In an age where female rulers weren’t all that common, these sisters were Kings in their own right of two respective counties. Mary of Hungary and Jadwiga of Poland were the daughters of Louis I of Hungary and Elizabeth of Bosnia. During their father’s reign, Poland and Hungary were in a personal union and Louis envisioned leaving both crowns to his eldest surviving daughter Mary.
Louis and Elizabeth were childless for the first seventeen years of their marriage so the birth of three daughters in quick succession must have been a surprise. Catherine was born in 1370 but she died at the age of 7, Mary was born in 1371 and Jadwiga in 1373 or 1374. Louis died on 10 September 1382, and the crown of Hungary passed easily to his daughter Mary. The Polish nobles, however, sought an end of the personal union with Hungary and refused to recognise Mary and her fiancee Sigismund of Luxembourg. In the end, Elizabeth negotiated with the nobles and secured the accession of Jadwiga to the throne of Poland. Jadwiga was sent to Poland in 1384, and she never saw her mother again.
Both girls were crowned king of their respective counties to emphasise their role as monarch and also, in Poland’s case, because there was simply no provision in the law for a female monarch.
Mary of Hungary
Charles of Naples threatened Mary’s throne, and he was secretly invited to assume the throne. He landed while Mary’s armies were busy fighting both Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia and Germany and King Tvrtko I of Bosnia. To make peace Mary was married to Sigismund, Wenceslaus’ brother. It was all too late however as Charles secured the support of the barons. Mary abdicated, and Charles was crowned on 31 December with Mary and Elizabeth in forced attendance.
Charles’ reign did not last long. Elizabeth invited him to visit Mary, and he was stabbed in her apartments on 7 February 1386. He died a little later. Mary was restored to her rightful throne with Elizabeth as regent and Sigismund was accepted as co-ruler. War soon broke out, and Mary and her mother were imprisoned in Gomnec castle. They were soon moved to Novigrad Castle where Elizabeth was strangled in front of Mary. Sigismund was crowned in March and Mary was finally liberated in June. From that moment on, Mary was effectively a symbol, and Sigismund held all the power.
Jadwiga of Poland
Jadwiga of Poland was not only a child king but also a child bride. At the age of 12 in 1386, she married 26-year old Władysław II Jagiełło, followed by his coronation. Jadwiga had little actual power, most of the power was in the hands of her husband. She did sponsor the arts and donated much of her personal wealth.
In the end, the sisters suffered similar fates. Mary went out on her own in May 1395 while heavily pregnant in Buda forest. Her horse tripped and fell on top of her. The trauma probably started the labour, and she gave birth all by herself in the woods. They weren’t found until they were both dead.
Jadwiga gave birth to Elizabeth Bonifacia on 22 June 1399, but both soon died from complications following the birth. Jadwiga died on 17 July. She was later venerated as a saint. She is the patron of Queens and a united Europe.
Both their husbands retained their crowns after the deaths of their wives, interestingly enough.