Polish and Lithuanian Royalty. He was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1440 to 1492 and the King of Poland from 1447 to 1492. He sought to preserve the political union between Poland and Lithuania and to recover the lost lands of old Poland. As the second son of Władysław II Jagiełło and his fourth wife, Zofja Holszańska; he was the second in line to be heir to the throne. His father was already over 75 at Casimir’s birth; his brother Władysław III, who was three years older, would be the “heir apparent” to the Lithuanian and Polish throne. For some unknown reason, his education was lacking; he was never taught Latin, nor was he trained for the responsibilities of official position of a ruler, despite the fact he was the only brother of Wladyslaw III. In 1440, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Sigismund, was murdered; Casimir, at the age of 13, was sent to Lithuania be governor for his brother; a coup d’etat by Lithuanian nobles happened, and he was named Grand Duke Lithuania instead. The nobles began the task of making a boy into their king. This broke the ties between Lithuanian and Poland until November 10, 1444 when Władysław III died in the Battle of Varna leaving Poland without a ruler. Since there were no other choices, he was crowned the King of Poland on June 25, 1447. Elisabeth of Habsburg became his bride in 1454, which was clearly a political move as she was the daughter of Albert II of Habsburg giving her claim to Bohemia and Hungary upon her father’s death. The couple had thirteen children with eleven living to adulthood, and Casimir did everything he could do to arrange worthy political marriages for them. His eldest son, Władysław, became king of Bohemia in 1471 and of Hungary 1490; three others were his successors on the thrones of Lithuania and Poland; one became a Roman Catholic Saint; one an archbishop and, later, a cardinal. Five of his daughters were married to German princes, causing name Casimir became a familiar one among German dynasties along with the Roman Catholic Church. When he died, he left a dynasty renowned among the courts of Europe. His foreign policy was successful in bringing most of Prussia under Polish rule. With political enemies all around his two countries, he was not the aggressor and at times, a peacemaker. His domestic policy was better as even though he lacked the formal education to be a wise administrator, he had common sense and was very cautious. He was a strong opponent of aristocracy, and helped to strengthen the importance of Parliament and the Senate. Higher education became an interest during his reign with the expansion of the university and documenting the countries’ histories. He was a recipient of the English Order of the Garter, the highest order of chivalry and the most prestigious honor in England. He lived in Lithuania and considered that his personal estate. His reign was remembered as being both successful and peaceful. The great triumph of his reign was the final subjugation of the Teutonic Knights during the Thirteen Year War in 1466. He died from unknown causes after a fifty-two-year reign, and his second oldest son John I Albert became ruler of Poland with the third oldest Alexander the ruler of Lithuanian. Besides “King Casimir IV”, his byname was Casimir Jagiellonian and his Polish was Kazimierz Jagiellończyk; this important as the history of his life is documented under all three names. After a team of twelve scientists was given permission by the Roman Catholic Church to disturb his final resting place, his tomb was opened in the month of April on Friday 13th in 1973 for the purpose of restoration. Inside the tomb they found a wooden coffin that was heavily rotted containing what was left of the king's decayed corpse. Within days, four of the scientist died and after a couple of weeks, ten had died with the remaining two seriously ill. After examination of the coffin, it was found to be overgrown with a powerful aflatoxin fungus that was deadly when it had contact with the skin or inhaled.
Bio by: Linda Davis
Elisabeth of Habsburg