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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Cromwell

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The Crown Prince's union with Ossolinski's daughter not going ahead was for the best I think. Better to save such an important marriage to cement a foreign alliance.

The choice of a German monarch suggests a Poland that will face west (that would make an interesting contrast to Tommy's AAR since they are running simultaneously) but who knows where the story will take us.
 

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That was an ominous last line.

Ah, so the Union was preserved. That is good.

The Teutons are basically dead by this point. Or will they see a resurgence in Germany or the East? There’s still plenty of unbaptized lands, and a grudge might be held...
 

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So, another RossN AAR? Great! I just hope you recover your mojo for Sci-Fi so we can enjoy both AARs.
 
Part Three: The Magnate War

RossN

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800px-Le_Roy_De_Pologne.jpg


John of Brandenburg as King of Poland. Even his critics generally admit his dedication to the ideals of knighthood.


Part Three: The Magnate War


In Poland as across Christendom there was always a tension between the nobles, the clergy and the merchants. The sheer power and sense of independence from the szlachta made them a headache for even the most politic of kings and whatever his other virtues John of Brandenburg was not a practised politician. In July 1464 the King became ensnared in a power feud that swiftly tumbled into outright revolt.

The origins of the Kujawy Revolt lay in a fundamental difference of understanding between the King and his nobles. John of Brandenburg was respectful of the privileges and duties of nobility but he also had come to the throne with views shaped in Germany at the court of his cousin the Prince-Elector Friedrich. John held that the King was the true ruler of the nation and that in the end his word was law beneath only God. A good king kept the strata of society in harmony but also expected to be obeyed. In contrast the szlachta considered themselves near equals of the monarch. A mere baron in Poland had a sense of himself that would humble a French duke. This sense of importance and the peculiar sensitivity it engineered was only heightened by the fact the nobles had elected the German in the first place. There was a feeling whether justified or not that the monarch owed special favour to his nobles.

The missing part of all this was the late Aleksy Mniszech. Without his politicking the posturing of both sides was just a little too sharp. Perhaps the King would have supported the Church in any case but his scolding of the szlachta would at least have been moderated.



Tensions in Kujawy.jpg


Zygfrid rebellion.jpg


The tensions in Kujaway that led to Zygfrid Ostroróg's rebellion.

Zygfrid Ostroróg was a wealthy baron in Kujawy with family or personal connections across much of Poland. A solidly built, almost ponderous man in his middle years he was not a brash young hothead but widely seen as a reliable and honourable nobleman. When he raised the standard of revolt against the 'tyranny' of the King he immediately drew much sympathy, and with that sympathy came volunteers. Within weeks Ostroróg would be at the head of an army some thirteen thousand strong, their ranks swollen with gentry, even if the majority of the szlachta remained loyal to their monarch. Ostroróg soon overran the area.

John of Brandenburg may have had difficulty understanding his nobles but he understood war. Once the initial shock passed the King swiftly marshalled the royal army. On 30 October 1464 the two sides met at Kujawy and the royalists shattered the rebel line. Many of the rebel nobles - Zygfrid Ostroróg among them - were killed by an expert cavalry charge led by Prince August von Hohenzollern, whose knights outmanoeuvred the enemy under the cover of a morning fog. The King emerged from the affair with his reputation enhanced and for a time the szlachta turned quiet, unwilling to challenge John's authority, even the memory of Zygfrid Ostroróg did not entirely vanish with his death [1].


Sejm supports August von Hohenzollern.jpg


Intitially at least the Sejm seems to have favoured August von Hohenzollern succeeding his father.

Having put down the revolt and with the ringleaders dead the King was characteristically generous with those lesser barons who repented and requested pardons. The monarch even received encouraging talk from the Sejm that his son had their support as heir. On 1 September 1464 while the rebellion was still going on the Sejm met in Kraków and with the most independent minded barons in actual revolt easily had a majority declare for August as their preferred heir. It seemed that the ship of state had been righted but once again both monarch and szlachta had misjudged each other; John was grateful for the Sejm's loyalty but he considered it exactly that. Loyalty. The Sejm for their part did have a faction of genuine royalists and those who admired August but many others saw their declaration for the prince as being a quid pro quo arrangement.

