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Eastern Europe

The Last King of Bosnia

Edited from notes provided by Željko Buzov, 11 October 2002. Updated 24 April 2020

Stjepan Tomasevic (1461-1463) was the last king of an independent Bosnia. He was captured through treachery (the name of the traitor is still remembered in Bosnia), and was subsequently decapitated by Turks in his own royal city of Jajce along with a number of other members of the Bosnian nobility. His son and daughter were taken in slavery to the Ottoman court at Constantinople and forced to convert to Islam.

Stjepan's wife was Katarina Vukcic-Kosaca (1424-1478), the last queen of Bosnia and an ardent Catholic. She is still one of the most beloved historical figures for Croats who live in modern Bosnia.

When Bosnia fell under Ottoman rule in 1463, Katarina lost her husband and both children. With the help of some Bosnian nobles she managed to escape to Dubrovnik, and then to Rome, where she had been deeply involved in the humanitarian activities of the Franciscan community (Aracoeli), becoming Franciscan Tertiary herself, to help Bosnian Croats who were now under Ottoman rule.

She oversaw the construction of the church of St Katarina in the picturesque Bosnian city of Jajce (which unfortunately was largely destroyed by the Serbs in 1993). Despite her very difficult position, she had always been treated in official circles as a queen of Bosnia. Tormented by the tragedy of her homeland, the rightful queen bequeathed her Bosnian kingdom to Pope Sixto IV and the Holly See in 1478:

...in case my Islamised children are not freed and returned to the Catholic faith.

The queen is remembered in Bosnia today as the 'Black Queen', with 'black' being used in the sense of unfortunate, or as the 'Sad Queen'. Even today all the women, including the very young, from the small town of Kraljeva Sutjeska (King's Canyon) in the area in which Stjepan Tomaševich was captured (not far from Sarajevo), cover their hair with black scarves as a sign of mourning for 'Our Queen Katarina', five and-a-half centuries after Katarina's death.

King Stephen Tomasevic of Bosnia
King Stephen Tomasevic, reigned for just two years over an independent Bosnian kingdom that was living on borrowed time, faced by a near-tidal wave of Ottoman attacks which it was ill-equipped to stave off, and a final attack in 1463 that it had no hope of defeating

 

 

     
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