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Gawlas, Sławomir: The 1335 Meeting of Kings in Visegrad

For the entire month of November 1335 in Visegrad the meeting of the Central-European kings took place: the Hungarian king Charles Robert, king of Bohemia John of Luxembourg, his son Charles, the margrave of Moravia and actual governor of the Kingdom, Polish king Casimir the Great and the plenipotentiary of the Great Master of the Teutonic Order in Prussia, as well as a number of dukes.

The choice of place was not accidental. In 1335, Visegrad was a main seat of Charles Robert, the place where his court stayed and actual capital city of the kingdom. It was not a typical situation in those times. As a matter of fact, the manner of governing was changing and the rulers gradually abandoned regular travelling around the country under their control and instead spent more and more time at their main residence, which provided the suitable setting for the comfortable life of the court. Thus his seat was located in the most important town. In the kingdom of Hungary it was Budapest. Its traditions as the capital city, however, did not have old roots, whereas the burghers at the beginnings of Charles Robert's reign were trying to carry on the independent politics. After defeating the oligarchic opposition in 1323, Charles Robert chose Visegrad for his abode. It was a centre with a long, going back to Roman times history, majestically situated on the Danube on the edge of the prominent range of hills. The career of Visegrad started after the Mongolian incursion in 1241. Soon afterwards, the then defensive upper castle was built there, in the future the place for storing the Hungarian coronation insignia. Below , in the lower castle, the impressive residential donjon was raised. Visegrad was by request of Charles Robert developed into a multipartite residence composed of two renovated castles, upper and lower, as well as the palace complex. The Angevins rule in Hungary was autocratic; here in the royal court the power and political life of the kingdom were concentrated. The town itself did not develop into a large centre and acted only as the support area of the court. The Hungarian treasury had at its disposal considerable amounts of cash owing to the gold mines situated within the territory of present Slovakia and Transylvania. It was at the time an absolutely exceptional situation, at the background of the neighbours - with the exception, perhaps, of the Great Master of the Teutonic Knights Order. The entire residence must have impressed immensely the arriving kings, as they set to modernise their adobes according to the taste of the epoch later on.

The immediate cause of the meeting was submitting of the Polish-Teutonic dispute to the arbitration court. The conflict began in 1308-1309 with the Teutonic Knights invasion of the Gdansk Pomerania, in the situation of the uniting Polish state by the king Władysław Łokietek (Ladislaus the Elbow High). He never came to terms with the loss, but he was not strong enough to pursue his rights by force of arms. The disagreement went on for years. The complaint submitted to the Pope initiated calling of the delegated court, which conducted the investigation devoted to the occupation of Pomerania in Inowrocław and Brześć Kujawski in 1320/1321. The Teutonic Order was the Church institution; therefore the sentence that would be advantageous for the Polish side would be for them the real threat, the destruction of the Knights of the Temple Order still remembered. The appeal and the seeking the favours in the Papal curia resulted in the factual suspension of the sentence execution. The conflict exacerbated. In order to gain the Pope's gratitude, who had put interdiction on the emperor Ludwig Wittelsbach, king Wladyslaw Łokietek allied with Giedymin, Duke of Lithuania invaded Brandenburgia, which emperor's son, Ludwig as well, had just started to rule. The enormous destruction and the alliance with pagans spoiled the reputation of the Polish ruler. The Teutonic Order responded by the coalition with Bohemian King John of Luxembourg, who at the beginning of 1327 reminded of his pretences to the Polish throne as the successor and the heir of the Premyslid dynasty, including the king Vaclav II, crowned the Polish king in 1300. However, in 1320, Władysław Łokietek was crowned with the Pope's consent. For the propaganda purposes, the surroundings of John of Luxembourg, who had added to his titles that of king of Poland, the title of the king of Kraków was constructed for king Łokietek. Claims of Luxembourg were substantiated by the generally respected legal titles, however the raid on Krakow ended with defeat. Władysław Lokietek was saved by the intervention of Charles Robert who gave up the agreement with the Bohemian king when he decided that the closer political interests connected him with Poland.

