He fought for the Polish throne for several dozen years. He left behind the legend of an enlightened, well-educated and benevolent king. As it turns out, behind this facade he hid a swaggering ego, and at the cost of the crown he was ready to even divide the Republic of Poland.
Stanisław Leszczyński became the king of Poland twice:in 1704 and 1733. And even if the first election, carried out under the pressure of the Swedish monarch, Charles XII Wittelsbach, could hardly be considered fully legal, the magnate of Wielkopolska actually exercised power. It was he who handed out the highest state offices:he appointed, among others, the Grand Hetman of the Crown, Józef Potocki. Leszczyński's right to the crown was confirmed in 1706 in Altranstädt by his rival, August II the Strong.
Although he wore the Polish crown for only a few years each time, Leszczyński enjoys a surprisingly good reputation among historians. “They called him a" philosopher of charity, "" exquisite erudite "," enlightened Sarmatian ". And a reformer, because his famous work The Voice of Free Freedom Providing contained bold suggestions for changes ", reports Mirosław Maciorowski, one of the authors of the book " Rulers of Poland. A story re-told ” . But are these delights really justified?
"A strange and completely unrealistic plan"
Maciorowski's interlocutor, habilitated doctor Adam Perłakowski, a modernist from the Institute of History of the Jagiellonian University, views the monarch completely differently. "Certainly he cannot be called a sovereign ruler, because he completely depended on the will of the King of Sweden, Charles XII Wittelsbach," he emphasizes.
Stanisław Leszczyński was crowned King of Poland in 1705 thanks to the support of the King of Sweden, Charles XII.
The historian also reminds that Leszczyński, shortly after assuming the Polish throne for the first time, even considered… the partition of the country! As he explains:
The nobility accused Augustus the Strong of the plans to partition the Commonwealth, while Leszczyński was plotting them. When he was out of the country, was going to get along with August the Strong and share the Commonwealth with him . He wanted to take Lithuania and leave the Crown to him. Another time he proposed making peace with Sweden in return for surrendering Courland to Charles XII and his return to the throne. A curious and completely unrealistic plan. At the same time, it can be called a betrayal.
Interestingly, these dreams appeared at a time when the chances of the king chosen thanks to Sweden to win the fight for the Polish crown were ruined. His protector, Charles XII, was defeated in July 1709 by the troops allied with August II, Tsar Peter the Great near Poltava. Leszczyński himself and his family had to flee to Szczecin. "Such thinking means that Leszczyński had no political discernment at all," Perłakowski judges sharply.
In an interview published in the book "Rulers of Poland. A story re-told ” the researcher from Krakow also points out Stanisław's servility. He recalls his correspondence with the Swedish monarch. "These are a subject's letters to you," he says. “He strips himself of even the minimal qualities of a ruler or statesman in them. It is a humble footstool. Asks. He is begging ” .
The curiosity is based on the book by Mirosław Maciorowski and Beata Maciejowska "Rulers of Poland. A story re-told ” (Agora Publishing House 2018).
"It was going well"
Why, then, the good grades given to Leszczyński by historians? Professor Perłakowski claims that they were created in the period when the king ruled in successive principalities granted to him. He ruled first in the Duchy of Two Bridges, thanks to Charles XII, and then in Lorraine, thanks to his next protector (and his son-in-law), Louis XV. A historian from the Jagiellonian University concludes:
Undoubtedly [Leszczyński - ed. A.W.] knew art and architecture. Undoubtedly, he had broad horizons and extensive knowledge. Undoubtedly, he has achieved a lot in the field of culture and architecture. But we have to look at him primarily as a politician, and here the ratings cannot be high. Although I must admit that it was going well.
Trivia is the essence of our website. Short materials devoted to interesting anecdotes, surprising details from the past, strange news from the old press. Reading that will take you no more than 3 minutes, based on single sources. This particular material is based on:
- Mirosław Maciorowski, Beata Maciejowska, Rulers of Poland. History re-told , Agora Publishing House 2018.