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nian state was Wilno, and it extended from the
Baltic to the Black Sea. The official language of
the country was White Russian, and in this tongue
its laws were promulgated. In 1240, the Lithuanians
had already come into contact with the Teutonic
knights, their redoubtable foes.

Jadwiga was a woman of beauty and spirit, and
Jagiello is said to have been a man of savage manners,
but she consented to the union, although she had half
given her affections to an Austrian prince. Lithuania
was thus annexed to Poland ; a more complete
federation took place at Lublin in the year 1569.
Jagiello was a pagan, but was ready to turn Christian,
and, indeed, was born of a Christian mother. He also
numbered among his subjects many members of the
Orthodox Church, with whose creed neither he nor his
predecessors appear to have interfered. A marriage,
as we have seen, had previously taken place between
the sovereigns of the two countries, as the first wife
of Casimir the Great, Anna Aldona, was a daughter
of Gedymin, the Lithuanian prince. The Austrian
archduke, to whom Jadwiga had previously plighted
her troth, made his appearance with a splendid
retinue at Cracow ; but, finding that nothing could
come of his suit, retired. In 1386 Jagiello married
Jadwiga, and took the name of Ladislaus (Wadyslaw)
on his conversion, and in his person begins the


FROM THE YEAR 1 295 TO 1 386.

dynasty of the Jagiellos, which lasted for nearly two
centuries, terminating in 1572 with Sigismund
AugustiSs. We might even say that it lasted nearly
a century longer, omitting the short and brilliant
reign of Stephen Batory (i 576-1 586), for Sigismund
III. was the son of Catharine, sister of Sigismund IL
and Wladyslaw IV. and John Casimir were his sons.




(1 386-1 507.)

Poland was now steadily advancing in prosperity,
and gradually assuming its position as the great power
of Eastern Europe ; which it continued to be till
nearly the close of the seventeenth century. After
Jagiello had been baptized, his Lithuanian subjects
followed his example, undergoing the same com-
pulsory conversion which the Russians had ex-
perienced in the time of Vladimir. They seem,
however, from the narratives of travellers to have
preserved many heathen customs for a long time
afterwards. Herbcrstein, who visited Russia at the
commencement of the sixteenth century, has some
strange stories to tell us, and we shall find a recru-
descence of their paganism, as we have done in the
case of the Poles at an earlier period. The Teutonic
order felt like Othello, that their occupation was gone
when the heathen Lithuanians had been converted, and
there w^s no further need of their " apostolic blows and
knocks." Their position, indeed, was a precarious


one, surrounded as they were by powerful and united
enemies. They betook themselves to intrigue, and
there are even found indications of a plan which
the Grand Master had entered into for dismember-
ing the country ; they looked to any of the neigh-
bouring peoples who were hostile to the growing
state. The nobles gained some important conces-
sions from Ladislaus ; the fusion of the two states
was not a light matter, and we shall see in the course
of our narrative to what jealousies it gave rise. They
secured for themselves exemption from all taxes
when called to serve beyond the frontiers, and an
allowance of five marks a day for every horseman ; they
also procured the exclusion of members of the royal
family from all the higher offices of the state, which they
reserved for themselves. Jagiello displeased his old
subjects by transferring his residence to Cracow, and
during his reign there was a simultaneous rising of
the pagan and Orthodox Lithuanians, the latter
dreading the influence of Catholicism. They put
themselves under Vitovt, the grandson of Gedymin,
and made such a vigorous stand, that Jagiello, in
1392, created Lithuania into a sort of appanage of
the crown of Poland under Vitovt, who died in 1430,
aged eighty. One of the results of the new union
was a vigorous attack of the combined forces against
their old enemies, the Teutonic knights, whom they
defeated at the great battle of Grlinwald, near
Tannenberg in Prussia, in 1410, in which Ulrich von
Jungingen, the Grand Master, was killed. In one of
the battles between the Teutonic knights and the
Lithuanians, Henry Bolingbroke, afterwards Henry


IV. of England, fought. Chaucer, it will be remem-
bered, says of his knight —

" Ful ofte time he had the bord bygonne
Aboven alle naciouns in Pruce ;
In Lettowe hadde he reysed and in Ruce."

