Augustus II, King of Poland
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska

Augustus II Portrait

August II, in full armor, on a white horse.

AUGUSTUS' FAMILY:

Saxony was the largest and most affluent territories of the Holy Roman Empire. It included Dresden, Leipzig, Meissen, Magdeburg, and Wittenburg. Augustus II der Starke ("the Strong") (1670-1733)and his family were from the Wettin Dynasty. He was born on May 12, 1670, to Johann George III ( Wettin) and Anne Sophie of Denmark (Schelszwig-Holstein). He died January 31, 1733, He was Elector of Saxony (as Friedrich August I) and King of Poland from 1697-1704 and again from 1709-1733.

Augustus married Princess Christiane (above) Eberhardine (1671-1727), daughter of Christian Ernest (1644-1712), Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, and his wife Sofie Luise von Wurtemburg (1614-1646?), on January 10, 1693. The Saxons were Protestants and the Poles were the strictest Catholics in all of Europe. This change was required to be crowned King of Poland. Christiane was born on December 19, 1671, in Bayreuth, Oberfranken, Bavaria. In order to become a Polish king, Augustus had to become Catholic. He signed an assurance of religion, stating that his personal conversion would not affect his people or his country's church. He was obliged to pay for his own personal bodyguards, and promised to employ domestic civil servants while in Poland. August I, Elector of Saxony, was made king on June 27, 1697 and crowned King August II of Poland, on September 15, 1697, in Cracow. Poland. August had to make the Saxons believe this was a tactical matter, while convincing the Poles of his sincerity. Augustus II was caught between two religions and had to be very careful not to upset either side. Poland at this time, was twenty (20) times larger than Saxony. Augustus II have to buy votes for his kingship to establish his court at Warsaw. He pawned his jewels, and sold his rights to the duchy of Lauenburg. The elector of Saxony bought Lauenburg for an immmense fortune. Augustus then made Dresden the capital of Saxony. Dresden was known as the "German Florence." His wife, however, refused to renounce her Protestant faith and was not crowned. Instead she went into a self-exile in Pretzsch Castle on the River Elbe, only four years after their marriage. Perhaps she was disappointed that Augustus' mistress, Countess Königsmark, also bore Augustus a son in 1696. His wife remained there until her death on September 5, 1727, in Pretzsch, Sachsen, Prussia. Augustus had only one legitimate heir by his wife. Christiane remained Queen in name. Her son was raised in Pretzsch Castle and he was later known as Elector August II (1696-1763), Elector of Saxony and Augustus III, King of Poland in 1733. Even though her son was raised Lutheran, he went to Italy and became Catholic to assume his role as King of Poland. Augustus II married Maria Josepha (1699-1757), the Habsburg daughter of Joseph I, Roman Emperor, in 1719.

In his wife's absence King Augustus II had the freedom to spend time with his various mistresses. Their marriage was thought to have been a marriage of State only. It was said that Augustus had no lack of noblewomen throwing themselves into his bed, while he visited foreign courts.

In 1704, King Karl XII, of Sweden, defeated Augustus II's armies and put Stanislas Leczczynski (1704-1709) on the throne. After defeating the Swedes, the Polish throne was restored to August II. When Augustus II died, in 1733, Stanislaw Leszczynski (1677-1766) was re-elected King of Poland (1733-1736) with the support of France, while Russia and Austria favored Augustus III, son of Augustus II. Leczczynski was an enlightened king and a great patron of the arts. After losing his Polish crown, he received the duchy of Lorraine from King Louis XV.

Augustus II built Zwinger Palace for himself, which was said to be the finest baroque palace in all of Germany (1722). In 1722, he and his son Augustus III were admitted to the Order of the Knights of the Golden Fleece (founded in 1430). Augustus II also bought many Flemish and Dutch masterpieces for his gallery. He built "Lustager" which was his own "pleasure encampment" in both Zeithain and Warsaw, for his military maneuvers. These manuevers included feasts, drills, and band music. In 1730, his festival was held for his entire army of thirty thousand men. While Augustus II was king, he fough in the Great Nordic War (1700-1721) with King Frederick IV of Denmark and Tsar Peter the Great, of Russia, against Charles XII of Sweden.

