Barbara of Cilli

Barbara of Cilli or Barbara of Celje (Hungarian: Cillei Borbála, German: Barbara von Cilli, Slovenian and Croatian: Barbara Celjska, 1392 – 11 July 1451), was the Holy Roman Empress and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia by marriage to Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. She was actively involved in politics and economy of her times, independently administering large feudal fiefdoms and taxes, and was instrumental in creating the famous royal Order of the Dragon. She served as the regent of Hungarian kingdom in the absence of her husband four times: in 1412, 1414, 1416, and 1418.

Barbara of Celje - Meister der Chronik des Konzils von Konstanz 001.jpg
Queen consort of Hungary
Queen consort of the Romans
Queen consort of Bohemia
Holy Roman Empress
Celje, County of Cilli
(now Slovenia)
Died11 July 1451
Mělník, Bohemia, Crown of Bohemia
(now Czech Republic)
SpouseSigismund, Holy Roman Emperor
IssueElisabeth of Luxembourg
HouseHouse of Cilli
FatherHerman II, Count of Celje
MotherCountess Anna of Schaunberg


Barbara was born in Celje, in the Duchy of Styria (today Slovenia), as the daughter and youngest child of Herman II, Count of Celje, and Countess Anna of Schaunberg.

Barbara was engaged in 1405 to Sigismund of Bohemia, King of Hungary, a younger son of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor. The marriage likely took place in December 1405.[1]

Queen and empressEdit

Sigismund succeeded to the rule in Germany (1410), Bohemia (1419) and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor himself in 1433, giving her the equivalent titles.

She spent most of her time on her Hungarian fiefdoms, while her spouse devoted his time elsewhere. She served as the regent of Hungary during his absences in 1412, 1414, 1416 and 1418. In 1429, she participated at the congress of Łuck. She was crowned Queen of Hungary in 1408, Queen of Germany in 1414 (being the last consort to be crowned in Aachen[2]), Holy Roman Empress in 1433 and Queen of Bohemia in 1437, shortly before her husband's death. She is remembered by many contemporaries as emperor's young, vital and beautiful consort at the Council of Constance. In 1409, Barbara gave birth to a daughter, Elisabeth, Sigismund's only surviving issue and heiress, who married King Albert II of Germany.

Conflict with Albert IIEdit

Days before the death of her gravely ill husband on 9 December 1437 at Znojmo, as a pretext to confiscate her large fiefdoms in the Hungarian kingdom (where she rivaled the king himself in number of fiefdoms and castles), she was quickly accused by her son-in-law Albert II of Germany of the Habsburg dynasty and his chancellor Kaspar Schlick of plotting against Sigismund, for which she was swiftly transported to prison in Bratislava castle and later forced to relinquish most of her possessions, including her dower. Conflict with the new king was inevitable, and Barbara soon decided to find shelter in the Polish royal court, where she was in exile from 1438 to 1441. The Polish king decided to give her financial support by granting her Sandomierz as a fief, according to the chronicle of Jan Długosz.[3]

Later lifeEdit

In 1441, two years after the death of her arch-rival King Albert II of Germany, she moved to Mělník in Bohemia - a fiefdom given to her by her deceased husband. All her Hungarian fiefdoms were already lost; some of them belonged to her daughter, Queen Elisabeth. Later she reconciled with her daughter and renounced her rights to Hungarian possessions (1441). She spent the rest of her life as dowager queen in Bohemia. She seems to have retreated from political life, although the Habsburg court saw her as dangerous and tried to accuse her of heresy, alchemy, and immoral and agnostic behavior, for which she received the sobriquet "Messalina of Germany".[4] She died of the plague epidemic in Mělník and was buried in St. Andrew's chapel of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.

Literary referencesEdit

Barbara is featured as the main character in the wraparound narrative of the story collection Waggish Tales of the Czechs. Referred to as "Queen Barbota," Barbara is portrayed as a somewhat ribald character who, bedridden and bored during her pregnancy, engages her women-in-waiting in telling her moral tales. According to the book's foreword, these are "lusty, uproarious, sometimes cruelly brutal yarns, recited with the coarse gusto and abounding virility of a healthy outdoor people." Queen Barbota takes great delight in them.[5]



  1. ^ Amalie Fößel: "Barbara von Cilli. Ihre frühen Jahre als Gemahlin Sigismunds und ungarische Königin." In: Michel Pauly & François Reinert (eds.): Sigismund von Luxemburg. Ein Kaiser in Europa (Tagungsband des internationalen historischen und kunsthistorischen Kongresses in Luxemburg, 8.–10. Juni 2005). Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern.
  2. ^ Claudia Zey: Imperatrix, si venerit Romam ... Zu den Krönungen von Kaiserinnen im Mittelalter. In: Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters, vol. 60 (2004), pp. 3–51, p. 39.
  3. ^ Jan Długosz (1415–1480) - ANNALS OR CHRONICLES
  4. ^ Duggan, Anne J. (2002). Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe: Proceedings of a Conference Held at King's College London, April 1995. Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-881-1.
  5. ^ Lockridge, Norman (1947). Waggish Tales of the Czechs The Candide Press, New York.

Further readingEdit

  • Szathmáry, László: Alkémisták a magyar királyi udvarban, Természettudományi Közlöny, 60. kötet, 1928. február 1.
  • Pálosfalvi, Tamás: Borbála és a Cilleiek, História, 2006
  • Engel, Pál – C. Tóth Norbert: Borbála királyné itineráriuma (1405–1438), Itineraria Regum et Reginarum (1382–1438), MTA Támogatott Kutatóhelyek Irodája, Budapest, 169–187, 2005
  • Dvořáková, Daniela (2013). Čierna kráľovná. Barbora Celjská (1392–1451): Životný príbeh uhorskej, rímsko-nemeckej a českej kráľovnej [Black Queen. Barbara of Cilli (1392–1451): A Life Story of the Hungarian, Holy Roman and Bohemian Queen] (in Slovak). Budmerice-Bratislava: Vydavateľstvo Rak, HIÚ SAV. ISBN 978-80-85501-60-5.
  • Sitar, Sandi (1987). "8. Barbara Celjska: astrologinja in alkimistka (ok. 1387–1451)" [Chapter 8. Barbara of Cilli: An Astrologer and Alchemist (c. 1387–1451)]. Sto slovenskih znanstvenikov, zdravnikov in tehnikov [Hundred Slovenian Scientists, Doctors and Technicians] (in Slovenian). Ljubljana: Prešernova družba. pp. 76–77.

External linksEdit

Royal titles
Preceded by Holy Roman Empress
Succeeded by
Preceded by Queen consort of Germany
Succeeded by
Preceded by Queen consort of Bohemia
Preceded by Queen consort of Hungary