Barbara of Cilli

Barbara of Cilli
Holy Roman Empress
Tenure 1433–1437
Queen consort of the Romans
Tenure 1411–1437
Queen consort of Hungary
Tenure 1405–1437
Queen consort of Bohemia
Tenure 1419–1437
Born 1392
Died 11 July 1451
Spouse Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor
Issue Elisabeth of Luxembourg
House House of Cilli
Father Herman II, Count of Celje
Mother Countess Anna of Schaunberg

Barbara of Cilli (1392 – 11 July 1451), was the spouse of Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund and as such Holy Roman Empress. She was by marriage also Queen of Hungary and Bohemia. She was actively involved in politics and economy of her times, independently administering large feudal fiefdoms and taxes, and was instrumental in creating the famous royal Order of the Dragon. She served as the regent of Hungarian kingdom in the absence of her husband.

Barbara was the daughter of Herman II, Count of Celje, and Countess Anna of Schaunberg.


Barbara was engaged in 1405 to Sigismund of Luxemburg, King of Hungary, a younger son of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor who later succeeded to the rule in Germany (1410), Bohemia (1419) and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor himself in 1433. The marriage likely took place in December 1405.[1]

She spent most of her time on her Hungarian fiefdoms, while her spouse devoted his time elsewhere. She served as the regent of Hungary during his absences in 1412, 1414, 1416 and 1418. In 1429, she participated at the congress of Łuck. She was crowned Queen of Hungary in 1408, Queen of Germany in 1414 (being the last one consort to be crowned in Aachen[2]), Holy Roman Empress in 1433 and Queen of Bohemia in 1437, shortly before her husband's death. She is remembered by many contemporaries as emperor's young, vital and beautiful consort at the Council of Constance. In 1409, Barbara gave birth to a daughter, Elisabeth, Sigismund's only surviving issue and heiress, who married King Albert II of Germany.

Day before the death of her gravely ill husband on 9 December 1437 at Znojmo, as a pretext to confiscate her large fiefdoms in the Hungarian kingdom (where she rivaled the king himself in number of fiefdoms and castles), she was quickly accused by her son-in-law Albert II of Germany of the Habsburg dynasty and his chancellor Kaspar Schlick of plotting against Sigismund, for which she was swiftly transported to prison in Bratislava castle and later forced to relinquish most of her possessions, including her dowry. Conflict with the new king was inevitable, and Barbara soon decided to find shelter in the Polish royal court, where she was in exile from 1438 to 1441. The Polish king decided to give her financial support by granting her Sandomierz as a fief, according to the chronicle of Jan Długosz.[3]

In 1441, two years after the death of her arch-rival King Albert II of Germany, she moved to Mělník in Bohemia - a fiefdom given to her by her deceased husband. All her Hungarian fiefdoms were already lost; some of them belonged to her daughter, Queen Elisabeth. Later she reconciled with her daughter and renounced her rights to Hungarian possessions (1441). She spent the rest of her life as Dowager Queen in Bohemia. She seems to have retreated from political life, although the Habsburg court saw her as dangerous and tried to accuse her of heresy, alchemy, and immoral and agnostic behavior, for which she received the sobriquet "Messalina of Germany".[4] She died of the plague epidemic in Mělník and was buried in St. Andrew's chapel of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.

Literary references

Barbara is featured as the main character in the wraparound narrative of the story collection Waggish Tales of the Czechs. Referred to as "Queen Barbota," Barbara is portrayed as a somewhat ribald character who, bedridden and bored during her pregnancy, engages her women-in-waiting in telling her moral tales. According to the book's foreword, these are "lusty, uproarious, sometimes cruelly brutal yarns, recited with the coarse gusto and abounding virility of a healthy outdoor people." Queen Barbota takes great delight in them.[5]



  1. Amalie Fößel: Barbara von Cilli. Ihre frühen Jahre als Gemahlin Sigismunds und ungarische Königin. In: Michel Pauly, François Reinert (Hrsg.): Sigismund von Luxemburg. Ein Kaiser in Europa (Tagungsband des internationalen historischen und kunsthistorischen Kongresses in Luxemburg, 8.–10. Juni 2005). von Zabern
  2. Claudia Zey: Imperatrix, si venerit Romam ... Zu den Krönungen von Kaiserinnen im Mittelalter. In: Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters, vol. 60 (2004), pp. 3–51, p. 39.
  3. Jan Długosz (1415–1480) - ANNALS OR CHRONICLES
  4. Duggan, Anne J. (2002). Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe: Proceedings of a Conference Held at King's College London, April 1995. Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-881-1.
  5. Lockridge, Norman (1947). Waggish Tales of the Czechs The Candide Press, New York.

Further reading

External links

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Royal titles
Preceded by
Elizabeth of Pomerania
Holy Roman Empress
Succeeded by
Eleanor of Portugal
Preceded by
Elisabeth of Nuremberg
German Queen
Succeeded by
Elisabeth of Bohemia
Preceded by
Sofia of Bavaria
Queen consort of Bohemia
Preceded by
Margaret of Durazzo
Queen consort of Hungary
German nobility
Preceded by
Agnes of Opole
Electress consort of Brandenburg
Succeeded by
Elisabeth of Bavaria
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