The war with the Teutonic Knights Order that had allied with John in 1329 brought about to king Łokietek only big losses. Despite the enormous political and military efforts and sporadically successes, Poland actually experienced failure. Majority of Silesian dukes and the duke of Płock Mazovia accepted John Luxembourg as their liege lord in 1327-1329. Wielkopolska (Greater Poland) was devastated, the Teutonic Order occupied Kujawy, the inherited lands of King Wladyslaw as well as the Dobrzyń lands. In the summer of 1332, the year-long-ceasefire was entered due to the mediation of the papal legate, Pierre de Auvergne. During the truce, in March 1333, king Wladyslaw Łokietek died. A new king Kazimierz later called the Great, from the beginning of his rule made a political breakthrough, adjusting the political purposes to the real possibilities. The truce was extended, the peace with Brandenburgia was signed and in 1334, it was agreed formally that the dispute would be submitted to the arbitration court of the mentioned earlier kings of Hungary and Bohemia.
During the Visegrad meeting, the political situation of Central Europe was defined by the conflict of the German Emperor Ludwig Wittelsbach with the popes residing in Avignon since 1308. Since the Emperor did not ask after the election for the Pope's approval and appealed to the Council, he was after the formal process interdicted in 1324. However, Ludwig did not succumb and went to Rome, where in 1328, referring to the people's will, was crowned Emperor. His court attracted many opponents and critics of the papacy - the Franciscan supporters of the idea of poverty in the Church, defiant intellectuals such as Marsilius from Padua and William Ockham. Till the end of his rule, for over twenty more years the fierce fight went on, in which neither side could gain the lasting advantage. The consecutive popes, strongly depending on the kings of France, were seeking for allies against Wittelsbachs. The Central Europe was drawn in the dynastic rivalries of the powerful families: Luxembourgs, Habsburgs, Wittelsbachs, Angevins, as well as Piasts. Dynastic interests were the basic mechanism of the foreign policy and became the motor of continuous diplomatic struggles, which were conducted simultaneously with various partners. Due to this, the image of politics became rather complicated - especially that the necessity of taking into account the interests of the subjugated territories did not have to be considered by the ruling dynasties, or regarding of the way the subjects would understand it. Dualism of authority typical for the estate state was only being established at the time and it was long time before institutionalised structures of the parliamentary representation developed in the Central -Eastern Europe.

The host of the meeting in Visegrad, Charles Robert, was a great-grandson of Charles, Count of Anjou and Provence, brother of King's of France Luis IX the Saint. Count Charles accepted in 1265 the pope's appeal and stood against the Staufen dynasty in the old Norman kingdom of Sicily. The victorious war enabled the side line of Capetings to establish a new royal family. After the loss of Sicily to Aragon house, Naples became the capital city. Marriages with the Arpad family allowed Angevins to claim the Hungarian throne. After the final extinction of the Arpads in 1301, Charles Robert claimed the throne, supported by the Pope Boniface VIII. In 1308, he managed to gain the universal acclaim, however the final victory was brought only after the civil war against the Hungarian oligarchs in years 1311-1323. Confiscation of their wealth and castles allowed the reconstruction of the royal domain. The old elite were completely replaced by the new and the authority of the rule increased. During the reorganisation of his kingdom, Charles Robert could draw his experience from the states ruled in the most modern way at the time in Europe - inheritance of the Staufens in Italy and from France. Strong power and full treasury enabled him to carry on the foreign policy on large scale. Natural opponents of Hungary were Habsburgs in Austria, Luxembourgs in Bohemia and Venice; as well the countries of the Balkan Peninsula. Hungarian Angevins were still engaged in the Italian issues, watched the situation in Naples and had close relationship with the papacy. Political alliance with Poland was strengthened by the marriage of Charles with Elisabeth, sister of Kazimierz the Great. Both parties had their joint calculations regarding the issues connected with Russia of Halicz-Wlodzimir, where in 1323 Wladyslaw Elbow High placed Mazovia Prince Bolesław-Jerzy II Troydenowicz. Possibly, during the serious sickness of Kazimierz the Great in 1327, the first agreements regarding the Angevin succession in Poland was entered.

The position and situation of John of Luxembourg was different. He became king of Bohemia due to his father's diplomatic skills (count Henry VII Luxembourg), who took advantage of the election of the emperor to raise the status of his own family. John did not gain strong support from Bohemia, where he wanted to establish his own rule after turning of age, with help of the strangers brought from Rheine Country. However, he did not succeed and after 1318, he gave up the rule into the hands of the Czech magnates, and he treated his kingdom as the source of money necessary to carry out various political plans that he continually formed and tried to fulfil. John embodied the ideal of the king-knight and rarely stayed in Bohemia, he felt best in Paris, where he went every year. Participation in numerous tournaments and crusades to Prussia left him with many wounds, but with large acclaim as well. He was connected with the French court by the vassalage relationship for long time. These relationships were reinforced by numerous marriages: his son Charles married Blanca de Valois, sister of king of France Phillip VI, his daughter Guta (Bonne) got married to John II, Prince of Normandy, later the king of France, John himself to Beatrix de Bourbon. His great success was entering the Polish-Teutonic conflict, and especially paying homage by the Silesian Princes. Attempts to accomplish his further political ambitions were facilitated by the situation in Germany in connection with the said conflict of Ludwig Wittelsbach with papacy. In 1330, John crossed the Alps and got involved into the conflicts of Lombardy towns, willing to achieve his own area of supremacy in the Kingdom of Italy. The king of Bohemia referred in his plans to the Italian policy of his father, the emperor Henry VII. Despite the initial successes, after three years of endeavours, consecutive failures forced John due to lack of money to withdrawing from Italy. Soon, the issue of legacy after Henry, duke of Carinthia and Tyrol was put on agenda. He did not have the male heir. Luxembourg already in September 1330 made some preparations regarding overtaking his legacy by arranging the marriage of his few-year-old son John Henry with Margaret, Henry's daughter. A month later, the secret agreement between Habsburgs and Wittelsbachs guaranteed the former ones the overtaking in the future of Carinthia, Krajna and southern Tyrol, maintaining the rest of Tyrol for the emperor. Luxembourg managed to keep for Margaret and John Henry only this part after the death of Henry of Carinthia in April 1335. The war operations against Habsburgs did not bring the expected success in the summer of this year. John, who returned to Prague after three years of absence as usually, needed money very urgently.

