This page is about the Alternate History. For the nation within the same, see elsewhere
In the late 11th century AD, the destiny of the Duchy of Poland would be altered by a prophetic vision Duke Wladyslaw I received in the form of a dream. The vision would lead to Wladyslaw entering into programmes of unification and aggressive expansionism.
Over the next century Poland would be transformed from a backward kingdom, barely more than a duchy and dominated by the Holy Roman Empire, into an impressive military power ruling vast swathes of territory. New Poland would be responsible for forming the 'Wall of Christendom' against the eastern tribespeoples, and establishing a culture of learning and historical records which would influence European culture for centuries to come.
Polish History (pre 1082)
The Polanes were first mentioned in the 10th century chronicles of Ibrahim ibn Jakub. In 966 the Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great affirmed the ducal title held by the Polanes' leader Mieszko I, which Mieszko had received a few years earlier for pledging allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor when he was defeated by Margrave Gero. Mieszko, (born circa 930) and later his son Bolesław I Chrobry, pledged allegiance to the Emperors in exchange for part of their lands.
Mieszko is considered the first ruler of the Piast Dynasty (named for the legendary peasant founder of the family), which endured for four centuries. Between 967 and 990, Mieszko conquered substantial territory along the Baltic Sea and in the region known as Little Poland to the south. By the time he officially submitted to the authority of the Holy See in Rome in 990, Mieszko had transformed his country into one of the strongest powers in Eastern Europe.
The Polanes' neighbors to the West were tribes of Sorbs and Polabians. The Holy Roman Empire and her duchies had established marches in this region. The Pomeranian tribes dwelled in the North. Polish dukes, at times vassals or allies of the empire, tried to expand their realm into these areas alongside the Germans and the Danes. The exact extent of the lands under Duke Mieszko's rule is not known exactly, but, including lands kept as vassal of the emperor and as margrave, encompassed Greater Poland, Lesser Poland, Masovia, Silesia and perhaps even Pomerania. The lands totaled roughly 250,000 km² in area, with a population of about or even slightly below 1 million.
Mieszko I married Dubrawka, daughter of the Czech duke Boleslav I, and was baptised into the Roman branch of Christianity in 966. This event started widespread conversion to Christianity within the realms ruled by Mieszko, and was also a fact of political significance. It marked the beginning of Poland as part of the Christian western world. Moreover he also allied with the Czechs to try to keep the German land conquered or received as lien for themselves. He was christened by a Czech clergyman.
In 967 the Polish ruler defeated German Count Wichman and his allies. In 972 at the Battle of Cedynia, Mieszko defeated Hodo of the Eastern March, which enabled him to take over areas in Pomerania, as Margrave of the Emperor. Mieszko I died in 992 and left his son and successor Bolesław I the Brave a strong and thriving dukedom.
Boleslaw I (992–1025), known as the Brave, built on his father's achievements and became the most successful Polish monarch of the early medieval era. Boleslaw continued the policy of appeasing the Germans while taking advantage of their political situation to gain territory wherever possible. Frustrated in his efforts to form an equal partnership with the Holy Roman Empire, Boleslaw gained some non-Polish territory in a series of wars against his imperial overlord in 1003 and 1004. The Polish conqueror then turned eastward, extending the boundaries of his realm into present-day Ukraine. Shortly before his death in 1025, Boleslaw won international recognition as the first king of a fully sovereign Poland Boleslaw continued the work of his father. He was able to preserve the unity of the country by expelling Ode (Mieszko I's second wife) and her sons. At the Congress of Gniezno, 1000 AD, he was able to persuade Emperor Otto III to give his permission to create the first Polish archbishopric.
After the untimely death of Otto III in 1002 at the age of 22, Boleslaw I conquered the imperial March of Meissen and also Lausitz, thereby trying to wrest imperial territory for himself during the disputes over the throne — he and his father had both earlier backed Duke Henry II ("the Quarrelsome") of Bavaria against Otto, and he accepted the accession of Duke Henry's son as the Emperor Henry II. Boleslaw conquered and made himself duke of Bohemia in 1003, but lost the territory the following year. He defeated the Rus' and stormed Kyiv in 1018.
He was forced to give a pledge of allegiance by Emperor Henry II again, for the lands he held in fief. Henry died in 1024. A year later in 1025, shortly before his death, Boleslaw was crowned king. His coronation marked the full political and territorial independence of the Polish State.
Mieszko II was crowned in 1025 after his father's death. The many Polish landlords, however, feared the single rule of the monarch. This situation led to conflicts in the country, in which Mieszko's brothers turned against him and the Emperor Conrad II's forces attacked the country, seizing Lusatia. Years of chaos and conflict followed, during which Mieszko died (1034) in suspicious circumstances after his forced abdication and a brief restoration.
Casimir I and Boleslaus II
The reign of Casimir I the Restorer (1037–1058) was a short period of stability. Casimir unified the country, and was succeeded by Boleslaus II, who took advantage of the conflict between emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII and made himself king in 1076. The landlords rebelled yet again and Boleslaus II had to abdicate in 1079.
Wladyslaw I Herman 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.
Polish History (post 1082)
This is just a summary of events. For more a more detailed description see Timeline.
Reign of King Wladyslaw I
Duke Wladyslaw began the process of Polish Unification in 1083, travelling to speak with landowners and minor nobility, and establishing Poland as a Kingdom rather than a Duchy, with himself as the new King. Notably, he focused early recruitment efforts on eastern provinces where steppes warriors resided within his borders, making a big impact on several notables with his newly-formed Polish Royal Guard, which he organised into an elite cavalry unit. It was during this time that his religious fervour worked most to his advantage, winning him strong allies and convincing others that he should not be interfered with.
Moldavian Campaign, 1088
This was the first of King Wladyslaw's expansionist campaigns, and a remarkably bloodless one, considering what was achieved. The long-anticipated invasion went mostly unchallenged, and after pacification, the establishment of new borders was a relatively simple matter. It would be Moldavia that occupied much of Wladyslaw's attention over the next decade, as he moved his court there to oversee the integration.
Pomeranian Campaign, 1091
The Pomeranian Campaign was a drawn-out and bloody affair lasting nearly four years. The campaign was headed by Prince Wladyslaw, the eldest son of the King, on the King's instructions.
- The First Battle of Pomerania
- The Second Battle of Pomerania
- The Third Battle of Pomerania
Prussian Campaign, 1101
The Prussian Campaign was a decisive campaign in Wladyslaw I's expansion. 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.
- The First Battle of Prussia
- The Second Battle of Prussia
Volhynian Campaign, 1108
The Volhynian Campaign cleared up the last of the minor, local, opponents of New Poland and extended the borders eastward to protect Polish heartlands from border raids. It also properly defined the geographical shape of New Poland in regards to the eastern border.