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|Mieszko III the Old|
|19th century portrait by Jan Matejko|
|Predecessor||Bolesław IV the Curly|
|Successor||Władysław III Spindleshanks|
|Successor||Władysław III Spindleshanks|
|Spouse||Elisabeth of Hungary
Eudoxia of Kiev
Odon of Poznań
Stephen of Greater Poland
Elisabeth, Duchess of Bohemia and Margravine of Lusatia
Wierzchoslawa Ludmilla, Duchess of Lorraine
Judith, Countess of Anhalt and Duchess of Saxony
Bolesław of Kuyavia
Mieszko the Younger
Władysław III Spindleshanks
Salomea, Princess of Pomerania
Anastasia, Duchess of Pomerania
|Father||Bolesław III Wrymouth|
|Mother||Salomea of Berg|
|Died||13 March 1202 [aged 75]
|Burial||Cathedral of Saint Paul the Apostle, Kalisz|
Mieszko III the Old (Polish: Mieszko III Stary) (c. 1126/27 – 13 March 1202), of the royal Piast dynasty, was Duke of Greater Poland from 1138 and High Duke of Poland, with interruptions, from 1173 until his death.
According to the 1138 Testament of Bolesław III, Mieszko received the newly established Duchy of Greater Poland, comprising the western part of Greater Poland with Poznań as his main residence. His older half-brother, Władysław II, the eldest son of the late duke with his first wife Zbyslava of Kiev, was proclaimed High Duke and overlord of the Seniorate Province at Kraków, including the Greater Polish lands of Gniezno and Kalisz, as well as Duke of Silesia.
First conflict with Władysław II
The first major conflict with the High Duke took place during 1140–1141, when his younger half-brothers Bolesław IV the Curly and Mieszko III together with their mother but without Władysław's knowledge divided between them the lands of Łęczyca, which were held only as a wittum by Bolesław's widow Salomea for life and should revert to Władysław's Seniorate Province upon her death.
In 1141 Salomea of Berg organized a meeting at Łęczyca, where she and her sons decided to marry their younger sister Agnes with one of the sons of Grand Prince Vsevolod II of Kiev in order to gain an ally against High Duke Władysław II. Only because of the rapid intervention of Władysław did the independence plans of the Junior Dukes failed. Grand Prince Vsevolod II, facing the choice between an alliance with the strong High Duke or the weak Junior Dukes and their mother, chose the former, which was sealeded with the betrothal of Władysław's eldest son Bolesław I the Tall to Vsevolod's daughter Zvenislava in 1142. Władysław II wasn't invited to the Łęczyca meeting, despite the fact that, as the High Duke, he had the final voice on Agnes' engagement. In retaliation for this omission, in the winter of 1142–1143 he supported Kievan military actions against Salomea and her sons. The first clash between the brothers was a complete success by the High Duke.
Second conflict with Władysław II
On 27 July 1144, the Dowager Duchess Salomea died and High Duke Władysław II as intended incorporated the Łęczyca Land into the Seniorate Province. This was again opposed by the Junior Dukes Bolesław IV and Mieszko III, who wished to give this land to their minor brothers Henry. Fighting took place in 1145. After an unexpected defeat, the High Duke was finally able to obtain the victory (Battle of Pilicy), thanks to his Kievan allies.
An agreement was made, under which Władysław retained Łęczyca. However, the High Duke continued with his intention of reuniting all Poland under his rule. This provoked the strong opposition of his Silesian voivode Piotr Włostowic, who support the interests of the Junior Dukes in order to maintain his power and position. Władysław, instigated by his wife Agnes of Babenberg decided to eliminate Włostowic for good. The voivode was captured in an ambush. Agnes demanded Włostowic's death for treason, but the High Duke instead chose a terrible punishment: Włostowic was blinded, muted and expelled from the country. However, the voivode had numerous supporters, who were disgusted by the cruel act. Włostowic fled to the Kievan court, where he began to intrigue against the High Duke. Thus began Władysław's fall.
Third conflict and exile of Władysław II
The war erupted again in early 1146, when Władysław's plight had made him swear allegiance to King Conrad III of Germany, half-brother of his wife Agnes. This time, Władysław couldn't count with his Kievan allies, because they were busy in his own problems; moreover the High Duke had sent some of his forces, led by his eldest son Bolesław, in order to support Great Prince Vsevolod. Nevertheless, Władysław was confident of his victory and initially it seemed that the success was on his side, because Bolesław and Mieszko, fearing clashes in an open field, escaped to Poznań. At this time the disaster to the High Duke began.
Władysław's cause lost further support when he was declared excommunicated by Archbishop Jacob of Gniezno for his behavior against Piotr Włostowic, and also faced the rebellion by his own subjects, who were against his tyrannical rule. The defeat of Władysław was totally; by May 1146 all Poland was in the hands of the Junior Dukes, and to save their lives the former High Duke and his family were forced to escape, at first to Bohemia and later to the Kaiserpfalz of Altenburg in Germany, under the protection of King Conrad III.
