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Part Eight: Jan II Olbracht Lanckoronski

RossN

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Jan II.jpg


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.



Sejm refuses mobilisation.jpg


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.



Riga War.jpg


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 [1] 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 [2]. 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 [3]. 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.


Battle of gulf of Riga.jpg


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.


Papal Demand.jpg


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...


Death of Jan II.jpg


Rise of a pretender.jpg


The death of King Jan II, the succession of King Henryk and the beginnings of the Nalecz revolt, April 1536.


Footnotes:

[1] Specifically Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck.

[2] These terms are anachronistic and are used by historians to describe broad 'blocs' rather than political parties as such.

[3] 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.
 
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RossN

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I’m surprised to see that the Protestant reformation has such a small spread in Germany. I suppose there is still time for a spread.
Muscovy, though at the edge of the map, seems to promise quite some pain for Lithuania down the line.
On the polish side, Bohemia seems menacing but maybe not quite yet. A lot will depend on the outcome of their conflict with Austria.

Well it may spread further and of course England has converted. And yes Muscovy is getting worryingly large!

A recognizable Europe, yet distinct from ours.

Indeed and nicely put! :)

Protestantism could really do with getting outside of Germany.

A very useful overview of where things are.

Well it is England, but yes I am waiting to see if it spreads further.

France and Castile (perhaps soon-to-be Spain?) look set to be absolute monsters in this timeline (which, to be fair, is not that far off actual history). Hopefully they'll spend most of their energy fighting against one another for dominance.

The odd little enclave of Reformed faith in the Balkans did bring a smile to my face :)

Heh, yeah it is an interesting outpost. :)

Very nice. Consider yourself having another subscriber.

Thank you and welcome! :)

Livonia is Lithuanian now, and it looks like the Union will remain...

Poland is becoming a very mighty power, indeed.

France and Spain might yet become enemies... but that assumes that no one emerges to challenge them.

Poland can now expand west - to the HRE - and east - to Russia. If the Ottomans start doing badly, south opens up as an option...

That is a big 'if' though...

We must avenge the battle of Varna!

Well... uh...

Ottomans and French look scary.

They do!
 

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Jan II seems like a sensible monarch, all told, but his son sounds more promising.
 
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Glad to see even the first sparks of heresy thoroughly stamped out! If Poland turns protestant, then truly all will be lost...
 
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I'm disappointed the King handed over Nowak to the Inquisition. This breach of religious freedom is not the Polish way.

If the Polish szlachta becomes Protestant, trust their wives to guide their sons back to the Church!
 
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Jan II, solid and sensible - and yes, dutiful and dignified. One suspects he may be eclipsed by his son, but we shall see.
 
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Surprised to see that Riga remains independent. The Archbishop flexed some serious negotiating muscles with this treaty, I'm curious to see what use the Poles will make of the city-state.
Henryk looks to be a promising ruler but I'm sure that the szlachta won't take kindly to dynastic rule.
 
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Two very interesting monarchs. I will be interested to see if a balance can be found between the eastern and western factions or if Poland clearly one direction. West would certainly be the bolder choice but the lure of the huge amount of land for the taking out east isn't to be underestimated...
 
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Indeed, Henryk does look promising.

In regards to this possibly meaning dynastic rule, that might be a good thing. In OTL, Poland's elective monarchy made them into a mere puppet often, and it eventually led to its demise. Here's hoping we can avoid that here!
 
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Riotkiller

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Glad to come across this - Greatly enjoyed catching up with it last night. Poland is probably one of the places I know least about during the EU timeframe, so I'm very interested to see how this progresses!

Henryk is a very promising looking heir, so if he can survive this early stability then maybe he can be the one to put the nobility back where they belong :p
 
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Chris Taylor

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I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of those who are enjoying @RossN's superb efforts here. My knowledge of Renaissance-era Poland is nil, so this AAR is both educational and entertaining.

I've never played Poland in any EU game, so I don't know if there is a means to tame the rambunctious Sejm; but I hope that your future monarchs may find a way to do so before it starts significantly impacting development.
 
