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Przemysł I of Greater Poland

Przemysł I of Greater Poland

Duke of Greater Poland
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Duke of Greater Poland
A.K.A. Przemysł I
Gender male
Birth Trzebnica
Death 4 June 1257 (Poznań)
Mother: Hedwig
Father: Władysław Odonic
Spouse: Elisabeth of Wrocław
Children: Przemysł IIConstance of Greater PolandEuphrosyne of Greater PolandAnna of Greater PolandEuphemia of Greater Poland
The details

Przemysł I (5 June 1220/4 June 1221 – 4 June 1257) was a Duke of Greater Poland (during 1241–1247 with his brother as co-ruler; according to some historians during 1239–1241 sole Duke of Ujście), Duke of Poznań and Gniezno during 1247–1249, Duke of Poznań and Kalisz during 1249–1250, sole Duke of Greater Poland during 1250–1253 and Duke of Poznań from 1253 until his death.
He was the eldest son of Władysław Odonic, Duke of Greater Poland by his wife Hedwig, who was likely the daughter of Duke Mestwin I of Pomerania, or a member of the Premyslid dynasty (a supposition supported by the name given to her son, the first in the Piast dynasty who bears it). The numeral primus (The First) was given to him in the almost contemporary Chronicle of Greater Poland. Duke Władysław Odonic ordered that his son be given a comprehensive education; as attested in the Chronicle, young Przemysł was able to read Latin psalms with ease.

Life and rule

Beginning of his government

Przemysł first appears in official documents signed by his father from 1232 onward, and after Władysław Odonic's death on 5 June 1239 he began his own rule, during the time of Fragmentation of Poland (1138-ca. 1314). Two years later (in 1241), Przemysł approved his younger brother Bolesław the Pious as an official co-ruler, but this was a formality. In reality Przemysł reigned alone.

The principality inherited from his father was composed of northern Greater Poland, which included Ujście and Nakło (although some historians believe that Władysław Odonic lost Ujście and Nakło before his death). Subsequently he strove to recover the remaining part of Greater Poland. In 1241, after the death of Silesian Duke Henry II the Pious at the battle of Legnica, Przemysł recovered Poznań and Gniezno, and subsequently managed to conquer also the parts of Greater Poland previously controlled by Dukes of Silesia.

Reconquest of lost lands

In 1242 Przemysł I reconquered Zbąszyń and Międzyrzecz from Bolesław II the Bald. The presence of Przemysł in Silesia forced the intervention of Duke Swantopolk II of Pomerania, who captured Nakło. However Przemysł quickly took back the control of the district from the Pomeranian ruler.

Despite his success, Przemysł sought to end his disputes with the Silesian Piasts and in 1244 he married Bolesław II's sister Elizabeth, at the monastery in Trzebnica. Contrary to his plans, this marriage did not calm the situation on the Silesian-Greater Poland border, but it did allow Przemysł to recover Kalisz from Duke Władysław of Opole. He failed however in his attempt to recover Wieluń, which was only annexed to Greater Poland in 1249. The actions against the sons of Henry II the Pious were completed in 1247 when Santok was recovered.

War in Greater Poland against the opposition, fight with the Silesian Piasts

In 1247 Przemysł I was forced by the local knights to give his brother Bolesław the district of Kalisz as a separated Duchy, but in foreign policy he retained full authority over Greater Poland. It was not the final division. A year later, the ruler of Greater Poland crushed the opposition by imprisoning its leaders, the Castellan of Poznań Thomas of Nałęczów and his sons. Przemysł I released them in 1250, when he was involved in the conflict between Bolesław II the Bald and his brother Konrad (husband of Przemysł I's sister Salomea). The intervention of the Greater Poland Duke helped Konrad to obtain the district of Głogów as his own independent Duchy.

In 1249 Przemysł I exchanged again territories with his brother, giving him Gniezno and becoming Duke of Poznań and Kalisz. In 1250, for unknown reasons, Przemysł had Bolesław arrested, becoming in this way the sole ruler of Greater Poland (Poznań, Gniezno and Kalisz). Only at Easter of 1253, after the Church intervention, the brothers were finally reconciled and Bolesław received the Duchy of Kalisz-Gniezno.

During the first half of the 13th century, Przemysł I promoted a more peaceful policy, working closely with his brother-in-law Konrad I of Głogów and giving his sister Euphemia in marriage to Duke Władysław of Opole. Also, he received the help of his brother Bolesław with troops against Duke Casimir I of Kuyavia for the possession of Ladzka. In 1254 he organized an armed expedition against Henry III the White, destroying part of the Bishopric of Wrocław goods (i.e. Oleśnica), for which Przemysł I was excommunicated, and the penalty was only removed after the Greater Poland Duke repaired the damages in the Church states. The next campaign against Henry III was launched in September of the same year, but this time the joint expedition of Przemysł I, his brother Bolesław and Konrad I of Głogów avoided damages of Church goods.

