Stanisław August Poniatowski Explained

Stanisław August Poniatowski
Signature:Signature of Stanisław August Poniatowski.PNG
Succession:King of Poland
Reign:1764–1795
Coronation:25 November 1764
St. John's Cathedral, Warsaw
Predecessor:August III the Saxon
Reign:25 November 1764 – 7 January 1795
Spouse:Elżbieta Szydłowska
House:Poniatowski
Father:Stanisław Poniatowski
Mother:Konstancja née Czartoryska
Birth Date:17 January 1732
Birth Place:Wołczyn, present day Belarus
Death Place:Saint Petersburg, Russia
Place Of Burial:St. John's Cathedral, Warsaw

Stanisław August Poniatowski (born Stanisław Antoni Ciołek Poniatowski;[1] 17 January 1732  - 12 February 1798) was the last King and Grand Duke of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1764–95). He was the son of Count Stanisław Poniatowski, Castellan of Kraków, and Princess Konstancja Czartoryska;[2] brother of Michał Jerzy Poniatowski, (1736–94), Primate of Poland; and uncle to Prince Józef Poniatowski, (1763–1813).

Royal titles

English translation of the Polish text of the 1791 Constitution: Stanisław August, by the grace of God and the will of the people King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania and Duke of Ruthenia, Prussia, Masovia, Samogitia, Kiev, Volhynia, Podolia, Podlasie, Livonia, Smolensk, Severia and Chernihiv.[3]

Life

Poniatowski was born on 17 January 1732 at Wołczyn, now Belarus, to Stanisław Poniatowski and Konstancja née Czartoryska.[1] [4] By the age of twenty, in 1752, as a Sejm deputy, he had attracted attention with his oratory.

He owed his career ultimately, however, to his family connections with the powerful Czartoryski family, who in 1755 sent him to Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire, in the service of British ambassador Sir Charles Hanbury-Williams. The same year, through the influence of Russian Empress Elizabeth and Chancellor Bestuzhev-Ryumin, he joined the Russian court as ambassador of Saxony.

At Saint Petersburg he met the twenty-six-year-old future Empress Catherine Alexeievna (Catherine the Great). She was irresistibly drawn to the handsome, brilliant young Polish nobleman, for whom she forsook all other lovers. In 1755 he was appointed to the office of Stolnik Litewski and later he became Starosta of Przemyśl.[5]

In October 1763, upon the death of Poland's King August III, negotiations began regarding who should be elected king. After a coup d'état on 7 September 1764, supported by Russian troops, the ambitious 32-year-old Poniatowski was elected King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The formal coronation took place in Warsaw on 25 November 1764. The new King's uncles in the "Familia" would have preferred another nephew, Prince Adam Kazimierz Czartoryski on the throne, characterized by his contemporary as débauché, sinon dévoyé (debauched if not depraved), but Czartoryski had declined to seek the office.

Stanisław August, as he now styled himself, combining the names of his two immediate royal predecessors, or "Ciołek" (bull calf, as he was derisively referred to in reference to his Coat-of-Arms), inaugurated economic changes by supporting the Familia's reform program until 1766, when he fell out with his uncles.

In 1768 the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth effectively became a protectorate of the Russian Empire.[6] As king, Poniatowski supported the Russian army's repression of the Bar Confederation between 1768-72. In 1770 the Council of the Bar Confederation had proclaimed him dethroned. In 1771 he was kidnapped by Bar Confederate sympathizers and briefly held prisoner outside of Warsaw.[7]

Although he protested the first partition of the Commonwealth (1772), he was powerless to do anything about it, and in the face of implacable opposition from the Polish magnates.

Moreover, Poniatowski was obliged to place his reliance in Russia's ambassador, Otto Magnus von Stackelberg.[8]

In 1783 or 1784 he married morganatically his lover, Elżbieta Szydłowska (1748 - 1810), whose first husband, Jan Jerzy Grabowski, was general inspektor wojsk litewskich, and by whom he had an only son, born before the marriage, Count Stanisław Konopnicy-Grabowski (1780 - 1845, Dresden).

Poniatowski's son married first Cecylia Dembowska (19 December 1787 - 17 January 1821), and later (May 8, 1822) Countess Julia Zabiełło. His descendants were the Counts Konopnicy-Grabowski.

It was only during the Four-Year Sejm of 1788-92 that Stanisław August threw in his lot with the reformers, centered in the Patriotic Party, and with them co-authored the Constitution of 3 May 1791.

Poniatowski's eloquent speech before the Sejm on taking an oath to uphold the newly adopted Constitution moved his audience to tears. Shortly thereafter, the Targowica Confederation was formed by Polish nobility to overthrow the Constitution. The confederates aligned with Russia's Catherine the Great, and the Russian army entered Poland, starting the Polish-Russian War of 1792.