Once they had consolidated his rule over Poland, Bolesław and Mieszko made new decisions. The elder brother Bolesław succeeded Władysław as High Duke and ruler over Silesia. Mieszko, by the other hand, retained his Duchy of Greater Poland and was satisfied with his role of a close colleague of his brother. Henry, the next-born, finally received his Duchy of Sandomierz. Only the youngest brother, Casimir II, remained without lands.
Urged by the his brother-in-law Władysław, an attempt was made by King Conrad III of Germany to restore the former High Duke to the Polish throne. A German expedition crossed the border with Poland in August 1146 but was already forced to retreat at the Oder as a result of river's spillages as well as the opposition of Władysław's former subjects to German interference. Finally an agreement was reached, under which King Conrad accepted the rule of Bolesław IV; in return, the new High Duke had to pay a tribute to the German king. The dispute between Władysław and the Juniors Dukes remained unresolved as King Conrad III was busy with the preparations of the Second Crusade to the Holy Land.
In the meanwhile, the Junior Dukes had no intention to just wait passively for an arrangement to consolidate their power. In May 1147 they obtained a received by Pope Eugene III the confirmation of a foundation for a monastery in Trzemeszno, which was a clear recognition of their sovereignty. On the other hand, they sought to improve their relations with the German rulers.
In 1147, simultaneously with the arrival of King Conrad III to the Holy Land, Duke Mieszko III joined the Wendish Crusade against the pagan Polabian Slavs in the former Northern March, which was organized by the Ascanian count Albert the Bear and the Wettin margrave Conrad of Meissen. However, during this trip Mieszko sought to protect Polish interests in the Sprevane lands against claims raised by the ambitious Saxon duke Henry the Lion, politically and militarily supporting some Slav tribes. This help to the pagans infuriated Albert the Bear, who arrived in early 1148 to Kruszwica in order to improve their alliance. Finally, they made an agreement, who was confirmed by the marriage of the Junior Duke's sister Judith with Albert's eldest son Otto.
Expedition of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa
To settle the dispute around the Polish throne with Władysław II, Bolesław IV by the agency of Albert the Bear and Margrave Conrad had agreed to appear at the 1152 Imperial Diet in Merseburg and pay homage to the newly elected King of the Romans, King Conrad's nephew Frederick Barbarossa. However, the High Duke broke his promise and remained absent. Meanwhile, Frederick had to secure his rule in the Kingdom of Italy and his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor, wherefore he forged an alliance with Margrave Henry II of Austria, a scion of the House of Babenberg and brother of Władysław's wife Agnes. This coalition brought the Polish affair back on the table.
The Polish campaign of Emperor Frederick actually began in 1157. For unknown reasons, Bolesław and Mieszko did not try to defend the traditional frontier on the Oder River, but instead burned the castles of Głogów and Bytom and began their retreat into the depths of Greater Poland, where Bolesław's forces finally had to surrender to the Imperial troops at Krzyszkowo near Poznań. After his defeat, the High Duke had to ask for forgiveness from the Emperor and the Junior Dukes paid a large tribute to Barbarossa. On Christmas Day in Magdeburg they promised to send food to the Emperor's Italian expedition and to return at least the Silesia Province. As a guarantee of the fulfillment, the Junior Dukes' younger brother, Casimir II, was sent to Germany as a hostage.
Frederick Barbarossa regarded the conflict as resolved and marched against Milan the next year. However while the Emperor was stuck into the Italian affairs, Bolesław did nothing to fulfil the agreement and on 30 May 1159 Władysław II died in exile without having ever seen Poland again. Only the renewed Imperial pressure finally permitted Władysław's sons Bolesław the Tall and Mieszko IV Tanglefoot to come into their inheritance, when three years later, in 1163, the Junior Dukes finally returned Silesia to their nephews. The province thereby became the ancestral homeland of the Silesian Piasts.
Death of Henry of Sandomierz and revolt of Casimir the Just
In 1166 the Mieszko and his brothers had started another Prussian crusade, whereby in October 1166 Duke Henry of Sandomierz was killed in battle. Before his departure, and in case of his death, he had left his duchy to his youngest brother Casimir the Just, who by their father's testament had remained without lands. However, High Duke Bolesław IV, against the his late brother's will, occupied Sandomierz and annexed them to his Seniorate Province.
