Richeza of Poland, Queen of Sweden

Richeza of Poland
Born (1116-04-12)12 April 1116
Died after 25 December 1156
Burial Alvastra Abbey
Spouse Magnus the Strong
Volodar Glebovich
Sverker I of Sweden
House House of Piast
Father Bolesław III Wrymouth
Mother Salomea of Berg

Richeza of Poland[1] (Polish: Ryksa Bolesławówna, Swedish: Rikissa Burislevsdotter; 12 April 1116 – after 25 December 1156), a member of the House of Piast, was queen of Sweden and princess of Minsk through her three marriages.

Richeza was the daughter of Bolesław III Wrymouth, Duke of Poland, by his second wife, Salomea of Berg. Tradition describes her as unusually beautiful.

First Marriage

The Polish ruler Bolesław III Wrymouth entered in an alliance with King Niels of Denmark against Wartislaw I, Duke of Pomerania (now in northwestern Poland and northeastern Germany). In order to seal this alliance, a marriage was arranged between Bolesław III's daughter Richeza with Niels' eldest son, Crown Prince Magnus. The wedding took place around 1127. Richeza bore her husband two sons: Knud in 1129 and Niels in 1130.[2][3]

As one of the heirs of his maternal grandfather King Inge I, Magnus claimed Sweden and was recognized King of Västergötland by the Geats (Göter) in 1129 after the death of his uncle King Inge II. Then Richeza became Queen consort of Sweden. However, Magnus' rule was not accepted by the Swea, another tribe to the north of the Geats, who vetoed him and elected Ragnvald Knaphövde as the new King. According to Saxo Grammaticus, Ragnvald was murdered by supporters of Magnus, who then won the realm ("imperium") as King of Sweden. However, there soon appeared another contender for the throne, Sverker I, who was proclaimed King of Östergötland.

In 1130 Sverker I finally expelled Magnus from Västergötland and unified the country under his rule. Richeza and her husband returned to Denmark. Alarmed by the popularity and Imperial support of his cousin Knud Lavard, Duke of Schleswig, both Magnus and his father King Niels ordered him murdered (7 January 1131). Knud's half-brother Erik rebelled against Niels and Magnus, but was defeated and took refuge in Norway, where he convinced the local nobility and the Holy Roman Emperor Lothair III to launch a retaliatory expedition against Niels. Niels was defeated in the Battle of Fotevik (4 June 1134), and also lost his son Magnus who was slain during the battle. Niels escaped to Schleswig, where he was killed by the citizens (25 June 1134). Now a widow, Richeza returned to Poland, apparently leaving her two sons behind in Denmark.

Second marriage

Once in Poland, Duke Bolesław III arranged a new marriage for his daughter. On 18 June 1136, Richeza married a member of the Rurikid dynasty, Volodar Glebovich, Prince of Minsk and Hrodno,[4][5][6] who at that time was in exile in the Polish court. The union was made in order to seal the alliance of Minsk and Poland against Denmark and the powerful Monomakh Kievan dynasty. During this marriage, Richeza gave birth to three children: two sons, Vladimir (later Prince of Minsk) and Vasilko (Prince of Logoysk or Lahojsk), and a daughter, Sophia, born ca. 1139/40.

Around 1145, the political advantages of the Polish-Minsk union began to disappear after the Monomach dynasty lost its hegemony among the Rurikid ruling branches. Likely this was the cause of the dissolution of the marriage of Richeza and Volodar. Richeza returned again to Poland, this time with her daughter Sofia, but left her two sons behind with her former husband. Volodar never remarried and died around 1186.

Third marriage

In 1148, Queen Ulvhild Håkansdotter, Sverker I's wife, died. Soon afterwards, the widowed King married Richeza, who arrived in Sweden with her daughter. The King likely married her with support from Richeza's first husband's allies in Västergötland.[7] The union produced one son, Burislev, who was named after his Polish maternal grandfather. The chronicles assign Sune Sik Sverkersson as another son from Richeza and Sverker I, possibly the youngest.[8]

In 1150, Richeza's oldest son, King Canute V of Jutland, took refuge in Sweden after he was expelled from Denmark by Sweyn III Grathe, King of Zealand. In this way, the marriage with Sverker I give Richeza the opportunity to help her son, and some historians assume that she partially married the Swedish King for this reason.[7] One year later (1151), Knud asked for the help of Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Hartwig I, Archbishop of Bremen, but was defeated by Sweyn III's forces. Only after the mediation of the King of the Germans Frederick Barbarossa during the Imperial Diet in Merseburg was there made a settlement between both parties: Knud V renounced his claim and was compensated by lands in Zealand, while Sweyn III was made king of Denmark.[9] After this decision, both Knud V and Valdemar Knudsson (son of Knud Lavard, the enemy of his own father Magnus) rebelled against Sweyn III, who was expelled in 1154: Knud V and Valdemar became co-kings of Denmark.

In 1156 Knud V married Princess Helena of Sweden, daughter of King Sverker I and his first wife Ulvhild; in consequence, Richeza became the step-mother-in-law of her own son. On Christmas Day of that year, Sverker I was murdered.

In 1157 Richeza's daughter Sophia of Minsk married co-King Valdemar I of Denmark, to whom she had been betrothed since 1154; on 9 August of that year, King Knud V was killed during a meeting with Valdemar I and Sweyn III. In 1158 Richeza's second son Niels, probably a monk in Esrom Abbey, also died.[9]

Death and aftermath

Sweden's first Queen Richeza (of two) is thought to be buried at Alvastra Abbey.

Richeza is known to have survived Sverker I's death, although the facts of her later life and her date of death are unknown: the legend says that she remarried the stable master who took part in the assassination of Sverker I.

Burislev, Richeza's son by Sverker I, became a rival claimant to the Swedish throne against Canute I, and in 1167 he finally gained part of his paternal heritage when he was chosen King of Östergötland. However, in 1169 he was deposed and then disappears from the historical record. He is believed either to have been murdered by Knud's men or to have fled to Poland some time before 1173.

Richeza's daughter Sophia of Minsk, Queen of Denmark by her first marriage to Valdemar I, give Richeza her only known legitimate grandchildren: the later kings Knud VI and Valdemar II of Denmark; Sophie (Countess of Orlamünde); Margareta and Maria, nuns at Roskilde; Ingeborg (the later repudiated Queen of France); Helena (Duchess of Brunswick-Luneburg) and Richeza, named after her grandmother and who, like her, became Queen of Sweden.



  1. Also named Swantosława according to some sources. Cawley, Charles, POLAND, Medieval Lands database, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy,
  2. Hans Gillingstam: Rikissa [in]: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon band 30, 2000.
  3. Marek, Miroslav. "Genealogy of the House of Thorgils". Genealogy.EU. External link in |publisher= (help)
  4. In some sources he is incorrectly called Prince Vladimir of Novgorod, a non-existent person.
  5. Marek, Miroslav. "Complete Genealogy of the House of Rurik". Genealogy.EU. External link in |publisher= (help)
  6. Genealogical database by Herbert Stoyan
  7. 1 2 Profile in
  8. Marek, Miroslav. "Genealogy of the House of Sverker". Genealogy.EU. External link in |publisher= (help)
  9. 1 2 Cawley, Charles, DENMARK, Medieval Lands database, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy,



Richeza of Poland
Born: 12 April 1116 Died: after 1156
Swedish royalty
Preceded by
Ulvhild Håkansdotter
Queen consort of Sweden
Succeeded by
Ulvhild Håkansdotter
Queen consort of Sweden
Succeeded by
Christina Björnsdotter
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 6/19/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.