Jonas Goštautas

Jonas Goštautas

Jonas Gostautas or Goštautas (c. 1383 in Geranainys – 1 September 1458 in Vilnius) was the nobleman from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and a progenitor of the Goštautai noble family. Served as Chancellor of Lithuania between 1443 and 1458 and was "de facto" ruler of Lithuania for around twenty years. "Goštautas" was not his surname, but a pagan Lithuanian given name, he retained after baptism, while "Jonas" was his Christian name. His heirs, starting with his son Martynas Goštautas, inherited the name as a surname.

First mentioned in 1413, Jonas Goštautas served as a marshal during the late reign of Vytautas the Great. Following death of Vytautas he continued his duties under Švitrigaila. In 1431 while defending Lutsk from Polish assault was captured and imprisoned.

Then fight erupted between Švitrigaila and Žygimantas Kęstutaitis for Grand Duke title, Jonas Goštautas supported Žygimantas Kęstutaitis, who appointed him as governor of Smolensk later on. He served as governor of Smolensk for around four years until assassination of Grand Duke Žygimantas Kęstutaitis forced him to leave this position. Serving many rulers he managed to gain and hold tremendous wealth and thus he became one of the richest noblemen of Lithuania.

Death of Žygimantas Kęstutaitis left empty the throne of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Jonas Goštautas, as well as other noblemen from Lithuania, supported Casimir Jagiellon as pretender to the throne. Polish noblemen hoped and insisted that thirteen year old boy remained only a vicegerent of the Polish King in Lithuania.J. Kiaupienë Valdžios krizës pabaiga ir Kazimieras Jogailaitis. Gimtoji istorija 2: Nuo 7 iki 12 klasės (Lietuvos istorijos vadovėlis). CD. (2003). Elektroninės leidybos namai: Vilnius.] But when Casimir arrived in Vilnius in 1440 he was proclaimed as Grand Duke by the Council of Lords, contrary to the wishes of the Polish noblemen -- an act supported and coordinated by Jonas Goštautas. In this way fragile personal union between Grad Duchy of Lithuania and Kingdom of Poland was dissolved. The news in Kingdom of Poland about proclamation of Casimir as Grand Duke was met with hostility towards Lithuania, even to the point of military threats.

Jonas Goštautas secured positions as palatine (voivode) of Trakai in 1440, and from 1443 palatine of Vilnius and Chancellor of Lithuania. Holding the most important positions in the state and supporting young Grand Duke he became actual ruler of Lithuania. He successfully initiated the expansion of the Council of Lords' powers, made structural reforms, led assault on rebelling Kiev. Nevertheless in 1444 Władysław died in battle and Polish noblemen insisted that Casimir should return to Kingdom of Poland and take an empty throne. After several years of discussions for Casimir's return to Kingdom of Poland, Goštautas and other Lithuanian noblemen raised several conditions which had to be met, for Casimir to return to Poland. Listed in the 1446 treaty these condition included: Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Kingdom of Poland remaining separate states only with close co-operation ties, governed by one or two rulers, Podolia and Volynia returned to Grand Duchy of Lithuania. [Encyclopedia Lituanica. Boston, 1970-1978, Vol 2. p.348-349] After issuing another privilege in 1447, Casimir becoming a King of Poland.

After Casimir left Lithuania, Goštautas remained in his state positions and continued his policy of fostering Lithuanian sovereignty until he died in 1458.

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