• Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

RossN

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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

That's very true, though I wouldn't forget the Danes, who at least at the moment are performing impressively.

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.

Muscovy has been surprisingly quiet, though I suspect that may not last and I think an eventual confrontation is certain.

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

Nice to see Bohemia humbled.

The new Commonwealth shall rise!

'Rigged' is a strong word! :D

And Bohemia, though humbled, still lives. We may not have seen the last of them.

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

It is! The Ottomans are powerful and scary, though as yet not so much that they are an existential threat.

What on earth is happening in Ireland? :eek:

Desmond has taken over most of the island thanks to general English weakness (England herself has never recovered from her defeat in the Hundred Years War.)
 

Cora Giantkiller

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Henryk has accomplished great things but it seems that his death has left Commonwealth in quite the spot.

Also, I laughed at loud at the tactful use of the word 'difficulty.'
 
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Riotkiller

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Well that mighty Danish navy has certainly complicated matters - Sweden made a gigantic miscalculation beginning this war, even if the new Commonwealth King can bail them out at the last minute... One suspects most of the devastation shall take place on Swedish soil, either way.

The PLC seems very strong right now, but with the Swedish problem and the Hungarian heretics, are its allies actually more of a hindrance than a boon? Perhaps the new King should look to fundamentally change the diplomatic situation - Should he succeed in holding off the nobles, of course!
 
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HistoryDude

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Well, this war isn't going great.

Good job vassalizing Riga, though.
 
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slothinator

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Interesting choice of capital there, I wonder if the Polish nobles will pressure future monarchs in changing that.
Goodness, Denmark is a horrible snaky thing, it's like the Viking age never ended!
An unfortunate end to Henryk's career with the war in such a poor state. His successor will have his hands full starting with the civil war.
I'm impressed that another Lanckoronski could be elected and I can understand that the Sejm might be concerned about the future.
 
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Part Eleven: Jan III Olbracht Lanckoronski

RossN

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King Jan III.jpg


Jan III Olbracht Lanckoronski, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania (r. 1554 to 1566.)

Part Eleven: Jan III Olbracht Lanckoronski

Count Jan Olbracht Lanckoronski, the third member of the House of Lanckoronski to rule over Poland and Lithuania was not a young man even in 1554. In fact he was five years older than his predecessor and cousin, having been born in 1498 when his family were little more than petty barons. Thinning hair, crows feet and a limp from an unshakeable bout of gout characterised the man who would become King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania and monarch of the Commonwealth.

Fortunately there was more to this soft spoken gentlemen than met the eye. Jan Olbracht had effectively been the family heir for years, once it became clear that Henryk was unlikely to have a legitimate son. Even then the expectation had been that Jan Olbracht’s own son Aleksander, who had been born in 1517 would be the actual inheritor but Jan Olbracht had still learnt much and been a significant figure. Many in the Sejm supported his candidacy for the throne, even beyond those personally loyal to the Lanckoronskis. He was widely seen as an intelligent and capable man.

For others none of his fine qualities and experience could countenance the continued grip of a single dynasty on the throne, which seemed to make a mockery of the nobles privileges. At the hastily assembled election Sejm in Wilno (Henryk’s death coming so close to the winter festivities meant there was – just – a quorum of electors in the capital at the end of the year) almost half the senators either abstained or voted for Krystian Giedroyć. Jan Olbracht was elected on the last day of the old year as King and Grand Duke Jan III. Many of the malcontents accepted the vote but other nobles left for the south, suspecting correctly that the defeated candidate would raise his banner in revolt.

The pretender was based in Kijów [Kiev] and drew much of his support from Ruthenian families. Krystian Giedroyć was believed to be sympathetic to the Ruthenian people [1] and Kijów in particular, a city long passed her golden age was fervent in his cause. Within weeks nearly thirty thousand soldiers – from lesser nobles to peasants – all rallied to Giedroyć’s standard. The old capital of the Rus surrendered without fight and the pretender moved on Mozyrz.


Slupsk.jpg


The town of Słupsk, formerly Stolp, ceded to the Commonwealth by Brandenburg, January 1555.

