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8: The Times of Wladyslaw Jagiello and Sigismund of Luxemburg, the Foundation of the Polish-Lithuanian Union and Queen Jadwiga

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It is now more and more generally admitted that in the course of European history the real Middle Ages ended toward the end of the fourteenth century and are separated from the modern period, in the proper sense, by two centuries of transition which correspond to the flowering of the Renaissance and of its political conceptions. This is, however, particularly evident in the history of East Central Europe, and here it was the creation and development of the federal system of the Jagellonians which set the pattern of these two hundred years.

    It was much more than a union of Poland and Lithuania under the dynasty founded by Jogaila—in Poland called Jagiello—a union which for two more centuries survived the extinction of that royal family in 1572. From the outset it included all Ruthenian lands  what now is called White Russia and the Ukraine and such a body politic extending from the Baltic to the Black Sea attracted smaller neighboring territories because of the possibilities of free, autonomous development guaranteed by its structure. On the Baltic shore the Union was gradually enlarged through the inclusion of the German colonial states in Prussia and Livonia either directly or in the form of fiefs. In the Black Sea region, the Danubian principalities, particularly Moldavia, and temporarily the Crimea also, were in the Union s sphere of influence. And at the height of the power of the Jagellonians, members of that dynasty were kings of Bohemia and of Hungary. The whole of East Central Europe, as far as it was free from the German, Ottoman, and Muscovite empires, was thus united in a political system which protected that freedom.

    Even more efficiently, that system promoted the progress and spread of Western culture in East Central Europe, not through German influence, now in decline, but through direct cooperation with the Latin world, which was at the same time a powerful stimulus for the development of individual, national cultures in the various parts of the whole region. As a whole, it was a bulwark of Catholicism, favoring a reunion of the Orthodox population with Rome but without enforcing it, and also being influenced by the conflicting religious trends of the Reformation. These trends, as well as those of the Renaissance, reached precisely as far as the eastern boundaries of the Jagellonian Union. Created by a dynasty, the federation was developed with the growing participation of representatives of the constituent nations and thus promoted a parliamentary form of government in between absolute powers.

    When Jogaila, grand duke of Lithuania, was accepted as husband of Queen Jadwiga by her Polish advisers and by her mother, the widow of Louis of Hungary, the whole project seemed to be just one more dynastic combination, as were so many other succession treaties of the same century. But when the young queen herself agreed to give up her Austrian fiancee, it was a sacrifice inspired by her desire thus to convert the last pagan nation in Europe. The conversion not only of Jogaila and his dynasty but also of the Lithuanian people was indeed the first condition which the grand duke had to accept when on August 14, 1385, he signed the Treaty of Krewo with the Polish delegates. Furthermore, he promised to regain the territorial losses of both states—a clear reference to the conquests of the Teutonic Order—and to unite these states by what was called terras suas Lithuaniae et Russiae Coronae Regni Poloniae perpetuo applicare.

    That brief but momentous formula is not easy to interpret. A comparison with similar contemporaneous texts indicates that it was decided that the various Lithuanian and Ruthenian duchies, which hitherto had recognized the grand duke’s suzerainty, would now be fiefs of the crown of Poland which Jogaila was to obtain through his marriage. As a matter of fact, immediately after the wedding, which was celebrated in Cracow on February 18, 1386, preceded by Jogaila’s baptism under the Christian name of Wladyslaw and followed by his coronation as king of Poland, the various members of his dynasty, ruling in the constituent parts of his realm, paid formal homage to the crown, the king, and the queen of Poland.

    In February, 1387, the king returned to Lithuania where the Catholic faith was now accepted without any difficulty. A bishopric was founded in Vilnius (now called Vilna in Latin and Wilno in Polish), and charters of liberties on the Polish model were granted to the Church and the knighthood of Lithuania. At the same time the queen conducted an expedition into the Halich province. With only one of the Hungarian governors trying to resist, the whole region with Lwow as its capital was restored to Poland without using force and at once received the usual privileges. And it was here that for the first time the homage of a prince of Moldavia was received, followed by a close alliance with Wallachia. While in the north, the last prince of Smolensk became another ally, and the Republic of Novgorod seemed ready to accept one of Jagiello’s brothers as ruling prince.