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Part Nine: Henryk I Lanckoronski

RossN

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Henryk I.jpg


Henryk I Lanckoronski, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania (r. 1536 to 1554.)

Part Nine: Henryk I Lanckoronski

Henryk the First, one of the greatest of Polish kings gained his throne by the skin of his teeth and kept it only by force of arms.

The monarch already had made his mark before he was elected. As Crown Prince he had been an active player in Polish politics. At thirty three he had fought in battle, acted as his father's representative in Gdańsk and Vilnius and even travelled abroad, to Sweden, before becoming King. A man of middling build, dark hair and ice-green eyes the new ruler of Poland and Lithuania was exemplified by his calmness. Even near disaster never seemed to disrupt his stiff upper lip.

The Sejm of 1536, convened after the sudden death of King Jan II was conducted with unheard of haste. Technically there was a quorum in Kraków but many noble representatives were absent, disproportionately the vast numbers of petty barons from the hinterland. Depending on ones point of view these missing magnates were either the bedrock of Polish noblity or the most hidebound, self possessed men imaginable. They viewed any move towards centralised authority and strengthening the monarchy as a sin akin to cannibalism and by their very nature they were most likely to vote against the son of a previous monarch regardless of his abilities. Instead Henryk was elected with the support of a loyalist faction of magnates and representatives from the cities, Church and Prussia - commoners and foreigners! Archbishop Jazlowiecki, now Cardinal Jazlowiecki was a loyal supporter of the new King. The prince of the Church was a commoner from Królewiec (Königsberg) and of mixed German Prussian and polish background himself he was doubly damned in the eyes of the more conservative szlachta. Immediately after his own coronation and with the aid of loyalists in the rump Sejm the King appointed Cardinal Jazlowiecki Kanclerz koronny – Chancellor of the Crown.



Battle of Chelm.jpg


The Battle of Chelm, 10 July 1536.


The response was open rebellion. The conservative nobles turned to Zygmunt Kazimierz Nalecz, a soldier of great renown, considerable ability and personal ambition. Against a weak monarch he might have done well but Henryk was far from weak. At the battles of Chelm (10 July 1536) and Belz (31 July 1536) the King crushed the pretender and his forces. Though he took a soft line on those nobles who had taken up arms and surrendered the swift execution of the ringleaders ('King Zygmunt' among them) showed that the monarch would brook no threat to his throne.

Back in Kraków the Sejm now fully established sullenly refused to fund Henryk's armies. This was their constitutional right and however irritating it was for Henryk he accepted their judgement, relying on other sources of funding [1]. Henryk gritted his teeth, drew on his masterful reserves of self control and moved on, trusting that there would soon be a measure on which he and his most difficult nobles should find common ground. It proved a shrewd guess.

Bohemia was the most aggressive state in Europe. Her kings had conquered much of Hungary and taken advantage of the decline in Viennese authority to establish a hegemony over central Germany. Nonminimally the Bohemians where Catholic, though the resilience of the Hussite movement called this into question. Religious difference did not prevent the Bohemians allying with Brandenburg, the strongest of the north German states and increasingly a bastion of Protestantism. The Elector of Brandenburg was every bit as territorial and aggressive as his counterpart to the south, and together the two states represented a formidable bloc on Poland's western frontier.

During the reigns of Lukasz and Jan II relations between Kraków and Prague had always been icy but it was not until the 1540s that the rivalry turned overtly violent. The border territory of Trenčín had passed through many hands over the centuries; Polish, Hungarian, Bohemian. The Bohemians had taken advantage of the miserable state of Hungary and seized territory from the dying kingdom at a time when much of Christendom saw the Magyars as a bastion against the Turks. In 1530 the Kingdom of Bohemia had been inherited by Mary von Habsburg, a clever and charming woman of that Austrian house who had immediately gone native in Prague and an able student of the same pragmatic and callous politics as her predecessor.



Poland vs Bohemia.jpg


Poland (green) and her allies (blue) against Bohemia and her allies (pink) in 1543.