After a series of battles, Poniatowski, upon the advice of Hugo Kołłątaj and others, acceded to the Confederation.[9] This undermined the operations of the Polish Army, which under Tadeusz Kościuszko and the King's own nephew, Prince Jozef Poniatowski, had been performing prodigiously on the battlefield. The war was ended, and Russia and Prussia undertook the Second partition of Poland in 1793.

King Stanisław August remains a controversial figure. He was accused by some of striving for absolutism, of doing away with the liberties of the szlachta (Polish nobility), of desiring the downfall of the Roman Catholic Church; by others, of weakness and subservience, even of treason, especially after he had joined the Targowica Confederation.Nevertheless, he did accomplish much in the realm of culture and education.[8] He founded the School of Chivalry (otherwise "Corps of Cadets"), which functioned 1765-1794 and whose alumni included Tadeusz Kościuszko; and the Commission of National Education (1773), the world's first national ministry of education. In 1765 he helped found the Monitor, the leading periodical of the Polish Enlightenment, and the Polish national theater. He hosted his famous "Thursday Dinners", the most brilliant social functions in the Polish capital. He supported the establishment of manufactures and the development of mining.[8] He remodeled the Royal Castle in Warsaw, and erected the elegant Royal Baths complex in Warsaw's most romantic park. He created a numismatic collection, a picture gallery, and an engravings room. His plan to create an even larger painting gallery in Warsaw was interrupted by the destruction of Poland; nonetheless, most of the paintings he had ordered can now be seen at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London.

After the final, Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Stanisław August was forced to abdicate (25 November 1795) and left for Saint Petersburg, Russia. There, a virtual prisoner, he subsisted on a pension granted to him by Empress Catherine the Great, and died deeply in debt. He was buried at the Catholic Church of St. Catherine in St. Petersburg.[9]

In 1938 his remains were transferred to a church at Wołczyn, his birthplace, and in 1995, to St. John's Cathedral in Warsaw, where, on 3 May 1791, he had celebrated the adoption of the Constitution he had co-authored and/or endorsed. Among his living relatives is Elena Poniatowska, a famous Mexican journalist and author.

Remembrance

In May 1765 Stanisław August Poniatowski established the Order of the knights of Order of Saint Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr, in honor of Poland's and his own patron saint, as Poland's second order of chivalry to reward Poles for noteworthy service to their king. In 1792 he also founded a third order, the Order of Virtuti Militari to reward Poles for exceptional military leadership and courage in combat.

The King is one of the figures immortalized in Jan Matejko's 1891 painting, Constitution of May 3, 1791.

Issue

NameBirthDeathNotes
colspan=4By Catherine II of Russia
Anna Petrovna9 December 17578 March 1758
colspan=4By Magdalena Agnieszka Lubomirska
Konstancja Żwanowa17681810married to Karol Żwan; no issue (divorced)
Michał CichockiSeptember 17705 May 1828
colspan=4By Elżbieta Szydłowska
Aleksandra Grabowska13 April 177112 May 1789married to Franciszek Salezy Krasicki; no issue
Michał Grabowski177317 August 1812Brigadier general of the Army of the Duchy of Warsaw, died during the Battle of Smolensk (1812); no issue
Izabela Grabowska26 March 177621 May 1858married to Walenty Sobolewski, three daughters
Stanisław Grabowski29 October 17803 October 1845married twice

See also

References

Bibliography

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Further reading

External links

Notes and References

  1. Book: Oleg Jardetzky. The Ciolek of Poland. 1992. 176. Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt. 32-01015-83-0.
  2. According to a contemporary statement, his father Stanisław was in reality a natural son of Great Lithuanian Hetman Kazimierz Jan Sapieha by an unknown Jewish maiden, adopted by Franciszek Poniatowski; Jerzy Łojek, Dzieje zdrajcy, Katowice, 1988, ISBN 83-216-0759-4, p. 189.
  3. Book: Mieczysław B. Biskupski, James S. Pula. Polish democratic thought from the Renaissance to the great emigration: essays and documents. 1990. 168. Volume 289. East European Monographs. 08-80331-86-0.
  4. Jerzy Michalski, Stanisław August Poniatowski, Polski Słownik Biograficzny, T.41, 2011, p. 612
  5. Book: Teresa Zielińska. Poczet polskich rodów arystokratycznych. 1997. 239. Volume 1. Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne. 83-02064-29-7.
  6. Andrzej Jezierski, Cecylia Leszczyńska, Historia gospodarcza Polski, 2003, p. 68.
  7. Book: Annmarie Francis Kajencki. Count Casimir Pulaski: From Poland to America, a Hero's Fight for Liberty. 2005. 20. The Rosen Publishing Group. 14-04226-46-X.
  8. Book: Jerzy Jan Lerski, Piotr Wróbel, Richard J. Kozicki. Polish Historical dictionary of Poland, 966-1945. 1996. 565. Volume 289. Greenwood Publishing Group. 03-13260-07-9.
  9. Book: Charles Knight. The English cyclopædia: a new dictionary of universal knowledge. Biography. 1857. 686. Volume 5. Bradbury & Evans.