Historical story

Did the palatine Sieciech really rule Poland?

Satrap and schemer craving for the crown? Or maybe rather a faithful supporter of the ruler, striving to strengthen the princely power and implement plans? Historians are still arguing who the palatine Sieciech really was. But one thing is certain:his political career must have been spectacular.

When in 1079 Bolesław Szczodry with his wife and son had to flee to Hungary, not only his brother Władysław Herrman benefited from it, but most of all Sieciech from the Starżów-Toporczyk family, the ducal voivode-palatine. Marcin Bielski in his Chronicle he wrote directly:“The King loved Sieciech, the Voivode of Krakow, for his happy ministry, and transferred all the affairs of the Republic to him; for which Sieciech hardened, so that he did not weigh anyone:and he punished the nobility, and he gave the other call and took their property. " Is it possible that the ruler's temple has gone so high?

How to Train a King?

The beginnings of the political career of the governor of Sieciech are lost in the darkness of history. This is what in the book "Rulers of Poland. A story re-told ” Professor Jerzy Wyrozumski describes them:

We get to know him during the conquest of Pomerania, when on behalf of the prince he manages the captured lands with faithful people. [...] The prince also entrusted him with an army - Gall describes that he ravaged Moravia at its head.

We know that Sieciech minted his own coin. It was the first private coin in the history of Poland and the first name in Polish was written on it - Zetkeh. This proves the unique position enjoyed by the official. His undoubted political talent helped in winning it, although the task was not too difficult: Herman was reportedly a not very ambitious ruler, easily influenced, reluctant to big politics .

For this reason, the younger son of Kazimierz the Restorer did not enjoy the best opinion from historians for years. He was compared not only with his brother, but also with his son and successor - Bolesław the Wrymouth. Few have sought more balanced judgments; overwhelmingly critical opinions prevailed. Paweł Jasienica called Władysław "I pushed him in the hands of my own and strangers", and Tadeusz Wojciechowski added that "Sieciech turned Herman on which side he wanted to".

Władysław Herman was reportedly not a very ambitious ruler and was easily influenced.

Also, Michał Bobrzyński, Stanisław Smolka, Roman Gródecki and Jerzy Dowiat wrote that the palatine ruled the state, leading a merciless fight with those who opposed him, regardless of the state. Today we would call it a "personnel swap". Formerly it was written with horror of exalting the lowly born. Important state positions were occupied by the "people of Sieciech" :henchmen, relatives and flatterers, while ambitious representatives of influential knightly families were removed from power.

The princely henchman also limited the prerogatives of the representatives of the central government. He himself - the highest state official - was seen as more than just the executor of the will of the ruler. Soon, the mighty, reluctant to him, deprived of their influence and income, began to leave the country and join the opposition.

A very promising boy

Apparently, it was Sieciech who in 1093 led to a civil war between the prince and his sons. Before that happened, however, the Palatine had committed a terrible crime, according to many. It happened around 1086, after Bolesław the Wrymouth was born. The situation in the country seemed to be stable. Admittedly, Władysław already had two potential successors, but the older one, Zbigniew, whose right origin was questioned, he removed from the road. He sent him to study in Kraków, and then to a monastery in Saxony.

At the same time, when it was determined who would be the heir to the throne, the decision to eliminate the third contender to the crown was most likely also made. It was Mieszko Bolesławowic, the son of the Szczodry murdered in Hungary. He came to the country, where he shared the fate of his father. As Gall Anonim wrote, "some enemies, out of fear that he would avenge his father, killed such a beautifully promising boy with poison."

Who was behind the attack on the young prince? Some say it was Władysław who wanted to get rid of him. Others, that the murder was planned by Sieciech in agreement with Judyta Salicka, the ruler's second wife. Apparently, they were going to take the Polish throne. But were they really the fault? It was certainly more convenient to blame them than to blame Herman himself…

Game of Thrones

The removal of Mieszko and the sending of his firstborn son put the inheritance in order, but only for a few years. Soon the opposition of the powerful gathered in Bohemia became a force that Władysław Herman had to reckon with. All the more so because it was supported by prince Brzetysław II, who "took", as Gall writes, Zbigniew from the monastery and supported his postulate of restoring dynastic rights. He began to harass his neighbor with invasions, and when they did not have the expected effect, he decided to take the next step. Zbigniew went to Wrocław in 1093 to win over the Wrocław commes Magnus for his cause.

The ruler then received a firm message:Sieciech is to be removed, and Zbigniew restored to his rights. Only under duress, in the face of the threat from the opposition, Herman confirmed his son's position and separated him from Silesia as a separate principality. Magnus became his palatine. Brzetysław, in turn, set aside Krzywousty - his nephew - the land of Kłodzko, which was the subject of a dispute between the warring countries.