In January 1543 Cardinal Jazlowiecki (as Chancellor) addressed the Sejm on the 'Bohemian matter'. The prelate spoke on behalf of the monarch, but he spoke to many ears willing to listen to a tirade against Prague and the 'unanswerable' Polish claim on Trenčín. War against the Bohemians was a concept all Poles could embrace.

There was but one difficulty. Bohemia, perfidious and aggressive as she was remained within the Holy Roman Empire. The Emperor Franz was a nonentity, clearly the lesser to his cousin Prague but he remained the Emperor. There were some in the Sejm who feared war with the Empire but King Henryk and his closest advisers believed that with the religious schism shattering Imperial unity and Franz's own weak character the Imperial forces would not stampede to the aid of Bohemia. It proved a shrewd gamble and when war erupted on 25 January 1543 the recluse in Vienna failed to rise to the occasion.

The Bohemian War would be the first time the famed Polish Winged Hussars took to the field of battle en masse. The armies of Poland and Lithuania had long been formed around a core of heavy cavalry but in the age of the arquebus, the long pike and the dreaded Zweihänder sword [2] the knights of old had little place on the battlefield. For the Poles the solution had been a cavalryman, invariably of noble stock, armoured and armed with a long lance, a koncerz (stabbing sword), a szabla (sabre), a brace of pistols, and (later) often a carbine and sometimes a warhammer or light axe. Their most distinguishing feature, behind their gallantry and the superb horses they rode were their distinctive feathered banners that gave them their name. Few forces in Europe could withstand a charge from assembled Polish and Lithuanian horse.

In truth that reputation would be built over the decades to come. This war was not the best showcase for cavalry tactics. The mountains of Windenland [3] proved difficult on the horses and the Bohemians, and a numerical disadvantage to their Polish and Lithuanian enemies avoided open battle. Rapidly the fighting became the familiar grind of siege warfare at least in the south. For the Poles Trenčín itself would prove a challenge. The mighty fortress was built atop a hill and with a ready supply of food and water the Bohemians would last many months weathering as a siege as Polish cannon fire raked the ramparts.

Elsewhere another Polish army marched on Opole (which fell without a fight on 6 March 1543) and a third on Ratibor (which likewise bloodlessly surrendered on 17 March.) The three Polish armies combined had a total of fifty two thousand soldiers. The King himself led the Armia z Kraków in an advance on Vratislav. By the middle of June almost all of Silesia would be in Polish hands with the Bohemians abandoning anything east of the River Oder that was not already defended by stone walls.



War 1543.jpg


The war in mid-1543, prior to the Siege of Berlin.


In July the Royal army crossed to the North into Brandenburg. Early in the war Stolp had fallen to the Lithuanians as part of the Grand Duchy’s invasion of the Electorate [4], but the monarch wished to take Berlin personally. On 22 February 1544 Berlin finally fell to the Poles after a hard siege that had seen the city moon pocked by Polish cannon fire. Four days before that Trenčín had surrendered at last.

The following month the Poles and their allies faced two rare pitched battles, though on neither field was the enemy the nominal one. At Ratibor and then Dolni Luzice rebellious peasants, despairing over their wretched war time condition had revolted. The fighting was bloody but brief and left the Poles in possession of the field. True clashes between the Poles and their allies and their enemies did still take place, but elsewhere. The Brandenburgers, leery of facing either the Poles or the Lithuanians had turned on a weaker target, fighting against the Swedes and even briefly launching a daring raid across the Baltic into Sweden proper.

By the summer of 1544 the Bohemians and Brandenburgers were desperate for peace. Queen Mary of Bohemia was no fool and she had her eyes on goals beyond the current war, even to the point of agreeing a most unfavourable peace from her point of view. On 2 August representatives from all the involved powers met in Kraków, along with those of the Emperor, the King of Hungary and Cardinal Domingo Panciera, the Patriarch of Aquileia who represented the Pope.

