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Elizabeth of Bosnia (Bosnian: Elizabeta Kotromanić, Hungarian: Kotromanić Erzsébet, Polish: Elżbieta Bośniaczka; 1340 – 16 January 1387) was the Queen consort of Hungary and Poland. She was the second wife of King Louis I of Hungary and served as regent for her daughter Mary.

Modern historians describe her as a formidable queen, while her contemporaries regarded her as an efficient, but ruthless politician who used political intrigues to protect her daughter's interests. After her, no woman was de facto ruler of Hungary until Maria Theresa.

Descent and early years

Elizabeth's father was Stephen II, Ban of Bosnia, the head of the House of Kotromanić and a member of the Bosnian Church. Her mother was Elizabeth of Kuyavia, a grandniece of Władysław I the Elbow-high and a member of the Roman Catholic Church. She was the only surviving child of her parents, unless Catherine, Countess of Cilli, was her sister, as some genealogists suggest. Through her mother, Elizabeth was a granddaughter of an Arpad princess of Hungary and a grandniece of an Arpad queen of Hungary.

Her father refused a proposal from Tsar Stephen Dušan of Serbia for her marriage to his son, as he wasn't willing to cede the territories which Dušan wanted to be Elizabeth's dowry. Those lands were surrendered to Elizabeth's husband by her cousin, Tvrtko I of Bosnia, in 1357.

Elisabeth of Poland, the mother of the King of Hungary had heard that Stephen II had a young daughter named Elizabeth, and she insisted immediately on bringing her to the Hungarian court for fostering. Stephen was reluctant at first, but eventually dispatched Elizabeth. After three years of life in the Hungarian Court, the queen mother invited Stephen II to Hungary and arranged a marriage between Elizabeth and Louis. The first wife of Louis I, Margaret of Bohemia, had died earlier leaving Louis childless.


Elizabeth's seal

On 20 June 1353, Elizabeth married the King of Hungary, achieving a huge diplomatic success for her father. However, her father became seriously ill and could not be present at the actual wedding, celebrated in Buda. It was discovered that Elizabeth and Louis were related in the fourth degree through a common ancestor, a Duke of Kujavia in Poland. The Roman Catholic Church regarded the marriage to be within a prohibited degree of consanguinity and some ecclesiastics were tempted to anathematize the couple. Later in the same year Pope Innocent IV wrote to the Bishop in Zagrebmarker granting a dispensation for the marriage and forgiving the sin.

Elizabeth was never crowned Queen of Hungary and she completely subjected herself to her controlling mother-in-law. The fact that the young queen's retinue included the same persons who had served Elizabeth the queen mother suggests that she didn't even have her own court. Early in the marriage, Elizabeth was completely powerless. As she came from a region where high-ranking women significantly influenced the politics , Elizabeth must have endured a long period of unhappiness until her mother-in-law was sent to govern Poland as regent.

In 1370, Louis became King of Poland too. Elizabeth, though Queen of Poland, was never crowned as such. She is one of only five queens of Poland who were never crowned.

Elizabeth presenting the casket to St. Simeon, with her three daughters kneeling in front of her

Elizabeth and Louis had no children for the first seventeen years of marriage. Elizabeth was considered barren and succession crisis was expected to happen after Louis's death. For a couple of years, her niece and namesake, Elizabeth of Slavonia, was promoted as heiress presumptive. However, a daughter was born to Louis and Elizabeth in 1370, which secured the succession to some point. The daughter, named Catherine, was followed by two more daughters, Mary (born in 1371) and Hedwig (born in 1373). Elizabeth and her daughters are represented on Saint Simeonmarker's casket, whose creation Elizabeth commissioned.

Catherine died aged eight and Elizabeth's second eldest daughter, Mary, was intended to inherit both her father's kingdoms, Hungary and Polandmarker. Elizabeth is known to have written a book for the education of her daughters.

Widowhood and regency

Mary became queen regnant of Hungarymarker as a ten-year-old child after her father's death in 1382. Queen Elizabeth, now queen dowager, acted as the regent from 1382 onwards on behalf of her daughter Mary, until her death in 1387. The Hungarian holdings were de facto ruled by Elizabeth, but the Poles discontinued her regency in Poland. In Hungary, Elizabeth was helped by Palatine Nicholas I Garay.

Hedwig's accession in Poland

Although Louis had designated Mary as his successor in both Hungary and Poland, the Polish nobility were not willing to recognize Mary and Sigismund as their sovereigns as they wanted to end the personal union with Hungary. Elizabeth proposed her youngest daughter Hedwig as Louis' successor in Poland. After two years' negotiations, Hedwig unexpectedly became sovereign of Poland, but Elizabeth was reluctant to let her leave and live in Poland. Elizabeth finally allowed Hedwig to be taken to Poland, where she was crowned king in November 1384. Hedwig married Jogaila of Lithuania by the Act of Kreva, where Elizabeth, as her daughter's guardian, was one party to the negotiations. Elizabeth was also requested to legally adopt Jogaila as her son, thus giving him right to retain the Crown of Poland in the event of Hedwig's death.