    These successes, which completely changed the map of Europe, were of course a challenge to Poland’s and Lithuania’s old opponents. Moscow tried to create trouble among the Lithuanian princes in her neighborhood, but the main opposition came from the Teutonic Order. Once more it was Vytautas—called Vitold in Latin and Polish sources—who was used as an appropriate instrument. He too had signed the Treaty of Krewo and paid the requested homage, but he was deeply disappointed when the king chose one of his brothers as his lieutenant in the most important part of Lithuania instead of this brilliant and ambitious cousin. Therefore Vytautas escaped for the second time to the Teutonic Knights in the winter of 1389—1390. Hoping also for the support of Moscow, whose grand prince, Vasil I, had married his daughter, he again tried to conquer Lithuania with German assistance. Pretending that the conversion of the country was not really accomplished, the Order continued to organize crusades, even with the participation of French and English knights. But Wilno was defended with Polish help, and after two years of inconclusive fighting, the king succeeded in recalling his cousin. Both were reconciled in the Ostrow Agreement of 1392, which not only restored his patrimony to Vytautas but also entrusted him with the administration of all Lithuanian and Ruthenian lands.

    He first united all these provinces under his control, removing the local princes, even those who were brothers of Jagiello, and replacing them with his own governors. Then he started a foreign policy, rich in initiative and versatility but not always in agreement with the general interests of the federation and going beyond the possibilities of Lithuania herself. Chiefly interested in her eastern expansion, he was prepared to appease the Teutonic Order not only at the expense of Poland, which the Knights of the Cross planned to partition through secret negotiations with the Luxemburgs and one of the Silesian princes, but also sacrificing the important Lithuanian province of Samogitia, as he had done before, and giving up promising possibilities of cooperation with the Livonian hierarchy. A separate peace which Vytautas concluded with the Order in 1398, not without hope of becoming an independent king of Lithuania, was to facilitate his interference with Tartar problems. Supporting the adversaries of Tamerlane, he expected to control all Eastern Europe.

    Queen Jadwiga, who throughout these critical years had contributed to the peaceful cooperation of all members of the dynasty, was alarmed by Vytautas’ ambition and predicted that his expedition against Tamerlane’s lieutenants would end in failure. Indeed, Vytautas suffered a complete defeat in the battle of the Vorskla, in August 1399, in spite of the support of many Polish knights. He then had to limit himself to the defense of the prewar frontier along the Dnieper River and the Black Sea coast which he had reached in earlier campaigns. A few weeks before, on the 17th of July, the Queen of Poland died, soon after her newborn daughter. The situation was now propitious for a fair solution of the controversial problems regarding the structure of the Polish-Lithuanian Union and the personal role of Vytautas, a solution which Jadwiga had carefully prepared.

    In a new agreement made with King Wladyslaw Jagiello at the end of 1400, Vytautas, realizing that Lithuania could not stand alone, accepted the idea that she would remain permanently under the Polish crown but as a restored unit of her various lands. Wherever feudal principalities still existed, they were now recognized as fiefs of the grand duchy, which as a whole would continue to be a fief of the kingdom of Poland, Vytautas acting as grand duke on behalf of the king. In practice such an arrangement guaranteed to Lithuania not only full autonomy but also a development in the direction of full equality. Equally important was the fact that early in 1401 the Union thus amended was confirmed in charters issued by the representatives of both nations, promising each other full support against all enemies. It was no longer a dynastic affair but a real federation.

    Such a development was possible because the Lithuanians were making rapid progress not only in the participation in their country’s government but also in the cultural field, benefitting in both respects from their close association with Poland. Here, again, Queen Jadwiga had made a decisive contribution which fully matured only after her death. She was not only encouraging the Christianization of Lithuania and projects of religious union with the Orthodox Ruthenians, but she also wanted to reorganize the University of Cracow, which had declined after the death of its founder, Casimir the Great, and to make it a center of Western cultural influence and missionary activities in the eastern part of the federation. After first founding a college for Lithuanians at the University of Prague, she obtained from Pope Boniface IX, with whom she frequently cooperated, permission to add a school of theology to the University of Cracow. It was as a full studium generale, on the model of the Sorbonne, that this university was reopened in 1400, richly endowed by the will of the queen and soon attracting many Lithuanians, one of whom was its second rector.