King Henryk naturally demanded Trenčín, but surprised many by two further resolutions. The first, popular among all save the Bohemians was that Pest, Nové Zámky and Fejér should be ceded to Hungary. All these territories had been seized by Bohemia from a prostrate Hungary a generation before and had left a permanent stain on the diplomatic reputation of Prague in foreign courts. The delighted and astonished King Márk of Hungary, a beggar among Christendom's princes now found himself the ruler of a realm restored not to full health but at least no longer in her deathbed. The other resolution was even more remarkable because it did not involve the adjustment of borders. Poland had a claim on the border territory of Neumark in the Electorate of Brandenburg and many in the Sejm pushed for annexation. Henryk refused. The monarch knew that the population of Neumark was almost entirely German speaking and Protestant. The former was of little importance as many Germans lived in Poland. The second was a greater difficulty by far. As we have seen before there were certainly Protestants in Poland but they were (mostly) tolerated because they were so harmless. To invite many thousands more, all with a grudge against the Polish Crown promised disaster.



Treaty of Krakow.jpg

The terms of the Treaty of Kraków, 24 October 1544.

Henryk was prepared to rely on his greatest resource: patience. He had already won the war and for the moment he could simply ignore the Sejm. His grace regarding Hungary and his forbearance towards Brandenburg won him praise in Paris, Vienna and Rome. He simply outlasted the Bohemian Queen and when the treaty was at last signed that October he walked away with all he wanted.

The Polish-Bohemian War had confirmed what had been suspected for many years. The Holy Roman Empire now existed as more a fiction than a reality. Within a year the inept Franz would be overthrown by his own cousin in Vienna while different branches of the Hapsburgs squabbled for the Crown and the Protestant grip on Northern Germany grew tighter. Bohemia, weakened but not broken remained a local power, as did Brandenburg. Poland was the unquestionable strongest state of Mitteleuropa but her authority rested on force of arms, money and in the case of Hungary gratitude rather than ancient bonds or rank.

There was another power, far removed from Poland and Bohemia which had benefitted from the war. Castile had swallowed the last fragments of mainland Portugal in the 1530s and under the reign of King Pedro II the royal union with Aragon had drawn closer. The obvious feebleness of the Emperor in Vienna had been observed in Madrid and from 1543 on the envoys of the Iberian monarch in Rome had lain the groundwork for an audacious claim. Pedro desired the title of Emperor. The Imperial dignity was not, technically, vacant, but the Pope, pressured to choose between the rising power that was Castile and the fading glow that was Austria surrendered to the inevitable. In early 1548 with the backing of the Papacy Pedro became the first Emperor of Spain.

Henryk could not claim such a prize. He owed his ever precarious thrones to the nobles of Poland and Lithuania and they would not countenance an emperor in Kraków. There was another option, one which had been proposed before and which had some backing among the nobles. Previously the Kingdom and the Grand Duchy had been linked with Poland as the senior party but they had still been governed as separate entities. By unifying the two states into one realm - a 'Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth' - the Poles and Lithuanians would form a powerful counterbalance to Spain and France in the West, put the fear of God into the Muscovites, challenge Ottoman ambitions and act as guardian over a sunken Germany. That at least was some of the lofty rhetoric used by the King and his faithful Chancellor Cardinal Jazlowiecki while trying to convince the Polish and Lithuanian magnates in the endless horse trading that took place in Lublin throughout 1548.

What won the day for the union was that both the monarch and the szlachta convinced themselves that they would benefit the most from the Commonwealth. When the ink was dry on the treaties and the Commonwealth was officially born on 1 October 1548 Henryk and his nobles had quite different visions of the future balance of power in their great state...



Europe 1548.jpg


Europe in 1548 showing the two new great powers: the Empire of Spain and the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania.

Footnotes:

[1] Largely via income from the Prussian seaports and from his holdings in the Grand Duchy.

[2] The
Zweihänder so impressed King Henryk that despite the weapons growing obsolesce even in the second half of the Sixteenth Century he authorised a corps of magnificently uniformed soldiers with the dreaded swords as a ceremonial guard.

[3] Slovakia.