Meanwhile the new official monarch had to deal with the war in the north. On 9 January 1555 the Elector of Brandenburg surrendered and ceded the Pomeranian town of Stolp, known as Słupsk to the Commonwealth. The negotiations had been handled by the Swedish and Jan at least would never cease to be grateful to Sweden for it. This was good news – the only good news of the first few months of Jan’s reign but it came with the headache of trying to integrate a German speaking, almost entirely Protestant city into the Commonwealth. Troops were needed to garrison it and Jan had few to spare without cutting corners elsewhere. As it was the forty thousand strong army bound for Sweden was turned around and sent towards Kijów, under the captaincy of Andrej Leszcynski, a capable general and a Lanckoronski loyalist. The monarch himself could not afford to leave Wilno where he was involved in a bitter dispute with the Sejm, which having elected him was eager to show the new king the limits of his authority.

On 1 May 1555 Hetman Leszcynski arrived at Mozyrz. The small city, on the right bank of the River Prypeć was besieged by the pretender’s army, and only difficulty in moving artillery along the sandy banks had prevented her early fall. Giedroyć, suspecting the loyalist army would be exhausted from their long march attacked, in spite of the disparity of numbers [2]. The battle, fought over a warm day with their backs to the river proved a disaster for the rebels. Leszcynski had moved fast but he’d scouted out the terrain before hand and his forces were simply more mobile than the pretender’s which laboured under a glut of cannon.

By evening it was over and though it would take three more battles to completely defeat the rebels Giedroyć was a broken force. Kijów surrendered to the loyalists and the pretender himself fell on the field outside Lwów on 21 August 1555. There would be no further challenge to Jan’s legitimacy.

The collapse of the rebellion allowed Jan to return his attention to the foreign war facing the Commonwealth and her allies, though it was not immediately obvious what he could do. The situation at sea remained impossible, and the monarch who had strong links to the seafaring city of Gdańsk (his childhood language had been German and his mother part of the Baltic German diaspora) knewthat the Commonwealth would only be throwing away the lives of their gallant sailors if they attempted to break the blockade. To their credit the Swedes had managed to hold on in Stockholm, and even retake some of the land they had lost during the previous year.

In truth few in the Commonwealth wished to fight on solely to win land for Sweden. The King, and many in the Sejm felt a moral duty to save the Swedes from going under (and a pragmatic concern that a triumphant Denmark would be even more of a nuisance), but as the war entered it’s fourth and then fifth year and neither side seemed on the verge of victory the Sejm grew ever more reluctant to send Polish and Lithuanian soldiers to the front via the long and lonely road through Swedish Finland. The other truth was that the economy of the Commonwealth was proving surprisingly resilient, even with the Prussian coast bottled up. Taxation had filled the coffers of the state and continued to do so even during the war as the overland routes and the bustling cities were scarcely affected. In 1556 Jan III had granted limited self government to the southern Cossacks and even those in nobility who saw the Cossacks as little more than sword waving barbarians saw this as a sign of strength and stability. Poland and Lithuania were booming.

On 2 January 1558 the Swedes and the Danes signed a truce at Kalmar. The Danes, distracted by a growing feud with Scotland (that would soon lead to war) had lost interest in reasserting control over Sweden, in so much as that had been their aim. The Swedes had not obtained their goals but were not anxious to keep fighting while the south of their kingdom remained under Danish control. It was a draw born of exhaustion, even if peace was very welcome in Wilno.

For the Swedish King Gustav I the war had been a personal catastrophe. Though the monarch had won some honours with the defence of Stockholm against the Danes and Frisians the plain fact was Sweden ended the war with her navy and her treasury empty. Jan III (who also had to deal with domestic worries thanks to the permanently sullen Sejm was sympathetic towards his brother king.) He was also worried that if the Royal House of Forstena collapsed, the next ruler of Sweden, whether than be Denmark or a local dynasty might see the Commonwealth as a rival rather than a friend.

On 2 April 1561 the Commonwealth officially took on Sweden’s national debt, paying off all their outstanding loans. It had taken tremendous arm twisting in the Sejm by King Jan III and his supporters to achieve this, and not only revealed the steely political ability behind the monarch’s rather quiet exterior but also just how stable and prosperous the Commonwealth had become in recent years. The King also found time to rebuild and modernise the Commonwealth navy (a project close to his heart) and enlarge the army, even over the sulking Sejm.



