Kazimierz Wielki (Casimir the Great) (1976)

 

 

Directors:     Ewa Petelska, Czeslaw Petelskil, Romuald Drobaczynski (second director) , Bohdan Wielecki (second director).

Starring:        Krzysztof Chamiec (Kazimierz Wielki),  Zofia Saretok (Cudka),  Wladyslaw Hancza (Jaroslaw Bogoria),  Wieslaw Golas (Macko Borkowic),  Ignacy Machowski (Wladyslaw Lokietek),  Tadeusz Fijewski (Nanker),  Stefan Friedmann (Sulislaw),  Barbara Wrzesinska (Elzbieta Lokietkówna),  Leon Niemczyk (Karol Robert),  Michal Plucinski (Jan Luksemburski),  Boleslaw Plotnicki (Benko). 

king of Poland from 1333 to 1370 who doubled his country in size (mostly through addition of lands in the Ukraine)

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

King Casimir is being buried. Flashback. The King has a high fever and is being transported on the back of a cart.

Flashback even farther back in time to when Casimir was a young lad. He is wed to the daughter of Duke Gedynin therby uniting their two families. A big wedding reception is held. The bride is eating like a pig and Casimir doesn’t like it. The crowd asks them to kiss and they do.

At night Casimir doesn’t want to sleep with his wife. The King tells him that his wife awaits him. He also says that he is counting on Casimir to do the things that he himself was unable to do. He says Lithuania is a big and rich land. And his wife has brought 24,000 Polish prisoners with her that are now free.

The King says that when his elder sister Elizabeth was just 15 years old, she married and became the Angevin’s third wife. She cried at first, but Charles Robert (Charles I of Hungary) has proved a good husband. And because of the marriage they have a good ally in Hungary.

Casimir goes to visit his sister Elizabeth. She calls him "dearest of brothers" and says he won’t remember her because he was just ten years old when she left.

At a dance one dancer catches his eye in particular. He dances with her. After the dance, Duke Bogislaus V of Pomerania, says he will support Casimir because he is against the Order as they are for the Order tries to embroil Christian nations. Companies of horse will go to the Kingdom of Poland. If need be, he will sent two more companies to Casimir’s father.

A messenger comes to Casimir’s room and tells him that Her Majesty wishes to see him. The messenger guides Casimir to her room. He finds out that it is the woman he liked and danced with. She is in her night gown.

The next morning the father of the woman says to the Duke that his daughter’s dishonor will be avenged. With his sword, he wounds Elizabeth and then turns on the King. A servant kills the father with a knife to the back.

When Casimir returns, his father is mad at him. He says that Charles wants the heads of all the Zachs. Clara and her sons have been torn limb from limb.

Casimir and his father will fight the Teutonic Order. The Knights are coming their way in a thick mist. The Poles let the light cavalry go by. Casimir has to go back to Krakow because his father doesn’t want him getting killed. They will go get the Hungarian companies.

The attack begins. It’s slow going so Casimir’s father sends in the reinforcements. In the battle the father is badly wounded. Casimir is at his side. Dad tells him to never yield to the Teutonic Order and never give them Pomerania.

The King dies, is buried and Casimir is crowned King.

The truce with the Order ends within a month. Casimir has to decide what to do. Three men come in to see him and they report that the Lords of Poznania will not tolerate extending the truce with the Order. They want war. The new King extends the truce for another year.

The Queen gives birth to a second daughter.

There is news of a slaughter of merchants. Casimir checks it out. The guide for the merchants survived and he says it was Macko Borkowic who was responsible. The guide says the man headed for the inn. They go to the inn to confront Borkowic with the guide. Borkowic kills the guide with a blow from his sword. He then says he will pay twice the amount of the blood money. No one at the inn will testify against the cut throats because they are all afraid.

Independent Poznan and Wroclaw have a confederation in mind in order to protect trade in the area. Casimir wonders what if the merchants are the brigands? He wants the law codified.

