Tvrtko I of Bosnia

Tvrtko I

Seal of King Tvrtko I
Ban of Bosnia
Reign September 1353– October 1377
(interrupted by Vuk in 1365-66)
Predecessor Stephen II
King of Bosnia
Reign October 1377 – 10 March 1391
Coronation (26 October?) 1377
Successor Dabiša
Born c. 1338
Died 10 March 1391(1391-03-10) (aged 52–53)
Spouse Dorothea of Bulgaria
Issue Tvrtko II of Bosnia
House Kotromanić
Father Vladislav of Bosnia
Mother Jelena of Bribir
Religion Roman Catholic

Stephen Tvrtko I (Serbo-Croatian: Stjepan Tvrtko, Стефан Твртко; c. 1338 – 10 March 1391) was the first of the kings of Bosnia and widely considered one of the country's greatest medieval rulers.

A member of the House of Kotromanić, Tvrtko succeeded his uncle Stephen II as Ban of Bosnia in 1353. As he was a minor at the time, his father, Vladislav, briefly ruled as regent, followed by his mother, Jelena. Early in his personal rule Tvrtko quarreled with Roman Catholic clergy, but later enjoyed cordial relations with all religious communities in his realm. After initial difficulties the loss of large parts of Bosnia to his overlord, King Louis I of Hungary, and brief deposition by magnates Tvrtko's power grew considerably. He conquered some remnants of the neighbouring Serbian Empire in 1373, after the death of its last ruler and his distant relative, Uroš the Weak. In 1377 he had himself crowned King of Bosnia and of Serbia, claiming to be the heir of the extinct Serbian Nemanjić dynasty.

The expansion of the Kingdom of Bosnia continued, with the King focusing on the coast. He gained control of the entire Pomorje and the major maritime cities of the area, erected new settlements and started building a navy. Tvrtko never succeeded in bringing lords of independent Serbian statelets under his control, however. The death of King Louis and accession of Queen Mary in 1382 allowed Tvrtko to take advantage of the ensuing succession crisis in Hungary and Croatia. After bitter fighting from 1385 to 1390, Tvrtko succeeded in conquering large parts of Slavonia, Dalmatia and Croatia proper. Following defeat at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, however, his tenuous claim to Serbia became a mere fiction, as the Serbian rulers he sought to subjugate became vassals of the victorious Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Turks also launched their first attacks on Bosnia during Tvrtko I's reign, but his army was able to repel them. Tvrtko's sudden death in 1391 prevented him from solidifying the Kotromanić hold on Croatian lands.

Tvrtko I extended medieval Bosnia's borders to their farthest limits, left a strong economy and improved living standards of his subjects. He was survived by at least one son, Tvrtko II, but was succeeded by Dabiša, under whom Tvrtko's burgeoning realm began decaying.


Tvrtko with his mother, brother and cousin Elizabeth at the deathbed of his uncle Stephen, as depicted on the Chest of Saint Simeon in the late 1370s

Tvrtko was the elder son of Vladislav Kotromanić and Jelena Šubić, likely born within a year of their marriage, which was celerated in 1337. The couple were the brother of the Bosnian ban Stephen II and daughter of the Croatian lord George II Šubić of Bribir respectively.[1] Tvrtko was most likely raised as a Roman Catholic; his mother belonged to the Roman Catholic Church, and his uncle Stephen joined it shortly after Tvrtko's birth.[2] Stephen died in September 1353, leaving behind no sons.[3] Although Vladislav was still alive, Stephen's title passed directly to Tvrtko; the reason for Vladislav's exclusion from the Kotromanić succession is unclear.[4] Tvrtko, however, was only about fifteen years old at the time,[3] so his father assumed government as regent.[1] Soon after his accession, Tvrtko was taken by his father through the realm to settle relations with vassals.[5] Jelena replaced Vladislav upon his death in 1354. She immediately traveled to Hungary to obtain consent to Tvrtko's accession from King Louis I, his overlord. Following her return, Jelena held an assembly (stanak) in Mile, with mother and son confirming the possessions and privileges of the noblemen of "all of Bosnia, Donji Kraji, Zagorje and the Hum land".[1]