[4] The Lithuanian armies were at this time run separately to those of Poland with their own commanders and designs.
 
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RossN

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Phew! Good to be back and sorry for such a long break. I hope everyone had a good Halloween and (if applicable) Thanksgiving! :)

The change from 'Poland' to a unified 'Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth' is a major one and I'll be going into the 'new' state in an appendix post soon.

~~~~~

Jan II seems like a sensible monarch, all told, but his son sounds more promising.

Indeed so he proved. :)

Glad to see even the first sparks of heresy thoroughly stamped out! If Poland turns protestant, then truly all will be lost...

Heh, well I guess we'll see!

I'm disappointed the King handed over Nowak to the Inquisition. This breach of religious freedom is not the Polish way.

If the Polish szlachta becomes Protestant, trust their wives to guide their sons back to the Church!

While it was perhaps not courageous to abandon Nowak it was pragmatic and the Kings of Poland must occasionally be that.

Jan II, solid and sensible - and yes, dutiful and dignified. One suspects he may be eclipsed by his son, but we shall see.

Well his son had the advantage of a longer reign but I agree Jan II had many fine qualities. :)

Surprised to see that Riga remains independent. The Archbishop flexed some serious negotiating muscles with this treaty, I'm curious to see what use the Poles will make of the city-state.
Henryk looks to be a promising ruler but I'm sure that the szlachta won't take kindly to dynastic rule.

Riga I suspect has an interest in playing Poland, Lithuania and Denmark off against each other.

And yes the szlachta are not fond of dynasties!

Two very interesting monarchs. I will be interested to see if a balance can be found between the eastern and western factions or if Poland clearly one direction. West would certainly be the bolder choice but the lure of the huge amount of land for the taking out east isn't to be underestimated...

Well there was a little of the west and a lot of the east here. I suppose we'll get to see how well they intergrate!

Surprising to see Riga survive independent.

Some states are lucky!

Indeed, Henryk does look promising.

In regards to this possibly meaning dynastic rule, that might be a good thing. In OTL, Poland's elective monarchy made them into a mere puppet often, and it eventually led to its demise. Here's hoping we can avoid that here!

I fear it will be difficult but we'll see. :)

Glad to come across this - Greatly enjoyed catching up with it last night. Poland is probably one of the places I know least about during the EU timeframe, so I'm very interested to see how this progresses!

Henryk is a very promising looking heir, so if he can survive this early stability then maybe he can be the one to put the nobility back where they belong :p

I have to admit my own knowledge of Poland isn't that high - I'm learning on the job! ;)

I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of those who are enjoying @RossN's superb efforts here. My knowledge of Renaissance-era Poland is nil, so this AAR is both educational and entertaining.

I've never played Poland in any EU game, so I don't know if there is a means to tame the rambunctious Sejm; but I hope that your future monarchs may find a way to do so before it starts significantly impacting development.

Thank you for your kind words and I hope you continue to enjoy this!
 

Riotkiller

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Spain and France are looking very mighty, but the weakness of the HRE certainly offers a nice, relatively unthreatening flank while the much bigger threats grow in the South and the East. Knocking Bohemia down a peg before it could become a third potentially hostile great power on Poland's borders was a smart strategic play by the new King
 
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slothinator

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A brilliant start for king Henryk both defeating pretenders and making Polish power felt in Europe.
A rather generous peace for the Bohemians who can still hold their position in Germany and perhaps rise to the imperial throne.
Finally the Commonwealth! With a realm so united, it might be time to have a look at Muscovy.
 
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HistoryDude

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I'm not surprised that rigging the election resulted in open rebellion.

Nice to see Bohemia humbled.

The new Commonwealth shall rise!
 
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Viden

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Spain, France and the Commonwealth look good. BTW, is that an Ottoman invasion of Venice?
 
