Kunigunde of Poland – A royal bride who was left behind

Martyna Dudek as Princess Kunigunde in Korona królów (2018)(Screenshot/Fair Use)

Like her aunt and namesake, the second Kunigunde of Poland did not leave a mark on history.  In fact, she stayed at her father’s court until 11 years after her marriage.  She finally went to live with her husband in 1356 but died less than a year later.  She had very little time to play the role of a wife.

Kunigunde was most likely born between 1327 and 1333 as the second daughter of Casimir III of Poland and his first wife, Aldona-Anna of Lithuania.  Some sources say she was born in 1334 or 1335, but given the date of her marriage, an earlier year is more likely.  She was their second and youngest daughter, their first being Elizabeth.  When her father became king of Poland in 1333, Kunigunde was probably already born.

Casimir wanted to make an alliance with the Wittelsbach dynasty, one of the most powerful families in Europe at the time.  The head of the Wittelsbachs, Louis had been Holy Roman Emperor since 1328.  Kunigunde’s sister, Elizabeth had twice been promised to the Emperor’s son, also named Louis.  However, in 1343 Casimir decided to marry Elizabeth to a Pomeranian Duke instead.  On 1 January 1345, Casimir returned to the idea of a marriage alliance with the Emperor.  It was decided that by the end of the year, Kunigunde would be married to the Emperor’s son, Louis the Roman, to whom her sister had previously been promised.

At the time, the Luxembourg dynasty, who ruled Bohemia, were rivals of the Wittelsbachs.  They saw this marriage as a threat against them.  In July, the Luxembourg army invaded Poland and tried to prevent this marriage from happening.  Their efforts failed, and on 25 July 1345, Kunigunde was married to Louis in Cracow.  However, soon after the wedding, Louis returned to Germany, leaving Kunigunde behind in Poland.  The exact reason for this is not known.  One possibility could be a disagreement between Casimir and Louis’ relatives.  Another possibility could have been a misunderstanding between the new spouses.  It is also possible that Casimir wanted Kunigunde to remain in Poland for some time, possibly because of her youth, although she was of legal marriageable age.

Pope Clement VI was opposed to this marriage, and that October, he criticised Casimir for his marriage alliance with the excommunicated Emperor, and urged him to return to the Luxembourg side.  Although Casimir delayed his daughter’s departure to her husband, he continued favouring the Wittelsbach faction.  Kunigunde’s husband was a possible future Emperor, but that never happened.  It is possible that Casimir considered Louis to be his successor in Poland, even though there was also his older daughter, Elizabeth and her husband.  Emperor Louis died in 1347, and his rival, Charles of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia became the new German king.  Charles was made Holy Roman Emperor in 1355.

In 1351, Louis was made Margrave of Brandenburg.  In 1352, he returned to Poland to talk to Casimir about the dowry.  On Kunigunde’s wedding day, Casimir only paid half of the dowry, and it could have been this reason why she did not join her husband.  Casimir then paid Louis a small portion of the amount due to him, but he again left Kunigunde in Poland.  Louis again reminded Casimir of the unpaid dowry in 1354.  There was a deadline set for paying the remaining dues and bringing Kunigunde to Brandenburg by Easter 1355.  However, Casimir, who was caught up in his disintegrating second marriage to Adelaide of Hesse, delayed these requests yet again.

It was previously thought that Kunigunde never joined her husband and died in Poland.  However, a document from August 1356 speaks of Kunigunde living with her husband, so she is thought to have joined him sometime that summer.  Also in 1356, Louis was made the first Elector of Brandenburg.  Kunigunde was therefor the first Electress of Brandenburg.  She did not get to enjoy her marriage or new title for long, though.  Kunigunde died of unknown causes on 26 April 1357, aged not yet thirty, less than a year after her arrival in her husband’s country.  She was buried in the Franciscan monastery in Berlin.  Louis lost all hopes of becoming King of Poland on her death.  In 1360, Louis remarried to Ingeborg of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1360.  This marriage was also childless, and Louis died in 1365, predeceasing Casimir by five years.  Louis was buried next to Kunigunde.

Kunigunde led a rather unfortunate life, spending years separated from her husband, unaware of what would become of her.  It is not known if Kunigunde finally went to her husband willingly, or was brought to Brandenburg against her will.  We, therefore, do not know if she was happy when she was living at the Polish court after her marriage.  Besides her unfortunate marital situation, nothing else is known of Kunigunde, and she has been forgotten by history.  However, Kunigunde was brought to attention again recently, the story of her unusual marital situation was shown on the Polish television series, Korana Krolow (Crown of Kings), which dramatises Casimir’s reign.1

  1. Sources:

    Teler, Marek; “Kunigunde, daughter of Casimir the Great: an unhappy bride.” on histmag.org

About CaraBeth 61 Articles
I love reading and writing about the royals of medieval Europe- especially the women. My interest was first started by the Plantagenet dynasty, but I decided to dive deeper, and discovered that there were many more fascinating royal dynasties in medieval Europe. Other dynasties I like reading and writing about are; the Capets, and their Angevin branch in Naples and Hungary, the Luxembourgs, the early Hapsburgs, the Arpads, the Piasts, the Premyslids and many more!

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