Early in 1465 August von Hohenzollern departed for Lithuania to spend the next few years as his father's representative in Vilnius. August liked the Grand Duchy and they him, and he would marry into the Lithuanian aristocracy [2]. While August's time in the Grand Duchy proved successful it perhaps weakened his support in Poland proper, removing the popular prince from direct contact with the szlachta.

In the mid-1460s the unofficial leader of the
szlachta was a forty-something baron from Sieradz by the name of Karol Ferdynand Koycki. Unusually for a noble of Poland he was a cosmopolitan figure with a Hungarian wife and interests across the continent - much like the King he was an enthusiastic observer of the Chivalric code. Tall and gaunt, clever and sophisticated and with a taste for finery he was almost the polar opposite of the bluff Ostroróg but he shared a strong belief in the privileges of his class. Unlike Ostroróg he had remained loyal during the revolt and thought himself John of Brandenburg's friend. It therefore fell to him to propose the so-called 'Nieszawa Privileges' to the monarch. This set of demands had been drawn up by the nobles after their recognition of August von Hohenzollern and on 15 October 1466 they presented their demands to John. It was a well coordinated piece of political theatre as Koycki and a dozen other senior members of the Sejm rode into Kraków in their best finery and flanked by attendants. With great ceremony and (and characteristic arrogance) they demanded an audience with the monarch.


Nieszawa Privileges.jpg


The so-called 'Nieszawa Privileges', John's refufasl of which began the Magnate War.

The Brandenburger was shocked, and then outraged. Once again the tensions between the differing expectations threatened to flare into violence. Even an a-typically well travelled noble like Karol Ferdynand Koycki simply felt the King owed an obligation to the szlachta. Coldly and crisply John of Bradenburg refused to sign the proposed privileges and then ordered the delegation of the szlachta from his hall (some sources claim he threatened to have them whipped but this is likely a fabrication.) Shaken the nobles scattered back to Sieradz and their leader's stronghold. For the second time in two years John of Brandenburg found himself faced with a noble revolt.

The 'Magnate War' or the 'Koycki Crisis' as it has also been called was much more serious than the business with Ostroróg. That had been mostly a matter of lesser gentry; Koycki drew many significant aristocrats to his standard. The royalist forces were mostly composed of Lithuanians, Danzigers, Mazovians, the Church, the burghers and a minority of loyalist nobles. John's greatest advantage was that most of those who were currently serving in the army remained loyal to the Crown. The King had more than proven himself as a soldier and a commander to win their respect.

For the rebel nobles it was axiomatic that they win popular enthusiasm among the wavering loyalists and the truly non-committed. On 1 December 1466 Karol Ferdynand Koycki issued the 'Edict of Sieradz' - essentially a declaration of war aims - in which he called upon the King to 'restore the just and rightful privileges promised to nobility and gentry of Poland upon his election.' The Edict has proven controversial ever since with those who supported the monarchy or at least a strong centralised government insisting the 'Nieszawa Privileges' went beyond any concessions that might have promised by John. Those historians more sympathetic towards the szlachta have defended their 'interpretation' of the promises made in 1456. As Baron Karol Piotrowski noted:

'By any measure Jan I Kazimierz was being called upon to grant the magnates additional powers and his reaction explicable... however the nobles sincerely believed the German prince owed a debt of gratitude towards them and his refusal, as they saw it, to honour his debt drove them to war.'

Both sides of the civil war argued that they represented the true Poland against treachery, though nearly every foreign court recognised John of Brandenburg as being right if perhaps unwise. The Pope back the Polish King, though he 'whispered rather than shouted his endorsement'.

