Henryk Krasinski.

The Cossacks of the Ukraine; comprising biographical notices of the most celebrated Cossack chiefs ... With a memoir of Princess Tarakanof, and some particulars respecting Catharine II., of Russia, and her favourites online

. (page 21 of 22)
Online LibraryHenryk KrasinskiThe Cossacks of the Ukraine; comprising biographical notices of the most celebrated Cossack chiefs ... With a memoir of Princess Tarakanof, and some particulars respecting Catharine II., of Russia, and her favourites → online text (page 21 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Hungary. For political reasons the latter's natural son emigrated to
Poland, and settling among his relatives there, became the progenitor
of the youngest branch of the Krasinski family ; while at the same
time, another Krasinski went from Poland to the court of King
Mathias, who acknowledged him as his relative, and satisfied
with his courage and ability, liberally rewarded him for his
services, and then allowed him to return to his country. These
two branches were much mixed by intermarriages, and the young-
est branch is extinct. The Hungarian Korwins are also, I have
heard, in all probability extinct, though many years ago they
claimed their share of succession in Poland. There was a time
when some Hungarian Korwins were staying among the Polish
Korwins, and some Polish Korwins were staying among the Hunga-
rian Korwins. From Hungary that family passed to Poland, and
settled in the duchy of Mazovia, which, before its annexation to the
kingdom of Poland, in the reign of Sigismundus I., in 1537, was an
independent principality.

Antecedent to the year 1224, Conrad, the old Duke of Mazovia
(Konrad Stary), at the request of Vavrzenta Corvin (Wawrzeta
Korwin), who first removed from Hungary to Poland, permitted the
latter to add to his original surname the title of his estate, Slepovron,
which means a crow. The above Wawrzeta Korwin married Dorothy
Pobozanka, a Polish heiress, who to wealth and beauty joined great
amiability of character. Her husband had a daughter to whom he
was attached, and whose personal attraction was daily increasing ; his
lady, however (Pobozanka), instead of being jealous of her, paid so
much attention to her, and overwhelmed her with so much kindness
that she gained her friendship for life ; while Wawrzeta Korwin,
wishing to give a mark of his particular regard to his wife, adopted
legally her coat of arms, and put them under his own, which he
transmitted to his descendants : a case scarcely ever known in
Poland. Under the raven with a golden ring in its beak, he placed a
silver horseshoe in a blue field, which was originally red, on account
of the blood spilt by his ancestor's vanquished antagonist. He left

NOTES. 299

two sons, and divided among them his estates ; the law of primo-
geniture never having prevailed in Poland. The oldest who took
his mother's estate, retained the blue field in his coat of arms ; the
youngest reverted to the red field. In some documents and title
deeds it is half red and half blue, or entirely red or blue, though the
armorial bearings are the same.

Slavomir Korwin was the first who, from the estate called Krasne,
transmitted him by his father, took the name of Slawomir Korwin
Slepowron Krasiuski, in 1337. His descendant, Stanislas Krasinski,
palatine of Flock (pronounced Plotsk), who visited Africa and travelled
over all Europe, left, by two wives, five daughters and ten sons. He
was raised to the dignity of a foreign count, which title was inherited
by his progeny (Vide Konstytucye Xwa Mazovieckiego).

Among all the above mentioned descendants of Korwin Krasinski's
family, none was more noted for his knowledge and influence than
Francis, the bishop of Cracow, who was Several times sent as an
ambassador from the Polish clergy to the pope, Paul IV., and by
whose exertions the ultimate union of the Grand Duchy of Litvania
with Poland was accomplished in 1569, in the reign of Sigismundus
Augustus. He was the latter king's confessor, and was always
opposed to religious persecutions, in fashion in his time.

After him, setting aside some good generals, none was equal in
wisdom, craft, and knowledge to Count Adam Krasinski, the bishop
of Kamienietz, who signed the confederation of Bar, the 29th of
February, 1768.

There are at present four branches of Krasinski's family, and three
generations. The head of the first branch, and the senior in age,
is General Count Vincent Korwin Krasinski, who by his late wife,
Princess Radzivell, has an only child, a son, Sigismond, married some
years ago to Elizabeth Countess Branitska, by whom he has two
young boys.