On the day after the battle King Ladislaus wrote
to his (second) wife Anna and to the Bishop of Posen.
The letters have been preserved ; a translation of
the former is given in his History by Dr. Schie-
mann. Ladislaus died in 1434, and was succeeded
by his son of the same name. His Queen Jadwiga
had deceased in 1399; she was greatly beloved by her
subjects. Her husband married three times after her
death ; his second wife was Anna, his third Elizabeth,
a widow, and the fourth Sophia, a princess of Kiev.
Although he had really forfeited his crown on the
death of Jadwiga, in whose right he held it ; yet the
Poles, seeing the advantage of the union of Poland
and Lithuania, continued him in his position. One
of the most important results of the battle of
Tannenberg was the closer union of the Poles and
Lithuanians ; the country of the latter began to be
organised on the same basis as Poland ; Palatines
and Castellans were appointed at Wilno and Troki.
The attempts to introduce the Roman Catholic reli-
gion throughout the whole land were not so successful.
Vitovt, already mentioned, summoned a synod of
the Orthodox clergy at Nowogrodek, with the view of
guaranteeing the independence of the Lithuanian
Church. Its only rulers were to be the Metropolitan
of Kiev and the Patriarch of Constantinople. He is


even said to have aimed at a union of the Greek and
Latin Churches. Gregory Zemblak, whom Vitovt
had appointed the new Metropolitan of Kiev, was
sent by him to Constance with nineteen suffragan
bishops to bring this about. In 1421 Vitovt at the
invitation of the Bohemians showed himself willing
to accept their crown, but Sigismund succeeded in
getting it, although he had made himself hateful to
the Bohemian nation by his disgraceful betrayal of
Huss at the Council of Constance. Although ^neas
Sylvius has painted with no friendly hand the great
Lithuanian, Vitovt — for so he may rightly be termed
— yet, obscure as his history may be, from what has
been told us about him we do not learn any parti-
cular deeds of cruelty ; he appears, however, when
it suited him, to have been somewhat treacherous.
Besides Lithuanian and Russian, he spoke German,
probably also Polish and Latin ; all the documents of
his chancery are in Russian.

Of Jagiello, we are told in the chronicles that he
was a very tender-hearted man, and kindly in lan-
guage ; he was of short statue — his monument in the
Cathedral of Cracow gives us a life-like representation
of him.

Ladislaus, his son, although a mere youth, was also
elected King of Bohemia and Hungary. But going
on an expedition against the Turks, then more and
rnore encroaching upon the Eastern Empire, he was
killed at the battle of Varna in 1444. During his
reign the country had chiefly been ruled by the
powerful ecclesiastic Zbigniew Olesnicki (t 1454),
a kind of Polish Wolsey, who had done much to


crush Hussitism among the Poles, and laboured to
bring the regal power into subordination to the
ecclesiastical. He had urged Ladislaus to undertake
the expedition which led to the disaster of Varna.
The young king was only in his twenty-first year,
and his memory, as Kromer the historian tells us, was
long cherished amongst his countrymen, although,
during his brief reign, he almost drained the treasury
to pay for his expeditions. The circumstances of his
death have been narrated in the "Memoirs of a Polish
]din\ss^vy'\Pami^tHiki Janc2ara Polakd). It has been
shown by the Bohemian scholar Jirecek that the
author was a Serb, a certain Michael Constantinovich
from Ostrovitsa. He composed his work in Poland.
There is an old version of it in the Bohemian

After a brief interregnum Casimir, brother of the
deceased king, was chosen to succeed him (1447-1492).
The Poles still carried on their battles with the
Teutonic knights, their unwearied foes. Finally, a
treaty of peace was signed at Thorn in 1466, of
which the terms were as follows : — Western Prussia,
including Pomerania and the cities of Danzig and
Thorn, among others, were to belong to Casimir,
while Eastern Prussia was left to the knights, who
were, however, to hold it as a fief of the crown, and
each subsequent Grand Master was to be the vassal
[holdownik) of the Polish king and senate. After thf
death of Ladislaus, in 1444, both Bohemia and
Hungary gave up the union with Poland — an un-
natural one at best, as it has been truly called. 1 he
Bohemians elected George Podebrad, one of their


wisest kin^s and a native of the country; the
Hungarians, Mathias Corvinus, the son of Hunyady.
In 1485, Stephen the vojevode of Moldavia was
compelled to own the suzerainty of Poland.

