Historical story

Five Polish rulers who died of overeating and drinking

Last updated:2022-07-25

Fifteen chickens and a sea of ​​wine. One thousand oranges. Or a killer mix of cucumbers and mead. These monarchs did not regret it. Also at his last supper.

The king suddenly fell during a feast, barely dipping his mouth in the goblet? He was definitely poisoned! This is how almost every sudden death among the powerful of this world, when medicine failed to rationalize it, was explained. It would seem that great men do not die for mundane reasons such as greed and drunkenness. And yet - Alexander the Great, Adolf Fryderyk and Henry I most likely simply devoured themselves, often complementing the work with their favorite drink. There were also such cases among Polish rulers.

Obese but escaped from the battlefield

Mieszko II, the much-telling nickname of Otyła, briefly exercised independent rule in the Opole-Racibórz region. At the time of his death in 1246, he was only 26 years old. He has achieved little in his life. He could have died in the battle with the Tatars near Legnica and entered the pages of history as a heroic defender of Poland. Instead of fighting, he hid behind the stronghold's fortifications, waiting for the storm to pass him by. In the meantime, the invaders showed him the head of Henry the Pious, stuck on a spear, to whose death Mieszko's cowardice certainly contributed.

Mieszko did not show his courage. But at least he had the forethought to write down his last will. It turned out to be important because the ruler, according to chroniclers, was sterile. He did not leave a descendant to whom he could pass his lands. The will put matters in order and most of the goods went to the younger brother of the prince, Władysław.

Mieszko II the Obese fully deserved his nickname. Gluttony put him in his grave (source:public domain).

One of the possible causes of the fat ruler's death was a watery drop. It seems, however, that the tissues of Mieszko's body were not retained by water, but simply by fat in the world. Sources repeat that he was killed by his morbid overweight. Mieszko II the Obese reported his destiny over 15 chickens, which he washed down with a sea of ​​wine. Taking into account that the human stomach has a capacity of 1 to 3 liters, it can be safely concluded that the Duke of Opole and Racibórz has set a record.

Bolko, pay!

Bolko Hojny is a perfect nickname for someone with whom you would like to go out, have fun, and see in the morning that it is not our responsibility to pay the bill for everything. This is what the Duke of Legnica, Bolesław III Rozrzutny (1291-1352) was like. The ruler was a true admirer of lavish life, which prevented him from pursuing a political career and even literally drove him to his grave.

Thanks to the origins of his wife Małgorzata, Bolko was able to apply for the Czech crown. During the reign of John of Luxembourg, he often visited the Prague court. He also tried to support the monarch in disputes with the opposition. He had a chance to capture the Duchy of Wrocław in a fight with his brother Henryk VI. However, everything backfired, because both in private and in politics, Bolko was not, to put it mildly, a thrifty one. He got rid of the districts for silver fines, managed to hold his position for a while, and then lost it to his younger brothers.

If you believe the messages, Bolesław III's life ended with great gluttony. The illustration shows a fragment of the 19th-century reconstruction of the Bolesław tomb in Lubiąż (source:public domain)

Even losing his influence and possessions, Bolko was unable to give up his lavish life, as evidenced by, for example, foreign travels. The ruler also founded two monasteries in Brzeg and financially supported the abbey in Lubiąż. This, however, did not ensure him sufficient favor from the church - he was twice cursed (for non-payment of debts and seizure of property).

It was removed only thanks to the intercession of Bolek's sons, when the ruler was already on his deathbed. He died as he lived. At the end of Lent, a sumptuous feast was organized, and Bolesław III, the Wasteful, who had no limits in his food, fought to death, allegedly consuming as many as 13 chickens, washing it down with a few liters of wine and beer!

Clubbing in Mazovia

When the last two dukes of Mazovia - Stanisław (August 8, 1524) and Janusz III (on the night of March 9-10, 1526) died, a conspiracy began immediately. For what can kill two men in their prime if not a solid dose of poison? Even the alleged ringleader of this double murder was found, Katarzyna Radziejowska, who was successively the mistress of both princes.

The matter ceased to be so obvious when the witnesses began to sprinkle anecdotes about the extremely unsanitary lifestyle of the brothers. Stanisław, even though he had a mild temper, did not pour him under the collar. Sources even say that he suffered from a severe hangover not long before his death. Janusz was also to blame for himself drinking without measure .

The last dukes of Mazovia, Janusz and Stanisław, definitely did not pour out their collar. And it was their passion for alcoholic beverages that probably caused their death (source:public domain).

It turned out that the gentlemen often feasted with their troynik companions with muscatella, stirring. Miss Katarzyna did not commission the killing of the lovers. Even in the edict issued by Sigismund the Old in 1528, it was recognized that Duke Janusz died not as a result of a crime , but by the will of God Almighty. Or in other words:simply overcharging.

A really great prince

On November 10, 1673, the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki, made their lives. There are still stories about his eating habits that are sometimes impossible to believe. Once he ate allegedly a thousand oranges sent to him from Gdańsk. There is an exaggeration in this story, but it is true that the ruler was great according to the title and quite overweight.

The causes of his death have been variously noted in the sources. According to some, choked on a pickled cucumber . In the light of others - he poisoned with fruit. There were also theories about poisoning and gastric ulcers (as evidenced by the unhealthy appearance of the prince). Wiśniowiecki's ailments have also been referred to today as consumption. Despite his poor health, against the doctors' recommendations, the ruler decided to go from Warsaw to Lviv. The end of this journey also turned out to be the end of his life.

Korybut Wiśniowiecki began to experience a severe headache on the outskirts of the city, which prevented him from eating (which, given his excess weight, would rather not hurt) or sleep. Later he also suffered from stinging in his sides and weakness.

In the end, the ruler felt so bad that he wrote a will, and on November 6 he was anointed with oils. After a few days, he died. Given the sudden deterioration in his condition and the autopsy results, it seems very likely that the ulcers will rupture.

It was not the only food-related death in the Wiśniowiecki family. The king's father, Jeremi Wiśniowiecki, also died of stomach problems. The most prosaic version says that he was overcome by contagious diarrhea , the dramatic version - that he was murdered. However, it is very possible that got poisoned by a mixture of cucumbers and mead which was not that extravagant in those days.


  1. Wiesław Bokajło, The process of national transformation of Lower Silesians until the beginning of the 20th century, Ed. University of Wrocław 1993.
  2. Wojciech Iwańczak, John of Luxembourg, PIW 2012.
  3. Kazimierz Jasiński, Circumstances of the death of the Dukes of Mazovia , "Yearbook of the Polish Heraldic Society", 1997.
  4. Jerzy Rajman, Mieszko II, the Fat Duke of Opolsko-Raciborski, The Historical Quarterly (r. 100, No. 3, 1993).
  5. Hanna Widacka, Sickness and death of King Michał.