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Jan III Sobieski (John III Sobieski) King of Poland 1674-1696

Portrait of Jan III Sobieski, King

Born:  August 17, 1629 , Olesko, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Died:  June 17, 1696, Wilanow, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Early days. His father Jakub Sobieski, a diplomat, speaker of the Sejm (marszalek sejmu), voivode of Belz and Ruthenia, castellan of Cracow etc., came from an old family (coat of arms “Janina”). Jakub’s father, Marek, was King’s Batory confidence man and Lublin’s voivode. His mother, Teoifila Danillowicz, was Jakub’s second wife. She was the granddaughter of hetman Stanislaw Zolkiewski. Jan had 6 siblings but only two, Marek and Katarzyna, lived into adulthood. In 1640 Jan and Marek came to Cracow where they attended Nowodworski Gimnazjum. They also took, outside of the Gimnazjum, lessons of several foreign languages (German, French, Italian). From 1643 till 1646 both brothers attended the Jagiellonian University.
Travels abroad. Jan and Marek started now their Great Tour of Europe. Sebastian Gawarecki became their tutor. They went to Berlin, Leipzig, Amsterdam and Paris. In Paris Jan joined the Royal Guard where he learned the West European military doctrine. They also joined the legation of Wladyslaw IV Waza, King of Poland (1632-1648) who wanted to ask for the hand of Princess Maria Gonzaga de Nevers (later using the name Ludwika Maria Gonzaga, wife of Wladyslaw IV Waza and after his death wife of Jan II Kazimierz Waza, King of Poland, 1648-1668). In Paris Jan Sobieski romanced with a French woman and had a illegitimate son, Brisacier. In October 1647 the brothers went to London, Windsor and Oxford. Then they went to Holland where they briefly studied mathematics. When they learned about situation in Poland they returned.
Military career. Jan Sobieski began his military career fighting the Cossacks (Chmielnicki Rebellion) in 1649. During the Battle at Beresteczko (1651) Marek Sobieski was captured by the Tartars and executed together with other officers. In August 1655 Sobieski, then a Colonel, swore allegiance to Charles X (Karl X Gustav), King of Sweden, whose army invaded Poland. However already in March 1656 he fought against the Swedes under the command of Stefan Czarniecki and later under Jerzy Lubomirski. During the Battle of Warsaw (1656) he commanded his own regiment and also the Tartar auxiliaries. He joined the embassy to Constantinople in 1654. He was presented at court in 1655, and was elected as envoy to the Sejm (Parliament) in 1659. In 1665 he became Grand Marshal of the Crown (succeeding the rebellious Jerzy Lubomirski) and Field Crown Hetman in 1666 (after the death of Stefan Czarniecki). In 1668 King Jan II Kazimierz appointed John Sobieski the Grand Crown Hetman and Commander-in-Chief of the Polish army. Right after the end of the war against Sweden, a new war- against Russia- started. Sobieski became famous during the battles of Cudnow and Slobyszcze. Despite of military successes Poland was threatened by the specter of civil war.
Marriage. His future wife was Marie Casimire Louise de la Grange d'Arquien (1641-1716), daughter of Henri de la Grange, Marquis d'Arquien (1641-1716), of Nevers, Burgundy, France. In Poland, she was known as "Marysienka." She came to Poland, at age four, with the French Queen, Marie-Louise who married Wladyslaw IV Waza, King of Poland.. Marysienka was the daughter of the Captain in the French Guard, and the Queen's former governess. Sobieski met her when she was very young. In 1661 she married an elderly Jan "Sobiepan" Zamoyski. Soon thereafter she started correspondence with Sobieski and before Zamoyski's death she and Jan Sobieski had a passionate romance. They corresponded now using a code (to avoid a scandal in case of discovery). She was Dawn, Rose, Astrea …, he was Celadon, Autumn…, and Zamoyski was Mackerel, Horse…Zamoyski suddenly died on April 7, 1665. Marysienka and Sobieski married on May 14, 1665, in secret, before Zamoyski's body was buried. A second, official wedding took place on July 5, 1665. Soon after the wedding he took part in war against Lubomirski’s Rebellion. In the Battle of Matwy the rebels defeated King’s army. The rebellion ended in 1666 only to be followed by the war against Cossack- Tartar forces. Sobieski defeated those forces in the Battle of Podhajce (1671). After the abdication of King Jan II Kaziierz in 1668 and coming to power of a new king, Michal Korybut Wisniowiecki (1669), Jan Sobieski became the head of the French backed Confederation of Szczebrzeszyn (1672) who wantedthe new king to resign. Part of the gentry supported the king and formed a Confederation of Golab. The Turkish invasion prompted the two sides to reconcile. In 1673, in the Battle of Chocim, Sobieski annihilated the entire Ottoman Army under the command of Hussein Pasha.
Jan III and Marysienka’s children: Jakub Ludwik (1667-1736), Teresa Teofila, Berbelune,La Mannone, Teresa Kunegunda (1676-1730)- In 1695, the Princess married Maximilian II Emanuel, elector of Bavaria, Aleksander Benedykt, (1677-1713). Konstanty W³adys³aw (1680-1720), Jan (1682-1685).
