|Mieszko III the Old|
|High Duke of Poland|
|Duke of Greater Poland|
|Died||13 March 1202 (aged 75)|
Cathedral of Saint Paul the Apostle, Kalisz
|Spouse||Elisabeth of Hungary|
Eudoxia of Kiev
|Odon of Pozna?|
Stephen of Greater Poland
Boles?aw of Kuyavia
Mieszko the Younger
W?adys?aw III Spindleshanks
|Father||Boles?aw III Wrymouth|
|Mother||Salomea of Berg|
According to the 1138 Testament of Boles?aw III, Mieszko received the newly established Duchy of Greater Poland, comprising the western part of the short-lived Greater Poland. He had previously been duke of Pozna? where he had his main residence. His older half-brother, W?adys?aw II, the eldest son of the late duke with his first wife Zbyslava of Kiev, was proclaimed high duke and overlord of the Seniorate Province at Kraków, including the Greater Polish lands of Gniezno and Kalisz, as well as duke of Silesia.
The first major conflict with the high duke took place during 1140-1141, when his younger half-brothers Boles?aw IV the Curly and Mieszko III together with their mother but without W?adys?aw's knowledge divided between them the lands of czyca, which were held only as a wittum by Boles?aw's widow Salomea for life and should revert to W?adys?aw's Seniorate Province upon her death.
In 1141 Salomea of Berg organized a meeting at czyca, where she and her sons decided to marry their younger sister Agnes with one of the sons of Grand Prince Vsevolod II of Kiev in order to gain an ally against High Duke W?adys?aw II. Only by W?adys?aw's rapid intervention did the independent plans of the junior dukes fail. Grand Prince Vsevolod II, facing the choice between an alliance with the strong high duke or the weak junior dukes and their mother, chose the former, which was sealed with the betrothal of W?adys?aw's eldest son, Boles?aw I the Tall, to Vsevolod's daughter, Zvenislava in 1142. W?adys?aw II had not been invited to the czyca meeting, despite the fact that as the high duke, he had the final voice on Agnes' engagement. In retaliation for this omission, he supported Kievan military actions against Salomea and her sons in the winter of 1142-1143. The first clash between the brothers was a complete success for the high duke.
On 27 July 1144, the Dowager Duchess Salomea died and High Duke W?adys?aw II incorporated the czyca Land into the Seniorate Province as intended by his father's testament. This was again opposed by Boles?aw IV and Mieszko III, who wished to give this land to their minor brother, Henry. Fighting took place in 1145. After an unexpected defeat, the high duke was finally able to obtain the victory (Battle of Pilicy), thanks to his Kievan allies.
An agreement was made under which W?adys?aw retained czyca. However, the high duke continued with his intention of reuniting all of Poland under his rule. This provoked the strong opposition from his Silesian voivode Piotr W?ostowic, who support the interests of the junior dukes in order to maintain his own power and position. W?adys?aw, instigated by his wife Agnes of Babenberg, decided to eliminate W?ostowic for good. The voivode was captured in an ambush. Agnes demanded W?ostowic's death for treason, but the high duke instead chose a terrible punishment: W?ostowic was blinded, muted, and expelled from the country. However, the voivode had numerous supporters, who were disgusted by this cruel act. W?ostowic fled to the Kievan court, where he began to intrigue against the high duke, thus beginning W?adys?aw's downfall.
The war erupted again in early 1146. This time, W?adys?aw could not count on his Kievan allies, because they were busy with their own issues; in fact the high duke had sent some of his forces, led by his eldest son Boles?aw, to support Great Prince Vsevolod. W?adys?aw's plight had made him swear allegiance to King Conrad III of Germany, half-brother of his wife Agnes. Nevertheless, W?adys?aw was confident of his victory and it initially seemed that success was on his side, as Boles?aw IV and Mieszko III, fearing clashes in an open field, escaped to Pozna?. At this time the disaster to the high duke began.
W?adys?aw's cause lost support when he was excommunicated by Archbishop Jacob of Gniezno for his behavior against Piotr W?ostowic. He also faced rebellion by his own subjects, who were against his tyrannical rule. The defeat of W?adys?aw was total; by May 1146 all Poland was in the hands of the junior dukes. The former high duke and his family were forced to escape to save their lives, first to Bohemia and later to the Kaiserpfalz of Altenburg in Germany, under the protection of King Conrad III.