    Queen Jadwiga was considered a saint by her contemporaries, and even from a secular point of view her achievements and her lasting significance in history can hardly be overrated. Devoted to the idea of peace, she tried to postpone the unavoidable conflict with the Teutonic Order and to arrive at some understanding with the Luxemburg dynasty, not only with Václav of Bohemia, the king of the Romans, but also with Sigismund, from whom she did not reclaim her Hungarian heritage after the death of her sister Mary, his wife. But when she herself died without leaving children, it seemed doubtful whether Jagiello would have any hereditary rights in Poland. He was, indeed, re-elected, but when he later had children by other marriages, the problem of their succession was an additional difficulty in the settlement of the constitutional issues of the federation.


Fortunately for both Poland and Lithuania, in the following years and for more than a quarter of a century there was loyal cooperation between King Wladyslaw II and his cousin, a return—at last—to the friendship which had united their fathers. They both developed Jadwiga’s heritage and led the united countries to unprecedented successes. Their cooperation was based upon the Covenant of 1401, which in addition to the settlement of the internal problems of the federation also provided for a common defense against the Teutonic Order. That problem, including the recovery of the territories which had been lost to the Order by Poland and Lithuania, remained the main objective of their foreign policy.

    Still unprepared for a decisive struggle, both countries had to conclude a peace treaty with the Knights of the Cross in 1404. This was a first recognition of the Polish-Lithuanian Union by the Order, but otherwise it proved rather unsatisfactory. Only a small frontier district was restored to the Poles, who had to redeem it through a payment approved by a formal vote of the regional dietines—a first appearance of those assemblies that were to be basic for the development of the Polish Parliament. Samogitia, however, seemed to be definitely abandoned by Lithuania, and Vytautas turned once more to problems of eastern expansion. He secured the possession of Smolensk and with Polish assistance conducted three campaigns against his son-in-law, Vasil of Moscow, with the result that in 1408 the Ugra River was fixed as the frontier between the two powers.

    But the people of Samogitia suffered so much under German rule, which tried in vain to enforce their conversion, that in 1409 they started an insurrection which Vytautas could not but support, at least unofficially. When, consequently, the Teutonic Order threatened to attack Lithuania proper once more, the Poles declared their full solidarity so that the knights preferred to invade the richer Polish territories, not without initial success. Both sides now prepared for what was to be the “great war” of the following year. Carefully planned strategically by the king and the grand duke, the campaign of 1410 was also preceded by what might be called a flow of propaganda throughout all Western Christendom, as far as France and England. In reply to the Order’s charges that Lithuania was not really converted, the Poles tried to explain that the basic issue was the defense of that new Catholic nation against German aggression.

    Anticipating another invasion, a strong Polish-Lithuanian army entered Prussia and on July 15th met almost equally strong and better equipped German forces between Tannenberg and Grunwald. Under the supreme command of Jagiello, and in spite of a withdrawal of the Lithuanian wing at the beginning of the battle, it ended in a complete defeat of the Order, whose grand master, Ulrich of Jungingen, was killed in action with most of his knights. The Order never recovered from that unexpected blow, and its whole territory seemed open to its former victims.

    That great victory, one of the greatest in Polish history, was, however, poorly utilized. Marienburg, the capital of the Teutonic Knights, was well defended by Heinrich von Plauen, and when the siege dragged on, while German reinforcements were approaching from Livonia, Vytautas returned to Lithuania. In spite of another Polish victory, peace had to be concluded at Torun (Thorn) in 1411 on very disappointing conditions. Poland’s gains were insignificant, and Samogitia was restored to Lithuania only for the lifetime of Jagiello and his cousin. That ambiguous situation, as well as endless controversies regarding the indemnities which the Order promised to pay in successive instalments, made the peace very precarious from the outset. Yet the prestige of the Polish-Lithuanian federation was greatly increased, both in the West, where it was at last realized that a new great power had appeared in the state system of Catholic Europe, and in the East, where both rulers reviewed their border regions, making favorable agreements with Russian and Tartar neighbors and solidly establishing their domination as far as the Black Sea.