The King of Bohemia gives up for all time his claim to the Polish throne. King John proposes in return for his concession, but in turn King Casimir will pay 400,000 Prague florin. Casimir’s adviser says the payment will be in three parts. King John will receive 200,000 all at once; 80,000 will be placed in the safekeeping of the trustworthy Henry of Lipa; and if peace reigns between them, they will pay the last installment in the Easter of 1336. And the King of Bohemia will restore to the Polish King the town of Boleslawiec and the county of Wielun, which from time immemorial were Polish.

A negotiator helps the talks between Casimir and Grand Master Dietrich of the Teutonic Knights. They have decided to return Dobrzyn and Kujavia to the King of Poland for the damage caused on both sides. For the moment Pomerania will be left to the Order for the present. The Polish adviser says that the Holy Father in Avignon should ratify the judgment. The negotiator agrees.

Casimir does not like the negotiated deal. But the adviser tells him that the most important thing is that they have peace with Bohemia. Casimir will go along with tha, but he will not go along with the deal as regards the Order.

Casimir is having a canal for salt barges built. This brings him into conflict with the Bishop of Krakow who says the canal is on his property. The bishop’s representatives asks what they should tell the bishop. Casimir says to tell him that the two delegates are the last who will return from a mission here alive.

The Holy Father, Benedict XII, issues a special bull summoning the order before a papal tribunal which will hear the complaint of King Casimir. The representatives of the bishop arrive to tell him that the canal proceeds ahead. Casimir’s adviser arrives and the bishop tells him the good news that the Teutonic Order is being summoned before a papal tribunal, February 4, 1339, in the house of Alderman Bartholomew in Warsaw.

In the trial, the first witness is Valerian Lozanka, parish priest of Charlupia. He testifies about the Order invading Poland in 1331. One of the men of the Order comes into the church whipping everyone he can get to. The priest is whipped in the head and falls down on the floor. Other knights of the Order follow him and set the church on fire.

The Queen of Poland is very ill. Casimir arrives and he comforts his two daughters who are crying. Casimir gets a drink and comments that this is a bad year, that now they have lost Lithuania as an ally. An adviser says that Margaret, John of Luxemburg’s granddaughter, is possibly available. The man is slicing off Silesia and now wants to take Milicz from the Wroclaw Chapter. Casimir says Prince Henry of Wroclaw chose a bad time to die.

Bishop Nankier goes to see King John. The bishop yells at the King for occupying the castle of Milicz. It is the property of the church. King John says the bishop wants to be a martyr. The bishop excommunicates King John. He also says that John is not their king.

The clerk of the court announces that on August 15, 1339, in Warsaw, there appeared before the tribunal the procurator of King Casimir and his attorneys. The court finds that Brother Dietrich of Altenburg, Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, and the brothers of the Order, invaded Poland, burning down churches, so the said brothers are excommunicated. And the Order has to restore to Poland the lands of Pomerania, Kujavia, Brzeg, Dobrzyn and Michaiva.

A marriage is about to take place for Casimir’s young daughter Elizabeth. A message arrives for King Casimir. There is a plague spreading with many dead. The work on a cathedral has stopped because of the plague. Casimir starts cutting a log with an axe. He sees his mistress Cudka and asks her why she hasn’t left? She tells him that she has had a son. The two sleep together.

There is a procession of men and women who flagellate themselves with whips. Casimir’s adviser says that they can’t get away from the plague. It started in Italy and has worked its way up to Poland.

There’s a flashback to Casimir in a cart. He gashed his leg while chasing a stag in a hunt. He also thinks about Cudka placing his hand on her belly and saying "your son". She looks at him and says he is not happy. He says Charles, Duke of Moravia, has arrived. He is John of Luxemburg’s brother.

The woman designated to be his next wife is Adelaide of Hesse, daughter of Landgrave Henry. Cudka is upset. He explains that he won his battle against the Order, but he still does not have Pomerania. He thinks the Emperor will help him get it. Cudka says her son will not be able to inherit the throne.

Casimir meets Adelaide of Hesse when she comes to the palace with her father. On his wedding night, he tries to flee from his wife. But someone holds the door shut.