AUGUSTUS AND HIS MISTRESSES:

Augustus II was famous for his amorous adventures and many mistresses. He was also said to have a luxurious, wanton court, and squandered his money on the arts. Legend says that he fathered around 300 illegitimate children. Count Karl von Pöllnitz published a biography of Augustus, the Strong one year after his death, in 1734. Count Karl traveled the European courts from 1710 until he was made Frederick the Great's Master of Ceremonies. He reported that Augustus had a mistress in both Saxony (for nine years) and Poland, after becoming King of Poland.

His favorite mistresses were Countess Cosel and Countess Maria Aurora Königsmark (1666-1728), a Swedish noblewoman, and sister of Count Philipp Christoph Königsmark. However, the Countess Cosel fell from grace, when she showed her jealousy towards a daughter of a Warsaw mine merchant, with whom he was rumored to have had an affair. Augustus had a daughter by her. Cosel (Madame Hoym) threatened to kill both mother and child. So Augustus found another mistress, Countess Maria Magalena von Denoff, of Warsaw. Denoff was married, but bore Augustus' son. Madame Cosel's spies told her and she went to Warsaw only to be turned back at the city gates. Augustus locked her up in a fortress until she died in 1765. For forty-nine years, she was imprisoned, even though Augustus himself died in 1733. Basically, she remained imprisioned for thirty-two years after his death, even though she pleaded for clemency again and again. When she was still in his good favor, in the early 1700s, Augustus had built her her own palace. Later, Countess Maria Aurora Königsmark of Sweden, was the abbess coadjutor at Quedlinburg. Countess Aurora von Königsmark bore him a son called Maurice, Count of Saxony and Marechal de Saxe (1696-1750), one of the greatest soldiers of his age. Maurice married Joan daughter of the Count of Leoben in 1714. They were divorced in 1721. Marechal was the grandfather of writer, George Sands. Marechal's half brothers, Chevalier de Saxe and Count Rutowski, were both military genuises. Augustus II had an illegitimate daughter called Countess Anna Orzelska, who was the daughter of a French merchant's wife in Warsaw. Her half-brother was Count Rudodolski, the son of a Turkish woman who was the chambermaid to Grafin Königsmark. It was thought that Countess Orzelska was the mistress of Frederick the Great. She was said to have first visited him at Schlors.

Yet another mistress was a Madame d'Esterle, their liason began in 1704. However, Augustus found out that she was having affairs with not only him, but several of his courtiers. He gave her twenty-four hours to pack her bags and leave the country. He had even bought her a pair of earrings valued at 40,000 florins. She was so moved, that she gave herself to Augustus without thought. When her husband found out, he was to renounce his martial rights, but was to give his name to any of their royal bastards that might result form their affair. Her husband was well-paid each year for this agreement.

Another mistress was Mademoiselle Dieskau. She had platinum blonde hair, blue eyes, porcelian skin, and thought to be a real beauty. However, she was lifeless. She was a virgin but Augustus II soon tired of her, in spite of the huge sum of money he paid her mother to have her.

Mistress Madame Lubomirski was named princess of Teschen shortly after Augustus was elected King of Poland. He gave her a case full of jewels for her favors.

AUGUSTUS' PASSION FOR JEWELS:

Augustus had elaborate oriental feasts, and kept his goldsmith, Johann Melchoir Dinglinger, busy making his jewel collection. He purchased many gems from India. India was Europe's principal source of gemstones, ivory, luxury woods, and fabrics, and Augustus II loved all those things.

Augustus II had a passion for jewels. He went to great lengths for his adornments, including kidnapping a reputed alchemist. He then brought him to Dresden where he was required to demonstrate his ability to turn lead into gold. This alchemist was named Johann Friedrich Böttger (1682-1719). Böttger was really only an apothecary's apprentice. He made similar claims, in Prussia, in the court of Freidrich Wilhelm I, and had fled to Saxony before authorities would discover his claims were bogus. When he was captured by Augustus III, he begged off saying that he couldn't do as he had boasted. Which reminds one to be careful what you say. Augustus, not one to take chances, especially when it came to gold, locked him up in a laboratory, and guarded his comings and goings...just in case.