This decision sparked the rebellion of Casimir, which was supported by his brother Mieszko III, the magnate Jaksa of Miechów and Sviatoslav, son of Piotr Włostowic, as well as by Archbishop Jan I of Gniezno and Bishop Gedko of Kraków. In February 1168 the rebels gathered at Jędrzejów, were Mieszko was elected High Duke and vested Casimir with Sandomierz. The final defeat of Bolesław IV didn't occur, because the High Duke accepted the demands of the rebels and divided Henry's Duchy in three parts: Wiślica Land was taken by Casimir, Bolesław took Sandomierz proper, and the rest was led to Mieszko.
Inheritance dispute in Silesia
In 1172 another conflict arose among the Silesian Piasts, when Duke Bolesław the Tall's chose to ignore the claims of his first-born son, Jaroslaw by designating his son of the second marriage Henry I the Bearded his sole heir. When Jarosław, forced to become a priest, had returned from his German exile, he claimed a share of the Silesian lands. Mieszko III supported his grandnephew in his demands, and the civil war was reiniciated.
In order to prevent another Imperial intervention, the High Duke sent Mieszko III to Magdeburg, with the sum of 8,000 pieces of silver as a tribute to the Emperor and the promise to resolve this conflict soon. This time, the terms of the 1173 agreement have been strictly realized. Bolesław the Tall retained his power over Wrocław; however, he had to cede the Silesian Duchy of Opole to his son Jarosław for life and furthermore had to agree on the division of the Silesian lands with his younger brother Mieszko Tanglefoot, who assumed the rule in the Duchy of Racibórz.
High Duke of Poland
After Bolesław IV had died on 3 April 1173, his brother Mieszko III according to the principle of agnatic seniority was chosen as the new High Duke of Poland (dux Totius Poloniae). His policy focused on maintaining full power for himself, as the oldest surviving member of the dynasty. Despite his succession to the throne at Kraków, the new High Duke remained in Greater Poland, while Lesser Poland was ruled by Henry Kietlicz as a governor appointed by Mieszko. Harsh tax measures were introduced, which incurred the displeasure of the Lesser Polish magnates. On the other hand, Mieszko had several foreign policy successes through his daughter's marriages: Elisabeth about 1173 married Duke Soběslav II of Bohemia and through the dynastic arrangement between his daughter Anastasia and the Griffin duke Bogislaw I of Pomerania, Mieszko once again reinforced Polish sovereignty over the Pomeranian duchy.
In 1177 Mieszko's first-born son Odon, fearing for his inheritance, rebelled against his father. He was supported by Bishop Gedko of Kraków, his cousin Bolesław the Tall and his uncle Casimir the Just. To Odon, the main reason of his rebellion was the favoritism of Mieszko to the offspring of his second marriage and the attempts of the High Duke to force him to became a priest, in order to eliminate him from succession. To the others, the harsh and dictatorial government of the High Duke. The rebellion was a complete surprise to Mieszko; still during Easter of 1177 he was totally convinced of the loyalty of his relatives, especially when the Junior Dukes organized a meeting at Gniezno, were the High Duke was received by the crowds with cheers.
Greater Poland, however, at first remained strongly in Mieszko's hands, thanks to his governor Henry Kietlicz, the most important follower of Mieszko. At the same time, Casimir the Just, the clear head of the rebellion, made a divisionary treaty with his supporters: all Silesia was granted to Duke Bolesław the Tall and Greater Poland to Odon. This was a significant complication, because in Silesia Bolesław after the 1173 division had ruled alongside with his brother Mieszko Tanglefoot and his own son Jarosław of Opole. After they had learned of this agreement, both Mieszko and Jarosław sided with the High Duke and rebelled against Bolesław the Tall, who, busy fighting with his brother and son, lost the opportunity to gain Kraków and obtain the Seniorate for himself; in his place, it was Casimir the Just who took control over the Seniorate Province, and, with this, was proclaimed the new High Duke of Poland. After seeing any possibility of continuing the resistance, Mieszko escaped to Racibórz, under the protection of his nephew and namesake Duke Mieszko Tanglefoot. However, shortly afterwards the deposed High Duke decided to leave Poland and seek foreign support. Odon finally occupied all Greater Poland and was declared Duke.
Exile and return to Greater Poland
By 1179, Mieszko went to Bohemia, ruled by his son-in-law Soběslav II who nevertheless refused to help him, whereafter he turned to Germany. He obtained the attention of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, who offered his help in his restoration on the Polish throne after a payment of 10,000 pieces of silver, a sum that Mieszko couldn't reunited. Finally in Pomerania, his other son-in-law Duke Bogislaw I accepted to help him. By the agency of his Pomeranian allies, Mieszko forged his links with their Polish followers, grouped around Zdzisław, Archbishop of Gniezno and in 1181 was able to conquer the eastern Greater Polish lands of Gniezno and Kalisz, which until then had been part of the Seniorate Province. Soonafter, Mieszko also managed to recover western Greater Poland. Odon was pushed to the lands south of the Obra River. In 1182 a formal reconciliation between father and son was achieved. During these events, and for unknown reasons, High Duke Casimir the Just remained in total passivity; thanks to this, Mieszko had the opportunity to recover all Greater Poland.