The death of Tvrtko's maternal uncle, Mladen III Šubić, in 1348 led to a decline of the Šubić noble family and a long conflict over the Šubić lands. In May 1355, Jelena and Tvrtko marched with an army to Duvno in order to claim his share of his uncle's patrimony.[1] An agreement was reached with the vice-Ban of Dalmatia by which Tvrtko was to inherit all the cities held by his maternal grandfather and a city which belonged to his aunt Katarina, but it is unknown whether he actually took possession of them.[5][6]

The state assembled by Tvrtko's uncle Stephen broke apart on Tvrtko's accession,[3] much to the satisfaction of his overlord Louis.[7] The Hungarians were keen to encourage Stephen's vassals to act independently from Tvrtko, forcing Tvrtko to compete with Louis for their loyalty in order to rebuild the Bosnian state.[7] Louis posed a more direct threat as well; he was determined to enlarge the royal domain and throughout his realm he ardently reclaimed all lands that once belonged to the monarch.[1] Taking advantage of the precarious situation during Tvrtko's first years of reign, Louis moved to claim most of Donji Kraji and western Hum up to the river Neretva and including the prosperous customs town of Drijeva. In 1357, he succeeded in compelling Tvrko to come to Hungary and surrender these territories as dowry of Elizabeth, Stephen's daughter who had been married to Louis since 1353.[7][8] In July,[8] King Louis confirmed Tvrtko and his younger brother Vuk as rulers of Bosnia and Usora.[7][8] Donji Kraji and Hum were purposely omitted from their title[7] and Usora likely granted as compensation.[8] Two conditions were forced upon the Bosnians: one of the two Kotromanić brothers would be at Louis's court whenever the other is in Bosnia, and they would make an effort to suppress the "heretical" Bosnian Church.[8]

Initial difficulties

Little is known about internal affairs in Bosnia between 1357, when Tvrtko started ruling on his own, and 1363. His religious policy came to focus in this period, as the Avignon papacy became more insistent on curbing the Bosnian Church. This endangered Tvrtko, for although he was a Roman Catholic throughout his life, the King of Hungary now had a religious pretext for invading Bosnia. The death of the Bishop of Bosnia Peregrin Saxon, a supporter of both Stephen II and Tvrtko I[8] and acknowledged by the latter as "spiritual father",[2] led to the appointment of Peter Siklósi to the episcopal throne. Peter actively promoted the idea of launching a new crusade against Bosnia, earning him Tvrtko's hostility.[8] Tvrtko even attempted to plot against Peter, but failed when his letters to a lector in Peter's Đakovo residence ended up discovered.[9] Bosnian Church, meanwhile, survived trough Tvrtko I's reign but only became prominent in state affairs after his death. One hostile source even tried to link Tvrtko himself to the Church, due to his tolerance towards all local faiths, including Hum's Eastern Orthodoxy.[10]

Louis I of Hungary' first seal, infamously lost (officially "stolen") during his campaign against Bosnia

At the start of his personal rule the young Ban somehow considerably increased his power.[7] Although he constantly emphasized his subordinance to the King, Tvrtko started regarding the loyalty of the Donji Kraji noblemen to Louis as treachery against himself.[11] In 1363, a conflict broke out between the two men.[7][12] The cause is not clear, although Louis stated that his intention was to eradicate the Bosnian heretics. The King had begun amassing an army by April, and in May the officials of the Republic of Ragusa ordered their merchants to retreat from Bosnia due to imminent clash.[12] An army led by Louis himself attacked Donji Kraji,[13] where the nobility was divided in loyalty between Tvrtko and Louis,[7] and a month later an army led by the Palatine of Hungary Nicholas Kont and the Archbishop of Esztergom Nicholas Vásári struck Usora.[13][7] Vlatko Vukoslavić deserted to Louis and surrendered to him the important fortress of Ključ, but Vukac Hrvatinić succeeded in defending the Soko Grad fortress in the župa of Pliva, forcing the Hungarians to retreat.[7] In Usora the Srebrenik Fortress held out against a "massive attack" by the royal army,[7] which suffered an embarrassing incident when the King's seal was lost.[13] The successful defense of Srebrenik marked Tvrtko's first victory against Hungary.[7]