    Another result of Grunwald was a strengthening of the Union, evidenced in a new series of charters which were issued at Horodlo in 1413. At this Polish-Lithuanian convention, which was to be followed by similar meetings whenever necessary, the permanence of Lithuania’s ties with the crown of Poland was once more confirmed, but at the same time her autonomy under a separate grand duke, even after the death of Vytautas, was formally guaranteed. The liberties granted to the Catholic boyars of Lithuania were extended on the pattern of the Polish constitution, and forty-seven of their leading families were adopted by so many Polish clans and permitted to use the same coats of arms in the future. That unusual gesture of symbolic fraternity was in full agreement with the principles expressed in the introductory statement of the Polish charter, which emphasized that government and politics ought to be based upon the misterium caritatis.

    Another application of these principles was the joint action of all parts of the federation at the Council of Constance which opened one year later. It was decided to submit the whole controversy with the Teutonic Order to that international assembly through a well-chosen delegation which also participated in the main religious discussions of the council. The Polish delegates were led by the Archbishop of Gniezno, henceforth Primate of Poland. The prominent theologian Paulus Vladimiri, rector of the University of Cracow, which closely cooperated with that of Paris, played a particularly significant part. In his treatises on papal and imperial power he developed before the council almost revolutionary ideas on national self-determination and religious tolerance, also recalling the traditional doctrine of the church in matters of war and peace. In the application of those principles he defended the rights of the Lithuanians against German imperialism, but he was immediately answered by a German Dominican, John Falkenberg, who on the instructions of the Teutonic Order branded the King of Poland as a pagan tyrant whom true Christians had the right and even the duty to put to death.

    In connection with the problem of tyrannicidium, also raised in the dispute between France and Burgundy, that debate attracted the attention of the whole council but of course could not contribute to any solution of the Polish-Prussian conflict. The Poles did not even succeed in having Falkenberg’s doctrine condemned as heretical, but they created a great impression when a special delegation from Samogitia confirmed both the charges against the Teutonic Order and the fact that Jagiello and Vytautas were peacefully Christianizing that last pagan stronghold which German pressure had failed to convert. Scarcely less impressive was the appearance at Constance of the Metropolitan of Kiev, a Bulgarian recently elected under the influence of Vytautas, who in his address before Pope Martin V declared that he was ready for religious union with Rome. It seemed that soon after the end of the Western schism—the council’s greatest success—the old Eastern schism could also be healed, thanks to the initiative of the Polish-Lithuanian federation which included so many Orthodox Ruthenians, who were also represented at Constance by numerous delegates.

    After establishing diplomatic relations with France and England and making an alliance with Eric of Denmark, the ruler of all Scandinavian countries federated in the Union of Kalmar, the King of Poland and his cousin were in a better position to resume the struggle against the Teutonic Knights, which neither imperial nor papal arbitration could appease. After two abortive campaigns, the war of 1422 was ended by the Melno Treaty which slightly improved the Polish frontier and definitely attributed Samogitia to Lithuania. At the same time Jagiello and Vytautas, at the request of the moderate wing of the Hussites who wanted one of them to accept the royal crown of Bohemia, were interfering with the internal troubles of that Slavic neighbor country which was included in the German Empire. They had to proceed very carefully, however, in order to avoid any appearance of supporting heretical revolutionaries whose reconciliation with the Catholic church proved impossible. There was, indeed, among the Poles a certain sympathy with the Hussite movement, but it was opposed by the majority which in 1424 concluded a confederation in defense of Catholicism and found a prominent leader in the Bishop of Cracow, Zbigniew Olesnicki, whose influence was growing in the later part of Jagiello’s reign.

    The aging king had just contracted a fourth marriage with a Lithuanian princess who at last gave him the long-expected sons. They had, however, no hereditary rights to the Polish crown, which became elective, although in practice everybody wanted Jagiello’s highly successful rule to be continued by his descendants. But the nobility made the formal recognition of the succession of one of the young princes, dependent on a confirmation and extension of the rights and privileges which the king had granted in a series of constitutional charters. These rights included, among others, the neminem captivabimus, i.e., the promise that nobody would be put in prison without trial.

