Bolko II the Small

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Bolko II's tomb effigy in Krzeszów (Grüssau). In the picture an attempt was made to reconstruct medieval polychrome.

Bolko II the Small (Polish: Bolko II Mały (Świdnicki), German: Bolko II (Schweidnitz); c. 1312 – 28 July 1368), was the last independent Duke of the Piast dynasty in Silesia. He was Duke of Świdnica from 1326, Duke of Jawor and Lwówek from 1346, Duke of Lusatia from 1364, Duke over half of Brzeg and Oława from 1358, Duke of Siewierz from 1359, and Duke over half of Głogów and Ścinawa from 1361.

He was the oldest son of Bernard, Duke of Świdnica, by his wife Kunigunde, daughter of Władysław I the Elbow-high, Duke of Kuyavia and, from 1320, King of Poland. Like his grandfather, King Elbow-high, Bolko II was of small stature; his nickname, "the Small" (Mały), reflects this and was used in contemporary sources.[citation needed]


Early Years

After the death of his father in 1326, Bolko II, with his younger brother Henry II as co-ruler, succeeded him in all his domains. Because both princes were still in their teenage years, they were at first aided by their two paternal uncles, Dukes Bolko II of Ziębice and Henry I of Jawor, as well as their mother Kunigunde, who in 1328 remarried to Rudolf I, Duke of Saxe-Wittenberg. Through this union, Bolko II gained a half-brother, Mieszko of Saxe-Wittenberg (b. ca. 1330 – d. 1350). Kunigunde died in 1331, after which Bolko II ruled by himself.

Attempts to secure the Independence of his Duchy

One of the first problems that Bolko II had to face during the first years of his personal reign was the preservation of his small Duchy's independence. It became a separate identity during the fragmentation of Poland, and so was not under the control of the Polish Kingdom nor by any of other neighbors. However, King John of Bohemia, hoped to gain control of the small Silesian duchies. The first serious attempt by King John was to force the Duke of Świdnica to accepted his overlordship in 1329. He succeeded in gaining control of much of Silesia as almost all the Piast rulers paid him homage. However, two of the Silesian rulers strongly refused to became his vassals: Bolko II and his brother-in-law (husband of his sister Constance), Duke Przemko II of Głogów.

Bolko II needed more troops in order to preserve his position, so he decided to visit the court of the King Charles Robert of Hungary, where he strongly defended the sovereignty of his dukedom. Shortly after, he also established contacts with his grandfather, the Polish King Władysław I the Elbow-high, and in August 1329 he went to Italy to the camp of Louis IV of Bavaria, recently crowned Holy Roman Emperor.

Expedition of King John of Bohemia to Silesia in 1331

Bolko II's efforts proved unsuccessful in deterring King John, who, allied with the Teutonic Order in an attempt to distract the Poles, had invaded Silesia in 1331. Details of Bolko II's actions during that time are unknown, but King John's progress through Silesia was not easy: the siege of Niemcza and the disputed Głogów took longer than he expected. His forces were delayed in reaching Kalisz, where was made to come to terms with Bolko II. In the end, all King John was able to conquer was to incorporate into Bohemia the Duchy of Głogów.

Bolko II of Ziębice's homage to the Kingdom of Bohemia

In 1336, Bolko II achieved a sought for political goal when his uncle Bolko II of Ziębice put himself under King John's rule. This submission was in return for lifelong reign over the Kłodzko region. This was influenced by the declaration of the new Polish king, Casimir III the Great, renouncing some of his claims over Silesia.

Alliance with Poland, Hungary and the House of Wittelsbach

Bolko II nonetheless continued his attempts at pursuing an alliance with Poland and Hungary against Bohemia. In order to enhance his international position, on 1 June 1338 Bolko II married Agnes (b. 1322 - d. 2 February 1392), daughter of Leopold I, and a member of the Habsburgs. The Habsburgs were among the chief rivals of the Luxembourgs and had recently fought over and won Austria and Styria. He gained some significant concessions, among them a trade agreement allowing merchants from his lands access to the Halych region. Eventually, on 1 January 1345, his mediation resulted in the official alliance between the Wittelsbachs, Poland and Hungary.

The War of King Casimir III of Poland against Bohemia (1345–1348)

Soon afterwards, King Casimir III (The Great) of Poland used this new alliance in his favor. The Polish King imprisoned King John's eldest son and heir Charles, Margrave of Moravia (future Holy Roman Emperor). King John in turn responded by invading Bolko II's lands, and the Polish and Hungarian Kings declared war. This allowed Bolko II to push back the now divided Bohemian forces during the siege of Świdnica. However, the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV quickly signed a temporary truce with the Bohemian King. The war continue with varying fortunes for the combatants, with no major successes for either of the parties. On the Świdnica side, Bolko II lost the fortress in Kamienna Góra in 1345, but recaptured it in 1348, using subterfuge and disguising his troops as merchants.[1] The war ended in a draw. King John didn't live to see the end of it; he died in 1346, in a different war, at the Battle of Crécy. The Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV died one year later. On 22 November 1348, the peace was signed in Namysłów, although Bolko II, for unknown reasons, didn't take part in those negotiations, and was instead represented by King Casimir III. The final normalization of the relations between Bolko II and the new Holy Roman Emperor and German King Charles IV (also King of Bohemia after he succeeded his father) only occurred as a result of the mediation of Duke Albert II of Austria on 16 August 1350.