Zbigniew regained his rights thanks to the intervention of the Czech prince Brzetysław II.

It seemed as if it would finally be calm, but these were only appearances. Sieciech, openly fought by Magnus, was not going to sit with his arms folded. He skillfully dragged some of Zbigniew's former allies to his side, and Herman attacked Silesia, defeated the rebels and captured Wrocław. The would-be heir to the throne managed to escape to Kruszwica, where he won for his cause not only the inhabitants of Kruszwica, but also Pomeranians, with whom he intended to face his father's army. The clash took place at Gopło, where, according to Anonymus:

So much human blood was spilled and such a mass of dead bodies fell into the adjacent lake that every good Christian shuddered to eat fish from that water.

However, the victorious father spared his son. As a punishment - exceptionally mild - he put it under the supervision of ... Sieciecha. This confirmed the high position of the ducal palatine, but also permanently discouraged the young Władysławowic from using him. The latter, after leaving captivity, allied with his brother Bolesław and both of them gained the support of the nobility, and then forced their father to separate separate districts for them. And, of course, the removal from power of the troublemaker Sieciech .

The perpetrator of the fall of the Republic of Poland?

Giving neighborhoods to sons only seemingly calmed the situation in the country. The conflict flared up again, most likely due to the palatine. In the towns of the young princes, he set up his own commanders, who sabotaged their orders, and worse - set their own father against them.

To remove Sieciech, Bolesław Krzywousty allied with his brother.

Gall also suggests that Sieciech wanted to get rid of Zbigniew and Bolesław in order to take power himself. For this he allegedly used Herman himself, who set an ambush for the younger son. He told him that the Czechs were preparing to attack his lands. However, doubts arose in the environment of the young prince. Eventually, instead of gathering troops, as his father had instructed him, he returned to Wrocław and called his brother for help.

Soon after, the brothers' combined forces confronted the troops of my father and Sieciech near Żarnowiec. Everyone was so fed up with the latter that only the old prince was the guarantor of his safety. It was then that Zbigniew and Bolesław finally forced his father to abandon his hated supporter and promised that he would not be restored to office again. Unfortunately, this one was still protected by the palatine. As Marcin Bielski wrote:

The dam both sons came, y, standing in a field with their men, sent messengers to the oyca, discussing with him, and promising him under oath that they would be faithful to him in all sons, only asking Siecey not to rule again:saying that they themselves are not safe from him […].

Also imploring in filial petitions, as he was a merciful man, he caught y kissed the casing, y said whatever they asked to do. Seeing this, Sieciech fled to his castle, Sieciechów:The young men wanted to get him both in the castle. But Władysław, understanding what they thought to do to him, went down the Vistula River to Sieciechów at night, only the four o'clock:Sieciech warned .

This was too much for the young princes. Bolesław went to Małopolska, and Zbigniew to his beloved father's Mazovia. It is not known what turn the conflict would have taken if Archbishop Marcin himself had not been involved in it as a mediator. He advised the old prince to expel Sieciech, that because of "the poor man, the Commonwealth would not collapse" .

The Palatine Hill did not disappear from the princely surroundings until around 1100. Although he later returned to the country, the door to great politics remained closed to him. Władysław, despite his age and poor health, dealt with the government on his own.

Gray Eminence or a Good Official?

Today it is difficult to judge the messages of Gall Anonim, hostile to Sieciech. After all, the chronicler wrote at the court of Władysław's son, Bolesław Krzywousty, and presented conflicts from his perspective. Subsequent messages duplicate many of the information he provided. It is worth emphasizing, however, that the role of the palatine was increasingly limited by historians . For example, in Kadłubek's case, the real enemy of the state is Zbigniew. Sieciech seems to be merely a minor schemer, who is easily removed by Bolesław the Wrymouth, who is walking towards his destined power.

One of the historians most hostile to Sieciech was Gall Anonymous.

In turn, in "Kronika wielkopolska" the official is an ally of ... the older son of Herman. It works against the old prince and his heir. The chronicler sums up his fall in one sentence:"But Bolesław, although very young, but endowed with prudence and cunning enough, seized their foolishness and sentenced Sieciech to permanent exile as the perpetrator of evil." How was it really? To this day, historians are divided in opinions. As in the book "Rulers of Poland. A story re-told ” Professor Jerzy Wyrozumski concludes:

For some Sieciech it is indeed a satrap who dominated the prince, wanted to destroy the Piast family and take power . But there were many researchers who saw him simply as a faithful supporter of Herman. The man thanks to whom the prince implemented his policy.

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