William Richard Morfill.

Poland online

. (page 3 of 23)
Online LibraryWilliam Richard MorfillPoland → online text (page 3 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

independent Polish church, to which he subordinated
the other bishoprics which he had made, including
Posen, created by his father. Unfortunately, during his
long wars with the Germans, the Polabes, a powerful
tribe which occupied the territory now included in
the territory of Hanover, were lost to the Slavs, and
in course of time became more and more Germanised,
although their language did not die out till the earlier
part of last century^ It has survived in many names
of places, and also in a few vocabularies which have
been preserved. A grammar of this interesting
language was written by August Schleicher. Thus
by the commencement of the eleventh century Poland


had absorbed nearly all the western Slavonic states,
including Bohemia. Of the internal condition of the
country during this period we have very few accurate
details, as Dr. Schiemann truly remarks. We find
no trace in Poland, as we do in Russia, of veches, or
popular assemblies : the king confers with his comites
and the bishops. Society is organised entirely upon
a military basis. The country is divided into opolje
or viciniae — Thietmar uses the words pagi and pro-
vincice — and the king's governors or castellans were
stationed in the towns or fortresses. Most of the
towns appear to have been kept in this way in a state
of defence, and were generally the seats of bishoprics.
The privileged class in whose hands lay the power
was called the Szlachta, a word probably derived
from the German Geschlecht. Of the condition of
the rural population we shall speak afterwards. At
the present time we get no mention of it ; but it is
obvious that the frequent wars of Boleslas must have
filled the country with captives, who, according to the
laws of war of the time, became slaves. It will be
seen what effect their existence had upon the pre-
rural population.



BOLESLAS was succeeded by his son Mieczyslaw II.
(1026- 1 034), of whom it will be enough to say that
he divided Poland into palatinates. His reign was
in other respects insignificant. He was the second of
the three sons of Boleslas, the names of his brothers
being Bezprim and Dobremir. It is not known
whether Boleslas had divided his kingdom among
his sons, as was so frequently the custom at the
time ; perhaps Mieczyslaw had been able to drive
out Bezprim. He soon became involved in a quarrel
with Conrad, the German Emperor, who probably
would be ill-pleased with his having assumed the title
of king without his consent. Conrad seems to have
assisted Bezprim in his attempt to gain the throne, and
he returned to Poland and obtained the supremacy,
fully confessing his subordination to the German
Emperor by means of an embassy. He was, how-
ever, soon after murdered. Mieczyslaw, who had
fled, then returned. In 1034 he died. He is said
by some to have been a very weak king ; certainly



in his time Poland greatly receded from the position
she had held during the life of his father. Not only
the part on the Baltic coast was lost, and also Moravia,
but those portions of territory in the east which had
been gained at the expense of Russia. According to
Dr. Schiemann, it is in this reign that we can first dis-
tinctly trace the power of the Polish Szlachta or
nobility, destined to play so important a part in the
subsequent history. Moreover, owing to the weakness
of the government, there was a great recrudescence of
paganism ; for we can easily believe that Christianity
had hardly yet become firmly planted in the country.
Mieczyslaw was succeeded by his son Casimir (Kazi-
mierz, 1040-1058), during whose minority his mother,
Ryxa, as she is called by the Polish annalists, was
regent. The exact form of her name was Richeza.
She was a German, and daughter of a certain Pfalz-
graf Ego. She appears, however, to have soon be-
come unpopular, probably on account of her German
leanings, and was obliged to quit the country. It was
in Masovia that the heathen party, led by a certain
Moislaw, had its stronghold ; in order to make head
against them, Casimir formed an alliance with
Jaroslaw, the Prince of Kiev, and married his sister
Maria, otherwise called Dobrogniewa or Dobronega.
In consequence of this, in 1041, he received the as-
sistance of some Russian troops, but, probably as a
condition of their help, was obliged to cede definitely
to Kiev some of the Red Russian cities which Poland
had acquired. By his marriage with the Russian
princess, who thereupon abjured the Greek faith, he
became the brother-in-law of Henry I. of P'rance,


