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Turks were overpowered by the fiery onslaught of
the Poles. Six pashas were slain, and the Vizier fled


with the remnant of his army. The booty gained
was immense. In the course of his retreat from the
field of battle, the Vizier, Kara Mustapha, reached
Belgrad. He was destined to atone for his failures
by the usual fate of disgraced ministers and generals
in Turkey. On the 25th of December of the same
year, the messengers charged with the Sultan's orders
made their appearance in the city. From one of the
windows of his palace Mustapha beheld the emissaries
approach, and with the conventional stoicism of the
Turks submitted to the bow-string. His head was
sent to the Sultan, who afterwards caused it to be
given back to the city of Belgrad, and it was there
deposited in a mosque. When that city was sur-
rendered subsequently to the Christians, the head of
the Vizier was discovered and sent by Bishop Kol-
lonitsch to Vienna, where it now adorns the arsenal.
It looks like the skull of a low-organized, almost
brutal man.

We are enabled to follow the battle in its minutest
details by means of the letters which Sobieski wrote
to his wife, which have luckily been preserved.
She was a Frenchwoman, named Marie Casimire
d'Arquiens, daughter of Henri de la Grange, cap-
tain of the guard to Philip, Duke of Orleans, and
had been originally maid of honour to Marie Louise,
wife successively of Ladislaus and Casimir. She
was then married to Count Zamojski, and after his
death became the wife of Sobieski. Louis XIV., in
his jealousy towards the house of Austria, would have
been quite willing that she should be sacrificed, and
accordingly did what he could to deter Sobieski from


rendering assistance. He had, however, insulted the
hero's French wife by refusing the title of duke to her
father, and she used all her influence with her husband
to induce him to assist Austria, a country for which
otherwise he had very little predilection. Moreover,
in her sympathies she had become a complete Pole,
and in the Polish language her husband's letters to
her were written.

It is from these letters that we are able to form an
excellent idea of the progress and successes of
Sobieski. This great man was completely under
the dominion of his wife, and during all the harassing
events of the campaign we find him continually
writing to soothe her jealousy. He thus expresses
himself in one of these epistles : —

" I must complain of you to yourself, my charming
and incomparable Mariette. How is it possible that
you have not a better opinion of me after all the
proofs of tenderness which I have given you ? Can
you seriously affirm that I do not read your letters ?
Can you believe it, while it is a fact that in the
midst of all my occupations and cares I read each
of them at least three times? the first time when
they come ; the second when I go to bed — in fact,
when I am free ; and the third when I set about
answering them. I intreat you, my love, for my
sake, not to rise so early. What constitution could
endure it, especially when a person goes to rest so
late as you do. You will pain me greatly if you
pay no attention to my request ; you will deprive me
of rest and health, and, what is much worse, you
will injure your own, which is my only consolation in

THE king's letter. 1 65

this world. ... So do not throw the blame of your
own fault upon another ; but show me, on the con-
trary, by words, and especially by action, that you
will preserve a constant attachment for your faithful
and devoted Celadon."

How strange it is to find the corpulent soldier
adopting, according to the fashion of his time, the
picturesque name of a shepherd ! Such was the
thraldom in which this tyrannical lady held the hero.
But history has reason to be deeply grateful to her,
for she is the means of our getting very valuable

The most interesting of all the letters is that in
which the conqueror gives an account of his victory,
and we here add it in full : —

" In the Tent of the Vizier.

" The i^th of September, at night,
"Only joy of my soul, charming and much loved
Mariette ! God be praised for ever ! He has given
the victory to our nation ! He has given such a
triumph as past ages have never seen. All the artil-
lery, all the camp of the Musulmans, infinite riches
have fallen into our hands. The approaches to the
city, the fields round, are covered with the dead of
the infidel army, and the remains of it are flying in
consternation. Our people are bringing us every
minute camels, mules, oxen, and sheep, which the
enemy had with him, and besides an innumerable
quantity of prisoners. The victory has been so
sudden and so extraordinary that, in the city as in
the camp, there was always a state of alarm. People


fancied every moment that they saw the enemy
return. He has left in powder and ammunition to
the value of a million florins. I was witness this
night to a spectacle which I had long desired to see.
Our baggage-companies have in several places set
fire to gunpowder ; the explosion was like that of the
Last Judgment, without, however, doing injury to any
one. I could see on the occasion in what way clouds
are formed in the atmosphere, but it is a misfortune ;
it is really a loss of half a million. The Vizier, Kara
Mustapha, abandoned everything in his flight, he has
only kept his clothing and horse. It is I who am his
heir, for the greater part of his wealth has fallen into
my hands.

