History of Poland (1492-1572)

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Polish history (1492-1572) – a period in Polish history covering the time from the death of Casimir Jagiellon, to the end of the reign of the Jagiellonian dynasty in Poland and Lithuania, and the advent of the free election. During this period there was a gradual tightening of the relationship between the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the development of the system of noble democracy, the cornerstone of which was the gathering of the first bicameral parliament at the Sejm in Piotrków Trybunalski (1492).

Table of contents

1 The reign of Jan Olbracht (1492-1501)

1.1 Election as king 1.2 Reign 1.3 Foreign policy 1.4 Death

2 Reign of Alexander I Jagiellon (1501-1506)

2.1 Election as king 2.2 War with the Grand Duchy of Moscow 2.3 Nihil novi 2.4 Death

3 Sigismund the Old (1506-1548)

3.1 The case of the Teutonic Order

3.2 Polish-Lithuanian-Moscow wars

3.2.1 War with Moscow 1507-1508. 3.2.2 War with Moscow 1512-1522. 3.2.3 War with Moscow 1534-1537.

3.3 Relations with Moldavia

3.3.1 War with Moldavia 1509-1510 3.3.2 War with Moldavia 1530-1531 3.3.3 War with Moldavia 1535-1538.

3.4 International rivalry with the Habsburgs 3.5 Domestic policy

4 Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572)

4.1 Foreign policy 4.2 Lithuanian-Russian war 4.3 First Northern War 1563-1570 4.4 Union with Lithuania 1569 4.5 Death

5 Bibliography

Reign of Jan Olbracht (1492-1501)[edit | edit code].

Jan Olbracht – portrait

Election as king[edit | edit code].

Casimir Jagiellon before his death appointed his son Alexander Jagiellon as Grand Duke of Lithuania. The king of Poland was to be his second son, John I Olbracht, who was crowned on September 23, 1492, after strenuously seeking the support of the nobility.

Reign[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Polish-Turkish War (1485-1503).

In 1497, Olbracht organized a war expedition to support the Hospodardom of Moldavia in the war against the Turks. Although Moldavia had been a fief of the Crown since 1387, its hospodar Stefan the Great sided with Turkey. An army of 40,000 common troops went to war. The expedition ended with great losses of Polish troops at the Battle of Kozmin.

In 1499, an alliance was made with Hungary and Stefan Moldavia. Worse than the military defeat were the political consequences of the failed Moldavian expedition. In its aftermath, a whole series of alliances and coalitions of neighboring states were formed against Poland and Lithuania. In the battles against the crown army, the Wallachians were supported by Turkey and even Hungary, ruled by King Wladyslaw II Jagiellon. In the spring of 1498, the Tartars invaded the southeastern territories of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and Ivan III Srogi, Duke of Moscow, attempted to capture Kiev, defeating the Polish-Lithuanian army at the Battle of Vedrosha (1500). In the west, meanwhile, the Roman Emperor Maximilian I Habsburg seized part of Silesia with Glogow and demanded the return of Royal Prussia to the Teutonic Order, whereupon the Teutonic Commandery refused to pay tribute to the Polish king. Then, in the spring of 1501, Olbracht ordered the concentration of the crown troops in Torun, but he soon died of an infectious disease, so that the war expedition against the Order’s Prussia did not take place.

Foreign policy[edit | edit code].

In 1494, a convention took place in Levoča. It was a family meeting of the Jagiellons, at which important decisions on the future of the dynasty were to be made. It was attended by Jan I Olbracht, Ladislaus II Jagiellon, Primate of Poland, Bishop of Cracow, Sigismund I and Frederick the Elder Hohenzollern, Margrave of Brandenburg. No binding promises were made at this congress. Ladislaus II Jagiellon signed only a deed with John Olbracht, in which they promised each other mutual assistance in the event of a revolt by their subjects. In 1498, Frederick von Wettyn became Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, who refused to pay tribute to the king and began efforts to regain the lands lost in 1466. Maximilian I of Habsburg became involved in the situation, to which John I of Olbracht responded with an alliance with France in 1500, confirmed by the marriage of Ladislaus to the French princess Anne de Foix-Candale. In 1499, the Kraków-Vilnius Union was concluded, which was signed by two sovereign states and did not include the incorporation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania into the Crown.