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Crimson Lionheart

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What on earth is happening in Ireland? :eek:
 
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Part Ten: The First War of the Commonwealth

RossN

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Wilno.jpg


Vilnius or Wilno, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later the Commonwealth, circa 1600.

Part Ten: The First War of the Commonwealth

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth formed in 1548 was a formidable state, vast, populous and wealthy but it was not without its internal stresses. The old Kingdom of Poland, though geographically smaller held most of the Commonwealth’s people and was linked by ties of trade and diplomacy to the West. Though there were large German and Ruthenian minorities the bulk of the common people spoke Polish and thought of themselves as kin to their ruling nobility. The historic capital and cultural centre of the realm was in Kraków, a beautiful and refined city in the far west of Poland.

The vast Grand Duchy of Lithuania was more of hodgepodge, containing both splendid cities like Vilnius (or Wilno as the Poles called it) and Kiev as well as immense stretches of all but empty grassland. The Lithuanian nobles were as proud and stubborn as their Polish counterparts but fewer in number and ruling over a populace where the Lithuanians were in the minority and the Roman Church often had shallow roots. The old Grand Duchy was every bit as much the realm of the Ruthenian, Byelorussian and the Cossack as it was that of the Polish-influenced Lithuanian leaders and to the east sprawled the quasi-barbarian princedom of Muscovy, stretching back leagues into the endless territories of the furthest east.

Henryk never forgot he was both King and Grand Duke. Immediately after the declaration of the Commonwealth in late 1548 he travelled east on what was his first true visit to the Grand Duchy as monarch. There was endless work to be done integrating the two realms, their laws and their armies. There was also a new capital to select. Kraków was one of the glittering pearls of Europe but it was also very distant from the furthest borders of the Grand Duchy, or even from her centre. The Sejm favoured the small town of Warsaw a hundred and sixty miles to the north east. Warsaw had been the old capital of Mazovia and after that duchy’s incorporation into Poland it had been championed by many magnates who desired a new capital far from royal Kraków. It was true that Warsaw had advantages of her own; she was more centrally located in terms of the Commonwealth and she sat on the Vistula, the great artery of commerce and transport for Poland.

Henryk however had another city in mind as his new seat and though he passed through Warsaw and paid attendance to the Sejm on his royal progress he continued further east. His eye was firmly on Wilno, which he entered clad in the robes and coronet of the Grand Dukes in March 1549.

The Lithuanian capital had experienced moments of violence over the past century, but she had also prospered greatly on the east west trade through Riga and the Lithuanian seaport of Klaipėda (the Prussian Memel of old.) Her population had swollen, far surpassing that of Kiev or Minsk and was soon to pass even Kraków herself as the largest city in the Commonwealth. Though still mainly Lithuanian in her citizenry Wilno was growing more cosmopolitan as Poles, Jews, Germans and Ruthenians increasingly peopled her streets.

For the Lithuanian magnates Henryk’s decision to stay in Wilno brought obvious prestige and the Grand Duke at once won many allies east of the Bug. For the szlachta the movement of the royal court was a ‘difficulty’ as one historian put it with eloquent understatement. Legally the monarch was well within his rights to reside permanently in the capital of the Grand Duchy and even had he remained at Kraków the Sejm was not budging from Warsaw. Still while Henryk could do it, especially with his strengthened political capital after defeating Bohemia it left him few friends among the Polish nobles.

Henryk’s relocation had another purpose besides strengthening the Grand Duchy. The city of Riga, her citizens a shrewd and wilful mix of German, Livonian and Baltic culture had miraculously survived the turmoil of the last century by clinging tenaciously to her independence. By the 1540s she was one of the great seaports of the Baltic and vital to the Lithuanian economy. As well as a bustling market city Riga was also religiously significant with the Archbishop being the Pope’s representative in the north.

