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Henry II the Pious, 19th century painting by Jan Matejko.

Henry II the Pious (Polish: Henryk II Pobożny, German: Heinrich II der Fromme; ca. 1196 – 9 April 1241), was a Piast Duke of Silesia-Wrocław, Krakow and Southern Greater Poland from 1238 until his death. During 1238–1239 he served as a regent of two Piast Duchies: Sandomierz and Opole-Raciborz.

He was a son of Henry I the Bearded, Duke of Wrocław, by his wife (and later Saint) Hedwig, daughter of Berthold IV, Duke of Merania.




Heir of Wrocław. Co-Ruler of his father

Monarchy of the Silesian Henries

Henry was the second son of the Ducal couple, but soon he became the eldest child of the family when the first-born Bolesław died in 1206. Seven years later (1213) the death of his younger surviving brother Konrad during a hunt left Henry as the sole heir of Lower Silesia. Around 1218 his father arranged his marriage with Princess Anna, daughter of King Ottokar I of Bohemia; this union allowed Henry to participate actively in international politics.

Henry the Bearded quickly began his efforts to designate his sole surviving son as the universal heir of his patrimony, and from 1222, the young prince appears to have signed documents along with his father. Two years later, he had already a separate stamp and his own notary. In 1227 during a meeting of Piast Dukes in Gąsawa, Henry the Bearded and the High Duke Leszek the White were trapped in an ambush, as a result of which Leszek was killed and the Silesian Duke was seriously wounded; this was the first time that the government rested on the shoulders of young Henry. The second time happened two years later, when Henry the Bearded was captured by Konrad I of Masovia. During these regencies Henry II's performance was perfect, thanks to the early years when his father entrusted him with this type of responsibility. During 1229–30, the Regent led a military expedition in order to recover and secure the possession of Lubusz, and in 1233–34 Henry actively supported his father's affairs in Prussia and Greater Poland. The increasing and close cooperation with his father resulted in the official nomination of Henry as co-ruler with his father in 1234. After that came a formal separation of powers: Henry the Bearded was styled as Duke of Krakow and Silesia, and Henry as Duke of Silesia and Greater Poland. However, his sole reign had to wait until the death of Henry the Bearded on 19 March 1238.

Reign Alone

Coat of arms of Silesian Piasts

Although at the time of his father's death Henry was about forty-years-old, he took possession of his inheritance with some complications. Actually, the first problem was the issue of his succession. The strong authority of Henry the Bearded could secure hereditary rule in his bloodline only over Lower Silesia. Southern Greater Poland and Krakow were ruled by election among the Piast princes (although there existed a testament of former Duke of Greater Poland and Krakow, Władysław III Spindleshanks, who left all his lands to Henry the Bearded, but this was ignored by Konrad of Masovia and Władysław Odonic). In the case of Opole-Raciborz and Sandomierz, Henry could retain his authority as a regent during the minority of their rulers Mieszko II and Bolesław V; however one year later (1239) Henry was compelled to resign the regency, although he remained on good terms with the Dukes of Opole and Sandomierz, but also managed to retain Kalisz and Wieluń. However, the situation in the north was more complicated. The Margrave Otto III of Brandenburg, using the death of Henry the Bearded as a pretext, took an important fortress in Santok and besieged Lubusz. As well as this, he also inherited from his father the disputes with Konrad of Masovia and Władysław Odonic and with the Church, led by Pełka, Archbishop of Gniezno, who claimed the benefits promised by Henry the Bearded.

Fortunately for Henry, however, the situation changed unexpectedly after the death of Władysław Odonic on 5 June 1239, leaving two minor sons, Przemysł I and Bolesław. Using these circumstances, the Silesian Duke took the majority of Odonic's possessions (including Gniezno), leaving to Odonic's sons Nakło nad Notecią and Ujście. Henry's next moves, however, were dangerous: he abandoned the traditional alliance of his family with the House of Hohenstaufen and supported Pope Gregory IX, which immediately finished his disputes with the Church[1]. Then, to ended his conflicts with Konrad of Masovia, Henry arranged the marriages of two of his daughters to two of Konrad's sons: the eldest, Gertrude, to Bolesław, and the second, Constance, to Casimir. In 1239, Henry lost the fortress occupied in Santok by Brandenburg after his defeat in the Battle of Lubusz.