Death[edit | edit code].

John I Olbracht died on June 17, 1501 in Toruń. His corpse was ceremonially laid to rest in Wawel Cathedral. He did not leave behind any descendants. After the death of King Jan Olbracht, the throne was succeeded by his younger brother, Alexander I Jagiellon (1501-1506).

Reign of Alexander I Jagiellonian (1501-1506)[edit | edit code].

Alexander I Jagiellonian – portrait

Election as king[edit | edit code].

On December 12, 1501, in Wawel Cathedral, Alexander I Jagiellonian was crowned king of Poland by his youngest son Kazimierz Jagiellonian, his brother – Archbishop of Gniezno and Primate of Poland Cardinal Frederick Jagiellonian. The coronation took place in the presence of, among others, Elisabeth Rakuszanka. Alexander’s wife was not crowned queen of Poland – this was opposed by the bishops, as she professed the Orthodox faith. He obtained the crown only after signing two political acts, prepared by Polish magnates: on relinquishing his hereditary rights to Lithuania and tightening the Polish-Lithuanian union (the Mielnica union), and on granting power in the country to the Senate under the Mielnica privilege, which soon followed. This was tantamount to placing the king under the control of the magnates.

War with the Grand Duchy of Moscow[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Lithuanian-Moscow war (1500-1503).

On March 28, 1503, a six-year truce was signed, ending the Moscow War that had lasted since 1500. Under it, 1/3 of the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania came under Moscow occupation.

Nihil novi[edit | edit code].

In 1505, another Diet of Radom passed a constitution of Nihil novi laws, supplemented by the monarch with the provision: “Should we do anything against the liberties, privileges, freedoms and rights of the kingdom, we consider it ipso facto (Latin: thereby) null and void.” According to the constitution, the king could not decide anything new without the approval of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The same Diet also approved the so-called “Statute of Laski,” written down by Grand Crown Chancellor Jan Laski, which was a collection of noble and ecclesiastical privileges and municipal laws in force in the Kingdom.

Death[edit | edit code].

Alexander Jagiellon died childless on August 19, 1506 at the age of 45. He was buried in Vilnius Cathedral. His younger brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) was then elected Grand Duke of Lithuania and later King of Poland.

Sigismund the Old (1506-1548)[edit | edit code].

Sigismund I the Old – portrait

Poland and Lithuania in 1526

The case of the Teutonic Order[edit | edit code].

As a result of the last war with the Teutonic Order (1519-1521), the Treaty of Cracow was signed in 1525. Sigismund the Old accepted the transition of Teutonic estates and offices from ecclesiastical to secular power and accepted Albrecht’s fief tribute as Lutheran prince of Prussia. Poland, on the other hand, was assured by the treaty the right of annexation of Ducal Prussia after the extinction of Albrecht’s lineage by the sword. In January 1525, the Danzig tumult erupted when revolted commoners and Lutheran plebs acted against the Kujavian bishop Maciej Drzewicki, challenging the rights of the Polish church to clerical jurisdiction in Danzig. On April 17, 1526, Sigismund the Old, at the head of 8,000 troops, entered Gdansk, quelling the rebellion and beheading its leaders.

Polish-Lithuanian-Moscow wars[edit | edit code].

War with Moscow 1507-1508[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Lithuanian-Moscow War (1507-1508).

Sigismund I the Old decides to attack when Vasily III takes power in Moscow after the death of Ivan III. Sigismund I the Old reached an agreement with the Crimean Khan Mengli I Girei, but failed to gain support from the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order. The war ends with a perpetual peace on a status quo ante basis, which was dictated by the change in the Crimean Khan’s alliance and the unchanging attitude of the Livonian Order.

War with Moscow 1512-1522[edit | edit code].

Separate article: The Lithuanian-Moscow War (1512-1522).

