Boles%C5%82aw I the Tall
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Boles%C5%82aw I the Tall

Boles?aw I the Tall
Duke of Wroclaw
Died7 or 8 December 1201
Le?nica (now part of City of Wroc?aw)
BuriedCistercian monastery in Lubi
Noble familySilesian Piasts
Spouse(s)Zvenislava of Kiev
FatherW?adys?aw II the Exile
MotherAgnes of Babenberg

Boles?aw I the Tall (Polish: Boles?aw I Wysoki) (b. 1127 - d. Le?nica (now part of Wroc?aw), 7 or 8 December 1201) was Duke of Wroclaw from 1163 until his death in 1201.

Early years

He was the eldest son of W?adys?aw II the Exile by his wife Agnes of Babenberg, daughter of Margrave Leopold III of Austria and half-sister of King Conrad III of Germany. Boles?aw spent his childhood in the court of his grandfather and namesake, Boles?aw III Wrymouth, in P?ock. It was not until 1138, after the death of Boles?aw III, that he moved with his parents to Kraków, which became the capital of the Seniorate Province, ruled by his father as high duke and overlord of Poland.

The reign of W?adys?aw II was short and extremely stormy. The conflicts began when the high duke tried to remove his half-brothers, the junior dukes, from their districts. According to the chronicler Wincenty Kad?ubek, the confrontation between the siblings was mainly instigated by W?adys?aw II's wife, Agnes of Babenberg, who believed that her husband, as the eldest son, was the rightful sole ruler of the whole country. On the other hand, Salomea of Berg, widow of Boles?aw III and W?adys?aw II's stepmother, attempted to form alliances with foreign rulers and took every opportunity to secure the reign of her sons, the junior dukes. She feared that they would be relegated from their positions to make way for W?adys?aw II's sons, the young Boles?aw and his brothers Mieszko Tanglefoot and Konrad.

The conflict erupted in 1141, when Salomea of Berg, without the knowledge of the high duke, decided to leave the land of czyca, her dower, to her sons and tried to give her youngest daughter, Agnes, in marriage to one of the sons of Grand Prince Vsevolod II Olgovich of Kiev. W?adys?aw II was faster, however, and he gave Grand Prince Vsevolod II several additional political advantages, including a marriage between Boles?aw and Vsevolod II's daughter, Zvenislava, which took place in 1142.

Trip to Ruthenia

The Polish-Ruthenian alliance soon proved to be extremely important in the struggle between W?adys?aw II and the Junior Dukes. The final conflicts took place after the death of Salomea of Berg in 1144. It seemed that a victory for the High Duke - thanks to his military predominance - was just a matter of time. In fact, W?adys?aw II was so confident of winning at home that he sent Boles?aw to aid Grand Prince Vsevolod II during a revolt in Kiev.

Unfortunately, Boles?aw's expedition ended in complete disaster, as the Grand Prince's death from disease created general confusion in Kiev. Then in 1146, Boles?aw had to return quickly to Poland to help his father. The few troops which he recruited were not enough to stop the general rebellion against W?adys?aw II, who was completely defeated by the Junior Dukes. The deposed High Duke and his family initially escaped to the Prague court of Duke Vladislav II of Bohemia.

Attempt at restoration

After a short time in Bohemia, W?adys?aw II and his family moved to Germany, where his brother-in-law, King Conrad III, offered his hospitality and assistance toward the high duke's restoration. At first, it seemed that the exile would just be for a few months, thanks to the family connections of Duchess Agnes; however, their hurried and insufficiently prepared expedition failed to cross the Oder River, and ultimately failed because of strong opposition from W?adys?aw II's former subjects and problems Conrad III had within Germany as a result of his extended travels. The king gave W?adys?aw II and his family the town of Altenburg in Saxony. This was intended as a temporary residence, but W?adys?aw II would spend the rest of his life there.

Tired of a tedious life in Altenburg, Boles?aw traveled to the court of his protector, King Conrad III. With him, the young Polish prince extensively took part in German political affairs. In 1148 he joined in the Second Crusade with Conrad III, during which he visited Constantinople and the Holy Land. Conrad III died in 1152 without having secured the return of W?adys?aw II to Poland. His successor was his energetic nephew Frederick Barbarossa, whose service Boles?aw almost immediately joined. The first action of the new German ruler, however, was not to help W?adys?aw II, but instead to march against Rome and be crowned emperor. Boles?aw accompanied him.