Casimir rides to an isolated cabin to see Cudka. She tells him that her man Niemier’s returning. She also says that even if she had ten sons by Casimir, a son of hers could never become the king. Cudka wants to marry Niemier because he will bring her sons a good name. Casimir kisses her passionately then pulls the top of her dress down. He kisses her breasts. They kiss passionately.

Someone knocks wildly on the door. Casimir opens the door and a man says that Ruthenia is in peril! The Tartars have come into Ruthenia raping and pillaging.

Casimir hooks up with his army. He is told that the Tartars have invaded. advancing along the San heading for Zawichost. Casimir and the army move toward the Tartar location. The two armies slowly approach each other.

Casimir takes his sword out and raises it to announce the attack. The arrows of the Tartars take down quite a few of the Polish soldiers. Now the Tartars attacks. Both sides are charging each other. They run into each other and the fight is on.

After the battle, Casimir stops to see Cudka, but the master is dead and she has left strict instructions that she will see no one. Casimir is turned away.

Message for Casimir: The Grand Master, obedient to the will of Pope Clement VI, is ready to reach a Christian concord and will make a pact with Poland. He proposes a meeting in Kalisz. Casimir’s main adviser says the new Pope is friendly with the Emperor and the Order and he won’t uphold the Warsaw judgment.

Casimir improves the system of jurisprudence in Poland.

Borkowic, Sheriff of Poznan, says that they will never cede their rights. He gets into an argument with another fellow over the issue and he kills the man. Casimir learns that Borkowic is rounding up supporters. His followers think they will regain rights when Poznania separates. Casimir says he won’t go on the offensive until Poland is stronger.

One of the men close to the King says it’s time to get rid of Borkowic. He tells one of the guards what he wants.

Someone tells Borkowic that Castellan Benko wants to throw him in jail. Borkowic comes out looking for his assistant. He sees one of the men suddenly leave on horseback and Borkowic sends some of his men after him. The man is caught and brought back dead.

Lord Wedell sends greetings along with some of his men. They join with Borkowic and then travel to a fort. They enter by tricking the guard. Opening the gates, the men pour into the fort. Inside the fort Borkowic asks for Castellan Benko. One of the soldiers brings in Benko. Borkowic kills the man with a sword thrust through his neck. The fort is then burned down.

Borkowic goes to Casimir to plead his innocence, but Casimir tells him that he is plotting with Brandenburg. Borkowic denies it. Casimir has him swear on a cross that he never plotted against the Polish crown nor ever will.

Borkowic is arrested, brought to a dungeon and thrown into a deep hole in the ground. Then the trap door is nailed shut.

Casimir talks to his grandson. He tells the young man to remember that he is the grandson of Anne, daughter of Gedymin of Lithuania. He takes him to see another sixteen year old, the pretty blonde Kenna. Three buglers announce their arrival.

A large group of men come forward to meet them. The leader says that since Casimir married Anne thirty years ago, they haven’t seen each other. Kenna is brought forth to meet the grandson. The marriage is to unite Poland and Lithuania again. Casimir meets another young Lithuanian, a young lad named Jagiello.

Two captive men of the Order are brought in to see the leaders of Poland and Lithuania.

A warning bell rings and rings in the quarters of the Order in Gdansk. Malbork reports that Prince Kestutis has escaped. A traitor let him go. They say he is headed here to Gdansk. And the Polish rabble is in revolt. The Teutonic knights push back the rebellious Poles.

Casimir says he will never allow the Emperor’s fief to unite with that of the Order’s. The Emperor wants Brandenburg and Lusalia. Casimir wants Sanok and Drezdenko. He says they must unite with Slupsk. The nobles want him to make his grandson Casimir his heir.

Dobrogost Osten arrives to say to Casimir that he and his knights ask that Casimir take them under his protection. Osten says to Casimir that he should also take the towns of Sanok and Drezdenko.

A dying Casimir says that his last will is that his grandson Casimir take over in the duchies of Leczyca, Sieradz and Dobrzyn, the castellanies of Kruszwica and Bydgoszcz and the towns of Zlotow and Walcz. And put him on the throne as successor to Louis. Furthermore, he believes his grandson will join Slupsk to the Crown and recover Gdansk and Pomerania.

