Leon Kapliński, Hetman Stefan Czarniecki, 1863, National Museum Cracow.
Died 16 February 1665, Polish national hero Hetman [Field Marshal] Stefan Czarniecki [pronounced “Charnyetsky”] of an infected wound received in battle against the Cossacks the previous July.
One of the greatest commanders in Polish history, Czarniecki fought in 27 major engagements. He played the principal role in evicting the Swedes and the Russians from Poland in the mid-17th century period of national disaster known as “The Deluge.”
Despite his age and illness, Czarniecki persisted in traveling in the most bitter winter weather to Lwow, but his strength began to fail and he was taken to a cottage in Sokołówce. Recognizing that he was dying, the hero is said to have insisted that his white charger be brought to his bedside for a last farewell. The horse refused the water and oats offered to him, and instead beat the floor with his hoofs, saluting his master. Czarniecki sank into a coma and died after receiving the last rites.
The horse also died shortly afterward, and the peasants living near Czarnca Wloszczowa, where Czarniecki was buried, claim that on February 16th, the hoofbeats of Czarniecki’s horse can be heard on the nearby meadows as he continues to watch over his master’s grave.
Leopold Löffler, The Death of Stefan Czarnecki, 1860, National Museum Warsaw.
The king had arranged, before his death, for a strengthening of the alliance and personal union between the two countries via the Union of Lublin which merged the separate Polish and Lithuanian Parliaments and which provided for his own succession by an electoral monarchy. Henceforward, the king of the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania would be freely elected by the nobility of both nations.
On 16 May 1573, Henry Valois, third son of King Henri II of France and of Catherine de’Medici, Duke of Angoulême, Orléans, and Anjou was elected King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania.
Several months prior to his election, on January 28, 1573, the Polish Parliament in Warsaw went out of parliamentary session and into the mode of a Confederacy (in order to preclude the use of the Liberum Veto.
The Confederacy of Warsaw pledged the entire nobility of Poland-Lithuania not only to refuse to enforce any measure by state or church undertaking to compel religious conformity, but to resist actively any such measure by armed force.
[W]e swear to each other, on behalf of ourselves and our descendants, in perpetuity, under oath and pledging our faith, honor, and consciences, that we who differ in matters of religion will keep the peace among ourselves, and neither shed blood on account of differences of Faith, nor punish one another by confiscation of goods, deprivation of honor, imprisonment, or exile.
During the debate, Crown Chancellor Jan Zamoyski is reported to have said: “For the heretics [Protestants] to return to the True Faith, I would give half my life’s blood, but to defend their right to obey their own consciences, I would give all my life’s blood.”
The original text of the Confederacy of Warsaw bearing signatures and wax seals.
Wojciech Kossak (1857-1942), Noc listopadowa [A November Night]. 1898, oil on canvas, Private Collection.
The succession in 1825 to the throne of the Congress Kingdom of Poland of the autocratic Nicholas I, who made clear his contempt for constitutional government, led inevitably to revolt. The reactionary order imposed by the Congress of Vienna was tested all over Europe in 1830. Greek independence was recognized by Britain. In July, the Bourbon monarchy fell in France. In August, the House of Orange was expelled, and Belgium declared its independence. Fear that the Tsar might use the Polish Army to suppress the revolutions in France and Belgium led to revolution in Poland. Wojciech Kossak, in two famous paintings (the other), illustrated Polish cadets and Warsaw civilians in combat with Russian cuirrasseurs in the attack on the Belvedere Palace, the Polish equivalent of the White House, then the residence of Grand Duke Constantine, the Russian Governor General. The statue of King Jan Sobieski appears to be leading the Polish assault. This was the opening battle of the November Insurrection of 1830-1831.
A moving and nostalgic video which adds a musical background to 19th century hand-colored sketches of palaces and manor-houses in the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania (today’s Lithuania and Belarus) by the artist Napoleon Orda. Orda’s drawings record the romantic architecture of an aristocratic world swept out of existence by Revolutionary violence and totalitarianism.