The general alluded to, performed extraordinary feats of valour
under Napoleon, especially at Samossiera in the month of November,
1808, in Spain, where three squadrons of Polish lancers under his
command stormed, up hill, a pass half a mile in length^and twenty-
five yards in breadth, defended at the top by fifteen pieces of heavy
cannon, and eleven thousand of Spanish regular infantry, under the
order of General St. Juan. In spite, however, of all these formidable
defences, and the two hills swarming with sharpshooters ; in spite of
the grape shot of the cannon, his intrepid band, composed of chosen

300 NOTES.

men and chosen horses, reached the top, took all the cannons, broke
all the squares, routed the Spaniards and cleared the road for Napo-
leon's army to Madrid.

In all the French, and even British military works, this celebrated
charge is mentioned, and is undoubtedly considered as one of the
most extraordinary in this century. It, however, succeeded, not only
by the brilliant and indomitable valour of the Polish lancers and
their gallant commander ; but also by some favourable circumstances
attending it. Napoleon was so much surprised at the complete suc-
cess of the charge of Samossiera that he said : " Now, dear Krasinski,
I believe in wonders." "It would be a wonder, sire," rejoined the
latter, " if there was one single soldier under my command, who
should hesitate an instant to sacrifice the last drop of his blood for your
majesty's glory." This bon mot extremely pleased Napoleon, and was
followed by many others, which, always delivered under proper
circumstances, brought him substantial favours. Napoleon called
him the Polish Alcibiades ; the Polish Alcibiades having expensive
habits was often in want. Once Napoleon met him walking dis-
pirited in the streets of Paris. " You have debts, Krasinski," said the
emperor. "Yes, sire, I have ;" "Your debts are mine ;" and thrice
they were paid (30,0007.) Once Napoleon ordered Duroc to give to his
favourite Polish aide-de-camp 6,000. Duroc looked cross. " Give to
Krasinski 3,000 more," and they were given, and when the latter said,
" The interest is worthy of your majesty," a handsome interest of
that sum, much larger than that which any banker would require for
it, was added to the additional gift, which altogether amounted to
100,000/. The general alluded to served in all the wars from 1806
till 1814, under Napoleon, and his regiment of lancers became the
terror of the enemy, as they broke and routed every cavalry and
infantry, which they ever attacked, and they never were beaten. To
this time even at Bordeaux, there are numerous ballads and songs in
their favour. They formed the guard of the French emperor, under
the name of chevaux legers ; they did wonders at Wagram, and in 1813.

It is impossible to describe the enthusiastic cheers with which the
remainder of the gallant Polish bands, under the command of the
General alluded to were received at Posen in 1814. Men, women, and
children hailed them weeping. The uniform of the lancers was blue,
trimmed with crimson, and double-breasted (not according to
the English fashion), trimmed with rich embroidered gold. Tiny
wore a splendid crimson lancer's cap, on which there was a golden

NOTES. 301

sun and a fine white ostrich feather. This uniform, with golden
epaulets, splendid horses, chosen men, coloured pennants streaming
from the top of the lances, produced in the sunshine an effect impos-
sible to describe. At the sight of these warriors, preceded by the fame
of the victories of Samossiera, Vagram, Reichenbach, and others, (most
of them being decorated with military orders) the heroes of a
hundred battles, commanded recently by the most skilful captain of
the age, to whom they were faithful when every thing left him, pass-
ing slowly in military array, and returning to their country without
ever having been fairly vanquished, a sort of religious veneration
filled the heart. One would have thought that the sacred soil of a
country that gave birth to such soldiers, could not be stained by a
foreign foot, or oppressed.

When the ringing of bells, the clash of arms, the roar of cannons,
and repeated huzzas ceased, when twenty-four beautiful maidens,
dressed in white, had thrown their flowers on the lancers, and silence
was restored, the general, one of the handsomest men of his age
thirty-three at that time dazzling the eyes by the diamonds of his
numerous decorations, sitting on a splendid steed worthy of a Maho-
met or a Tamerlane, advanced some steps towards the ladies, stopped,
bowed gracefully to them, and, in a clear and distinct voice, delivered
a speech during which, without any exaggeration, he put Cicero fairly
in his pocket, and melted half-a-dozen Demosthenes on his lips. After
repeated huzzas, when the officers left their horses, he was obliged to
submit his manly cheeks to the repeated kisses of the maidens.
The silky hair of one of them got entangled seriously to his golden
epaulets for more than a minute, to the jealous surprise of some dow-
agers. The same evening a ball was given, and as my late father
was a schoolfellow of the general's, and travelled with me in haste,
we arrived the same day at Posen. I was at that time nine years
old. After embracing me he introduced me as his relative at the ball,
and delivered me to the care of the Posen ladies. As I had not slept
for two nights, I soon fell into a deep slumber between two Posen
beauties. The sound of music awakened me ; I danced the polo-
naise with the lady, and partook of some ice. So strong are my
early impressions, that though this happened to me above thirty years
ago, I perfectly remember her features, which greatly resembled those
of the likeness of the northern Sappho at Ulverstone.