Some of the nobles say that the grandson Casimir is already betraying them by supporting the Emperor in Brandenburg. They say: "He’s not our." Casimir the Great says they are lying! He dies. The grandson fails to appear, so the nobles rip up the will.

 

A really hard movie to follow.  And the subtitles could have been more helpful by repeating the names of some of the characters to help the viewer keep the characters straight.  In addition, the subtitles often faded into those parts of the scenes that were white.  I often had to work hard on determining what the subtitles said.  The quality of the film on video tape is not very good.  There's also too little explanation of why Casimir III was fighting various groups:  Teutonic Order, Tartars, etc.  And you don't really know who won or lost in these battles.  It was just too confusing to be enjoyable.  And you really don't get much sense of the real character of the King.  Obviously, he loved Poland, but what else motivated the man.  We don't even know if he really loved his various wives.  The King's accomplishments could have been more clearly stated so we could really know he was called "the Great". 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

The lands controlled and not controlled by Poland under Casimir the Great:

not controlled – in the north, Gdansk and Prussia owned by Teutonic Order;

not controlled – in the west central, the area of Poznan and its surrounding area;

not controlled – in the west, Wroclaw;

controlled – Mazovia in northeast of Poland;

controlled – Krakow in southern Poland;

controlled – Ruthenia in east central Poland;

controlled – an outlier on the Dnister River, called Podolia.

 

1310 – Casimir III (Polish: Kazimierz Wielki) is born in Kowal. His father was Włladysłlaw I the Elbow-high.

1312-1342 – reign of Charles I (Charles Robert), King of Hungary, who establishes the Angevin dynasty. His third wive is Elizabeth of Poland (sister of Casimir III). They married in 1320. This brought an alliance between Poland and Hungary.

1325 – Casimir marries Anna or Aldona, the daughter of the prince of Lithuania, Gediminas. Aldona (d. 1339).

1326 – their first daughter was Elisabeth, who married Duke Bogislaus V of Pomerania.

1326-1332 – his father fought the Polish-Teutonic War.

1331 – at the Battle of Plowce in Kuyavia near Radziejów, Casimir’s father stopped the expansion of the Teutonic Order in the area.

1331 (March 2) – Wladyslaw dies in Kraków.

1333 (April 25) – coronation of Casimir.

1334 – birth of their second daughter Cunigunde (d 1357), who married Louis VI the Roman, the son of Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor.

1334 – Casimir confirms the privileges granted to Jewish Poles in 1264. He also prohibited the kidnaping of Jewish children for the purpose of making them Christians and heavily punished those who desecrated Jewish cemeteries.

1335 – in the Treaty of Trentschin, Casimir relinquishes "in perpetuity" his claims to Silesia..

1339 – death of Casimir’s first wife.

1341 – Casimir marries Adelaide of Hesse.

1342 – by his mistress Cudka, he has a daughter named Pelka. He had three children in total by Cudka.

1347 – at the Sejm in Wiśslica, he introduces salutary legal reforms in jurisprudence.

He also sanctioned a code of laws for Great and Lesser Poland, which gained for him the title of "the Polish Justinian".

1356 – Casimir divorces Adelaide. He then married his mistress Christina

1355 – in Buda Casimir designated Louis of Anjou (Louis I of Hungary) as his successor.

1363/1364 – divorces Christina

1364 – organizes a meeting of kings at Kraków (1364) at which he exhibited the wealth of the Polish kingdom

1365 – Casimir now marries Hedwig (Jadwiga) of Głlogów and Sagan. He has three daughters by this woman.

He had no lawful male heir.

1370 – Casimir, the last Piast king of Poland dies. His nephew King Louis I of Hungary succeeds him. This united Poland and Hungary.

 

Kazimierz the Great had many other accomplishments:

built many new castles

reformed the Polish army

reformed Polish civil and criminal law

founded the University of Kraków, the oldest Polish university.

 

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