The “Eastern Borderlands” is a translation of the Polish word kresy.
A short film celebrating the passage of the first liberal constitution in Europe by the Polish senate, May 3, 1791, the passage of which provoked treason by magnatial aristocrats (The Confederacy of Targowica) followed by intervention and partition of the country by Russia, Prussia, and Austria. Tadeusz Kosciuszko led the national resistance to the partition. The final defeat of Kosciuszko’s forces was followed in 1795 by the Third and final Partition of Poland-Lithuania. The actual document wound up locked in an iron box under guard in Moscow’s Kremlin, so much terror did it strike in the hearts of despots. Poles and Lithuanians still sing the praises of the Constitution of the 3rd of May which extended the rights enjoyed by the nobility to the entire country. The Third of May is today a national holiday in both countries.
A quaint, folkloristic animated history of Lithuania, from the Pre-Cambrian to today.
It probably won’t make much sense to the non-Lithuanians out there. The armored wolf you see at one point is a symbol of Lithuania. It seems that Grand Duke Gedymin took a nap while hunting and dreamed of an iron wolf. As the result of his dream, he founded the city of Vilnius. The transition from the Battle of Grunwald (1410) to the Third Partition (1795) is rather quick, but that is the linguistic nationalist perspective for you.
The depiction of the communists as crabs is, I think, some kind of linguistic pun.
Jan Matejko, Wladyslaw III at Varna, (Detail), 1879.
Wladyslaw III (1424-1444) was a child when he succeeded his father Wladyslaw II Jagiello to the throne of Poland in 1434. The boy king had been molded by the influence of his tutor, Bishop Zbigniew Olesnicki, to embrace eagerly the role of defender of the Christian Faith. In 1440, Wladyslaw accepted the throne of Hungary, pledging himself to defend that country against the Turks. In 1443, he launched a military campaign in the Balkans which liberated Sofia, and inspired a revolt in Albania, forcing the Turks to sign a peace treaty.
Wladyslaw was promised support from a number of European nations and the protection of a strong Christian fleet, and urged to resume the offensive. On August 4th, 1444, he proceeded to break the truce. No support was forthcoming, and it has long been rumored that the Genoese accepted substantial fees to ferry the Turkish Army across to the European shore, where on November 10th Wladislaw and his army was trapped their backs to the sea at Varna. Some authorities think the Christian Army might possibly have fought its way out of the encirclement, but faced with overwhelming enemy forces, the boy king simply placed himself at the head of two squadrons of Polish heavy cavalry, and brandishing a captured scimitar, charged directly at the Sultan’s person surrounded by the janissaries in the center of the Turkish camp. The king’s body was never recovered.
Turkish accounts claim the king’s head was first exhibited on a stake, then preserved in a jar of honey and taken to Brussa, the capital of the Turkish state, as a trophy.
A new book, just released in Spain, titled, “COLON. La Historia Nunca Contada” (COLUMBUS. The Untold Story), by Manuel Rosa, bases itself on a Portuguese legend that Wladyslaw survived and contends that Chrisopher Columbus was his son.
The legend suggests that Wladyslaw renounced his throne as the result of guilt, believing that his defeat was the judgment of God for his breaking the truce. He is said to have traveled in obscurity to the Holy Land as a penitiential pilgrim, becoming a Knight of Saint Catherine of Mount Sinai, and then settled on island of Madeira.
On Madeira, he was allegedly known as Henrique Alemão (Henry the German) and resided on land received directly from the King of Portugal, who served as his best man at his wedding to a Portuguese lady.
He is said to have built the church of Saint Catherine and Saint Mary Magdalene in Madalena do Mar in 1471), in which he is said to have been the model used for Saint Joachim meeting Saint Anne at the Golden Gate in a painting by Master of the Adoration of Machico done at the beginning of the 16th century.
Manuel Rosa adopts the viewpoint of the legend contending that Christopher Columbus had access to four royal courts on the basis of his own royal paternity, that Columbus’s marriage to a Portuguese noblewoman long before his voyages of discovery was only possible on the basis of his own illustrious birth, and that Columbus’s 1498 will stating he was born on Genoa was forged 80 years after his death.
