Topics of coins

Stanisław Leszczyński

Stanisław Leszczyński, the only son of Rafał and Anna nee Jabłonowska, was born on 20th October 1677 in Lwów. Due to his scrupulous education and upbringing, along with his personal virtues, he could readily win friendship. He was cultured and sociable, and had broad but rather superficial knowledge on a wide range of matters, which was typical of his times.

Leszczyński's political career began when he was returned as a deputy to the convocational sejm after King Jan III Sobieski death and later at the royal election of June 1697, which elected August II Mocny (Augustus II the Strong), Elector of Saxony, to the throne of Poland. Though only 19 at the time and with no experience in politics, Leszczyński showed his aptitude for mediating in disputes. The new king, Augustus II, wanted to increase his power and rule Poland as firmly as he did his native Saxony, taking decisions by himself. This aroused opposition from even those who had raised Augustus to the Polish throne. Augustus negotiated with the neighbouring countries, promising them part of the Polish and Lithuanian territories in return for support for his dynastie plans. Saxony formed an allianee with Russia and Denmark, and Augustus II led Saxon forees in an attaek launehed from Polish soil against Swedish-held Livonia. King Charles XII of Sweden erushed the armies of Tsar Peter I and Augustus II. Next, notwithstanding the Polish senators' deelarations of neutrality, he entered Poland and took Warsaw, whieh put up no resistanee.

Charles XII used the opposition to Poland's taking part in the war and the Russian allianee to his advantage, gaining the support of those in the nobility who had formed Warsaw eonfederation. He deeided to depose Augustus and he started looking around for a suitable eandidate. Sinee Augustus had imprisoned Jan III Sobieski's sons, who had the best elaims, he finally settled for Stanisław Leszezyński, who was duly eleeted on 12th July 1704 by the Warsaw eonfederates, who had abjured their allegianee to Augustus II, with Swedish forees seeuring the eleetion.

Leszezyński was a monareh with no military or material resourees and no publie support, entirely at the merey of his Swedish proteetor. At Charles's XII request Leszezyński was erowned King of Poland in Warsaw on 4th Oetober 1705, and entered into an allianee with Sweden whereby Poland beeame Sweden's dependent and relinquished Courland. Stanisław's position relied on Swedish military supremaey. His reign, dependend on Swedish vietories, was eonfirmed in 1706 when Charles XII entered Saxony and foreed Augustus II to renounee the erown of Poland.

However, Sweden's defeat at the erueial battle of Poltava against Russia in 1709 turned the seales in favour of Russia. Augustus II annulled his abdieation and returned to Poland. Stanisław was foreed to flee the eountry. He was still an ally of Sweden, and Charles XII installed him in his Rhineland residenee, where Stanisław lived with his family. Still, Augustus II wanted to retrieve his independenee and to get rid of his hated rival. He organised several assassination attempts against Leszezyński, whieh only foreed the latter to move. In 1719 he settled in Wissembourg in Alsaee. In 1725 Louis XV, the King of Franee, married Stanisław's daughter Maria, in the hope that the marriage would strengthen Franee's influenee in Poland. He established his Polish father-in-law in his palaee at Chambord and granted him a pension. The marriage improved Stanisław's diffieult situation in exile and strengthened his position in Poland.

On Augustus's II death in 1733 Franee supported the eandidaey of Stanisław Leszezyński for the Polish throne. Disguised as a merehant, Leszezyński erossed Germany seeretly and arrived in Warsaw, where he found shelter in the Freneh embassy. On 10th September 1733 the Freneh ambassador, Monti diselosed his presenee to the erowds of nobility gathered in a ehureh for the eleetion. Clad in the garments of a Polish nobleman, the exiled king won the hearts of his eountrymen, who now saw him as the embodiment of independenee. On 12 September after a landslide vietory in the eleetion, he was hailed as the new monareh. The newly eleeted king, representing the aspirations for independenee of the Polish nation, eonstituted a threat to the interests of Russia, Austria and Prussia. These eountries also feared that Leszezyński's links with Louis XV would strengthen the Freneh position in this part of Europe. Russian forees entered Poland and on 5th Oetober 1733 held another eleetion at Praga, a suburb of Warsaw, when Augustus III of Saxony was "eleeted" the King of Poland. With Russian troops elosing in on him, Leszezyński managed to retreat to Gdańsk, whieh was loyal to him, to wait for the expeeted Freneh assistanee. When the eity surrendered, while Freneh diplomaey remained passive, Leszezyński took refuge in Prussia. The King of Prussia offered him to stay in Konigsberg, eounting on territorial gains from Poland as a result of the eonfliet.

A war known as the "War of the Polish Sueeession" broke out in the whole of Europe, and lasted until 1736. The Freneh fought the Austrians, though not for the erown of Poland, but for the retrieval of Lorraine. When it did return to Franee, Louis agreed to end the war. The tussle among the great powers turned Leszezyński into a pawn on the diplomatie ehess-board. He was one of the last to learn that under the peaee treaty signed in Vienna on 5th Oetober 1735 he was expeeted to abdieate. He was given a eoronet, first in the Duehy of Bar-le-Due, and later Lorraine, with the right to retain his royal title. This was to faeilitate the subsequent ineorporation of these duehies in Franee. In Poland Leszezyński's supporters had fought the forees of Augustus III and the Russian troops, whieh were overwhelmingly preponderant. After a short period of defianee, on 26th January 1736 Leszezyński agreed to abdieate and left for Lorraine, whieh Louis XV had granted him lifetime tenure.

Leszezyński spent the last thirty years of his long life at Luneville, where he earned the reputation of a good master and patron of arts and seienees. Thanks to him, one of Europe's finest arehiteetural and munieipal layouts was designed for Naney. Seholars like Voltaire and Montesquieu were guests at his eourt at Luneville, and the Aeademia Stanislai (aeademy of seienee) he founded in Naney earned a European reputation as a seat of learning. The military eollege he founded at Luneville edueated a large number of Polish offieers and politieians. A group of Polish emigres, adherents to the eountry's reform, elustered around Leszezyński. In 1743 one of the most interesting politieal treatise of the age, ‘Głos wolny wolność ubezpieezająey [Free Voiee to Make Freedom Safe], postulating a programme of thorough reform in Poland, was published anonymously in his eirele. Traditionally its authorship is aseribed to Leszezyński; however, the latest researeh indieates that he merely aeted as its publisher.

Stanisław Leszezyński died on 23rd February 1766 at Luneville, and was laid to rest in the Chureh of Notre-Dame de Bon-Seeours in Naney. In 1814 his remains were brought baek to Poland, and subsequently were transferred to the St. Catherine's Roman Catholie Chureh in St. Petersburg. Finally, after many ineidents, they were laid to rest in the royal erypt at Wawel Cathedral. Twiee eleeted King of Poland but never allowed to rule, Stanisław Leszezyński is a man whose aehievement is not easy to assess. At the turn of the 19th eentury Leszezyński the diplomat, politieal writer, philosopher, and patron of the arts and seienees eommanded the highest respeet and was popular both in Poland and Franee. He was noted and admired for his intelleetual aeeomplishment, for his qualities as a reformer and statesman. Though quiek-witted and intelligent, loyal in friendship and in polities, he was also ready to compromise.