The Coronation and Death of Przemysł II

The Coronation and Death of Przemysł II

Duke Przemysł II, the son of Przemysł I, Duke of Wielkopolska, and Elżbieta (Elizabeth), daughter of Henryk Pobożny (Henry the Pious), was born in 1257. In his foreign policy, Przemysł II endeavoured to contain Brandenburg expansion at all costs and to consolidate and augment his own power by bringing successive lands under his rule.

Przemysł II was crowned King of Poland in Gniezno Cathedral on 26 June 1295 by Archbishop Jakub Świnka on what can only be described as a momentous occasion. The crown had been sitting in the Wawel treasury during the 219 years that had elapsed since the last coronation – that of Bolesław Śmiały (Boleslaus the Bold). Przemysł II, with the intention of being crowned as ruler of Poland, had the crown jewels brought from Cracow to Gniezno. During the coronation ceremony, the Archbishop of Gniezno additionally anointed the king’s third wife, Margaret of Brandenburg, as queen.

The crowned white eagle as the emblem of the Polish state dates from Przemysł II and the words “God alone restored the signs of victory to the Polish people” appeared on the seal of sublimity (as opposed to majesty) of this authority.

Opposition to Przemysł, however, did not take long to spring up. This was mainly centred around the Zaremba and Nałęcz families, apparently in league with Brandenburg, and scuppered any hope that Przemysł’s legacy would be quickly adopted.

On the morning of 8 February 1296, while it was still pitch dark, a large posse of assassins attacked the king’s innermost circle while they were asleep. Przemysł roused himself and resisted the assailants with a group of adjutant knights but eventually lost the fight and “fell to the ground riddled with wounds”. He was seized, put on a horse and taken away. The wounded man, however, was in no state to make it to Brandenburg. The king was therefore despatched and his body dumped in the snow by the roadside near Sierniki, 6 km south-east of Rogoźno.

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