The death of King Stjepan Dabiša on September 8, 1395 left an open question regarding the succession to the Bosnian throne. According to the decisions of the Treaty of Đakovo concluded in July 1394, after Dabiša’s death, if he died without male descendants, the Hungarian king Sigismund Luxemburg should inherit the Bosnian throne, who in earlier years led an active campaign for the conquest of Bosnian territory and asserted his right to the Bosnian crown. As a result, the Bosnian nobility was faced with the choice of either electing Sigismund as their new king or maintaining the state and church doctrines that served Hungary as an ideological cover for launching military actions and asserting claims to the Bosnian throne. Sigismund was preparing to leave for Bosnia immediately after the death of King Dabiša, but important affairs in his country prevented him. Among the Bosnian nobility, there were two opposing viewpoints, one that stood for the fulfillment of obligations to the Hungarian king and the other that believed that one of the members of the Kotromanić dynasty should be appointed to the royal position. The Bosnian nobility, under unknown circumstances, appointed Dabiša’s widow, Queen Jelena, to the royal position already at the end of 1395. Jelena was not entitled to be elected to this position. This election bypassed numerous prominent candidates from the Kotromanić family, including Tvrtko, the son of King Tvrko I. Jelena’s reign in historiography is rightly characterized as an interregnum, that is, her election in the foreign political circumstances of the time represented an intermediate solution. In other words, it was a compromise. Neither the provisions of the Đakovo Treaty were respected, nor did a new ruler from the Kotromanić dynasty ascend to the Bosnian throne. Jelena’s election as the ruler of Bosnia only legalized her already existing role as queen, and as queen and widow of King Dabiša, she could extend the reign in his name. We do not know how this turning point was negotiated with the Hungarian king Sigismund. Jelena was the first and last woman in a ruling position in the medieval Bosnian state.
Jelena’s origin remains unclear due to the lack of sources. Her origins can be reasonably attributed to a high aristocratic class, possibly the daughter of a prominent nobleman of the period. Her date of birth is also unknown. The source material about Jelena can be divided into three groups: initially she appears as the wife of the Bosnian king Dabiša from the beginning of 1392, then she appears as a ruler, and information about her from the beginning of the reign of the new king Stjepan Ostoja has been preserved. Seven documents issued by her as a ruler have been preserved, five original acts, and two documents in transcription. Jelena is mentioned for the first time in the sources in the decision of the Ragusan council from January 12, 1392, when the Ragusan councilors discussed sending envoys to King Dabiša and his queen. Jelena’s influence is also evidenced by requests from Ragusa addressed to her in order to mediate in certain cases.
Apparently, Jelena was officially declared ruler of Bosnia before December 22, 1395. Since Ostoja’s death, she had the support of Radivojević and Nikolić families, and judging by her election as queen, she must have had the support of the most prominent noblemen of that time, Duke Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić, Duke Sandalj Hranić, and Prince Pavle Radinović. A number of prominent and more powerful Bosnian noblemen sought to use Jelena’s election to the Bosnian throne for the purpose of gaining additional benefits and greater independence over their possessions, which they enjoyed as heritage (baština) possessions granted by Bosnian bans and kings. The process began precisely in the 1390s. The process was very slow and did not reach its terminal stage until the end of the Bosnian state’s existence. Thus, in March 1397, Prince Pavle Radinović issued a charter to the Ragusans on the freedom of trade on his possession. Although he appropriated the rights of the crown, Radinović did not express his pretensions to independence with this act, but the confirmation of freedom of trade was the result of granting citizenship to this nobleman by the Ragusan authorities.
During her reign, Jelena continued, like her husband King Dabiša, to maintain good relations with Ragusa. Upon Jelena’s accession to the throne, she did not issue a new charter to the Ragusans regarding freedom of trade and other privileges, as was customary when a new ban or king assumed power. She referred to the charter of her predecessor and husband, King Dabiša, which she signed. The Ragusans recognized her as a legitimate ruler and paid her the tribute that belonged to the Bosnian crown in the earlier period. It was Mogoriš, St. Demetrius’ and Ston’s tribute. During Jelena’s reign, several diplomatic interventions by the Ragusan authorities have been preserved.
During Jelena’s reign, the Ottomans continued to increase the pressure on all the countries of Southeast Europe. The same applied to Bosnia. With the victory at Nikopol and the occupation of the territories of the Serbian nobleman Vuk Branković, the way to Bosnia was opened for the Ottoman Akinji. During this time period, several cases were documented in which Bosnian noblemen and their families, upon request, received permission from the Ragusans to take shelter on their territory due to the threat of Ottoman attacks. One of the biggest attacks took place in January 1398, when Sultan Bayazit I’s sons were in command of the Ottoman army. This army was brought to Bosnia by the Serbian nobleman Prince Stefan Lazarević as an Ottoman vassal. The Ottoman military action against the Bosnian army did not achieve significant success due to the harsh and strong winter weather conditions.
