By A. Bruce Boswell
Great Men and Women of Poland, ed. by S. Mizwa (New York, 1942)
Introduction: Casimir, “the only king the Poles call Great,” was born in 1310 in Krakow, the chief city of Lesser Poland, and was crowned king at Krakow in 1333. We know very little about his early life. He must have studied politics under the Archbishop of Gniezno and the magnates of Lesser Poland in whose charge his father left him.
This, however, we know full well, that he grew up during one of the darkest periods in Polish history. A Polish state scarcely existed, and throughout his life he had to endure from his enemies the half-derisive title of “King of Krakow.” Although the Empire had declined and was no longer a formidable neighbor, the growing dissolution of Germany had given a great opportunity to the Czechs. Their new king of the Luxemburg dynasty had revived his claims with such success that his dynasty became the great menace to Polish independence, especially under his son Charles IV, who became Emperor and made Bohemia the great political and cultural force in central Europe.