Paying Swedish debt.jpg


The payment of the Swedish debt, 1561.


King Gustav had little time to enjoy to his newfound solvency, as he died in November 1562 and was succeeded by his son King Karl VIII Gustav. Jan III, eager to continue good relations with the new ruler in Stockholm arranged a royal marriage between himself and Karl’s sister, Princess Ulrika Eleonora. The Swedish princess, glamorous and noticeably younger (and an inch taller) than her husband arrived in the Commonwealth in February 1562 for a lavish procession to Wilno and her marriage and coronation as Queen-Consort and Grand Duchess-Consort. The port she disembarked at was itself noteworthy as her ship landed at Riga, a city which within living memory had been at war with Sweden. Now she was tied ever more closely to the Commonwealth and would soon (in April 1565) formally integrate with the Commonwealth with special privileges to recognise her status.

Riga (or ‘Ryga’ as the Polish spelling went) was a predominately German speaking city. That other German town that joined the Commonwealth during Jan’s reign was smaller but far more troublesome. Słupsk was both fiercely independent and fiercely Protestant. The former was a local difficulty, and caused a brief but bloody revolt in 1560. The second was a broader issue.

Protestants had lived in Poland for two generations by the 1560s and outside rare events like the Bartosz Nowak affair (known as the ‘Lublin Martyr’ to Polish and Lithuanian Protestants) an unstated tolerance had been the rule. Followers of Luther and other religious reformers were simply not numerous enough to force the monarch or the Sejm to act. Even in the large cities they tended to be outnumbered by Jews, let alone Roman Catholics and only the town of Kamieniec Podolski (and now Słupsk) actually had a local Protestant majority. Elsewhere it was a faith restricted to a few burghers and petty nobles.

The conversion of Hungary from a Catholic state to a bastion of Calvinism shocked many in Poland, but the pragmatic alliance between Wilno and Pest did little to discourage the view that the Commonwealth was at the very least not oppressive against those who quarrelled with Rome. A steady trickle of emigres and refugees from France, Italy, and those parts of Germany that remained Catholic arrived in the Commonwealth. Unlike the long standing Lutheran circles the Calvinists were ambitious and zealous at looking for converts and in 1561, with the aid of the great and influential magnate Mikołaj "the Black" Radziwiłł they printed a Polish version of the Bible in Lublin.



The Raziwill bible.jpg


The Radziwiłł Bible (also known as the Lublin Bible), printed in 1561.


Jan III was by every indication a believing Catholic loyal to the Pope, and he even helped fund the foundation of the Jesuit school, the ‘Collegium Hosianum’ the same year the Radziwiłł Bible was printed. However the monarch found the idea of the Commonwealth suffering the same sort of strife as gripped the Holy Roman Empire (sliding into outright religious war in this period) horrifying. He was not alone. Even with the overall loyalty to Rome in the Commonwealth and the wealth and prestige of the clergy (between them Poland and Lithuania had seven cardinals in the 1560s) the Church in the Commonwealth had remained much as it had for the past century, untouched both by the reforms and zealotry of the Counter-Reformation. This led to a certain corruption, but also a certain tolerance not found in France or Spain where the Church had modernised. In the Commonwealth to be a prince in crimson was in some ways to be a more powerful figure than even the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, and as we have seen with the late Cardinal Jazlowiecki many saw it as their mandate to dabble in politics.

The leading theologian in the Commonwealth was Cardinal Leonas Kamieniecki, the Archbishop of Charków [Kharkiv]. Cardinal Kamieniecki was not Polish, Lithuanian or German though he spoke all these languages but a Byelorussian originally from Minsk. He owed his unusual rank to a mix of learning and sharp political antennae. Though the appearance of openly Calvinist circles in Lublin, Łęczyca and Gniezno shook him, the Cardinal advised the monarch to stick with fines rather than try and take sterner measures. It was a leniency that they would both later be criticised for.

By the end of Jan’s reign Lutherans (and related denominations) would make up 2.1% of the Commonwealth population, while Calvinists (and related denominations) would make up 3.2%, a combined total of perhaps half a million adherents out of a total population of perhaps ten million.



