Mieszko II Lambert

This article is about the Polish king. For the later duke, see Mieszko II the Fat.
Mieszko II Lambert

Portrait by Jan Matejko.
King of Poland
Reign 25 December 1025 – 1031
Coronation 25 December 1025
Gniezno Cathedral, Poland.
Predecessor Bolesław I the Brave
Successor Bolesław II the Generous
Duke of Poland
Reign 1032–1034
Predecessor Bezprym
Successor Bolesław the Forgotten
Born c. 990
Died 10 or 11 May 1034
Poznań (?)
Burial 10 or 11 May 1034
Spouse Richeza of Lotharingia
Issue Richeza, Queen of Hungary
Casimir I, Duke of Poland
Gertruda, Grand Princess of Kiev
Dynasty Piast
Father Bolesław I the Brave
Mother Emnilda of Lusatia

Mieszko II Lambert ( Polish ; c. 990 – 10/11 May 1034) was King of Poland from 1025–1031, and Duke from 1032 until his death.

He was the second son of Bolesław I the Brave but the eldest born from his third wife Emnilda of Lusatia. He was probably named after his paternal grandfather, Mieszko I. His second name, Lambert, sometimes erroneously considered to be a nickname, was given to him as a reference to the cult of Saint Lambert. Also, it is probable that this name Lambert was chosen after Bolesław's half-brother Lambert. It is thought that the choice of this name for his son was an expression of warming relations between Bolesław I and his stepmother Oda.[1]

He organized two devastating invasions to Saxony in 1028 and 1030. Then Mieszko II ran a defensive war against Germany, Bohemia and the Kievan princes. Mieszko II was forced to escape from the country in 1031 after an attack of Yaroslav I the Wise, who installed Mieszko's older half-brother Bezprym onto the Polish throne. Mieszko took refuge in Bohemia, where he was imprisoned by the Duke Oldrich. In 1032 he regained power in one of the three districts, then united the country, making good use of the remaining power structures. At this time, several Polish territorial acquisitions of his father were lost: Upper Lusatia (also known as Milsko), part of Lower Lusatia, Red Ruthenia, western and central part of Upper Hungary (now Slovakia) and probably Moravia.

Mieszko II was very well educated for the period. He was able to read and write, and knew both Greek and Latin. He is unjustly known as Mieszko II Gnuśny (the "Lazy," "Stagnant" or "Slothful"). He received that epithet due to the unfortunate way his reign ended; but at the beginning he acted as a skillful and talented ruler.


Early years

Since Mieszko II was politically active before his father's death, Bolesław I appointed him as his successor. He participated mainly in German politics, both as a representative of his father and the commander of the Polish troops.

In 1013 Mieszko II went to Magdeburg, where he paid homage to the Emperor Henry II. A few months later Bolesław I paid homage in person. The real purpose of Mieszko's visit is unclear, especially since soon after his father paid homage to the Holy Roman Empire. Presumably, the young prince paid homage for Milsko or Moravia and Lusatia. The relevant treaty stipulated that it was only a personal tribute, not entailing any legal obligations. Another hypothesis assumes that the territories were transferred by Bolesław to him, and as a result made Mieszko a vassal of the Empire.

The position of the young prince, at the both Polish and Imperial courts, became stronger in 1013 when he married Richeza[2] daughter of Count Palatine Ezzo of Lotharingia and niece of Emperor Otto III. Ezzo was a prince of a considerable influence as a great leader of the opposition against Henry II. Through the marriage with his daughter Mieszko, he entered into the circle of the Imperial family and became a person equal to, if not higher than the Emperor himself. Probably after the wedding, and in accordance with prevailing custom, Bolesław I the Brave gave a separate district to Mieszko II to rule: Kraków. One of his towns, Wawel (now part of the city), was chosen by the prince as his residence.

In the year 1014 Mieszko II was sent by his father to Bohemia as an emissary. He had to persuade Duke Oldřich to make an alliance against the Emperor Henry II. The mission failed as Oldřich imprisoned Mieszko. He was released only after the intervention of the Emperor, who, despite the planned betrayal of Bolesław I, loyally acted on behalf of his vassal. As a result, Mieszko was sent to the Imperial court in Merseburg as a hostage. Henry II probably wanted to force the presence of Bolesław I in Merseburg and make him explain his actions. The plan failed however, because, under pressure from his relatives, the Emperor soon agreed to release Mieszko.

