Vladislaus (in Czech, Vladislav) was born in Kraków on March 1, 1456. His mother was Elisabeth of Habsburg, a member of the same family that would rule the Kingdom of Bohemia for so long. Her father, Albert, had been King of Bohemia. Elisabeth’s brother, Ladislaus the Posthumous, died without issue, upon which Elisabeth and Casimir claimed not only Bohemia, but Hungary as well.
The two countries took the claim less than seriously. Hungary elected Matthias Corvinus king on January 24, 1458. George of Podĕbrady (in Czech, Jiří z Podĕbrad) was elected king by the Bohemian Estates on March 2 of the same year.
Unfortunately for George, he was a Hussite – a Protestant follower of Czech reformer Jan Hus. In 1466, he was excommunicated by Pope Paul II. The Czech nobles who adhered to the Catholic faith rose up against him, encouraged by the pope’s proclamation of a crusade. They appealed to Matthias Corvinus for help, and he invaded Moravia in March of 1468. George, desperate for assistance, offered to make Casimir’s son Vladislaus his heir if Casimir acted as mediator in peace negotiations between Bohemia and Hungary. Although Matthias rejected the offer Casimir held out to him, George managed to force the Hungarian to sign a truce in 1469.
The struggle was far from over. Bohemia’s Catholic nobility, still strongly anti-George, declared Matthias King of Bohemia in the city of Olomouc on May 3 of that year. Casimir interceded on George’s behalf, appealing to Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III (after George repeated his offer of making Vladislaus his heir). George had little time left; he died on March 22, 1471.
Vladislaus, the heir apparent to the throne of Bohemia (and the thrones of Poland and Lithuania) was all of 15 years old when George died. The teenager was elected king by the Bohemian Diet at Kutná Hora on May 27, 1471. At that time, Bohemia consisted of two “nations” – one Hussite, one Catholic. Vladislaus was obligated to recognize these two nations pursuant to the Compacts of Basel. A power struggle began immediately. The Holy See refused to recognize his election, and on May 28, stated that Matthias was the rightful king. Emperor Frederick, on the other hand, rejected Matthias’s claim.
Casimir had made the unwise move of sending his young son to Bohemia without an army to accompany him. The new king was crowned again in Prague on August 22. He relied heavily on the support of the nobility, since he lacked troops to provide backup. Not at all surprisingly, his father supported him, though Casimir was busy elsewhere. His second son, also named Casimir, invaded Upper Hungary (which, these days, is the country of Slovakia) late in 1471 when an association of Hungarian nobles offered the younger Casimir the throne. Matthias soundly defeated the would-be king and forced him to return to Poland.
The ongoing fight between the elder Casimir and his son on one hand, and Matthias on the other, raised hackles in the Church. On March 1, 1472, Pope Sixtus gave his legate the power to excommunicate father and son if they continued to battle Matthias. This threat was sufficient to get both sides to sign a truce on May 31 of that year. Vladislaus was so caught up in the peace treaty that four Czech noblemen were elected by the Bohemian Diet at Benešov (near Prague) to run the country until a lasting peace was agreed.
To be continued…