Tvrtko and his brother Vuk on Saint Simeon's chest (detail of the scene depicting Stephen II's death)

The unity of Bosnian magnates waned as soon as the Hungarians were defeated, weakening Tvrtko's position and the state once again. In 1364, Tvrtko, his mother and his brother were granted citizenship of the Republic of Venice, an honour that guaranteed them sanctuary in Venice in case of necessity but also obligating Tvrtko to protect Venetian merchants. Various charters issued by the previous bans of Bosnia and confirmed by Tvrtko on his accession promised the same protection to Ragusan merchants. In late 1365, however, both republics complained to Tvrtko about the treatment of their merchants by his vassals. Evidently, the Ban had lost control over his feudatories.[14] The anarchy escalated, and in February the following year, the magnates revolted against Tvrtko and dethroned him.[7][14] Little is known about the circumstances under which Tvrtko was deposed. Accusing the magnates of treachery against "foremostly God" and himself, Tvrtko fled Bosnia with his mother.[14] He was replaced with his younger brother,[14][7] who had hitherto functioned as "junior ban".[14] Vuk's personal role in the rebellion is uncertain.[10][14]

Tvrtko acted resolutely and efficiently.[14] He and Jelena took refuge at the Hungarian royal court, where they were welcomed by Tvrtko's former enemy and overlord, King Louis.[7] Apparently dissatisfied with the turn of events in Bosnia, Louis provided Tvrtko with aid (likely military) in reclaiming Bosnia.[15] Tvrtko returned to Bosnia in March and reestablished control over a part of the country by the end of the month, including the areas of Donji Kraji, Rama (where he then resided), Hum and Usora.[10][15] In order to secure the loyalty of the noblemen he had subjugated, as well as to win over those still supporting Vuk, Tvrtko issued a number of donations;[15] in August he invested Vukac Hrvatinić with the entire župa of Pliva for his part in the 1363 war with Hungary.[15][7] After initially rapid success, Tvrtko's campaign slowed down.[16] Sanko Miltenović, ruler of eastern Hum, defected to Vuk in late 1366. Throughout the following year, Tvrtko was forcing Vuk southwards, eventually compelling him to flee to Ragusa. Sanko, Vuk's last supporter, submitted to Tvrtko in late summer and was allowed to retain his holdings.[7][16] Ragusan officials made effort to procure peace between the feuding brothers,[16] but in 1368 Vuk asked Pope Urban V to intervene with King Louis I on his behalf.[7][16] His efforts were futile, and by 1374 Tvrtko had reconciled with him on very generous terms.[16]

Conquests in Serbia and marriage

The death of Dušan the Mighty and accession of his son Uroš the Weak in December 1355 was followed quickly by the breakup of the once-powerful and threatening Serbian Empire. The strong, centralized state disintegrated into autonomous lordships which, by themselves, could not resist Bosnia. This paved the way for Tvrtko to expand towards the east, but internal problems prevented him from seizing the opportunity immediately. The lordship that developed adjacent to the Bosnian border was that of Vojislav Vojinović.[17] When Vojislav attacked Ragusa in 1361, the republic appealed to Tvrtko for help, but to no avail.[18] His widow Gojslava, ruling on behalf of their minor sons, provided Tvrtko with passage through the family's land during his struggle with Vuk, and Tvrtko remained cordial with the family.[16] He was, however, unable to defend her from her nephew Nicholas Altomanović, who seized her sons' lands by November 1368. All Tvrtko could do was help the dispossessed widow safely reach her native Albania.[19]

Division of the Serbian Empire between Bosnia and Serbian regional lords after 1374