Kazimierz the Great was in a much more difficult situation. The truce with the Teutonic Knights Order was extended, but the agreement for the arbitration court meant also acceptance of its sentence. The judgement was easy to foresee, as the choice of arbiters gave little hope for the advantageous decisions, the return to the situation preceding the war could be the best possible result. Some improvement in the situation was caused by the dispute over the inheritance of Henry of Carinthia; representatives of Kazimierz the Great undertook the negotiations with Margrave of Brandenburgia, Ludwig and the Emperor himself taking advantage of anti-Luxembourg alliance of Habsburgs with Wittelsbachs. In June, the agreement was entered that foresaw the alliance for three years, mutual help and the marriage of the underage son of the Emperor, another Ludwig, called younger (later Roman) with Elisabeth, the oldest (although a few years old) daughter of Kazimierz, the amount of the dowry was even indicated. At the same time, in the summer of 1335, the Polish delegation took to Avignon the complaint over the Teutonic Order with demand of return of the conquered recently lands, Gdansk Pomerania, and the obtained in 1226 Chełmno Land (Culmerland). They claimed considerable damages in compensation for the destructions and war plunders. Anxious Teutonic Order was preparing to refute the accusations. To attract the interest with supplication, the king offered to papal curia half of the damages adjudged to Poland in 1321. The Pope accepted the gift, but the procedures connected with calling of the delegated court to see to the complaint extended till 1339.

The agreements with anathematised Wittelsbachs were treated as instrument of the diplomatic game, and their ratification was being prolonged. Simultaneously the negotiations with Luxembourgs continued. Already at the end of May 1335, Charles the Margrave of Moravia came to Sandomierz. The truce was made and the commission was appointed to settle the cross-border disputes. The principal negotiations were undertaken in August under the patronage of Charles Robert in Trencin in the territory of the present Slovakia. King Kazimierz authorised his delegation to follow the counsels of the king of Hungary and to make financial liabilities up to 30,000 threescore Prague groschen. The agreed on conditions of the peace included the Luxembourg's renouncing of the Polish throne, with exception of the precisely enumerated Silesian dukes, who had paid homage to John Luxembourg and the subjugated Prince of Płock Mazovia. Kazimierz was to ratify the agreement by October. The Czech side resigned to use the title of the Polish king in that term. Kazimierz, stalling for time, did not issue an appropriate document, but the preparations for the meeting in Visegrad were under way. Meantime, the situation of Luxembourgs improved, who broke the isolation by entering the agreement with Habsburgs regarding the division of legacy after Henry of Carinthia, who had assigned Tyrol to King John's son. The situation of Wittelsbachs worsened, due to the failure of the next attempt to conciliate with the pope. The situation of Kazimierz was undermined by the attitude of Charles Robert, who had entered into an alliance with John Luxembourg. It included the mutual armed assistance in the event of each raid and the Hungarian support in the case of war with Habsburgs over Carinthia.