War against Brandenburgian expansion

In foreign policy, Przemysł I's main concern was the expansionism of the House of Ascania, rulers of the Margraviate of Brandenburg. Although he stopped the advance of Brandenburg's troops into his domains (Santok in 1247, Zbąszyń in 1251 and Drezdenko in 1252), the situation remained tense on the Brandenburg border. To address this problem, between 1254–1255 Przemysł I tried to establish warmer relations with Brandenburg through the betrothal of his eldest daughter Constance with Conrad, son of John I, Margrave of Brandenburg (the marriage took place after Przemysł I's death, in 1260). However, this strategy ultimately back-fired politically as the House of Ascania used the marriage to claim rights over the western region of Greater Poland.

Poznań, capital of Greater Poland

In 1253 Przemysł I chose as his capital the city of Poznań, situated on the left bank of the Warta River. He also began the building of the Royal Castle on the hill overlooking the town.

Religious policy

The political line of Przemysł was based on closer cooperation with the Church (especially the Bishops of Poznań, Bogufał II and Bogufał III) which caused the opposition of the knighthood. In 1244 local knights rebelled against him and tried to abolition the judicial and tax immunity gained by the Bishops from Władysław Odonic. Przemysł initially accepted the request, but in 1252 he reestablished the former privilege, and even expanded them even further.

Despite periodic troubles with his lay subjects, Przemysł I had the support of a large group of trusted advisers, such as the Governor of Poznań Przedpełk Łódź , the castellan of Poznań Boguchwał, the Judge Domarat Grzymalita, and the master of the hunt Pakosław Awdaniec.

Head traditionally recognised as face of Przemysł I from the Church of Holiest Heart of Jesus and Mother of God of Consolation in Poznań.

On 8 May 1254 Przemysł took part in the national Congress of Piast princes at Kraków which convened for the canonization of St. Stanislaus. Among the princes who participated were his brother Bolesław, Casimir I of Kuyavia, Siemowit I of Masovia, Władysław of Opole and the host, Bolesław V the Chaste. The establishment of friendly contacts with his relatives proved useful one year later, when Duke Mestwin II of Pomerania captured the district of Nakło. After the following war Przemysł was only able to recover Nakło after paying 500 pieces of silver in 1256.


Przemysł I died in Poznań on 4 June 1257 and was buried in the Wawel Cathedral. The head was displayed in the vault of the Church of Holiest Heart of Jesus and Mother of God of Consolation in Poznań. A painting in the Historical Museum of Poznań City Hall is believed to be Przemysł I's portrait, but this has been questioned by art historians.

Marriage and children

In 1244 Przemysł I married with Elisabeth (ca. 1232 – 16 January 1265), daughter of Henry II the Pious, Duke of Wrocław. They had five children:

  1. Constance (1245/46 – 8 October 1281), married in 1260 to Conrad, Margrave of Brandenburg-Stendal.
  2. Euphrosyne (1247/50 – 17/19 February 1298), Abbess of St. Clara in Trzebnica.
  3. Anna (1253 – aft. 26 June 1295), Abbess at Owińska.
  4. Euphemia (1253 – 5 September 1298), twin of Anna; a nun at St. Clara, Wrocław.
  5. Przemysł II (posthumously, 14 October 1257 – 8 February 1296).

At the time of Przemysł I's death, his wife was five months pregnant with their last child. His brother Bolesław took over the government of all his domains. After his birth, young Przemysł II remained under the tutelage of his uncle until 1273, when he received Poznań as his own district. Eventually, Przemysł II inherited the whole of Greater Poland after his uncle's death in 1279, subsequently becoming King of Poland in 1295. With his death one year later, the Greater Poland line of the Piast dynasty was ended.

Przemysł I of Greater Poland
Piast Dynasty
Born: 1220/1221 Died: 45 June 1257
Preceded by
Władysław Odonic
Duke of Greater Poland
Succeeded by
Bolesław the Pious
Duke of Gniezno
with Bolesław (1239–1247)
Preceded by
Władysław Opolski
Duke of Kalisz
with Bolesław
Duke of Wieluń
Preceded by
Bolesław the Pious
Duke of Poznań
Duke of Kalisz
Duke of Gniezno

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