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notwithstanding the railing satires which he has
written on the universal corruption of mankind.
But Opalinski did not long survive his shameful
treason. Among the allies of Charles was the
Elector of Brandenburg, ever prudent and watching
his opportunity, who, in consequence of the assis-
tance which he rendered to the king, was definitively
released from his homage in 1657. The Swedish
king is even said to have proposed the partition of
the country : he offered Great Poland to the Elector
of Brandenburg, Little Poland to the Duke of Tran-
sylvania, and a great part of Lithuania to one of the
great Radziwill family. But Poland's hour had not
yet come. We get some curious details of the war
from the diary of Patrick Gordon, the Scotch ad-



venturer, which is still preserved in manuscript in
Russia. Gordon fought at first on the side of the
Swedes, but afterwards, having been taken prisoner
by the Poles, was forced to join their ranks. But
we soon find him with the Swedes again, dispersed
through whose regiments were a great many of his
countrymen. In 1658 John Sobieski, the future con-
queror of the Turks, tried to secure the services of
the Scotch adventurer as commander of a company
of dragoons in a body of troops stationed on the
Sobieski estates. This was characteristic of Poland,
each nobleman having his own little army. There
was no statute of maintenance to restrain them.
Gordon declined the offer ; he tells us in his diary
that he found Sobieski courteous, but a hard bar-
gainer. In 1660 a treaty was signed at Oliwa, near
Danzig, in which John Casimir abandoned all claims
to the throne of Sweden and ceded all Livonia,
except a small portion on the banks of the Dw^ina.
Before beginning our account of the wretched in-
ternal tumults which harassed Poland during the
last years of this sovereign's rule, we will mention
the further losses of territory which she underwent.
In 1667 was signed the truce of Andruszowo (near
Smolensk), by which Smolensk was ceded to Alexis,
the Tsar of Russia, and with it Kiev and all the left
bank of the Dnieper. Kiev was to be given back to
Poland in two years' time, but Alexis kept it because
the Poles did not fulfil the terms of the truce. They
finally abandoned all claim to it in 1686. The king
was always very much under the influence of Marie
Louise, his brother's wife, whom he had married. In


the commonplace book of the Polish noble Jan
Golliusz, now preserved in the Britisli Museum, from
which Prof. Kallenbach has pubh'shed some interest-
ing extracts, the following epigram is to be found : —

•* Carmina de noxiis interitum

Poloniae acceleraturis conscriptae {sic)

A quodam equite Polono. Anno, 1662.

Faemina Rex, opressus {sic) Eques, Seruusque Senatus

Vanaque Lex, exhausta Plebs, ac falsa moneta ;

Irrita pax, nee tuta tides, Clerique potestas :

Ultima fata tui crede o Sarmatia regni."

The queen was favourable to a French alliance,
and detested Austria and her traditional policy of
interfering in the affairs of Poland. She accordingly
persuaded her husband to propose in the diet that
the Duke of Enghien, son of the great Conde, should
be named his successor. He had married her niece.
This caused a considerable commotion, as it was
contrary to the principles of the Polish constitution.
A stormy scene occurred, and it was on this occasion
that John Casimir told the Poles that their constant |
dissensions must certainly lead to the dismemberment:
of the Republic, uttering the memorable words, '* Uti-
7iam sim falsus vates'' An active member in opposi-
tion to the king was the powerful palatine Lubomirski.
In consequence of this he incurred the hostility of the
queen, and broke out into open rebellion, having the
command of his large body of retainers, as every
nobleman had in the good old days of Poland, and a
state of society was produced something like England
experienced in the time of the Wars of the Roses.
He was not quelled without considerable bloodshed


on both sides, and retiring to Brcslau (Wroclaw),
just over the Polish frontier, in Austrian territory,
died soon after.