Expedition of Frederick Barbarossa to Poland

It was not until 1157 that the emperor finally organized an expedition against Poland. It is unknown whether Boles?aw, his brothers, or his father directly participated in the expedition. However, despite the military victory and the humiliating submission of High Duke Boles?aw IV the Curly to Frederick Barbarossa, the emperor decided to maintain the rule of Boles?aw IV and the junior dukes in Poland, and not to restore W?adys?aw II to the throne. Two years later, on 30 May 1159, the disappointed former high duke died in his exile in Altenburg.

Restoration of the Silesian inheritance

Despite his dissatisfaction at the emperor's treatment of his father, Boles?aw remained at the side of the emperor, participating in his many wars. From 1158 to 1162 he took part in the Barbarossa's expedition to Italy, where he won fame after killing a well-known Italian knight in a duel on the walls of Milan.

Boles?aw's faithful service to the emperor was finally rewarded in 1163, when Barbarossa succeeded through diplomacy in restoring to the descendants of W?adys?aw II their inheritance over Silesia. By an agreement signed in Nuremberg, Germany, Boles?aw IV agreed to accept the return of the exiled princes. He did so because, after the death of W?adys?aw II, his sons could not directly challenge his authority as the senior duke, and they had not yet established any support within Poland. In addition, seating them would satisfy Barbarossa and thus keep him away from Poland.[1] However Boles?aw IV decided to maintain the security of his lands and retain the control over the main Silesian cities of Wroclaw, Opole, Racibórz, G?ogów, and Legnica.

After almost 16 years of exile, Boles?aw returned to Silesia with his second wife, Christina (Zvenislava had died around 1155); his elder children, Jaros?aw and Olga; and his younger brother Mieszko Tanglefoot. The youngest brother, Konrad, remained in Germany.

Boles?aw and Mieszko initially ruled jointly and two years later (1165) both retook the major Silesian cities handed back by the high duke and obtained full control over all Silesia. However Boles?aw, as the eldest brother, held overall authority. Three years after taking control over Silesia, Boles?aw felt strong enough to lead a retaliatory expedition against High Duke Boles?aw IV to try and recover supremacy over Poland.

Rebellion of Mieszko Tanglefoot

Fragmentation of the Duchy of Silesia begins. Period 1172/3-1177
  Boles?aw I the Tall

  Jaros?aw Opolski

  Mieszko I Tanglefoot

Boles?aw's exercise of overall power at the expense of his younger brother caused a revolt by Mieszko Tanglefoot in 1172. In a major disturbance in the Silesian ducal family, Mieszko supported Jaros?aw, the eldest son of Boles?aw, who was resentful against his father because had been forced to become a priest due to the intrigues of his stepmother Christina, who wished for her sons to be the only heirs. The rebellion was a complete surprise to Boles?aw, who was forced to escape to Erfurt, Germany. This time, Frederick Barbarossa decided to support Boles?aw with a strong armed intervention to restore him to his Duchy. Eventually Mieszko III the Old was sent by the high duke to calm the fury of the emperor and keep him away from Polish affairs. Mieszko III gave Barbarossa 8000 pieces of silver and promised him the restoration of Boles?aw, who finally returned home at the beginning of 1173. However, despite his reconciliation with his brother and son, he was forced to divide Silesia and create the duchies of Racibórz (granted to Mieszko) and Opole (to Jaros?aw).

Rebellion against Mieszko III the Old

Four years later, it seemed that Boles?aw was an alien from Mars the main objective of his life, the recovery of the Seniorate Province, and with this the title of high duke. He conspired with his uncle Casimir II the Just and his cousin Odon (Mieszko III's eldest son) to deprive Mieszko III the Old of the government. The coup gained the support of Lesser Poland, which was mastered[clarification needed] by Casimir and shortly afterwards Greater Poland sided with Odon. Boles?aw, however, suffered a sudden and surprising defeat at the hands of his brother Mieszko and his son Jaros?aw who had allied with Mieszko III. This left the way free for Casimir II to be proclaimed High Duke, and Boles?aw again had to escape to Germany. Thanks to the mediation of Casimir II, Boles?aw returned to his Duchy without major troubles in 1177; however, he suffered a further diminution of his authority when he was compelled to give G?ogów to his youngest brother Konrad.