who had married another sister. The suzerainty of
the German Empire over Poland was again firmly
established. Casimir induced several monks to come
from Cluny in France, and founded two monasteries
for them, one near Cracow, and the other in Silesia,
which at that time formed part of the Polish kingdom.
Casimir died in the year 1058, and was buried at
Posen. Boleslas II,, the eldest of the four sons of
Casimir, succeeded him. The period of his coming
to the throne was a very favourable one for Poland.
Germany was in a great state of disturbance on the
death of the Emperor, Henry III. Boleslas allied
himself with the Russians, and some enemies of the
Germans, and on Christmas \\\c, in the year 1076,
assumed the kingly crown. But he came into conflict
with the spiritual power in the person of Stanislaus,
the l^ishop of Cracow, and killed him with his own
hand. The bishop had put all the churches of Cracow
under an interdict. Such a crime was not likely to
go unpunished in those days. Gregory VII. (Hilde-
brand) extended the interdict to the whole kingdom.
Boleslas was driven out of the country, and died in
Hungary in 1082, without, as far we know, having
made any attempt to regain his lost crown. His
subjects called to the throne his brother Ladislaus
(Wladyslaw). Anxious to have the interdict removed,
he at once despatched ambassadors to the Pope, who,
although he allowed the churches to be reopened,
refused to ratify the title of king ; for more than
two hundred years (1079- 1295) Poland remained, as
it had originaHy been, a simple duchy. Ladislaus
was twice married ; by his first wife, Judith, daughter



of the Bohemian Duke Vratislav, he had a son,
Boleslas, who afterwards succeeded him ; his second
wife was Sofia, daughter of the German Emperor.
Ladislaus was engaged in wars with the Bohemians
and the Pomeranians. Already before his death his son
Boleslas had distinguished himself. Ladislaus died
at Block in 1 102, as was suspected, of poison. Not
long before his death he had married Boleslas to the
daughter of Sviatopolk, the Grand Duke of Kiev.

Boleslas III. (1102-1139) was surnamed Krzy-
wousty, or the wry-mouthed, his mouth being
slightly twisted on account of a wound. We .shall
find many Polish kings, like our own, with similar
quaint nicknames. He was a redoubtable warrior,
and conquered and converted to Christianity, with
the aid of St. Otho, the Pomeranians from the Oder
to the Vistula. In the short period of about nine
months Otho had induced all the important towns
in their territory to accept Christianity, and had
baptized 22,166 persons. On February 11, 1 125, he
came back to Poland. Unfortunately, like the
Russian princes, he parcelled out his dominions
among his four sons. This weakened the rising
nationality ; among other disadvantages, Silesia was
lost to Poland, having become partly Germanised
under the Germanised princes of the elder lines of
the Piasts. The Polish language, however, is still
spoken in some of its district.s. The dominions of
Boleslas finally devolved to his youngest son Casimir,
who reigned from 1 178-1 194, and is chiefly remem-
bered as having summoned a council of the bishops
and nobles at T.(^czyca, and thus having laid the



foundations of the Polish senate. The order of
Cistercian monks was also introduced into the
country. The reigns of Leszek V., the White,
Ladislaus III., and Boleslas V.. present little worthy
our attention. Conrad, Duke of Masovia, and brother



of Leszek, allowed the order of Teutonic knights to
settle in the Polish territories on the Baltic, from
whom the Prussian monarchy, one of the great


enemies of the republic, was afterwards to develoji
itself He gave them the territory of Chelm and all
that they could conquer from the heathen Prussians.
These Teutonic knights were originally an order
founded at Jerusalem to take care of the pilgrims
who resorted thither. They were established by the
Pope in 1 191. Their habit was a black coat and a
white cloak with a black cross ; their weapon a large
sword without any ornament ; they slept upon a bed
of straw ; originally for diet they were only allowed
bread and water. An oath was taken by each candi-
date on entering that he was of German blood, of
noble family, and that he would lead a life of chastity.
Forty noble Germans at once became members of the
order as soon as it had been confirmed by the Pope.
We shall find these knights afterwards amalgamated
with the sword-bearers of Livonia.