Deliberations of the arbitration court in Visegrad commenced in the beginning of November from the investigation into the plenipotentiary powers of the representatives of the Great Master, who brought along a ready project of the peace treatment. Next, the both sides presented their demands and evidence. The Teutonic Order was in a better situation as they had at their disposal the copies of the documents proving their rights to Pomerania and Chełmno Lands (Culmerland). The documents with the text of the judgement were issued on 26 November, but their contents had been orally announced a few days earlier. The endowment of the Dobrzyń Land to the Teutonic Order in 1329 by John Luxembourg was annulled. Together with Kujawy, it was to be returned to King Kazimierz's rule, who in this way regained the losses incurred by his father Władysław Łokietek during the last war with the Teutonic Order. Pomerania and the Chełmno Land (Culmerland) were to remain in the Order's rule as the perpetual alms of the Polish king. Application of such formula signified the acknowledgement of the rights of the Polish monarch, but simultaneously it had a possibility to undertake any vindication actions in the future. Both parties were supposed to give up the war damages and give amnesty to their subjects. Kazimierz pledged to enter the peace treaty on these conditions and to issue the appropriate documents. It has to be added, that after the meeting, the Polish King still continued to apply the tactics of prolonging the decision, declared that he accepted the sentence of the jury and extended the truce. However, by conducting further negotiations and deals, he tried to reach better conditions. In this way he managed to wait for the investigation in front of the delegated Papal Court in 1339. Its sentence fully confirmed the Polish demands, however due to formal oversights it was not approved by Pope. The situation was changed by the war that began in 1340 for the succession in the Halicz-Włodzimierz Duchy, which required on the Kazimierz's side engagement of all the powers. The final peace was achieved in Kalisz in 1343, without any need to refer to the arbitration court in Visegrád. At that time the treaty was sworn in and the entire package of guaranteeing documents exchanged - of the monarch, Piast princes, and representatives of the society: priests, clerks and towns. The Polish King renounced (donation magnifica) all his rights towards Gdansk Pomerania and Chełmno Lands (Culmerland )for the Teutonic Order's benefit.

The other subject of the Visegrad debates was the Polish-Czech negotiations. The agreement of Trencin was renegotiated. The entered peace treaty avoided silently the issue of dependence of the Silesian princedoms, which quietly confirmed their actual subjugation. When still before the end of the meeting the duke of Wrocław, Henry VI, died childless, his lands without objections on the Polish side were joined to the Czech Crown. The peace was reinforced by the marriage prospect of the said daughter of Kazimierz Elisabeth with John, Duke of Lower Bavaria, who was the John Luxembourg's grandson. It meant at the same time breaking the agreements with Wittelsbachs. The Czech side in return for 20,000 threescore Prague groschen resigned from the claims to the title of the Polish king. Arrangements were not too advantageous for the Polish ruler. Charles Robert played the role of the mediator and arbiter, and Kazimierz had no space to maneuver, so he accepted the conditions he was offered and after the meeting he saw John Luxembourg to Prague, where he stayed as the guest for a few days. Then afterwards he returned for a short time to Buda in Hungary.

The negotiations during the meeting in Visegrad allow us to follow the mechanisms of international politics at the time. It served mainly fulfilling of the dynastic interests. The course of events suggests that during the negotiations, the possibility of the Angevin succession in Poland took shape then. The initiative came from the Hungarian side. In 1338, Charles Robert together with his son Ludwig pledged to support Luxembourgs in exchange for their support in their endeavors to obtain the Polish throne in case of childless death of Kazimierz the Great. Further talks concerning these issues were undertaken during the next meeting in Visegrad the same year with participation of Charles Robert, Kazimierz and most probably Boleslaus George II, Prince of Halicz-Włodzimierz. The discussions concerned the possible succession of the Polish King in the Russian Princedom. As the result, Kazimierz issued the document in 1339 warranting the rule of Luxembourgs in Silesia with the precise enumeration of dukes accepting the Czech superiority.

From the long perspective, the meeting in Visegrad in 1335 should be assessed as the breakthrough in the Polish-Czech relationships. After thirty years, the conflict over the Polish throne was closed through the achieved compromise. During the Congress, for the price of accepting the existing set of powers, rules of international relationships and faits accomplis in the form of the loss of the historical lands, the political isolation of Poland was broken. Despite the lack of complete unity of interests the alliance with Angevins was cemented, whose calculations regarding the succession in Poland were becoming with time more clear in form. The alliance entered with Luxembourgs did not last long and went on only for a few years, as frequent and fluctuating diplomatic games in the service of the dynastic politics did not allow for its permanence. The meeting in Visegrad sanctioned the success of Luxembourgs, position of Angevins and participation of Poland as a partner. For the countries of Central-Eastern Europe, it meant acceptance of new, more peaceful principles of the diplomatic custom, limiting the armed conflicts. Later on similar multilateral meetings of monarchs became more frequent, which was earlier hard to imagine. It created some kind of the plane for shared feelings of certain mutuality of interests in the region, which influenced current diplomatic calculations. Generally speaking, the meeting was an evidence of decisive development of our region in the late medieval Europe.

Editorial note:

The above text has been properly edited. During the first editing process of the 'The Visegrad Group - A Central European Constellation' book, the text by Sławomir Gawlas had been unintentionally damaged and in such shape appeared in the print and .pdf version of the book. We apologize for any inconveniences.

Sławomir Gawlas
Polish historian. Professor at the faculty of history at the Institute of Comparative Sciences, University of Warsaw (since 1976).

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