The ambitious Nicholas soon started inciting rebellions against Tvrtko; Sanko Miltenović rose against his lord again and was once more defeated and pardoned in 1369. Tvrtko and Nicholas made peace in August 1370, but the latter's belligerence soon earned him the enmity of all his neighbours. Entering into coalition with Venice and the Lord of Zeta George I, Nicholas intended to attack Ragusa and Kotor. Tvrtko and Lazar Hrebljanović, a Serbian lord, both backed by Louis of Hungary, rose to protect the cities. Lazar too swore fealty to Louis, after which he and Tvrtko were given 1,000 horsemen to counter Nicholas.[20] His complete defeat took place in the autumn of 1373,[20] and his patrimony was divided between the victorious allies: Tvrtko took the upper Podrinje, Gacko and a part of Polimlje with the Mileševa Monastery. This was the first significant expansion of Bosnia during Tvrtko's reign and gave him considerable influence over Serbian affairs.[21]

In 1374 in Đakovo, Tvrtko married Dorothea, daughter of Tsar Ivan Stratsimir of Bulgaria.[22] The marriage was likely arranged by Louis,[10] who had kept Dorothea and her sister as honored hostages at his court to ensure Ivan Stratsimir's loyalty.[10][22] The bride was Orthodox, but the marriage was celebrated according to Catholic rite by Tvrtko's old enemy Peter, Bishop of Bosnia, to whom Tvrtko then awarded large tracts of land.[23]

The division of Nicholas Altomanović's lands created a friction between Tvrtko and George of Zeta, since the latter seized coastal župas which Tvrtko had expected to annex. In early 1377, Tvrtko successfully plotted with Travunians the takeover of Trebinje, Konavli and Dračevica, finalizing his conquest of Serbian lands. By that time, Serbia had been reduced to a patchwork of independent lordships.[21]


Uroš the Weak, the last of the Nemanjić dynasty, died in December 1371. His chosen co-ruler, Vukašin Mrnjavčević, left a son, Marko, who took up the royal title. Having been forced to accept Ottoman suzerainty, Marko was not recognized as king by any of the Serbian magnates, making the throne effectively vacant. Serbia was divided between Marko (whose small realm extended no further than western Macedonia), Lazar (the greatest lord), Vuk Branković (Lazar's son-in-law), George of Zeta and Tvrtko of Bosnia.[24]

The idea of restoring the Serbian Empire nevertheless persisted; George discussed it in one of his charters, but the Serbian regional lords were not considered suitable. They only recently rose to prominence and lacked illustrious family background, as well as formal titles to their lands - they were merely "lords". Tvrtko, on the other hand, not only controlled a significant portion of Serbia, but was a member of the dynasty which had ruled as bans of Bosnia since time immemorial and most importantly could boast descent from the Nemanjić dynasty. A genealogy assembled in his newly conquered Serbian land emphasized his Nemanjić ancestry, derived from his paternal grandmother, Elizabeth, daughter of King Dragutin.[24] A Serbian logothete named Blagoje,[24] having found refuge at Tvrtko's court, attributed to Tvrtko the right to a "double crown": one for Bosnia, the country which his dynasty had ruled since its foundation, and the other for the Serbian lands of his Nemanjić ancestors, who had "left the earthly realm for the heavenly kingdom". Arguing that Serbia had been "left without its pastor", Tvrtko set out to be crowned as its king.[25]

Tvrtko I's signature, identifying him as "King of the Serbs and of Bosnia"

Tvrtko's coronation as King of Bosnia and Serbia was held in the fall of 1377 (probably 26 October feast day of Saint Demetrius), but there is no consensus as to where. The Ragusan chronicler Mavro Orbini wrote in 1601 that the coronation was performed in the Serbian monastery of Mileševa by its Orthodox metropolitan, an opinion accepted today only in Serbian historiography. Citing more recent archaeological and historical research, however, Croatian and Bosnian historians agree that the coronation more likely took place in the Franciscan Church of Saint Nicholas in the Bosnian town of Mile, which is the undisputed place of coronation of Tvrtko I's successors.[26] Writing to Ragusa shortly after the coronation, Tvrtko successfully claimed Saint Demetrius income, which had been paid to the kings of Serbia since the 13th century.[27]