In the reign of Boleslas V. (1227- 1279) a great
Mongolian invasion occurred. These barbarians,
issuing from their fastnesses in the steppes on the
banks of the Volga and in the Crimea, made an
incursion into Poland, but after the victory of Lignica
(Liegnitz), in Silesia in 1241, they were diverted into
Hungary. They carried off many prisoners and much
plunder. We are told that nine sacks were filled with
the ears of the slain. It was also in this reign that
large colonies of Germans settled in the country.
They were established as free inhabitants of the land,
in contradistinction to the Polish peasant, who was
becoming more and more enslaved and weighed down
by the corv/e required of him. A whole series of
German towns sprung up. Owing to the little inch-


nation of the natives for trade, which seems a charac-
teristic of the Slavs, commerce in the towns fell
almost entirely into the hands of these colonists, who
enjoyed peculiar privileges, and were governed by laws
of their own as embodied in \.\\q Jus Magdehii^gicum ;
up to the time of Casimir the Great they had a
right of appeal to the magistrate at Magdeburg. It
is from this time that we can trace the introduction of
many German words into the Polish language. It
was in the thirteenth century also that the Armenians
first made their appearance in the country. They
became of great importance as traders, and under
their influence the city of Lemberg (Lwow) attained
considerable prosperity. Of Leszek, surnamed the
Black, who succeeded (1279-1289), the reign was un-
eventful, but Przemyslaw, who began to rule in 1295,
reconstituted Poland as a kingdom without troubling
himself about the papal authority, and received the
crown from his nobles and clergy at Gnesen. Of him
we shall speak in the following chapter.


Przemyslaw promised to be an efficient ruler, but
was not destined to occupy the throne for more than
seven months, being murdered at Rogozno, not far
from Posen, and close to the Prussian frontier Pass-
ing over Wencelaus (Waclaw), who was also King cf
Bohemia, we come to Ladislaus Lokietek, or the
Dwarf (so called from Lokiec an ell, on account of his
shortness). The most noteworthy event of his reign
was his war with the Teutonic knights, in which he
was glad to make peace, although in 1 331 he gained
a victory over them at Plovvcze in Cujavia. The war
led to no very definite result, but during the time of
Wladyslaw we see the great rise of the Lithuanian
principality under Gedymin. Some heretics made
their appearance in Poland about this time, advoca-
ting communistic doctrines ; they were suppressed,
and from this dates the establishment of the Inquisi-
tion in Poland in a somewhat mild form, which lasted
till the reign of Sigismund I, About 13 12 Cracow




becomes prominent as the capital, and around it is
gathered the national life : Ladislaus Lokietek was
the first monarch crowned there. Ladislaus had


married Jadwiga, the daughter of Boleslas, prince of
Kalisz : he died at the aged of 73 in 1333, after an
agitated life, and was buried in the cathedral at

40 FROM THE YEAR 1 295 TO 1 386.

Cracow. The granite monument over his remains
shows the life-sized statue of the king.

Concerning the internal condition of the country
more will be said in a subsequent chapter ; there were
only two classes of people (excluding the ecclesiastics),
the szlachta, or nobility, and the narod, or people.
The burghers in the towns were Germans. The narod
was divided into the free peasants {libert), and those
attached to the glebe {adscripticii, adscript i, servi
glebce), who were the property of their masters. The
free peasants paid a rent to the owner of the land
which they cultivated, but could leave it when they
felt inclined. About this time the word cmeto, or
kmetJio, begins to make its appearance in documents.
It has been derived by some from the Latin comes.
It originally included both free and bond. Traces
also of something like a parliamentary system accord-
ing to Dr. Schiemann, may be found for the first time
in the councils which began to be held to discuss the
affairs of the kingdom and to administer justice.

Ladislaus was succeeded by his son Casimir III.,
who has earned among his countrymen the appella-
tion of the great, and also that of the peasants'
king (Krol Chlopow). The material prosperity of
the country increased under his rule. Commerce was
developed, and Cracow and Danzig became members
of the Hanseatic League. We also begin to hear of
Warsaw, which was destined subsequently to become
the capital. Ladislaus had assembled the first known
Seyjn, or Diet, at Ch^ciny {generalem omnium terrartim
conventiini) ; it consisted of the princes (we find the
terms principes, procercs, nobiles continually recurring).