But besides her German, Hungarian, and Bohemian
foes, there was now growing up contiguous to Poland
the great Muscovite Empire, which was consolidated
by Ivan HI., an astute ruler. The history of Poland
will henceforth show continual struggles between
that country and the Turks and Tatars in the south.

The reign of Casimir IV. was very important in
a constitutional point of view ; in this reign the
nobles first elected deputies (posfy) to attend the diet,
when they themselves were unable to be present. Some
mischievous laws were also passed aggravating the
bondage of the serfs. Previously it was possible for
a serf who had been ill-treated to fly from his lord ;
now it was enacted that he must be surrendered on
demand, and penalties were incurred by any one who
harboured him. The constitution of the Polish
Republic (Rzeczpospolita, as it was called, with the
accent on the antepenultimate, contrary to the rule of
the language) was now thoroughly established, and
from this reign the power of the diets began. The
statute of Nieszawa (not far from Thorn), in 1454, has
been called the Polish Magna Charta ; it is the great
charter of the rights and privileges of the Polish
nobility. Casimir is considered by many writers to
have been an indolent sovereign. During his reign
Ivan HI. incorporated the old republic of Novgorod
with Russia; later on we shall find Basil, his suc-
cessor, getting possession of Novgorod Severski and



Smolensk, the latter so important from its strategic

Casimir died at Troki, a castle, not far from Wilno,
in 1492. His illness was a dropsy, and when the
physician told him that there was no further hope,


he received the news very quietly ; ^'Morienduni ergo]*
was all that he replied. He found time, however,
before his death to entreat the Polish and Lithuanian
nobles to secure the throne to his son. In the opinion


of some historians, Casimir was not a bad king, but
his virtues were rather those of a private rnan than a
monarch. He was above middle stature, with a long,
thin face, as we see represented on the handsome
monument in red porphyry erected to him in the
Cathedral of Cracow. The sculptor was a citizen of
Cracow named Wit Stwosz, in which form some see
the German name, Veit Stoss. In his leanness and
general appearance Casimir reminds us greatly of his
contemporary — our Henry VH. Another personal
characteristic which we have of him is that he lisped.
His wife was Elizabeth, daughter of the Emperor

Upon the king's death there were some troubles
about the succession. Lithuania, which still stood in
only loose relations with her sister-state, held an
independent diet and elected Alexander, a son of
Casimir's, as prince of Lithuania. In return, Alexander
in 1492 granted a privilege whereby the prelates,
princes, barons, and the nobility and cities of Lithuania
were to have all the same rights and privileges as the
Polish nobility possessed. As regards Poland herself,
those who wished that the union should be preserved,
desired to elect Alexander ; moreover he was a young
man of by no means energetic character. Others
were for John Albert the eldest son, and some even
supported the candidature of Sigismund, the youngest.

Duke Janusz, of Masovia, took advantage of all
this difference of opinion to put forward his own
claims. He appeared at Piotrkow with a thousand
armed men, an anticipation of the warlike retinues
with which so many of the subsequent diets were to



be visited. He based his claim upon the fact that
he was a direct descendant of Casimir the Great and
Boleslas the First, and was therefore a regular Piast ;
and not one of those Lithuanians whose blood was
only Polish by feminine descent. The archbishop of
Gnesen vigorously supported his candidature, and he


might have been elected -had not the old queen
Elizabeth sent, to support her favourite son John
Albert, i,6oo well-armed horsemen. On the 27th of
August he was accordingly elected king, and crowned
the 23rd of September following*


Both brothers, however, in their respective do-
minions showed themselves weak sovereigns. At the
diet at Piotrkow in 1496, John Albert made some
surprising concessions to the nobility who were now
becoming masters of the kingdom. Not only were
their former privileges renewed, but the king's
judicial rights and those connected with taxation
were limited and the peasants were completely bound
to the soil. The laws already existing about the sur-
render of fugitive serfs were extended and made to
apply to the children of plebeians {plebejorum): not
more than one must be allowed to go to the towns to
study or practise a trade, and where only one son was
born to his parents, he must stay to perform his work
on the land. There were special clauses enacted against
the Kmetons wearing better clothes, &c., than befitted
their class. In illustration of these enactments Dr.
Schiemann cites the articles " De knietJiomun missione,
de fugitivis kniethonibus, de filiis kmethonum, de
kmethonuni debitis apud cives con tract is" We have
such expressions as the following: — ^^ Item propter
deordinationeni kniethoimm, videlicet nulla lege adstricti
quidam eoriim in superbias efferuntiir, pretiosis vesti-
iintur, expensasqiie sumptuosas et alia facitmt, qiice
illornm conditioni minime cotiveniunt^ sicqiie debita
inter cives contrahiint excedentes kmethonalia" We
see, all things considered, that the Polish peasant
was up to this time in a fair way to prosperity. W^e
may date his real bondage from this hateful statute.
No burgher or peasant was eligible to any of the
higher offices of the Church; the peasantry were
obliged to bring all legal matters in which they were


