Historical story

The German king who saved Poland

Last updated:2022-07-25

Usually, the Germans are written as those who tried hard to take Poland apart into pieces. Meanwhile, the opposite happened at least once in history. It was the Germans who saved Poland from annihilation.

In the 30s of the 11th century, Poland was still a young country with weak roots and an uncertain future. Although two extremely militant and intelligent rulers - Mieszko I and Bolesław the Brave - multiplied its territory and gained fame in Europe, fate soon ceased to favor the Piast dynasty. Poland was shaken by the civil war, and almost all neighbors took revenge for Brave's bloody campaigns.

King Mieszko II was humiliated by exile and crushing his testicles. When his son, Kazimierz, ascended the Polish throne in 1034, the situation reached the bottom. The treasury was empty, the ruler was only 18 years old, and the warriors and courtiers did not think to listen to him.

Kazimierz's return to Poland in a 19th-century painting. Strangely enough, the German knights were not painted…

A revolt broke out in the country, and Kazimierz was forced to flee to Hungary. No member of the royal family remained in Poland. The central government disintegrated, and the powerful in individual provinces gained independence. A particularly strong position was achieved by a certain Miecław who organized his own state in Mazovia.

In addition, the ruler of Bohemia, Brzetysław, set off on an armed expedition to Greater Poland. He plundered churches, demolished castles, stole holy relics. He left only ashes from Poznań and Gniezno. He also probably thought about settling in the north and joining at least part of the Piast state to the Czech Republic. This way Poland would completely disappear from the map of Europe.

Kazimierz couldn't do anything about it. First, he was imprisoned for at least a few months by the Hungarian king. When he regained his freedom, he went to Germany, where his mother, Rycheza, lived. As Marek K. Barański writes in his book Historia Medieval Poland, it is at her court that he found shelter and help. Rycheza was an influential magnate, and her relatives held the highest positions in the state. One brother was Archbishop of Cologne and Chancellor of Italy. The second ruled the principality of Swabia.

For the Germans, Kazimierz was nothing more than a knight from a good family. Gall Anonymous wrote that Kazimierz distinguished himself in the service of the German king Henry III with "chivalrous deeds".

Fortunately for Kazimierz, a strong Czech under Brzetysław's rule was completely contrary to the interests of Henry III. That is why the German king decided to help the Piast prince.

And it was that was perhaps the most important decision in the history of Poland for Henryk :Leave things to run or help a deposed prince? If the German king did nothing, Poland would fall into districts, the Czechs would wrestle a few of its provinces, and today the "state of the Polans" would be a similar historical curiosity as the Great Moravia or the country of the Vistulans.

Fortunately, Henry III came to the conclusion that it would be in his best interest to help Kazimierz. According to Marek K. Barański:

The German king was concerned about the victories of the Czech prince Brzetyslav. He did not want Brzetysław to conquer Poland and create a large Slavic state that would be dangerous to Germany. (...) It seemed that the ruler of Prague could become the lord of the Western Slavic area, [so] Henry III helped the Polish prince.

Kazimierz received money from the king, as well as 500 heavily armed German knights, at the head of whom he went to Krakow to regain the throne by force. He succeeded, thanks to which he earned the fame of the "Restorer". And Henryk? Strangely enough, no one remembers his role in the history of Poland ...


  • Marek Kazimierz Barański, History of Medieval Poland , Zysk i S-ka, 2012.