Although he presented himself as heir to the Nemanjić crown, Tvrtko decided to assume the royal title of his great-grandfather rather than continue Dušan's unpopular claim to imperial style, thus becoming "by the Grace of God King of the Serbs, Bosnia, Pomorje and the Western Areas". In addition to the royal title, Tvrtko also adopted the symbolical name Stephen in order to associate himself with the Nemanjić kings; his successors followed suit. Tvrtko, in fact, at times completely omitted his birth name and used only the honorific.[25] Tvrtko's right to kingship was derived from Serbia's,[28] and was likely recognized by Lazar Hrebljanović and Vuk Branković, but he never established authority over the regional lords of Serbia.[29] Tvrtko's new title was also approved by Louis, by his daughter and successor Mary, and eventually by her husband Sigismund. Venice and Ragusa consistently referred to Tvrtko as king of Rascia, the latter even complaining in 1378 about Tvrtko's preoccupation with his new kingdom.[29]


Tvrtko's coin, featuring fleur-de-lis and his coat of arms

Having taken as much Serbian land as he could, King Tvrtko turned his attention to the coast. The rapid economical growth of Bosnia, started during the reign of Tvrtko's uncle, continued unabated even during the political upheavels that followed Tvrtko's accession.[30] The export of metal ores and metalwork (mainly silver, copper and lead) formed the backbone of Bosnian economy, and these goods were transported over the Dinaric Alps to the seaside, from where they were bought chiefly by the republics of Ragusa and Venice.[31] The maritime cities of Ragusa and Kotor also depended on Tvrtko's realm for food production, which the King used to increase its initially low (for the Bosnians disadvantageous) purchase price.[32] Yet, Bosnia could not the make most out of its share of the Adriatic coast, stretching from the river Neretva to the Bay of Kotor, since it included no major settlements. The three major cities in the area were all controlled by Hungary: Drijeva (which Tvrtko was forced to cede to Louis in 1357), Ragusa and Kotor.[33]

The War of Chioggia erupted between the old-time rival republics of Venice and Genoa in 1378 and soon attracted the former's neighbours. Louis took Genoa's side; Ragusa, subordinate to Hungary and Venice's competitor in the Adriatic, naturally did so too. The Venetians, having taken Kotor in August 1378, made effort to have Tvrtko join the war on their side, which caused panic in Ragusa. Tvrtko, however, offered the Ragusans help in fighting off Venice, which they initially refused. The death of George I of Zeta warranted Tvrtko's involvement in Serbian affairs, which reduced his ability to take an active part in the conflict.[34] The Ragusans started calling for the destruction of Kotor, but the latter's officials promised to renounce fealty to Venice and return to Louis. Not only did they fail to fulfill this promise, but they made the same one to Tvrtko. The King laid claim to the city as part of his Nemanjić ancestors' heritage. The political climate was ideal, since he was to take Kotor from his overlord's enemy. The Ragusans were furious, and an embargo ensued.[35] Tvrtko defended Kotor from Ragusa, but was betrayed in June 1379 when the city overthrew the Venetian governor and submitted again directly to Louis.[36]

The failure to seize Kotor and the damage to Bosnian economy made by Ragusan embargo, as well as the need for easier access to maritime trade, led Tvrtko to found the youngest medieval town on the eastern Adriatic coast. In early 1382, Tvrtko constructed a new fortress in the Bay of Kotor and decided that it should form the basis of a new salt trading center. Initially named after Saint Stephen, the city came to be known as Novi (meaning "the new"). The commerce started in August when the first ships carrying salt arrived, but so did troubles.[37] Kotor and the merchants from Dalmatia and the Italian Peninsula looked favorably to the development, but the Ragusans were very displeased by the prospect of losing their salt trade monopoly.[38] They argued that Tvrtko, as King of Serbia, should respect the exclusive rights to salt trade granted by his Nemanjić predecessors to Ragusa, Kotor, Drijeva and Sveti Srđ. During the dispute, Ragusa hindered Novi's commerce and assembled an alliance of Dalmatian cities against Bosnia and Venice. Tvrtko relented by November, and his new city failed to achieve the purpose he had envisaged.[27]

Hungarian succession crisis

Louis' realm (red) with dependent and claimed territories, including Tvrtko's Bosnia (pink)

