Balša Hercegović was the son of Herzog Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić. It can be reliably stated that Balša was not the son of Duke Hrvoje from his marriage to Jelena Nelipčić, as has been incorrectly claimed by older historiography, but rather an unknown wife to whom the Duke was previously married. In the documents, he appears with the surname “Hercegović” after the title of Herzog that his father once held. At the end of the 14th century, as the Hungarian king Sigismund was campaigning against the possessions of his father Hrvoje, he entered the political scene. After the overthrow of Queen Jelena Gruba in 1398, the Bosnian nobles led by Duke Hrvoja installed Stjepan Ostoja on the Bosnian throne and thus broke the agreement according to which Sigismund of Luxembourg was supposed to take over the Bosnian crown. After that, Sigismund decided to undertake a punitive expedition and thus broke into the area of Hrvatinić with his army, since it was Hrvoje Vukčić who represented his main opponent on the Bosnian side. However, this campaign did not lead to the desired results, the only thing that is certain is that on that occasion the Hungarian king stayed in his camp at the foot of the Vrbaški town, and soon returned to Hungary with unfinished business. On the other hand, Hrvoje Vukčić could not miss such an auspicious moment. A violent Bosnian counterattack followed, led by Balša, during which the county of Dubica and the town of Dubica came into Hrvatinić’s possession. And yet, the rule of Hrvoje Vukčić over this area did not last long, in 1402 the Hungarian army returned the town of Dubica to the rule of King Sigismund. Aside from the fact that it is known when Hrvatinić’s rule over Dubica county began and ended, everything else regarding this matter remains a mystery.
Balša is also mentioned with the title of prince in the charter that King Stjepan Ostoja issued to him and his father on December 8, 1400 in Sutjeska, and at the same time gifted them the county of Livno with the town of Bistrica (Livno). The acquisition of the county of Livno further strengthened Hrvoje Vukčić’s position on the western borders. The fact that Balša is mentioned alongside Hrvoje in the charter clearly indicates that he was one of his closest collaborators and was actively involved in political affairs at the time. It was during this period that Duke Hrvoje Vukčić increased his power and influence. The greatest rise of his political activity was the gaining of power over the largest part of Dalmatia, as well as the acquisition of the title of Herzog of Split in 1403, which was awarded to him by King Ladislaus of Naples, the main opponent of Sigismund of Luxembourg in the fight for the Hungarian crown. On March 1, 1403, the authorities of the town of Split granted Balša and his father nobility. In 1405, since Hrvoje had previously ruled the islands of Hvar, Brač, Korčula and Vis, he assigned the mentioned islands to the administration of Balša, whose authority over these possessions can be traced back to 1410 in preserved sources.
Prince Balša Hercegović was also mentioned in local sources in the charter of King Tvrtko II Tvrtković dated June 20, 1405, where he was listed as a witness. On that occasion, the Bosnian king confirmed the ceded coastline from Kurilo to Ston with the villages of Lisac, Imotica and Trnovica to the Ragusans.
Prince Balša Hercegović is mentioned for the last time in the letter of King Sigismund sent on February 4, 1412 to Nikola Marcali, župan (prefect) of Somogy county, his brother Dionizije and the judges of the county. The letter ordered them to protect Jakov, the pastor of the parish church in Segesd, from attacks and adversity, with Balša, the son of Herzog Hrvoje, being named as the main perpetrator in these attacks. Two questions arise here. First, how did Balša find himself in the territory of Somogy county, which was located in the southwestern part of Hungary, and secondly, why did the son of Herzog Hrvoje disturb King Sigismund’s subjects when the two were on good terms? Somogy county was given to Herzog Hrvoje by the Hungarian king on the occasion of their reconciliation at the end of 1408, which followed the infamous defeat of the Bosnian army near Dobor, thus justifying Balša’s activities so far from his home lands. On the other hand, although Herzog Hrvoje cultivated good relations with Sigismund, Prince Balša led his own separate policy, which was driven by petty feudal interests.
It is not known exactly when Balša died. There is a general assumption that he died in the same year as his father Hrvoje, i.e. in 1416, although there is a possibility that it occurred a few years earlier as well. Thus, Hrvoje Vukčić was left without a direct heir, and so his role was inherited by the descendants of his brother Vojislav, known as Vojsalićs. Prince Balša Hercegović, as far as is known, left no male heirs but two daughters, Katarina and Doroteja.
- Ćošković, Pejo: “Bosanska Dubica u bosansko-ugarskim odnosima 1398-1402. godine”, Istorijski zbornik 2, Institut za istoriju, Banja Luka, 44, 46-47.
- Engel, Pál: “Neki problemi bosansko-ugarskih odnosa”, Zbornik odsjeka za povijesne i društvene znanosti HAZU 16, Zagreb, 1998, 60.
- Fermendžin, Eusebius: Acta Bosnae potissimum ecclesiastica cum insertis editorum documentorum regestis ab anno 925 usque ad annum 1752, Academia scientarium et artium Slavorum meridionalium, Zagrabiae, 1892, 66.
- Foretić, Vinko: Povijest Dubrovnika, I, Nakladni zavod MH, Zagreb, 1980, 171.
- Kurtović, Esad – Dautović, Dženan – Nakaš, Lejla – Župarić, Drago – Lalić, Ana: Codex diplomaticus regni Bosnae: povelje i pisma stare bosanske države, Mladinska knjiga, Sarajevo, 2018, 293-297.
- Lovrenović, Dubravko: “Da li je Jelena Nelipčić bila majka Balše Hercegovića”, Istorijski zbornik 7, Banja Luka 1986, 193-198.
- Lovrenović, Dubravko: “Jelena Nelipčić, splitska vojvotkinja i bosanska kraljica”, Radovi Zavoda za hrvatsku povijest Filozofskog fakulteta 20, Zagreb, 1987, 184.
- Lovrenović, Dubravko: Na klizištu povijesti (sveta kruna ugarska i sveta kruna bosanska) 1387-1463, Synopsis, Zagreb-Sarajevo, 2006, 90, 104, 105, 170.
- Lucić, Ivan: Povijesna svjedočanstva o Trogiru, II, Čakavski sabor, Split, 1979, 837.
- Miklosich, Franz: Monumenta serbica historiam Serbiae Bosnae Ragusii, Apud Guilelmum Braumüller, Wiennae, 1858, 247-250.
- Mályusz, Elemér: Zsigmondkori oklevéltár, III, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1993, 425-426.
- Mrgić-Radojčić, Jelena: Donji Kraji. Krajina srednjovekovne Bosne, Filozofski fakultet u Beogradu-Filozofski fakultet u Banjaluci-Istorijski institut u Banjaluci, Beograd-Banja Luka, 2002, 109, 110.
- Perojević, Marko: “Jelena Gruba”, in: Poviest hrvatskih zemalja Bosne i Hercegovine, HKD Napredak, Sarajevo, 1942, 366.
- Stojanović, Ljubomir: Stare srpske povelje i pisma, I (1), SKA, Beograd-Sremski Karlovci, 1929, 490-495.
- Šišić, Ferdo: Vojvoda Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić i njegovo doba, MH, Zagreb, 1902, 167.
Thallóczy Lajos – Horváth Sándor: Alsó-szlavóniai okmánytár (Dubicza, Orbász és Szana vármegyék). 1244-1710., Kiadja a Magyar Tud Akadémia, Budapest, 1912, 123.