Kęstutis (pronEng|kæsˈtuːtıs; born ca. 1297, died on August 3 or August 15, 1382 in Kreva) was monarch of medieval Lithuania. He ruled the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1381–82, with his brother Algirdas (until 1377); and was Prince of Trakai. He ruled over the Lithuanians and Ruthenians.

The name "Kęstutis" is a suffixed "-utis-" derivative from old form of name "Kęstas" or similar, which is shorten version of double theme Lithuanian names such as "Kęstaras", "Kęstautas" (there "kęs-ti" means "to cope"). Historic writing sources reflect different Lithuanian pronunciation. [cite book | last = Zinkevičius | first = Zigmas | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Senosios Lietuvos valstybės vardynas | publisher = Science and Encyclopaedia Publishing Institute | year = 2007 | location = | pages = p.51 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 5420016060 ]


Kęstutis was the son of the Grand Duke Gediminas. His younger brother, Jaunutis, succeeded his father as Grand Duke of Lithuania. Together with his brother Algirdas, Kestutis conspired to remove Jaunutis from power. They were successful in their efforts. They divided their holdings into an eastern and western sphere of influence. Kęstutis' efforts were concentrated in the west, while Algirdas' were concentrated in the eastern part of these territories. Kęstutis organized the defence of western Lithuania and Samogitia against the Teutonic Knights, and organized raids against the German Order. Some historians claim, that this rule by two brothers has no precedent in European history. Kęstutis is sometimes credited (by the Teutonic Order) as being the last pagan with the nobility of a Knight.

Kęstutis employed different military as well as diplomatic means in his struggle on the western borders of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In order to avoid the further clashes with the Teutonic Order, in 1349, as Lithuanian co-ruler, he started the negotiations with Pope Clement VI for the Christianization of Lithuania and had been promised royal crowns for him and his sons. Algirdas willingly remained aside of the business and was concerned with the order in the Ruthenian part of the state. The intermediary in the negotiations, Polish King Casimir III, made an unexpected assault on Volhynia and Brest in October 1349 that ruined the Kęstutis' plan. During the Polish-Lithuanian war for Volhynia, King Louis I of Hungary made a peace agreement with Kęstutis on 15 August 1351, according to which Kęstutis obliged himself to accept Christianity and provide the Kingdom of Hungary with military aid, in exchange of the royal crown. The agreement was approved with a pagan ritual by Kęstutis in order to convince the other side. In fact, Kęstutis had no intentions to comply with the agreement and ran away on their road to Buda. [lt icon [http://www.lrytas.lt/?data=&id=11832768841182643783&sk_id=&view=4&p=4 Kęstutis: krikšto priešininkas ar šalininkas? (Kęstutis: was he a proponent or opponent of the Christianization)] , in Kultūros barai, 2006, 6. accessed on 01-07-2007]

Kęstutis was perceived not only as a rival but also as a Knight by the German Order, and it was considered a honor to shake hands with him, although, the Duke did not reach his hand to everyonecite book | last = Gudavičius | first = Edvardas | authorlink = Edvardas Gudavičius | coauthors = | title = Lietuvos istorija | publisher = | year = 1999 | location = Vilnius | pages = 188| url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 9986-39-112-1 ] .

In 1382 Jogaila, son of Algirdas and nephew of Kęstutis took control of Vilnius and then Trakai. Kęstutis with his son Vytautas arrived at Trakai with an army. They were to hold negotiations at the camp of Jogaila, but instead were taken prisoner there. Kęstutis was subsequently murdered at Kreva Castle. His son Vytautas the Great was able to escape.

See also

*House of Kęstutis – family tree of Kęstutis


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