concerned before tribunals presided over by their
own masters ; they were also forbidden to possess
any landed property. The following are the exact
words of this famous enactment : — " Statuinms quod
civibus et plebeis undecunqiie existentibus oppida, villas,
prcedia et bona alia juri terreste supposita em ere, tenere
possidereqiie perpettio vel obligatorio modo liceat miriime
. . . et quod illi qui Jam in effectu bona terrestria
occuparunt, ilia hinc ad decursum temporis quod com-
mode istud facere possent vendere teneantur sub poenis
quas ex illis secus facientibus juxta arbitrium nostrum
et Palatinum Terrce, in quo ilia consistunt, exacturi
sumus irre^nissibilitery The king was neither to enact
any laws nor to declare war without the consent of
the diet. We see the pacta conventa in a gradual
state of formation.

John Albert was defeated in 1497 in an expedition
against Stephen the Hospodar of Moldavia. Upon
this disaster a song was composed, which has been
preserved by the chronicler, Bielski. Two of the
lines were —

Wyginela szlachta."
(" The nobility perished for King Albert ").='

Besides this catastrophe his kingdom was constantly
invaded by Turks and Tatars. The king was some-
what assisted against the encroachments of the nobles
by an Italian named Buonacorsi, who had been his
tutor, and continued to act as his adviser. This astute
man co nselled the king to labour to make himself
absolute ruler. It was to Buonacorsi and his advice

* See Nehring, Altpolnischer Sprachdenkindler^ 217.


that the disaffected portion of his subjects were will-
ing to attribute the disaster in the Bnkoviua in 1497.
In 1 501 the king died of an apoplectic stroke at
Thorn ; he was on the point of undertaking an expe-
dition against the Teutonic knights.

He was succeeded by his brother, Alexander, who
had married Helen, a daughter of Ivan III., of Russia.
Her mother was the celebrated Sophia Paleologa,
whose marriage with Ivan seemed to make him the
heir of the Byzantine Empire. This astute sovereign,
who reigned forty-three years, was the real founder
of the greatness of Russia. By more than two
centuries he anticipated the bold plans of Peter the
Great. He was fonder of diplomacy and valuable
alliances than of war. We have already seen how
weak was. the union between Poland and Lithuania.
Ivan did not lose sight of the grand duchy, which
contained so many subjects of the same blood and
language as his own. Circumstances favoured him.
The Grand Duke Alexander was a timid man, and
thought that an alliance with his powerful neighbour
might protect him from the incursions of the Hos-
podar of Moldavia and the Khan of the Crimea, from
which he was continually suffering. He therefore
entered into negotiations with a' view to marrying
the eldest daughter of Ivan. It need hardly be said
that the latter was ready to accept his overtures.
The only difficulty that presented itself was the
religious one. Alexander was a Roman Catholic,
and Helen belonged to the Orthodox Church. Ivan
succeeded, however, in securing for his daughter the
free exercise of her religion, to which Alexander


agreed by a clause in the treaty, signed Oct. 26, 1494.
At Wilno, a Russian church was to be erected by
the side of the ducal palace ; and in that city the
marriage was celebrated with great pomp on Jan.
18, 1495. Matters were not so easily settled with
the Pope, to whom an ambassador was despatched.
The Poles were always great in embassies, and we
read of the universal curiosity which this one
aroused. The Pope, Alexander VI., a noted person
in ecclesiastical annals, put a disagreeable alternative
before the Grand Duke. Helen was either to be
repudiated or converted. On the other hand, the
unfortunate wife was continually having lectures
from Ivan, to which Sophia added her maternal
exhortations. Helen in her letters would not allow
that she was undergoing any persecution , from her
husband. Finally, Ivan quarrelled with his son-in-
law, and war broke out between them. It was not,
however, productive of any great results, with the
exception of the battle of Wedrosza, on the 14th of
July, 1500, where the Russians obtained an im-
portant victory, killing a great number of their
adversaries. Soon after Alexander was elected to
the Polish throne Helen used her influence to effect
a reconciliation between her father and husband, and
a truce for six years was signed from March 25,
1503, to March 25, 1509. In this truce Ivan de-
manded fresh guarantees that the faith of his
daughter should not be disturbed. Julius II., who
succeeded Borgia, began anew to direct the papal
thunders against the perplexed Alexander, but he
would not quarrel with his wife, and he did not