"Advancing with the first line, and driving the
Vizier before me, I met with one of his servants, who
conducted me into the tents of his private court ;
these tents alone occupy a space as great as the city
of Warsaw or Lemberg. I seized all the decorations
and flags which were ordinarily carried before the
Vizier. As to the grand standard of Mahomet,
which his sovereign entrusted to him for this war, I
sent it to the Holy Father by Talenti. Moreover,
we have rich tents, superb equipages, and a thousand
other very rich and very beautiful toys. I have not
seen all yet ; but there is no comparison with what
we saw at Chocim (where, it will be remembered,
Sobieski won a victory over the Turks about the
time of the death of King Michael Korybut) ; four or
five quivers mounted with rubies and sapphires are
worth alone some thousands of ducats. You will not,
then, say to me, my love, like the Tatar women to

THE king's letter. 167

their husbands, when they return without booty,
* You are no warrior, since you have not brought me
anything ; for only the man who goes in front can
get anything.' I have also a horse once belonging to
the Vizier, with all his harness. He himself was
pursued very closely, but he escaped. His kiyaia, or
first lieutenant, was killed, as well as a number of the
other principal officers. Our soldiers have got hold
of many sabres mounted with gold. Niglit put an
end to the pursuit ; but even during the night the
Turks can make an obstinate defence. In this
respect i/s ont fait la plus belle retirade du monde.
Nevertheless, the Janissaries in the trenches were
forgotten, and during the night they were all cut to
pieces. Such was the pride and the presumption of
the Turks, that while one part of the army offered us
battle another part assaulted the city. So they had
enough men for both. I estimate them at 300,000
combatants. I counted about 100,000 tents. For
two nights and a day any one who likes may take
them, even the people of the city have come for their
share of the booty. I am sure they will have enough
to occupy them for eight days. The Turks left in
their flight many prisoners, natives of the country,
especially women, but they massacred all they could.
Many of the women are only wounded, and may be
set right again. I saw yesterday a child of four years
of age whose head one of these cowards had cloven
down to the mouth. A fine ostrich was found ; but
the Vizier had had its head cut off, so that it should
not fall into the hands of the Christians.

" It is impossible to describe all the refinement of


luxury which the Vizier had collected in his tents.
There were baths, little gardens with fountains, even
a parrot, which our soldiers pursued but could not
capture. To-day I went to see the city ; it could not
have held out longer than five days. It is all riddled
with bullets ; those immense bastions perforated and
half tumbling to pieces have a terrible aspect ; on i
would think they were great masses of rocks. All
the soldiers did their duty ; they attribute the victory
to God and ourselves. At the moment when the
enemy began to give way the greatest danger was at
the spot where I found myself opposite to the Vizier.
All the remaining cavalry of the army turned towards
me on the right wing ; the centre and the left wing
having already very little to do. I then saw the
Elector of Bavaria, the Prince of Waldeck, and many
other German princes ; they embraced me and kissed
me. The soldiers, the foot and cavalry officers cried
out : ' Ah ! unser braver Konig ! '

" It is only this morning that I have seen the Prince
of Lorraine and the Elector of Saxony ; we could
not meet yesterday because they were at the extreme
left. I had given them some squadrons of our
hussars, commanded by the Marshal of the Court,
Jerome Lubomirski. The commandant of the town,
Stahremberg, also came to see me yesterday. All
have embraced me, and called me their saviour. I
have been in two churches, where the people kissed
my hands, feet, and clothes ; others, who could only
touch me at a distance, cried out, ' Ah ! let me kiss
your victorious hands.' They seemed to wish to cry
out vivat^ but were prevented from fear of their