Some weeks afterwards I marched, between Lieut. Gnatowski and
Stakicuicz, with the Polish army into the late kingdom of Poland, and

302 NOTES.

entered Warsaw with the staff of the general, on a small black horse
of remarkable beauty. My first recollections were thus associated
with a military life. I never could forget the hospitality and kind'
ness shown me by the inhabitants of Posen.

General Count Vincent Korwin Krasinski Senalor Palatin, is one of
the richest men in Poland, and has most of the Polish, French, and Rus-
sian decorations. His knowledge, gallantry, and flowing eloquence, his
celebrated repartees, his singular adventures and liberality, also made
him the pet of all the ladies, from queens to peasant girls, and the
favourite of all the sovereigns to whom he was introduced. He was
successively the aide-de*camp and the favourite of Napoleon (who
made him lieutenant-general), to whom he was faithful as a dog to
its master, even to the last when every thing left him. After bringing
the remainder of the Polish army in 1814, from France to Poland ;
he became aide-de-camp of the Emperor Alexander and Nicholas, as
kings of Poland, and held a superior command in the late Polish
army. He served them faithfully. Some of his adventures are so
singular, that they are worthy to be mentioned. During his youth
he had a mistress, called Tekla, who presented him a first-born
son. At this happy news, two batteries of small cannon (vivatove
harmaty), fired one hundred shots ; merry peals were ringing in all
directions, there was a regular levee at his palace ; eloquent speeches
were delivered, five-hundred bottles of champagne were beheaded,
thousands of pounds in money and clothing were distributed to the
poor, offences of the peasants on his estates were forgiven, fifteen
thousand pounds were settled on the mother and child, a wine
merchant, unexpectedly patronised, made his fortune and married
his daughter well, the old maids unbridled their tongues for a fortnight,
six couples of young orphans were united and provided for, and even
the faithful companions of man, dogs and horses (according to the
letter of my late uncle, Hilary), had their share of rejoicings. At this
time Warsaw was under Prussian domination, and the Prussian police
seeing the whole fashion of the town in motion, and hearing constant
firings and the ringing of bells, became alarmed, and thought it was
an insurrection ; but the alarm soon subsided. At any rate, no
human being ever came into this world under more noisy and favour-
able circumstances for the prosperity of his fellow-creatures, than the
lateral descendant of the noble house of Korwin, but unfortunately,
he died soon, and his inconsolate and beautiful mother followed him to
the grave, to the general's regret. Having heard that it is in fashion


not to attach too much importance to money, he lost at cards
2 5,000 in one evening. On another occasion he engaged a cab
for the whole day ; the next day a cabman called early and re-
quested to speak with him ; he was admitted, and handed to the
general (at that time a civilian), a small parcel containing in
mixed bank notes 500 ; the general counted them, and saw that
all was right ; thanked the cabman, marked his number, gave
him a glass of wine and shook hands with him ; when he was
close to the door, he re-called him, and handed him 500 as
a reward for his honesty, which made his fortune for life. Similar
actions on a smaller, and even on a larger scale, were repeated. At
another time, his friend being well aware of the general's taste for
naked feet, induced his wife to give a splendid ball, at which all the
female portion of her chosen guests were dressed a I antique, and
obliged to disclose the top of their fair, snowy, and delicate feet to the
searching gaze of men, who plunging their eyes in them, should have
liked to discover, if possible, on those feet the same charms which
a happy bridegroom discovers on the cheeks of his blooming bride,
when after a kiss, he dares to hint to her in a whisper the prospects of
the pleasures concealed for them under the cloke of night, whose very
name make her blush and tremble at the same time. The general,
whose passion for the naked feet is too well known, was so delighted
with it, that he never could forget it, and was obliged to describe it to
the late Queen Hortense and Napoleon. No man in the world was
ever cherished more by his servants, his tenantry, his soldiers, and
his officers. To the latter he was a sort of brother. To his dinners,
which I often attended, he invited one day the country squires, another
day military men, the third his equals and superiors, and every Friday,
scientific men, poets and writers. The latter party always included
a paltry writer named Marcin . . . ski, whose poetry and person ex-
cited general hilarity and undoubtedly promoted digestion ; for
which laudable services he was rewarded by a situation of 200
per annum. The subjoined facts will best prove the devotedness and
affection which distinguished the servants and officers of the general.
During the time of Napoleon a fierce quarrel broke out, close to the
general's palace at Warsaw, between the Saxon and Bavarian troops.
Mutually exasperated, they fought furiously among themselves.
Several had already fallen on either side, when, anxious to stop the
further effusion of blood, the general interposed between the com-
batants ; but no sooner had he done so, than the infuriated soldiers