In 1667 the queen expired, a woman of beauty and
spirit, but of a turbulent disposition. The kingdom
was in a deplorable condition, exhausted by foreign
wars and internal tumults. The devastations caused
by the Tatars and Cossacks must be added to these

John Casimir, as we have already said, was originally
an ecclesiastic ; he now resolved to betake himself
again to the cloister at the age of sixty-eight, worn
out by anxiety and the sufferings which he saw every-
where around him, the turbulence of the nobility, and
feeling keenly the loss of his wife. He accordingly
resigned his crown on the i6th of September, 1668.
Before doing so he had consulted the other sovereigns
of Europe, who dissuaded him from the step. His
speech on the occasion has been preserved, and has
been rightly characterised as a fine piece of eloquence.
A copy of it is to b3 found among the Rawlinsonian
manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. It is too long
to be quoted in extenso, but the following sentence
is eloquent : " Igitur fiineris regies mece dignitatis
stipei'stes, seculo vero Jiuic inortnns, pro pnlcJiro hoc
solio sepulcJiriim^ proque regali globo terrce glebani

John Casimir had warned the Poles of the inevitable
effect of their constant dissensions, as Skarga had
warned them in his sermons before the diet. He
had even prophesied that the Russians would take
Lithuania, the Prussians Poland, and the Austrians



Galicia. With John Casimir the race of the Jagiellos,
continued in the branch h"ne of the Vasas, ceased.
Up to this time the hne of the Jagiellos had been
more or less continued, with the intercalary reign of
Batory, for we need not pay much attention to the
five months' rule of Henry of Valois. In fact, in the
person of John Casimir terminated the three lines of
the Piasts, the Jagiellos, and the Vasas. According
to a recent notice in a German newspaper, a Prince
Ignaz Jagiello died at Grodno on the i6th of July


last year (1891) ; he is said to have been the last of
the Jagiellos.

Bernard Connor, the physician of John Sobieski,
previously quoted, writes as follows : " While I was
at Warsaw I spoke with several old gentlemen, who
told me that Casimir the day after his resignation,
observing the people hardly paid him the respect due
to a gentleman, much less to a king, seemed to have
repented heartily of the folly he had committed.
After his abdication the king retired to France, in
which country through the intrigues of Richelieu,
he had been detained for two years (^1638-1640) as


a hostage wliile passing its coasts. A few words
may be devoted to this romantic episode before we
close our account of his career.

In his youth Casimir, who was eager for miHtary
adventure, had served in the German army against
the French during the Thirty Years' War. His brief
appearance, however, in this capacity was not marked
by success, and after being defeated in a battle by
the French general Merode, he returned to Poland.
Here, disliking an idle life at Court, he was induced
to travel. His plan was to visit first the northern
parts of Italy, then to repair to Spain, and on the
way back to see something of France, England, and
Holland. He meditated then returning to Italy and
the Papal States for the purpose of paying his homage
to the Pope, and so on by the nearest route to Poland ;
and it was calculated that his journey would take
three years. To avoid troublesome ceremonials, John
Casimir was to travel under the simple name of
*' ambassador." He left Warsaw with his suite on
the 27th of January, 1638, and it is said that the
astrologers, who were consulted about his journey,
warned him to beware of France. On the shores of
this country, however, the Polish prince was so
foolish as to land, and to his surprise found himself
detained by the orders of Richelieu, who then virtually
governed France. After having been transferred from
one place of residence to another, and enduring many
petty indignities, John Casimir was finally released.
A Polish embassy made its appearance in Paris on
the 17th of January, 1640, and the terms of his
surrender were settled. He did not receive his liberty


till he had undertaken never to bear arms against
France so long as the Spanish war should continue.

Casimir was now, in the decline of life, to visit the
country again. Louis XIV. received him kindly,
and gave him the Abbeys of St. Germain and St.
Martin, from the revenues of which he drew his
subsistence, as the Poles did not trouble themselves
to continue the pension which they had promised
him. He does not, however, seem to have remained
in the priestly office till his death, although he sur-
vived his abdication only four years. He is said
to have secretly married Marie Mignot, who had
originally been a laundress, but was then widow of
the Marechal de I'Hopital. John Casimir died on
the i6th of December, 1672, at Nevers. His body
was brought to Cracow and buried in the cathedral
at the same time with that of his successor Michael,
the day before the coronation of Sobieski. His
heart was given to the monks of the Abbey of St.
Germain and now rests in the Church of St. Germain
des pres at Paris, where there is a handsome monu-
ment to his memory with a long Latin inscription.
The king is represented kneeling, holding out his
crown and sceptre. Underneath is a well-executed
bas-relief of a battle between the Poles and Cossacks.
The last illness of the priestly king is said to have
been aggravated by his receiving the news that Ka-
mieniec in Podolia had been surrendered to the Turks
by the disgraceful peace of Buczacz. Such was the end
of John Casimir, an amiable but weak man, during
whose reign the country saw an unusual amount of
disasters. In consequence of his banishment of the