The political relations between Queen Jelena and the Bosnian noblemen changed in the spring of 1398. As of mid-March, Ragusans received information about discord and disagreements in Bosnia. Apparently, there was again a polarization among the nobles, with some supporting Queen Jelena and others opposing her rule. There were a number of tactical moves that were carried out with the aim of securing the greatest possible economic privileges and elements of independence for some nobles. There is no doubt that the external factor, in which the Hungarian king Sigismund played a key role, influenced the changes in relations. As with Jelena’s election as Bosnian ruler, when no documents have survived that might provide specifics and details, such is the case with the end of Jelena’s reign. The last dated document in which Jelena appears as queen is a letter dated March 9, 1398, upon which her representative Tvrtko Vučetić raised the tribute of Ston in Ragusa on April 3. The release of this act was registered in Ragusa on May 25, which also mentions Jelena. It is quite certain that Jelena was still in power at that time. Only two weeks later, on June 10, in a document, the Ragusans mentioned King Stjepan Ostoja as a ruler. At some point between these two dates, the Bosnian nobles held a council at which they decided to replace the Bosnian throne. This decision can be explained by the attitude of the nobles, who apparently did not see Jelena as a long-term solution, but the Bosnian throne had to be taken over by a member of the Kotromanić family. As later events demonstrated, this is not necessarily the primary reason, but rather the constellation of power relations within the state and external political factors should take precedence. The turn in Bosnian politics, bypassing the provisions of the Đakovo Treaty, led the most powerful political forces in Bosnia to turn towards the Neapolitan king Ladislaus and toward the Ottomans, resulting in severe conflicts with the Hungarians for several years.
A letter from Ragusa dated March 18, 1399, addressed to Jelena contains the last chronological information about her. In this letter, she is mentioned by the name Gruba, and under this name she is also recorded in the inscription of Viganj Milošević. According to preserved data, Jelena had a daughter Stana from her marriage with Dabiša, while Stana’s daughter Vladika is also known, who was married to Đurađ Radivojević.
Sources and literature:
- Unpublished sources: Državni arhiv u Dubrovniku: Reformationes vol. 29-31.
- Čremošnik Gregor, “Bosanska kraljica Gruba”, Godišnjak Istorijskog društva BiH, no. IV, Sarajevo 1952, 147-163.
- Ćirković Sima, Istorija srednjovekovne bosanske države, Srpska književna zadruga, Beograd 1964, 174-185.
- Ćirković Sima, “O Đakovačkom ugovoru”, Istorijski glasnik, no. 1-4, Istorijski institut, Beograd 1962, 3-10.
- Ćorović Vladimir, Historija Bosne, Srpska kraljevska akademija, Beograd 1940, 351-364.
- Dinić Mihailo, Državni sabor srednjevekovne Bosne, Srpska kraljevska akademija, Beograd 1955, 284-286.
- Dinić Mihailo, “Dubrovački tributi (mogoriš, svetodmitarski i konavoski dohodak, provižun braće Vlatkovića)”, Glas Srpske kraljevske akademije, no. CLXVIII, Beograd 1935, 216-222, 291.
- Filipović Emir O., Bosansko kraljevstvo i Osmansko carstvo (1386-1463), Orijentalni institut Univerziteta u Sarajevu, Sarajevo 2019, 148-178.
- Fostikov Aleksandra, “Povelja kraljice Jelene Dubrovčanima o ukidanju carina u Maslinama i Slanom 1397, maj 16.”, Stari srpski arhiv, no. 5, Filozofski fakultet u Beogradu-Filozofski fakultet u Banjoj Luci-Filozofski fakultet u Istočnom Sarajevu-Istorijski institut u Banjoj Luci 2006, 173-186.
- Fostikov Aleksandra, “Pismo dubrovačkog kneza i opštine bosanskoj kraljici Jeleni Grubi 1395, decembar 27”, Stari srpski arhiv, no. 4, Filozofski fakultet u Beogradu-Filozofski fakultet u Banjoj Luci-Filozofski fakultet u Istočnom Sarajevu-Istorijski institut u Banjoj Luci 2005, 193-200.
- Fostikov Aleksandra, “Pismo bosanske kraljice Jelene Grube knezu i opštini dubrovačkoj i njihov odgovor”, Stari srpski arhiv, no. 3, Filozofski fakultet u Beogradu-Filozofski fakultet u Banjoj Luci-Filozofski fakultet u Istočnom Sarajevu-Istorijski institut u Banjoj Luci 2004, 125-140.
- Fostikov Aleksandra, “Pismo dubrovačkog kneza i opštine velikom vojvodi Hrvoju Vukčiću Hrvatiniću”, Stari srpski arhiv, no. 2, Filozofski fakultet u Beogradu-Filozofski fakultet u Banjoj Luci-Filozofski fakultet u Istočnom Sarajevu-Istorijski institut u Banjoj Luci 2003, 185-192.
