Historical story

It was for one dancer. The famous Casanova could change the history of Poland!

One of the most famous lovers and fanciful cheats almost finished his colorful life in Poland. It was close, and it would have changed the course of history. And all with a flick of a finger.

Having got rid of the thirteen-year-old Russian Zaira, bought for a hundred scuds, in October 1765 Casanova entered the Polish capital. He had with him a bundle of letters of recommendation, which at that time was an entry ticket to almost every salon in Warsaw.

Giacomo, because that was the name of Casanova, immediately fell into good hands. To Prince Adam Czartoryski himself. The latter, in turn, on the recommendation of the British ambassador, introduced him to King Stanisław August Poniatowski.

It's time to settle down

The Polish monarch quickly liked the bright and charming Venetian, and showed his sympathy in the most desirable way for Casanova - by offering him two hundred gold ducats. The Italian immediately allocated them to pay off card debts, at least the most urgent ones. He also quickly received an official invitation to the royal court.

Giacomo Casanova interrupted his exciting journeys to enter the service of the Polish king ...

Casanova had never dreamed of a better start. He dreamed of a lucrative job as a secretary of the Polish king. Clerical salary would solve his financial problems.

He was aware of the opportunity that had happened to him and he made himself promise to avoid any fights. He knew very well that he had an inexplicable ailment to push himself on all kinds of adventures. This time it was supposed to be different!

Come to the show…

Casanova gave up his favorite pastimes:playing cards, seances, cabal and participating in elaborate sexual configurations. He also tried to meet all the monarch's expectations, including those that did not arouse his euphoria.

During the farewell, after one of Casanova's many visits, the king, rising from the table, addressed the Venetian: "Please, come to the show" . This performance was the premiere of the comedy "Marriage from the calendar" by Franciszek Bohomolec.

For the king, this evening had a serious political overtone. Casanova knew the monarch wanted the show to be successful. Nevertheless, he tried to pronounce himself elegantly, because the comedy was to be played in Polish, so he would understand little of it. The king, however, insisted.

The invitation to the court of Stanisław August Poniatowski opened up great prospects for Casanova ...

Revenge of the daughter of Gondolier

Language wasn't the only problem. Casanova knew one of the dancers personally, Anna Binetti. He seduced her when she was still a teenage daughter of a gondolier in Italy. A lot has changed since then. Binetti became one of the most famous ballerinas in Warsaw. As if that were not enough, it had powerful influence among the country's elite. The whole party was behind it, strongly involved in the political struggle in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The faction was led by the influential magnate Franciszek Ksawery Branicki, a violent who did not retreat from the wildest quarrels, and in addition the lover of Binnetti herself . The dancer, aware of her influence on the young count, took the opportunity to take revenge on Casanova. He only treated her as a passing love. Even years later, she felt that he had taken away her honor.

A courtesy visit to a former lover

The performance bored the Venetian to the limit. After the play, he went to the box of one of the dancers - Casacci, whose performance Stanisław August liked very much - to congratulate her.

On the way, he noticed the open door to the Binetti box. Wanting to avoid the untidy, he paid her a courtesy visit. He greeted and exchanged a few polite sentences when Branicki unexpectedly burst into the room. Casanova gave him a reserved bow and immediately left for the Casacci box.

Venetian coward or Polish bully?

Branicki, however, did not intend to let go. He ran into the room right after the Italian.

Admit it, Mr. Casanova, that I am coming on time. You seem to be in love with this lady Branicki drawled. It was a deliberate move because, as you know, Binetti was the favorite of Branicki.

Casanova would prefer to pursue his usual pastimes, but the king couldn't refuse…

But, Count, don't you find her charming? Casanova replied.

So much so that I declare to you here that I am in love with her and I cannot stand any rival! - Branicki said.

If so, I am not claiming any rights Casanova tried to cut it short. He took the tycoon off his head, he only managed to draw out: You are a wary man, Mr. Casanova. So you are getting out of my way?

The whole thing started with one jealous dancer…

And it would probably end there, if only Giacomo had managed to refrain from an ironic tease: Immediately, Count! There would be such a bully, what would dare go on a receipt with a man of your merits?

Furious, Branicki blurted out: For cowards, I have what, at the first threat, gives way from the field!

Casanova gripped the sword's throat, but then calmed down. A fight with the king's chamberlain in the Casacci lodge, in front of the crowds, would irrevocably compromise him in the eyes of Stanisław August. The position of royal secretary would only become a memory of an unrealized dream. The Italian shrugged contemptuously and left. In the corridor he heard Branicki shout: Venetian coward!

Forbidden (un) pleasures

In the evening of the next day, Casanova sent Branicki a letter declaring his willingness to satisfy his competitor.

