Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 




The Early Modern Period

16th - 18th century


 


The smooth transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is conventionally fixed on such events as the Reformation and the discovery of the "New World," which brought about the emergence of a new image of man and his world. Humanism, which spread out of Italy, also made an essential contribution to this with its promotion of a critical awareness of Christianity and the Church. The Reformation eventually broke the all-embracing power of the Church. After the Thirty Years' War, the concept of a universal empire was also nullified. The era of the nation-state began, bringing with it the desire to build up political and economic power far beyond Europe. The Americas, Africa, and Asia provided regions of expansion for the Europeans.
 



Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci (drawing, ca. 1490)
is a prime example of the new approach of Renaissance
artists and scientists to the anatomy of the human body.

 

 


Eastern Europe and Scandinavia
 


1500-1800
 

 

Poland experienced a turbulent period due to its elective and weak monarchy that struggled to maintain its authority in the face of an aristocracy that strove for independence. It was then divided up between the Great Powers in the partitions of Poland. In Hungary and Transylvania the Ottomans and Habsburgs fought for power. Protestant kings in Denmark and Sweden attempted to strengthen central authority and expand their sphere of influence. Sweden rose to become a European power under Gustav II Adolph after 1648, but Russia was able to break Sweden's dominance in the north after the death of Charles XII.

 


Poland and Hungary in the 16th and 17th Centuries
 

The aristocracy's right of election and the disputes with its neighbors -weakened the Polish kingdom. Hungary came under the rule of the Ottomans and the Habsburgs.

 

The position of the Polish kings was traditionally weak because it was an 3 elective monarchy.


3 Polish general assembly for the election of a king
in a field near Warsaw, copper engraving, 17th century



The nobility held the peasants in servitude and expanded its privileges at every election in the Sejm or Diet.

1
Sigismund I of the Jagiellon dynasty, king from 1506, was a promoter of the Renaissance and humanism.

He ended the disputes with the Habsburgs in 1515 and with the Teutonic Order over East Prussia in 1525.

His son 2 Sigismund II Augustus unified the Lithuanian provinces with Poland in the 5 Union of Lublin in 1569.


5 Unification of Poland and Lithuania in the Lublin


After the end of the Jagiellon line, the aristocracy forced through religious freedom and the right of resistance with the election of Llenry of Valois in 1572, later Henry III king of France.

In 1587 3 Sigismund III brought the Catholic line of the House of Vasa to power.

His son Wladyslaw IV pushed far into Russian territory, but Wladyslaw's brother 4 John II Casimir later had to contend with the revolts of the Cossack leader Bogdan Chmelnizkij, who was supported by Russia and the Polish peasants, founded his own state in the Ukraine, and placed himself under the czar in 1654.



1 Sigismund I the Old
2 Sigismund II Augustus
3 Sigismund III
4 John II Casimir
 

   

Sigismund I
king of Poland
byname Sigismund the Old, Polish Zygmunt Stary

born Jan. 1, 1467
died April 1, 1548, Kraków, Pol.

Main
king who established Polish suzerainty over Ducal Prussia (East Prussia) and incorporated the duchy of Mazovia into the Polish state.

Sigismund I, the fifth son of Casimir IV and Elizabeth of Habsburg, had ruled Głogów, Silesia, since 1499 and became margrave of Lusatia and governor of all Silesia in 1504. In a short time his judicial and administrative reforms transformed those territories into model states. He succeeded his brother Alexander I as grand prince of Lithuania and king of Poland in 1506. Although he established fiscal and monetary reforms, he often clashed with the Polish Diet over extensions of royal power. At the Diet’s demand he married Barbara, daughter of Prince Stephen Zápolya of Hungary, in 1512, to secure a defense treaty and produce an heir. She died, however, three years later, leaving only daughters. In 1518 Sigismund married the niece of the Holy Roman emperor Maximilian, Bona Sforza of Milan, by whom he had one son, Sigismund II Augustus, and four daughters. One of them later married John III of Sweden, from whom the Vasa kings of Sweden were descended.

