Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for King: A True Tale of Jadwiga, the Girl King of Poland


Once upon a time, a scholarly young princess named Jadwiga was brought to the kingdom of Poland to become their monarch. There was only one problem: Poland's rulers had always been men, and they had no precedent for a reigning queen. But there was no law that indicated that a king must be male. So instead of crowning the ten-year-old girl Hedwig Regina Poloniae, she was called Hedwig Rex Poloniae: Jadwiga, King of Poland.

Jadwiga's reign, from 1384 through 1399, was one of the most memorable in Poland's history. Her marriage to Jagiello of Lithuania secured peace between the two countries. As brilliant young women who spoke at least six languages, she placed great importance on education, and commissioned a restoration of the Krakow Academy (later named the Jagiellonian University), which would become a great center of learning in Poland. She dedicated herself to charitable works, often leaving the comfort of her castle to distribute food and clothing to the poor among her subjects.

But the role of king was not an easy one for a young girl. Wars threatened, policies loomed, and great stress fell upon Jadwiga's head. Yet she knew where to turn for counsel. In a chapel at Wawel Cathedral, there hung a large crucifix. Jadwiga often knelt before it and whispered her troubles to Christ as she gazed upon His image, His arms outstretched toward her. Perhaps such prayer was not unusual, either for a king or for a young girl of her day. What was quite unique in this case, however, was that--by the accounts of many witnesses--the image of Christ spoke back to her. He comforted and advised her, and she in turn did her best to make her reign a saintly one.

In fact, after her death, King Jadwiga traded the title of "king" for that of "saint," and her feast day is celebrated on the seventeenth of July. If you happen to be in Poland on that day, you could stop by Wawel Cathedral and see the very same crucifix to which the holy king spoke--"Saint Jadwiga's Cross"--where it hangs, her tomb only a few feet away.

4 comments:

  1. Yeah, that's pretty incredible. I wish I could speak even two languages. ;P

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  2. Wow, what an interesting story... thanks for sharing it.

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  3. Hurrah for the girl king!

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  4. Lovely post- thank you for sharing this piece of history

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