The mere fact of dueling with a personality of Branicki's rank was both an honor and a nuisance for Casanova. If he excused himself from the duel - it would be a great disgrace. On the other hand, if he had killed Branicki - apart from his reputation, he would have lost his life for sure, because the young colonel's supporters would not let him go.

Branicki was a dangerous opponent. Casanova knew that regardless of the outcome of the duel, he was going to die.

On the agreed day, Branicki sent a carriage to fetch Casanova, but Giacomo did not want to enter it. The impatient Branicki went personally to Casanova's house, where found him writing down his last will . He insisted on wanting to fight on the same day. It took a long time to discuss the type of weapon. The Italian preferred the sword, the Pole preferred the gun.

Shoot first

After determining that the weapon would be pistols, Branicki hugged Casanova, who proudly did the same, while emphasizing the honor of crossing the weapon with someone of such a state. Of course, dueling in the Commonwealth of that time was strictly forbidden, but Branicki did not do anything about the ban.

At the set time, a carriage once again picked up Casanova, this time, in case of refusal, with six Poles inside. After thirty minutes of travel, all the company was there. It was a beautiful park in one of the villages near Warsaw.

Branicki was waiting at the stone table. He pointed Casanova to the choice of two guns, assuring him that he was honoring both of them. Having selected their guns, both gentlemen, having retreated six paces, froze in shooting positions.

18th-century dueling pistols (photo:Nfutvol, license CC BY-SA 3.0).

Casanova took off his hat and asked for the honor of Branicki to shoot it first. Branicki, having lost a few seconds to aim, fired, but as it turned out, he was not the only one. Giacomo was not going to wait for the Pole to take his aim calmly, he fired perfectly at the same time.

Branicki fell. The bullet hit him under the seventh rib in the front and came out under the last one in the back.

You killed me

Casanova dropped his pistol and ran to the count. At the same moment, Branicki's servants drew their swords and headed for the Italian. In his memoirs he wrote:

Imagine my amazement when I saw three naked swords against myself in the hands of three noble executioners who, when I knelt, would have cut off my head at once, when the count did not admonish them in a thundering voice: Kanalie, please respect this man for me!

This could have been a duel between Casanova and Branicki.

All three backed up immediately, and I tried to pick it up. He was leaning over and looking at me sideways, unable to understand where the blood was running from that was dripping down my pants.

When they got to the inn, Branicki threw himself into the armchair and blurted out: You killed me. Get out, or you're in danger of a gallows. If you don't have any money please take my purse .

Honorary finger

Dazed, Casanova refused, kissed the tycoon on the forehead, and walked quickly outside. Upon encountering a peasant's wagon, he asked for a lift and hid under the hay. He ended up in one of the monasteries near Warsaw. Only there was his wound examined. Although in the first moment all attention was focused on Branicki's condition, Casanova did not come out of the duel unscathed either.

Giacomo Casanova. He doesn't look like a brawler in his portraits…

He was hit in the index finger and the wound was serious. Enough that the hand was to be amputated. The Italian absolutely did not agree to this. Time has shown that he did the right thing, but long after he could not make full use of the injured limb.

Ah that's rheumatism sir

Meanwhile, news of the duel quickly reached the king. Poniatowski was very irritated. Branicki's friends threatened with a terrible revenge, and the great marshal Bieliński expressed his readiness to surround the monastery with his dragoons. Branicki's enemies, on the other hand, sent Casanova a few pouches of gold, which Italy also refused to accept.

Stanisław August Poniatowski did not intend to forgive the Casanas.

Eventually, Giacomo left the monastery. He immediately went to the king for an audience. Poniatowski asked what happened to his hand. Casanova replied: Ah, it's rheumatism sir.

I advise you to avoid it in the future - said the monarch. It was the Italian's last visit to the royal court.

Resentment for a would-be murder? How come!

After leaving the court, Casanova went to Branicki. He, unlike the monarch, received him very warmly. It turned out that the count's life was no longer in danger.

Both gentlemen were very nice to each other. Branicki did not harbor any grudge, being grateful for the honorable duel. Casanova, on the other hand, expressed his joy that he could duel with him, and the honor that this fight was for him.

To this duel, apart from many colorful pages in "Diaries", Casanova even devoted a special brochure which was popular among readers. Giacomo boasted about a duel with a Polish magnate for the rest of his life.

He eventually settled in the gloomy castle in Dux in today's Bohemia, where he died in 1798. It was three years after the fall of one of the largest countries in Europe at that time, buried and betrayed by some of their elites. Among others, by Franciszek Ksawery Branicki, who is walking on the strip of Russians.