The first clash came at Sieradz in the New Year. The rebels had managed to gather a large force, some twenty thousand strong and though the King's army was larger still it took many anxious weeks to assemble the men. Sieradz itself was one of the oldest towns in Poland, a bustling market town and the site of castle built but Kazimierz the Great. It was also close to the capital of Kraków. The stakes could not be higher and a royal defeat here could have meant John's support rapidly unravelling. On 26 January John and his forces crossed the frozen River from the north, outflanking the waiting rebel forces. The King had similar numbers of cavalry to his opponents but superior numbers of infantry and he made a diversionary attack on the town of Sieradz proper, hoping to lure off the enemy. The gambit worked and the royalists fell upon the rebel infantry. Koycki realised his error and circled to save his soldiers but never managed to regain the initiative. What followed was a very bloody battle that ended with the rebels withdrawing from the field. Both sides had suffered sharp casualties and though the King had won the day it was hardly the decisive blow he might have hoped for.

Koycki abandoned Sieradz and in a daring move went straight for the capital, allowing word to be spread ahead of him that the King had been defeated. Fortunately for the King the ageing Bishop Rytwianski was present in Kraków. Speaking forcefully he swayed the demoralised citizens into keeping the gates closed against Koycki. With his gambit failed Koycki's nerve seems to have failed him and when the royalists caught up on 12 February the nobles and their followers disintegrated in a panic. During the rout thousands of the rebels died, many drowning fleeing across the Vistula. Karol Ferdynand Koycki himself was taken alive, dragged senseless and injured from beneath his dead horse.The surviving traitors surrendered by the thousand.



Magnate War.jpg


After the Battle of Sieradz (28 January 1467) the rebels moved on the capital - and the King followed.

Immediately after the battle the King and the Sejm met to discuss the fate of those nobles who had survived the rebellion. The arch-traitor himself would have to die, that much was certain but Bishop Rytwianski in his last significant role before his death in 1468 persuaded the embittered and disillusioned monarch to pardon some of the minor adherents. John eventually allowed most to go free but Karol Ferdynand Koycki and three others were executed that summer while another half dozen magnates were exiled.

John would rule until his death in 1473 and saw no more significant threats to his throne. The only war of any consequence that saw his intervention was a brief and successful expedition against Teutonic rebels in Danzig territory in early 1473. Otherwise the Polish monarch remained aloof, even when war erupted between the Hungarians and the Ottomans Turks, a conflict that drew in the Hapsburg Empress Maria Therseia. While relations between the Poles and Hungarians were poor (and relations with Austria not much better) John of Brandenburg was a crusader of old and had he trusted his nobles he might have joined such a war. But of course he could not trust the szlachta.

In 1473 both Poland and Lithuania were prosperous and settled. Objectively John of Brandenburg was at his most powerful with a tame Sejm and loyal vassal states in Danzig and Moldavia. His reputation as a warrior and a chivalric paragon was undimmed in Europe beyond his borders. Yet these last few years the king had retreated in on himself, no longer the garrulous knight of old but a sombre and near silent man growing old beyond his years. On 28 August 1473 he died of natural causes while in Przemysl on his way back from fighting the Teutonic rebels in Prussia. He was sixty years old.

No King of Poland (or Grand Duke of Lithuania) has divided opinions like Jan I Kazimierz. To his many critics he was at best a foreigner at sea attempting to navigate Polish politics. It is no coincidence he is better known as 'John of Brandenburg' to history than by his actual title as later Polish commentators often emphasised his Germanness. Those scholars sympathetic towards the ideal of an empowered Sejm or a romantic appreciation of the szlachta have been even more negative, sometimes shifting the view of John away from simply being out of his depth and into being a malevolent tyrant.

Against this school that castigates John he has also enjoyed defenders. His statue still stands in Danzig, honouring the King who had saved the Baltic cities from Teutonic rule. His repudiation has also remained far higher in Lithuania where he was seen as the man who granted the Grand Duchy the rich seaport of Memel. He has also always had adherents in Poland proper who consider him unfairly judged, stressing the annexation of territory, the humbling of the Teutonic Order and the overall prosperity of his reign.

