-CLIO Press. pp. 249–250. ISBN: 0313034567. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  2. "In Poland, a Jewish Revival Thrives—Minus Jews". New York Times. 12 July 2007. "Probably about 70 percent of the world's European Jews, or Ashkenazi, can trace their ancestry to Poland — thanks to a 14th-century king, Casimir III, the Great, who drew Jewish settlers from across Europe with his vow to protect them as "people of the king","
  3. [1],; accessed 11 March 2014. (Polish)

External links

Casimir III the Great
Born: 1310 Died: 1370
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Władysław I the Elbow-high
King of Poland
Succeeded by
Ludwik the Hungarian
Preceded by
Boleslaw-Yuri II
King of Halych-Volhynia
Succeeded by
Ludwik the Hungarian
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