Publication details

A Tortuous Path to Reconciliation and Justice: Sigismund of Luxembourg as Arbiter in the Dispute between the Teutonic Knights and Poland (1412-1420)


BAR Přemysl

Year of publication 2017
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Journal of East Central European Studies
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Web Abstract
Field History
Keywords Medieval arbitration; Sigismund of Luxembourg; arbiter; Teutonic Order; Poland; Council of Constance
Description In the Middle Ages, the arbitration procedure was regarded as an effective means of resolving international conflicts. This also applies to a dispute which King Sigismund of Luxembourg should have decided as an arbitrator between the Teutonic Order and Poland-Lithuania. According to Zenon Hubert Nowak he was able to make effective use of the arbitration procedure for his ambitious all-European policy. Nowak regards this arbitration as a continuous process from 1412 to 1420. That the announcement of the arbitration sentence was repeatedly postponed, he sees as a tactical maneuver of Sigismund to make Poland-Lithuania and the Order dependent on him. According to Mediaeval law theory and practice, an arbitrator had sufficient powers, but was not allowed to exceed the so-called compromissum – an arrangement between two sides of the dispute. In the summer of 1414, Sigismund evidently doubted the success of the arbitration proceedings, since long before the negotiations had failed in Buda (i. e. the two-year deadline for an announcement of the arbitration award had passed), he invited both sides to the forthcoming church Council of Constance. The arbitration proceedings were not continued there, as Nowak supposed, but the parties negotiated with each other on the person of the arbitrator (the Roman king, the pope, the council, the electors, etc.) as well as the manner of conciliation. In fact no consensus was reached on both issues. Only a period of the truce declared before the beginning of the council was repeatedly extended just before its expiration. The issuance of a new compromissum did not take place until the summer of 1419, when Sigismund stood clearly on the side of Poland, and the Order had been forced under massive diplomatic pressure to accept the Roman king as an arbitrator. Ultimately, the Wroclaw arbitration award of 6 January 1420 was by no means favorable to Poland and marks a turning point in the policy of the Roman king against the Polish-Lithuanian Union. The principles of the arbitration procedure and of Sigismund's policy developed by Nowak are still valid in general, but require certain modifications. Sigismund saw in an arbitration proceedings only an instrument with which he wanted, on the one hand, to enforce the feuding sovereignty of the Holy Empire over the Teutonic Order in Prussia, and, on the other hand, to impose a political-military alliance with the Polish-Lithuanian Union against the Ottoman Empire. The importance of the arbitration process increased and declined depending on the current social-political development in the first decade of Sigismund`s Roman government (Schism, Council of Constance, on the outbreak of the Hussite revolution), but also on whether this procedure was useful for the implementation of the two main goals or not.

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