    Final agreement between the king and the nation was not reached before 1430, and then in the midst of a conflict with Vytautas. After thirty years of cooperation, this disagreement now threatened the very foundations of the whole political system. In the preceding years the ambitious Grand Duke of Lithuania, frequently participating in the solution of Polish problems also, had profited from the union of both countries in order to extend his influence in all Eastern Europe. Under his efficient rule, even the danger of Tartar invasions had been reduced, a friendly Khan had been established in the Crimea, and the control of the coast of the Black Sea had been made complete. Furthermore, when Vasil I of Moscow died in 1425, his minor son, Vasil II, was placed under the tutorship of his maternal grandfather, Vytautas, who thus included even Muscovite Russia in his sphere of influence. Occasional expeditions against Pskov and Novgorod created a similar situation with regard to these two republics, each of which tried to maintain an independent position between Lithuania, Moscow, and the German Knights of Livonia.

    The power of Vytautas reached its climax when in 1429, in his city of Lutsk in Volhynia, he acted as host to a congress in which not only the King of Poland but also Sigismund of Luxemburg, king of the Romans, of Hungary, and Bohemia, participated, along with representatives of many other countries of Western and Eastern Europe. Similar to an earlier meeting held in Cracow in 1424, this congress was supposed to review the whole political situation of East Central Europe, and the presence of a papal legate also permitted inclusion of the religious problems. But it was precisely one of these problems, the Hussite revolution in Bohemia, which Sigismund did not want to have touched by the Polish-Lithuanian federation, now the leading power in the whole region and his and Germany’s most dangerous rival. He therefore raised an unexpected question which was to disrupt that federation. He suggested that Vytautas be made an independent king of Lithuania.

    The grand duke realized the danger of that diplomatic move better than Jagiello, who at first favored it for dynastic reasons. But offended by the protest of the Poles, Vytautas was inclined to accept the royal crown offered by Sigismund, who himself was not yet crowned as Holy Roman Emperor. A compromise solution which would have made Vytautas a king under the auspices not of Sigismund but of the pope was being considered when Lithuania’s greatest leader died in 1430, leaving open the controversial problems of Polish-Lithuanian relations which were involved in the whole issue.


Sigismund’s action during and after the Congress of Lutsk was nothing but the climax of his eastern policy, which from the beginning opposed to the Polish-Lithuanian Union the old idea of the control of all East Central Europe by a German dynasty ruling the empire.

    Between the two sons of Emperor Charles IV, who one after the other succeeded him as kings of the Romans and of Bohemia, Venceslas (Václav) and Sigismund represented two different policies. The elder, who had received a Czech name, rather identified himself with his Bohemian kingdom which he governed from 1378 until his death in 1419. Even here his achievements can hardly be compared with those of his father, and in Germany he was a complete failure. He never obtained the imperial crown, was deposed by the electors in 1400, and after a schism in the empire parallel to that in the church, was replaced in 1410 by his younger brother.

    Sigismund had first been made margrave of Brandenburg by his father, and he had been engaged to Mary, one of the daughters of Louis of Hungary. They were supposed to rule Poland after Louis’ death, and although Mary was elected Queen of Hungary in 1382, her German fiancee did not give up hope of also becoming King of Poland. Disappointed in this respect, he never forgave his happier rival Jagiello, and this was one of the reasons why, in contradistinction to Venceslas who temporarily was even allied with Poland, Sigismund, in spite of repeated rapprochements, actually remained hostile to that country as long as he lived.

    In Hungary, too, Sigismund was from the outset opposed as a German. Only after several years of civil war, in which the Anjou candidate, Charles of Naples, as well as Mary’s mother were murdered, was the margrave of Brandenburg recognized as king in 1387. During the fifty years of his reign in Hungary, Sigismund was seriously interested in the defense of that country against the Turkish onslaught. The crusade which he organized in 1396, in cooperation with Burgundy and with the support of knights from Germany and other lands, ended in the defeat at Nicopolis and failed to check the Turkish advance in the Balkans. Nevertheless the crusading idea remained part of Sigismund’s imperial ambitions, although even later, when he really was at the head of the empire, his attempts in that direction were handicapped by his persistent hostility against Venice, whose participation would have been indispensable, and by so many other problems which absorbed Sigismund’s versatility.

