Saturday, February 26, 2011

Question from Guy - King of Poland and England

When did the King of Poland visit England? Did he propose to Mary I? And where there many ties between Poland and Tudor England?


Annie said...

Mary I married Phillip of Spain, Philip was the heir to the largest empire of Europe consisting of “Spain, the Low Countries, Austria, Sicily, Naples, parts of Germany, and the Americas.” (Children of Henry VIII, Weir, 212) his proposal came through writing from his father Charles V who offered his son b/c he felt too old to marry her himself.

Foose said...

The Polish ambassador was at Henry's court in 1546, a year after the death of the "young Queen of Poland" (her husband, Sigismund Augustus, was referred to as the "young king," as his father was still alive) and the Imperial ambassador, Van der Delft, notes their presence suspiciously. Mary Tudor's biographer Hilda Prescott says that the Polish ambassador received a gold "esses" chain from Henry (this is noted in Letters and Papers) and that the court was full of rumors about the young king's suit - but I can't find this supported in L&P, or in other Marian biographies.

Cecilie Goff, an early biographer of Katherine Willoughby, says that the Duchess of Suffolk was the Polish ambassador's second choice; interestingly, the Duchess later fled to Poland under Mary to escape persecution, as the young king (who had by then succeeded his father) was religiously tolerant. (The story of the king of Poland's courtship was later made into a play, The Duchess of Suffolk, by Thomas Drue 1624.)

The young king's suit must have been the idea of his father, Sigismund the Old, who sought a Habsburg alliance. Sigismund Augustus himself was in love with a Calvinist, Barbara Radziwill, whom he married secretly, and his mother was fixated on a French alliance.

Pawel Jasienica's Jagiellonian Poland records an interesting incident where the young king sent for the "ring of the king of England," reputed to cure epilepsy, to help his first wife, Elizabeth of Austria; Jasienica notes that she "suffered fifteen epileptic seizures within a span of ten hours and died four days later," so perhaps Henry's ring was inefficacious. (I could not confirm this incident in L&P).

Foose said...

Regarding the question of ties between Poland and Tudor England, the two countries seem distant but well-disposed, based largely on their commercial ties. There was apparently a colony of English merchants in Danzig (Gdansk) who seem to have been well-treated; the Polish king, writing to Henry, seeks to protect Polish traders in England, who are "grateful for [Henry's] liberality to them in his kingdom."

Initially, when Henry VIII was a relatively orthodox monarch, the communications between him and Sigismund the Old follow a polite pattern of Henry praising the Polish king for his bold resistance against Turkish and Muscovite invasions; the Polish king thanks him and issues invitations for Henry to join the crusade, which invitations Henry politely ignores.

In 1527, Sigismund is delighted to receive the English envoy Wallop, who reports: "Visited the king of Poland; complimented him on keeping the Lutherans out of his dominions. He was very well pleased, and said that neither in his nor his predecessor's time had any English ambassador been in Poland. Was extremely well treated."

The Polish chancellor sent Henry some very nice gerfalcons, a speciality of Poland, in 1526 via James, falconer to the Duke of Novofock (Norfolk) "who said he had been sent to Denmark to buy falcons, but finding none, came hither." The Consul of Cracow sent Henry large quantities of valuable sables in 1528.

Later, with Henry breaking from the Church, Poland is seen more as a potential source of both advantages - it borders on the Empire, and Henry is interested in stirring up trouble for the Emperor, whose brother Ferdinand contends with Sigismund's son-in-law John Zapolya and daughter Isabella for the Hungarian kingdom - and annoyance; Sigismund is characterized as an all-too-faithful son of the Pope (which is not accurate; Sigismund told the Pope pretty sharply to mind his own business about persecuting heresy in Poland). Relations were still amicable, and Marillac found Polish noblemen at the court in 1541,who said that "once they had seen the king's houses they would return home."

Under the new king Sigismund Augustus, there is a delegation sent to Queen Mary Tudor to complain about the persecution of Polish Protestants in England; Calvinism made large inroads in Poland during his reign, although the king remained a nominal Catholic.

In Elizabeth's reign there is a famous incident in the 1590s when the Polish ambassador came to call - the king at that point was Sigismund III, son of Elizabeth's old suitor Duke John of Finland. The queen gave audience prepared to enjoy a sentimental trip down memory lane, recapturing the thrilling episode where Duke John's passion had warred with his honor (he was supposed to be wooing her on behalf of his brother), but young Sigismund was a bigoted Catholic, married to a Habsburg, and his ambassador delivered an address shocking in its impertinence and harshness. Elizabeth sat stunned for a moment and then delivered a magnificent, ex tempore speech in Latin that absolutely blasted the wretched foreigner and caused Englishmen to throw great chests in the streets for days afterwards, recalling how the aged queen had reduced "the Polack" to terrified, stumbling silence. ("Polack" was not yet a slur at that time, it was just the word used to describe a Polish person.)

Lauren said...

On a related note, was Poland then Protestant or at least Protestant-friendly?

Lauren said...

Has the Polish diplomatic correspondance survived, and if it has, has it been translated?

Lauren said...

Sorry, scrap that last post, I should have read this more carefully

Lauren said...

Did Sigismund Augustus actually come to England, or was this all through his ambassador?

Guy said...

I would just like to thank Foose for such a great, detailed answer.

Foose said...

Guy - you are welcome!

Lauren - Sigismund Augustus himself never came to England, but a Polish embassy was there in the late 1540s. I don't think a king of Poland visited any of the Tudor monarchs. Catherine de Medici's son Henri de Valois was elected king of Poland after Sigismund Augustus' death, and of course he was at one point considered as a suitor for Elizabeth, but it was his brother Francois who actually came to England to court her, provoking Dudley to jealous fury, her Protestant advisers to acute anxiety, and George Stubbs to write a book against the marriage that resulted in getting his hand chopped off.

Per Poland being Protestant-friendly, Lutheranism and more importantly Calvinism flourished there in Sigismund the Old's and Sigismund Augustus' reign. The Pope harassed Sigismund the Old to do something about it and the old king rather curtly replied, "I am king of the goats as well as the sheep."

English Protestants found a refuge there in Mary's reign, as Sigismund the Augustus was even friendlier than his father to the Reformed religion. Henri de Valois, a Catholic bigot, was not in Poland long enough to make any substantive changes, but Stephen Bathory, elected after him, welcomed the Jesuits and converted to Catholicism (he had been a Protestant Hungarian magnate). Bathory was reasonably tolerant, but at his death Sigismund III, grandson of Sigismund the Old and nephew of Sigismund Augustus, was elected. Narrow-minded, highly bigoted, a zealous Catholic, Sigismund III championed the Jesuit mission and exerted himself to make Poland uniformly Catholic.