Born: March 19, 1542, Skokowka, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Died: June 3, 1605, Zamosc, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Early days. Father- Stanislaw Zamoyski (Coat of Arms: Jelita) was the Castellan of Chelm; mother- Anna Herburt. Jan had three siblings. He attended the cathedral school in Krasnystaw. In 1555 he went to Paris where he stayed till 1559 studying at the University of Paris and at the Sorbonne. Later he studied at the University of Padua where in 1561 he represented the Poles before the authorities and served as a Rector in 1563. He also prepared his celebrated work De senate romano (Venice, 1563), a brochure about Ancient Rome government, in which he sought to apply constitutional principles of republican Rome to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Early years: the royal supporter. After he returned to Poland in 1565, he was appointed secretary to King Sigismund II Augustus. In 1571 he married Anna Ossolinska who died a year later.In 1572 during the election sejm (sejm elekcyjny) he used his influence to enforce the viritim election procedure (all nobles had the right to vote for the king) and the majority voting procedure. During that time he wrote the Modus electionis brochure. He was a friend of Mikołaj Sienicki and Hieronim Ossolinski, and he soon become the most important leader of the faction of the lesser and middle nobility (szlachta) in the Commonwealth, whose goal was the reform the country, forming the execution movement (ruch egzekucyjny) - preserving the unique constitutional and parliamentary government of the Commonwealth with the dominant role of poorer nobility (Golden Freedom). He opposed the magnate faction, which wished to offer the throne to a member of the Habsburg family. During the 1573 election he was in favor of the French Prince Henri de Valois (Henryk II Walezy). After the flight of that prince Zamoyski seems to have aimed at the throne himself, but changed his mind and during 1575 election threw all his abilities into the scale in favor of Istvan Bathory (Stefan Batory). At that time he was one of the most powerful people in the country, having obtained both the power of Grand Hetman (commander in chief of the armed forces) in 1576 and that of chancellor in 1580, and soon becoming one of the richest Polish magnates. In 1577 he married Krystyna Radziwill who died in 1580. Zamoyski supported Batory's politics- opposition to both the Habsburgs and Ottomans- and supported him in his efforts to strengthen the royal power. He took part in the war against Muscovy under Ivan the Terrible, in 1579-1581, when he captured Wielize and Zawoloc. In 1583 he married the King’s niece, Gryzelda Batory who died a year later during the childbirth. The twins, Anna and Zofia, died soon thereafter. Zamoyski also enabled the king in 1585 to bring the traitorous Samuel Zborowski to the scaffold in the face of a determined resistance from the nobility. After the death of Batory in 1586, the Zborowskis recovered their influence and did their utmost to keep Zamoyski in the background.
Later years: in opposition to the throne. After the death of Batory, Zamoyski helped Sigismund III Vasa of Sweden (son of Katarzyna Jagiellonka, sister of Zygmunt II August, King of Poland and wife of Johan III Vasa, King of Sweden) to gain the Polish throne, fighting in the brief civil war against the forces supporting Habsburg archduke Maximilian III of Austria, and defeating them in the Battle of Byczyna in 1588. Maximilian was taken prisoner and had to give up all pretences to the Polish crown. However, from the very beginning of Sigismund III's reign, Zamoyski, who was once a staunch supporter of the Commonwealth kings, joined the opposition against the monarch's intentions of transforming the Commonwealth into an absolute monarchy. Sigismund had allied himself with the Habsburgs and other Counter-Reformation forces, in order to secure their help for regaining the Swedish throne. The new King feared the chancellor's power, but due to Commonwealth laws he was unable to dismiss him from his posts. In turn, Zamoyski treated the King as a pawn and ignorant foreigner. In opposition to the king, Zamoyski advocated religious tolerance, opposed the growing power of the Roman Catholic Church and Jesuits, and warned against forcing the Commonwealth into useless dynasty wars with Sweden, especially with the constant danger from the Ottoman Empire. His politics and actions were responsible for Poland opposing and eventually avoiding the trend toward absolutism that characterized the other European states. Open conflict between king and chancellor broke out during the Sejm (Polish Diet) of 1592, when Zamoyski found out that Sigismund was plotting to cede the Polish crown to the Habsburgs in exchange for their support of his right to the Swedish throne. Zamoyski failed to dethrone Sigismund but won for himself a free hand in the Moldavian campaign where in 1595 he helped hospodar Ieremia Movilă (Jeremi Mohyła) to gain the throne. Also in 1592 he married Barbara Tarnowska with whom he had a son Tomasz Zamoyski future Deputy Chancellor of the Crown. In 1600 Zamoyski fought against Michael the Brave (Michal Waleczny, Mihai Viteazul), hospodar of Wallachia and the new Prince of Transylvania, who had conquered Moldavia a few months earlier. He defeated him at Bukova (Bucovu) and restored Ieremia to the throne, even helping his brother, Simion Movilă to become brief ruler of Wallachia, thus spreading the influence of the Commonwealth to the Central Danube. In 1600 and 1601 he took part in the war against Sweden commanding the Commonwealth forces in Livonia (Inflanty). In 1600 he recaptured some strongholds from the Swedes and year later captured Wolmar and Fellin, and in 1602 Bialy Kamien. The rigors of the campaign, however, placed a strain on his health, and he resigned the command. Some claim that "Zamoyski cannot be called a true patriot. Polish historians, dazzled by his genius and valor, are apt to overlook his quasi-treasonable conduct and blame Sigismund III. for every misadventure; but there can be no doubt that the king took a far broader view of the whole situation when he attempted to reform the Polish constitution in 1605 by strengthening the royal power and deciding all measures in future by a majority of the diet. These reforms Zamoyski strenuously opposed. The last speech he delivered was in favor of the anarchic principle of free election." He died suddenly at Zamosc on the 3rd of June 1605.
Legacy. In 1580 he founded the city of Zamość, built and designed as a Renaissance “citta ideale” or “ideal city” by the Italian architect Bernardo Morando. During his life he gathered much wealth - he owned 11 cities and 200 villages (around 6400 km˛) and was a royal caretaker of another 112 cities and 612 villages (around 17500 km˛). In 1595 he founded the Akademia Zamojska. Jan Zamoyski is one of the characters in the famous paintings by Jan Matejko: Sermon of Skarga and Batory at Pskov.
This article uses, among others, material from the Wikipedia article "Jan Zamoyski" licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. :
Supplemented by other sources:
Polskie Dzieje (in Polish) by Anna Pierikarczyk
See also numerous references to Zamoyski in:
Norman Davies, "God's Playground," Vol.I, Columbia University Press, 1982
John Radzilowski, "A Traveller's History of Poland," Interlink Books, 2007
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