Part Eight: Jan II Olbracht Lanckoronski
Jan II Olbracht Lanckoronski, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania (r. 1524 to 1536.)
Part Eight: Jan II Olbracht Lanckoronski
Jan Olbracht Lanckoronoski was a baron like his predecessor and was even distantly related to the late King Lukasz. That was more or less the only points of similarity between the two men. The new King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania was a stolid, conservative soldier, intelligent and capable but no visionary. At forty two years old when he took the throne Jan II was already a familiar figure to the Sejm. His rise was because he had no enemies and crucially, little land and influence of his own. The Lanckoronoskis had estates near Toruń in what had once been territory belonging to the Teutonic Order and Jan himself had a Prussian-German mother, an exotic touch he tended to downplay in contrast to his predecessor. By the time he took the throne Jan was already a widower with a legitimate adult son Prince Henryk.
Any hopes the new monarch may have had that the Sejm would be gracious and grateful crumbled even before his official coronation. Jan II found himself forced to sign the same pledges the two previous kings had been required to make and nobles haughtily informed him that no more funds for soldiers would be available. His known conservatism, his Polish piety and his reputation as a gallant knight stood him little favour with a szlachta ravenous to restore their privileges. It was almost a return to the days of King August II.
In an early disappointment the Sejm flexed it's muscles over the monarch.
Fortunately Jan was a stronger, cleverer man than August II had been and as sharply as his dignity was affronted he was determined to rule as well as he might. His predecessor had signed an alliance with Sweden with a view challenging Denmark or Muscovy at some point. Jan went one better. In April 1532 he married Princess Margareta of Sweden. Queen Michaliana, now enjoying a rather glamorous old age at court had brought vivacious consorts back into fashion and if nothing else the King could feel a sense of accomplishment there. The fact that the Swedish princess was nearly two decades younger than her husband had been a spur to the immortal art of the court gossip and there was a strong rumour that Jan had originally supposed Margareta for his son rather than himself prior to studying her portrait.
Prince Henryk was a different man to his father. Twenty year younger than his father the Crown Prince gave an impression of calmness rather than the military stiffness that cloaked the King. He even accepted the loss of his potential bride with equanimity and the presence of a stepmother three years his junior with dignity despite the inevitable avalanche of bawdy comments and suggestive jokes at court. What really set him apart was his interest in Prussia and the Prussians; particularly in the cities. The great seaport of Gdańsk, that heady mix of German, Pole and Balt was the focus Vistula river trade. Rich, exciting and cosmopolitan the city appealed to many Poles who tired of the pomposity and narrowminded self interest of the szlachta.
The difference between the two almost came to a crisis in October 1532. The new Swedish monarch King Gustav I had ambitions of dominating the Baltic and shifting the balance of power away from the Danes. The Poles were simply sympathetic towards that but Gustav's ambitions towards Riga were far more problematic, especially as war between Sweden and the Hanseatic League loomed. The city of Riga was a key port for the Lithuanian trade and under King Lukasz relations between Riga, Kraków and Vilnius had enjoyed a sort of benign neutrality. In 1532 the monarch and the Sejm found themselves having to decide between maintaining that neutrality or siding with the Swedes.
Sweden and Poland-Lithuania (green) against Riga and her allies (red) at the outbreak of war in 1532.
The Riga War of 1532 to 1534 was fought mostly by Swedes and Germans  but it saw the rise of two factions in Poland that for the first time pushed different visions of the kingdom's future to the fore. Jan II and most of the conservatives in the Sejm held the Traditional or Easterner view . To their minds the main enemy was Muscovy and the Swedish alliance was primarily to ward off against Denmark (and perhaps help against the Muscovite princes.) Jan may have had roots in the Baltic German nobility but like most Polish barons he knew little and cared less about the universe of merchants and sailors.
In opposition this were the Baltic or Westerner faction. This view was particularly strong in Gdańsk, the rest of Prussia and Courland and tended to see Denmark and Sweden as Poland's most significant rivals and potential enemies. The Baltic faction scarcely cared about the Muscovites and many of them were not even that interested in Lithuania. Their dream was of Poland as seapower with links to the Hansa and Riga either a friendly ally or an actual tributary. Some historians have categorised Prince Henryk as a partisan of this faction. Certainly he was sympathetic towards the Prussians in a way his father was not and he strongly opposed the annexation of Riga by Sweden but he was also a proponent of Lithuania (as we shall see in time.)
Despite his misgivings about aiding Sweden Prince Henryk did advise his father at the start of the war that the royal fleet should make sail to blockade Riga. The 'Królewska Marynarka Wojenna' of 1532 was a motley collection of ships, mostly elderly, inherited from the Prussian Confederation years before. So overlooked and ill served by funding was the fleet that many in distant Kraków were surprised to learn there even were warships that flew the standard of the white eagle. The vast majority of the szlachta had no interest in the sea and it hardly helped that the lingua franca used by the navy was Baltic German. It was only in that October that Poland gained her first official admiral, a soldier baron by the name of Mariuz Cetner who had seen service with the King on his expedition to Moldavia in 1526 . An amiable and handsome noble said be some to be the best rider in Poland Baron Cetner had never so much as set foot in a boat before but he was loyal and hard working and his wife hailed from Gdańsk. In the absence of other options that would have to do.