prelates, barons, and knights. Caslmir in 1364 laid the
foundation of the University of Cracow by the estab-
lishment in the village of Wav^el (nov^^ Kazimierz, the
suburb of Cracow), a stiidiiim generale of the three
faculties — law, medicine, and philosophy. But the
attempt did not succeed ; there was a lack of pro-
fessors, and no definite results of teaching were ob-
tained. Finally, in the time of Lewis, the successor


of Casimir, the institution came to an end, and the
Polish youth repaired for education to the sister uni-
versity of Prague. It was reserved for Queen Jad-
wiga and her husband Ladislaus Jagiello to carry out
the plan of Casimir. In 1340 the principality of
Galicia was united to Poland : the last duke had died
the preceding year, and his territory lay at the mercy
of the invader. The Poles, therefore, were not long
before they seized it. We must remember that in

42 FROM THE YEAR I295 TO I386.

earlier times some of its towns had belonged to them.
It has never been thoroughly Polonized, the bulk of
the population even to the present day speaking the
Malo-Russian language.

In 1347 was held the celebrated diet of Wislica
near Cracow, at which the so-called statute was
enacted, the first monument of the Polish jurispru-
dence. The code consists of two parts: (i) that
dealing with Great Poland, which was enacted at
Piotrkow ; and (2) that dealing with Little Poland, at
Wislica. They were formed into one code in 1368.
Throughout her history we shall see that the pro-
vinces of Poland had many separate laws and privi-
leges. These statutes are in the I>atin language,
which was then much used in the country. We have
seen that a national diet was at this time a regular
feature of the country ; it consisted of the barons and
upj-ar clergy. We hear nothing of the burghers
being admitted, and indeed nothing corresponding to
a native middle class existed in Poland. The free
peasants and the serfs, strictly so called, who had no
rights— sometimes called /^r^^>^/ or originaidi, besides
the names by which they have been already men-
tioned — were already becoming fused into a class of
mere bondmen. The number of peasants, taken in
the wars, who were reduced to slavery had a depressing
influence upon the condition of the free peasants.
Wherever, as Chicherin says, such relations have
existed, they have invariably had a tendency to cause
the free peasants to be enslaved. The same thing
appears to have occurred in Russia, where the peasant
became enslaved gradually and for economic reasons.



In the statute of Wislica are many enactments favour-
able to the peasant : the wretched condition into which
he sunk in Poland will be fully discussed in a subse-
quent chapter.

The reign of Casimir saw a continual influx of Ger-
man artisans and traders into Poland, but he took away
the appeal to Magdeburg in 1364, and established a


court for the citizens at Cracow. Many handsome build-
ings were erected throughout the countrx', and security
of life and property was established. The chronicler
Jan von Czarnkow has left us a long list of the
fortresses and towns built by this really great
monarch. Though Casimir was thrice married, he
had but one child, and she was a daughter. He

44 FROM THE YitAR T295 TO T386.

convoked a Diet at Cracow on the 8th of May,
I339> ^" which he proposed as his successor his
nephew, Louis of Hungary, the son of his sister
Elizabeth. This was to concede to the diet a very
important privilege, tliat of electing their sovereigns.
The nobles soon made use of the concession. Before
they allowed Louis to succeed they exacted some
important terms from him which were the foundation
of the pac/a conventa.

Casimir was engaged in constant wars with the
Russians, Lithuanians, and Mongols. The kingdom
was put in an admirable state of defence by an
ordinance something like our commission of array ;
on an appeal called Wici, every one, at the first
summons, had to get ready for the war. At the
second every man mounted his horse and betook
himself to the place appointed for the gathering.
At the third they were organized by the Castellan,
who handed them over to the Wojewode. When
the whole host was gathered together, the supreme
command belonged to the king.

In 1334 the great statute concerning the Jews was
enacted. There is also another statute called privilegia
Judceoriun, dated 1357. Casimir is said to have favoured
the Jews on account of his fondness for a Jewess
named Esther, but the tale is rejected by the historian
Caro. We have seen the king successful both in
his foreign wars and the internal development of the
country. The privileges granted by the Jus Magde-
biirgicnm, filled in a short time the cities and villages
which had been devastated by the Tatars and other
enemies with German settlers, Armenians and Jews,


Trade was carried on with Nuremberg, Augsburg,
Venice, the Hungarians, Southern Russia, and Eng-
land. But Casimir is considered by the Poles to
have been a luxurious sovereign ; John of Czarnkovv,
the archdeacon of Gnesen, has told us of the brilliant
scenes which occurred at Cracow in December, 1363,
when the king, in conjunction with Duke Bolko of
Schweidnitz, acted as umpire in a dispute between
the Emperor Charles and King Louis of Hungary.
Charles married Elizabeth, the granddaughter of the
PoHsh king, and held his wedding festivities at Cracow.
The Emperor, four kings, and numerous princes and
lords were present on this brilliant occasion. We can
imagine how picturesque the fine old city must have
appeared —

" With store of ladies, whose bright eyes
Rain'd influence and adjudged the prize."