In 1512, the Crimean Tatars, acting in concert with the King of Poland, conducted a series of plunder raids into the southern territories of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The advanced chambuls even reached near Ryazan. On their way back to Crimea, the Tatars, fulfilling the terms of the alliance, gave back 1/3 of their spoils to the Poles and Lithuanians in Kiev. This became reason enough for Vasily III to start the war. The Russians in the initial phase of the war approached Smolensk, Polotsk, Vitebsk, Borislav, Orsha, Braslav, Minsk and Druck. After the loss of Smolensk in 1514, the Polish-Lithuanian army launched a counteroffensive. The Battle of Orsha took place on September 8, 1514. Vasily III’s army was defeated, but Sigismund failed to retake the city. 1515, Mehmed I Girej became the Crimean khan. Sigismund the Old made an alliance with him, as a result of which the Crimean khan attacked Moscow. In 1518, the Moscow army undertook an unsuccessful expedition to Polotsk. A year later, following a Moscow-Tatar alliance, the Polish-Lithuanian army was defeated at Sokal. In 1520, the Crown came to an agreement with the Tatars and the two armies launched an expedition that reached Moscow (the Tsar’s escape). In 1522 a truce was signed for 5 years, the border was to run as decided in 1508, and Smolensk was to remain with Moscow.

War with Moscow 1534-1537[edit | edit code].

Separate article: The Lithuanian-Moscow War (1534-1537).

In 1533 Vasily III died, 3-year-old Ivan IV ascended to the throne. Lithuania decided to take advantage of this and strike at the enemy. The Lithuanian offensive set off when the situation in Moscow was already under control. The crown army attacked Sverzhina, but without result. Moscow responded with a counterattack, reaching as far as Vilnius. In 1534, a conscripted army from Poland, paid for by Lithuanian money, set out under the command of Jan Tarnowski. Jan Tarnowski decided to attack Severowsk, as the enemy’s main forces were concentrated in Smolensk. Jan Tarnovsky captured all of Severoslavia, but the enlistment of troops ended and the army returned to the country. In 1536 the Grand Duchy of Moscow recaptured all the castles in Sverzhzhina except Gomel. In 1537, a peace was signed, as a result of which the Grand Duchy of Moscow retained Sverzhsk and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania retained Gomel

Excerpt of an engraving from the chronicle of Marcin Bielski

Relations with Moldavia[edit | edit code].

War with Moldavia 1509-1510[edit | edit code].

Bogdan III laid claim to Pokucie, seized by Alexander Jagiellon in 1502. During Alexander’s reign, the marriage of his sister Elizabeth to Bogdan was planned. However, the marriage did not take place due to Alexander’s death. As a result, Bogdan III invaded the borderland in 1509 and besieged Kamieniec and Lviv, and captured Rohatyn. He decided to attack the Poles during their retreat across the Dniester, but was defeated. In 1510, a peace was signed that resulted in the annulment of the marriage of Bogdan and Elisabeth, the matter of Pokucie was to be dealt with by the court of arbitration of Ladislaus of Hungary.

War with Moldavia 1530-1531[edit | edit code].

From 1527, the Moldavian hospodar was Peter Rareș. The Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, allowed him to attack Poland and occupy Pokuttya. Peter reached an agreement with Vasyl III on the matter and entered Pokucie in 1530. In 1531 the Crown pulled the Ottoman Empire to its side and, under the command of Hetman Jan Tarnowski, defeated its rival at the Battle of Obertyn. The battle was of no avail, as the hetman could not enter the territory of the Turkish fief. In 1533 Piotr Opalinski signed a peace in Istanbul that was binding for the rest of the lives of both rulers. On its strength, the Crown gave up its claims to Moldavia and Wallachia.

War with Moldavia 1535-1538[edit | edit code].

During the siege of Chocim, Hetman Tarnowski accepted a proposal to cede Pokucie to Poland. The Crown regained Pokucie during these wars, but it came at the price of increasing Turkish influence in Moldavia, as Peter was expelled.

International rivalry with the Habsburgs[edit | edit code].