In 1521 Sigismund’s army, led by one of the principal advisers and commanders, Jan Tarnowski, subdued the Order of the Teutonic Knights, a paramilitary religious order that ruled East Prussia. In 1525 the Teutonic grand master Albert became a Lutheran and agreed to do public homage to Sigismund in return for being granted the title of secular duke of Prussia; Albert then dissolved the order, and Ducal Prussia came under Polish suzerainty. Sigismund added the duchy of Mazovia (now the province of Warsaw) to the Polish state after the death, in 1529, of the last of its Piast dynasty rulers. Again under the command of Tarnowski, Sigismund’s army defeated the invading forces of Moldavia at Obertyn in 1531 and Muscovy in 1535, thereby safeguarding Poland’s eastern borders.

Sigismund, influenced by his wife, brought Italian artists to Kraków and promoted the development of the Polish variety of the Italian Renaissance. Although a devout Catholic, he accorded religious toleration to Greek Orthodox Christians and royal protection to Jews. At first he vigorously opposed Lutheranism but later resigned himself to its growing power in Poland.

 

 

 

Sigismund II Augustus
king of Poland

born Aug. 1, 1520, Kraków, Pol.
died July 7, 1572, Knyszyn

Main
Polish Zygmunt August last Jagiellon king of Poland, who united Livonia and the duchy of Lithuania with Poland, creating a greatly expanded and legally unified kingdom.

The only son of Sigismund I the Old and Bona Sforza, Sigismund II was elected and crowned coruler with his father in 1530. He ruled the duchy of Lithuania from 1544 and became king of Poland after his father’s death in April 1548. After his first wife died childless (1545), he secretly married Barbara Radziwiłł, of a Lithuanian magnate family (1547). When he announced his marriage in 1548, the szlachta (Polish gentry) tried to force an annulment because it feared the influence of the Radziwiłłs. He overcame the opposition, but Barbara died childless in 1551, allegedly poisoned by Sigismund’s mother. A third marriage (1553), to his first wife’s sister Catherine, also proved childless, and at his death the direct Jagiellon line ended.

In 1559, when the Livonian Order (a branch of the Teutonic Knights) became too weak to protect itself from Muscovite attacks, it sought and obtained Sigismund’s previously offered protection. The Polish king intervened, but, as Livonia continued to be menaced by Muscovy as well as Sweden and Denmark, the Livonian Order and Sigismund II Augustus concluded the Union of Wilno (Vilnius) in 1561: thereby the Livonian lands, north of the Dvina (Daugava) River, were incorporated directly into Lithuania, while Courland, south of the Dvina, became a secular duchy and Polish fief.

The subsequent war (Livonian War) with Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible over Livonia compelled Sigismund to strengthen his position by constitutionally uniting all the lands attached to the Polish crown. Supported by the Polish and Lithuanian gentry, Sigismund ceded his hereditary rights in Lithuania to Poland (1564), thus placing the two states in constitutional equality but not in a complete union. In 1569 he formally incorporated Podlasie, Volhynia, and Kiev provinces into the Polish kingdom, thereby giving their representatives seats in the Sejm; the enlarged Sejm then enacted the Union of Lublin (1569), uniting Poland and Lithuania as well as their respective dependencies.

 

 

 

Sigismund III Vasa
king of Poland and Sweden
Polish Zygmunt Waza, Swedish Sigismund Vasa

born June 20, 1566, Gripsholm, Swed.
died April 30, 1632, Warsaw, Pol.

Main
king of Poland (1587–1632) and of Sweden (1592–99) who sought to effect a permanent union of Poland and Sweden but instead created hostile relations and wars between the two states lasting until 1660.

The elder son of King John III Vasa of Sweden and Catherine, daughter of Sigismund I the Old of Poland, Sigismund belonged to the Vasa dynasty through his father and to the Jagiellon dynasty through his mother, who brought him up as a Catholic. He was elected king of Poland in August 1587, succeeding his uncle King Stephen Báthory. To obtain the throne he had to accept a reduction of royal power and a consequent increase of the power of the Sejm (Diet). In 1592 he married the Austrian archduchess Anna, and, after his father’s death the same year, he received the Sejm’s permission to accept the Swedish throne. He was crowned king of Sweden in 1594, but only after promising to uphold Swedish Lutheranism.