Mieszko still had the intention to recover the lordship over all Poland. In 1184 he tried to forge an alliance with Frederick Barbarossa's son King Henry VI of Germany, offering him a large sum of silver. Casimir the Just, however, knew his intentions and had sent Henry more money than the Duke of Greater Poland.
After his failure with the German king, Mieszko decided to take control over the Duchy of Masovia and Kuyavia, then ruled by his nephew Leszek, the only surviving son of Bolesław IV. Mieszko convinced Leszek to named him his successor if he died without issue. The rude and harsh proceedings of the Greater Poland Duke were maybe the reason that in 1185, one year before his death, Leszek changed his testament and appointed his younger uncle High Duke Casimir the Just as his successor. This time, Mieszko acted quickly and, upon the Leszek's death in 1186 he took the Kuyavia region and annexed it to his Duchy. Shortly after, he ceded this land to his son Bolesław.
In 1191 the foreign policy of High Duke Casimir the Just triggered dissatisfaction in the Lesser Poland nobility, led by Mieszko's former governor Henry Kietlicz. With the help of this opposition, Mieszko could finally reconquest Kraków and resume the Hich Ducal title. He decided to entrust the government of Kraków to one of his sons, Bolesław or Mieszko the Younger; however, Casimir quickly regained Kraków and the overlordship and the Prince-Governor was captured; however, he soon was sent with his father. Probably after the failed expedition over Kraków, Mieszko gave to his son and namesake Mieszko the Younger the Greater Polish lands of Kalisz as his own duchy.
When on 2 August 1193 Mieszko the Younger died, his Duchy of Kalisz was reverted to Greater Poland. Shortly after, Mieszko granted Kalisz to his elder son Odon, who nevertheless died eight months later, on 20 April 1194. These two early deaths forced Mieszko to made a new divisionary treaty: the Duke retained Kalisz for himself, while Southern Greater Poland was given to his younger son Władysław III Spindleshanks, who also assumed the guardianship of the minor son of Odon, Władysław Odonic.
High Duke Casimir the Just died on 5 May 1194, and Mieszko's pretentions over Lesser Poland were reborn. Unfortunately, this time the local nobility preferred to see on the throne the minors sons of Casimir, Leszek the White and Konrad. Mieszko's attempts to retake the power ended in the bloody Battle of Mozgawa on 13 September 1195, were Mieszko himself was seriously injured and his son Bolesław of Kuyavia died. After the battle Mieszko withdraw to Kalisz without waiting for the Silesian troops, which came to his aid, led by Mieszko Tanglefoot and Jarosław of Opole.
The Battle of Mozgawą had convinced Mieszko that to gain the throne with violence was extremely difficult, so he began the negotiations with the High Duke's widow Helen of Znojmo. In 1198 he finally was allowed to return to Lesser Poland, but was compelled to cede Kuyavia to Casimir's sons.
In 1199, the voivode Mikołaj Gryfita and Bishop Fulko of Kraków again deposed Mieszko and restored Leszek the White as High Duke; however, three years later was made a new settlement and Mieszko was able to return. He retained the title of High Duke, but was forced to give up part of his powers. He died shortly afterwards; at that time, he had survived all his siblings and his sons except for Władysław III Spindleshanks, who succeeded him as Polish High Duke and Duke of Greater Poland.
Marriages and Issue
- Odon (b. ca. 1149 – d. 20 April 1194).
- Stephen (b. ca. 1150 – d. 18 October 1166/77?).
- Elisabeth (b. 1152 – d. 2 April 1209), married firstly ca. 1173 to Soběslav II, Duke of Bohemia and secondly aft. January 1180 to Conrad II of Landsberg, Margrave of Lusatia.
- Wierzchoslawa Ludmilla (b. bef. 1153 – d. bef. 1223), married ca. 1167 to Frederick, Lord of Bitsch and later Duke of Lorraine.
- Judith (b. bef. 1154 – d. af. 12 December 1201), married ca. 1173 with Bernhard, Count of Anhalt and later Duke of Saxony.
- Bolesław (b. 1159 – killed in the Battle of Mozgawą, 13 September 1195).
- Mieszko the Younger (b. ca. 1160/65 – d. 2 August 1193).
- Władysław III Spindleshanks (b. ca. 1161/67 – d. 3 November 1231).
- Salomea (b. ca. 1162/64 – d. 11 May ca. 1183), married bef. 1177 to Prince Ratibor (II) of Pomerania.
- Anastasia (b. ca. 1164 – d. aft. 31 May 1240), married on 26 April 1177 to Bogislaw I, Duke of Pomerania.