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Bolesław III the Generous

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Bolesław III the Generous

Bolesław III the Generous (Polish: Bolesław III Rozrzutny; 23 September 1291 – Brieg, 21 April 1352), was a Duke of Legnica, Brzeg (Brieg) from 1296 until 1342, and Duke of Wroclaw from 1296 until 1311.

He was the eldest son of Henry V the Fat, Duke of Legnica and Wroclaw, by his wife Elisabeth, daughter of Boleslaw the Pious, Duke of Greater Poland.

Life

Bolesław's father died in 1296, when he was only five-years-old. The regency was taken by his mother, the Duchess Elisabeth and his paternal uncle Bolko I. However, both soon died, Bolko in 1301 and Elisabeth in 1304. Between 1301-02 the official guardianship of Henry V's sons was taken by Henry of Würben, Bishop of Wroclaw, but after almost a year he was removed from this post because for his alleged prodigality. By that time, King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia was determined to take advantage over the rich and strategically Duchy of Wroclaw. In 1302 the young Bolesław was send to the court of Prague and one year later (13 January 1303) was arranged his betrothal with the seven-years-old Princess Margareta (cs: Markéta; pl: Małgorzata), King's youngest daughter. The wedding took place five years later, in 1308.

Since Bolesław's arrival to the Bohemian court and after his betrothal with his daughter, the King clearly favored him; this attitude caused fear between the closest male relatives of the King, who seen the young Duke of Legnica in a potential rival for the throne. Although Wenceslaus II had a son seemed him irrelevant, the sudden death of the King in 1305 and one year later the murdered of his son and successor Wenceslaus III in Olomouc gained him an unexpectedly importance. Bolesław began his fight for the Bohemian throne taking the title of "haeres Regni Poloniae" (heir of the Polish Kingdom).

However, the forces of the Duke of Legnica-Wroclaw were too little to effectively compete with the others candidates of the Přemyslid throne: Rudolph III of Austria, Henry of Carinthia and John of Luxemburg. His chance to take part of the Polish heritage was also damaged after a failed attempt to control Kalisz during 1306-1307 and finally lost against Duke Henry III of Głogów. The only substantial prey had mastering was Opava (Troppau) in 1308, after his Duke Nikolaus I surrendered to him; however, two years later (11 June 1311), Bolesław renounced to this land after a treaty in Olomouc. The price for the resignation was a huge payment of 8,000 pieces of silver, which belonged to Bolesław even when King Wenceslaus II was alive. Opava was then merged by the Bohemian crown and only restored to Nikolaus I's son and heir, Nikolaus II, in 1318.

The great political ambitions of Bolesław exhausted the finances of his Duchy, not only to continue to his Bohemian claims but also to maintain his status. In 1311, under the pressure of the local nobility, he was forced to divided his lands between his younger brothers Henry and Władysław. The Duchy was divided into three parts: Wrocław, Legnica and Brzeg (Brieg). As the older brother, Bolesław had to choice first which part he retains. He chose the smallest and least prosperous part, Brieg, and this selection surprised everyone. Bolesław probably wanted to continue his fight for the Bohemian throne, and for that he needed the monetary compensation that was offered by the prince who took Brieg. However, these plans soon proved unsuccessful, and the cost of Bolesław was the loss against his brother Henry VI of the most important part of the Duchy: Wrocław.

Initially, Bolesław seemed to accept his fate, but one year later he managed to deprive his youngest brother Władysław from the Duchy of Legnica, because wasn't able to pay his part of the monetary compensation for Brieg.

In 1312 Bolesław and Henry VI entered into an alliance with the ruler of Lesser Poland, Władysław I Łokietek and with their combined forces began an expeditionary trip against the Dukes of Głogów, with the pretext that the late Duke Henry III who was the direct responsible for the premature death of Henry V, father of the Dukes of Legnica and Wroclaw. The war broke lasted five years (1312–1317); finally Władysław I Łokietek managed to take almost all Greater Poland, but his allies only taken the towns of Uraz (to Henry VI), and Wołów and Lubiąż (to Bolesław).

After this victory, Bolesław immediately tried his reassertion in the succession struggles over the Kingdom of Bohemia, now in support of John of Luxemburg. He received his reward during 1321-1322, when the Duke of Legnica-Brieg was appointed by King John as Governor of Bohemia during his trips to Germany and Italy.

In Silesia, war against the Dukes of Głogów began again in 1321. They had to fight against a coalition formed by Bolesław, his brother Henry VI, Bolko II of Opole and Władysław I Łokietek. This time, the main credit of their victory was thanks to Bolesław. On 10 August 1323 was signed a peace treaty in Wroclaw, by virtue of whom the Duke Konrad I of Oleśnica ceded to Bolesław the Duchy of Namysłów with the fortress of Namysłów, Byczyna and Kluczbork.

