The First Female Monarch Crowned King

By | October 13, 2021

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King Jadwiga holding her scepter, 1391. (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images)

Jadwiga, the youngest daughter of Louis I the Great, became the ruler of Poland on October 16, 1384. Thanks to a quirk in Polish law, however, the young girl, also known as Hedwig, was crowned a king, not a queen. She is one of only approximately five women in history to take on the masculine title.

A Regal Twist Of Fate

As the king's youngest daughter, it was never expected that Jadwiga would become Poland's ruler. Louis's eldest daughter, Catherine, was expected to one day rule the throne of Poland and Hungary, but Catherine ended up predeceasing her father. The throne was then supposed to go to the second-oldest daughter, Mary, but Poland had decided against continuing the Personal Union of Crowns with Hungary and refused to accept Mary's fiance, Sigismund, future Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary. The next choice was Jadwiga, age 10 at the time, who traveled from her native Hungary to Poland, where she was crowned at the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow. According to Polish law, the country had to have a king, but it didn't say the king had to be a man. Instead of rewriting the law, and to make it clear that she was not just a queen consort, little Hedwig was crowned king.

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Jadwiga as imagined by Marcello Bacciarelli. (Royal Castle/Wikipedia)

The Girl King

Regardless of her tender age, Jadwiga was an impressive leader. She was well educated, and she spoke at least six different languages, including Polish, Latin, Hungarian, Serbian, Bosnian, and German. Jadwiga's mother, Elizabeth of Bosnia, was supposed to serve as regent until Jadwiga came of age, but due to Jadwiga's surprising maturity and leadership acumen, it was decided a regency wasn't necessary. She was so charitable, funding scholarships and new hospitals, that she was venerated by the Roman Catholic Church as the patron saint of queens. She even donated her crown jewelry to the restoration and modernization of Krakow University.