The Teutonic Knights’ affair was the trigger for many conflicts between Sigismund and the Habsburgs. Albrecht Hohenzollern, wishing to gain independence from Poland, sought allies in the international arena. He found an ally precisely in the then Reich Emperor, who was ready to support him in a possible conflict with Poland. The threat was further increased by the fact that Albrecht was also trying to obtain an ally in the east, namely Moscow. The Polish ruler, wishing to prevent the formation of such an elaborate anti-Polish coalition, was forced to make a deal with the Habsburgs. As a result of the negotiations, the two dynasties concluded a treaty in 1515, known as the Vienna Agreement, under which, in the event of the extinction of the Czech-Hungarian line of the Jagiellonians, these thrones were to be taken over by the Habsburg dynasty. Although at the time no one expected the treaty to be implemented soon, it was put into effect just 11 years later when Louis Jagiellon died at the Battle of Mochacz.

Domestic politics[edit | edit code].

When ruling, Sigismund relied on the advice of senators and competent ministers in charge of the royal chancellery, the treasurer’s office and the Cracow grandees. Although he was averse to the parliamentary system and the political independence of the nobility, he convened annual assemblies, generally obtaining tax resolutions (levies) for common defense. However, attempts to create a permanent fund for defense from income-dependent taxes ended in failure.

Among the successes can be counted the partial debt relief of the treasury. Sigismund I the Old separated accounting for public taxes from the royal treasury. He strengthened the activities of the Cracow mint, sought to organize regulations on income from the exploitation of salt mines and salt mines, issued a statute for Armenians (1519), rules of trial (1523), and intended to unify the law throughout the country (correctura iurium, known as Taszycki’s correction, 1532, rejected by the Sejm 1540).

War of the Kokosz, painting by Henryk Rodakowski

He put the customs economy in order (“new customs”), took care of the development of the royal cities, recovered for the treasury numerous complexes of the crown royal domain property under pledge. In the king’s financial activities, he was supported by Queen Bona, who strove to enlarge the royal estate, including through purchases and improved economic efficiency.

In the Lvov rokosz (war of the kokosz) 1537, demands were made to enforce the rights of the middle nobility dissatisfied with the actions of the court (the so-called Execution of Rights). The nobility’s demands were directed against the hegemony of the senatorial-ministerial elite (which involved non-compliance with the prohibitions against combining certain secular and ecclesiastical offices, the so-called incompatibilitas) and the disregard of the principle of residence in the jurisdiction of the office (the so-called “settlement”) in appointments to land offices. Also objected to was the prominent role in the political life of the queen and her action of buying back pledged royal lands in the Crown, the upbringing of Sigismund Augustus at his mother’s court (without providing him with a political and knightly education) and the excessively high “new duty.” Due to the lack of a firm stance among the leaders of the nobility, after prolonged negotiations, the rebellion ended in a compromise. The nobles dispersed to their homes, not engaging in the war expedition organized by the king (the magnates claimed that the only result of the rokosz was to be the eating of poultry in the vicinity of the camp, hence the contemptuous name “kokosz war”).

An achievement was the incorporation of Mazovia into Poland (after the extinction of the male line of the Dukes of Czersk-Warsaw in 1526) as the Mazovian province (1529), and the introduction of Mazovian deputies to the Sejm of the land sejmiks.

At the instigation of his wife, Bona, he obtained the granting, during his lifetime, to his minor son Sigismund Augustus of the grand ducal throne in Lithuania (1522), as well as the Polish throne (1529) (as a result of the vivente rege election). This was the first and also the last such election of a ruler to the royal throne in Poland. Sigismund the Old’s prudence and peaceful disposition made him generally respected at home and abroad at the time of his death. The period of his reign is described as a golden age in Poland.

Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572)[edit | edit code].

Sigismund II Augustus portrait

Sums pledged to the royal estates of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland by province in 1569 (in red zlotys)

Foreign policy[edit | edit code].

A treaty of friendship with the Habsburgs was signed in 1549. It included provisions not to act against each other. In 1553 Sigismund Augustus married Ferdinand I’s daughter Catherine. That same year, the Polish king signed a peace treaty with Turkey.

Lithuanian-Russian War[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Lithuanian-Moscow War (1558-1570).

