Richeza of Poland (also known as of Silesia) (Polish: Ryksa Polska or Śląska) (c. 1140 – 16 June 1185) was a Polish noblewoman of the House of Piast in the Silesian branch. By her marriages she was Queen consort of León and Castile, Countess of Provence, and Countess of Eberstein.
Richeza was the third child and only daughter of Władysław II the Exile, the High Duke of Poland and ruler of Silesia, by his wife Agnes of Babenberg, daughter of Margrave Leopold III of Austria and half-sister of King Conrad III of Germany.
Queen of Castile and León
Born and raised for the first years of her life in Poland, Richeza accompanied her parents and brothers into exile in 1146. They established themselves first in Bohemia and later in Germany under the care of King Conrad III, who gave his deposed brother-in-law the Saxon district of Altenburg as his residence.
In 1151 came the news that the King Alfonso VII of León and Castile wanted to make an alliance with the Kingdom of Germany through a wedding. Richeza, niece of King Conrad III, was the most attractive candidate available. Richeza and King Alfonso VII married between October and December 1152. Her first child, Ferdinand, was born in the city of Toledo one year later, in 1153. Two years later, in 1155, Richeza gave birth to her second child, Sancha. King Alfonso VII died suddenly in the middle of the war against the Moors in Sierra Morena on 21 August 1157. Apparently, Infante Ferdinand died shortly before his father.
Countess of Provence
The late king divided his domains between his two surviving sons born from his first marriage to Berenguela of Barcelona: Sancho III obtained Castile and Ferdinand II received León. The relationship between Richeza and her stepsons was not good, especially after King Sancho III declared war on Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona, father of Alfonso (later King of Aragon), who was betrothed to Richeza's daughter Sancha. The unstable relations of King Ferdinand II with the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (cousin of Richeza) and the Antipope Victor IV added further difficulties to the Dowager Queen, who finally decided to move to the Kingdom of Aragon in 1159.
At the court of Aragon, Richeza met Ramon Berenguer II, Count of Provence, nephew of Count of Barcelona. Although they soon fell in love, their union would be clearly political. Ramon Berenguer II supported Victor IV against Pope Alexander III, who, in turn, supported King Louis VII of France. The county of Provence was in a strategic location, between France and the Italian Peninsula. Frederick Barbarossa also wanted to win to his side Count Ramon Berenguer IV, who entered in an alliance with the kings of France, Castile and León. In contrast, Ramon Berenguer II, soon cousin by marriage of the Emperor, gained prestige and could face the pretensions of Count Hugh of Baux, who had just received the Imperial Provence as a fief.
Premarital negotiations lasted almost a year and a half. Richeza and Count Ramon Berenguer II were finally married between January and October 1161. They had only one daughter, Douce of Provence, born about 1162. Ramon Berenguer II was killed during the siege of Nice in 1166.
Soon after her second husband's death, plans for a new marriage for Richeza began. Apparently, she was betrothed to Raymond V, Count of Toulouse, by her cousin the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa around 1166; at the same time, the now Countess Douce II of Provence was engaged to the future Raymond VI. Count Raymond V wanted with this engagement to become more closely tied to the Hohenstaufen dynasty and took full control over the County of Provence. However, the firm opposition of King Alfonso II of Aragon (Richeza's future son-in-law) soon cancelled both betrothals, and with the help of the Genoese, he began a war against Raymond V that lasted eight years.
Some sources stated that in fact Richeza and Raymond V were married, however this event is refuted by the majority of modern historians.
Countess of Eberstein
By 1167, Richeza married her third and last husband, Count Albert III of Eberstein, who fought at the side of Frederick Barbarossa in his wars against the Guelphs. She moved to Germany with her new husband. From this union were born two sons, Counts Albert IV and Konrad II of Eberstein.
Little is known about the later life of Richeza. She died in 1185.