Settlement with Charles IV of Luxembourg (1353)

After the signing of the treaty of 1350, Bolko II began the process of rapprochement with the House of Luxembourg. This was done without sacrificing his good relations with the Kings Casimir III of Poland and Louis I of Hungary.

By 1346, after the death of his last surviving uncle, Duke Henry I of Jawor, Bolko II inherited his domains, the Duchies of Jawor and Lwówek. Soon before, Bolko II's younger brother and co-ruler Henry II died, leaving only one daughter, Anna. Bolko II, as the closest male relative, became Anna's legal guardian and began to consider his niece as heiress to all his lands.

On 13 December 1350, 11-year-old Anna and the then 11-month-old Wenceslaus, eldest son and heir of Emperor Charles IV, were betrothed. Under the terms of the engagement contract, the couple would inherit Bolko II's lands in the (likely) case of his heirless death (however, it was stipulated that they could only take formal possession of the duchies after the death of Bolko II's wife Agnes of Austria, who, under her husband's will, received his domains as her Oprawa wdowia). However, fifteen days later, on 28 December, the young Wenceslaus died and the settlement was broken. Nevertheless, the Emperor decided not to abandon his intentions to take control in a peaceful way over Bolko II's heritage. The death of his second wife Anna of Bavaria, mother of the late Wenceslaus, on 2 February 1353 gave him a new opportunity to obtain the Duchies; almost immediately, he asked Bolko II for the hand of his niece in marriage and the former agreement was renewed. The wedding took place in Buda, Hungary (where Anna had lived with her mother since the death of her father) on 27 May 1353. Besides Bolko II, the wedding was attended by: Duke Albert II of Austria, King Louis I of Hungary, Margrave Louis VI of Brandenburg, Duke Rudolf I of Saxe-Wittenberg (Bolko II's stepfather) and envoys of King Casimir III of Poland and the Republic of Venice.

On 28 July, Anna was crowned Queen of Bohemia in Prague by Archbishop Arnošt of Pardubice. On 9 February 1354, in Aachen, she was crowned German Queen. As part of Charles IV's coronation as Holy Roman Emperor in the Roman Basilica of Saint Peter on 5 April 1355, Anne was crowned Empress of the Holy Roman Empire. She thereby became the first Queen of Bohemia to become Empress.

Cooperation with Emperor Charles IV. Expansion of Bolko II's domains

The politics of close cooperation with Charles IV of Luxemburg brought the Duke of Świdnica considerable benefits, especially in the expansion of his frontiers. Due to the prosperity of his domains, Bolko II bought much land from less prosperous Dukes of Silesia. In 1358 he bought the gold mine in Złoty Stok, and half of Brzeg and Oława from Duke Wenceslaus I of Legnica; soon after, he also bought half of Ścinawa from Duke Jan. In 1359 the Emperor allowed him to buy territories near the Bohemian border, including Frydlant, and shortly after Bolko II also bought the town of Siewierz from the Dukes of Cieszyn for the amount of 2,300 fines. In 1360, Bolko II bought Kąty Wrocławskie In the same year his good relations with the Emperor were demonstrated when, after almost thirty years, the rights of Przemko II's widow Constance over the half of Głogów were finally accepted. Głogów had been under Bohemian control (the other half was given to the Dukes of Żagań in 1349). One year later, in 1361, Constance (who had been a nun since the death of her husband) renounced her domains on to her husband's brother Bolko II. The Emperor, increasingly sure he would gain the property back, was now willing to pass it to his putative father-in-law.

Bolko II's biggest asset, however, proved to be the acquisition, together with the Emperor on 14 April 1364, of the large town and lands near Łużyce for the enormous sum of 21,000 fine silver, which became one of the most important and prestigious of his possessions.

In 1364 he was one of the monarchs invited to the Congress of Cracow, where he took part in the famous Wierzynek Feast, where, along with the host, King Casimir III of Poland, he also assisted the Kings Louis I of Hungary, Valdemar III of Denmark and Peter I of Cyprus; and the Dukes Otto of Bavaria, Władysław of Opole and Bogislaw V of Pomerania-Stolp (Słupsk).[2]

Death and Succession

Bolko died on 28 July 1368 and was buried in the Grüssau Abbey. He was the last of the independent Silesian dukes from the Piast dynasty,[3] the line started by Władysław II the Exile. His lands were held by his wife until 1392, however after her death they were incorporated into the lands of Bohemia by Wenceslaus, King of the Romans, only son of Emperor Charles IV and Anna of Świdnica.[citation needed]


  1. (Polish) Bolko II Maly (ŚWIDNICKI) - picture, coat of arms, biography in form of a timeline, and other trivia
  2. [1]
  3. [2]


  • Joachim Bahlcke, Schlesien und die Schlesier, Langen-Müller-Verlag, 2000, ISBN 3-7844-2781-2
  • Grünhagen, H.: Geschichte Schlesiens, Breslau 1878

External links

Preceded by
Duke of Świdnica
with Henry II (until 1345)

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Henry I
Duke of Jawor
Duke of Lwówek
Preceded by
Wenceslaus I
Duke of Brzeg (1/2)
Succeeded by
Louis I the Fair
Preceded by
Przemysław I Noszak
Duke of Siewierz
Succeeded by
Przemysław I Noszak
Preceded by
Duke of Głogów (1/2)
Succeeded by
Annexed to the Kingdom of Bohemia
next holder
Przemysław I Noszak
Preceded by
Duke of Ścinawa (1/2)