Religion 1561.jpg


A religious map of Europe in 1561.

On the evening of 1 February 1566 the Grand Duke was enjoying a day out from Wilno with his son Crown Prince Aleksander and several friends and court favourites. The men were engaged in falconry, a sport much favoured by the monarch who regarded it as more intellectual pastime than conventional hunting, and treated his hawks as others pampered their puppies. The royal party had stayed out a little too late to let loose a new tiercel and by the time they turned back it was already growing dark. In a tragic accident, eerily reminiscent of that that slew his cousin years before Jan was climbing an incline for a better view of the surroundings when he slipped, fell and broke his neck.

King Jan III was a complex monarch, with both defenders and critics. Some historians have accused him of being spendthrift with the realm’s finances, of sinking a fortune into a fickle Sweden, of turning a blind eye to growing religious tension by kicking the can of confrontation down the road. His supporters point to his decade long peace, to the prosperity of the Commonwealth, the growth of population, the integration of Riga and his restoration of the navy. They point out something else too; for the first time in a generation the Sejm elected a monarch without armed opposition. Crown Prince Aleksander took his fathers thrones and became the fourth of the Lanckoronski dynasty to rule...



Aleksander I.jpg


The death of Jan III Obracht and the election of his son Aleksander I, 1 February 1566.


Footnotes:

[1] Some historians believe Giedroyć intended to carve out a 'Grand Duchy of Ruthenia' (or 'Grand Principality of Ruthenia') based around Kijów, but the evidence for this is scaty at best.

[2] Approximately forty thousand loyalists against twenty nine thousand rebels.
 
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Henryk has accomplished great things but it seems that his death has left Commonwealth in quite the spot.

Also, I laughed at loud at the tactful use of the word 'difficulty.'

Glad you liked it! ;)

Henryk's death was a blow no doubt, though Jan III proved better than I feared.

Well that mighty Danish navy has certainly complicated matters - Sweden made a gigantic miscalculation beginning this war, even if the new Commonwealth King can bail them out at the last minute... One suspects most of the devastation shall take place on Swedish soil, either way.

The PLC seems very strong right now, but with the Swedish problem and the Hungarian heretics, are its allies actually more of a hindrance than a boon? Perhaps the new King should look to fundamentally change the diplomatic situation - Should he succeed in holding off the nobles, of course!

Denmark is actually remarkably tough. As of 1566 they have the fifth largest army in Europe (I have the third after the Ottomans and Spain), and the third largest navy (after Spain and the Ottomans.) I'm not sure how or even if they are force in colonisation but even just in the Old World they are impressive for their size.

And yes the PLC is very much trying to play a balancing act without driving anyone away!

Well, this war isn't going great.

Good job vassalizing Riga, though.

Thankfully it ended okay, though I won't underestimate the Danes again!

And yes it was good to peacefully take Riga! :)

Interesting choice of capital there, I wonder if the Polish nobles will pressure future monarchs in changing that.
Goodness, Denmark is a horrible snaky thing, it's like the Viking age never ended!
An unfortunate end to Henryk's career with the war in such a poor state. His successor will have his hands full starting with the civil war.
I'm impressed that another Lanckoronski could be elected and I can understand that the Sejm might be concerned about the future.

Wilno is actually my largest city at this point and one of the largest in Europe (going by 'Development') - only Constantinople, Vienna, Paris and (surprisingly) Stockholm are bigger.

And yes there probably is some resentment among the Polish nobles, though evidently not enough to keep the Lanckoronskis off the throne!
 

Riotkiller

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Taking on the Swedish national debt is certainly a very generous move, and very decisive for the continuation of strong PLC-Swedish ties. Let's hope Sweden uses their new solvency to recover from the devastation in the war before Denmark can strike again and inflict a much more territorially painful loss on them.
 
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slothinator

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I am a little bit disappointed that the pretender didn't win, a Polish-Lithuanian-Ruthenian commonwealth would have been fun. Just like an Austro-Hungarian-Croatian empire.
That is a very hefty debt by Sweden but the Commonwealth and Sweden need to work together to prevent a Danish Baltic.
Four Lanckoronski Kings in a row makes me wonder about further consolidation of power, it will take a while to turn the Sejm into a rubber stamp but it's possible.
 