Socinians from Poland he was honoured by Pope
Alexander with the title of Rex Orthodoxus. Three
candidates for the vacant throne now made their
appearance —the Prince of Conde, the Prince of
Neuburg, supported by Louis XIV., and Charles of
Lorraine, the candidate of Austria. It will be
seen how completely the election of the Polish
sovereign was a matter of European competition
and we might be sure that it would be difficult
to find in such candidates any real sympathies
with the Poles as a nation. The first of the three
mentioned was supported by John Sobieski, who had
now for some time been a very prominent man in
Poland. The Diet met for election in 1669. The
nobles made their appearance in gorgeous fashion.
Prince Michael Radziwill came with six hundred
dragoons, not to mention the gentlemen of his
party, and other noblemen brought even larger con-
tingents. We must remember that the Polish nobles
were allowed to keep their own guards, both of horse
and foot, and it is said that some appeared at the
diet with a thousand men.

On the present occasion there was a great deal
of tumult, and some of the posly or mintii are said to
have been actually killed. But during one of the
meetings of the diet some one called out that a Piast
ought to be elected, i.e., one of the blood of the ancient
Polish sovereigns, and the choice fell upon Michael
Korybut Wisniowiecki, of a noble family indeed, but
so poor that, according to some writers, it was not at
first supposed that his candidature would meet with
any supporters. The scene at the election has been



described in the valuable contemporary memoirs of
Jan Chryzostom Pasek (Wilno, 1843). Michael was
tliirty years of age at the time of his election. He is
said to have shed tears and to have been as averse to
sovereignty as the Emperor Claudius. He probably


knew that he would have to rule over a turbulent
people, who would show but little respect for his
authority. In 1670 he married Eleonora, the sister
of the German Emperor Leopold. At a diet held
during that year, the nobles bound themselves by an


oath not to make use of the liberum veto, but in spite
of their resolution that very diet was brought to an
end by the appearance of Zabokrzycki, the nuntius
from Wroclaw in Podolia. In the year 1672, the Poles
were compelled at the peace of Buczacz to cede
Kamieniec Podolski to the Turks, and to agree to
pay them a yearly tribute. The Ottomans held this
picturesque city on the Dnieper till 1699, ^'^d an
elegant minaret adjoining the cathedral there still
bears testimony to their former occupation. By
the great victory gained by Sobieski at Chocim
in the following year much was done to repair
the Polish losses ; the day before the battle (loth
of November) the unhappy Michael, whose short
reign had been one of continued treason and con-
spiracy on the part of his subjects and disgrace to
the country, expired at Lemberg, in the thirty-fifth
year of his age, after having reigned four years and a
few months. His death was so sudden that it was
attributed by some to poison ; others think that he
caused it by his excessive gluttony. He was a man of
contemptible character, and if the portraits of him
which have been preserved may be relied upon, of
singularly unprepossessing appearance, with swarthy
and coarse features. The fortunes of Poland had now
sunk very low, but her star was destined to shine for
a brief period in the glorious reign of Sobieski, and
then to set, perhaps for ever.


(1674- 1 696.)

John Sobteski, the deliverer of Vienna from the
Turks, was the son of James Sobieski, the castellan
of Cracow, and was born in 1620. His father wrote
a short treatise on education for his use, which has
been preserved, and illustrates the condition of Polish
society at the time.

