Franciszek Ksawery Branicki

Franciszek Ksawery Branicki
Great Crown Hetman
Field Crown Hetman

Coat of arms Korczak
Spouse(s) Aleksandra von Engelhardt


Noble family Branicki
Father Piotr Branicki
Mother Melania Teresa Szembek
Born 1730
Barwałd Górny, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
(now Poland)
Died April 1819 (aged 8889)
Biała Cerkiew, Russian Empire
(now Ukraine)

Franciszek Ksawery Branicki (1730, Barwałd Górny – 1819) was a Polish nobleman, magnate, count, diplomat, politician, military commander and one of the leaders of the Targowica Confederation. He was appointed the Great Crown Podstoli in 1764, Ambassador in Berlin in 1765, Master of the Hunt of the Crown in 1766–1773, Artillery General of Lithuania in 1768–1773, Ambassador in Moscow in 1771, Field Crown Hetman in 1773 and Great Crown Hetman of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth between 1774 and 1794.[1]

He opposed the reforms of the Great Sejm (1788–1792), and supported the Hetman Party and the Targowica Confederation. For his pro-Russian policies and controversial anti-nationalistic politics against the Commonwealth he was sentenced to hang; however, he escaped the death penalty and received in absentia from the Supreme Criminal Court during the Kościuszko Uprising (1794).

Branicki was awarded the Order of the White Eagle in December 1764. He married Aleksandra von Engelhardt, a niece of Prince Potemkin, in 1781.[2]


Franciszek Ksawery was the son of Piotr Branicki, Chorąży of Halicz, and Melania Teresa Szembek, the chatelaine of Oświęcim. He started his career as a soldier in the Seven Years' War, firstly in the Russian Imperial army and later in the French. He distinguished himself at the battle of Sarbinowo (Zorndorf) in 1758 while commanding a squadron of Russian cavalry. For his services in the French army Louis XV awarded him the title of count, however, in Poland, prior to the partitions, the title was not officially recognized by the parliament. In 1765 he became a Knight of the Order of Saint Stanislaus.

He became a member of the Polish parliament in 1762. In 1764, Branicki was one of the Electors of Stanisław August Poniatowski (reigned as Stanisław II August), representing the Halicz county and his father's noble and aristocratic titles. He later became a member of the Military Commission of the Crown. In 1766, as a result of a duel with the famous Giacomo Casanova who was at that time in Poland, Branicki was seriously wounded in the stomach. In 1766, he gave a speech in the parliament, represented the Halicz county once more.

Branicki was a strong supporter and a member of the Radom Confederation and mostly focused on how to weaken the influence of Karol Stanisław "Panie Kochanku" Radziwiłł and possibly on how to deprive Radziwiłł of his fortune. In 1767, as a member of the Repnin Sejm of Sochaczew, he became a member of the pro-Russian delegation, which was created under the Russian envoy Nikolai Repnin in order to review the quality of the government of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

As a commander, Branicki decided to aid the king and faithfully led the Royal Polish Army in the years 1768–1772 and helped to suppress the supporters and members of the Bar Confederation. On June 19, 1768, together with Russian troops he captured the city of Bar in Ruthenia, which served as the enemy's headquarters.

Franciszek Ksawery Branicki

In 1770, during the relation crisis with Russia, king Stanisław II Augustus, appointed him as his deputy in the Russian Empire, without consulting it with the Czartoryski family, which was usually responsible for nominating deputies, Sejm Marshals and Hetmans. On January 18, 1771 Branicki arrived in St. Petersburg. From there he warned king Stanisław that if the Russian delegation in Warsaw with general Kasper von Saldern would not agree with the Polish Sejm and the parliament, the Russian Empress would partition the country, and so it happened. In 1772 he went on a diplomatic mission to Paris. For these merits Stanisław Augustus gave him the county of Biała Cerkiew and appointed him the Crown Hetman. Between 1773 and 1775 he was a member of a newly established secret party, responsible for confiscating the assets belonging to the Jesuit society in the entire country. In 1776 Branicki became a member of Andrzej Mokronowski's controversial political party.

At the Parliament sitting of 1778 years Franciszek Ksawery Branicki was appointed the adviser of Permanent Council's Chief Marshal.

Later he was a member of the Great Sejm and a chairman of the Military Commission of the Commonwealth. He was a strong opponent of reforms applied by the Constitution of May 3, and together with Russian attaches, he co-founded the traitorous Confederation of Targowica.[3] Branicki was included in Yakov Bulhakov's list, which included a summary of people, mostly senators and deputies, that relied on the Russians and were keen to overthrow the Constitution and possibly even the monarch. Throughout his career, Branicki was one of the leaders of the pro-Russian political party.

A conservative, standing behind Bishop Kajetan Sołtyk, Branicki tried everything to keep his former privileges of the Hetman. A determined counterrevolutionary, he refused to sign any treaty that included the partitioning of his homeland. However, because of his sympathy towards the Russians, over the nineteenth century Branicki was considered a traitor, just like other leaders and members of the Targowica Confederation.

Branicki held several great posts in the Commonwealth, most notably being Great Hetman and Crown Hetman. Additionally, he was the general commander of the Lithuanian artillery. On August 13, 1793, he resigned from the position in order to become a general in the Russian army. The owner of many counties, towns and villages in Ruthenia (Polish Ukraine) made him one of the most powerful and wealthiest Polish magnates, but he was in constant rivalry with Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł, a zealous patriot and one of the richest men in Europe. Branicki resided in Biała Cerkiew near Kiev, where he spent the last years of his life, having abandoned politics and military service.[4]

During the Kościuszko Insurrection, the Supreme Court of Free Poland sentenced him to death by hanging, eternal infamy, confiscation of property and loss of all titles. Because of the absence of the accused, the sentence was carried out in absentia on September 29, 1794. His portrait, which was hung on the gallows was painted by an anonymous artist. The portraits of Stanisław Szczęsny Potocki and Hetman Seweryn Rzewuski, which were not captured and convicted of treason, were also hung the same day.

Character and personality

The character and personality of Branicki was immortalized as a symbol of national treason by Poland's leading writers and publishers, most notably one being Stanisław Wyspiański. Branicki was a brawler, but a good and close friend of King Stanisław II Augustus. He liked to give the impression of a man who knows the military – but according to historians he hardly equaled in ability with the Russian cavalry colonels, despite the fact that supposedly he fought bravely during the Seven Years' War.[5] After the conflict he was praised by some and hated by others, especially the Polish royal court, which considered Branicki as their new enemy that had to be quickly "eliminated". He was a stubborn and obstinate man, always claiming that he knows best. He was also disliked by the Polish nobility. Branicki was described as selfish and proud of himself, and in constant rivalry with other powerful magnates like Karol Stanisław "Panie Kochanku" Radziwiłł.


He is one of the figures immortalized in Jan Matejko's 1891 painting, Constitution of May 3, 1791.[6]

Branicki's greediness, treason and baronial-aristocratic pride appear in the drama written by Stanisław Wyspiański entitled The Wedding (Wesele).


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