Ultimately John of Brandenburg won a Pyrrhic victory. While he might have forced the nobles to defeat on the battlefield he could not wrest control of the Sejm from them and it was the Sejm that decided who sat of the thrones of Poland and Lithuania. Once the old monarch was gone they swiftly recovered their power and their voice.



Death of John.jpg


The death of John of Brandenburg, 28 August 1473


Footnotes:

[1] It has been difficult to separate the myth from the reality with Zygfrid Ostroróg as he almost at once became a martyr to his cause, or at least what has been perceived to be his cause.

[2] The idea that Prince August and Maria Therseia were 'almost married' creating an Austrian-Hungarian-Polish union has been a popular one in fiction but there is no evidence whatsoever that it was seriously considered by either the Poles or the Austrians.
 
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RossN

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He's done pretty darned well so far, but the Sejm is fickle and wars are easier to win than peace.

Tell me about it!

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.

Yes. :( He was actually quite a good king in my view but under the circumstances I think he'd divide Polish opinion.

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.

Heh, yes that was an interesting name! :D

As for the Baltic that is still a little way ahead. As of 1473 Poland is still technically landlocked.

The Crown Prince's union with Ossolinski's daughter not going ahead was for the best I think. Better to save such an important marriage to cement a foreign alliance.

The choice of a German monarch suggests a Poland that will face west (that would make an interesting contrast to Tommy's AAR since they are running simultaneously) but who knows where the story will take us.

It certainly seems Poland isn't done with Germany or vice versa.

That was an ominous last line.

Ah, so the Union was preserved. That is good.

The Teutons are basically dead by this point. Or will they see a resurgence in Germany or the East? There’s still plenty of unbaptized lands, and a grudge might be held...

Indeed! While they are no longer a threat this is not the last we'll see of the Order.

So, another RossN AAR? Great! I just hope you recover your mojo for Sci-Fi so we can enjoy both AARs.

Thanks, and that is certainly the plan! :)
 

Cromwell

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Oh dear, I feel a bit sorry for poor August, let's hope he does not do anything... foolish.

His connections in Lithuania could no doubt allow him to settle down for a good life, if not a King's one.
 
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Specialist290

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There's a certain tragic element to John of Brandenburg's final years. Whether you put the blame mainly on his own pride or the szlachta's high-handedness, I'm left with a definite impression that these rebellions and the mistrust they fostered between the king and his vassals could have been avoided had cooler and more even-tempered minds been allowed to mediate.
 
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Tommy4ever

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Little surprise the Sejm decided to ditch the Hohenzollerns after the way John treated the nobility in his later years.

I’m not aware of the workings of Elective Monarchy in EU4 - will August get any sort of claim for having had that previous event saying the Sejm endorsed him?
 
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The Number 9

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I nearly missed your new AAR @RossN (I must admit, I missed the Stellaris one :confused: ). As always, it's a great and fascinating history book.

I have fond memories of an old game with Poland. I'm clearly excited to see what you will do with them.

Jon I was a great king, though I can see why the opinion was divided. I'm sure, modern historian would review his legacy.
 
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slothinator

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This all looks very interesting!
I've been getting into early modern Poland recently and this scratches that itch.
Interesting to see such a German oriented Poland. I hope that Michal will find a way to deal with the Szlachta, especially with so many pardoned "traitors" still lying around
 
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John's reign seems a waste or energy. Let's see how the next German fares.
 
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Well, John certainly divides opinions.

Let’s see how the Mecklenburg King does.

Also, considering August’s popularity in Lithuania, are we sure we won’t see a Hohenzollern Lithuania - even despite the anti-Hohenzollern Poland? The PLC still hasn’t been founded yet...
 