succeed in converting her. Helen seems to have
been sincerely attached to her husband. She died
at Wihio in 15 13. A great deal of fresh light has
been thrown upon the reign of Ivan and his relations
to Roman Catholicism by the researches of Father
Pierling (see especially La Russie et V Orient, Paris,

The nobility in this reign endeavoured to force such
concessions from the king that he would have become
merely the president of the senate, and the entire
government would have been in their hands. Alex-
ander appeared to consent, but retired to Lithuania,
and on his return was able to annul his concessions.
In his reiL,Mi, however, we trace the germ of \\\^ liberum
veto. In a diet held at Radom, in 1505, it was settled
that the decision of the deputies was not to depend
upon the majority, but must imply unanimity. This
seems to have been a great element in the old
Slavonic assemblies, and has been shown to have
prevailed in the Russian sobori. At this diet it was
enacted in the name of the king : " Nihil novi constitui
debet per nos et successores nostras sine communi
consilionim et nuntiorum terrestimn consensu.'' The
diet of Radom, which lasted from March 23rd to
May 29th, is justly considered one of the most im-
portant in the history of the country. The whole
legislative power of the country seemed to pass into
the hands of the Polish nobility, whom the fiction of
the time considered to be the Polish people.

At the conclusion of this memorable diet the kin""
had some disagreeable discussions with the Lithuanian
magnates. Alexander was in such anger at the lan-



guage which they used that he had an apoplectic
stroke. To increase his trouble, news was brought
that the Tatars had made an incursion into Lithu-
ania, and carried off 100,000 prisoners. They were
however, overtaken by the Lithuanian commander,
Michael Glinski, and defeated at Kleck. News of
this victory was brought to the king, already on his
death-bed. He died at Thorn on August 19, 1506.
Alexander is described by his contemporaries as a
dull-witted man ; he was lavish in his gifts, and
many of them were revoked after his death by the
diet by means of the so-called Statiitum Alexan-

We now pass from the reigns of the early Jagiellos ;
the period of the Middle Ages has ceased in Euro-
pean history. Modern history, with other influences,
has begun. We shall soon see how Poland stood
towards these new influences ; the Reformation, the
growth of the burgher class, and others. At the be-
ginning of the sixteenth century we find her governed
by an oligarchy of nobles, who are continually en-
croaching upon the power of the Crown. There is
no national middle class ; the burghers are Germans
or Jews ; the peasantry have lost all their privileges,
and are bound to the soil, with no rights against the
tyranny or caprice of their masters. Nothing of what
may be called a national literature has been deve-
loped ; the authors, who have appeared, are eccle-
siastics, and write in Latin, just as our own early
historians did. Mention will be made of Callus,
Kadlubek, Dlugosz, Kromer, and others in their
proper place. The ballads and popular songs are


lost ; we know that they must have existed at one
time by the titles of some which have been preserved.
One poem, if it is worthy of the name, has come
down in a manuscript of the Zamojski Library at
Warsaw, and has been printed by Professor Nehring
in his Altpolnischer Sprachdeukmdler (Berlin, 1887). It
describes an event of the year 1461, which shall be
briefly narrated here, as it belongs to the period
which we are discussing, and is valuable as helping
us to understand the manners of the time.

In that year, the Castellan of Cracow, Jan
T^czynski, the member of a family well known in
Poland, had refused to accompany the king on one
of his military expeditions against the Teutonic
knights. His brother Andrew, however, was willing
to do so. As his armour was not in proper condition,
he committed it to the care of the armourer, Clement,
in Cracow, to be repaired. The work was finished,
and Andrew went himself to the smith's shop to
fetch it. Master Clement asked two gulden for the
repairs. Andrew offered a fourth part of the sum,
eighteen groschen. The smith stood firm to his

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