In Novogrudok people love telling stories about how a king and a queen — Jagiello and Sofia — got married in the Jesuit church Mickiewicz sang of. The name of the king is a buzz word, but we know almost nothing about Queen Sofia. Though her family name Golshanskaya sounds intriguing: site of present-day Golshany village is unusual. To mark the Queen’s 600th birthday this year historians from various countries convened in this ancient place to restore the biography of the famous Golshany native from scratch, to return what was lost into our memories. A memorial stone has been placed in Sofia’s honour in Golshany. The National Bank of Belarus has minted a coin bearing Sofia’s profile.
…Jagiello was at a loss, “Vasilisa is beautiful, but her moustache — she’s certainly tough. I am an old man, she wouldn’t suit me”. To tell the truth, the seventy-year-old king was afraid of becoming henpecked. Understanding he was not going to marry Vasilisa, he acted fast and found her another suitor…
When a boy was born into the family of the Japanese emperor, newspapers of all countries dedicated their opening pages to this news. Six centuries ago the same problem had to be tackled in our land. King of Poland Jagiello had been expecting a successor to the crown for thirty years. “I’ve had three wives — two Poles and one German. Maybe, the Lord Almighty will give me children of the Russian kin”, 70-year-old Jagiello asked Vytautas to be his matchmaker and find him a wife among former countrywomen — a Lithuanian or a Russian.
Neither Jadwiga nor the two other wives — Anna and Elzbieta gave a son to the king. Before her demise Elzbieta made a prediction, “I leave this world for you to bond your destiny with hers, who will serve her duty better. I believe you will have sons yet”.
As his brother, Vytautas found Sofia for Jagiello. However, picking out the future spouse, he hoped the old king would die without successors and Vytautas himself will ascend to the throne of Poland.
Seventeen-year-old Sofia looked like a granddaughter to the king. However, her parents didn’t bother asking the girl whether she wanted marry Jagiello or not.
“The king himself had a great hope that it will be Sofia who will bear ancestors of him,” assured researcher Irina Maslenitsyna.
Sofia’s father Andrei was one of the Lithuanian prince family of the Golshanskiys and died prematurely. His wife Alexandra was one of the Belarusian prince family of the Drutskiys. Once a dowager, she came to live to her brother Simeon’s. It was Simeon who played the key part in Jagiello’s marriage.
Simeon met Jagiello in Drutsk alone. Nobody mentioned marriage yet, waiting for the matchmaker — Vytautas. He was supposed to ask hand of Sofia for his brother.
“But a hindrance suddenly stood in the way”, continued Irina Maslenitsyna. “Simeon Drutskiy said he couldn’t let Sofia get married, because his eldest daughter Vasilisa should marry first”.
However, on March 22, 1422 Jagiello married Sofia in the Jesuit church in Novogrudok. The church has stood there since then.
Beautiful and ungodly
Poland didn’t accept the fourth wife of the king at once. Historian Lyubov Soboleva said, some Sofia’s contemporaries gave her definitions far from flattering. Annalist Jan Dlugosz wrote that “the Russian maiden” was beautiful, but… ungodly.
Literature theorist Zhanna Nekrashevich-Korotkaya specified, not every annalist disfavoured Sofia. “Jan Wislicki, author of the famous Latin language poem Prussian War, compared Sofia’s beauty with that of the sun, called her a charming and graceful woman”, the researcher added.
Jagiello’s adversaries tried hard to discredit the king and the queen. When she was expecting her second child, a scandal broke out. “The queen of Poland Sofia secretly flirted with some knights”, the gossip started out as a whisper in the halls of
“A year was spent looking for proof of the infidelity,” comments Lyubov Soboleva. “Sofia swore she had been faithful to the king, but their relations got slightly worse”.
“Vytautas most likely played a part in the story”, specified Irina Maslenitsyna. “He still had hopes of removing Jagiello someway”.
The whisper became a roar. Jagiello’s sons were the first thing to trigger the suspicions. Enemies of the king started persuading people that the king was too old to have children. If it was so, Sofia was made pregnant by another man. Sofia’s ladies-in-waiting were put to prison and tortured until the girls named knight Henryk as their queen’s “lover”. He was arrested but the nobleman repeatedly stated as a prayer that “The queen has been faithful to the king”.
Strangely but the court could be humane even in those cruel times. Lawyers recalled Jagiello had been overjealous towards Jadwiga and Anna… “Was it a continuation of the old story?” the wise men thought. After Sofia swore a purgatorial oath on the Book, she was acquitted. Many years later everyone saw the sons of the queen looked exactly like Jagiello. However, some Polish researchers would like to resume the investigation six hundred years later, demanding to examine the DNA of the remains of Jagiello, Sofia and the royal princes.
The Jagiellonowie was the name descendants of the star couple bore. For another 150 years they ruled the larger part of Eastern Europe. Sofia and Jagiello’s firstborn Wladyslaw became Poland king after a month since his father died and ascended to the throne of Hungary five years later. Second son Kazimierz died prematurely. Third son Kazimierz was a great Lithuanian duke and then a king of Poland. Sofia’s grandchildren had their time on the throne of Czechia as well.
Sofia died in 1461. She was buried in Krakow cathedral using orthodox Christian traditions. After giving birth to an entire royal dynasty of Poland, she has been in the shade of her husband under the gullish name of Sonka. People of her motherland seldom recalled her. She was a Queen-mother for another country. She received her due only in the present-day world.