Mongol invasion. Battle of Legnica and Death

It seemed that the most difficult times for Henry were done - but the worst was yet to come. In the East, a new dangerous opponent appeared: the Mongols, under the leadership of Batu Khan, who, after the defeat and destruction of Russian Grand Principality of Kiev chose as the next target Hungary. Batu Khan rightly recognized that in the event of war with Hungary firstly he had to take control over Poland. So he sent there an army of 10 000 men under the leadership of Orda. Already in January 1241 Batu had sent some reconnaissance troops to Lublin and Zawichost, but the real invasion was launched a month later. In Lesser Poland the Mongols didn't have an equal opponent, defeating and killing almost all the Krakow and Sandomierz nobility in the Battle of Tursko (13 February) and the Battles of Tarczek and Chmielnik(18 March) where, among the casualties, were the voivode of Kraków, Włodzimierz and the castellan Clement of Brzeźnica. After this all Lesser Poland, including Krakow and Sandomierz, was in the hands of the Mongols.

Henry didn't wait for the promised aid from Western rulers and began to concentrate the surviving Lesser Poland troops and his own Silesian and Greater Poland troops in Legnica. Europe's rulers, more interested in the struggles between Empire and Papacy, ignored Henry's requests for help. The only foreign troops who joined him were of King Wenceslaus I of Bohemia and the combined forced of both Knights Templars and Hospitallers, but at the last moment they stopped their troops close to Legnica, probably fearing that the Christian Army would become an easy prey to the Mongolian troops. The battle took place on 9 April 1241; Henry was defeated and killed in battle.

The defeat was widely blamed on the European monarchs, who refused to help, and the unexpected and humiliating escape from the battle of Mieszko II the Fat. There are two descriptions of Henry's death, one submitted by Jan Długosz (today considered dubious), and the second by C. de Brigia in his Historii Tartatorum, which, based on reports of direct witnesses, is now considered more reliable. Fortunately for Poland, the Mongols didn't intend to occupy the country, since shortly afterward they went through Moravia to Hungary, wanting to connect with the main army of Batu Khan. Henry's naked and decapitated body could only be identified by his wife, thanks to a unique anatomical defect: on his left foot, he had six toes, which was confirmed at the opening of his tomb in 1832. Henry was buried in his Franciscan Church of St. Jakub in Wroclaw.

Despite ruling for only three years, Henry remained in the memories of Greater Poland and Krakow as the perfect Christian Knight and Lord, whose brilliant career was stopped by his early death.

Marriage and issue

By 1218, Henry married Anna (ca. 1204 – 23 June 1265), daughter of King Ottokar I of Bohemia. They had ten children:

  1. Gertrude (ca. 1218/20 – 23/30 April 1247), married by 1232 to Bolesław I of Masovia.
  2. Constance (ca. 1221 – ca. 21 February 1257), married by 1239 to Casimir I of Kuyavia.
  3. Bolesław II the Bald (ca. 1220/25 – 25/31 December 1278).
  4. Mieszko (ca. 1223/27 – 1242).
  5. Henry III the White (1227/30 – 3 December 1266).
  6. Konrad (1228/31 – 6 August ca. 1274).
  7. Elizabeth (ca. 1232 – 16 January 1265), married in 1244 to Przemysł I of Greater Poland.
  8. Agnes (ca. 1236 – 14 May aft. 1278), Abbess of St.Clara in Trebnitz (aft. 1277).
  9. Władysław (1237 – 27 April 1270), Chancellor of Bohemia (1256), Bishop of Passau (1265) and Archbishop of Salzburg (1265-70).
  10. Hedwig (ca. 1238/41 – 3 April 1318), Abbess of St.Clara in Wrocław.

See also


  1. ^ Encyklopedia Powszechna PWN Warsaw 1975 vol. III page 505
Preceded by
Henry I the Bearded
High Duke of Poland
Succeeded by
Bolesław II the Bald
Duke of Wroclaw
Duke of Greater Poland
(Only in the Southwest)


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