Wladyslaw I Herman of Poland (1042-1110), also referred to as King Wladyslaw I of Poland, was the second son of Casimir I the Restorer and Maria Dobroneiga. He was ruler of Poland from 1079 AD and was variously referred to as 'Dux Wladyslaw I', 'King Wladyslaw I' and on later documentation 'Emperor Wladyslaw I of New Poland' although the last is generally considered erroneous. He is credited with the foundation of the nation of New Poland, having transformed the duchy he inherited into a powerful fledgling empire.
As the second son of Casimir I the Restorer, Wladyslaw was never in direct line for the throne. However his brother Boleslaw II abdicated in 1079, fleeing the kingdom due to a baronial uprising and later dying in Hungary.
The state of Poland as a duchy or kingdom was up for debate through this period. Boleslaw had been shortly recognised as King of Poland by the Pope and Holy Roman Empire, but his habit of attending to foreign wars and not his own lands had disturbed his authority.
Wladyslaw took the throne in 1079, becoming Duke of Poland. His foreign policy aims seemed for the first three years to be geared towards appeasing the Holy Roman Empire, but a radical policy shift in 1082 would alter this.
Wladyslaw I became Duke of Poland in 1079 after his brother was forced to abdicate in response to an uprising by disgruntled landlords.
For the first three years of his reign, Wladyslaw I looked to be a weak and subservient duke, with his foreign policy aims leaning towards appeasing the Holy Roman Empire he was obligingly allied to, even at times seeming likely to acknowledge Imperial overlordship. He also seemed in danger of being deposed in the same manner as his brother, with ominous rumblings from the Polish lords.
However, this changed on a night in August, 1082, when he was visited with a prophetic vision in his sleep. According to the priest Marcin Piatkowski, the religious attendant to the Duke's court:
'The King awoke in much disarray, and hastily rose from his chambers, not waiting to dress or tend to his visage, but immediately seeking to come address this most humble servant of God, to divulge his conscience'
He goes on to describe what the Duke related to him of his vision.
'Almighty God granted the King sights from many views, so that he may see the world through the eyes of peasants and nobles alike. The King saw a Land of the Poles far greater than that over which he most tenuously now holds authority, with its tenures expanded to stretch from the Black Sea in the south to the Baltic Sea in the north, with Poles and other various peoples united under one Royal throne, and with institutes of learning and religion most highly reknowned in all Christendom'
Convinced his vision was a mission sent to him by the Lord, Wladyslaw began his programme of Unification, which involved arduous personal campaigning within Poland, and he also began to prepare troops and funding for the later Moldavian Campaign. It is considered that the moves Wladyslaw made immediately after his vision were instrumental in saving Wladyslaw I from being deposed in the same way as his brother had been previously, and lead in the long-term to the establishment of the Polish Throne and the Empire of New Poland.
On a personal level, Wladyslaw himself was of the persuasion that the vision was in part delivered by Saint Giles, and attended especially to that Saint in his nightly prayers thereafter, even mentioning him on his deathbed.
In 1082, Duke Wladyslaw set out on a campaign to unify his deeply divided duchy.
One of his aims was to gather enough support to effectively declare himself King of Poland, with the support of the majority of his population. He managed, through gruelling campaigning, to gain the support of the majority of Polish nobility. This lead to him being able to publicly declare himself 'King of Poland' by June 1084, with a grand ceremony marking the official proclamation.
The Kingdom of Poland under Wladyslaw I gained Papal recognition by February 1085, and reluctant recognition from the Holy Roman Empire some time in 1086, with the recognition of most other European nations following soon after.
Following the establishment of the Kingdom of Poland, King Wladyslaw lead the Kingdom in a spate of aggressive expansionism, during which Polish territory would expand massively, and the Kingdom would grow to encompass territories of Bessarabia and the entirety of the Duchy of Pomerania.
Moldavian Campaign, 1088
The Moldavian Campaign was the first military campaign King Wladyslaw launched on after the Polish Unification. He had informally planned the campaign since 1083, with troops being gathered since mid 1086. The invasion, led by the monarch went mostly unopposed and the long stretch of southern territory was annexed with relatively little bloodshed. King Wladyslaw would remain in Moldavia for the next ten years to oversea the integration of the territories.
Pomeranian Campaign, 1091
The Pomeranian Campaign immediately followed the successful completetion of the Moldavian Campaign. While his father returned to Moldavia after a short visit to Krakow, Prince Wladyslaw lead the expedition north on his instructions, to begin a long, bloody and drawn-out campaign in Pomerania, made worse by Prussian intervention which would lead to the later Prussian campaign after the pacification and absorbtion of Pomerania.
Prussian Campaign, 1101
The Prussian Campaign was a decisive and in many ways defining campaign lead by the aging King Wladyslaw. The impressive victories exacted against the Prussians and the territorial expansion launched New Poland's status as a fledgling empire, as well as clearly demonstrating the military prowess of the dynasty. Whilst in Prussia, Wladyslaw oversaw two major engagements.
- The First Battle of Prussia
- The Second Battle of Prussia
Following the Kingdom of Poland's annexation of the Grand Duchy of Prussia, King Wladyslaw I, on advice from his Heir Apparant and with support from the Byzantine Emperor and the Holy See, reformed the lands under his control into a New Polish Empire based around a nucleus of the Kingdom of Poland, containing the Grand Duchy of Polish Moldavia, Grand Duchy of Prussia, the Duchy of Silesia, the Duchy of Pomerania and later the Duchy of Volhynia.
Wladyslaw decided to reform the kingdom into a small, fledgling empire mostly in order to form a suitable system for governing the vast lands without Poland becoming over-dominant and hostilely eroding the separate cultures within the new borders.
The Empire of New Poland was first declared in 1105, with King Wladyslaw I presumably becoming Emperor of New Poland, although that title was rarely used. Wladyslaw used the new system to implement building projects across his new empire, working initially from Prussia, where he was still busy pacifying the population, and then later from Krakow, where he reaffirmed his comittment to Polish interests over the rest of the Empire. The New Polish Empire would be ruled by Wladyslaw I for only five years, before he died in his bed in 1110.
There has long been debate about various aspects of King Wladyslaw, including:
- Whether or not he was part of a plot to remove his brother Boleslaw II so he could gain the throne. The arguments on either side of this debate are Dynastical Conspirism and Religious Interventionism.
- Whether Wladyslaw suffered from visions from a much earlier date, as may be evidenced by his sudden inexplicable change of mind over the name of his son Wladyslaw, who was originally going to be called Zbigniew.
- Whether Wladyslaw should be referred to as the first Emperor of New Poland, as New Poland under his short reign could be considered little more than a kingdom.