Leaving his paternal uncle Charles (later Charles IX) as regent in Sweden, Sigismund returned to Poland in July 1594. Charles, however, rose in rebellion, and, when Sigismund returned to Sweden with an army, Charles defeated him at Stångebro (1598) and deposed him in 1599. Sigismund’s subsequent foreign policy was aimed at regaining the Swedish throne, and from 1600 Poland and Sweden were involved in an intermittent war. He also attempted to maintain an alliance with the Austrian Habsburgs. When his first Austrian wife died (1598) and he married her sister Constantia (1605), he provoked his opponents, already aroused by his efforts to introduce majority rule in place of unanimity in the Sejm, to engage in a civil war (1606–08).

Shortly after his victory over his internal enemies, Sigismund took advantage of a period of civil unrest in Muscovy (known as the Time of Troubles) and invaded Russia, holding Moscow for two years (1610–12) and Smolensk thereafter. In 1617 the Polish-Swedish conflict, which had been interrupted by an armistice in 1611, broke out again. While Sigismund’s army was also fighting Ottoman forces in Moldavia (1617–21), King Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden (Charles IX’s son) invaded Sigismund’s lands, capturing Riga (1621) and seizing almost all of Polish Livonia. Sigismund, who concluded the Truce of Altmark with Sweden in 1629, never regained the Swedish crown. His Swedish wars resulted, moreover, in Poland’s loss of Livonia and in a diminution of the kingdom’s international prestige.

 

 

 

John II Casimir Vasa
king of Poland
Polish Jan Kazimierz Waza
born March 22, 1609, Kraków, Pol.
died Dec. 16, 1672, Nevers, France

Main
king of Poland (1648–68) and pretender to the Swedish throne, whose reign was marked by heavy losses of Polish territory incurred in wars against the Ukrainians, Tatars, Swedes, and Russians.

The second son of Sigismund III Vasa, king of Poland and of Sweden, John Casimir fought on the Habsburg side against France during the Thirty Years’ War from 1635 until, on his way to Spain to assume the office of admiral, he was arrested by the French and imprisoned for two years (1638–40). After his release he decided to forgo military life and became a Jesuit novice (1646), but he resigned his position a year later.

A few months after the death of his brother King Wladyslaw IV in May 1648, John Casimir was elected to the Polish throne and soon married Marie Louise de Gonzague-Nevers, his brother’s widow.

John Casimir tried to end an insurrection of Poland’s semiautonomous Ukrainian Cossack subjects by negotiation but was forced to continue the war by Polish nobles who wished to increase their control over Ukraine. He defeated the Cossacks and their Tatar allies at Beresteczko June 28–30, 1651, but the fighting began anew when the Cossacks submitted themselves to the Russian tsar in return for military aid. While the Polish army was fighting on the eastern border of Poland, the Swedish army invaded from the west and occupied most of the country by October 1655.

John Casimir fled abroad but returned in 1656 when Polish peasants and gentry rebelled against Swedish control. At the conclusion of the war with Sweden in 1660, he had to renounce his rights to the Swedish throne and to northern Livonia. In January 1667 Poland signed the Truce of Andrusovo with Russia, whereby half of Belorussia (with Smolensk), Chernigov (modern Chernihiv, Ukraine), and all of Ukraine east of the Dnieper River, as well as Kiev, west of the river, were ceded to Russia. Disgusted with external warfare, facing a rebellion by the Diet, and in mourning after the death of his wife, the king abdicated (Sept. 16, 1668) and retired to France, where he served as titular abbot of Saint-Germain-des-Prés until his death in 1672.


Encyclopaedia Britannica
 

 


When Ukraine was lost to Russia, the king abdicated.

A branch of the house of Jagiellon had ruled in Bohemia and Hungary since the 15th century.

A pact was made with the Habsburgs for the 7 double wedding of the children of King Wladyslaw II, Louis and Anna, with the grandchildren of Holy Roman emperor Maximilian I, Ferdinand and Mary, in 1515.