A year later, Mieszko II stood at the head of Polish troops in the next war against the Emperor. The campaign wasn't favorable to Henry. His army needed over a month to reach the line of the Oder River, and once there, his troops encountered strong resistance led by Mieszko and his father. Henry II sent a delegation to the Polish rulers, in an effort to induce them to conclude a peace settlement. Mieszko II refused, and after the Emperor's failure to defeat his troops in battle, Henry decided to begin retreating to Dziadoszyce. The Polish prince went on pursuit, and inflicted heavy losses on the German army. When the Polish army advanced to Meissen, Mieszko II unsuccessfully tried to besiege the castle of his brother-in-law, Margrave Herman I (husband of his sister Regelinda). The fighting stopped in autumn and was resumed only in 1017 after the failure of peace talks. Imperial forces bypassed the main defensive site near Krosno Odrzańskie and besieged Niemcza. At the same time, at the head of ten legions, Mieszko went to Moravia and planned an allied attack together with Bohemia against the Emperor. This action forced the Emperor to give up on a plan of any frontal attack. A year later, the Peace of Bautzen (30 January 1018) was concluded, with terms extremely favorable to the Polish side.

Beginning in 1028, he successfully waged war against the Holy Roman Empire. He was able to repel its invading army, and later even invaded Saxony. He allied Poland with Hungary, resulting in a temporary Hungarian occupation of Vienna. This war was probably prompted by family connections of Mieszko's in Germany who opposed Emperor Conrad II.

Due to the death of Thietmar of Merseburg, the principal chronicler of that period, there is little information about Mieszko II's life from 1018 until 1025, when he finally took over the government of Poland. Only Gallus Anonymus mentions the then Prince on occasion of the description of his father's trip to Rus in 1018: "due to the fact that his son (...) Mieszko wasn't considered yet capable of taking the government by himself, he established a regent among his family during his trip to Rus". This statement was probably the result of the complete ignorance of the chronicler, since 1018 Mieszko II was 28 years old and was already fully able to exercise the power by himself.

King of Poland

Coronation and Inheritance

King Bolesław died on 17 June 1025. Six months later, on Christmas Day, Mieszko II Lambert was crowned King of Poland by the Archbishop of Gniezno, Hipolit, in the Gniezno Cathedral. Contemporary German chroniclers considered this to be an abuse of power on the part of the Archbishop, which was made necessary by the existing political situation. After his father's death, Mieszko inherited a vast territory, which in addition to Greater Poland, Lesser Poland, Silesia and Gdansk Pomerania also included Western Pomerania, as well as Lusatia, Red Ruthenia and territory of present-day Slovakia. Whether Moravia was still under his reign or was lost earlier is disputed.[3] Once his solo reign had begun, as an important Central European ruler, he was now very important to the Holy Roman Empire.

Later developments during his reign had their source in dynastic and familial issues. His older half-brother Bezprym was the son of the Hungarian princess Judith, Bolesław's second wife. Mieszko also had a younger full-brother, Otto. According to Slavonic custom, a father was expected to divide his legacy among all his sons. However, since Bolesław I did not wish to break up the kingdom, Mieszko's brothers received nothing from their father's legacy.

As Bezprym was the oldest son, there were some who felt that he should have succeeded his father as king. Bezprym had, however, always been disliked by his father, as indicated by his name (the Piasts tended to give names such as Bolesław, Mieszko and later Kazimierz, Władysław and emperors' names, such as Otto, Konrad (Conrad), and Henryk (Heinrich). Bezprym was rather a commoner's name, which implied that Bolesław did not wish Bezprym to succeed him). For that reason, Bezprym was sent to a monastery.

According to some chroniclers, Mieszko II expelled his two brothers from the country. Otto took refuge in Germany and Bezprym escaped to the Kievan Rus.

Support to German opposition

Mieszko and Duchess Matilda of Swabia. Earliest known contemporary depiction of a Polish ruler.

In 1026 the German King Conrad II, went to Italy for his Imperial coronation. His absence increased the activity of the opposition centered around the Dukes Ernest II of Swabia and Frederick II of Upper Lorraine. Conrad II's opponents conspired to acquire the favor of the King of Poland. Historical evidence of these efforts is in the Prayer Book sent to Mieszko II by the Duchess Matilda of Swabia around 1027. The volume is entitled: officiorum Liber quem ordinem Romanum apellant. In it,a miniature showed the Duchess presenting the Book to Mieszko II while sitting on a throne. The gift was accompanied by a letter, wherein Matilda named him a distinguished King and a father of the model for the spread of Christianity. Also written was praise of the merits of Mieszko II in the building of new churches, as well his knowledge of Latin, very unusual in those times when Greek was more widely used. In this book were found the earliest records of the Kingdom of Poland: neume at the margins of the sequence Ad célèbres rex celica. The gift caused the expected effect, and Mieszko II promised to take military action. The preparations for the war began in the autumn of 1027. In the middle of that year, Conrad II returned to the Germany and began to fight the rebels. Soon he defeated Duke Ernest II, depriving him of his lands. Only when the rebel fight was nearly lost did Mieszko II arrive to their aid. In 1028 Polish troops invaded Saxony and took a number of prisoners. The devastation was so great that, according to Saxon sources where Mieszko II's troops put their feet grass never thence grew. The Emperor accused the Polish ruler of an illegal coronation as King and declared him a usurper. This invasion involved the lands of the Lutici tribe. In October 1028, the Emperor's opportunity came as the Lutici district of Pöhlde asked the Emperor to defend against the attacks of Mieszko II, promising support in the fight against the Polish ruler.