Mary's marriage issue

Elizabeth and her daughter Mary mourning at the tomb of Louis I

Sigismund, his powerful brother king Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia and many noblemen of Hungary were opposed to the formidable Elizabeth and the Palatine. They, on the other hand, were not enthuasiastic about Sigismund reigning together with Mary. Both Sigismund and Mary's relative, Charles of Durazzo, who had gained the Crown of Naples by having his aunt Joan murdered, threatened to invade Hungary; the former intended to marry Mary and reign together with her, while the former intended to depose Mary. Either way, Elizabeth would have lost her power. Thus, in 1384, Elizabeth started negotiating with King Charles V of France about the possibility of his son Louis marrying her daughter Mary, notwithstanding Mary's engagement to Sigismund. Louis had already been engaged to Elizabeth's eldest daughter Catherine and was expected to succeed to the throne of Hungary. If Elizabeth had made this proposal in 1378, after Catherine's death, the fact that the French king and the Hungarian king did not recognize the same pope would have represented a problem. However, Elizabeth was desperate in 1384 and was not willing to let the schism stand in the way of the negotiations. Pope Clement VII issued a dispensation which annulled Mary's betrothal to Sigismund and the proxy marriage was celebrated in April 1385. However, the marriage was not recognized by the Hungarian noblemen who adhered to Pope Urban VI.

Four months after the proxy marriage, Sigismund invaded Hungary and had himself married to Mary by the Archbishop of Esztergom, regardless of Elizabeth's opposition and the proxy marriage. Elizabeth wanted to retaliate to the marriage by trying to deprive the archbishop of his see.

Deposition and restoration of Mary

Sigismund left Hungary and returned to Bohemia in the autumn of 1385. Some noblemen used this opportunity and helped Charles to become briefly the King of Hungary in 1385, regardless of his wife Margaret's opposition. Elizabeth and Mary were forced to attend his coronation. Elizabeth, who feigned friendly feelings for her husband's kinsman, acted quickly and had Charles II assassinated two months later in her apartments and in her presence. She managed to have the crown restored to her daughter and immediately rewarded those who helped her. Charles's heir was his underage son Ladislas of Naples (d. 1414) who as an adult, attempted all his life to conquer Hungarymarker, but despite some support in Hungary itself, did not succeed. Nonetheless, rebellions against Elizabeth continued and were even supported by her first cousin, King Tvrtko I of Bosnia.

Death and aftermath

Nicholas I Garay defending Elizabeth and Mary from the Horvats

Elizabeth believed that her daughter's monarchical dignity would help calm the opposition. In 1386, accompanied by Nicholas I Garay, she set out for Croatia with her daughter Mary. According to Fine, Elizabeth was going to Đakovomarker, while Duggan asserts that the two queens were heading towards Zagrebmarker. Either way, they didn't arrive to their destination as they were ambushed en route and attacked by Jan Horvat. Their entourage fought the attackers, but were all killed and Elizabeth and her daughter were taken prisoners. The heads of Elizabeth's defenders were sent to Naples to console Charles of Durazzo's grieving widow. Elizabeth took all blame for the rebellion and begged the attackers to spare her daughter's life.

The two queens were then sent to the coast of the Adriatic Seamarker and were imprisoned in Novigradmarker. She managed to smuggle out plans for their relief to the Venetians, but this was discovered by the jailers. Charles's widow Margaret, who was at first against her husband's plan to invade Hungary, now insisted that Elizabeth be murdered. On 16 January, Elizabeth was strangled before Mary's eyes on the orders of Ivan of Paližna, their jailer and ally of Elizabeth's cousin Tvrtko.

At the moment of her death, Sigismund was on his way to rescue his wife and mother-in-law. Mary was rescued from that captivity by the troops of her husband Sigismund soon after Elizabeth was murdered. Sigismund took revenge on the murderers of Elizabeth by having them executed and their families banished. Elizabeth was secretly buried in the Church of St Chrysogonus in Zadar for four years. On 16 January 1390, on the third anniversary of her death, Elizabeth's body was moved to Székesfehérvármarker.

Neither of Elizabeth's daughters left surviving children; Mary died heavily pregnant and Saint Hedwig died from birth complications along with her daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth of Bosnia's progeny went extinct with the deaths of her youngest daughter Hedwig and granddaughter Elizabeth in 1399.


Elizabeth is known to have commissioned the creation of Saint Simeonmarker's casket in 1381. The casket, located in Zadarmarker is of great importance for the history of the city, as it depicts various historical events (such as the death of her father) and Elizabeth herself. According to legend, Elizabeth paid for the creation of the casket in order to atone for stealing the saint's finger. The casket contains a scene which allegedly depicts the queen gone mad after stealing the saint's finger. A street in Zadar is named after Elizabeth of Bosnia. The street is called "Ulica kraljice Elizabete Kotromanić, darovateljice rake sv. Šime" (English: The street of Queen Elizabeth Kotromanić, donor of St. Simeon's casket).

After Elizabeth of Bosnia, no woman ruled in Hungary until Maria Theresa.


See also


  1. New Cambridge Medieval History, 709–712.

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