    One of them was the rivalry with Poland, which was conducted in close contact with the Teutonic Order. After years of intrigues, which even as early as 1392 included a first plan for partitioning Poland, the King of Hungary declared war upon her in the critical moments of 1410, and after Grunwald he wanted to act as mediator between Jagiello, Vytautas, and the Knights of the Cross. A congress held in Buda in 1412 was a first not unsuccessful step in that direction, but at the Council of Constance, where the new king of the Romans hoped to be the arbiter of all Christendom, the Polish opposition to the idea of imperial supremacy shocked him deeply and influenced his position in all Eastern affairs during the following years.

    At the same council his role in the tragic fate of John Hus, the Czech reformer to whom he had given a safe conduct and who was nevertheless burned at the stake, had an even greater bearing on the whole further development of Sigismund’s policy. In the preceding years it was mainly his brother Venceslas who had to deal with the reform movement in Bohemia, which had been prepared by lively discussion in the second part of the fourteenth century, encouraged and radicalized by the impact of Wycliffe’s doctrines, and combined with Czech resentment against the ever-growing German influence in their country. Under the leadership of John Hus, an inspiring preacher, the movement made steady progress in the first years of the fifteenth century, and the wavering attitude of both King Venceslas and the ecclesiastical authorities made the situation even more confused.

    The trial of the religious reformer, whom the Czechs also regarded as a national leader, followed the next year, 1416, by the similar fate of one of his disciples, also condemned to death at Constance, raised a storm of indignation in Bohemia. When Venceslas, who tried in vain to appease it, suddenly died in 1419 and was succeeded, as formerly in Germany, by his brother Sigismund, the Hussites refused to recognize as king the man whom they held responsible for the martyrdom of their master. Moreover, all anti-German elements in Bohemia joined the opposition movement, seeing in Sigismund a symbol of German predominance and of Bohemia’s ties with the empire. And finally the radical wing of the Hussites put forward a bold program of social reforms.

    In the purely religious field, too, the Hussites were divided. The moderates would have been satisfied with concessions which did not touch upon dogmatic problems, particularly the privilege of holy communion under both species for the laity—hence their designation as Utraquists or Calixtins. Others went further than Hus himself, and even further than Wycliffe, in their attacks against the Catholic church and its basic teachings and in their utopian request for the official punishment of all sins. That division, doctrinal and social, had its repercussions on Czech policy. A tremendous majority was in agreement as to the desire to get rid of Sigismund of Luxemburg. But while the moderates and those chiefly directed by motives of nationalism wanted to replace him by a member of the Polish-Lithuanian dynasty, the extremists only created trouble for the viceroy whom Vytautas sent to Prague, and started a revolution which was at once religious, national, and social.

    Sigismund was particularly afraid of a solution which would connect Bohemia with the Polish-Lithuanian federation to the detriment of his dynasty and possibly also of the empire. Furthermore, for reasons of prestige, he wished to crush the rebellion of his subjects himself. But the radical Hussites, called Taborites, since a mountain named Tabor was their strategic center, found a remarkable military leader in the person of John Zizka. Even after he was killed in action in 1424, his followers, who called themselves “orphans,” continued their desperate fight against the king and his Catholic, German, and aristocratic supporters under other chiefs. Of these, Prokop the Bald became particularly famous.

    The Hussite wars, ceasing to be an internal revolution in Bohemia, upset the situation in all Central Europe because, on the one hand, the Czechs were making raids far into the neighboring countries, and on the other hand, Sigismund organized a series of “crusades” which, instead of being directed against the Turks, were supposed to destroy the Hussite movement. In spite of the participation of many other German princes, these crusades, one after the other, ended in humiliating defeats and the Taborites became a real military power.

    Even Catholic Poland made use of them as auxiliary forces in her struggle against “the whole German nation,” which was one of the consequences of Sigismund’s shrewd initiative at Lutsk. For after the death of Vytautas, the Polish-Lithuanian conflict continued under his successor Svitrigaila (Swidrygiello), a brother of Jagiello who was made grand duke without the constitutional agreement of the Poles. He not only resumed his predecessor’s relations with Sigismund, but also, contrary to Lithuania’s real interest, made an alliance with the Teutonic Order which, breaking the peace, invaded Poland. The Poles and their Lithuanian partisans opposed another grand duke to Svitrigaila, a brother of Vytautas, called Sigismund, like the Luxemburg, and in addition to the civil war in Bohemia there was now a civil war in Lithuania also, and German powers were interfering with both of them.