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Cora Giantkiller

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I am excited to see a new RossN AAR! Can't wait to see where Poland goes from here.

As for John--it seems to me that he would have been more powerful had he been willing to bend a little to the Sejm. A man who isn't willing to make even symbolic concessions is going to find himself struggling politically, no matter how capable he is.
 
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stnylan

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Those damned nobles need some considerable pruning yet.
 
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Part Four: Michal I von Mecklenburg

RossN

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Michal von Mecklenberg.jpg


Michal I von Mecklenberg, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania.


Part Four: Michal I von Mecklenburg

Different historians of Poland have called the Sejm of 1473 both 'the shining example of the patriotic nobility controlling their kingdom's fate' and 'an act of corruption and betrayal that would have shocked Ancient Rome'. Suffice to say the decision of the magnates to give the crown to Michael von Mecklenburg, uncle to Count Magnus II of Mecklenburg is one of the most contested evens in Polish history. Even at the time the magnates knew they were making a contentious decision as the Sejm convened after John of Brandenburg was held not in Kraków, whose citizens were thought to be partisans of August von Hohenzollern, but in Lublin. Here with a haste that suggested they had planned long beforehand a slim majority of the representatives voted to make 'Michal I' King of Poland.

The behind the scenes dealings and no doubt hefty bribes involved remain opaque but the official reasons for rejecting Prince August for the throne revolved around his birth, which had been out of wedlock. Several great nobles who had only nine years before had praised August von Hohenzollern now shuddered at the idea of a bastard on the Polish throne. The very fact that this argument arose revealed the weakness of a case against August's character or ability. The true reason was that the Sejm, free from the direct control of John of Brandenburg was now shouting it's authority in a voice all Christendom could hear as well as enjoying a little posthumous revenge on the late monarch.

August still had his supporters even in the Sejm who fought his case bitterly but his chief stronghold was Lithuania. Almost as soon as his father died the Lithuanian nobles had gathered in Vilnius to proclaim the prince Grand Duke. Only a delay in gathering the magnates from across the vast Grand Duchy allowed representatives from Kraków to reach Vilnius before August was officially proclaimed. It took a mixture of bribes, threats and eventually the reluctant acquiescence of August von Hohenzollern himself to prevent the Lithuanians declaring the union with Poland dissolved. Michal would rule as Grand Duke and the union would be preserved. August was reluctant to throw his states into civil war with the hungry Muscovites and Danes looking on. He was perhaps also sanguine about the man the Sejm looked to instead - who was after all much older.

King Michal I to give him his Polish title was already fifty four years old when he was crowned. In personality and history he was not unlike a less demanding and proud version of his predecessor, being a gallant knight who in his greying years was less inclined to personal combat. The von Mecklenburgs were petty Germa princes but they had wealth and with their Pomeranian origins at least some tie to Poland. Michal himself even had a Polish wife, though she had died before he took the throne. As he arrived to a sullen reception from the citizenry in Kraków few may have expected him to last long. In fact he would reign until 1482 and oversee some significant changes in the Kingdom and the Grand Duchy.

Given his seasoned nature and generally easy going manner the monarch was content to leave much of his rule to the senior members of his court. Men like the master of the mint Bartomiej Gurowski, the sinister spymaster Slywester Czapski and the reform minded general Mariusz Zebrzydowski represented the rise of prominent voices of the szlachta. In contrast with his predecessor Michal would have little difficulty with his Polish nobility during his reign at least in part because they already ran so much.

Scarcely had Michal been crowned when he was faced with trouble in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The city of Klaipėda (Memel) had been annexed by Lithuania from the crumbling Teutonic Order but the bustling port was home to a diverse and headstrong population with little affinity to the Grand Duchy they found themselves a part of. Adding to these difficulties was religious difference. During the waning days of Teutonic rule the port had become a bastion of Fraticelli heresy and in February 1474 the people revolted. Later that same year there was a revolt in Lwów by quixotic separatists looking to re-establish the old Grand Duchy of Halych-Volhynia. The Ruthenian populace of Lwów hoped that with the Polish army busy restoring order in Klaipėda they would face little resistance from the King.