304 NOTES.

turned their weapons upon the general's person, who would undoubt-
edly have perished, had not Zdanovitch, by chance beholding the
extreme peril of his beloved general, come, at the most critical
moment, to his assistance, and presented his naked hands as a shield
against the swords and bayonets so ferociously thrust at the general.
Their assailants every moment increasing in number, the danger be-
came yet more imminent. Thereupon Zdanovitch exclaimed, " Fly at
once, dear general, or you are lost." "But," said Krasinski, "what
will become of you ? " "I shall be happy to die for you," replied the
noble-minded Zdanovitch. With some difficulty the general escaped,
and having procured aid, returned to the scene of his adventure.
The devoted gallant Zdanovitch was found stretched senseless on the
ground, literally bathed in the gore which had gushed from his
numerous wounds. However, he ultimately recovered, and was not
forsaken by the grateful general. On another occasion, during the
war of 1813, the same general accompanied only by his lieutenant
Vonsovitch, was surprised and surrounded by a detachment of the
enemy's dragoons. Having fought until their swords were broken,
Vonsovitch then flung himself between the general and his opponents,
receiving on his own person the blows aimed at the former, until he
was actually covered with wounds, thus preserving Krasinski's life at
the hazard of his own. Vonsovitch also survived the effect of the
dangerous injuries thus sustained by him, and was not forgotten, in
having an estate presented to him, by the general. I am personally
acquainted with these two noble defenders of his life, and believe them
yet in existence. Surely the man who could thus attach other men
to himself, could not have been destitute of good qualities.

The general was not engaged in the Polish insurrection of 1831,
but he did not fight against his countrymen ; and after that un-
happy war did much good to them, even to some who were known
to be his enemies. Here is a proof of his kindly disposition and
his influence in this respect. A short time back, the Kussian
governor of KamTeni'etz Podolski having a spite against a Polish
gentleman, named Ratsiborowski, endeavoured to extort 2,520 from
him, by accusing him with being connected with an imaginary plot,
and also carrying on treasonable correspondence with the Countess
Cordule Fredro, of Austrian Poland, a kind, affable lady (Countess
Krasinska's de domo), who never interferes in politics, and has a
splendid seat near the Carpathian mountains, close to the corner of
the Austrian, Kussian, and Turkish boundaries. To prove the guilt

NOTES. 305

of the unhappy Ratsiborowski and other Poles, the rascally governor
concocted, and produced, several letters and suitable answers, in sym-
pathetic ink. The Russian authorities required the Austrian govern-
ment to deliver up the Countess, but this was refused, though some
of her tenants were arrested, and confronted (at K'iof), with other vic-
tims of the governor's infernal artifice. They would, as a matter of
course, have been condemned and exiled to Siberia, but luckily for them
General Count Krasinski arrived at K'iof, on his way to his estates.
Hearing that a Russian subaltern (an agent of the governor) was
hovering previously about the Countess Fredro's estate, for the pur-
pose of collecting evidence respecting her correspondence, and so
forth, the general suspected some trick. He therefore lost no time in
communicating his suspicions to Count Bekendorf (the head of the
Russian police.) The result of the general's interposition was that
the subaltern was placed under arrest, and the first night of his in-
carceration hung himself the letters were satisfactorily shown to be
forgeries the iniquitous governor was dismissed and his intended
victims liberated.

General Count Krasinski is about sixty-eight years of age. He is of
middle size, though stoutly built, and his features are marked by two
large scars, one extending across his face, the other on his fore-
head ; he is a celebrated pistol shot, and could, formerly, so well
manage the lance, that surrounded at the battle of Wagram, in 1809,
by several Austrians, he defended himself with it several minutes,
killing two and disabling some of them without himself sustaining any
injury. He dedicated to Napoleon a well- written pamphlet on the
advantages of the lancers, and the use of the lance, for which he
received a brace of pistols and a double-barrel gun from Napoleon
valued at 3,000.