When the young King Louis II fell in the Battle of Mohacs against the Turks in 1526, his brother-in-law, Ferdinand I claimed Bohemia and Hungary. But Ferdinand was only able to hold Bohemia; the Ottomans, who supported their own kings, occupied most of Hungary for a century and a half.


7 Double wedding between the Habsburg and the Jagiellon dynasty in 1515

 

 


Hungary and Poland to the 18th Century
 

The power struggle between the Ottomans and the Habsburgs also raged in Hungary and neighboring Transylvania. At first, Poland fought against Sweden in the Great Northern War but then came under the influence of Russia and finally ceased to exist as a state due to the Three Partitions.

 

The battle for Hungary and Transylvania sapped the strength of the Habsburgs in the East. The Ottomans had supported local nobility against the Habsburgs over the centuries, beginning with John Zapolya, who was woi-wode (governor) of Transylvania from 1511 and king of eastern Hungary from 1526. The Protestant Bethlen Gabor, for example, prince of Transylvania in 1613 and king of Hungary in 1620, pushed into Bohemia and Austria. The Habsburgs were first able to extend their rule over all of Hungary only after the victory of Prince Eugene of Savoy in 1697.

For the last time, in 1704, 8 Ferenc II Rakoczi, prince of Transylvania and Hungary, once again led a revolt against the Habsburgs but in 1711 was forced to relinquish all his titles.

Nevertheless, Hungary, which persisted in striving for independence, remained a hotbed of conflict until the end of the Habsburg monarchy.

9 John III Sobieski, who was elected king of Poland in 1674, helped defend Vienna against the Turks.

His attempt to establish a hereditary monarchy failed, however, due to the resistance of the nobility. Instead, the Saxon elector 10 Frederick Augustus I (the Strong) was elected as King Augustus II in 1697.

He was driven out of Poland in the Great Northern War in 1701 by Charles XII of Sweden but was able to regain the crown after Charles's defeat at Poltava in 1709.

Upon Augustus's death in 1733, the Polish nobilitv chose the Polish noble 11 Stanislaw I Leszczynski, the father-in-law of Louis XV of France, who had once already been installed as king between 1704 and 1709 by Charles XII.

However, Russia and Austria, fearful of losing their influence, forced the election of Augustus III, the son of Augustus the Strong, in 1733-1734.
The consequent War of Polish Succession ended with a Europe-wide exchange of lands. Stanislaw Leszczynski received Lorraine (p. 281) as compensation and Francis Stephen of Lorraine got Tuscany.

Augustus III continued to reign in Saxony and Poland. After his death, Empress Catherine II of Russia put her former lover 12 Stanislaw II Poniatowski on the throne in 1764.


8 Ferenc II Rakoczi
9 John III Sobieski
10 Frederick I Augustus (the Strong) of Saxony and Poland
11 Stanislaw I Leszczynski
12 Stanislaw II August Poniatowski
 

   

Ferenc Rakoczi, II
prince of Transylvania

born March 27, 1676, Borsi, Hung.
died April 8, 1735, Rodosto, Tur.

Main
prince of Transylvania who headed a nearly successful national rising of all Hungary against the Habsburg empire.

He was born of an aristocratic Magyar family. Both his father and his stepfather had led insurrections against the Habsburgs, and Rákóczi grew up in an atmosphere of fervent Magyar patriotism. He was separated from his mother after the surrender of Munkács to the Austrians (1688) and taken to Vienna and placed in a Jesuit college in Bohemia to be brought up in Austrian ways.

Rákóczi returned to his Hungarian estates in 1694, having forgotten much of his heritage. Encouraged by other Hungarian nobles, however, he came to believe in the Hungarian cause, and, on the eve of the War of the Spanish Succession, he and his fellow magnates sought help from Louis XIV of France. Their intermediary betrayed his trust, and Rákóczi was arrested and imprisoned, escaping death with his wife’s help by leaving his cell in disguise. After two years in Poland, he returned in 1703 to put himself at the head of the peasant revolt known as the Kuruc (or Kurucok) rising. He had considerable initial success, but the Anglo-Austrian victory at Blenheim in 1704 destroyed hopes of help from France and of eventual success, though fighting in Hungary continued until 1711.