Tvrtko's yield in the legal dispute with Ragusa may have been brought by a major change in his vicinity: the death of King Louis I on 11 September 1382. Without a male heir, the Hungarian crown passed to his 13-year-old daughter Mary and the reins of government to his widow, Tvrtko's cousin Elizabeth. The great unpopularity of the queens led to rebellions and presented an opportunity for Tvrtko to not only reclaim Drijeva and other lands lost to Louis in 1357, but also to seize Kotor. When exactly or how this took place, however, is not known. Already in the spring of 1383, Tvrtko started building a navy: he bought a galley from Venice, ordered two more to be built, and employed a Venetian patrician as his admiral with the consent of the republic. Around the same time he erected a new town, Brštanik, near present-day Opuzen.[39]

In 1385, however, Tvrtko still formally recognized Hungarian supremacy, although it no longer had any practical meaning. He emphasized his loyalty to the queens, "his dearest sisters", and cited his oath of fealty to them. Mary and Elizabeth, however, had no power to enforce their suzerainty over him.[40] In fact, they were so weary of his own strength that they made concessions to win his favor: one of the concessions was their recognition of Tvrtko's possession of Kotor in the spring of 1385.[41][42] The incorporation of the trade centers of Drijeva and Kotor did not result in a significant expansion on the coast, but it was of great importance to the Bosnian economy and the King's finances.[40]

The capture of Kotor earned Tvrtko the enmity of George I of Zeta's brother and successor, Balša II, who also desired the city. Nothing is known about Balša's military conflict with Tvrtko except that the latter asked Venice, whose trading opportunities were threatened by the clashes, to mediate with the Lord of Zeta. The mediation was thwarted by Balša's death in a 1385 battle with the invading Ottoman Turks. Balša's nephew and successor, George II, maintained Zeta's hostility against Bosnia.[43]

The revolt against Elizabeth and Mary culminated in late 1385, when Mary was deposed in favor of her kinsman, King Charles III of Naples. Elizabeth had Charles assassinated the following February and Mary was restored to the throne. On 25 July, however, both women ended up imprisoned by the supporters of the murdered monarch's son, King Ladislaus of Naples.[40] Civil war engulfed Mary's realm. Her betrothed, Sigismund, invaded from Bohemia with the intent to liberate her and ascend her throne.[44] The neighbouring countries took sides: Venice opted for the queens and Sigismund,[44] but Tvrtko chose to support their opponents and Ladislaus's claim to Hungary,[44][45] thus tacitly renouncing vassalage which had in any case been only nominal since c. 1370.[42] Elizabeth was strangled in prison, while Sigismund's coronation as King of Hungary in March 1387 and subsequent liberation of Mary prompted Tvrtko to act more resolutely. From Ragusa, still loyal to Queen Mary, he exacted a promise of support against everyone but the Queen, and from then on he was free to attack Dalmatia,[44] ostensibly in the name of the King of Naples.[45]

Tvrtko I's coat of arms

Dalmatian cities remained loyal to Mary and Sigismund, not least thanks to the couple's alliance with Venice. A notable exception was Klis, which supported the revolting nobleman John of Palisna. Tvrtko took control of the Klis Fortress in July 1387, which enabled him to launch attacks on Split. Although the Bosnian army laid waste to the areas of Split and Zadar, the cities refused to capitulate. Their officials were willing to honor King Tvrtko but insisted that Queen Mary and King Sigismund were their legitimate sovereigns.[46] Ostrovica Fortress submitted to Tvrtko in November, followed by Trogir.[47]

By 1388, devastation of Dalmatia by Bosnian army became so severe that the authorities of the cities pleaded with Sigismund that he either help them or allow them to save themselves by submitting without being labeled as traitors. Neither Sigismund's army nor an alliance of Dalmatian cities and noblemen were able to counter Tvrtko's advances. Split, Zadar and Šibenik having lost all hope, Tvrtko called upon them to negotiate surrender in March 1389. Each of the cities asked to be the last one to submit and even to be allowed to request Sigismund's assistance once more.[47] Tvrtko granted their wish and decided that Split should be the last to submit, by 15 June 1389.[43]

