Jelena came from the Nelipčić kindred, who ruled the Cetinje county. She was the daughter of Duke Ivan II Nelipčić and Margareta from the famous Merini noble family from Split. Her brother was the famous Price of Cetinje Ivaniš Nelipčić. She was the wife of the Bosnian nobleman Grand Duke and Herzog Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić and the Bosnian king Stjepan Ostoja.

Jelena’s birth date is unknown, but it is believed that she was very young at the time of the death of her father Ivan II in 1377-1379. Due to the death of her father, Jelena spent her childhood and adolescence with her mother Margareta on the family estates in the Cetinje region, where she was raised in the Catholic faith. The first information about Jelena was preserved on the occasion of her wedding to Hrvoje Vukčić. The marriage was concluded on July 15, 1401 at the latest. It was definitely a political marriage that was supposed to connect her brother Ivaniš and her husband Hrvoje as well as their kindred. Even a decade prior to the conclusion of this marriage, there were contacts between these families. Although it is unknown according to what rite Jelena and her husband were married, it is known that she was a Catholic. However, Hrvoje’s religious commitment, as with many other Bosnian noblemen, has not been clarified. By marrying Jelena Hrvoje received Omiš as a dowry. At the time of the marriage, Hrvoje already had an adult son, Balša. Jelena stayed in one of Hrvoje’s towns in Donji Kraji immediately following the wedding. In the period 1403-1413, she most often stayed in Split due to the fact that Hrvoje was appointed Herzog of Split. About her stay in this place, where her mother came from and where her brother Ivaniš had possessions, several archival data have been preserved. During this period, Jelena appears as a business woman, has large sums of money at her disposal, lends money at interest to the noblemen of Split. The fact that she had her own money, which she also lent to her husband Hrvoje, speaks of Jelena’s independent activity. When Hrvoje was preparing to travel to Buda at the end of 1408, he borrowed six thousand gold ducats from his wife. He did not return this money, but in April 1412 he gave Jelena his house in Ragusa. Jelena stayed with Hrvoje in Buda in the spring of 1412 at a knight’s tournament organized by the Hungarian king Sigismund of Luxembourg. The Polish chronicler Dlugoš records that Hrvoje, Jelena, and their entourage were present at the tournament. Hrvoje died at the beginning of 1416, and his death opened the issue of Omiš. Interest in this city was expressed by Bosnian king Ostoja, the Ragusans, the Venetians, the people of Trogir and the people of Split. Jelena managed to position herself as a central figure in this open competition, and handed over Omiš to her brother Ivaniš and thus resolved the resulting crisis.

Jelena’s marriage to the king of Ostoja took place relatively quickly in comparison to the death of her first husband. It was already in October 1416 that the Ragusan authorities referred to Jelena as the wife of King Ostoja, i.e. as the new Bosnian queen, in a letter written for King Sigismund. The marriage appears to have taken place in the summer of 1416. It is still unclear what Ostoja intended to accomplish with this political marriage. According to the opinions of some historians, the Bosnian king tried to get possession of Omiš and Hrvoje’s possessions in Bosnia, but he did not succeed in any of these potential intentions. For a full decade and a half, Jelena was the wife of the most prominent and powerful figure in Bosnia at the time, which is why she probably became famous in many neighboring courts. This should at least partially explain Ostoja’s choice of a new wife. Certainly, his son Stjepan Ostojić was not happy with Ostoja’s divorce from his first wife Kujava. Due to this, he also did not have a favorable impression of Jelena. The following years, Jelena deposited money and valuables in Ragusa, and led a battle with the Ragusan authorities over the house she received as a debt from her first husband. Upon the death of King Ostoja in September 1418, Jelena became a widow for the second time in less than three years. As a result, Ostoja’s son Stjepan Ostojić assumed the throne, which reestablished the political power and influence of Kujava.

Jelena remained in Bosnia despite this turn of events for completely unclear reasons. The new king Stjepan Ostojić started aggressively targeting Jelena immediately after assuming the position of ruler. In February 1419, he asked the Ragusans for Hrvoje’s house and kept the possessions for himself. According to information from Ragusa in July 1419, Jelena was in prison, apparently she got there right after Stjepan’s assumption of power. It is quite certain that his mother Kujava also took part in these activities. It was a kind of revenge of Ostoja’s first wife. Jelena’s life ended in prison. In March 1423, Ragusan authorities reported that Jelena had been killed a year earlier, in the spring of 1422.

Dubrovnik State Archives, Consilium Rogatorum, vol. XI, f. 12v

Dubrovnik State Archives, Consilium Rogatorum, vol. 1, f. 121v (6.6.1418)

Dubrovnik State Archives, Lettere di Levante, vol. VI, f. 1 (12.10.1416)

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