Soon after the death of Michael, the diet met at
Warsaw in 1674. There were several candidates ;
among others, Charles of Lorraine, and Philip of
Neuburg, again put forward their claims. While the
nobles were still in session Sobieski, fresh from his
glorious victory, entered and proposed the Prince of
Conde. A stormy discussion ensued, and in the
midst of it one of the nobles, Jablonowski, was heard
to say, " Let a Pole rule over Poland." The cry was
echoed by many of those present, and Sobieski, the
foremost man of the country, was appointed king
under the title of John III., not without some op-
position from Michael Pac, the hetman of Lithuania.
But he had no time to rest upon his laurels ; in the


year 1676 he was obliged to proceed to the field
of battle to encounter an invasion of the Turks in
conjunction with the Tatars, under the command
of the Seraskier Ibrahim, who from his ferocious
character was called Shaitan, or devil. Sobieski
had only 20,000 men to oppose to the vast host
>*^ich had invaded the country. For some time he
was hemmed in by his adversaries at Zurawno, in
Galicia ; but, by his splendid generalship and bravery,
he succeeded in rescuing himself and his soldiers,
and managed to conclude a treaty with Turkey, by
which part of the Ukraine and Podolia were got

A few years of internal struggles followed, in which
the rebellious diets exhibited more anarchy than
ever ; at a time when the king could have put the
country into an excellent state of defence he was
resisted by the factions which were too powerful for
him. The Turks, however, were now preparing for
their great invasion of Austria, and the prize was to
be the imperial city of Vienna. This siege is so well
known that it will only be necessary here to give the
main outlines of events.

News had reached the city on the 8th of December,
1682, of the enormous preparations of the Turks.
They began their march from Belgrad, about the
30th of June, 1683, burning and plundering all before
them, and committing atrocious massacres of the
inoffensive inhabitants. On the 7th of July the
pusillanimous Emperor Leopold had fled from the
city. His countenance, as it has come down to us
on the canvas of many a painter, shows him to have


been a man of mean capacity. But he came from a
house not noted for great men. Leopold, mistrusting
his own dominions, retired with his family to the
Bavarian fortress of Passau. They were followed by
the carriages of the wealthier inhabitants, who left
the city to the number of 60,000. This selfish
conduct aroused the indignation of the people wh§i
were left behind to meet their fate. Many of these
fugitives, however, paid the penalty of their cowardice,
falling into the hands of the Turks by whom they
were at once massacred. The great diminution in
the number of citizens capable of bearing arms,
caused by this defection, somewhat intimidated the
inhabitants ; but something like confidence was
restored by the arrival of Count Stahremberg, a
tried soldier, to whom the Emperor had committed
the defence of the city. All classes, including even
priests and women, were put to work at the fortifi-
cations, the burgomaster. Von Liebenberg, set an
admirable example by his unwearied exertions. The
Imperial archives had already been removed ; it now
only remained for the city to calmly await the
approaching danger ; fire and smoke all round told
of the towns and villages which had fallen into the
power of the enemy. The number of men under
arms in the city amounted to 20,000, and the re-
maining population to 60,000. At sunrise on July
14th, the invaders appeared before Vienna, a countless
horde of soldiers, and their followers with baggage
and camels. The camp was arranged in the form of
a crescent, and conspicuous above all other things
was the tent of the Vizier and commander-in-chief,


Kara (black) Mustapha, which was of gorgeous green
silk ; it may be seen preserved in the museum of
Dresden, together with many other trophies, including
one of the great camp kettles.

The sad fate of the little town of Perchboldsdorf,
the inhabitants of which were massacred on the 14th
of July, gave the Viennese a token of what they
might expect if their city was taken. Before relief
came to the beleaguered inhabitants, they had under-
gone many perils, not the least of which were a fire
which broke out in the city, but was luckily got under
in time, and a disease which raged among them on
account of their being obliged to live in such close
quarters and their food being chiefly salt meat. The
siege teemed with picturesque and romantic incidents,
but the enumeration of them would occupy too much
space. It is a continual story of mining and counter-
mining ; of furious assaults met with equal fury by the
besieged. Spies were occasionally sent out, and the
heroism of one, a Pole named Kolszicki, who happened
to be a resident of the city, is deserving of some
notice. He had previously been an interpreter in
the employ of the Eastern Merchants' Company, and
had served since the siege began as a volunteer.
Intimately conversant with the Turkish language and
customs, he willingly offered himself for the dangerous
task of passing through the camp of the Turks to
convey intelligence to the Imperial army on its
march. On the 13th of August, accompanied by a
servant of similar qualifications, he was let out through
a gate in the Rothenthurm, and escorted by an
aide-de-camp of the commandant as far as the