THE king's letter. i6g

officers and other superiors. Nevertheless a crowd
of people shouted out a kind of vivat I remarked
that their superiors regarded this conduct with dis-
favour, and so, after having dined with the com-
mandant, I hastened to quit the town and to return
to the camp. The crowd accompanied me almost to
the gates. The Emperor has sent to let me know
that he is a few miles off; but I have not much hope
of meeting him. We have not lost many of our men
in battles ; but we must regret especially two persons,
Modrzewski and young Potocki, whom I cannot men-
tion without shedding tears. Among the strangers
the Prince of Croz has been wounded, and a good
many others have perished. The well-known Capu-
chin, Marco Aviano, has never ceased kissing me and
pressing me to his heart. He declares that he saw
during the battle a white dove flying over the Chris-
tian soldiery. This priest has now gone to Hungar}'
to pursue the infidels. As soon as the Vizier saw
that he could hold out no longer, he called his two
sons to him, and having embraced them, said with
tears to the Tatnr Khan : ' Save me, if you are able
to do so.' The Khan answered : 'We know well the
King of Poland ; it is impossible to resist him ; let us
rather think how we can escape from this place.'

" They have just discovered a great quantity of
ammunition. I do not know what they have left,
with which they will be able to fire upon us. I have
just received information that the enemy has aban-
doned twenty cannons in his flight. I am about to
get on horseback to go into Hungary, and I hope, as
I said when I left you, to see you again at Stryc,


The princes of Bavaria and Saxony are ready to go
with me to the end of the world. We shall have to
double our pace throughout the first two miles on
account of the insupportable odours of the bodies of
men, horses, and camels. I have written to the King
of France ; I told him that it was to him especially,
as to the most Christian king, that I ought to make
my report about the battle gained and the safety of
Christendom. Notre Fanfan (the young Prince
James) is brave in the highest degree."

Such is the account given in one of the king's
letters ; we have thought our readers would pardon
its discursiveness and repetitions, on account of this
interesting personal glimpse of a very remarkabli^
man. These letters were accidentally discovered in
1823 among the papers of one of the ancestors of
Count Raczinski, who had held an important diplo-
matic post. That solemn farceur^ however, ani
highly important plerson, the most Christian king,
was not at all pleased at the result of Sobieski's
campaign. To weaken Austria he would have cheer-
fully made an alliance with the Turk or any other
barbarian. The extracts from the French State
Papers, which have been recently published by the
Academy of Cracow, show the constant efforts of
Louis XIV. to attach Sobieski and his wife, for she
had always to be taken into account, to a French
alliance. The same year in which the great siege of
Vienna took place there was an actual rupture
between the French and Polish Governments. The
French ambassador asked for an audience to take

SOBIE ski's triumph. 171

leave, which was granted on the 28th of May. But
before he could get away his house at Warsaw was
assailed by a party of cavaliers, who fired at the
windows, without, however, injuring any one. We
shall find Louis after the great victory doing all he
could to minimise its importance, but he was unable
to silence the voice of Europe. The fine ode of Fili-
caja, the Italian poet, to Sobieski is but the echo of
the universal voice of gratitude and praise. The
petty struggles of the Grand Monarque in matters of
etiquette, because Sobieski was only an elected king,
we shall find repeated by the miserable Leopold.

Meanwhile the morning after the complete rout of
the Turks, Sobieski and his troops entered the city,
and divine service was performed in the cathedral.
A sermon was preached upon the text : " There was
a man sent from God w^hose name was John." In
spite of his success the brave Pole was doomed to
meet with neglect at the hands of the imbecile
Austrian. The absurd stickling about etiquette of
the Emperor is fully described in another of the
letters, which the king addressed to his wife. He
returned to Cracow on the 23rd of December.

In the following year Sobieski entered into a league
offensive and defensive with the Emperor and the
Republic of Venice against the Turks. While the
Imperial troops were engaged upon the Danube and
the Venetians in the Morea, the Poles were to attack
the Osmanlis on the side of Wallachia. By a secret
article of this treaty it was stipulated that the latter
province and Moldavia should be absolutely subject
to Sobieski, and that he might dispose of them to


his eldest son. The king entered Moldavia, and
made himself master of it, but the difficulty was how
to hold a country that had no fortified places. More-
over, Sobieski was ill supported by the turbulent
Polish nobility, who gave another proof of their utter
want of patriotic feeling. They seemed to have no
sense of union ; no realisation of anything beyond
family interests. In the same year (1686) Wilanow,
a pleasure-retreat of the king's, near Warsaw, was
built, chiefly by the labours of the Turkish captives.
It still remains an interesting monument of the
former grandeur of the country.


