Category Archive 'Wladyslaw III'

03 Dec 2010

Christopher Columbus Alleged Son of King of Poland

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Jan Matejko, Wladyslaw III at Varna, (Detail), 1879.

Wladyslaw III (1424-1444) was a child when he succeeded his father Wladyslaw II Jagiello to the throne of Poland in 1434. The boy king had been molded by the influence of his tutor, Bishop Zbigniew Olesnicki, to embrace eagerly the role of defender of the Christian Faith. In 1440, Wladyslaw accepted the throne of Hungary, pledging himself to defend that country against the Turks. In 1443, he launched a military campaign in the Balkans which liberated Sofia, and inspired a revolt in Albania, forcing the Turks to sign a peace treaty.

Wladyslaw was promised support from a number of European nations and the protection of a strong Christian fleet, and urged to resume the offensive. On August 4th, 1444, he proceeded to break the truce. No support was forthcoming, and it has long been rumored that the Genoese accepted substantial fees to ferry the Turkish Army across to the European shore, where on November 10th Wladislaw and his army was trapped their backs to the sea at Varna. Some authorities think the Christian Army might possibly have fought its way out of the encirclement, but faced with overwhelming enemy forces, the boy king simply placed himself at the head of two squadrons of Polish heavy cavalry, and brandishing a captured scimitar, charged directly at the Sultan’s person surrounded by the janissaries in the center of the Turkish camp. The king’s body was never recovered.

Turkish accounts claim the king’s head was first exhibited on a stake, then preserved in a jar of honey and taken to Brussa, the capital of the Turkish state, as a trophy.

A new book, just released in Spain, titled, “COLON. La Historia Nunca Contada” (COLUMBUS. The Untold Story), by Manuel Rosa, bases itself on a Portuguese legend that Wladyslaw survived and contends that Chrisopher Columbus was his son.

The legend suggests that Wladyslaw renounced his throne as the result of guilt, believing that his defeat was the judgment of God for his breaking the truce. He is said to have traveled in obscurity to the Holy Land as a penitiential pilgrim, becoming a Knight of Saint Catherine of Mount Sinai, and then settled on island of Madeira.

On Madeira, he was allegedly known as Henrique Alemão (Henry the German) and resided on land received directly from the King of Portugal, who served as his best man at his wedding to a Portuguese lady.

He is said to have built the church of Saint Catherine and Saint Mary Magdalene in Madalena do Mar in 1471), in which he is said to have been the model used for Saint Joachim meeting Saint Anne at the Golden Gate in a painting by Master of the Adoration of Machico done at the beginning of the 16th century.

Manuel Rosa adopts the viewpoint of the legend contending that Christopher Columbus had access to four royal courts on the basis of his own royal paternity, that Columbus’s marriage to a Portuguese noblewoman long before his voyages of discovery was only possible on the basis of his own illustrious birth, and that Columbus’s 1498 will stating he was born on Genoa was forged 80 years after his death.

Columbus’s light hair, fair skin, and blue eyes are also cited by the author as evidence of the great navigator’s Lithuanian ancestry.

The author refers to an alleged resemblance between the arms of Columbus and those of Wladyslaw III, but I cannot recognize any myself.

Rosa has proposed modern DNA testing using material from royal burials at Wawel Hill in Cracow to confirm his theory.


Daily Mail

Publisher’s press release

The author, incorrectly listed by his publisher as a professor at Duke University, is actually employed as a help desk IT staffer at the Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Christopher Columbus (detail), from Alejo Fernández, La Virgen de los Navegantes, circa 1505 to 1536, Alcázares Reales de Sevilla.

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