With the Swedish fleet predominantly fighting the German ships it was up to the Poles to deal with Riga. Baron Cetner raised his standard aboard the barque Jonge Tobias and led his force of four sailing ships and six galleys east along the Prussian coast. The cold Autumn winds favoured the Poles and soon the enemy port was in sight. Though Mariuz Cetner had bands of soldiers under his command his objective was to blockade Riga, not take her by sword.
The Battle of the Gulf of Riga, 14 July 1533.
The royal ships and their Riga counterparts finally clashed on the morning of 14 July 1533. The city - under siege from Swedish and Lithuanian soldiers had grown desperate enough to try and break through the blockade by force and her fleet engaged Center and his vessels in the Gulf of Riga. In numbers the sides were a match with ten Polish ships and a lone Lithuanian galley against eleven of the enemy. However the odds lay with the Poles for despite the even numbers nearly half the ships of Riga were converted merchant cogs, their decks crammed with what soldiers could spared from the besieged seaport. With the wind and their backs and their oars slicing through the brine the Poles routed their enemy within the hour, with six of the enemy slipping below the waves after being rammed or running themselves onto the rocks trying to escape their hunters. The barque Johan and the galley Barbara both surrendered to the Poles after a ferocious fight in close quarters becoming the first ever prizes taken by the Królewska Marynarka Wojenna. Mariuz Cetner returned to Gdańsk the hero of the hour, the arrival of his ships serenaded by church bells. In the days ahead even the most landbound of nobles would grudgingly admit the sailors and ships had done well.
Despite the disaster at sea Riga stubbornly held on, bolstered by the continued resistance of her allies. It would take another year until she finally surrendered and the greatest seaport in the eastern Baltic was in Lithuanian hands. But not for long. On 11 June 1534 the Archbishop of Riga negotiated a peace with Sweden and Poland-Lithuania. It was not a cheap peace, with Riga's treasury all but emptied and a stiff tribute imposed but crucially the city remained independent. King Gustav may have wanted more but with the city in Lithuanian hands and some canny diplomacy by the Poles he had, effectively, been bought off in a way that saved face.
An even more delicate act of policy was the secret treaties negotiated with the Archbishop of Riga after the war that allied Poland (and Lithuania) to Riga. These had been pushed by the Baltic faction in the Sejm, anxious to safeguard the eastern Baltic from any more Swedish adventures. This placed Jan II in a grim position, given his own ties to the Swedes but he was eventually persuaded that should war eventually happen between Sweden and the Hansa the terms of the treaties were so vague that the Polish Crown was not committed either way. The King swallowed his scruples and accepted the judgement of his advisers, rather than provoke a public crisis.
Unfortunately for the monarch a crisis appeared anyway.
The Nowak Crisis of 1536.
For almost twenty years the famed Lublin born painter Bartosz Nowak had been the court artist in Kraków. A gifted observer of human life Nowak was perhaps the finest portrait painter east of the Rhine and north of the Alps and had enjoyed much celebrity and considerable influence. The only thing more admired than his skill with the brush was his skill with the gentler sex and there were delightfully scandalised rumours that among his feminine admirers was Princess Agnieszka Malski, second daughter of the late King Lukasz. Unfortunately he had a greater sin than that for Bartosz Nowak was a vocal Protestant.
The election of Pope Innocentius VIII in 1533 had brought a new zeal to the Roman Catholic Church. The new pontiff, formerly Cardinal Pietro Cattaneo was a tough minded theologian and partisan of the Castilians (his election was universally regarded as a sharp rebuff to the French crown.) Innocentius took a sharp line against the schismatic movements running rampant in Germany, England and the Balkans and soon his gaze fell upon the Polish court, nominally loyal to Rome but home to a famous heretic. At the end of 1535 he sent an envoy directly to the Polish king.
It was an extraordinarily difficult moment for Jan II. On a personal level he was friendly with the artist and cognisant of his reputation. Still he was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania and had his dignity and position to weigh like a merchant at his scales. The new Archbishop of Kraków, Krystian Jazlowiecki urged Jan to accept the Papal Demand lest the traditional Polish tolerance for free expression of religion turn the kingdom into a second Germany.
And then Jan II died.
It was last day of March 1536 and seeking relief from the troubles at court the old soldier had taken the opportunity to inspect a regiment of freshly recruited cavalry outside Kraków. Military matters had always been more to his liking. While visiting he had struck some observers as looking unusually tired but no one expected to find him lifeless the following morning, having seemingly passed away in his sleep. He was fifty four.
Jan II is not one of the more widely recalled Polish monarchs and what is recalled is negative. This may be unfair. He had inherited a prosperous realm and for the most part it had continued to prosper. He had walked the tightrope of keeping both Sweden and Riga friendly, even if most of the actual diplomacy was conducted by other hands. He had not scrapped the Navy which in the 1520s had been a serious topic of debate in the Sejm. Even in the business with Bartosz Nowak circumstances had been forced on him. Perhaps he was not a great king but he was a dignified and dutiful one.
The Sejm almost immediately elected Crown Prince Henryk to the throne in what was to prove very contentious circumstances. Even before Jan II had his funeral his son and heir would be faced with open rebellion...
The death of King Jan II, the succession of King Henryk and the beginnings of the Nalecz revolt, April 1536.
 Specifically Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck.
 These terms are anachronistic and are used by historians to describe broad 'blocs' rather than political parties as such.
 There was a 'Southern' faction that held that Poland should be more active in opposing the Ottomans but save for this brief expedition to crush a rebellion in Moldavia in 1526 this faction was limited in influence and never numerous.