The remaining years of the reign of Sobieski
were embittered by constant disputes in the diets,
several of which were broken off by the exercise of
the liberum veto. He twice meditated abdicating,
and he had no peace at home owing to family dis-
sensions. His wife, of whom he was so passionately
fond, was a beautiful woman, but avaricious, despotic,
and revengeful. Broken by disease, and harassed
by the continued tumults round him, the great soldier
expired on the 17th of June, 1696, at his favourite
residence, Wilanow. Some account of his last
moments has been given us bv the Chancellor Zaluski,


Bishop of Plock. The queen had been alarmed by
some symptoms in her husband's ilhiess, and urged
the bishop to go to the king, and, in an indirect way,
to suggest that he should make some arrangement of
his affairs. Zaluski, on entering the chamber of the
sick man, found him in great pain, but endeavoured
to give him comfort and some hopes of recovery.
But Sobieski replied : " I see my approaching end ;
my situation will be the same to-morrow as it is
to-day ; all consolation is now too late." Then,
sighing deeply, his Majesty asked him why he came
so seldom to Court, and with what he had been so
busy in his diocese. Zaluski, after expatiating upon
the duties of his episcopal office, and the resources
of literature, for our bishop was an author, artfully
turned the discourse to what was the real object of
his visit. " Lately," said he, " I have been employed
in no very agreeable, yet a necessary, duty ; weighing
the frail condition of human nature, remembering
that, as Socrates and Plato, so all men must die ; and
considering the dissensions which may arise among
my relations after my decease, I have taken an
inventory of my effects, and have disposed of them
by will." The king, who saw the purport of his dis-
course, interrupted him with a loud laugh, and
exclaimed, in a quotation from Juvenal, O inedici
mediain contundite venam (meaning to insinuate that
the bishop was mad). " What, my lord bishop !
you, whose judgment and good sense I have so long
esteemed, do you make your will ? What a useless
loss of time ! " Not discouraged by his remarks, the
bishop persevered in suggesting, " that in justice to


his family and country he ought without delay to
regulate the disposal of his effects, and to declare
his final wishes." " For God's sake," replied Sobieski,
" do not suppose that any good thing can come out
of this age ! when vice has increased to such an
enormous degree as almost to exclude all hopes of
forgiveness from the mercy of the Deity. Do you
not see how great is the public iniquity, tumult, and
violence ? All strive to blend good and evil without
distinction : the morals of my subjects are perverted ;
can you again restore them ? My orders are not
attended to while I am alive ; can I expect to be
obeyed when I am dead ? That man is happy who,
with his own hand, disposes of his effects, which
cannot be entrusted with security to his executors ;
while they who bequeath them by will act absurdly
by consigning to the care of others what is more
secure in the hands of their nearest relations. Have
not the regulations made by the kings my prede-
cessors been despised after their deaths ? Where
corruption universally prevails, judgment is obtained
by money ; the voice of conscience is not heard, and
reason and equity are no more ! " Then suddenly
giving a ludicrous turn to the conversation, he ex-
claimed, "What can you say to this, Mr. Will-maker?
(' Quid ad hcBc, Domine testamentarie ')."

Such were the last words of the great soldier, who
saw from what his country was suffering. We may
say, in the lines of the American poet —

** None beheld with clearer eye
The plague-spot o'er her spreading."


The family of the Sobieskis is now extinct, and
with him may be said to have sunk the glory of
Poland. Dr. Robert South, the eminent divine who
visited Poland as chaplain to an embassy, has left
us an interesting account of the country. He thus
describes Sobieski —

" The king is a very well spoken prince, very easy
of access, and extreme civil, having most of the
qualities requisite to form a complete gentleman.
He is not only well versed in all military affairs, but
likewise, through the means of a French education,
very opulently stored with all polite and scholastic
learning. Besides his own tongue, the Sclavonian,
he understands the Latin, French, Italian, German,
and Turkish languages ; he delights much in natural
history, and in all the parts of physic. He is wont
to reprimand the clergy for not admitting the modern
philosophy, such as Le Grand's and Cartesius', into
the universities and schools.

