5 Most famous Polish kings and monarchs
Poland was ruled by monarchs for a long time before the system was disbanded when Poland gained independence and parliamentary republican authority in 1918.
These five ruled Poland during different times and seasons in Poland and have some intriguing qualities that are worth checking out!
1. Stanisław August Poniatowski
He was the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1764 to 1795. He remains one of the most controversial figures in Polish history. He was the last monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The Polish leader who was born in 1732 and died in 1798; was unable to effectively carry out his work during his term as Russia, Austria and Prussia were dismembering his nation. He was born into a noble family; a noble father Stanislaw Poniatowski and Princess Konstancja Czartoryska. Since he was from a noble family, he got a good education and traveled all over Europe. In his youth, Stanislaw was kidnapped and kept captive in the Castle of Kamieniec Podolski because of his father’s support for King August. He was later returned safely to his parents.
His family wanted to dethrone the Polish monarch at the time, so he was sent by his mother’s family to St Petersburg, Russia to be trained. He, however, fell in love with Catherine II; they, however, did not marry, but it was suspected that he was the father of her children. She later became the Empress of Russia. Augustine III died in 1763 resulting in Poland’s decline after that. After he was elected, he intended on improving the situation in the country, economically and administratively but, was opposed by some polish nobles as well as Catherine, whose intention was to use him to continue Poland’s decline. He struggled to keep Poland as well as his power intact, after neighboring countries like Russia annexing portions of is country, the Catholic Church revolting and even going through manipulation by external powers. He only succeeded in strengthening his position and improving education in Poland.
He was also passionate about art, architecture. He has over 30 portraits painted of himself done by Ludwik Marteau the French artist. He also developed 74 hectares of a park in Warsaw where he died.
2. Sigismund I the Old
Sigismund I the Old was the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1506 to 1548 and the son of emperor Wenceslaus. He is accredited as being the king who establishes suzerainty over Prussia. He succeeded his elder brother Alexander I as grand prince of Lithuania in 1506.
He established fiscal and monetary reforms, though he died without holding any land titles, unlike his brothers. His rule witnessed some of the cruelest events in Polish history- the burning of John Hus, the Turkish Invasion of Hungary among others. He was also known as a brave fighter
Sigismund married twice; his first wife Barbara Zapolya was a Hungarian noblewoman who died leaving four daughters and Gian Galeazzo Sforza Duke of Milan. His son who was also the last Jagiellon king took power when Sigismund died.
3. Sigismund II Augustus
Sigismund II succeeded his father Sigismund I the Old as Duke of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1548. He was the first ruler of the Polish- Lithuanian Commonwealth and the last male monarch from the Jagiellonian dynasty. He was declared his father’s co-ruler at the age of 10 in 1530! His wife died in 1548, and he secretly married the Lithuanian Barbara Radziwill; who was from an influential family. The Polish community feared that Barbara’s family would interfere. Barbara, however, died childless as well- with some people saying that she was poisoned by Sigimund’s mother. After that, he married his first wife’s sister who also died without having any children. That ended the lineage of the Jagiellon rule.
He is known for uniting the Grand duchy of Lithuania and Livonia by signing the Union of Lublin which formed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and is known to have been extremely compassionate with minorities and encourages peaceful relations with neighbors.
4. John III Sobieski
John III Sobieski was the king of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1674 until his death in 1696. He went to Jagiellonian University and was a well-traveled man and also spoke several languages and is known to be one of the most well-educated leaders of his time. He often opposed non-Christian Tatars and Turks who were serving during his reign. His wife was Marysieńka whose connections from her family were an advantage during John III’s rule. Legend says that he sired a son with a young Persian girl during his studies in Paris and the boy went to Poland in his adulthood and this brought about a lot of issues for the king! He also used his working years in Constantinople at the Polish embassy to learn as much as possible about politics and diplomacy.
Just before he became king in 1674, he as a leader of the opposition group The Malcontents were plotting to overthrow King. The king, however, died before their plans materialized and Sobieski was elected king of Poland! As king, he played a big part in the military by personally leading his men in battles, the Battle of Vienna is one of the notable battles in which he defeated the Turks in 1683. There is a monument in Gdańsk built in his honor.
5. Jadwiga of Poland
Jadwiga was the first female monarch of the Kingdom of Poland; she reigned between 1384 and 1399. She was the youngest daughter of Louis the Great, the King of Hungary and Poland. Her marriage to Jogaila the Grand Duke of Lithuania cemented relations between Poland and Lithuania. She had however been betrothed to Wilhelm, the son of Leopold of Austria but the marriage did not take place because of political influence.
The marriage also increased the Christian influence over Poland which as dominantly pagan and was a great proponent of religious developments. She even restored the restoration of the University of Kraków which is credited for being the anchor of Polish civilization. She was also very philanthropic and deeply religious and was considered a peacemaker. She, unfortunately, died during childbirth and without a child to take over from her; making her husband the king of Poland. She was venerated as a saintly figure and was canonized as St Jadwiga later.