Meanwhile, the Transylvanians were looking to Rákóczi to restore their independence, electing him prince on July 6, 1704, a major result of which was the destruction of any hopes for compromise with the emperor Leopold I, who was also king of Hungary. France sent no effective aid, Rákóczi’s efforts to secure the Russian tsar Peter I’s help against Austria failed, his peasant armies suffered further heavy defeats, and finally he left his country forever on Feb. 21, 1711, a few months before the signing of the Peace of Szatmár with Austria.

After seeking refuge in Poland and France, Rákóczi went to Constantinople in 1717 on the invitation of the Sultan to help organize an army against the Austrians. Peace, however, was concluded before he arrived, the Sultan had no use for his services, and Rákóczi lived out his life in exile in Turkey.

 

 

 

John III Sobieski
king of Poland
Polish Jan Sobieski
born August 17, 1629, Olesko, Poland
died June 17, 1696, Wilanów

Main
elective king of Poland (1674–96), a soldier who drove back the Ottoman Turks and briefly restored the kingdom of Poland-Lithuania to greatness for the last time.

Early life and career
Sobieski’s ancestors were of the lesser nobility, but one of his great-grandfathers was the famous grand-hetman (military commander) St. Żółkiewski, and, when John was born, his father, James (Jakub) (1588–1646), had already taken a step to the higher ranks, sharing an office on the royal court. At the end of his life, the father even became castellan of Kraków, an office that secured him the highest rank among the members of the Polish Senate, or first chamber of the parliament.

John was well educated and toured western Europe in his youth, as was usual for a Polish noble of his class. When the Swedes invaded Poland in 1655, he joined them in opposition to the Polish king John Casimir. The following year he changed sides again and became one of the leaders in the fight to expel the Swedes. In 1665, through the influence of his patroness, Queen Maria Louisa (Ludwika), he was appointed to the prestigious office of grand marshal. In 1666 he became hetman of the Polish army. In October 1667 he defeated the Tatars and the Cossacks near Podhajce (now Podgaytsy, in Ukraine), and in the spring of 1668, when he triumphantly returned to Warsaw, he was named grand-hetman. In 1665 he had married an ambitious young French widow, Marie-Casimire de la Grange d’Arquien (Marysieńka). Marysieńka planned to have John elected king after King John Casimir’s resignation in 1668. When this plan failed—the nobility elected Michael Wiśniowiecki in 1669—she began working to obtain support from Louis XIV of France for her husband’s advancement. Since they were often separated—the husband on the front, his wife on journeys to France—Sobieski wrote long letters to Marysieńka, which are now a highly interesting and important historical source. Her letters have not been preserved.

During the short reign of King Michael (1669–73), Sobieski distinguished himself by further victories over the Cossacks, and simultaneously he tried to undermine Michael, whose policies favoured the Habsburgs against France. Michael died in November 1673, and almost on the same day Sobieski won a splendid victory over the Turks under Hussein Paşa near Chocim (Hoţin). Although this victory did not alter the disastrous conditions of the Peace of Buczacz concluded in 1672 (Poland had to cede territory to the Turks and to pay a considerable indemnity), Sobieski’s reputation was so great that in May 1674 he was elected king in preference to the candidate backed by the Habsburgs.

At first Sobieski followed a pro-French policy. He tried to end the Turkish war by French mediation and concluded the secret Treaty of Jaworów with France (June 1675), in which he promised to fight the Holy Roman (Habsburg) emperor after the conclusion of peace with the Turks. In fact, only an armistice with them was concluded at Żórawno (October 1676), and the conditions were only slightly more favourable than those of Buczacz.

Sobieski’s hopes of compensating for losses to the Turks in the southeast by using French and Swedish support to make territorial gains from Prussia in the northwest were also disappointed. Furthermore, Louis XIV was neither ready to recognize Marysieńka’s French relatives as members of a royal family nor willing to support the succession of Sobieski’s son James (Jakub) to the Polish throne. The great nobles, especially those from Lithuania, were opposed to the French alliance because they feared that Sobieski was striving to attain absolute power with the help of France. It was becoming clear, moreover, that it was impossible to reconcile the interests of Poland and those of Louis, whose aim was to use Sobieski as an obedient vassal against the Habsburgs. Poland, for its part, had no differences with the Habsburgs and, after a series of Turkish attacks, came to regard the Ottomans, the allies of France, as its deadliest enemies.