" As to what relates to his Majesty's person, he is
a tall and corpulent prince, large-faced, and full eyes,
and goes always in the same dress with his subjects,
with his hair cut round about his ears like a monk,
and wears a fur cap, but extraordinary rich with
diamonds and jewels, large whiskers (/>., moustaches),
and no neck-cloth. A long robe hangs down to his
heels in the fashion of a coat, and a waistcoat under
that, of the same length, tied close about the waist
with a girdle. He never wears any gloves, and this
long coat is of strong scarlet cloth, lined in the
winter with rich fur, but in summer only with silk.
Instead of shoes he always ^ears both abroad and


at home Turkey leather boots, with very thin soles,
and hollow, deep heels made of a blade of silver,
bent hoop-wise into the form of a half-moon. He
carries always a large scimitar by his side, the sheath
equally flat and broad from the handle to the bottom,
and curiously set with diamonds."

Owing to the continual wars in Sobieski's reign,
the common people suffered much, and the recollec-
tion of what they endured is embodied in the saying
which was often heard in Poland during the last
century of its independence —

*' Za krola Sasa,
Jedz, pij, popuszczaj pasa;
A za krola Sol)ka,
Nie bylo w polu snopka."

" In the time of the Saxon king,
Eat, drink, and loosen your girdle ;
But in the time of king Sobko
1 here was not a sheaf in the fields."

The reader may be curious to know what was the
ultimate fate of the beautiful and capricious Marie,
to whom Sobieski addressed such uxurious epistles
during the great siege, in each of which she was
styled the only joy of his soul. She passed the first
part of her widowhood at Rome with her father, the
Marquis d'Arquiens. In that country she continued
to reside till the year 17 14, when she retired to
France. Louis XIV. gave her the castle of Blois
as a residence, and she died there in 17 16. Her
remains were taken to Warsaw, and from thence
conveyed, together with those of her husband, in 1734
to Cracow, and interred in the cathedral.


After the death of Sobieski, his youngest son,
Constantine, lived on his father's estate at Zolkiew.
Alexander, who greatly resembled the king, died at
Rome in the Convent of the Capuchins ; the eldest,
James, who had married Jadwiga, the Princess of
Neuburg, lived in Silesia, in the city of Olawa, given
to him, according to a family compact, by his brother-
in-law, the Emperor Leopold. The only daughter of
the king, the Princess Teresa Cunigunda, was married
to the Elector of Bavaria. James had a son who
died, and three daughters of great personal beauty,
Cazimiera, Carolina, and Clementina. By their mother,
Jadwiga, or Hedwig, one of whose sisters was married
to the Emperor Leopold, another to the Spanish king,
Charles, a third to Pedro, of Portugal, the three
grand-daughters of John III. of Poland were related
to the principal royal families of Europe. To the little
Court at Olawa there came in the year 17 18 an Irish
gentleman named Murray with an important com-
munication. This was none other than to demand the
hand of the princess Clementina for James Stuart, the
son of James II., of England, commonly called the
Old Pretender. Although the Stuarts were in exile,
they were regarded by a large part of Europe as the
rightful heirs to the English throne, and their restora-
tion was by no means despaired of by their adhe-
rents. Still, circumstances had latterly little favoured
the claims of the Pretender. George I. had succeeded
James Stuart's half-sister Anne, and he himself had
been banished from France. He then put himself
under the protection of the Papal Court. Clement
XI., the Pontiff, was the godfather of the young



princess, and it was probably by his suggestion that
the marriage was arranged. On the 24th of June,
17 18, the young prince wrote a letter to the parents
of Clementina, demanding her hand, and also to the
young lady herself. His offer was accepted. But
opposition was to be feared from the European
powers, especially since the Austrian Court was on
friendly terms with the Hanoverian dynasty in
England, and James Sobieski was a kind of dependent
of Austria, and could do nothing without permission
from Vienna. It was only by a carefully arranged
disguise that the princess was able to reach Italy so

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Online LibraryWilliam Richard MorfillPoland → online text (page 10 of 23)