Ottoman attacks

Plan of the Battle of Kosovo, with troops of Tvrtko I (to the east) and his allies marked red

During the entire course of his campaign in Dalmatia and Croatia Tvrtko was also engaged in skirmishes to the east of his realm, which prevented him from focusing all of his manpower on expansion westwards.[43] The Kingdom of Bosnia was believed to be far from the reach of the Ottomans during Tvrtko I's reign, shielded by a belt of independent Serbian statelets. George II of Zeta, however, purposely enabled the Turks to launch raids against Bosnia, first in 1386 (of which little is known) and in 1388. In the second instance the Ottoman and Zetan invaders led by Lala Şahin Pasha penetrated as far as Bileća. The Battle of Bileća, which took place in late August 1388, ended with the victory of Bosnian army led by Duke Vlatko Vuković.[48]

Coincidentally, 15 June 1389 was also the day when the Ottoman army met a coalition of Serbian states at the Battle of Kosovo. Tvrtko, feeling it his duty as King of Serbia, ordered his army to leave Dalmatia and assist the lords Lazar Hrebljanović and Vuk Branković. The Bosnians were likely led again by Duke Vlatko.[49][5] The highest ranking among the casualties, which also included Bosnian nobility, were Lazar and the Ottoman sultan Murad I. The battle itself was inconclusive, but Tvrtko was convinced that the Christian army came out victorious. He sent letters informing various Christian states of his great triumph; the authorities of the Republic of Florence responded praising both the Kingdom of Bosnia and its king for achieving a "victory so glorious that the memory of it would never fade". The triumph, however, was fictitious. Tvrtko's Serbian title lost what little actual significance it had when Lazar's successors accepted Ottoman suzerainty, while Vuk Branković turned to Tvrtko's enemy Sigismund. Since the Battle of Kosovo, the Bosnian claim to the Serbian throne was merely nominal.[50]

Final achievements and aftermath

Tvrtko's engagement to the east allowed Sigismund's forces to reverse some of his gains in Dalmatia. Klis was briefly lost in July, the Dalmatian cities again refused to surrender, and Tvrtko was forced to again launch raids. A series of battles and skirmishes from November to December resulted in the decisive Bosnian victory and the retreat of the Hungarian army.[51] In May 1390, the cities and the Dalmatian islands finally surrendered to Tvrtko,[52] who then started calling himself "by the Grace of God King of Rascia, Bosnia, Dalmatia, Croatia, and Pomorje".[53] His realm now encompassed much of Slavonia, Dalmatia and Croatia south of Velebit.[45] Acting as King of Dalmatia and Croatia, Tvrtko appointed his supporters John of Palisna and John Horvat as his bans, and hosted the Archbishop of Split Andrea Gualdo in Sutjeska.[53]

Bosnia at its greatest extent, under Tvrtko I in 1390

In the last months of his reign, Tvrtko devoted himself to solidifying his position in Dalmatia and to the plans of taking Zadar, the only Dalmatian city that evaded him. He offered an extensive alliance to Venice, but it did not suit the republic's interests.[53] Meanwhile, Tvrtko was also fostering relations with Duke Albert III of Austria. By the late summer of 1390, a marriage was expected to be contracted between the recently widowed King and a member of the Austrian ruling family, the Habsburgs. Hungary remained in the focus of Tvrtko's foreign policy, however. Although they did not recognize each other as kings, Tvrtko and Sigismund started negotiating a peace in September. Sigismund was in the weaker position and likely ready to make concessions to Tvrtko when his ambassadors arrived to Tvrtko's court in January 1391. The negotiations were probably never concluded, as Tvrtko died on 10 March.[54]