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HistoryDude

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Ruthenia might be a problem again.

Personally, toleration seems like the best move here - less risk of revolt that way.
 
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The Number 9

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Jan III seemed more focus on the international affairs than the internal. I tend to understand the mitigate views the historians have on his reign.
I'm not sure he was really beloved during it,

Now, with a complex religious situation and neighbors still dangerous, the Commonwealth faces a lot of issues.
 
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Part Twelve: Aleksander I Lanckoronski

RossN

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King Aleksander I.jpg


Aleksander I Lanckoronski, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania (r. 1566 to 1580)

Part Twelve: Aleksander I Lanckoronski

Aleksander Lanckoronski, the fourth of his dynasty to hold the thrones of Poland and Lithuania was no sooner elected King when he found himself faced by a veto in the Sejm. Characteristically the Slzachta having talked themselves into electing the dynastic candidate immediately moved to remind him of the limits of his powers.

Aleksander was forty eight when he was elected and in good health, with his brown hair beginning to silver. Tall and trim like Jan III he was more robust about the shoulders, and in contrast to his predecessor much given to the hunting and riding life. As a younger man he had been an acclaimed cavalryman who had fought with the Winged Hussars at Mozyrz and he had a lifelong admiration and respect for horses.

The new monarch lacked the natural way his father had with administrative matters. Aleksander was an industrious man, seldom at a rest, but he had difficulty delegating and throughout his reign the bureaucracy of the realm became ever more byzantine, stretching from the Palace of the Grand Dukes in Wilno to the furthest corners of Poland and Lithuania. A jumble of secretaries and other functionaries buried themselves among books, maps and letters in candlelit rooms at all hours of the day. The King was better at diplomacy and soldiering and the great triumphs of his reign involved both.

By 1566 the balance of power in Europe was changing. The Kingdom of France and the Spanish Empire had (since 1563) formed a personal union under King-Emperor Phillipe VIII. The Franco-Spanish Empire (or Valois Empire) was not a unified state and there were strong reasons for assuming Spain would not permanently accept her role as the junior partner in a union led from Paris but as long as it existed Europe had a natural power in the West. In Mitteleuropa the Holy Roman Empire existed largely in name as Protestant princes aided by Calvinist Hungary fought a war against the Empress Mary von Hapsburg in Prague.

Relations between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Holy Roman Empire were tense. The Bohemians were traditional rivals of Poland, but they also led the Catholic faction. Hungary was a friend of the Commonwealth but was fighting Bohemia. Had she entered the war ravaging Germany the Commonwealth would face either betraying the Catholic faith or her loyal ally in Pest. Both King Aleksander and the Sejm embraced a cautious neutrality. The expectation – which would eventually be proven wrong – was that Bohemia and her allies would be defeated by the Protestant princes and the Commonwealth would have to deal with that.

It was a tense time in Wilno. No sooner had Aleksander been elected, before he had even been crowned the realm was gripped by a frenzy of iconoclasm inspired by events in Germany that forced the monarch to order the soldiers of the army to protect churches and cathedrals across Poland. In Lublin, the bastion of the Reformed movement the Church of Saint Michael the Archangel, the largest building in the city with a bell tower visible for many miles was the site of a pitched battle between a mob of burghers and soldiers and only the intervention of a level headed and persuasive captain of the cavalry prevented some of the wilder heads in the crowds lynching the canon.


Iconoclastic fury.jpg


The great riots of 1566.

The Protestant riots of 1566 angered many Roman Catholics and the monarch lost some popularity by not cracking down on the malcontents. Aleksander, who ruled over many Greek Orthodox and Jewish subjects, and who had a Protestant wife, the German princess Evelyn Warncke [1] had no desire to sway from the general attitude of toleration, correctly suspecting the Reformist leaders would keep their heads down rather than provoke the white eagle. The religious question smouldered on, with a steady influx of Lutheran and Calvinist Germans fleeing the disastrous war to the west. The port of Gdańsk, with it’s strong ties to the Empire would become a second Lublin by the end of Aleksander’s reign, adopting the Reformist faith.

