Anna Jagiellon

Anna Jagiellon
Kober Anna Jagiellon in coronation robes.jpg
Queen Anna in her coronation robes (1576 painting by Martin Kober)
Queen of Poland
Grand Duchess of Lithuania
Reign15 December 1575 – 18 September 1587
Coronation1 May 1576 in Kraków
PredecessorHenry de Valois
SuccessorInterrex 1586–1587
Sigismund III Vasa 1587
Born18 October 1523
Kraków, Kingdom of Poland
Died9 September 1596(1596-09-09) (aged 72)
Warsaw, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Burial12 November 1596
SpouseStephen Báthory
DynastyJagiellon
FatherSigismund I the Old
MotherBona Sforza
SignatureAnna Jagiellon's signature

Anna Jagiellon (Polish: Anna Jagiellonka, Lithuanian: Ona Jogailaitė; 18 October 1523 – 12 November 1596) was Queen of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania from 1575 to 1586. She was a daughter of Polish King Sigismund I the Old and his Italian wife Bona Sforza. Despite multiple proposals, she remained unmarried until the age of 52. After the death of King Sigismund II Augustus, her brother and the last male member of the Jagiellon dynasty, Anna's hand was sought by pretenders to the Polish throne to maintain the dynastic tradition.

Anna was elected, along with her then-fiancé Stephen Báthory, as co-ruler in the 1576 royal election of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Their marriage was a formal arrangement and distant. Báthory was preoccupied with the Livonian War, while Anna spent her time in Warsaw on local administrative matters and several construction works. After Báthory's death in December 1586, she had an opportunity to claim the throne for herself (she was co-ruler and not merely a consort), but did not even attempt it. Instead, she promoted her nephew Sigismund III Vasa, establishing the House of Vasa on the Polish throne for the next eighty years (1587–1668).

Early life

Life with Queen Bona Sforza

Anna Jagiellon was born on 18 October 1523 to the Polish king and queen, Sigismund I the Old and Bona Sforza.[1] She spent most of her childhood in Kraków. Twice, from June 1533 to November 1536 and from April 1540 to June 1542, Anna and two of her sisters were left alone in Kraków while the rest of the family was in Lithuania.[1] That meant that the three sisters grew closer (they separated only in 1556 when Sophia Jagiellon married Henry V, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg), but grew more distant from their elder brother Sigismund II Augustus.[1] Her early life was rather mundane. She embroidered and sewed, played chess and dice, was involved in works of charity and fulfilled her obligations as a princess.[1] She also received an education – she was fluent in Italian and knew Latin – but her teachers are unknown.[2]

The issue of marriage of the three Jagiellon sisters was neglected by both their father and their mother.[2] Only after the death of Sigismund I the Old in 1548, the first serious candidate to husband emerged – Albert Alcibiades, Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, but he was a Hohenzollern and a Protestant, had debts and a temper.[3] In summer 1548, after a conflict with Sigismund II Augustus over his secret marriage with Barbara Radziwiłł, Queen mother Bona and her three unmarried daughters moved to Mazovia, mainly Warsaw and Ujazdów Castle.[4] Sigismund II Augustus did not attend to the issue of his sisters' marriages. In 1550, Bona attempted to negotiate marriage with Charles Victor or Philip, sons of Henry V, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, or Ernest of Bavaria.[4] After a family meeting in May 1552 in Płock, Sigismund considered marrying his sisters to King Gustav I of Sweden, John Frederick II and Johann Wilhelm of Saxony, and John Albert I, Duke of Mecklenburg,[5] but he lacked resolve and consistency.[4]

Life with King Sigismund II Augustus

One of Anna's embroideries: Coat of arms of Poland in silver and gold thread with white pearls on a book from Anna's library given by the Queen to Kraków Academy

Finally in January 1556, Queen Bona managed to arrange a marriage for Sophia Jagiellon.[5] A month later, Bona Sforza departed to her native Italy leaving her two unmarried daughters alone in Warsaw. After about a year, Sigismund II Augustus brought his sisters to Vilnius where they became close to his third wife Catherine of Austria.[6] Even though Anna was already in her mid-thirties, Sigismund investigated marriage proposals. Widowed Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, did not want to remarry; his unmarried son Charles II (born 1540) was too young; Tsar Ivan the Terrible was deemed not beneficial for Poland–Lithuania; John Frederick, Duke of Pomerania, did not want an alliance with Poland as it would have drawn the Duchy of Pomerania into the Livonian War.[7]

Anna Jagiellon by Lucas Cranach the Younger, 1553

King Eric XIV of Sweden was personally more interested in pursuing marriage with Queen Elizabeth I of England, but he sought an alliance with Poland and suggested his step-brother John, Duke of Finland.[7] John agreed, but asked for Anna's younger sister Catherine. It was against custom for a younger sister to marry first, therefore their wedding was postponed.[7] Three more grooms were proposed for Anna: Danish prince Magnus was supposed to become a Lutheran bishop which would be unacceptable marriage for the Catholic Poles; the last Master of the Livonian Order Gotthard Kettler was not of royal blood and his control of Livonia was tenuous; John proposed his younger brother Magnus, Duke of Östergötland, and Sigismund II Augustus agreed to the double Polish–Swedish alliance.[8] However, at the last minute, only John arrived to the wedding in Vilnius.[9] The court demanded that John married Anna, but John insisted on Catherine. Sigismund II Augustus, who needed Swedish troops and money in the Livonian War, relented if Anna did not protest. Though it must have been humiliating for Anna, she agreed and Catherine married John on 4 October 1562.[10]

Anna moved to the Royal Castle in Warsaw as Vilnius was not safe due to the Livonian War and lived there for about ten years.[10] There she lived alone with a court of about 70 people; she spent her time praying, embroidering or sewing (many of her works survived to this day), and corresponding with her sisters. Her brother visited her annually when he attended sessions of the general sejm in Warsaw.[10] Even though Anna was already in her forties, marriage proposals continued to come in. In 1564, Reichard, Count Palatine of Simmern-Sponheim, proposed but perhaps was deterred by her relatively small dowry of 32,000 Polish red złoty.[11] In 1568, Sophia Jagiellon proposed Eberhard, eldest son of Christoph, Duke of Württemberg, but he died the same year.[12] In 1569, a project emerged to marry Anna to Barnim X, Duke of Pomerania. Pomerania demanded that Anna would bring eight border territories as her dowry, which was unacceptable to Poland.[13] In 1572, Sophia proposed Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia, but Sigismund II Augustus refused.[12]

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