Columbus’s light hair, fair skin, and blue eyes are also cited by the author as evidence of the great navigator’s Lithuanian ancestry.
The author refers to an alleged resemblance between the arms of Columbus and those of Wladyslaw III, but I cannot recognize any myself.
Rosa has proposed modern DNA testing using material from royal burials at Wawel Hill in Cracow to confirm his theory.
On today’s date in 1989, the 50th Anniversary of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, a human chain of protestors 400-miles-long stretched across the Baltic States demanding freedom and independence from the Soviet Union.
The Vytis (Knight) is the national symbol of Lithuania
I’m of Lithuanian descent, and I can tell you that the Lithuanians think of themselves as a knightly nation and identify enthusiastically with their medieval warrior ancestors. In our Lithuanian parish’s elementary school, we spent every art class drawing and re-drawing the Vytis as our nuns explained to us that we descended from the knights of old and should behave just like them.
I did not know that these kind of reenactments went on in Lithuania. I would expect that this kind of thing was not permitted under the Soviets, and represents a recent development.
Here in America, the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) conducts tournaments with knights wearing armor and battling with wooden swords and heavily padded maces. The Lithuanians in the video, on the other hand, are bashing one another highly vigorously using actual metal swords. Since we don’t see anyone being divided into so many parts and losers do seem to survive, I assume the swords used are at least blunt edged. They do put up a good fight though.
Correction: I originally (following Google’s translation) translated the organization name Viduramžių Pasiuntiniai as “Medieval Courier.” Aistė Volkytė, witing from Lithuania, advised me that “emissaries” would be the more accurate translation.
[A] Lithuanian debt collector is offering an unconventional service to retrieve arrears: witchcraft. The Vilnius-based Skolu Isieskojimo Biuras (debt collecting bureau), has hired Vilija Lobačiuvienė, the Baltic nation’s most famous self-styled witch, to hunt down companies and individuals who are failing to pay up. Lobaciuviene, 53, who claims to use hypnosis, herbal medicines and “the bio-energy field,” promised Thursday to “do whatever I can to help people.”
A commission led by the prime minister (Gediminas Kirkilas, Social Democrat) approved a marketing concept which says the country of 3.4 million people should promote itself as daring. A name change is also being mulled.
“Lithuania’s transcription in English is difficult to pronounce and remember for non-native English speakers, but the name change is only an idea under consideration,” said government spokesman Laurynas Bucalis, who led the group behind the recommendations.
No ideas have been presented yet as to what the name should be in English. In Lithuanian, the country is called Lietuva. ...
Bravery marks our history — from being the last pagan nation in Europe to a nation which sparked the Soviet Union’s downfall, and today’s resolute steps,” Bucalis said.
One tends to doubt that the Slavic Litva will be their choice.
I suppose they could go back to Chaucer’s Middle English:
A knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
And therto hadde he riden, no man ferre,
As wel in Cristendom as in Hethenesse,
And evere honoured for his worthynesse.
At Alisaundre he was, whan it was wonne;
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
Aboven alle nacions in Pruce;
In Lettow hadde he reysed, and in Ruce.
—The Canterbury Tales, Prologue, 43-54.
(A knight there was, and that a worthy man,
That from the time that he first began
To ride out, he loved chivalry,
Truth and honor, freedom and courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his lords’ wars,
And thereto had he ridden, no man farther,
Both in Christendom and in Heathen lands,
And was everywhere honored for his worthiness.
At Alexandria he had been, when it was won;
Often he had occupied the seat of honor at the dinner-table,
Above men from all nations, in Prussia;
In Lithuania he had raided, and in Russia.)
But would “Lettow” actually be better?
All this is, of course, precisely the sort of renaming-the-months, inventing-a-new-system-of weights-and-measures kind of thing modern linguistic nationalist governments like to focus on.
Hat tip to Sandip Bhattacharji.