Once they had consolidated their rule over Poland, Boles?aw IV and Mieszko III made new decisions. Boles?aw, as the elder brother, succeeded W?adys?aw as high duke and ruler over Silesia. Mieszko, on the other hand, retained his Duchy of Greater Poland and was satisfied with his role his brother's ally. Henry, the next-born, finally received his Duchy of Sandomierz. Only the youngest brother, Casimir II, remained without lands.
Urged by his brother-in-law W?adys?aw, King Conrad III of Germany attempted to restore the former high duke to the Polish throne. Eventually an agreement was reached under which King Conrad accepted the rule of Boles?aw IV, and in return the new high duke had to pay a tribute to the German king. The dispute between W?adys?aw and the junior dukes remained unresolved as King Conrad III was busy with the preparations for the Second Crusade to the Holy Land.
Meanwhile, the junior dukes had no intention to just wait passively for an arrangement to consolidate their power. In May 1147 they received from Pope Eugene III the confirmation of a foundation for a monastery in Trzemeszno, which was a clear recognition of their sovereignty. In addition, they also sought to improve their relations with the German rulers.
In 1147, simultaneously with the arrival of King Conrad III to the Holy Land, Duke Mieszko III joined the Wendish Crusade against the pagan Polabian Slavs in the former Northern March, which was organized by the Ascanian count Albert the Bear and the Wettin margrave Conrad of Meissen. However, during this trip Mieszko III politically and militarily supported some Slavic tribes in an effort to protect Polish interests in the Sprevane lands against claims raised by the ambitious Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony. This assistance to pagans infuriated Albert the Bear, who arrived in Kruszwica in early 1148 to improve their alliance. Finally, they made an agreement, which was confirmed by the marriage of the junior dukes' sister Judith with Albert's eldest son Otto.
To settle the dispute with W?adys?aw II regarding the Polish throne, Boles?aw IV, through the agency of Albert the Bear and Margrave Conrad, agreed to appear at the Imperial Diet in Merseburg in 1152 and pay homage to the newly elected king of Germany, King Conrad's nephew Frederick Barbarossa. However, the high duke broke his promise and remained absent. Meanwhile, Frederick had to secure his rule in the Kingdom of Italy and his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor, wherefore he forged an alliance with Margrave Henry II of Austria, a scion of the House of Babenberg and brother of W?adys?aw's wife Agnes. This coalition brought the Polish affair back on the table.
The Polish campaign of Emperor Frederick began in 1157. For unknown reasons, Boles?aw IV and Mieszko III did not try to defend the traditional frontier on the Oder River, but instead burned the castles of G?ogów and Bytom and began their retreat into the depths of Greater Poland, where Boles?aw's forces finally surrendered to the Imperial troops at Krzyszkowo, near Pozna?. After his defeat, the high duke had to ask for forgiveness from the Emperor and the junior dukes had to pay him a large tribute. On Christmas Day in Magdeburg, they promised to send food to the Emperor's Italian expedition and to return the Silesia Province (at least). As a guarantee of the fulfillment, the junior dukes' younger brother, Casimir II, was sent to Germany as a hostage.
Frederick Barbarossa regarded the conflict as resolved and marched against Milan the next year. However, while the Emperor was engaged in the Italian affairs, Boles?aw IV did nothing to fulfill the agreement. On 30 May 1159, W?adys?aw II died in exile without having ever seen Poland again. Only renewed Imperial pressure enabled W?adys?aw's sons Boles?aw the Tall and Mieszko IV Tanglefoot to come into their inheritance four years later, when the junior dukes finally returned Silesia to their nephews in 1163. The province thereby became the ancestral homeland of the Silesian Piasts.
In 1166 Mieszko III and his brothers started another Prussian crusade, whereby Duke Henry of Sandomierz was killed in battle in October of that year. Before his departure, and in case of his death, he had left his duchy to his youngest brother Casimir II the Just, who by their father's testament had remained without lands. However, High Duke Boles?aw IV, against his late brother's will, occupied Sandomierz and annexed it to his Seniorate Province.