Michal was not the soldier John had been but he was not without experience and in the crisis he proved capable of crushing two near simultaneous revolts, winning grudging respect even in Lithuania. The new king found his position strengthen and in 1474 felt secure enough in authority and wealth to refuse the opportunity to sell titles to wealthy commoners. Michal was no son of Venice when it came to politics but he knew enough to see that keeping the support of the szlachta was the only way to keep power.



Legitimacy of von Mecklenberg.jpg


The legitimacy scandal of 1476.


Aiding the monarch, from a certain point of view, was a scandal that erupted in 1476 over the background of his maternal grandmother. While it was embarrassing to be revealed to have such 'common' ancestry (especially given the momentous fuss the Sejm had made over August von Hohenzollern's illegitimacy) it gave Michal a certain legitimacy with the Poles, and urged by advisor the spymaster Slywester Czapski the monarch acknowledged the scandal that whatever else linked him by blood to Poland.

Despite the humbling of the Teutonic Knights they still held land in Prussia, including their capital of Marienburg. The temptation to snap up these territories was always strong, especially with the active connivance of the Danzigers who feared any form of Teutonic restoration, implausible though that might seem. In April 1477 the Poles declared war.

Compared to the great clashes of previous years this was a one sided war. The King led the Polish army to the successful sieges of Marienburg and Dramburg while a rare but spectacular 'naval' battle of sorts took place in the Vistula Lagoon that saw a fleet of vessels hastily acquired from the Danzigers defeat the Knights. As neither the Poles nor the Teutonic Order had a navy the clash was fought on the decks of fishing boats and merchant ships where the chances of death by drowning was a likelier fate than death by sword.



Battle of the Vistula lagoon.jpg


The Battle of the Vistula Lagoon, April 1478 saw a clash between 'Polish' (actually mostly Prussian) and Teutonic naval forces.


Due largely to the stubbornness of the Livonian Order who had loyally come to the aid of the Teutonic Knights the war dragged on until December 1478, though few major battles took place in the second year. In fact it was the peace negotiations that saw the most stark confrontation - between the Poles and the Lithuanians. The previous war had seen the Grand Duchy acquire the port of Memel or Klaipėda as it was now and many in Lithuania had sought further land in the Baltic state. They were to be disappointed; when the Treaty of Marienburg was signed on Saint Stephen's Day the only territorial concessions were the remaining Prussian territories of the Teutonic Order which transferred to the Polish crown [1]. The Lithuanians received nothing.

Borders 1478.jpg


The borders of Poland and Prussia after the Treaty of Marienburg in December 1478. Malbork (formerly Marienburg) and Ostróda (formerly Osterode) were annexed by Poland.


There was method in this madness. The Danes had become a formidable power in the Baltic and still further weakening the Livonian Order could only benefit them. The Polish Sejm had no intention of aiding a kingdom that at best was a trading rival. Therefore the Livonians were allowed to escape with their lands intact but their treasury empty. The Lithuanians seethed but for the moment there was little they could do.

In this period Prince August von Hohenzollern was an ever present concern for the King and the Sejm. The son of John of Brandenburg had accepted the decision of the nobles in 1473 and played little to no active part in politics but he remained very popular in the Grand Duchy. His brother-in-law Vytenis Oginskis was one of the most vocal of the Lithuanian nobles, always straining at what he and many of his fellows saw as a Polish yoke on the proud barons and princes that lived east of the River Bug. A great tall man with a passion for falconry (at one stage he was said to own more birds of prey than the King of France and the Emperor combined) Vytenis Oginskis was a natural leader for the malcontents in the Grand Duchy. It was Oginskis that proved the greater threat to the von Mecklenburg consensus. In October 1482 he would lead a revolt, swiftly gaining support from his fellow Lithuanian nobles. The administration in Vilnius remained loyal to the Polish crown but the resources commanded by the rebels were formidable.


