Duchy of Silesia

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The Duchy of Silesia was established in 1138 on the basis of the will of Duke Bolesław III. "Wrymouth" , who hoped to reduce power struggles between members of the Piast dynasty by allowing several members to rule a duchy, but the eldest chaired as senior duke . It was ruled by the Silesian Piasts and existed until 1249 when, after the death of Duke Henry II, it was split into four partial duchies for his sons. A large number of Silesian duchies were created through further divisions .


Territorial development of the Duchy of Silesia in the period 1185–1201 ( Polish map )
The Holy Roman Empire in the mid 14th century

Shortly before the year 1000 AD, the Silesia region was conquered by the Duke of the Polans . The years of armed conflict between the Duke of Bohemia and the newly formed Duchy wanted to end the year-long armed conflict between Emperor Henry II at the Court Congress in 1054 by temporarily leaving the country with Poland, who, however, paid tribute to Bohemia. The disputes about the supremacy in Silesia continued and were only ended in 1137 with the Pentecostal Peace of Glatz , where a clear boundary was established. After only a year later the Polish Duke Bolesław III. "Wrymouth" died and Poland was divided among his four sons, the area of ​​Silesia passed to the eldest son Władysław . He was thus the first Duke of Silesia and at the same time the progenitor of the Silesian Piasts . In addition, the seniorate fell to him . After conflicts with his brothers he had to flee into exile in Germany in 1146, which is why he was nicknamed “the expellee” in historiography. Władysław was accepted by the Roman-German King Konrad III. who supported him in asserting his rights, while Władysław's stepbrother Bolesław IV "Kraushaar" tore power over Silesia and the seniorate. It was not until 1163 that Emperor Friedrich I achieved the return of Silesia to the rightful heirs of Władysław, who died in 1159 in exile in Altenburg , Thuringia .

Władysław's three sons Bolesław I “the Tall One” († 1201), Mieszko I “Sacrum” († 1211) and Conrad I († around 1180/90) ruled the Duchy of Silesia, presumably until the death of the Polish Duke Bolesław IV. who caused them difficulties, initially together.

In 1173 they made a division of the country, whereby the largest and most important part of Silesia fell to the oldest brother Boleslaw. The areas of Breslau , Liegnitz and Opole were assigned to him. In addition, he also administered the share of the youngest brother Konrad, who was supposed to prepare for the clerical status in Fulda and who had the Sagan , Glogau and Crossen areas .

In contrast, the area of ​​the middle brother Mieszko I only included the castellanias Ratibor and Teschen . Presumably for this reason the then senior Casimir II "the just" ceded to him an area that until then belonged to Lesser Poland and consisted of the land of Seweria , Beuthen , Nikolai and Auschwitz . After the death of Boleslaw the Tall One in 1201, Mieszko also appropriated the Opole land ( Silesia Opoliensis ) in 1202 , which Boleslaw had to transfer to his eldest son Yaroslav († 1201) in 1180 for his lifetime. On November 23, 1202, Boleslaw's son and successor Heinrich I had to agree not only to renounce Opole but also to an agreement according to which there should be no mutual right of inheritance between the two existing Silesian princely houses. This marked the beginning of the special development of what was later to be called Upper Silesia . Their regents, however, called themselves Duke of Opole and did not use the term Duke of Silesia at all until the 14th century.

After the death of Duke Casimir I of Opole, Opole was reunited with the Duchy of Silesia in 1230, as Duke Heinrich I had taken over the guardianship of Casimir's underage children, which enabled him to expand his power to all of Silesia. In 1232 he also became Senior Duke of Poland. After Heinrich's death in 1238, Kasimir's eldest son Mieszko II took over the reign of the now independent Duchy of Opole.

Henry I's son and successor as Duke of Silesia and Senior Duke of Poland, Heinrich II. Died in the Battle of Liegnitz (1241) . After that, the Duchy of Silesia was divided for his sons in 1249. The eldest son Boleslaw II received Liegnitz , Heinrich III. received Breslau and Konrad II became Duke of Glogau . Mieszko received the land of Lebus , which lies outside Silesia . The youngest son Wladislaw rose to the position of Chancellor of the Bohemian King Ottokar I Přemysl and also achieved high ecclesiastical dignity. In contrast to the Dukes of Opole, all five sons of Heinrich II continued to use the title Duke of Silesia , which the subsequent rulers in Central and Lower Silesia also use after the Duchy of Silesia was split up.

The last Silesian duke was Heinrich IV. Probus , since 1270 duke in Breslau, from 1288 as Heinrich III. also Senior Duke of Poland. With his death in 1290, the role of Silesia in the Union of Polish Duchies ended.

In the year before that, Casimir II of Cosel - Bytom was the first Silesian ruler to come under the feudal sovereignty of the Bohemian Crown . Almost all of the Silesian principalities followed suit in a few years. Finally in 1335 with the Treaty of Trenčín the Polish King Casimir III renounced . the great finally in favor of Bohemia on the feudal sovereignty over Silesia.

see also: List of the Dukes of Silesia