In 1549 the Archbishop of Riga was a Prussian German, one Thomas von Boyen. Von Boyen, much like his contemporary Cardinal Jazlowiecki in Poland was a throwback to the great days of the prelate princes who practiced politics as much as they preached. He had originally played the traditional game of playing Poland, Lithuania, Sweden and Denmark against each other but by the time Henryk had moved his capital to Wilno that strategy was looking insufficient. Poland and Lithuania had united and Sweden was an ally of the Commonwealth in good standing as well as being too weak in her own right to act as a patron for the city state. That left a straight choice been the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Kingdom of Denmark.


Danish Empire 1548.jpg


The Danish Empire in 1548.

The Danish were at the height of their powers in the Sixteenth Century. Though Sweden had been lost to the Kalamar Union Norway had been unified with Denmark proper and the ambitious monarchs in Copenhagen had taken advantage of the weakness of first the Teutonic and Livonian Orders and then the dying Principality of Novograd to seize key territories in Livonia and the Kola Peninsula, the later giving Danish traders access across icy waters to Muscovy and the endless depths of the Russian hinterland. And there were always Danish traders. No country, perhaps not even France had benefitted so well from the decline of English power and prestige after the Hundred Years War. A collapse in English seapower had left the Baltic and the North Sea open for vessels sailing from Danish and Norwegian ports. They had won a slice of northern Scotland, holding Sutherland, Inverness and the Outer and Inner Hebrides, giving them influence in Ireland where sympathetic Gaelic princes looked to the Danes in their struggles with the English and each other.

Denmark, even with Norway and her overseas empire east of Sweden and north of Edinburgh had too small a population to fully compete with the other great powers of Christendom. In an age when twenty millions lived in France, nearly twenty million more lived in the Spanish Empire and nearly ten million in the Commonwealth [1], perhaps two and a half millions were subjects of King Frederick III. Yet despite being a fox amongst wolves Denmark’s wealth, stability and above all her navy gave her authority beyond her size.

The objective of King Henryk was to woo Riga away from any temptation to ally with the Danes. His own father had negotiated an alliance with Riga but Henryk, willing to give anything to stop the finest port in the Baltic slipping to a rival realm went further. The embassy in Riga worked themselves into a state of nervous collapse in the sorcerous arts of diplomacy, bribing, manipulating, promising, negotiating, and even when left with no other option being completely truthful with Riga.

One great embarrassment for Henryk was the actions of another close ally, King Márk of Hungary. The Hungarian court had become a bastion for Reformed preachers and it was widely known that the Queen herself was of the anti-Rome faction and that Márk was halfway to heresy. That the Hungarians, dependent on Polish force of arms for their survival flirted so readily with the malcontents was always a wrinkle in the negotiations with Arcbishop von Boyen. Fortunately the Danes failed to make any play with this and Henryk was able to persuade von Boyen to accept vassal status on 1 January 1551. A secret treaty signed at the royal castle of Troki between the Archbishop’s envoys and Count Jan Olbracht Lanckoronski (King Henryk’s cousin and heir presumptive) even promised that in the event of a war between Sweden and Riga the Comonwealth would back the city state.

With Riga secure with the Polish-Lithuanian orbit Henryk could at last turn his attention to other concerns, and their were endless other concerns. The Muscovites lacked the strength to challenge the Commonwealth but even at peace they were a sullen and untrustworthy neighbour. In Vienna the Emperor Joseph and the House of Hapsburg were swept aside in their own homeland with the Archduchy falling to a noble of Polish extraction, Count Ladislav Byszynski. Remarkably it was the Hapsburg scion in Bohemia led by Queen Mary who picked up the wreath and 2 January 1552 she was elected Empress.

These were momentous events and Henryk was forced to deal with them without his strong right arm. Cardinal Jazlowiecki, the great political prelate and devout friend of the Polish monarch died of a fever during 1551. As a confidant and a chancellor he was irreplaceable. As a friend he left the monarch with only his cousin Jan Olbracht who he could fully trust. The Cardinal’s passing also weakened the royal hand against the Sejm. In Warsaw powerful magnates, led by the Lithuanian baron Krystian Giedroyć began to exert weight on the monarch’s coffers and his appointed courtiers [2].



Sweden declares War.jpg

Sweden declares war on Denmark, 1 April 1553.