Lithuanian revolt.jpg


The revolt of Vytenis Oginskis in October 1482 saw some fifteen thousand discontented Lithuanians gather to the pretender's banner.


Ever since historians have attempted to divine whether Oginskis was acting on behalf of his brother-in-law or not. The rebel's followers declared him Grand Duke of Lithuania but were silent on the question of the Polish throne. Given Oginski's close relationship with August von Hohenzollern many have suspected that the Lithuanian rebel intended to hold the Grand Duchy under the authority of his brother-in-law as King of Poland. August, who spent the entire war at his estates near Kiev may have hoped that the revolt would inspire a similar revolt by sympathisers in Poland proper. If so he was to be disappointed. Poland did not rise and even much of the Grand Duchy remained loyal to the House of Meclenburg. King Michal may not have been loved but even many critics shuddered at the thought of civil war such as had convulsed England and France within living memory.

With the loyalty of any Lithuanians suspect it was the Polish army that the King marched. Under the leadership of General Iwan Komorowski the Crown forces met Oginski outside the walls of Vilnius on 22 December 1482. The rebel army was much the smaller of the two, thanks in part to losses from attrition during the harsh winter but the pretender had high confidence in his men over the Poles, still weary after their long expedition. Despite the advice of some of his supporters who urged him to fall back into the vast hinterland of the Grand Duchy and rally more men to his cause Vytenis Oginskis gave battle. The Lithuanian knights, their brilliant banners flying behind them charged with lances set against the centre of Komorowski's lines. The Poles buckled but did not break and swiftly turned on the collapsing Lithuanian flanks, encircling them.


Battle of Vilnius.jpg


The Battle of Vilnius, 22 December 1482.


The Battle of Vilnius was a decisive victory for the Crown forces. Vytenis himself fell on the field, slain according to popular legend by a blow from a footman's axe as he sought to escape from under his fallen horse. Most his lieutenants fell with him, or surrendered themselves to the victors as the rebellion collapsed within the space of an hour. Vilnius had been a crueller battle than most for the defeated thanks to the weather with many wounded freezing to death in the snow.

One man who was not present at the battle but heard about it swiftly was August von Hohenzollern. The prince who had remained at Kiev learned the news early in the year and at once abandoned his lands. After a lonely and difficult journey across foreign soil he would make his way to Rome and exile. Even with the death of Vytenis Oginskis no real proof ever emerged that he was conspiring with his brother-in-law but he quite reasonably did not wish to take his chances with a victorious King Michal. In truth he need not have worried, at least on that score.

The King had already been frail that autumn and had remained in Kraków while he deputised Iwan Komorowski as his commander in the field. By late November he was fading fast and the Sejm hastily assembled to discuss the inheritance. It was another August that at once emerged as the favoured candidate; Prince August von Mecklenburg the thirty five year old son of King Michal. August of Mecklenberg was not without his flaws; he was known to be indulgent when it came to wine and mistresses. Nevertheless he had no true enemies among the szlachta and there was a strong feeling that he would accept the judgements of the Sejm rather than try and rule through his own force. Most importantly he was the son of the current monarch and there was at least some sincere sentiment for Michal among the Polish nobles.

On the morning of 29 December 1482 King Michal died. Few would consider him a great ruler but under the circumstances he had proven a reliable and largely benign ruler. He had little understanding of Lithuania but that charge with less excuse could be laid at the feet of his Polish ministers like Gurowski, Czapski or Zebrzydowski. Undoubtedly the power of the Crown had declined during his reign but he had managed to avoid a crisis confrontation with the Sejm. He had succeeded in passing the throne to his son.

The new monarch would be crowned with great ceremony, though he would soon discover the Sejm expected a reward for their loyalty to his dynasty...