Retaliatory expeditions

Despite the treaty which secured peace between Poland and Germany, the Emperor soon armed a retaliatory expedition against Mieszko II. Conrad II's army arrived to Lusatia in the autumn of 1029 and began the siege of Bautzen; but the German troops did not receive the promised support of the Lutici tribe and the expedition failed. Threatened by the Hungarians, the Emperor was forced to retreat.

Probably in this same year the son of Oldřich, Bretislaus I, attacked and took Moravia.[4]

In 1030 Mieszko II secured an alliance with Hungary and once again invaded Saxony. In the meanwhile, his southern ally attacked Bavaria and temporarily occupied Vienna.

In response, the Emperor organized another expedition against the Polish King, this time by organizing a coalition against Mieszko II. Already in 1030 Yaroslav I the Wise began the offensive and conquered Red Ruthenia and some Bełz castles.

The Emperor in 1031 concluded a peace with the Kingdom of Hungary. Probably in exchange for his support, Conrad II give to the King Stephen I the territories between the Leitha and Fischa Rivers, ceding them to Hungary. Now that the Emperor was less concerned about an attack from the south, in the autumn of 1031 he went on the offensive against Poland and besieged Milsko. The offensive ended with a complete success, and Mieszko II was forced to surrender some lands. As a result, the Polish King lost portions of the lands taken by his father, who warred often against the Emperor Henry II.

The situation in Poland

Historians estimate that the reason for the rapid capitulation of Mieszko II was the bad internal situation in the country. Bolesław left to his son an unstable Kingdom, who had to defend his autonomy and position amongst neighboring rulers. Also, the cost of Mieszko II's extensive war against Emperor Conrad II caused his popularity to decline among his subjects, despite the fact that on the invasion of Saxony the King only defended their territory. Furthermore, the final loss of the war against the Holy Roman Empire weakened the position of the King, who had to face several rebellions among the opposition, who claimed that the previous war didn't produce the expected benefits. An additional problem was a dynastic crisis: Mieszko II's brothers continued their attempts to regain power with the help of foreign forces.

Attack of Yaroslav I the Wise. Deposition

Probably the brother who caused the first problems to Mieszko II was Bezprym, who allegedly with the support of Otto won the alliance of Kiev in order to take power. When Mieszko II was busy defending Lusatia from the troops of Conrad II, the Kievan expedition started from the east with Yaroslav I the Wise as the leader. In 1031 Poland was invaded and then Bezprym was settled on the throne. Mieszko II and his family were forced to flee the country. Queen Richeza and her children found refuge in Germany. The King couldn't escape to Hungary because during his travel he was stopped by Rus' troops. King Stephen I of Hungary wasn't favorable to accepting him in his country. Without alternatives, Mieszko II went to Bohemia. Duke Oldřich once again imprisoned him. This time the King wasn't counting with the Imperial support. Mieszko II was not only imprisoned but also castrated, which was to be a punishment to Bolesław I the Brave, who blinded Duke Boleslaus III the Red (Oldřich's brother) thirty years before. Mieszko II and his wife never reunited again; according to some sources they were either officially divorced or only separated.

Restoration to the Throne

The new Duke Bezprym probably made bloody persecutions against the followers of Mieszko II. At the time the power was exercised to the mutiny and the people known as the "Pagan Reaction". Have degraded the structure of power, the Duke's authority collapsed, and he was forced to send the Royal crown and regalia to the Emperor. After only one year of reign, Bezprym was murdered (1032), probably thanks to the instigations of his brothers.

After the death of Bezprym, the Polish throne remained vacant. Mieszko II was still imprisoned in Bohemia and Otto probably in Germany. German sources report that the Emperor has organized an expedition in order to invade Poland. It is unknown what happened after this, but certainly Mieszko II was released by Duke Oldřich and he could return to the country. After his recent opponent could regain the power, the Emperor immediately reacted and began the preparations for the expedition against Poland. Mieszko II wasn't prepared for the confrontation, so he used his influence in the German court in order to resolve the conflict.

On 7 July 1032, in Merseburg a meeting took place between Conrad II and the surviving heirs of the Piast dynasty. Without alternatives, Mieszko II was forced to surrender the Royal crown and agreed to the division of Poland between him and the other two competitors: his brother Otto and certain Dytryk (German: Thiedric) —cousin, grandson of Duke Mieszko I and his third wife Oda—.

