True Name: Tvrtko
Parents: Vladislav, ban of Bosnia, and Jelena Šubić
Date of Birth: 5 August 1338
Spouse: Dorothea, daughter of Ivan Sratsimir, tsar of Bulgaria, and Anna of Wallachia
Reign: 1377 – 1391
Predecessor: Stephen II, ban of Bosnia
Summary: Stephen was born into a prominent noble family during a time of plague in Bosnia. He was extremely close to his sister, Catherine, whose descendants eventually married into Austro-Hungarian royalty. Stephen descended from the kings of Hungary and Croatia, as well as the old Serbian royal family. At the age of fifteen, he became the ban of Serbia as Stephen III, succeeding his uncle Stephen II. The ban served the king of Hungary. His father, Vladislav, ruled for him for the first year of his reign. His mother, Jelena, then attempted to claim the Bosnian crown but was denied due to her gender. Stephen, having no other choice, took control over his government directly at sixteen. Allied with his mother, Stephen began conquering lands from Venice along the Dalmatian coast. He came into conflict with his overlord in Hungary, and began a nation-wide push toward independence, though the goal was not clear yet. Stephen was deposed by his brother, Vuk in 1366, but returned the next year, having renewed his loyalty to Hungary temporarily. He then pursued his brother across the Balkans to make him pay for his disloyalty. Vuk fled to Rome and pleaded his case to the pope, accusing Stephen of heresy. The pope demanded that the king of Hungary restore Vuk to the Bosnian throne. Meantime, Stephen had all but conquered Bosnia from his rivals and, in 1374, finally made peace with his brother. In a surprise move in 1377, Stephen declared his independence from Hungary and elevated himself to the kingship of Bosnia and Serbia.
As united king of both countries, Stephen was a surprisingly good monarch. He earned the support of Serbia's pretender, who joined his government. Stephen rewarded his loyalists with lands in both Bosnia and Serbia. When King Louis of Hungary died in 1382, Stephen became protector for his two daughters, Queen Mary of Hungary and Queen Hedwig of Poland. Mary was captured by rebels in 1387 and Stephen could, at that time, had rightfully claimed the Hungarian throne, but declined the opportunity. He wished instead to unite the Balkans under one ruler. He sought to annex Croatia and Dalmatia. Yet his dreams were constantly in danger due to Ottoman advances in the east. In one battle, the Sultan Murad I himself was killed by Serbian soldiers. The fame of Stephen's kingdom spread like wildfire through Europe. By 1390, Dalmatia and Croatia were largely in Bosnian hands. But one year later, Stephen died suddenly. Within two decades, Serbia and Bosnia were split between Habsburg and Ottoman control and Stephen's brief united kingdom was all but a memory.
Date of Death: 10 March 1391
Successor: Stephen II, king of Bosnia
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