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Duchy of Kraków
Ksi?stwo krakowskie (pl)
Duchy of Kraków (pink) upon the coronation of
King Przemys? II in 1295
|Status||Province of Poland|
|Historical era||High Middle Ages|
o Senior W?adys?aw II
o Split off Kuyavia
o Lost Pomerelia
Seniorate Province, also known as the Senioral Province (Polish: Dzielnica senioralna), Duchy of Kraków (Ksi?stwo krakowskie), Duchy of Cracow, Principality of Cracow, Principality of Kraków, was the superior among the five provinces established in 1138 according to the Testament of Boles?aw III Wrymouth. It existed during the period of fragmentation of Poland until 1320, centered at Kraków in Lesser Poland. The Seniorate Province was supposed to be ruled by the rotating head of the royal Piast dynasty, a principality that he held as overlord (Senior Prince or High duke, princeps) of the other Polish dukes.
The senioral principle established in the testament stated that at all times the eldest member of the dynasty was to have supreme power over the rest (Dux, the Dukes) and was also to control an indivisible "Seniorate Province". In 1138 Boles?aw's III eldest son W?adys?aw II, took up the rule over a vast strip of land running north-south down the middle of Poland, composed of:
The High Duke resided at Kraków, Poland's capital since 1038. The Senior's prerogatives also included control over the Duchy of Silesia and his Pomerelian vassals at Gda?sk in eastern Pomerania. The Senior was tasked with defense of borders, the right to have troops in provinces of other Dukes, carrying out the foreign policy, supervision over the clergy (including the right to nominate bishops and archbishops), and minting the currency.
The High duke generally had his own principality (province, dukedom), which he had inherited within his own branch of the Piast dynasty, and left to his personal heirs within his own branch, whereas Kraków followed the seniorate (fell to the oldest of them). Kraków was a substantial addition to the resources of the incumbent, whoever it was, and was intended to put him higher in might than his vassal dukes.
However the seniorate soon collapsed, with the first Senior - W?adys?aw II the Exile - failing his bid to take over other provinces and in 1146 was expelled by his younger half-brothers, an incident which led to long-time Polish particularism.
The duchy neighboured originally each of the four partition duchies of Masovia at P?ock, Sandomierz, Silesia at Wroc?aw and Greater Poland at Pozna?. Even after many of those were further partitioned, it bordered on several principalities, and was at least close to all.
Upon the exile of High Duke W?adys?aw II the rule was assumed by W?adys?aw's II eldest brother Boles?aw IV the Curly, Duke of Masovia, who died without issue in 1173. He was followed in the Seniorate by the second eldest Mieszko III the Old, while Masovia and the Kuyavian lands passed to Boles?aw's IV minor son Leszek.
The senioral principle finally turned out to be a failure as Mieszko's III rule at Kraków was not only challenged by the sons of expelled W?adys?aw II, but also by the youngest son Casimir II the Just, who had not received any share by his late father's testament. Though upon the death of Boles?aw IV the Curly he had received the Duchy of Sandomierz, in 1177 he took the occasion of an uprising by Lesser Polish nobles (magnates) and assumed the rule as High Duke from his elder brother Mieszko III. A long-term struggle between the brothers followed, whereby Mieszko III was able to incorporate the northwestern lands of Gniezno and Kalisz into his Duchy of Greater Poland.
The Seniorate remained contested after Kraków was inherited by Casimir's II son Leszek I the White in 1194, still by his uncle Mieszko III (d. 1202), then by his younger brother Konrad of Masovia, by his cousin, Mieszko's III son W?adys?aw III Spindleshanks and also by the second son of W?adys?aw II the Exile, Duke Mieszko IV Tanglefoot of Upper Silesia. In the long-term struggle Leszek I was killed in 1227 and the Pomerelian lands got lost, when Duke Swietopelk II of Gda?sk declared himself independent. In 1232 the Silesian duke Henry I the Bearded finally prevailed, re-uniting the thrones of Wroc?aw and Kraków under his rule as determined by the will of late Duke Boles?aw III Krzywousty in 1138. However, a re-establishment of the Polish kingdom under the rule of the Silesian Piasts failed, when Duke Henry's I son Henry II the Pious was killed during the Mongol invasion at the 1241 Battle of Legnica. After an interregnum he was succeeded by Leszek's I son Boles?aw V the Chaste, who upon his death in 1279 appointed Konrad's grandson Leszek II the Black of Kuyavia.
The Silesian Piasts once again reached for the Senioral Province, when Leszek II died without heirs in 1288, and Duke Henry IV Probus of Wroc?aw became High Duke at Kraków but likewise had no issue upon his death in 1290. The Seniorate was again contested between the dukes Przemys? II of Greater Poland and W?adys?aw I the Elbow-high of Kuyavia. Przemys? II brought the royal P?emyslid dynasty of Bohemia into the Polish affairs, when he allied with King Wenceslaus II, whom he ceded the throne at Kraków. In 1295 however, he switched sides and had himself crowned as King of Poland (the first since the deposition of Boles?aw II the Bold in 1079) at Greater Polish Gniezno. As he was killed the next year, W?adys?aw I proclaimed himself his successor, he nevertheless had to deal with the permanent pressure by the claimants of the Bohemian P?emyslid and Luxembourg dynasties, who had begun to vassalize the southwestern Silesian duchies.
In 1320 W?adys?aw I, against the fierce resistance of King John of Bohemia, reached the consent by Pope John XXII to have himself crowned Polish king at Kraków. The Duchy of Kraków was finally incorporated into the Lands of the Polish Crown as Kraków Voivodeship. W?adys?aw's I successor King Casimir III the Great had to buy off the Bohemian claims by renouncing Silesia in the 1335 Treaty of Trentschin.
In this list, titular claims are not noted, not as full rule; only true and real ducal power over Kraków is noted.
In 1138 Boles?aw III Krzywousty, Duke of all Poland at Kraków, divided his realm into five duchies, with the Seniorate Province allocated to: