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Feb 22, 2004
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The White Eagle & the Knight: A Polish AAR

Polish Coat of Arms.jpg

'Poland is not East or West. Poland is at the center of European civilization. It has contributed mightily to that civilization. It is doing so today by being magnificently unreconciled to oppression.'
― Ronald Reagan
'There are few virtues that the Poles do not possess—and there are few mistakes they have ever avoided.'
― Winston Churchill
'No frogs can sing as well as Polish ones.'
― Adam Mickiewicz, Pan Tadeusz

Hello all and welcome to 'The White Eagle & the Knight!'

Of the Paradox games I own EU IV might be the one I have the least experience with even though i find the period interesting. Up until now I've resisted the urge to try an EU IV AAR because I've never felt confident in how I handled the game. I decided to take the plunge and see how it goes and with Poland being such a fascinating country with a heroic if often tragic past I wanted to try my hand and see if I can give her a happier fate than in our time line. As always while this is not an 'interactive' AAR as such I'm very happy to get feedback and suggestions from readers!

This will be a history book AAR for the most part, though i may well use 'in-universe' documents and maybe some fictional histories to give some voice to things.
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Map 1444.jpg

Poland and her neighbours in 1444.


Modern Poland was born at the very end of the Tenth Century when the pagan chieftain Mieszko I converted to Christianity. The clever and determined ruler became the first Duke of Poland, forging a strong Christian state in Eastern Europe with the help of his wife Dobrawa, daughter of the Duke of Bohemia. Their son Bolesław the Brave became the first King of Poland.

For four hundred years the Polish-Bohemian Piast Dynasty ruled Poland through periods of prosperity and near disaster. In the early Eleventh Century the kingdom nearly collapsed under Mieszko II and it would not be until decades later that Bolesław II restored the power of the crown, only to lose it almost at once to the votality of his barons. The next two centuries saw division and turmoil. That came to an end with Kazimierz III or Casimir the Great, the last of the Piasts to rule as a hereditary monarch who refounded Poland as a great and stable realm. His nephew and successor, Louis the Hungarian was already ruler of Hungry and Croatia when he took the Polish throne in 1370. Like his uncle before him Louis had only daughters and in order to see one of his daughter Mary or Jadwiga inherit he was prepared to recognise the privileges of his boisterous nobles with the Privilege of Koszyce.

Louis's efforts could not prevent civil war erupting over the succession after his death in 1382 and it was only after bloodshed and destruction that Jadwiga took the throne as 'King of Poland'. Jadwiga would die young but she did marry the newly Christianised Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila and it would be his children that would eventually take the Polish crown.Through all this strife Poland had remained stubbornly independent and distinct, her aristocrats the proudest in Europe, her cities large and wealthy and her armies formidable.

It was just one such army that the Jogalia's son Władysław, then King of Poland led on crusade against the Ottoman Turks in 1444. It would be on the crusade that he would meet his nemesis and Poland be once again cast into uncertainty...


The Battle of Varna, 10 November 1444.
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Oooh, this will be interesting! :)
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This should be interesting...

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Part One: King Kazimierz IV Jagegiellon

Kazimierz (or Casimir) IV Jagegiellon, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania.

Part One: King Kazimierz IV Jagegiellon

On 10 November 1444 three kingdoms lost their monarch when one man died. Władysław III, the young crusader king of Poland, Hungary and Croatia fell in battle beneath the ancient walls of the fortress city of Varna. The headstrong warrior prince was the most famous and grand of the thousands who lost their lives in one last quixotic attempt to defeat the Muslim Ottoman Empire and drive the Turkish sultanate from Europe. That dream lay shattered among the broken bodies of Varna and it was little consolation that Ottomans were too bloodied and exhausted by their triumph to pursue the retreating crusaders. A ragged stream of Christian warriors, many half dead from frostbite eventually reached the Hungarian border carrying their tale of defeat.

The disaster at Varna shocked all Christendom but it was felt worst of all in those lands that had lost a king. Hungary and Croatia at least had a Regent waiting in the wings, the great hero and general John Hunyadi who had marshalled the remnant's of Władysław's army and returned home with his grandeur undimmed. The succession in Buda might be disputed but with a man like that around the kingdom remained stable. Less fortunate was Władysław's original kingdom and homeland of Poland. There was no legendary general here. Instead the destiny of Poland lay in the hands of her clergy and her nobles and like nowhere else in Europe they had the power to conjure or banish a new king with a simple vote. In particular it was the aristocrats, grandees and other notables of the Sejm who would elect a new monarch to replace the childless Władysław.

The Sejm (meaning "gathering") of Poland that assembled in Kraków in the gloomy Winter of 1444 and throughout 1445 was not yet the formidable, numerous and codified body it would grow into. At this stage the magnates and pretty barons were still unsure of their power and still quarrelled among themselves more often than not. The szlachta or nobility of Poland had always been proud and ambitious but it had only been in the previous century that they had officially become part of a semi-permanent council or parliament. The szlachta after much debate turned to offer the crown to the late king's brother, Kazimierz (or Casimir) Jagiellon, the Grand Duke of Lithuania. The Lithuanian dynasty had been involved in Poland since the marriage of Grand Duke Jogaila to the much mourned Queen Jadwiga of Poland in 1386. Jogaila, born a pagan had taken the Polish name Władysław and converted to Catholicism and when he died in 1434 his Polish crown had passed to his elder son Władysław III and his Lithuanian crown to his younger son Kazimierz. Now fate seemed to have reunited the two thrones.

If the Polish grandees expected another Władysław III - a man with little interest in anything beyond being a perfect Christian knight - they were doomed to disappointment. Kazimierz was eighteen years old and his formal education had been sparse and he lacked the martial ability of his brother. Yet he was neither fool nor weakling and in his four years ruling in the Lithuanian capital of Vilinius he had faced a nobility that could almost match that of Poland for confidence and indeed aped their cousins to the west shamelessly when it came to language, fashion or religious practice. The young Grand Duke was a man with a mind like mountain stream; rapid, untamed and powerful. Overcoming the limits of his education he had taught himself the habits and wisdom of a scholar, mastering the many tongues of his sprawling Grand Duchy. The traits that had driven Władysław III to become a paladin had left his brother with a horror for corruption. It also left him a tough negotiator.

Elective Monarchy.jpg

Though the election of monarchs was not unknown elsewhere in Europe the Polish system was unique.

For the entirety of 1445 and deep into the new year the negotiations had proceeded. For most of this time Kazimierz had remained in Vilnius, a fine and stately city in her own right even if she could not compare to glittering Kraków with her many churches, her bustling streets and her university. In his stead the Grand Duke had sent his envoys with stiff terms regarding the powers of the crown. The Sejm, peppery body of nobles that it was pushed back and publicly toyed with the idea of electing a noble son of Poland to the crown. It was all a dance of course; Kazimierz knew that the Sejm wished to keep the old alliance with Lithuania just as the Grand Duke knew he would have to accept the peacock bluster of the szlachta. Early in 1446 the two sides finally came to terms they could both accept and Kazimierz travelled to Kraków to be crowned King of Poland by the Archbishop of Gniezno, the same man who had been his tutor when he had been a boy.

His election and coronation out of the way King Kazimierz began his reign in Poland by marrying Princess Camelia of Moldavia. Camelia was the sister of Prince Roman of Moldavia. Moldavia politics were infamous, full of treachery and intrigued that would have dazed a Venetian but the Poles had been drawn into this world in 1445 when the Sejm gifted Roman with soldiers to take his family's throne. Kazimierz disdained Roman personally, finding him a shadowy and obscure individual who wielded the knife too readily but he honoured the alliance that left Moldavia a loyal march of the Polish Crown. The marriage to Princess Camelia was a way of cementing that alliance and also cannily avoiding marriage with a great family of Poland (and angering all the rest.) Mercifully Princess Camelia proved most unlike her brother. In the late Summer of 1446 when she arrived in Kraków she was recently turned twenty 'fair of face and fair of temper' as a local chronicler put it. The soon to be Queen Consort of Poland did indeed seem popular for when she entered the city in her red and cloth of gold finery with her battalion of attendants, soldiers and servants there was much commotion among the crowd. Some of the celebration may have something to who Camelia's guards were; many among them were sons of Poland who had departed to win his throne and their return guarding a princess was greeted by the onlookers as a good omen for the beginning of the reign.

Royal Court 1446.jpg

The royal court in 1446.

The King was assisted in his early reign by three chief courtiers who added their experience to Kazimierz's native cunning and strong will. Bishop Rytwianski, a significant theologian would later earn the King's great gratitude my smoothing over relations with the Pope regarding the Queen's faith (as a Moldavian she was Eastern Orthodox, like many of Kazimierz's subjects.) Aleksy Mniszech and Stefan Benyowski were both 'tame' members of the szlachta. Mniszech, a clever and loyal statesman excelled at putting forth the monarch's will to his more prickly peers. Benyowski in contrast had no grasp of tact whatsoever but was a successful career soldier who brought many insights into army reform.

Kazimierz early reign was spent dealing with domestic issues, including steering a steady path between the szlachta, the clergy and the burghers of the cities. The elevation of the Bishop of Poznan to the rank of Cardinal (thanks to the silver tongue of Bishop Rytwianski) and the King's crackdown on the sale of minor titles of nobility were significant events during these years though they would be overshadowed by foreign affairs as the 1450s began.

Sprawling across the southern edge of the Baltic Sea like a dreaming dragon was the Teutonic Order, a strange mix of a knightly-monastic warrior brotherhood ruling over rich German speaking seaports and tough Prussian peasants. The knights had been enemies of old of both Poland and Lithuania and the Polish Crown had long claimed land now ruled by the Teutonic Order. In May 1452 the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order had arrogantly and unwisely claimed indisputably Polish Poznan as a Teutonic fief. In return King Kazimierz ordered his Chancellor the ever present Aleksy Mniszech to 'revive' a Polish claim to the handsome and prosperous city of Kulm (called Chełmno by the Poles) near the Vistula. Neither claim rested on the most stable ground as the Papacy drily noted when the representative of the Teutons and the Poles arrived in Rome. What made the Polish claim stronger on the ground if not in law was the character of the city which was overwhelmingly Polish. On 21 July 1452 war broke out. A Polish army under General Bartlomiej Ossolinski invaded Prussia proper while a second army under the King's direct command marched west towards the Teutonic fiefs of Dramburg and Neumark in the Holy Roman Empire and the Teutonic ally of Stettin [1].

War 1452.jpg

The War of 1452. The disputed Kulm (or Chełmno) is marked with yellow hatching.

At the Battle of Tuchel on 17 September 1452 General Ossolinski defeated a army sent east from Stettin to aid the Order. The Germans under Walter Behm had in fact marched to relieve the siege of Kulm but that city had already fallen to the Poles with little resistance. Ossolinski's cavalry ambushed the German infantry among the dark spruce of the Tuchel Forest, riding down and lancing many before Behm could rally his forces and signal a retreat. The Germans retreated deeper into eastern Prussia while Ossolinski began his siege of the town of Tuchel proper. Tuchel, a strong and stubborn town would withstand a siege of almost a year before surrendering to the Poles in August 1453.

Battle of Tuchel.jpg

The Battle of Tuchel, 17 September 1452.

Meanwhile King Kazimierz had taken first Dramburg, then Neumark and the Hanseatic city of Stargard on the River Ina. Reaching Stettin he began the longest siege of the war which would last all the way until January 1454. On 23 January Count Jocaim of Stettin, a tall man grown gaunt from hunger and exhaustion surrendered to Kazimierz. The Polish troops were in little better condition, having suffered through the snows and rains of two hard winters in camp. In return for much gold and silver the Count of Stettin bought his way out of the war leading to some grumbling back in Poland that Kazimierz had not simply annexed Stettin which had an old Polish past. The King had considered it but decided against such a move lest he needlessly anger the Emperor. For the same reason both Dramburg and Neumark would be returned to the Teutonic Order at the end of the war.

With the west secure the King turned east to link up Ossolinski who had already overrun most of Prussia. The Teutonic Order, fearing the greater numbers of the Poles had avoided direct battle and retreated ever east hoping to link up with their brothers-in-arms the Livonian Order. A great Teutonic-Livonian army besieged the Lithuanian city of Polockas and Kazimierz marched east to meet them. Other events would intercede long before he reached them however.

The Lithuanian nobles, though independent and querulous had always supported their Grand Duke. It was therefore a shock to Kazimierz when they suddenly rose in revolt at Trakai on 1 July 1454 (the same day Königsberg surrendered to Ossolinski.) The Lithuanian nobles were led by Petras Denhofas and their discontents stemmed from the viceroys Kazimierz had left in Vilnius to rule the Grand Duchy in his name while he reigned in Kraków. So many discontented nobles joined the revolt that Kazimierz was forced to combine his own army with Ossolinski and fight the rebels. It was at Trakai on 1 September that the Poles crushed the malcontents in a battle larger and bloodier than any against the Teutons or Livonians. Petras Denhofas was among the fallen, killed in a failed cavalry charge that came within an ace of capturing Kazimierz. The surviving ringleaders paid a sharp price for their treason but many lesser nobles would be pardoned and brought back into the fold; the Grand Duke had no intention of depriving Lithuania of the very men he needed to defend and rule her [2].

For the Teutonic Order and the Livonian Order the Dehofas Rebellion had been the last hope of diverting the Poles. The Battle of Trakai left them in a desperate position, growing worse due to the outbreak of war with Denmark. On 27 October 1454 the Teutonic Order sent a peace proposal to the King, at the time leading his army into Livonia. The knights surrendered Kulm (or Chełmno) and emptied out their treasury in a successful bid to persuade Kazimierz to the peace table.

Conquest of Kulm.jpg

The end of the war, 27 October 1454. More Polish, Lithuanian, Mazovian and Moldavian soldiers died of exposure and fever during the hard winters of 1453 and 1454 than in battle.

As with the peace with Stettin the previous year there were murmurings in the Sejm that the monarch who had proved so tough a negotiator during his election seemed too generous at the peace table. With all of the Teutonic Order under Polish control the King perhaps could have demanded more land. Kazimierz thought differently. The Dehofas Rebellion had revealed his authority might be more fragile than once suspected and the thought of annexing many cities riddled with malcontents was not an enticing one. He was also aware that the Danes might be a formidable foe if they swallowed all of Livonia so it was better to leave the Teutonic and Livonian Orders as a shield until he was ready to deal with them.

Poland emerged from the war slightly bigger and much richer. Using the tribute from Stettin and the Teutonic Order Kazimierz ordered the construction of new churches in Kraków and Poznan to celebrate the victory, and at the urging of his wife was able to aid Roman of Moldavia. The immediate aftermath of the war saw a drive towards government reform as the monarch fresh from the glow of victory attempted to steer a new course with his nobles both in Poland and Lithuania. As part of this effort he spent the Spring of 1455 in Vilnius, painstakingly negotiating a new government to keep order in the Grand Duchy. In some ways the politicking involved was more tiring than the campaign trail itself and despite the finery of the occasion the monarch was believed to be ill when he left the capital of the Grand Duchy to return to Kraków.

The army, marching under countless colourful banners and standards and laden with baggage made slow progress west and was trapped by a late Summer thunderstorm near the city of Tarnów. The King, who despite his weariness had insisted on riding his horse through the city to greet the cheering crowds who had assembled for him was 'near drowned'. By the morning he had a clear fever. Alarmed, his aide-de-camp overruled Bishop Rytwianski (the senior member of the royal council with the army) when the theologian urged they return to Tarnów. Instead the army pushed on towards the capital and the monarch's personal physicians.

Kazimierz, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania died on the night of 15 September 1455. Given his youth and general good health his sudden death provoked all sorts of suspicions of foul play that had seen his poisoned but in the centuries since no one has conjured up a viable suspect or convincing conspiracy. Kazimierz had his critics but from all accounts he was popular among both Poles and Lithuanians and even the Lithuanian nobles who had intrigued with Dehofas appeared to have reconciled with their Grand Duke. He would be widely mourned.

With no surviving legitimate children Kazimierz had willed his thrones to his older cousin Aleksander Karol Jagiellon. The Sejm however had other ideas...

Borders 1454.jpg

Poland and Lithuania at the death of Kazimier IV, 1455.


[1] The Grand Duchy of Lithuania fought a largely separate war against the Teutonic ally the Livonian Order during this period that resulted in no territorial change.

[2] Lithuania loomed large on any European map and her army was a fine one but the Grand Duchy was plagued by cultural and religious disunity and barbarian and quasi-barbarian neighbours to her east. The largely pro-Polish, Catholic Lithuanian nobles were not simply the backbone of the army they were the only thing preventing the state from collapsing.
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The Jerzy Hoffman/Sienkiewicz film trilogy installed in me a fascination of the Rzeczpospolita. Hopefully the Cossacks make an appearance!

The victorious war against the Teutons is just the start. No doubt the German invaders will be chased out of Prussia someday.
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Nice to see the Teutons humbled.

The Sejm not electing the Grand Duke of Lithuania as Poland’s king could prove disastrous. Lithuania is much larger than Poland - and the only resistance to them was just crushed. The throne can always be taken by force…
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A fine first offering and a hint of a rather dramatic succession problem to come. Dramatic problems can require dramatic solutions. Poland and Lithuania must remain one and indivisible!
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As ever, glad I could get in on the ground floor of a RossN AAR :) I've always been a bit fascinated by Polish history myself; chalk it up to a natural love for the underdog in any sort of "David vs. Goliath" tale.

Kazimierz seems very much like a great king who was taken well before his time -- sadly not an uncommon occurrence in history. Keeping the union together in the face of external pressure and internal strife is always a tricky business, but one that he seems to have managed well enough (despite the one moment of rebellion). It sounds like his successors, however, will probably have a much rougher time of it...
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This will not, I imagine, be the last time the Sejm has other ideas.
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Another Polish AAR! :p

Really interesting start - loving the detail you are putting into Poland's history. Looking forward to see who the Sejm selects as the new King!
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Part Two: John of Brandenburg
John of Brandenburg.jpg

A stylised representation of John of Brandenburg (Jan I Kazimierz von Hohenzollern) receiving word from Bishop Rytwianski that he has been elected to the Polish Crown.

Part Two: John of Brandenburg

John of Brandenburg or as he was officially known in Poland, Jan I Kazimierz von Hohenzollern was not an obvious heir to the Polish throne. In 1455 he was already forty three years old, several years older than the man he would replace. He had lived almost his entire life in Germany at the court of his cousin Prince-Elector Friedrich II of Brandenburg. A tall and well built man with a rich auburn beard beginning to run to silver he left a vivid impression on first encounter, which was not always to his benefit for this German prince was notoriously loose lipped especially when he was in his cups (which was often.)

The Nineteenth Century Polish historian Karol Piotrowski [1], who rarely had a good word to say about anyone who wasn't Polish and who had an axe to grind about German involvement in his homeland famously damned John as an:

'...Obscure German princeling who found himself alone and adrift in a country with little notion of what to achieve or even of how it had been decided he take the crown...'

The historian's unkind words contain a grain of truth. John of Brandenburg was not a reigning prince at the time and though he had allowed his name to be put to the vote his election by the
Sejm appears to have surprised just about everyone including the Brandenburger himself. Conventional wisdom held that Prince Aleksander Karol Jagiellon, the cousin of the late King Kazimierz was the obvious choice. However the szlachta felt differently and they had reasons of their own for looking beyond the kind-hearted but colourless Prince Aleksander. As indisputably German as he was John of Brandenburg did have a Polish connection on his mother's side making him a blood member of the old Piast line. More to the point and in direct contrast to Aleksander John was not merely a 'obscure German princeling'. Rather he was a renowned and experienced soldier who had fought in the last crusade against the Hussites of Bohemia and in the ill-starred expedition against the Turks where he had met and befriended King Władysław III.

This splendid and gallant knight with his heavily accented Polish and his train of severe faced German attendants arrived in Kraków on the last day of 1455. Officially the Sejm had yet to make its final vote but it had been obvious for weeks which way the wind was blowing. A combination of nobles from across Poland had backed the Brandenburger and the dejected partisans of Prince Aleksander had discovered that even the Lithuanian nobles representing the Grand Duchy were more in favour of continuing the union with Poland under John of Brandenburg than Aleksander Karol Jagiellon who had never wielded a sword in anger in his entire life.

Certainly for the Lithuanians (bordered by the avaricious Muscovites) a warrior Grand Duke had a simple and direct appeal but the Polish desires were more complex. The notoriously headstrong nobles may have supposed a knight like the German would sympathise with them. Conversely they may have felt choosing a foreigner would grant them a monarch with no power base of his own in the country. There have also been theories that the Elector of Brandenburg bribed the Sejm likely without his cousin's knowledge with John of Brandenburg being famously incapable of keeping a secret to himself. Whatever the truth 'Jan I Kazimierz von Hohenzollern' would be crowned King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1456.

Jan I Kazimierz.jpg

The succession of Jan I Kazimierz von Hohenzollern (or John of Brandenburg as he is better known to history) as King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania.

The new monarch true to his history proved a man interested in reforming and enlarging the army. As a knight himself John of Brandenburg was inclined to favour cavalry and the role of the nobility and ironically given his later reign he was much praised for reinforcing the aristocratic ideal of the Polish army. Between 1456 and 1460 the permanent army grew by six thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry many provided by the szlachta. The new army was likely originally built up against either Bohemia or Hungary, neither nation having much favour with the Poles. However a different if familiar enemy soon appeared.

The Teutonic Order had survived her war with Poland but by the 1450s it was clear to all that the monastic state was dying. Many knights had fallen in the war and against the Danes in the doomed effort to defend Livonia from Scandinavian greed. The disastrous wars had seen a sharp rise in taxes to attempt to fill an empty treasury and lure in new recruits to a depleted body of men. The merchants of the cities, particularly the great trading port of Danzig chafed under the fading rule of the Grand Master. Joining them were some of the lesser nobles who had also grown tired of the Order. Beginning in early 1460 the discontent erupted into rebellion - and a plea for aid.

Prussian Confederation revolt.jpg

The 'Prussian Confederation' (blue) in revolt against the Teutonic Order (grey), November 1460.

John of Brandenburg had little personal enmity against the Teutonic Order. If anything his instincts as a standard bearer for chivalry might have made him more sympathetic towards the Order. Nevertheless the King of Poland (and Grand Duke of Lithuania) had solemnly sworn before God to reign over his people when he had been crowned by the Archbishop of Gniezno. Poland had an historic interest and an historic duty towards the Prussians and if the Teutonic Order had grown tyrannical and inept his own duty was clear. When the envoys of Syndic Kaspar, the young burgomaster of Danzig who led the revolt arrived in Kraków bearing letters in German, Polish and Latin they found a receptive monarch in the Wawel Royal Castle.

In return for pledging their loyalty to the Polish Crown the 'Prussian Confederation' [2] begged John to intercede against their 'common enemy'. Initially the weary envoys, travel stained and hungry after their dangerous journey had hoped for gold or perhaps soldiers, similar to efforts the Poles had sent to help Roman of Moldavia win his principality. To their surprise and delight John of Brandenburg drew his sword and swore by Saint Adalbert that they should have the full strength of the Polish and Lithuanian crowns behind them. The King knew that the Sejm would never stand back and allow the Teutonic Order to crush the Prussians.

John was right about the Sejm but in the weeks it took the Polish council to officially decide policy the war was nearly over. On 18 November 1460 the Teutonic knights ruinously defeated a rebel army before the walls of Marienburg. By the time Poland officially joined the war a month later Danzig itself was under siege. John's first ambition was to save the rebel capital and he marched to the relief of Danzig with eleven thousand men while General Bartlomiej Ossolinski with ten thousand moved on the Teutonic capital of Marienbug. The final and smallest force of eight thousand was sent to the distant port of Memel to aid the Lithuanians who had swiftly moved against the strategic city.

The Poles were delayed by a very wet late winter and early spring which turned the roads into mud traps for an army baggage train and heavy cavalry. It would not be until March that the King and his forces neared Danzig. The Teutonic commander, the Hochmeister Egon von Ungern-Sternberg refused to retreat even while faced with a larger enemy force. The city of Danzig was nearing surrender and if he abandoned his siege now the war was as good as lost. On 5 March 1461 the two forces clashed near the small town of Praust (Pruszcz to the Poles) immediately to the south west of Danzig proper. John of Brandenburg, an old hand at campaigning had deliberately slowed his advance to allow his exhausted troops time to recover and also to scout out firmer ground for his knights to ride on. Von Ungern-Sternberg on the other hand seems to have simply assumed the Poles would be worn down and largely discounted the Polish superiority in heavy horse.

Battle of Danzig.jpg

The Battle of Danzig, 5 March 1461.

Unlike in the contemporary war in France where the English and French still fought over Bordeaux and the knights fought dismounted, the knights of eastern Europe with less mass arrow fire facing them still favoured the steed. Thus when John of Brandenburg's knights easily routed and 'rolled up' their Teutonic counterparts the Teutonic infantry collapsed swiftly. Within four hours the enemy was fleeing and almost half the chivalry of the Order lay dead or taken prisoner. The following day the King of Poland road in splendour through the city gates to the cheers of the republic's inhabitants, a train of miserable captured knights behind him.

After the Battle of Danzig the surviving Teutonic force had retreated east, losing more men in a desperate nocturnal crossing of the Vistula. Unfortunately for them the demoralised and disorganised bands of soldiers reached Marienburg only to find themselves surrounded by Bartlomiej Ossolinski's soldiers who had begun their siege of the Teutonic capital. After the briefest of skirmishes in which eight unlucky Poles became casualties von Ungern-Sternberg and his surviving forces surrendered.

Battle of Marienburg.jpg

The Battle of Marienburg, 11 March 1461.

The Battle of Marienburg decided the course of the war but it didn't end it. The Teutonic Order stubbornly held out behind their city and fortress walls. Even when Marienburg herself fell in June the Order remained in the war, buoyed along by their alliances with Stettin and Lüneburg [3]. Throughout the whole of 1462 the Poles and their allies would be engaged in the unglamorous but vital work of besieging towns. Stettin, which had already fallen to the Poles in the last war finally surrendered on 1 January 1463 bring the war to a close. A tiny rump Teutonic state was permitted to survive but the Order's days as any sort of power had clearly ended.

The Prussian War (or Danzig War as it is also called) had added lustre to the King. John of Brandenburg was an ideal leader to fight such a war; conscious of the importance of chivalry and relentlessly honourable he won the lasting affection of the Danzigers who promptly erected a statue to the King in their city. He also won the esteem of the Lithuanian nobility. John, whose Polish left something to be desired never succeeded in mastering the Lithuanian tongue, but he was ever aware that he wore two crowns and at the end of the war it was at his insistence that the town of Memel go to the Grand Duchy in recognition of their contribution to the war. The 'Prussian Confederation', functionally just the city state of Danzig and her dependencies at this point helped themselves to Ermland. In exchange most of the contents of the Teutonic treasury flowed to Poland.

The King's relationship with the
szlachta was also, at this point, good. The monarch had led a successful war and his stance on the army, which favoured the traditions and privileges of the knightly caste had directly benefited many of the Polish nobility.

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Initially at least the King's approach found favour with the szlachta and many won glory and fame during the Prussian War.

Even as the war drew to a triumphant close cracks had begun to emerge beneath this outwardly successful picture. In February 1462 in the middle of the war the royal adviser and statesman Count Aleksy Mniszech died of natural causes in Kraków. Mniszech had held a variety of royal offices during the reigns of both Kazimierz IV and John of Brandenburg but his great importance was his unofficial role of envoy between the Sejm and the Crown. A rotund and unmartial man with a taste for Italian art and French mistresses Mniszech was an odd fit among the Polish magnates but he had developed a knack for phrasing even the most demanding of requests with exquisite grace. The statesman had always been ready to step in to fix any potential break between the King and the nobles. A xenophile himself he was particularly adept at preventing cultural confusion between a German King and his Polish (and Lithuanian) subjects becoming a problem.

So useful was Count Mniszech that he drafted much of what would eventually become the Peace of Thorn even though it was not signed for almost a year after his death. The passing of Mniszech left the King relying ever more on Bishop Rytwianski, a shrewd man and capable politician but one's whose insights was directed more towards the clergy and the burghers than the nobles. Though other men could occupy the offices that Mniszech had the man himself was irreplaceable.

Peace of Thorn.jpg

The Peace of Thorn, signed in early 1463 confirmed the allegiance of most of Prussia.

In March 1463 another pillar of the Polish state fell away with the death of General Bartlomiej Ossolinski from old age. Ossolinski had not been an overt politician and he had in some ways receded into the background with the arrival of this knightly king but he had been greatly respected and unshakably loyal. John of Brandenburg, of similar vintage to the general had been close to the man and often visited Ossolinski's impressive if unhandsome castle in Lwów. There had even been talk, though it came to little of August von Hohenzollern, the King's illegitimate son, sole male child and heir presumptive marrying Ossolinski's daughter [4].

Though it had been planned long before the grand tournament at Kraków that took place in April of that year was dedicated to the memory of the fallen general. It proved a splendid affair, drawing knights from as far afield as Castile and England and the monarch, a great lover of the chivalric code spent lavishly on the tourney. It was an immense celebration filled with dazzling tents and clothes, huge feasts, music, jousting and games. To his chagrin the King found himself advised by all his court not to take part in the jousts himself; John was then fifty one years old and though in splendid health it seemed unwise to test that health.

Instead the knights of Poland and Lithuania found themselves represented at the tourney by August von Hohenzollern. Clad in a red tabard with the white polished eagle stitched in cloth of gold and carrying the silk banner of the Grand Duchy he drew all eyes even amongst all the magnificence. The royal scion, a well liked and intelligent young man performed well and if the ultimate honours went to a Hungarian knight August won much admiration - and several hearts from the female observers.

It was the high point of John's reign.

Last Joust.jpg

The Great Polish Tournament of 1463, one of the grandest and one of the last such displays of chivalry in Europe.


[1] Baron Karol Piotrowski (1818 to 1879) was perhaps the defining and most popular historian of modern Poland and though his vast Historia Imperium Polskiego (1859) is now much criticised for its biases and assumptions not even Piotrowski's greatest critics can question the level of scholarship the historian brought to his subject. By all accounts Piotrowski was a difficult man whose grudges were engraved on granite but without him Polish history would be immensely poorer.

[2] The 'Prussian Confederation' was the official name of the state in rebellion against the Teutonic Order but most contemporaries (and many historians) simply referred to it as 'Danzig', recognising the economic, cultural and political importance of the seaport.

[3] In contrast to the previous war the Livonian Order remained neutral, still exhausted after coping with a Danish invasion.

[4] John of Brandenburg had two surviving daughters by a previous marriage and at least two illegitimate daughters. His second marriage to Jadwiga of Mazovia remained childless, though by all accounts affectionate.
  • 2Like
The Jerzy Hoffman/Sienkiewicz film trilogy installed in me a fascination of the Rzeczpospolita. Hopefully the Cossacks make an appearance!

The victorious war against the Teutons is just the start. No doubt the German invaders will be chased out of Prussia someday.

While I have played ahead much I feel Cossacks are quite likely to appear. :) Also I'm afraid it isn't quite the end of German interference as you can see!

Those films sound very interesting! I'll have to check them out!

The quicker the Sejm is subdued, the better for the kingdom(s).

I suspect more than one King/Grand Duke would agree!

Nice to see the Teutons humbled.

The Sejm not electing the Grand Duke of Lithuania as Poland’s king could prove disastrous. Lithuania is much larger than Poland - and the only resistance to them was just crushed. The throne can always be taken by force…

That's a good point. I certainly want to keep the union with Lithuania in force.

A fine first offering and a hint of a rather dramatic succession problem to come. Dramatic problems can require dramatic solutions. Poland and Lithuania must remain one and indivisible!

Well said and thank you! :)

As ever, glad I could get in on the ground floor of a RossN AAR :) I've always been a bit fascinated by Polish history myself; chalk it up to a natural love for the underdog in any sort of "David vs. Goliath" tale.

Kazimierz seems very much like a great king who was taken well before his time -- sadly not an uncommon occurrence in history. Keeping the union together in the face of external pressure and internal strife is always a tricky business, but one that he seems to have managed well enough (despite the one moment of rebellion). It sounds like his successors, however, will probably have a much rougher time of it...

As ever a pleasure to have you aboard! :) Yes Poland is fascinating, especially during this time frame! I'm not sure at this point Poland is quite an underdog but I suppose we'll see!

Kazimierz was sadly less fortunate than his counterpart in our timeline.

This will not, I imagine, be the last time the Sejm has other ideas.

You're not wrong!

Always a pleasure to see a RossN AAR

Thank you! I hope you enjoy this! :)

Another Polish AAR! :p

Really interesting start - loving the detail you are putting into Poland's history. Looking forward to see who the Sejm selects as the new King!

Wow, thank you very much and sorry for treading on your narrative toes. I've just started reading the first part of your epic and looking forward to catching up! :)
He's done pretty darned well so far, but the Sejm is fickle and wars are easier to win than peace.
A German king for a Polish state is a bit of an odd duck, but it seems as though Jan Kazimierz isn't doing too bad so far -- though the ominous foreshadowing seems to suggest that his glory days are rather quickly drawing to a close.
Von Ungern Sternberg turning up made me chuckle - I wonder if he will find himself wandering eastward with the decline of the Teutonic Order :p.

With the Knights definitively neutralised as a threat - Poland can look to start asserting itself as the dominant force in the Baltic in the decades ahead.