Sigismund Augustus decided to seize Inflants in order to strengthen Lithuania against both the Crown and Moscow. The immediate cause of the war was the intervention of the Polish-Lithuanian state in a dispute between the Archbishop of Riga – Wilhelm Hohenzollern and the national master of the Inflantic branch of the Teutonic Order, Johann Wilhelm von Fürstenberg. In 1557, a Lithuanian common march camped near Pozvol. However, the battle did not take place, as Grand Master Johann Wilhelm von Fürstenberg humbled himself before Sigismund Augustus, and a deal was struck that provided for a Polish-Infantry alliance against Moscow once the truce with it was over. In 1558, Ivan IV’s army attacked Inflants capturing the Narev River and Dorpat. Inflants then asked for help from the Polish king, but the latter invoked a truce with Moscow that was still in effect. In 1559 the Moscow army reaches Riga. On November 28, 1561, the Vilna Pact was signed, under which Inflants surrendered to the sovereignty of the Polish king, the Order was dissolved and Inflants were incorporated into the Crown.

First Northern War 1563-1570[edit | edit code].

Separate article: First Northern War.

In 1562, the Swedes captured Parnava, Eric XIV concluded a truce with the Tsar, and Denmark declared war on Sweden. In the same year, the war between Lithuania and Moscow also began. The following year, the Russians laid siege to Polotsk, and Sigismund Augustus signed an alliance with Frederick II in exchange for the surrender of Parnava, which was to be regained from Sweden. Augustus also received help from the Hohenzollerns in exchange for recognition of the possibility of inheriting a Prussian fief. The war ended with the peace congress at Stettin (1570), ending the Danish-Swedish war. Lithuania lost to Russia: the eastern part of Inflants with several castles (including Marienburg), the Bishopric of Dorpat, the eastern part of Estonia, Polotsk with the castle of Turowla, part of the Vitebsk land with the castles of Ozierzyszcze and Ushvytsya.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth after the Union of Lublin

Union with Lithuania 1569[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Union of Lublin.

Closer Polish-Lithuanian cooperation had already been under consideration for a long time, but it was not known how to do it. Most Lithuanians were in favor of a defensive alliance, while in the Crown there was even thought of incorporating Lithuania as a province (the New Poland province). In 1568, the Polish king convened the Crown Seimas in Lublin and the Lithuanian Seimas in Volhynia. The Lithuanian lords were later to go to Lublin for joint deliberations. However, some problems arose during the joint session, including that the Lithuanians did not agree to the joint sejm and the possibility of Poles buying up land. The dissatisfied Lithuanians began to leave the deliberations. Sigismund Augustus did not like this step, and responded on March 5 with a decree incorporating Polesia into the Crown. On May 27 he incorporated Volhynia and Braclaw voivodeships, and on June 6 he incorporated Kiev voivodeships. As a result of this turn of events, Lithuania had no choice but to accept the compromise nature of the union. On July 1, 1569, the union was sworn in by members of the Crown and Lithuanian Seimas. Under the terms of the union:

The Republic of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were to have one ruler elected jointly by both nations in a free election and crowned King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania in Krakow. A joint General Sejm, sitting in Warsaw, was established, with a Chamber of Deputies consisting of 114 Crown and 48 Lithuanian deputies, and a Senate composed of 113 Crown and 27 Lithuanian senators. The two members of the Republic pledged to pursue a common defense and foreign policy. A common coinage was introduced. Separate central offices, titles and dignities were retained, with the scope of authority identical in both countries. Separate Polish and Lithuanian armies were retained. Separate official languages were retained (Ruthenian in Lithuania). Execution of royal estates and undermining of royal endowments did not apply in Lithuania. Unification of legal systems was enacted. The ban on Poles acquiring property in Lithuania was lifted.

Death[edit | edit code].

Sigismund II Augustus died in 1572 in Knyszyn, as the last Polish monarch from the male line of the Jagiellonian dynasty. The first period of interregnum began. The next Polish king, elected by the Electoral Sejm, was Henry Valois (1573-1574).

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