August II von Mecklenberg.jpg


The death of King Michal I, 29 December 1482.


Footnotes:

[1] A rump Teutonic Order survived inside the borders of the Empire while many of the German speaking nobility left Prussia would soon adapt to their new rulers, forming a distinctive strand within the greater Polish aristocracy.
 
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RossN

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Hi all, back after a very long break where I got distracted by other projects. Looking forward towards returning to this game and story! :)


~~~~~

Oh dear, I feel a bit sorry for poor August, let's hope he does not do anything... foolish.

His connections in Lithuania could no doubt allow him to settle down for a good life, if not a King's one.

That's true though sadly it would not last. Whether you believe he was involved in the revolt of 1482 or not.

There's a certain tragic element to John of Brandenburg's final years. Whether you put the blame mainly on his own pride or the szlachta's high-handedness, I'm left with a definite impression that these rebellions and the mistrust they fostered between the king and his vassals could have been avoided had cooler and more even-tempered minds been allowed to mediate.

While that's true it is also possible that would have simply kicked the can down the road. The struggle between Crown and Sejm has issues beyond one individual.

Little surprise the Sejm decided to ditch the Hohenzollerns after the way John treated the nobility in his later years.

I’m not aware of the workings of Elective Monarchy in EU4 - will August get any sort of claim for having had that previous event saying the Sejm endorsed him?

Not the way the Polish elective monarchy works, which is I believe a unique system and I am still figuring it out as I go! :D

I nearly missed your new AAR @RossN (I must admit, I missed the Stellaris one :confused: ). As always, it's a great and fascinating history book.

I have fond memories of an old game with Poland. I'm clearly excited to see what you will do with them.

Jon I was a great king, though I can see why the opinion was divided. I'm sure, modern historian would review his legacy.

Thanks and well said! Personally I sympathise with him and feel he had a hard deal. :)

This all looks very interesting!
I've been getting into early modern Poland recently and this scratches that itch.
Interesting to see such a German oriented Poland. I hope that Michal will find a way to deal with the Szlachta, especially with so many pardoned "traitors" still lying around

Yes the German element is quite strong - August II will be the third 'German' king in a row! I guess we'll have to see how this develops!

John's reign seems a waste or energy. Let's see how the next German fares.

Well at least we avoided cyncism! ;)

Well, John certainly divides opinions.

Let’s see how the Mecklenburg King does.

Also, considering August’s popularity in Lithuania, are we sure we won’t see a Hohenzollern Lithuania - even despite the anti-Hohenzollern Poland? The PLC still hasn’t been founded yet...

As you can see there is certainly some malcontent in Lithuania and I doubt we have seen the last of it!

I am excited to see a new RossN AAR! Can't wait to see where Poland goes from here.

As for John--it seems to me that he would have been more powerful had he been willing to bend a little to the Sejm. A man who isn't willing to make even symbolic concessions is going to find himself struggling politically, no matter how capable he is.

Thank you! :)

And yes I suppose it is a difficult path to walk, especially for a man unused to the sensitivities of the Polish magnates!

Those damned nobles need some considerable pruning yet.

Hah! Well that is one solution! :D
 

stnylan

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Not great, but there is much to be said for just having a basic degree of competency.

But it also feels a bit like a missed opportunity. Not precisely fair to him - but it already sounds like August II might have his work cut out for him.
 

Cora Giantkiller

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With the benefit of hindsight, it seems as if Michal I should have turned August von Hohenzollern into a boon companion or driven him out from the start. Ambiguity on such things can only make trouble.
 

Specialist290

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Michal was perhaps not the stuff legends are made of, but he seems to have been a decent caretaker. At least he didn't break anything important.

As for his son and heir, on the other hand, it sounds like he'll have an interesting career ahead of him...
 

Ostmarches

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I'm currently reading a book on Polish history, and its interesting to see how different this timeline is already. I wonder to what heights this Poland will go.

Hopefully avoiding partition of course.