Polish–Lithuanian royal election, 1669
On 16 September 1668, King John II Casimir abdicated the Polish–Lithuanian throne and left for France, where he joined the Jesuits and became abbot of Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. As a result of his decision to abdicate, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was once again left without a monarch, necessitating a free election.
The pro-French faction, which was backed by Michal Prazmowski and Crown Hetman Jan Sobieski , was strong. However, during the Convocation Sejm several members of the szlachta urged election of a native Piast king instead. There were widespread rumours that supporters of foreign candidates had been bribed. Under the circumstances, the Bishop of Chełmno, Andrzej Olszowski, suggested that instead of a foreigner, a Pole should be elected. Olszowski suggested the candidacy of Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki, who was the son of a legendary Ruthenian magnate, Jeremi Wiśniowiecki. Michał Korybut was an unexceptional individual, but the Szlachta, afraid of growing French influences, decided to back him. Local sejmiks urged the nobility to come to Warsaw as pospolite ruszenie.
The free election, which took place in May and June 1669 in Wola near Warsaw, is regarded as the epitome of szlachta anarchy (see Golden Liberty). After heated arguments on June 6, a crowd of nobility electors forced senators to void the candidacy of Louis, Grand Conde. Some senators tried to oppose, but most gave way to the threats, and eventually supported the Bishop of Kujawy, Florian Czartoryski, who stated: “The voice of the people is the voice of God”.
In the following days, emotions ran even higher. On June 17, some districts of Warsaw burned in a fire, and soon rumours spread that the fire was intentionally set. Szlachta surrounded the wooden shed in which senators convened, accusing them of treason and conspiring with foreign envoys. Shots were fired, and as Jan Chryzostom Pasek later wrote in his diaries, “bishops and senators hid themselves under chairs, emerging only after the situation had been defused”.
Two days later, on June 19, Wiśniowiecki was elected the new king. A Polish nobleman, Jan Antoni Chrapowicki, who participated in the free election, wrote later: “There were different factions: some wanted the Neuburgian, others supported the Lotharingian. Since neither side wanted to resign their candidate, we decided that in order to avoid commotion, we shall elect a Piast, in the person of Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki. Primate Prazmowski, who was hesitant at our choice, was eventually forced to sing the Te Deum hymn”.
Even though Wisniowiecki won the support of majority of electors, a faction led by Prazmowski and Sobieski continued to oppose him. The Crowning Sejm, which took place in Kraków, was dismissed, even though the crowning itself took place. The Commonwealth, which suffered from continuous Crimean Tatar raids, was at the brink of civil war. Outbreak of the Polish–Ottoman War (1672–76) changed this situation, ending internal conflicts.
- History of Poland in the Early Modern era (1569–1795)
- Royal elections in Poland
- Golden Liberty
- Henrician Articles
- U. Augustyniak, Historia Polski 1572-1795, Warszawa 2008
- M. Markiewicz, Historia Polski 1494-1795, Kraków 2002
- Stone, D.Z. (2014) The Polish-Lithuanian state, 1386-1795. Available at: https://books.google.ie/books?id=AxETCgAAQBAJ&lpg=PA238&ots=9R0l-9LqWA&dq=Polish%E2%80%93Lithuanian%20royal%20election%2C%201669&pg=PA238#v=onepage&q=Polish%E2%80%93Lithuanian%20royal%20election%2C%201669&f=false (Accessed: 1 December 2016).