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Bolesław II the Bold
King of Poland
Boleslaw Smialy.jpg
Portrait by Jan Matejko.
Reign Duke: 1058–1076
King: 1076–1079
Coronation December 26, 1076
Gniezno Cathedral, Poland.
Born c. 1043
Birthplace Poland
Died 2 or 3 April (?) 1081 or 1082[aged 38-39]
Place of death Ossiach, Carinthia (?)
Buried Ossiach Benedictine Abbey (?)
Predecessor Casimir I the Restorer
Successor Władysław I Herman
Wife Wyszesława of Kiev (?)
Offspring With Wyszesława :
Dynasty Piast dynasty
Father Casimir I the Restorer
Mother Maria Dobroniega of Kiev

Bolesław II the Bold also known as the Generous or the Cruel (Polish: Bolesław II Śmiały or Szczodry or Okrutny; b. ca. 1043[1] - d. 2/3 April 1081/82), was Duke of Poland from 1058 to 1076, and the third Polish King from 1076 to 1079.

He was the eldest son of Casimir I the Restorer and Maria Dobroniega, daughter of Grand Duke Vladimir I of Kiev.

Bolesław II is considered to have been one of the most capable of the Piast rulers. According to Gallus Anonymus during his reign he was called "the Generous" (Szczodry) due to the fact that he founded many churches and monasteries throughout Poland. He rebuilt the Gniezno bishopric in 1075 (consecrated in 1064) and established a bishopric in Płock (1075). He founded Benedictine monasteries in Mogilno, Lubin and Wrocław. These had an enormous influence on the economic and cultural development of the country.

The nickname "the Bold" (Śmiały) was only given to Bolesław II for the first time in the later Chronicle of the Polish kings, although it was considered by historiography of the 19th and 20th centuries as a contemporary nickname. Modern research suggests that this epithet given to him a few centuries after he died was not accurate.

Bolesław II was also the first Polish monarch to produce his own coinage in quantity great enough to replace the foreign coins prevalent in the country during the reigns of the first Piast kings. He established royal mints in Kraków and Wrocław and reformed the coinage, which brought considerable revenue into the royal coffers.




Duke of Poland

Following the death of his father in 1058, Bolesław II, as the eldest son, inherited Greater, Lesser Poland as well as Mazovia, Pomerania, and Silesia. His younger brothers Władysław Herman and Mieszko became Governors of the remaining provinces. However Mieszko died relatively early, in 1065, at which point his lands came under the authority of Bolesław II.

Bolesław II based his foreign policy on surrounding his realm with allied Kingdoms in order to oppose the Holy Roman Empire; his goal was for Poland to one day border only allied countries. This is said to be the main reason behind his numerous foreign interventions: In 1060-1063 he intervened in Hungary to aid Béla I and his sons against the Holy Roman Empire. As a result Béla, in 1061, with the support of Polish troops, gained power in Hungary. In Hungary Bolesław II pursued the policy of cooperation with the anti-imperial faction which allowed him to gain political independence from the Empire but put him in conflict with the pro-imperial Kingdom of Bohemia. He escalated the conflict with the Duke Vratislaus II, by refusing to pay the annual homage to Bohemia and spurring the Bohemian nobility to revolt against Vratislaus. In 1063, Bolesław II besieged the Moravian city of Hradec but, defeated, he was forced to retreat. In the end, the relations with Vratislaus II were settled to a certain extent when the latter married the Princess Świętosława, Bolesław II's sister.

Benedictine monastery at Mogilno, founded by Bolesław the Bold.

In 1063 King Béla I of Hungary died. Bolesław II could not defend the cause of his son Géza against the German troops of the Emperor Henry IV, who installed his brother-in-law Solomon on the Hungarian throne.

In 1069 Iziaslav I of Kiev and his wife Gertruda were overthrown. The military campaign of Bolesław II established them back in power in Kiev. In 1071 Bolesław II attacked Bohemia again. As the Polish refused any attempt of arbitration by the Emperor Henry IV, the question was settled by an armistice between the two belligerents; however Bolesław II, ignoring the treaty, renewed his attack in 1072 and refused to pay the tributes from Silesia to the Holy Roman Empire.

Due to his involvement in the Hungarian, Bohemian and Kievan affairs, Bolesław II neglected Poland's interests on the Baltic coast. Western Pomerania, therefore, was lost first and then in either 1060 or 1066, Danzig Pomerania also severed it's ties to the Polish Kingdom.[2]

Gniezno Cathedral, rebuilt by Bolesław the Bold.

King of Poland

When Gregory VII, an enemy of the Emperor, became pope in 1073, Bolesław II saw in him a natural ally, and started to apply the Pope's reforms in the Archbishopric of Gniezno and started negotiations to obtain the royal crown. In 1075 a revolt in Saxony, spurred by Bolesław II, forced Henry IV to retreat from that region (the Emperor crushed the revolt soon thereafter); the Polish seized the occasion to launch an invasion against Henry IV's vassal, Vratislaus II of Bohemia, alongside his Russian ally Vladimir II Monomakh.