The siege of Vienna
Sobieski, therefore, though always an admirer of France, shifted away from the French alliance and concluded a treaty with the Holy Roman emperor Leopold I against the Turks (April 1, 1683). By the terms of the treaty, each ally had to support the other with all his might if the other’s capital were to be besieged. Thus, when a great Turkish army approached Vienna late in the summer of 1683, Sobieski himself rushed there with about 25,000 men. Because he had the highest rank of all military leaders gathered to relieve Vienna, he took command of the entire relief force (about 75,000 men) and achieved a brilliant victory over the Turks at the Kahlenberg (September 12, 1683), in one of the decisive battles of European history.

In the campaign that followed in Hungary (in the autumn of 1683), however, Sobieski was less successful, and his relations with the emperor Leopold deteriorated because of differences in temperament and conflicting political plans. Sobieski’s idea was to liberate Moldavia and Walachia (present-day Romania) from Ottoman rule and to expand Poland’s influence to the shores of the Black Sea. But his advances into Moldavia, undertaken between 1684 and 1691, were mostly failures, and during the last one he was even in danger of being captured. Despite his previous victories, he was thus not able to achieve his objective. Only in 1699, three years after his death, were the territories that had been lost in 1672 recovered.

In the last years of his life, from 1691 until his death in 1696, Sobieski was often seriously ill and had to face quarrels with the nobles and within his own family. His eldest son, James, was bitterly opposed to the queen and the younger princes. All of Sobieski’s sons were interested in succeeding to the throne and tried to obtain help, either from the emperor or from France. The marriage of Sobieski’s daughter Kunegunda to Maximilian II Emanuel, elector of Bavaria (1694), was the only bright spot in these rather gloomy years.

Although the second half of the reign was much less brilliant than the first, the personal wealth of the royal couple continued to grow because they knew how to obtain money in exchange for offices and favour. Thus, the king left a considerable fortune when he died.

Sobieski also spent large sums on his residences in Żółkiew and Jaworów and especially on the palace of Wilanów near Warsaw, a fine example of Baroque architecture. He was also a patron of poets and painters. Of all the Polish rulers of the 17th century, he was the best educated and took the greatest interest in literature and cultural life.

The struggle against Ottoman power in Europe was the keystone of Sobieski’s foreign policy, with which all other foreign relations were closely connected. When the Russians, traditionally Poland’s enemies, showed willingness to join the league against the Turks, Sobieski concluded with them the “Eternal” Peace of 1686 (the Grzymułtowski Peace). In this treaty, Kiev, which had been under temporary Russian rule since 1667, was permanently ceded by Poland. But despite all the failures and disappointments he experienced after 1683, Sobieski was able to deliver southeastern Poland from the threat of Ottoman and Tatar attack.

In domestic policy Sobieski was least successful. All his endeavours to strengthen the position of the crown and stabilize the army failed completely, and his own sons opposed him. The nobles showed little interest in defending the country after the great victory of 1683 had been won, and the Lithuanian magnates fought each other rather than the Turks. Thus, John Sobieski, although a brilliant general and organizer, was unable to prevent rebellion in his family and the dissension among his subjects that finally led to Poland’s downfall in the 18th century. This tends to make him, in the final reckoning, a somewhat tragic figure.

Gotthold K.S. Rhode

 

 

 

Augustus II
king of Poland and elector of Saxony
also called Augustus Frederick, byname Augustus the Strong, Polish August II Wettin or August Mocny, German August Friedrich or August der Starke

born May 12, 1670, Dresden, Saxony [Germany]
died February 1, 1733, Warsaw, Poland

Main
king of Poland and elector of Saxony (as Frederick Augustus I). Though he regained Poland’s former provinces of Podolia and the Ukraine, his reign marked the beginning of Poland’s decline as a European power.