    Along with all the other problems which threatened the peace of Europe, both issues were brought before the new ecumenical council which was inaugurated at Basle in 1431. The position of the council was, however, even more difficult than that of the Council of Constance because almost from the outset there was a conflict between the council and Pope Eugene IV in matters of ecclesiastical organization and reform. Therefore all those who wanted the support of the church for their political objectives, including Sigismund of Luxemburg who at last, in 1433, obtained the imperial crown from the Pope, were in turn applying to Basle and to the Roman Curia and playing off the council and the Pope against each other. It was only during the short periods of agreement with Eugene IV that the Council of Basle could make constructive contributions to the solution of the problems of the day, including those of East Central Europe.

    The most important of these contributions was a negotiated peace with the moderate wing of the Hussites. Cardinal Cesarini, who had himself earlier conducted one of the futile crusades against them, now, as president of the Council of Basle, showed the same spirit of moderation which later made him abandon the radical opposition party at the council and remain loyal to the Holy See. After years of discussion with a Czech delegation which came to Basle, and through representatives of the council sent to Bohemia, the so-called Compactata were concluded at Basle in 1433 and approved at Prague the next year. They were based upon the four “articles” prepared at Prague as a minimum program of the Czech reform movement. These requests, including indeed the privilege of the chalice for all receiving communion, did not affect the Catholic doctrine and therefore could be approved by the church. They did not completely satisfy either side and in the future they were subject to controversial interpretations. In Bohemia the compromise was accepted only after the crushing defeat of the radical Hussites by the moderates in the battle of Lipany in 1434. But eventually peace was restored, Bohemia was officially reconciled with the church, and even Sigismund of Luxemburg was recognized as king.

    There remained, of course, an internal tension on religious as well as on national grounds, and the Hussite tradition was to affect the whole further development of the Czech people. But without much personal contribution Sigismund at last achieved his aim of uniting the crowns of the Roman Empire, of Bohemia, and Hungary, although Hungary remained outside the empire as in the past. In any case, a large section of East Central Europe, together with West Central Europe, now seemed to be under German leadership, and when the Luxemburg Emperor died in 1437 without leaving a son, he decided to bequeath his three crowns to his son-in-law, Albrecht of Austria, who had married Sigismund’s daughter Elizabeth. The political system created by the last Luxemburg would thus also include the Austrian lands of the Habsburgs, and under another German dynasty the whole Danubian region would be united and more or less intimately connected with the empire.

    Albrecht was indeed elected in Germany, starting the practically uninterrupted line of Habsburg rulers of the empire. He also obtained the Hungarian succession without difficulty, and only in Bohemia did he have to face a strong opposition which again put forward a member of the Jagellonian dynasty as a national anti-German candidate. This was possible because in the meantime the renewed war between Poland and the Teutonic Order, as well as the civil war in Lithuania, both at least indirectly provoked by the Luxemburg s eastern policy, had ended in 1435 in a victory of the Jagellonian political conception. The Peace of Brzesc forced the Knights of the Cross to give up their anti-Polish policy, though they again lost only a very little of their territory. A few months earlier, in the battle on the Swieta River, Svitrigaila and his German allies from Livonia were decisively defeated by his rival who had confirmed the union with Poland and received Polish support.

    All that happened, however, after the death of the old King, Wladyslaw II Jagiello in 1434. His son, Wladyslaw III, the new King of Poland, was a minor, and the predominating influence of Bishop Zbigniew Olesnicki was challenged by a strong opposition party, while in the Lithuanian grand duchy Svitrigaila was still supported in most of the Ruthenian provinces. Under such conditions it proved impossible to promote the candidature of the new king s younger brother Casimir to the throne of Bohemia—a project which Olesnicki never favored, fearing Hussite influence —and on the contrary, Albrecht of Habsburg was able to resume his father-in-law’s idea of playing off Lithuania against Poland.

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