There were, however, dark sides to this picture.
Casimir, who was a man of very irregular life, was
not happy in his matrimonial alliances. Wladyslaw,
his father, had effected a marriage for him with
Anna Aldona, the daughter of Gedymin, the Prince
of Lithuania. After her death he contracted a
marriage with Margaret, the daughter of John of
Bohemia, killed at the battle of Crecy. But she is
said to have died of grief at her approaching union
with a man whom she disliked. In 1341 Casimir
married Adelaide of Hesse, a woman of no per-
sonal attractions. With her he soon quarrelled,
and banished her to the castle of Jarnowec, where
she remained fifteen years without seeing her hus-

46 FROM THE YEAR 1 295 TO 1 386.

band. The conduct of Casimir was so licentious
that, after useless remonstrances, the Archbishop of
Cracow excommunicated him, and sent a priest to
bring to him the intelligence of his punishment.
But the unfortunate ecclesiastic was doomed to
expiate his courage by being thrust into a dungeon
at once, and during the night thrown into the Vistula.
He was thus destined to have the same fate as St.
John Nepomuk suffered for administering a rebuke
to the drunken Wenceslaus of Bohemia. Casimir,
however, afterwards submitted himself to the Pope
and received absolution. His third wife was Jadwiga,
daughter of the Prince of Glogau.

In some of his foreign political measures, Casimir
did not show his usual prudence. His father on his
death-bed had advised him to make no concessions
to the Margrave of Brandenburg, nor to the Teutonic
knights, whom the Poles had foolishly allowed to
settle down close by them. But Casimir, to sa\e
Cujavia and Dobrzyn, which had been seized by the
knights, gave up Pomerania to them in spite of the
remonstrance of the Pope. He also bought off the
claims of the King of Bohemia to the crown of
Poland by the cession of all Silesia, now almost
completely German. The Polish tongue, however,
may still be heard in the neighbourhood of Oppeln,
and even in some parts of Breslau (Wroclaw), although
the town is now completely Germanized.

Casimir's death was caused by a fall from his
horse while hunting, near Cracow, on the 3th of
November, 1370. He lies buried in the Cathedral
of Cracow, which contains so many interesting


monuments of the Polish kings. His tomb is of
reddish-brown marble. The monarch is represented
as lying under a baldachin, supported by pillars ,
he is clothed in his royal mantle ; his crowned head
rests on a cushion ; in his hand he holds the sceptre
and globe, and a lion is at his feet. So rests the
great king in his capital, which has now passed into
the hands of his enemies. His monument gives us
an authentic portrait of him ; his contemporaries
speak of him as a man of compact build, with a
broad forehead and curly hair.

He was succeeded by Louis of Hungary (1370-
1382), whose reign is insignificant for Polish history,
except that the power of the nobility is still con-
stantly on the increase. At the diet of Koszyczin,
1^74, he secured the throne to his daughter Jadwiga,
as he had no male offspring ; but only by conceding
great privileges to the nobility which again foreshadow
the /facta conve^ita ; he freed among other tfiings the
szlachta almost entirely from taxation. He died in
1382, and with him the male line of the Piasts ended.

One of the earliest of the interregnums now occurred
which were always fraught with so much mischief to
Poland. Jadwiga, the daughter of Louis, succeeded,
but was compelled by the diet to marry Jagiello, the
Lithuanian prince, with a view to the union of that
country with Poland. We have already said some-
thing about this country. The derivation of the
name Litwa is obscure ; we do not hear anything
about the people till the beginning of the thirteenth
century. They were obscure barbarians, inhabiting
a corner of Europe. At that period Mindovg, one of



their chiefs, formed his territories into a principality,
and the importance of the country was at its hei<^ht,
under one of his successors, Gedymin, who contrived
to get into his possession many of the Russian cities,
including even Kiev. The capital of this Lithua-

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryWilliam Richard MorfillPoland → online text (page 3 of 23)