Tvrtko I is considered one of the greatest medieval rulers of Bosnia, having "left behind a country larger, stronger, politically more influential and militarily more capable than the one he inherited." His political achievements were aided by the feudal anarchy in Serbia and Croatia, while the Ottomans were still not close enough to seriously threaten him. Bosnian economy flourished, new settlements and trade centers appeared, and his subjects' living standards improved.[5] Tvrtko I left at least one son, Tvrtko II, whose legitimacy is debated,[5] but he was a minor and apparently not considered fit to succeed his father.[55] Dabiša, a relative (possibly illegitimate half-brother) exiled by Tvrtko I for his part in the 1366 rebellion and reconciled with him in 1390, was elected king instead. Ostoja, the next king, may also have been Tvrtko I's son (or more likely another illegitimate half-brother) but if so he was certainly illegitimate.[5]

Family tree

Uroš I of Serbia
Uroš II Milutin of Serbia
Dragutin of Serbia
Uroš III of Serbia
Elizabeth of Serbia
Stephen I of Bosnia
George II of Bribir
Uroš IV Dušan of Serbia
Stephen II of Bosnia
Vladislaus of Bosnia
Jelena of Bribir
Mladen III of Bribir
Uroš V of Serbia
Elizabeth of Bosnia
Louis I of Hungary
Tvrtko I of Bosnia
Vuk of Bosnia
Sigismund of Luxembourg
Mary of Hungary


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Ćirković 1964, p. 122.
  2. 1 2 Fine 2007, p. 161.
  3. 1 2 3 Fine 1994, p. 284.
  4. Fine 1994, p. 284–285.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Ćošković 2009.
  6. Ćirković 1964, p. 123.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Fine 1994, p. 369.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Ćirković 1964, p. 124.
  9. Ćirković 1964, p. 124–125.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 Fine 1994, p. 370.
  11. Ćirković 1964, p. 125.
  12. 1 2 Ćirković 1964, p. 128.
  13. 1 2 3 Ćirković 1964, p. 129.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Ćirković 1964, p. 130.
  15. 1 2 3 4 Ćirković 1964, p. 131.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Ćirković 1964, p. 132.
  17. Ćirković 1964, p. 126.
  18. Ćirković 1964, p. 127.
  19. Ćirković 1964, p. 133.
  20. 1 2 Ćirković 1964, p. 134.
  21. 1 2 Ćirković 1964, p. 135.
  22. 1 2 Fine 1994, p. 367.
  23. Fine 2007, p. 165.
  24. 1 2 3 Ćirković 1964, p. 136.
  25. 1 2 Ćirković 1964, p. 137.
  26. Zadro 2004, p. 63.
  27. 1 2 Ćirković 1964, p. 150.
  28. Fine 1994, p. 386.
  29. 1 2 Ćirković 1964, p. 138.
  30. Ćirković 1964, p. 140.
  31. Ćirković 1964, p. 141.
  32. Ćirković 1964, p. 142.
  33. Ćirković 1964, p. 144.
  34. Ćirković 1964, p. 145.
  35. Ćirković 1964, p. 146.
  36. Ćirković 1964, p. 147.
  37. Ćirković 1964, p. 148.
  38. Ćirković 1964, p. 149.
  39. Ćirković 1964, p. 151.
  40. 1 2 3 Ćirković 1964, p. 153.
  41. Ćirković 1964, p. 152.
  42. 1 2 Fine 1994, p. 396.
  43. 1 2 3 Ćirković 1964, p. 157.
  44. 1 2 3 4 Ćirković 1964, p. 154.
  45. 1 2 3 Fine 1994, p. 398.
  46. Ćirković 1964, p. 155.
  47. 1 2 Ćirković 1964, p. 156.
  48. Ćirković 1964, p. 158.
  49. Ćirković 1964, p. 159.
  50. Ćirković 1964, p. 160.
  51. Ćirković 1964, p. 161.
  52. Ćirković 1964, p. 163.
  53. 1 2 3 Ćirković 1964, p. 164.
  54. Ćirković 1964, p. 165.
  55. Fine 1994, p. 454.


Regnal titles
Preceded by
Stephen II
Ban of Bosnia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Ban of Bosnia
Became king
New title King of Bosnia
Succeeded by
Title last held by
Uroš V
King of Serbia
Conquest  DISPUTED 
King of Croatia and Dalmatia
Disputed by Mary and Sigismund
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