Historical story

Batory - the worst marriage on the Polish throne?

Recognized as one of the most outstanding elected kings, Stefan Batory definitely could not pride himself on a successful life. How was the ruler's marriage?

On March 16, 1576, Stefan Batory crossed the Polish border. On May 1, he was crowned by the votes of the nobility as Habsburg's counter-candidate. In the following years, opinions about his reign were moderately divided, and the king himself tried to win the magnate to his side with a kind word.

Stefan Batory and Anna Jagiellonka made a very unsuccessful marriage

Where did Batory come from in this situation? A year before the coronation, the castellan of Biecki, Stanisław Szafraniec, put forward the proposal of Stefan Batory and Anna Jagiellon, which all voivodeships agreed to. He himself - then still the prince of Transylvania - took up the fight for the Polish throne to prevent the Habsburgs from capturing it, which would worsen the situation of the divided Hungary. A marriage to a princess from the Jagiellonian family was therefore a purely political movement. As it soon turned out - which probably does not surprise anyone - politics does not go hand in hand with love.

Lousy game

Historians do not leave Anna Jagiellonka dry. At the moment of the wedding with Batory, as we read in "The Lords of Poland" by Beata Maciejewska and Mirosław Maciorowski:

Anna was 52 years old, she was ugly and decayed, but marrying her was a condition of rule in Poland, so Batory agreed without hesitation. Janusz Kubicki, in an article published in Practical Gynecology, maintains this image of a woman at the time of coronation:"Anna Jagiellonka not only was not very beautiful, but also suffered from serious rheumatic ailments and advanced tooth decay, which is why the king avoided contact with her, hence the assumptions about impotence. Stefan Batory.

Anna Jagiellonka hoped for a greater influence on the authorities in Poland

As it usually happens in such situations, people started talking outside. Observations of people in close proximity to the royal couple showed that the king visited his wife in the bed room only two or three times ... during the ten years of the relationship! In general, he rarely visited Wawel due to the wars that were waged, but nevertheless, even in the eyes of outsiders, his married life left much to be desired.

Who doesn't sow…

Stefan Batory did not leave any descendants, at least not officially. There were assumptions that he wanted to leave the throne to Zamoyski, but these were never confirmed. Historians also speculate that Anna Jagiellonka initially hoped to play an important role in governing the country, which Batory effectively prevented. Perhaps, in the place of affect, the royal couple was only disliked over time.

Stefan Batory and Anna Jagiellonka did not like each other

The king died suddenly on December 12, 1586. Scientists speculate about the causes of death. Janusz Kubicki mentions the tragic seizure of epilepsy in Batory's family. It is very possible that the ruler was killed by advanced uremia, as confirmed by the results of the autopsy conducted by Bucell's doctor. Stefan Batory's kidneys were to turn out to be "as big as an ox's". Of course, one cannot exclude a heart attack or - according to the opinion of supporters of conspiracy theories - poisoning.

Concealed pain

One thing is certain:Batory was not in good health. There is also an assumption that his sexual abstinence was simply due to the poor condition of the body. Emperor Rudolf II's spy reported, for example, that the Polish king was suffering from an ailment called "a wolf on a leg" , in the form of small, stinging wounds on the right leg below the knee. Modern specialists argue about the true nature of the disease. It could be a hereditary effect, it could be a consequence of being bitten by a dog. One thing is certain:the king suffered and tried not to let it show. As we read in "Plagi Królewskich" by Karolina Stojek-Sawicka:

[...] this wound was the cause of great pains for the ruler, so great that it was often associated with some kind of cataleptic attacks that could be mistaken for epileptic attacks.

Stefan Batory's tombstone

In 1586, Batory went to his beloved Grodno for the last time, expecting a near death. An outside observer might say that the Grim Reaper is not going to see the king at all - he was still robust enough that he had escaped from the frozen lake on his own when his sleigh had collapsed under the ice. However, his letters to his friends testify to the exact opposite. Batory wrote openly about his impending death.

In December 1586, he began to feel new ailments:chest tightness and shortness of breath. Soon a series of attacks began. Batory died on December 12 at 5 p.m.

Sad Anna

As it turns out, not only Stefan Batory had health problems. In the case of his spouse, however, we are talking not only about diseases of the body ...

Anna Jagiellonka's life was not easy.

Probably no Polish princess has experienced so many disappointments, refusals, omissions and vain hopes as Anna. A cruel fate spurned her experiences of true love

- we read in "The Royal Plagues". According to the author, this situation and a very late marriage could eventually turn into a mental illness. The complete lack of attention on the part of Batory was supposed to be the last drop of bitterness that poured the cup…

Anna Jagiellonka was in sadness for most of her life

Interestingly, there is some evidence that Anna was neither as ugly nor as repulsive as she is portrayed today. In 1575, the Venetian diplomat Hieronymus Lippomano wrote about the princess as if she was just approaching forty (he took her over ten years!). He also mentioned her good manners.

Yet rumor has it that when Batory saw Anna, at first he wanted to postpone the wedding. Later it turned out that the couple's expectations were completely divergent. Anna wanted to influence her husband, not to mention being loved and desired. Meanwhile, Batory neither let himself be dominated nor had any intention of taking care of his life.

Over time, Anna Jagiellon's problems began to leave a mark on her health. She began to go to church morbidly and spend hours in it. It interfered in the life of the clergy, influencing the order of the services. As Karolina Stojek-Sawicka writes, "It was no longer piety, but some nervous need to control everything around."

Love in Grodno?

In the whole story of Batory and Anna, one issue remains to be discussed - the case of the alleged lover of the king, which he allegedly kept somewhere in the vicinity of Grodno. The girl was supposed to be a beautiful daughter of a gamekeeper, and from an illegitimate relationship, Dmitri the Samocan was born featured in the book "Golden Freedom" by Zofia Kossak-Szczucka.

This theory must, in all likelihood, be put into fairy tales, however. There is no historical evidence that Batory actually communicated with any girl. On the contrary, biographer Jerzy Besala writes:

[…] in Batory's correspondence we have not found any letter to a woman […] He has never had a better heart at the sight of a girl, he has lost his sensitivity to female charms somewhere. This man, who was the embodiment of male goodness and vigor, ruddy, which, according to the imaginations of the time, was meant to define a man inclined and capable of love, was a contradiction of this image.