This decision sparked the rebellion of Casimir II, which was supported by his brother Mieszko III; the magnate Jaksa of Miechów; Sviatoslav, son of Piotr W?ostowic; Archbishop Jan I of Gniezno; and Bishop Gedko of Kraków. In February 1168 the rebels gathered at J?drzejów, were Mieszko III was elected high duke and vested Casimir II with Sandomierz. The final defeat of Boles?aw IV did not occur, however, because the high duke accepted the demands of the rebels and divided Henry's duchy into three parts: Wi?lica was given to Casimir, Boles?aw took Sandomierz proper, and the rest was left to Mieszko.
In 1172 another conflict arose among the Silesian Piasts, when Duke Boles?aw the Tall chose to ignore the claims of his first-born son, Jaroslaw, by designating his son from his second marriage, Henry I the Bearded, as his sole heir. When Jaros?aw, forced to become a priest, returned from his German exile, he claimed a share of the Silesian lands. Mieszko III supported his grandnephew in his demands, and a civil war was initiated.
In order to prevent another Imperial intervention, High Duke Boles?aw IV sent Mieszko III to Magdeburg, with the sum of 8,000 pieces of silver as a tribute to the Emperor and the promise to resolve this conflict soon. This time, the terms of the 1173 agreement were to be strictly realized. Boles?aw the Tall retained his power over Wroc?aw; however, he had to cede the Silesian Duchy of Opole to his son Jaros?aw for life and furthermore had to agree on the division of the remaining Silesian lands with his younger brother Mieszko Tanglefoot, who assumed the rule in the new Duchy of Racibórz.
After his brother Boles?aw IV died on 3 April 1173, Mieszko III became the new high duke of Poland (dux Totius Poloniae) according to the principle of agnatic seniority. His policy focused on maintaining full power for himself, as the oldest surviving member of the dynasty. Despite his succession to the throne at Kraków, the new high duke remained in Greater Poland, while Lesser Poland was ruled by Henryk Kietlicz as a governor appointed by Mieszko. Harsh tax measures were introduced, which incurred the displeasure of the Lesser Polish magnates. On the other hand, Mieszko had several foreign policy successes through his daughter's marriages: Elisabeth married Duke Sob?slav II of Bohemia circa 1173, and through the dynastic arrangement between his daughter Anastasia and the Griffin duke Bogislaw I of Pomerania, Mieszko reinforced Polish sovereignty over the Pomeranian duchy.
In 1177 Mieszko III's first-born son, Odon, fearing for his inheritance, rebelled against his father. He was supported by Bishop Gedko of Kraków, his cousin Boles?aw the Tall, and his uncle Casimir II the Just. For Odon, the main reason for his rebellion was the favoritism of Mieszko to the offspring of his second marriage and the attempts of the high duke to force him to become a priest so as to eliminate him from succession. To the other rebels, the reason was the harsh and dictatorial government of the high duke. The rebellion was a complete surprise to Mieszko; during Easter of 1177 he was totally convinced of the loyalty of his relatives, especially when the junior dukes organized a meeting at Gniezno, were the high duke was received by the crowds with cheers.
At first Greater Poland remained strongly in Mieszko's hands, thanks to his governor Henryk Kietlicz, his most important follower. At the same time, Casimir II the Just, the clear head of the rebellion, made a divisionary treaty with his allies: all of Silesia was granted to Duke Boles?aw the Tall and Greater Poland was given to Odon. This was a significant complication, because since 1173 Boles?aw had ruled Silesia alongside his brother Mieszko Tanglefoot and his own son Jaros?aw of Opole. After they learned of this agreement, both Mieszko Tanglefoot and Jaros?aw sided with the high duke and rebelled against Boles?aw the Tall, who now, busy fighting with his brother and son, lost the opportunity to gain Kraków and obtain the Seniorate Province for himself. In his place, it was Casimir II the Just who took control over the Seniorate Province, and, with this, was proclaimed the new high duke of Poland. After not seeing any possibility of continuing the resistance, Mieszko escaped to Racibórz, under the protection of his nephew and namesake Duke Mieszko Tanglefoot. However, shortly afterwards the deposed high duke decided to leave Poland and seek foreign support. Odon finally occupied all Greater Poland and was declared duke.