Since 1322 the relations between Bolesław and his younger brother Henry VI began to deteriorate. The reasons was because Henry refused to support the too much aggressive politics of his brother, evidenced after he signed a peace with Konrad of Oleśnica and the Bolesław's pretensions over the rich Wrocław. Bolesław went even an official proposal to exchange his district of Legnica for Wrocław. Of course, Henry VI refused this unfavorable transaction. The war between the brothers was imminent. Henry established contacts with the new King of Poland Władysław I Łokietek, and promised him homage and named his heir in exchange for aid. But feared of a direct confrontation with the Kingdom of Bohemia, Władysław declined the offer. Then, Henry asked the help of Emperor Louis IV. On 20 April 1324, the Duke of Wrocław declared himself a vassal of the Empire; in return, Louis IV give a guarantee of the possibility of succession over Henry VI's lands to his daughters. These decision prompted Bolesław to armed attempts to settle the dispute, but finally failed thanks of the powerful walls of Wroclaw.

However, in 1327 the situation changed completely. John of Luxemburg, who prepared an offensive against Władysław I Łokietek, managed to persuade Henry VI to broke his alliance with the Emperor and accepted to became a vassal of Bohemia. In exchange, he received from the King the County of Glatz during his lifetime and a high pension.

The final attempt of Bolesław to capture Wroclaw was during 1327-28, during the absence from Bohemia of King John. Unfortunately, like his previous plans, these also failed thanks to powerful Duchy's walls.

In 1329, Bolesław's youngest brother Władysław (who was stripped in 1312 from his Duchy of Legnica) unexpectedly returned to Silesia. Declared vassal of Bohemia, Władysław took possession of Legnica in the name of King John. This fact left Bolesław in a critical situation. Without resources for a war against King John, on 9 May 1329 in Wroclaw, Bolesław declared himself as a vassal of the Kingdom of Bohemia.

After the loss of his independence, political activity of the Duke of Legnica-Brieg clearly declined. As a vassal of John of Luxemburg, he took part during 1329-31 in his military expeditions to Lusatia and Głogów.


In order to maintain his sumptuous lifestyle and his constant trips (notably in the Congress of Visegrád of 1335), led Bolesław in a difficult financial situation, which forced him to continuously increase the taxes and sale parts of his Duchy (towns of Chocianów and Chojnów).

Bolesław's oldest son Wenceslaus I refused this dilapidation of the family's patrimony and rebelled against his father, claimed his part of the inheritance. The Duke didn't want a conflict with his son and in 1338 he gave Wenceslaus the Duchy of Namysłów. Four years later (1342), he finally gave his sons Wenceslaus I and Louis I the joint government of the Duchy of Legnica. In exchange, Wenceslaus returned to him Namysłów, who Bolesław almost immediately sold to King Casimir III the Great. After his abdication, Bolesław retired with his second wife Katharina Šubić, a Croatian lady, to Brieg, where he remained until his death, on 21 April 1352. He was buried in a Monastery of Lubiąż.

Although his finances were now reduced, Bolesław didn't give up to his lavish lifestyle. He participated in the most important celebrations of his time, like the marriage of King Casimir III the Great and Adelaide of Hesse in Poznan in 1341, and the coronation of Charles IV of Luxemburg, King of Bohemia, who forced him on 19 January 1344 to sell to the Bishop of Wrocław, Preczlaw von Pogarell the town of Grodków.

He was twice excommunicated by the Church for these dilapidations: first, for the delay in paying the Tithe in 1337, and secondly, when he sequestered Church property in 1340. The excommunication was only removed on his deathbed thanks for the insistence of his sons. Despite his unstable relations with the Church, Bolesław was quite generous to it, contributing to the growing importance of the Monastery of Lubiąż and founded two monasteries, one Franciscan and another Dominican, in Brieg.

Marriages and Issue

By 1318, Bolesław married firstly with Margareta (Markéta; b. Prague?, 21 February 1296 – d. Hradec Králové, 8 April 1322), daughter of King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia. They had three children:[1][2]

  1. Wenceslaus I (b. ca. 1318 – d. 2 June 1364).
  2. Louis I the Fair (b. ca. 1321 – d. 6/23 December 1398).
  3. Nikolaus (b. and d. Hradec Králové, 7 April 1322).

In 1326, Bolesław married secondly with Katharina (d. bef. 5 March 1358), daughter of Mladen III Šubić, Ban of Croatia.[3] They had no children. In his will, Bolesław left the Duchy of Brieg to his widow, who ruled until her own death.

References

  • (Polish) BOLESŁAW III ROZRZUTNY (HOJNY, SZCZODRY, SZTYLET)
Bolesław III the Generous
Born: 23 September 1291 Died: 21 April 1352
Preceded by
Henry V the Fat
Duke of Wroclaw
with Henry VI and Władysław

1296–1311
Succeeded by
Henry VI the Good
Duke of Legnica
with Henry VI and Władysław

1296–1311
Succeeded by
Władysław
Duke of Brzeg
with Henry VI and Władysław
(until 1311)

1296–1352
Succeeded by
Katharina
Preceded by
Henry III
Duke of Kalisz
1306–1307
Succeeded by
Henry III
Preceded by
Nikolaus I
Duke of Opava
1308–1311
Succeeded by
John of Luxemburg
Preceded by
Władysław
Duke of Legnica
1312–1342
Succeeded by
Wenceslaus I
and Louis I the Fair
Preceded by
Konrad I
Duke of Namysłów
1323–1338
Succeeded by
Wenceslaus I
Preceded by
Wenceslaus I
Duke of Namysłów
1342
Succeeded by
Casimir III the Great
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