Fortunately there was one route to uniting the realm and halting (or at least delaying) the march to internal strife; foreign war. To the east of the Commonwealth sprawled the Grand Principality of Muscovy, a state seen as quasi-barbarian by most outside her borders and home to an ambitious lineage of princes. The Muscovites had conquered most of the Russian principalities (save only the shrunken and enfeebled Grand Principality of Ryzan) and before the union of Poland and Lithuania had been an ever growing threat. Whenever the Commonwealth had fought another power, as they had against Bohemia and Denmark the fear had always been that Muscovy would strike in a moment of weakness.

The Commonwealth (and Lithuania beforehand) had long feuded over their long border. The old Pskov Republic had vanished in the previous century, annexed by Muscovy as part of her expansion into lands once dominated by Novgorod. The city of Pskov, considered one of the beautiful in Russia and a rich trading town was closer to Wilno than to Moscow and possession of such an important place would weaken the Danish stranglehold on the eastern trade. The exact legal arcanary that the Commonwealth used to present a historic claim to Pskov in 1570 may have been suspect, relying on doubtful documents from the Fourteenth Century but they were popular. With a rare unity of purpose the Sejm backed the monarch when he declared war on Muscovy on 18 June 1570.


Pskov.jpg


The disputed Pskov region (in light green).

It was know in Wilno that Sweden, who had her own treaties with Moscow, would not join the Commonwealth in this struggle and Aleksander had refrained from requesting their aid, so as to not force King Karl VIII Gustav into a difficult diplomatic situation. The expectation had been that Stockholm would remain neutral. It therefore came as a shock when the Swedish ambassador called on the monarch and stiffly informed him that the Kingdom of Sweden would honour her treaty with Muscovy, and thus Sweden was at war with the Commonwealth.

The popular outrage at the "Swedish Betrayal" was instant and in Ryga, Gdańsk and Wilno Swedish merchants were attacked in the street and had their houses burnt. In the port of Klaipėda a Swedish brig that had the misfortune to be in the harbour was boarded by outraged civilians and the ship’s master lynched from his own mast. As the Swedish envoys returned to Ryga and from there sailed home their carriage had to be protected every inch of the road by Commonwealth hussars to prevent the people from rushing it. As it was they were pelted by stones one of which struck the (Polish) wife of the junior envoy and she had to be carried unconscious from the carriage to the ship.

The sheer fury directed at the Swedes, far outstripping that directed at the Muscovites, would linger after the war and Polish and Lithuanian historians have been caustic in their views of King Karl. Aleksander took a more measured view. His own stepmother was Swedish, as was his far younger half-sister and he was soldier and monarch enough to understand the extraordinarily difficult position the Swedish Crown was in, trapped between the three more powerful states of Denmark, the Commonwealth and Muscovy. The Swedes had played a weak hand well in retaining their independence, and faced with the nightmare scenario of breaking their alliance with either Wilno or Moscow, chose the party that was effectively the defender.

Of course forgiveness of Sweden was only possible because the Commonwealth won the war of 1570 to 1572, and it was a close run victory.

On 25 July 1570 Ostrov fell to the Commonwealth. Before the end of the month both Pskov herself and the fortified town of Luki to the south east would be under siege. The Commonwealth forces were divided into five armies of twenty thousand each, with three of these armies in the invasion proper, one (led by Aleksander himself) advancing on Moscow and the fifth originally guarding the distant south of the country and the important frontier city of Charków [Kharkiv]. However with the Swedes in the war the King ordered the frontier army north to aid in the thrust against Moscow. Aleksander also had the support of some twelve thousand Moldavian soldiers and in fact it was the Moldavians who first lay siege to Moscow proper as the Commonwealth forces besieged the fortress of Mozhaisk to the west.

While all this was going on the war had been fought at sea between the Commonwealth and the Swedes (the Muscovites had a fleet but it was too distant to be of use.) The Commonwealth Navy, rebuilt by King Jan III proved itself stronger than the Swedes and in clashes across the frigid waters of the Baltic sank, captured or drove the enemy from the seas. One great concern for the Commonwealth had been the Swedes landing soldiers along the lengthy Prussia coast or in Livonia and forcing the Commonwealth to turn back soldiers from the main front of the war.

