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Queen Hedwige of Poland: A Catholic Story

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Excerpt: Hedwige was the youngest daughter of Lewis, nephew and successor to Casimir the Great, who, on account of the preference he evinced for his Hungarian subjects, drew upon himself the continued ill-will of the nation he was called upon to govern. Finding he was unable to cope with the numerous factions everywhere ready to oppose him, he, not without many humiliating Excerpt: Hedwige was the youngest daughter of Lewis, nephew and successor to Casimir the Great, who, on account of the preference he evinced for his Hungarian subjects, drew upon himself the continued ill-will of the nation he was called upon to govern. Finding he was unable to cope with the numerous factions everywhere ready to oppose him, he, not without many humiliating concessions to the nobles of Poland, induced them to elect as his successor his daughter Maria, wife of Sigismund, Marquis of Brandenburg (afterward emperor), and having appointed the Duke of Oppelen regent of the kingdom, retired to his native Hungary, unwilling to relinquish the shadow of the sceptre which continually evaded his grasp. On his death, which happened in 1382, Poland became the theatre of intestine disorders fomented by the turbulent nobles, who, notwithstanding the allegiance they had sworn to the Princess Maria, refused to allow her even to enter the kingdom. Sigismund was not, however, inclined thus easily to forego his wife's claims; and as the Lord of Mazovia at the same time aspired to the vacant throne, many of the provinces became so desolated by civil war that the leaders of the adverse factions threw down their arms, and simultaneously agreed to offer the crown to the Princess Hedwige, then residing in Hungary under the care of her mother Elizabeth. By no means approving of a plan which thus unceremoniously excluded her eldest daughter from the throne, the queen dowager endeavored to oppose injustice by policy. Hedwige was at the time only fourteen years of age, and the deputies were informed that, as the princess was too young to undertake the heavy responsibilities of sovereignty, her brother-in-law Sigismund must act in her stead until such time as she herself should be considered capable of assuming the reins of government. This stratagem did not succeed; the duke was not allowed to cross the frontiers of Poland, and Elizabeth found herself compelled to part with her daughter, if she would not see the crown placed on the brow of whomever the diet might elect. Now commenced the trials of the young Hedwige, who was thus early called upon to exercise those virtues of heroic fortitude, patient endurance, and self-denial which rendered her life a sort of continual martyrdom, a sacrifice daily offered up at the shrines of religion and patriotism. At the early age of four years she had been affianced to William, Duke of Austria, who, in accordance with the custom of the times, had been educated in Hungary; his affection for his betrothed growing with his growth, and increasing with his years. Ambition had no charms for Hedwige; her fervent piety, shrinking modesty, and feminine timidity sought to conceal, not only her extraordinary beauty, but those rare mental endowments of which she was possessed. Bitter were the tears shed by this gentle girl, when her mother, alarmed at the menaces of the Polish nobles, informed her she must immediately depart for Cracow, under the protection of Cardinal Demetrius, Bishop of Strigonia, who was pledged to deliver her into the hands of those whom she was disposed to regard rather as her masters than as her subjects.


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Excerpt: Hedwige was the youngest daughter of Lewis, nephew and successor to Casimir the Great, who, on account of the preference he evinced for his Hungarian subjects, drew upon himself the continued ill-will of the nation he was called upon to govern. Finding he was unable to cope with the numerous factions everywhere ready to oppose him, he, not without many humiliating Excerpt: Hedwige was the youngest daughter of Lewis, nephew and successor to Casimir the Great, who, on account of the preference he evinced for his Hungarian subjects, drew upon himself the continued ill-will of the nation he was called upon to govern. Finding he was unable to cope with the numerous factions everywhere ready to oppose him, he, not without many humiliating concessions to the nobles of Poland, induced them to elect as his successor his daughter Maria, wife of Sigismund, Marquis of Brandenburg (afterward emperor), and having appointed the Duke of Oppelen regent of the kingdom, retired to his native Hungary, unwilling to relinquish the shadow of the sceptre which continually evaded his grasp. On his death, which happened in 1382, Poland became the theatre of intestine disorders fomented by the turbulent nobles, who, notwithstanding the allegiance they had sworn to the Princess Maria, refused to allow her even to enter the kingdom. Sigismund was not, however, inclined thus easily to forego his wife's claims; and as the Lord of Mazovia at the same time aspired to the vacant throne, many of the provinces became so desolated by civil war that the leaders of the adverse factions threw down their arms, and simultaneously agreed to offer the crown to the Princess Hedwige, then residing in Hungary under the care of her mother Elizabeth. By no means approving of a plan which thus unceremoniously excluded her eldest daughter from the throne, the queen dowager endeavored to oppose injustice by policy. Hedwige was at the time only fourteen years of age, and the deputies were informed that, as the princess was too young to undertake the heavy responsibilities of sovereignty, her brother-in-law Sigismund must act in her stead until such time as she herself should be considered capable of assuming the reins of government. This stratagem did not succeed; the duke was not allowed to cross the frontiers of Poland, and Elizabeth found herself compelled to part with her daughter, if she would not see the crown placed on the brow of whomever the diet might elect. Now commenced the trials of the young Hedwige, who was thus early called upon to exercise those virtues of heroic fortitude, patient endurance, and self-denial which rendered her life a sort of continual martyrdom, a sacrifice daily offered up at the shrines of religion and patriotism. At the early age of four years she had been affianced to William, Duke of Austria, who, in accordance with the custom of the times, had been educated in Hungary; his affection for his betrothed growing with his growth, and increasing with his years. Ambition had no charms for Hedwige; her fervent piety, shrinking modesty, and feminine timidity sought to conceal, not only her extraordinary beauty, but those rare mental endowments of which she was possessed. Bitter were the tears shed by this gentle girl, when her mother, alarmed at the menaces of the Polish nobles, informed her she must immediately depart for Cracow, under the protection of Cardinal Demetrius, Bishop of Strigonia, who was pledged to deliver her into the hands of those whom she was disposed to regard rather as her masters than as her subjects.

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