Coronation and reign. Jan Sobieski's military prowess, as exhibited in a war against the Ottoman Empire, contributed to his election as king of Poland. After a distinguished military career, and following the death in 1673 of King Jan II Kazimierz's successor, Michal Korybut Wisniowiecki, King of Poland ( 1669-1673) John Sobieski was elected by the szlachta (nobility) as king of Poland on May 21, 1674 and was crowned on February 2, 1676 in the Wawel Cathedral, Cracow. Jan III Sobieski’s official title was (in Latin): Joannes III, Dei Gratia rex Poloniae, magnus dux Lithuaniae, Russie, Prussiae, Masoviae, Samogitiae, Livoniae, Smolenscie, Kijoviae, Volhyniae, Podlachiae, Severiae, Czernichoviaeque, etc. English translation: John III, by the grace of God King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Ruthenia (Ukraine & Belarus), Prussia, Masovia, Samogitia, Livonia, Smolensk, Kyiv, Volhynia, Podlasie, Severia and Czernichow, etc. One of Sobieski's ambitions was to unify the Christian Europe in a crusade to drive the Turks out of Europe. He allied with the Holy Roman Emperor and joined the Holy League initiated by Pope Innocent XI to preserve the Christendom. According to Oscar Halecki, noted Polish historical writer, John III planned to occupy Prussia with Swedish cooperation and French support. This undertaking was doomed to failure, because of the war with Turkey and the opposition of the Polish magnates. In the war against Turks Sobieski gained other victories. In 1674 and 1675 he defended Lwow, regained Bar, Braclaw and Mohylow. In 1676 the enemies were forced to sign a truce in Zorawno. Poland recaptured Biala Cerkiew and Pawlocz. A peace ensued during which many buildings were built, the Royal Palace at Wilanow (Villeneuve) among them. Battle of Parkany (1683), Jaz³owiec (1684), ¯waniec (1684), Jassy (1686), Suczawa (1691 Battle of Vienna. Sobieski realized that Brandenburg and the Habsburgs posed a threat to Poland. He wanted Poland to become closer to France and Sweden. But France was not interested so Sobieski signed a friendship treaty with the Habsburgs. Changing his political orientation from pro-French to pro-Austrian Sobieski decided to help the Austrians who faced a siege of Vienna by the Turks. Upon reaching Vienna, he joined up with the Austrians and Germans. Sobieski, who became the Commander-in-Chief of the aalied forces, planned to attack on the 13th of September, but he had noticed that the Turkish resistance was weak and ordered full attack on September 12, 1683. At 4 a.m. in the morning Sobieski’s army of about 81,000 men attacked a Turkish army under Kara Mustafa numbering about 130,000. Sobieski charged with husaria forward and soon after the Turkish battle line was broken as the Turks scattered in confusion. At 5:30 p.m., Sobieski entered the deserted tent of Kara Mustafa and the battle of Vienna was over. The pope and other foreign dignitaries then hailed Sobieski as the "Savior of Vienna and Western European civilization." In a letter to his wife he wrote, ...All the common people kissed my hands, my feet, my clothes; others only touched me, saying: Ach, let us kiss so valiant a hand!". Pursuing the fleeing Turks Sobieski won also the Battle of Parkany, Hungary, October 7-9, 1683, destroying Turkish rear guard. In 1684 Poland joined the Holy League committing herself to its wars 1684-1699. This decision proved to be disastrous for Poland. In 1686 a treaty with Russia was signed (Grzymultowski Treaty) which meant loss of the eastern lands. Jan III Sobieski was said to have been a popular monarch. King Jan III Sobieski, the last great king of Poland, nicknamed by the Turks the "Lion of Lechistan", died of heart attack in Wilanów, Poland on June 17, 1696. Rev. Zaluski wrote about his death:” It seems to me that we go to the grave together with him; the glory of our motherland depended on him and perished with him. … I’m afraid, not without foundation that together with him will die also Polish bravery. His wife, Marie Casimire, died in 1716 in Blois, France where she lived with her children as pensioners of Louis XIV, King of France. Her body was later returned to Poland. She is interred together with Jan III in Wawel Castle, Cracow. His unusual correspondence with Marysienka has been published in bookform (see below for sources). The level of attachment of this pair is reflected in his greetings:”Mon Coeur, mon ame et mon tout (my heart, my soul and my everything)”, “Only solace of my heart and soul, my fairest, most beloved Marysienka!” etc.

This article uses, among others, material from the Wikipedia article "John III Sobieski, King of Poland" licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. :

See also:
Norman Davies "Playground of Gods, History of Poland" Chapter 16, Columbia University Press, 1982

Other sources
Sciaga (in Polish)
Letters to Marysienka (in Polish)
Polish News
Polish Land Forces
Natiomaster Encyclopedia
Gallery of paintings representing Jan III Sobieski

English translations of some of his "Letters to Marysienka":
Constance J. Ostrowski

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