Unfortunately the hard won control of the Baltic did the Commonwealth little good. The Danes, delighted to see their rival in difficulty signed a Faustian bargain with Sweden and Muscovy, allowing their armies to move across Danish territory in Livonia. Grand Prince Ivan IV did not move to relieve Pskov (which fell to the Commonwealth on 28 November), but instead marched straight for Ryga. Hetman Andrej Leszcynski, turned his weary army away from the freshly captured Pskov, marched across Livonia in the depths of winter and faced Ivan and his forces on the 14 January 1571. The Poles and Lithuanians had a slight edge in numbers, offset by their weariness but what really gave them the edge was their cavalry which rolled up the Muscovite infantry.


Battle of Pskov.jpg


The First Battle of Pskov, 9-10 March 1571

Ryga was far from the end of the war. The Muscovite monarch retreated back into Danish territory to lick his wounds. In late February the Muscovites and Swedes marched together against Pskov while two of the Commonwealth armies wheeled to stop them. The First Battle of Pskov (9-10 March 1571) was the largest clash of the war with forty thousand Poles and Lithuanians fighting almost twice that many Muscovites and Swedes. The Commonwealth forces under Baron Mariusz Branicki were forced to retreat, though not before inflicting twice as many casualties as they received. First Pskov is noteworthy as one of the largest cannon battles in history, though the immense Muscovite and Swedish artillery was of debatable use on the field.

Two days after First Pskov the Commonwealth suffered another blow when the city of Charków in the far south east was sacked by the Muscovites. Less than a week later Pskov fell for the second time in four months, this time to the Muscovites. In May Leszcynski, hoping to retrieve the situation marched against Pskov, but for once the canny old Polish general underestimated his opponents, or overestimated the resilience of his exhausted men and the Commonwealth thrust was defeated at the Second Battle of Psvo. Fortunately by this point Moscow herself had fallen and Aleksander had regrouped his armies. The sides met at Luki, south east of Pskov.

The Battle of Luki, the last major land battle of the war took place on 15 August 1571. An old fortress of Novgorod, Luki was then in Commonwealth hands and being besieged by the Muscovites under Boris von Lascy, who was subsequently killed in the fighting. Though the Muscovites had superior numbers Aleksander inflicted a sharp defeat on them, and over the next few weeks retook most of the territory lost including Pskov herself on Christmas Eve. The exhausted Muscovites agreed to a peace on 24 January 1572, signing it at Połock.


Conquest of Pskov.jpg


The overall costs of the First Commonwealth-Muscovite War, 1570 to 1572.

The First Commonwealth-Muscovite War (as it would later be known) had been costly, even for the victors with nearly as many Commonwealth soldiers dead or wounded as their opponents, and almost have of these from attrition as so much of the war was fought in the bleak months of the year. Charków, one of the largest cities in the Commonwealth had, briefly, been in Muscovite hands. Against this the Commonwealth had gained Psków (as the Poles called Pskov), Ostrów and Luki and Aleksander had unified his disparate peoples. The remaining eight years of his reign would see no substantial domestic trouble. During this era the monarch would sponsor the great University of Vilnius and the faring estates of Oczaków on the mouth of Dnieper, which would become a centre of Polish and Lithuanian wine making.


University of Vilnius.jpg


The great University of Vilnius, founded during Aleksander's reign.


There remained the problem of Sweden, and here feelings ran high. Aleksander was prepared to spend some of his hard earned political capital and negotiate a new alliance with Sweden, mere days after the Treaty of Połock was signed. As noted above the Commonwealth leader had a personal sympathy for the Swedes, but he was also aware that the Commonwealth needed friends, faced as she was with a vengeful Muscovy, a proud Denmark, an ambitious Ottoman Empire and a recovering Bohemia. The people grumbled but the King held firm and officially at least the two countries returned to their friendship, though the Swedish envoys scarcely dared go out in public in Wilno until the death of Karl and the succession of his son Prince Magnus in June 1579.

Aleksander would not outlive his counterpart long. On 4 July the King and Grand Duke passed away after a brief illness. For once the Sejm would peacefully elect a new ruler, in the form of Aleksander’s eldest son, the thirty nine year old Kazimierz Lanckoronski. Even with the traditional grumbling among the Slzachta the dynastic faction still had the majority in Warsaw, and even those had reservations about another Lanckoronski were impressed by Crown Prince Kazimierz.