On another occasion, in the Russian campaign in 1812, he was
ordered to make a reconnaissance with a small party of soldiers : he
met three battalions of Russian infantry, advanced, contrary to the
advice of his friends, within gun-shot of the Russians, alone, and,
wishing courageously to fulfil his duty, quietly inspected their lines.
The Russians fired a volley at him, and missed him ; he bowed to
them, and continued to observe them ; they twice reloaded their guns
and fired ; twice more he bowed, and departed unhurt. A Colonel of
the Cossacks, however, having an excellent horse, dashed so furiously
at the general, that had not one of the Polish lancers parried the
thrust of the Cossack, he would have in all probability killed the


306 NOTES.

former. The Colonel was taken prisoner, and cried like a woman when
obliged to part with his horse ; he was kindly treated by the general
and soon exchanged, and before leaving the Polish lancers a purse of
gold was given to him. The Cossack swore never again to fire at a
Pole, and was lost sight of.

In 1814, in France, the Cossacks were constantly at the heels of the
French, and the general made a bet with Lefevre Denouette, that in
the first encounter with the Cossacks he would not use his sword ; he
gained the bet, and narrowly escaped being shot or taken prisoner.
Most fortunately the same Cossack colonel recognised him, came to
his assistance, gave him a glass of brandy, did not allow any one to
fire at him, called him his friend, and exchanged almost every day
some friendly words with him. This anecdote, which the general
often mentioned, was corroborated by a Frenchman, at Chantilly, who
was the eye-witness of it.

The general's mother (sister of the celebrated Count Czacki, the most
learned man in Poland) amassed immense wealth, and was residing
in Podolia. Some of her relatives watched this wealth like a hawk
watches a partridge, and so much slandered him, that she became
visibly cold to her son, and inclined to make a will in favour of his
enemies. He was apprised of the trap, and having heard that the
Countess R was the undoubted favourite of his mother, and re-
sided with her, he came on a visit to his mother for three weeks, and
paid so much attention to the lady alluded to, that she prevailed on his
mother to live with him, and to give him all the cash she had, with
slight restriction. After this she retired, it is said, to a convent ; it
was the last of his celebrated conquests, accomplished at the age of

To give an idea of his energetic eloquence, and bewitching man
ners it is worthy to be mentioned, that Napoleon called him one
of the bravest, the most faithful, and the most dangerous of his
courtiers. The French marshals gave him a splendid sword as a
token of their regard for his fidelity to Napoleon. He is still alive,
and in favour at the Russian court. His discernment is so great that
he can read, as it were, the character of a man at twenty-five yards'
distance. lie is now busy, it is said, in writing his memoirs, and cer-
tainly they will be well written and extremely interesting.

His only son, Sigismond, received an excellent education, and has
written some beautiful novels and poems : but some passages are so
mystic and at the same time lofty, that it is no easy matter for

NOTES. 307

common minds to comprehend their meaning without explanation.
Many poems attributed to him are not his. He possesses a liberal
mind, stocked with extensive information. To noble sentiments and
sterling qualities he unites some minor faults ; but his conversational
powers and pleasing manners enable him to shine in polite society,
although he possesses neither the manly beauty nor the dashing elo-
quence of his father. He is fond of the company of scientific men ;
loves and dreads his father ; is a faithful friend and forgiving enemy.
Though slightly whimsical, he charms every one by his obliging dis-
position, but will never take the lead in any thing. He, however,
inherited from his father a peculiar tact in gently befooling others.
Indeed, practical joking seems almost necessary to his existence, and
if he cannot find somebody in high society to endure his jests, he
will be satisfied with any man, on whom he may safely indulge such
propensities. His jests, however, are ratlur piquant than offensive.
He is a great sportsman. His wife, an amiable, rich, and handsome
Ukrainian lady, who gave him two children, must have greatly
contributed to his comfort and happiness. He is not far from
forty, and is smaller and thinner than his father. He did not take
any part in the last war with Russia, in 1831. His father's estates
are Dunaiowce ; lackovce, in Podolia ; Opinogora, in the late king-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21

Online LibraryHenryk KrasinskiThe Cossacks of the Ukraine; comprising biographical notices of the most celebrated Cossack chiefs ... With a memoir of Princess Tarakanof, and some particulars respecting Catharine II., of Russia, and her favourites → online text (page 21 of 22)