The eruption of foreign war in April 1553 was almost welcome in both Warsaw and Wilno as it interrupted a slow building antagonism between court and council and allowed the Commonwealth to unite against a common foe. The war had been started by the King of Sweden, Gustav I and his ambitions towards Danish Kexholm.

The first two years of the war would seemed to take place almost in two different universes. The Commonwealth invaded a Brandenburg still recovering from the previous war. The German Protestants could hardly resist the Poles and Lithuanians and by the middle of 1554 Berlin had fallen and the Electorate was mostly entirely under Commonwealth control. It was a similar story in Estonia where the Commonwealth swiftly conquered the mainland Danish territory and even (in a daring act of piracy) captured the island of Øsel. Unfortunately all this success would be more that matched elsewhere.



Battle of the Northern Baltic Sea.jpg


The Battle of the Northern Baltic Sea (15 March 1554), one of a number of Danish victories in the Baltic.


Denmark was a sea power, as was her her most powerful ally, the Protestant Frisan Republic (the Commonwealth was not alone in having religiously dubious alliances.) Even the Earl of Desmond in Ireland [3] had a few ships to his name. In a series of battles across the Baltic in 1553 and 1554 the Swedish and Commonwealth fleets were sent to the bottom in flaming wreckage under enemy cannonfire. By the end of 1554 the Danes and their allies had lost twelve warships, while the Swedes and Commonwealth had lost thirty six, with King Gustav’s proud navy suffering the bulk of casualties and almost being wiped out. Most of Henryk’s galleys and caravels were still aflot, but confined to float at anchor in Gdańsk. The Baltic Sea was, for the moment, a Danish lake.

The naval war hurt Commonwealth pride and stifled her trade, but it was disastrous for Sweden. The Danes ruthlessly but cannily ignored the Commonwealth invasion of Sweden and instead with Frisian aid fought a land war in Sweden. At the Battle of Kalmar in August 1553 a combined Danish-Frisian army crushed the Swedish forces so completely the whole of southern Sweden would be in enemy hands within a few months, save for the imposing fortress of Kalmar herself and her sister castle at Elfsborg. Even these great strongholds could not long hold out and in late spring of 1554 the Danes and Frisians moved on Stockholm and began besieging the Swedish capital.


Danes attacking Älvsborg.jpg


Danish soldiers invading Swedish territory.

For the Commonwealth the war was an impossible one. Her armies alone more than matched the strength of Denmark and all her allies together but they could not walk across water. The only route to help the Swedes was the long journey skirting the Gulf of Finland via Danish owned but Swedish occupied South Karelia and then into Swedish Finland and from there further north through thinly inhabited and bleak country. A very hard journey for an army that would be expected to fight at the end of it but Henryk felt it had to be done. Late in 1554 a great army of forty thousand men with cavalry and cannon were set over this hard route, with the plan to winter in the key Swedish fortress of Viborg. It was to be the last act of Henryk’s reign.

That December the Grand Duke took part in a hunting expedition in the woodlands near the royal estates of Troki. He set off early on the morning of 19 December, a cool crisp day. Hours later the party returned, their faces twisted by grief, Henryk’s body lying across the back of one of the horses. The Grand Duke’s own horse had tripped while after a stag and Henryk had broken his neck in what all present agreed was a terrible accident.

Henryk had many sons, but none legitimate and none old enough even to think of claiming the throne. That left two possible candidates: the King’s cousin Jan Olbracht and the great baron of the Sejm Krystian Giedroyć.

Even with the war against the Danes neither man was prepared to make way for the other...



Jan III.jpg


Pretender (Krystian).jpg


The election of the King & Grand Duke at the end of 1554 would prove one of the most bitter and contested yet...


Footnotes:

[1] All these figures are, by necessity rough estimates.

[2] Krystian Giedroyć was an unusual and controversial figure that some historians have called 'the leader of the King's loyal opposition'. A clever and ambitious nobleman who stood for the rights and ambitions of his class and loathed dynastic monarchy he also defended Henryk's name frequently and professed loyalty to the man who had done so much for the Grand Duchy of which he was part.

[3] Nominally the Earl of Desmond was a subject of the English crown. In reality he was an independent ruler who by 1553 controlled most of Ireland not directly ruled by a weakened England.