Thanks to his support to the Papal cause during the Investiture Controversy, Bolesław II gained the royal crown of Poland: in the Christmas Day of 1076, he was crowned in the Gniezno Cathedral by the Archbishop Bogumił in the presence of the Papal legate. Rulers of Poland had long desired to reign continuously as did their royal neighbors in Hungary, but like their neighbours in Bohemia they were only occasionally granted recognition as King by their nominal liege lord, the Emperor. The latter's humiliation at Canossa in 1077 included also the Imperial recognition of Bolesław II's royal title. His new authority, however, caused the Polish magnates to rebel, as they feared the monarchy was beginning to grow too powerful.


In 1077 Bolesław II's troops helped two pretenders to assume the throne: László, another son of Béla I, in Hungary, and again Iziaslav in Kiev. In 1078, while returning from the latter campaign, the Polish troops conquered Red Ruthenia. In 1079, however, Bolesław II was deposed by a Barons' rebellion and banished from the country. The circumstances that led to the King's banishment hinge on the person of the Bishop of Kraków, Stanislaus of Szczepanów. From historical records [3] it appears that Bishop Stanislaus was involved with the barons' opposition movement, plotting to remove the King and to place his brother Władysław Herman on the throne. The conspiracy was uncovered by the king's men and Stanislaw was judged by both royal and ecclesiastical courts. He was found guilty of treason - Gallus Anonimus uses the word "traditor" meaning traitor - and executed. This act seems to have sparked the barons' rebellion against the King who was then deposed and forced to flee the country, together with his wife and son Mieszko. He found refuge in Hungary which was ruled by László I, a future saint, who owed his crown to the deposed King.[2]

Another version of the events which led to Boleslaw's demise was propagated by Master Vincentius Kadlubek. However, Master Kadlubek was writing nearly 100 years after Gallus Anonymus and a century and a half after the actual affair.[4] According to this version, Bolesław II assaulted and then personally wielded the sword that murdered Bishop Stanislaus of Kraków during the celebration of a mass. Though the bishop had privately and then publicly warned the king to repent of adultery and other vices, Bolesław chose a course of action more characteristic of his nickname, "the Bold" (11 April 1079).

Alleged tomb of Bolesław II the Bold in Ossiach.

According to Gallus Anonymus, Bolesław II's atrocious conduct towards his Hungarian hosts caused his premature death in 1081 or 1082 at the hands of an assassin, probably by poisoning. He was only about 40 years old.

A popular legend states that he was buried in the Benedictine Abbey of Ossiach (modern Carinthia, Austria), where there exist a tomb with the inscription: Rex Boleslaus Polonie occisor sancti Stanislai Epi Cracoviensis ("Bolesław King of Poland, murderer of Saint Stanislaus bishop of Cracow"); nonetheless, this legend dates centuries after his death (it is first mentioned by Maciej Miechowita in 1499).

In 1960 the tomb was opened and revealed the existence of male bones and remains of a Polish knight's armor which was dated to the 11th century. On the other hand, another of the most popular hypothesis about the destiny of the King's remains states that in 1086 they were transferred to the Abbey of Tyniec. The actual place of Bolesław II's burial remained unknown.

Marriage and Issue

Before 1069 Bolesław II married Wyszesława (d. aft. 1089), who, according to the Chronicle of Jan Długosz (and supported by some sources),[5] was a daughter of Sviatoslav II, Grand Prince of Kiev, by his first wife Kilikia, possibly member of the House of Dithmarschen. They had one son:

  1. Mieszko (b. 12 April? 1069 - d. 7 January? 1089).

Modern historians, lead by Oswald Balzer (in 1895), refuted the Kievan origin and name of Bolesław II's wife and exposed the theory that his wife was the Queen Agnes (Agnes Regina) whose obituary is recorded in Zwiefalten; is also believed that she belonged to the Přemyslid dynasty.[6]

See also


  1. ^ POLAND
  2. ^ a b Poczet Krolow i Książat Polskich, Park, Bielsko-Biała, 2005
  3. ^ Gallus Anonymus Cronicae et gesta ducum sive principum Polonorum
  4. ^ Chronica seu originale regum et principum Poloniae by Wincenty Kadlubek (between 1190 and 1208 CE)
  5. ^ RUSSIA, Rurikids
  6. ^ T. Jurek, Agnes regina. W poszukiwaniu żony Bolesława Szczodrego, LXXII, 2006, s. 95-104.
Bolesław II the Bold
Piast Dynasty
Born: ca. 1043 Died: 2 or 3 April 1081
Preceded by
Casimir I the Restorer
Duke of Poland
King from 1076

Succeeded by
Władysław I Herman


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