Augustus III's Jewels

AUGUSTUS, BOTTGER, AND DRESDEN CHINA:

Böttger was to work with Walther von Tschimhaus, a scholar and chemist. Augustus had hired Tshimhaus to make fine Chinese porcelain. The Chinese formula, for porcelain, had been kept a secret. The Chinese enjoyed a monoply on its manufacturing and trade. Other nations could only come up with a heavier "ironware" pottery. After many hours, and years of work, Tschimhaus and Böttger ended up making a porcelain-like pottery. Their pottery was not transluscent like that of the Chinese. Walter died in 1708, and Böttger was left, circa 1710, with all his knowledge. Böttger produced a red pottery. Eventually, he produced a white porcelain, but he never produced the gold. This now famous Meissen ware was called Dresden China. Dresden was the capital of Saxony, and Royal Meissen Porcelain was born. About the same time, tea, coffee, and chocolate came to be popular in Europe.

Böttger's porcelain made Augustus famous, which Augustus valued as much as gold. Augustus was the man who thought he would never be king. His throne came only after the death of his father and his brother, Johann Georg IV, who was the proposed heir. However, Georg died of smallpox in 1694, and Augustus was made the prince-elector of Saxony, in the same year.

AUGUSTUS' STRENGTH:

Augustus was a tall man and he weighed 260 pounds. He was said to have been a good fighter and enjoyed his scraps with the biggest and toughest men he could find. He was also known to fight bears and bulls. At the coronation of Hapsburg emperor Joseph I, in Augsburg. Augustus was said to have fought an angry bear. He decapitated the bear with only two blows of his sword. In his Dresden Palace, Augustus asked his servants to release wild boars upon him. He once missed with his arrows, but managed to dodge to one side. He then grabbed the hind leg of the beast with one hand, and drew his sword with the other, thus killing the beast with a single stroke of his blade.

Augustus' feats of strength offered many great stories for his subjects to tell around Saxon fires. He was reputed to have bent iron bars with his great strength. One story tells of his horse throwing a shoe. The village blacksmith made a replacement. Augustus took the horseshoe in his hand and broke it in two. He then tossed the blacksmith a coin to pay for a new one. The blacksmith, not to be outdone, then bent the coin in his hand. Augustus laughed aloud and gave the blacksmith a third coin for the final horseshoe. Augustus didn't mind paying three times the price, since it made for another good story. They had both enjoyed the macho display. Augustus often rode his horse, through Dresden, with the reins in his teeth and carrying two urchins in each hand. He was known as the "Saxon Hercules." Augustus II loved hunting, fishing, parties, festivals, and firework.

AUGUSTUS' DEATH:

Despite his failing health, Augustus left Dresden for the Imperial Diet in Warsaw. Augustus II died of gangrene in February 1, 1733. He was a diabetic and had already lost one toe to his ailment. He was on his way to Warsaw, when his leg began to fester and give him pain. At this point, the doctors could not save him and he died. His body was buried in the Cathedral of Cracow, on Wawel hill, while his heart was buried in a crypt in the Court Church (Hofkirche) in Dresden, Germany. He had bequeathed his heart to the people of Saxony. During a flood in 2002, the heart capsule was seen floating in the crypt, but was undamaged. It is now mounted higher on the masonary near his tomb. Thomas von Fritsch (in 1763) stated that during his last ten years of his reign, that Saxony was in a better state than ever before. In the decade that followed the death of Augustus the Strong, the splendor and the originality of the times were never reached again.

The Genealogical Line of Augustus II

AUGUSTUS III, KING OF POLAND:

He was survived by his son Augustus III (1696-1763), who was his heir.

*****

SOURCES:

Herman, Eleanor. Sex With Kings. HarperCollins, 2004.

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