- Fostikov Aleksandra, “Četiri pisma kraljice Jelene dubrovačkoj opštini o bosanskim dohocima 1397, maj 22; 1397, novembar 15; 1398, mart 9; 1398, posle 3 aprila, pre 20/25. maja.”, Stari srpski arhiv, no. 5, Filozofski fakultet u Beogradu-Filozofski fakultet u Banjoj Luci-Filozofski fakultet u Istočnom Sarajevu-Istorijski institut u Banjoj Luci 2006, 187-205.
- Fostikov Aleksandra, “Akt bosanske kraljice Jelene Grube o razrešenju računa protovestijara Žore Bokšića 1398, januar 18.”, Stari srpski arhiv, no. 4, Filozofski fakultet u Beogradu-Filozofski fakultet u Banjoj Luci-Filozofski fakultet u Istočnom Sarajevu-Istorijski institut u Banjoj Luci 2005, 201-207.
- Fostikov Aleksandra, “Jelena Gruba, bosanska kraljica. Bosna krajem 14. veka (1395-1399)”, Braničevski glasnik, no. 3-4, Požarevac 2006, 29-50.
- Gecić Milena, “Prilog bosanskoj istoriji (1397-1399)”, Istorijski glasnik, no. 1-2, Istorijski institut, Beograd 1953, 55-63.
- Kurtović Esad, Veliki vojvoda bosanski Sandalj Hranić Kosača, Institut za istoriju Sarajevo, Sarajevo 2009, 82-95.
- Lonza Nella, Odluke dubrovačkih vijeća 1395-1397, HAZU Zavod za povijesne znanosi u Dubrovniku, Zagreb-Dubrovnik 2011, 107.
- Lonza Nella-Šundrica Zdravko, Odluke dubrovačkih vijeća 1390-1392, HAZU Zavod za povijesna znanosti u Dubrovniku, Posebna izdanja, Serija: Monumenta historica Ragusina, no. 6, Zagreb-Dubrovnik 2006, 284-285, 296-298, 351-353.
- Lovrenović Dubravko, Na klizištu povijesti (Sveta kruna ugarska i Sveta kruna bosanska) 1387-1463, Synopsis, Zagreb-Sarajevo 2006, 73-92.
- Miklosich Franz, Monumenta serbica spectantia historiam Serbiae, Bosniae, Ragusii, Vindobonae 1858, 220-222, 229-230.
- Novaković Stojan, Zakonski spomenici srpskih država srednjega veka, Beograd 1912, 212-213.
- Perojević Marko, “Jelena Gruba”, in: Poviest hrvatskih zemalja Bosne i Hercegovine od najstarijih vremena do godine 1463., HKD Napredak, Sarajevo 1942, 363-373.
- Pucić Medo, Spomenici srpski od 1395.-1423 to est pisma pisana od Republike dubrovačke Kraljevima, Despotima, Voivodama i Knezovima Srbskiem, Bosanskiem i Primorskiem I, Beograd 1858, Primedbe no. 6.
- Pucić Medo, Spomenici srpski, Spomenik Srpske kraljevske akademije 11, Beograd 1862, 103.
- Radonić Jovan, O knezu Pavlu Radenoviću, Priložak istoriji Bosne krajem XIV. i početkom XV. veka, Štamparija Srpske knjižare braće M. Popovića, Novi Sad 1901, 45-52.
- Rudić Srđan, “Povelja kralja Stefana Dabiše kćerci Stani”, Stari srpski arhiv, no. 4, Filozofski fakultet u Beogradu-Filozofski fakultet u Banjoj Luci-Filozofski fakultet u Istočnom Sarajevu-Istorijski institut u Banjoj Luci 2005, 173-192.
- Smičiklas Tadija, Codex diplomaticus regni Croatie, Dalmatiae et Slavoniae XVIII, Diplomata annorum 1395-1399 continens, Zagreb 1990, 60, 72-73.
- Stojanović Ljubomir, Stare srpske povelje i pisma, I/1, Zbornik za istoriju, jezik i književnost srpskog naroda, Spomenici na srpskom jeziku, vol. XXIV, Srpska akademija nauka, Beograd-Sremski Karlovci 1929, 172-175, 177, 179, 239-240.
- Stojanović Ljubomir, Stare srpske povelje i pisma I/2, Zbornik za istoriju, jezik i književnost srpskog naroda, Spomenici na srpskom jeziku, vol. XXIV, Srpska akademija nauka, Beograd-Sremski Karlovci 1934, 479, 496.
- Šišić Ferdo, Vojvoda Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić i njegovo doba, Matica Hrvatska, Zagreb 1902, 100-130.
- Šunjić Marko, Bosna i Venecija (odnosi u XIV. i XV. st.), HKP Napredak, Sarajevo 1996, 81-92.