The second son of Elector John George III of Saxony, Augustus succeeded his elder brother John George IV as elector in 1694. After the death of John III Sobieski of Poland (1696), Augustus became one of 18 candidates for the Polish throne. To further his chances, he converted to Catholicism, thereby alienating his Lutheran Saxon subjects and causing his wife, a Hohenzollern princess, to leave him. Shortly after his coronation (1697) the “Turkish War,” which had begun in 1683 and in which he had participated intermittently since 1695, was concluded; by the Treaty of Carlowitz in 1699, Poland received Podolia, with Kamieniec (Kamenets) and the Ukraine west of the Dnieper River from the Ottoman Empire.

Seeking to conquer the former Polish province of Livonia, then in Swedish hands, for his own Saxon house of Wettin, Augustus formed an alliance with Russia and Denmark against Sweden. Although the Polish Diet refused to support him, he invaded Livonia in 1700, thus beginning the Great Northern War (1700–21), which ruined Poland economically. In July 1702 Augustus’s forces were driven back and defeated by King Charles XII of Sweden at Kliszów, northeast of Kraków. Deposed by one of the Polish factions in July 1704, he fled to Saxony, which the Swedes invaded in 1706. Charles XII forced Augustus to sign the Treaty of Altranstädt (September 1706), formally abdicating and recognizing Sweden’s candidate, Stanisław Leszczyński, as king of Poland (see Altranstädt, treaties of). In 1709, after Russia defeated Sweden at the Battle of Poltava, Augustus declared the treaty void and, supported by Tsar Peter I the Great, again became king of Poland.

When Russia intervened (1716–17) in an internal dispute between Augustus and dissident Polish nobles (Confederation of Tarnogród) and, in 1720, annexed Livonia, the king saw the danger of Russia’s growing influence in Polish affairs. He tried unsuccessfully to create a hereditary Polish monarchy transmissible to his one legitimate son, Frederick Augustus II (eventually king of Poland as Augustus III), and to secure other lands for his many illegitimate children. But his hopes of establishing a strong monarchy came to naught. By the end of his reign, Poland had lost its status as a major European power, and when he died the War of the Polish Succession broke out. A man of extravagant and luxurious tastes, he did much to develop Saxon industry and trade and greatly embellished the city of Dresden.

 

 

 

Stanislaw I
king of Poland
original name Stanislaw Leszczyński

born Oct. 20, 1677, Lwów, Pol. [now Lviv, Ukraine]
died Feb. 23, 1766, Lunéville, Fr.

Main
king of Poland (1704–09, 1733) during a period of great problems and turmoil. He was a victim of foreign attempts to dominate the country.

Stanisław was born into a powerful magnate family of Great Poland, and he had the opportunity to travel in western Europe as a young man. In 1702 King Charles XII of Sweden invaded Poland as part of a continuing series of conflicts between the powers of northern Europe. Charles forced the Polish nobility to depose Poland’s king, Augustus II (Frederick Augustus I of Saxony), and then placed Stanisław on the throne (1704).

Poland, weak and fragmented, had become a marching ground for foreign armies who ravaged the country at will. In 1709 Charles was defeated by the Russians at the Battle of Poltava and withdrew to Sweden, leaving Stanisław without any real support. Augustus II regained the Polish throne, and Stanislaw left the country to settle in the French province of Alsace. In 1725 Stanisław’s daughter Marie married Louis XV of France.

When Augustus died in 1733, Stanislaw sought to regain the Polish throne with the help of French support for his candidacy. After traveling to Warsaw in disguise, he was elected king of Poland by an overwhelming majority of the Diet. But before he could be crowned, Russia and Austria, fearing Stanisław would unite Poland in the Swedish-French alliance, invaded the country to annul his election. Stanisław was once more deposed, and, under Russian pressure, a small minority in the Diet elected the Saxon elector Frederick Augustus II to the Polish throne as Augustus III. Stanisław retreated to the city of Gdańsk (Danzig) to wait for French assistance, which did not come. Fleeing before the city fell to its Russian besiegers, he then journeyed to Königsberg in Prussia, where he directed guerrilla warfare against the new king and his Russian supporters. The Peace of Vienna in 1738 recognized Augustus III as king of Poland but allowed Stanisław to keep his royal titles while granting him the provinces of Lorraine and Bar for life.