Kazimierz IV.jpg


The death of Aleksander I and the election of his son Kazimierz IV, 4 July 1580.

Commonwealth, 1580.jpg


The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1580.

Footnotes:

[1] The daughter of the Duke of Mecklenburg, some two and a half decades younger than her husband.
 
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RossN

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While I am probably going to update before the New Year this is likely the last entry before Christmas, so even in these dfficult times I wish you all the happiest of Christmases! :)

~~~~~

Taking on the Swedish national debt is certainly a very generous move, and very decisive for the continuation of strong PLC-Swedish ties. Let's hope Sweden uses their new solvency to recover from the devastation in the war before Denmark can strike again and inflict a much more territorially painful loss on them.


They did indeed recover, though as you can see this proved less advantageous for me than might have been expected!

Two updates in a row. Great! :)

Glad you liked it! :) I was eager to get back!

I am a little bit disappointed that the pretender didn't win, a Polish-Lithuanian-Ruthenian commonwealth would have been fun. Just like an Austro-Hungarian-Croatian empire.
That is a very hefty debt by Sweden but the Commonwealth and Sweden need to work together to prevent a Danish Baltic.
Four Lanckoronski Kings in a row makes me wonder about further consolidation of power, it will take a while to turn the Sejm into a rubber stamp but it's possible.

The dynasts certainly seem in the ascendant and by now the Lanckoronskis have learned how to work the system and rely on other sources of funding and patronage where possible. Even so their position is still fragile.

The idea of a Ruthenian dimension to the Commonwealth might not be completely gone.

Ruthenia might be a problem again.

Personally, toleration seems like the best move here - less risk of revolt that way.

Very true, though things can build if left unchecked...

Jan III seemed more focus on the international affairs than the internal. I tend to understand the mitigate views the historians have on his reign.
I'm not sure he was really beloved during it,

Now, with a complex religious situation and neighbors still dangerous, the Commonwealth faces a lot of issues.

A very perceptive view. The Commonwealth monarchs have a difficult path to walk regarding religious differences and they have the example of the Holy Roman Empire next door showing just how wrong things can go.
 
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An interesting trio of monarchs. Henryk's decision for Wilno as the capital for the new commonwealth seems sound both to tie Poland and Lithuania together more firmly and is military safer from and attack from the west.

Jan certainty seems the most likeable of the trio of monarchs, he finished off both his fight against his pretender and his inherited foreign war successfully. The choice of the religious tolerance also seems to be something commendable (as least so far) in a mixed realm like the Commonwealth. His decision to pay off Sweden's national debt on the other hand seems a little over generous...

Aleksander was always going to be a hit with me as he took the fight to Muscovoy as I've been hoping to see for some time. ;) Sweden taking all that Polish gold and the refusing to sit out the war was a definte disappointment however! A university in Vilnius can only be a good thing, an achievement only rivaled by Aleksander managing to beat the family curse to die in bed rather than out hunting!

I hope his son Kazimieres proves to be as high an achiever as his stats promise! The world is looking to be a dangerous place to the far west with the Valois Empire combining the strength of France, Spain and Portugal! Let's hope he avoids any entanglements with that monster.

Oh and of course have a merry Christmas!
 
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HIMDogson

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Strange, in my France game Bohemia is also ruled by a Mary von Habsburg in a similar time. I wonder if it's a scripted event?
 
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Cora Giantkiller

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A brutal, costly war for both sides, it sounds like, but hopefully Pskov and the surrounding area brings the prosperity that Aleksander hoped.
 
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HistoryDude

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Perfidious Swedes! Poland takes their debt and the Swedes repay the Poles with betrayal!

Muscovy lies humbled, although I doubt we've heard the last of them...
 
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theauthor

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Reading the swedish betrayal make you think that commonwealth will hold contempt for sweden but the situation seems cooled quickly.

Still if next time commonwealth wants to betray sweden they could always cite this incident for propaganda maybe once denmark lay off their baltic ambition they would make a better ally than traitrous sweden anyway.
 
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The Number 9

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I hope the betrayal won't be forgotten. Sweden must pay some price, the Commonwealth was her true and loyal friend. And the only one !
 
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