Mieszko II probably received Lesser Poland and Masovia, Otto obtained Silesia, and Dytryk took Greater Poland.[5] Another proposal involves that Mieszko II received Greater Poland, and other neighborhoods were given to Otto and Dytryk.[6]

Although the distribution was uncertain, this division was short-lived: in 1033 Otto was killed by one of his own men, and Mieszko II took his domains. Shortly after, he could have expelled Dytryk and thus was able to reunite the whole country in his hands.

Mieszko II regained the full power, but he still had to fight against the nobility and his own subjects. It should be noted that in Poland his renunciation to the Royal crown wasn't counted, and after 1032, in the chronicles, he was still called King.


Mieszko II died suddenly between 10 and 11 May 1034, probably in Poznań. The Polish chronicles clearly stated that he died of natural causes; the information that he was murdered by the sword-bearer (Miecznik), given by the chronicles of Gottfried of Viterbo, refers to Bezprym. However, the historians now think that he was killed in a plot hatched by the aristocracy. He was buried in the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul.

After Mieszko II's death, Poland's peasants revolted in a "pagan reaction." The exact reasons and date are unknown. Mieszko II's only son and heir, Casimir I, was either expelled by this insurrection, or the insurrection was caused by the aristocracy's expulsion of him.

Some modern historians argue that the insurrection was caused more by economic than by religious issues, such as new taxes for the Church and the militarization of the early Polish polity. Priests, monks and knights were killed; cities, churches and monasteries were burned.

The chaos became still greater when unexpectedly the Czechs invaded Silesia and Greater Poland from the south (1039). The land became divided among local rulers, one of whom is known by name: Miecław, ruler of Masovia. Greater Poland was so devastated that it ceased to be the core of Polish Kingdom. The capital was moved to Kraków in Lesser Poland.

Marriage and issue

In Merseburg ca. 1013, Mieszko II married with Richeza (b. bef. 1000 – d. Saalfeld, 21 March 1063), daughter of Count Palatine Ezzo of Lotharingia. They had at least three children, and possibly four:

  1. Ryksa (b. 22 September 1013 – d. 21 May 1075), married by 1039/42 to King Béla I of Hungary.
  2. Casimir I the Restorer (b. 25 July 1016 – d. 19 March 1058).
  3. Gertruda (b. 1025 – d. Kiev, 4 January 1108), married by 1043 to Grand Prince Iziaslav I of Kiev.
  4. possibly Agatha, wife of Edward the Exile, whose origins are unknown. One theory that has been put forward is that she was daughter of Mieszko II and Richeza.[7]


See also


  1. Jasiński K. Rodowód pierwszych Piastów, p. 114
  2. The Catholic Church in Poland: Saints. Quote: "Blessed Rycheza (Ryksa) (+1063), Queen, wife of [the] King Mieszko II [21.5]"
  3. See note No. 4
  4. In the literature appears different dates of this conquest: 1017 (Norman Davies, Boże igrzysko, t. I, Wydawnictwo ZNAK, Kraków 1987, ISBN 83-7006-052-8), 1019 (this date is supported virtually all Czech historiography; as partes pro toto can be named: Krzemieńska, Barbara (1999). "II. Dobytí Moravy" [II. Conquering of Moravia]. Břetislav I.: Čechy a střední Evropa v prvé polovině XI. století [Bretislaus I: Bohemia and Central Europe in 1st Half of the 11th Century] (in Czech) (2nd. ed.). Praha: Garamond. ISBN 80-901760-7-0. or Wihoda, Martin (2010). Morava v době knížecí (906–1197) [Moravia in the Ducal Era (906–1197)] (in Czech). Praha: NLN. ISBN 978-80-7106-563-0.), 1020 (Tadeusz Manteuffel, Trudności wzrostu w Zarys historii Polski pod redakcją Janusza Tazbira, Polski Instytut Wydawniczy, Warszaw 1980, p. 24), 1021, 1029 (G. Labuda, Korona i infuła, Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza, Kraków 1996, ISBN 83-03-03659-9, p.1) and 1030.
  5. Szczur S. "Historia Polski średniowiecze", p. 80
  6. Labuda G. Pierwsze państwo piastowskie, p. 54
  7. MichaelAnne Guido and John P. Ravilious, "From Theophanu to St. Margaret of Scotland: A study of Agatha's ancestry", Foundations, vol. 4(2012), pp. 81-121.
Mieszko II Lambert
Piast Dynasty
Born: ca. 990 Died: 10 or 11 May 1034
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Bolesław I the Brave
King of Poland
Title next held by
Bolesław II the Generous
Preceded by
Duke of Poland
Succeeded by
Casimir I the Restorer
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