In Lorraine, Stanislaw proved to be a good administrator and promoted economic development. His court at Lunéville became famous as a cultural centre, and he founded an academy of science at Nancy and a military college. In 1749 he published a book entitled Free Voice to Make Freedom Safe, an outline of his proposed changes in the Polish constitution. Editions of his letters to his daughter Marie, to the kings of Prussia, and to Jacques Hulin, his minister at Versailles, have been published.

 

 

 

Stanislaw II August Poniatowski
king of Poland
original name Stanislaw Poniatowski
born Jan. 17, 1732, Wolczyn, Pol.
died Feb. 12, 1798, St. Petersburg, Russia

Main
last king of an independent Poland (1764–95). He was unable to act effectively while Russia, Austria, and Prussia dismembered his nation.

He was born the sixth child of Stanisław Poniatowski, a Polish noble, and his wife, Princess Konstancja Czartoryska. After a careful education he traveled in western Europe as a young man. In 1757 he was sent by his mother’s enormously powerful family to St. Petersburg to obtain Russian support for their plan to dethrone the Polish king Augustus III. While at the Russian court, he apparently did little for the family’s interests but succeeded in becoming the lover of the future empress, Catherine II.

Poland at this time was in a period of steady decline, and, following the death of Augustus III in 1763, Catherine sought to ensure that the situation continued. Seeing the young Poniatowski as a convenient pawn, she used Russian troops and Russian influence to ensure his election as Stanisław II on Sept. 7, 1764. After coming to the throne Stanisław sought to bolster his royal power, improve the administration of government, and strengthen the parliamentary system. These reforms were opposed by some Polish nobles and by Catherine, who threatened to have him deposed. The reforms were dropped, and Catherine then interfered in Poland even further by pressing for full rights for non-Catholic religious dissenters. A revolt by Roman Catholics followed in 1768 and was not fully suppressed for four years. Its effect was to make Stanisław even more dependent on Russian support.

In 1772 Russia, Prussia, and Austria each annexed portions of Polish territory, despite Stanisław’s appeals to the Western powers. In the years following this partition, Stanisław saw his own personal power cut away and limited by the manipulations of the partitioning powers. Fighting back, he succeeded in strengthening his position and achieved a full reform of Polish education. A more basic requirement to prevent further national decay was constitutional reform; after long and arduous debate, the Sejm (Diet) finally approved a new constitution on May 3, 1791. To oppose this constitution, the Confederation of Targowica was formed by a group of Polish nobles with Russian backing. In a subsequent invasion by Russia, despite valiant efforts by a small Polish army, the Russians succeeded in crushing the movement for a new constitution.

Stanisław was then forced to participate in the Russian-controlled Sejm at Grodno in 1793, which agreed to the second partitioning of Poland, this time between Russia and Prussia. The response was a Polish insurrection in 1794, during which Tadeusz Kościuszko overrode all royal authority. After the Russians had crushed the uprising, Stanisław abdicated on Nov. 25, 1795, as Poland was being partitioned again by Russia, Prussia, and Austria, the three countries this time annexing its entire territory. He died in semicaptivity at St. Petersburg. His two-volume Mémoires was published by S.M. Goryaninov (1914–24).


Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

 

The king tried to make reforms, but Russia obstructed them. In opposition, the National Polish "Confederation of Bar" rebelled, while in support, the Ottomans started a war with Russia.

After her victory, the empress undertook the 13 First Partition of Poland in 1772, in which Russia, Austria, and Prussia annexed large tracts of land for themselves.

In two further partitions in 1793 and 1795, Poland was completely divided up. King Stanislaw II abdicated and the old Polish Empire ceased to exist.


13 Artistic representation of the first partition of Poland, with
Catherine II of Russia,
Stanislaw II of Poland,
Joseph II of Austria and
Frederick II of Prussia,
copper engraving, 18th century

 

 

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