By 1179, Mieszko went to Bohemia, ruled by his son-in-law Sob?slav II, who nevertheless refused to help him. Mieszko then turned to Germany and Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, who offered help in his restoration on the Polish throne upon a payment of 10,000 pieces of silver, a sum that Mieszko couldn't amass. Finally in Pomerania, his other son-in-law Duke Bogislaw I agreed to help him. By the agency of his Pomeranian allies, Mieszko forged links with their Polish followers, grouped around Zdzis?aw, Archbishop of Gniezno, and in 1181 he was able to conquer the eastern Greater Polish lands of Gniezno and Kalisz, which at that time were part of the Seniorate Province. Soon after, Mieszko also managed to recover western Greater Poland, and Odon was pushed to the lands south of the Obra River. In 1182 a formal reconciliation between father and son was achieved. During these events, and for unknown reasons, High Duke Casimir II the Just remained in total passivity; thanks to this, Mieszko had the opportunity to recover all Greater Poland.
Mieszko still had the intention to recover the lordship over all Poland. In 1184 he tried to forge an alliance with Frederick Barbarossa's son, King Henry VI of Germany, offering him a large sum of silver. Casimir II the Just, however, knew his intentions and had simply sent Henry more money than Mieszko.
After his failure with the German king, Mieszko decided to take control over Masovia and Kuyavia, then ruled by his nephew Leszek, the only surviving son of Boles?aw IV. Mieszko convinced Leszek to name him as his successor if he died without issue. However in 1185, one year before his death, Leszek changed his testament and appointed his younger uncle High Duke Casimir II the Just as his successor, possibly as a result of the harsh proceedings of the Duke of Greater Poland. This time Mieszko acted quickly, and upon Leszek's death in 1186 he took the Kuyavia region and annexed it to his Duchy. Shortly thereafter he ceded this land to his son Boles?aw.
In 1191 the foreign policy of High Duke Casimir II the Just triggered dissatisfaction in the Lesser Poland nobility, led by Mieszko's former governor Henry Kietlicz. With the help of this opposition, Mieszko could finally reconquer Kraków and resume the High Ducal title. He decided to entrust the government of Kraków to one of his sons, either Boles?aw or Mieszko the Younger. Casimir, however, quickly regained Kraków and the overlordship and the Prince-Governor was captured; however, he was soon released to be with his father. Probably after the failed expedition over Kraków, Mieszko gave to his son and namesake Mieszko the Younger the Greater Polish lands of Kalisz as his own duchy.
When on 2 August 1193 Mieszko the Younger died, his Duchy of Kalisz reverted to the lands of Greater Poland. Shortly thereafter, Mieszko III granted Kalisz to his elder son Odon, who then died eight months later on 20 April 1194. These two early deaths forced Mieszko to make a new divisionary treaty: the duke retained Kalisz for himself, while southern Greater Poland was given to his youngest son W?adys?aw III Spindleshanks, who also assumed the guardianship of the minor son of Odon, W?adys?aw Odonic.
High Duke Casimir II the Just died on 5 May 1194, and Mieszko's pretensions over Lesser Poland were reborn. Unfortunately, this time the local nobility preferred to see on the throne the minor sons of Casimir, Leszek the White and Konrad. Mieszko's attempts to retake the power ended at the bloody Battle of Mozgawa on 13 September 1195, where Mieszko himself was seriously injured and his son Boles?aw of Kuyavia died. After the battle Mieszko withdrew to Kalisz without waiting for the Silesian troops of his allies, Mieszko Tanglefoot and Jaros?aw of Opole.
The Battle of Mozgawa convinced Mieszko that to gain the throne through battle was extremely difficult, so he began to negotiate with the high duke's widow, Helen of Znojmo. In 1198 he finally was allowed to return to Lesser Poland, but was compelled to cede Kuyavia to Casimir's sons.
In 1199, the voivode Miko?aj Gryfita and Bishop Fulko of Kraków again deposed Mieszko and restored Leszek the White as high duke; however, three years later a new settlement was made and Mieszko was able to return. He retained the title of high duke, but was forced to give up part of his powers. He died shortly afterwards; at that time, he had survived all his siblings and his sons except for W?adys?aw III Spindleshanks, who succeeded him as Polish high duke and duke of Greater Poland.