palisades. He had scarcely advanced a hundred
yards when he noticed a large body of horse mo\ ing
rapidly towards his place of exit. Being as yet too
near the city to escape suspicion, he hastily turned to
the left and concealed himself in the cellar of a ruined
house of the suburb near Altlerchenfeld, where he
kept close till he heard that the cavalry had passed.
He then pursued his course, and singing a Turkish
song, traversed at an idle pace and with an un-
embarrassed air the streets of Turkish tents. His
cheerful mien and familiar strains took the fancy of
an Aga, who invited him into his tent, treated him
with coffee, listened to more songs, and to his tale of
having followed the army as a volunteer, and cautioned
him against wandering too far and falling into
Christian hands. Kolszicki thanked him for his
advice, passed on safely through the camp, and then
as unconcernedly made for the Kahlenberg and the
Danube. Upon one of its islands he saw a body of
men, who, misled by his Turkish attire, fired upon
him and his companion. These were some inhabi-
tants of Nussdorf, headed by the bailiff of that place,
who had made this island their temporary refuge.
Kolszicki explained to them in German the object
of his mission, and entreated them to allow him to
pass the river. This request being granted, he
reached without further difficulty the bivouac of the
Imperial army, then on its march between Angern
and Stillfried. After delivering and receiving des-
patches, the adventurous pair set out on their return.
They had some narrow escapes from the Turkish
sentries, passed the palisades, and re-entered the city


by the Scottish gate, bringing a letter in which relief
was promised at the end of August at the latest.
He also told them that Pressburg had surrendered to
the Imperialists. The safe return of the bearer of
the despatch was announced as usual, by rockets as
night signals, and in the day by a column of smoke
from the lofty spire of St. Stephen's Cathedral, which
throughout served the Commandant as a watch-tower.
On the 2 1st of August Kolszicki, who reminds us
very much of Kavanagh at the siege of Lucknow,
was on the point of repeating his dangerous errand,
when a deserter who had been recaptured, and was
standing under the gallows with the halter adjusted,
confessed that he had furnished to the Turks an
accurate description of the Pole. He was himself
deterred by this warning, but his gallant companion,
George Michailovich, found means twice to repeat
the exploit with the same success as in the first
instance. On his second return he displayed a
remarkable presence of mind and vigour of arm.
Having nearly reached the palisades, he was joined
by a Turkish horseman, who entered into conversa-
tion with him. As it was, however, impossible for
him to follow his route to the city any further in such
company, by a sudden blow he struck the Turk's
head from his shoulders, and springing on the rider's
horse, made his way to the gate. He did not, how-
ever, tempt his fortune again. He brought on this
occasion an autograph letter from the Emperor full
of compliments and promises, which was publicly
read in the Rathhaus. Kolszicki was rewarded by
permission to set up the first coffee-house in Vienna.



The head of the guild of traders is bound to this day
to have in his house a portrait of the brave messenger
(see " Sieges of Vienna by the Turks," translated from
the German of Karl Schimmer).

But relief was at last approaching. The Elector of
Saxony reached Krems, near Vienna, on the 28th of
August. Sobieski, whom the Emperor himself had
solicited, and who was looked upon as the saviour of
Europe, set out from Cracow on the 15th of August ;
he was accompanied by his son James. The queen,
Marie Casimire, went with her husband to the Polish
frontier. They separated at Tarnowitz, the first town
in Silesia. Sobieski crossed the Danube by a bridge
at the town of Tulln. This bridge the carelessness
of the Vizier had allowed to be constructed. Here
Sobieski joined the army of Charles of Lorraine, who
had been one of his rivals for the crown of Poland ;
but no jealousies appear to have marred the inter-
course of these brave men. The bridge was passed
on Monday, the 6th of September. The beautiful
condition of the Polish cavalry struck all beholders.
The united army amounted to 70,000 men. On the
1 2th of September, after mass, Sobieski began the
battle : he appeared with his head shaven in the
Polish fashion ; on his left was his son James, on his
right Charles of Lorraine. The assault was made
simultaneously on the wings and centre of the enemy.
The king bore down all before him, saying, '^ Non
nobis, non nobis, Domine exeirittmrn, sed nomini tuo
da gloriamr In spite of their desperate fighting the

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Online LibraryWilliam Richard MorfillPoland → online text (page 9 of 23)