Bolesław II the Bold (Polish: Bolesław Śmiały, also known as Szczodry, "the Generous", and Okrutny, "the Cruel"; c. 1042–1081 or 1082) was duke of Poland from 1058 to 1076, and king of Poland from 1076 to 1079.
Bolesław was the eldest son of Casimir I the Restorer and Dobronega Maria of Kiev, daughter of Grand Duke Vladimir I of Kiev. As Bolesław II he was Duke of Poland, 1058 – 1076, and was subsequently crowned King of Poland on December 25, 1076, in which capacity he ruled until 1079.
Bolesław II is considered one of the most capable of the Piast rulers. He is called "the Generous" due to his having founded many churches and monasteries throughout the kingdom. He rebuilt the Gniezno bishopric in 1075 (consecrated in 1064) and established a bishopric in Płock (1075). He founded Benedictine monasteries in Mogilno, Lubin and Wrocław. These had an enormous influence on the economic and cultural development of the country.
Bolesław II was also the first Polish monarch to produce his own coinage in quantity great enough to replace the foreign coin prevalent in the country during the reigns of the first Piast kings. He established royal mints in Kraków and Wrocław and reformed the coinage, which brought considerable revenue into the royal coffers.
Following the death of his father, Casimir I Boleslaw as "senior" inherited Greater Poland, Lesser Poland as well as Mazovia, Pomerania, and Silesia districts of the Kingdom. His brothers Władysław Herman and Mieszko became governors of the remaining provinces, however Mieszko died relatively early, in 1065, at which point his lands came under the authority of the "senior". Boleslaw II based his foreign policy on surrounding his realm with allied kingdoms in order to oppose the Holy Roman Empire; his goal being for Poland to one day border only with allied countries. This is the reason behind his numerous foreign interventions: In 1060–1063 he intervened in Hungary to aid Béla I of Hungary and his sons against the Holy Roman Empire who in 1061 with the support of Polish troops, gained power in Hungary. In Hungary Boleslaw II pursued the policy of cooperation with the anti-imperial faction which allowed him to gain political independence from the Empire but put him in conflict with the pro-imperial kingdom of Bohemia. He escalated the conflict with Vratislaus II of Bohemia, by refusing to pay annual homage to Bohemia and spurring the Czech nobility to revolt against him. In 1063, Bolesław besieged the Moravian city of Hradec but, defeated, he was forced to retreat. Relationships with Vratislaus II were however settled to a certain extent when the latter married Świętosława, Bolesław's sister.
In 1069 Iziaslav I of Kiev and Gertruda (the daughter of Mieszko II of Poland) were overthrown. The military campaign of Bolesław established them back in power in Kiev. In 1071 Bolesław attacked Bohemia again. As the Polish refused any attempt of arbitration by Henry IV, the question was settled by an armistice between the two belligerents; however Bolesław, ignoring the treaty, renewed his attack in 1072 and refused to pay the tributes from Silesia to the Holy Roman Empire.
Due to his involvement in the Hungarian, Bohemian and Kievan affairs, Boleslaw neglected to take care of Poland's interests on the Baltic coast. Western Pommerania, therefore, was lost first and then in either 1060 or 1066, Danzig Pomerania also severed it's ties to the Polish Kingdom.
When Gregory VII, an enemy of the Emperor, became pope in 1073, Bolesław saw in him a natural ally, and started to apply Gregory's reforms in the archbishop of Gniezno and started negotiations to obtain a royal crown. In 1075 a revolt in Saxony, spurred by Bolesław, forced Henry to retreat from that region (the Emperor crushed the revolt soon thereafter); the Polish seized the occasion to launch an invasion against Henry's vassal, Vratislaus, alongside his Russian ally Vladimir II Monomakh.
Thanks to his support to the Papal cause during the Investiture Controversy, Bolesław gained the royal crown of Poland in 1076, along with recognition of the title. Rulers of Poland had long desired to reign continuously as did their royal neighbors in Hungary, but like their neighbors in Bohemia they were only occasionally granted recognition as king by their nominal liege lord, the Emperor. The latter's humiliation at Canossa in 1077 included also the Imperial recognition of Bolesław's royal title. Bolesław's new authority, however, caused the Polish magnates to rebell, as they feared the monarchy was beginning to grow too powerful.
In 1077 Bolesław's troops helped two pretenders to gain the throne: Ladislas, another son of Béla, in Hungary, and again Iziaslav in Kiev. In 1078,while returning from the latter campaign, Boleslaw's troops conquered Red Ruthenia. In 1079, however, Boleslaw was deposed by a Barons rebellion and banished from the country. The circumstances that led to the kings banishment hinge on the person of bishop of Kraków, Stanislaus of Szczepanów. From historical records it appears that Bishop Stanislaw was involved with a barons' opposition movement plotting to remove the King and to place his brother Władysław Herman on the throne. The conspiracy was uncovered by the king's men and Stanislaw was judged by both royal and ecclesiastical courts. He was found guilty of treason - Gallus Anonimus uses the word "traditor" meaning traitor - and executed. This act seems to have sparked the Barons rebellion against the king who was deposed and forced to flee the country, together with his wife and son Mieszko. He found refuge in Hungary which was ruled by László I, a future saint, who owed his crown to Boleslaw II. According to Gallus Anonimus, Boleslaw's atrocious conduct towards his Hungarian hosts caused him his premature death in 1081 or 1082 at the hands of an assassin. He was only about 40 years old. According to a popular legend he was buried in the Benedictine Abbey of Ossiach (modern Carinthia, Austria). Nevertheless, this legend dates centuries after his death (it is first mentioned by Maciej Miechowita in 1499). The actual place of Boleslaw's burial is unknown. He was succeeded in power by his brother Władysław.
Another version of the event which led to Boleslaw's demise was propagated by Master Vincentius Kadlubek. Master Kadlubek however was writing nearly 100 years after Gallus Anonymus and a century and a half after the actual affair. According to this version, Bolesław assaulted and then personally wielded the sword that murdered Stanislaus of Szczepanów (bishop of Kraków), during the celebration of mass. Though the bishop had privately and then publicly warned the king to repent of adultery and other vices, Bolesław chose a course of action more characteristic of his nickname, "the Bold." (April 11, 1079).