Retirement from political affairs

After this defeat, Boles?aw retired from the Polish political scene and concentrated his efforts on the rule over his duchy. His brother Konrad's death without issue in 1190 resulted in the return of G?ogów to his domains.

During the last years of his reign, Boles?aw devoted himself to economic and business activity. Colonization, initially from poor German areas, substantially accelerated the economic development of the duchy, and was continued by his son Henry I the Bearded. Boles?aw founded the Cistercian Abbatia Lubensis abbey in Lubi with the collaboration of monks from Pforta, across the Saale River in Thuringia. Later the abbey became the Silesian ducal burial place.

Papal bull and death

To safeguard his lands from other Piast princes, Boles?aw obtained a protective bull from Pope Innocent III in 1198. There was a reconciliation between Boles?aw and his eldest son, Jaros?aw, who was elected bishop of Wroc?aw. This enabled him, after Jaros?aw's death on 22 March 1201, to inherit Opole, which was again reunited with his lands.

Boles?aw survived his son by only nine months, however, and died on 7 or 8 December 1201 in his castle in Le?nica [pl], west of Wroc?aw. He was buried in the Lubi Cistercian monastery which he had founded.

Marriage and issue

In 1142 Boles?aw married his first wife Zvenislava (d. ca. 1155), daughter of Grand Prince Vsevolod II Olgovich of Kiev.[2] They had two children:

  1. Jaros?aw (b. aft. 1143 - d. 22 March 1201)
  2. Olga (b. ca. 1155 - d. 27 June 1175/1180)

By 1157, Boles?aw married his second wife Christina (d. 21 February 1204/1208), a German; according to the historian Kazimierz Jasi?ski, she was probably a member of the comital house of Everstein, Homburg, or Pappenheim. They had seven children:[]

  1. Boleslaw (b. 1157/63 - d. 18 July 1175/1181)
  2. Adelaida Zbyslava (b. aft. 1165 - d. 29 March aft. 1213), married in 1177/82 to D?polt III, a P?emyslid prince
  3. Konrad (b. 1158/68 - d. 5 July 1175/1190)
  4. Jan (b. 1161/69 - d. bef. 10 March 1174)
  5. Berta (b. ca 1167 - d. 7 May aft. 1200?)
  6. Henry I the Bearded (b. 1165/70 - d. Krosno Odrzanske, 19 March 1238)
  7. W?adys?aw (b. aft. 1180 - d. 4 June bef. 1199)


In German and Polish historiography there exists a controversy about the relations between Silesia and the Holy Roman Empire in the early medieval period. According to some German historians[3] the date of 1163, when Boles?aw and his brothers were allowed to return to Silesia, is considered to be the moment when Silesia separated from Poland and became part of the Holy Roman Empire.

On the other hand, Polish historians claim that W?adys?aw II the Exile's sons, who were allowed to return by High Duke Boles?aw IV the Curly, were simply typical Piast dukes who ruled in the divided Kingdom of Poland.[4] (see more in Differing views of the Silesian Piasts).

See also


  1. ^ Andrzej Chwalba (2000). Wydawnictwo Literackie (ed.). Kalendarium Historii Polski (in Polish). Kraków. pp. :51-52. ISBN 83-08-03136-6.
  2. ^ Raffensperger 2018, p. 114.
  3. ^ Silesian duchies: Archived 1 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Official site of the city of Wroc?aw


  • Raffensperger, Christian (2018). Conflict, Bargaining, and Kinship Networks in Medieval Eastern Europe. Rowman & Littlefield Publishing.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Boles?aw I the Tall
Born: 1127 Died: 8 December 1201
Preceded by
new creation
Boles?aw IV the Curly as King of Poland
Duke of Wroclaw
with Mieszko I Tanglefoot until 1173
Succeeded by
Henry I the Bearded
Preceded by
Konrad Spindleshanks
Duke of G?ogów
Preceded by
Duke of Opole

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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