- Sigismund II Augustus
: "For other nobles of the same name, please see
Sigismund." Infobox Polish monarch
name=Sigismund II Augustus
deathdate=death date and age|1572|7|7|1520|8|1|df=y
10 February 1574in Wawel Cathedral, Kraków
20 February, 1530
coronation_place=Wawel Cathedral, Kraków
Jagiellon dynasty, Gediminid
Sigismund I of Poland
consort_1=Elisabeth of Austria
Catherine of Austria
Sigismund II Augustus I [Kings Augustus II and Augustus III bore their numbers after him.] ( _pl. Zygmunt II August, Ruthenian: "Żygimont III Awgust I", _lt. Žygimantas III Augustas I, _de. Sigismund II. August;
1 August 1520— 7 July 1572) was King of Polandand Grand Duke of Lithuania, the only son of Sigismund I the Old, whom Sigismund II succeeded in 1548. Married three times, the last of the Jagiellonsremained childless, and thus the Union of Lublinintroduced Elective monarchy.
* Royal titles, in
Latin: "Sigismundus Augustus Dei gratia rex Poloniae, magnus dux Lithuaniae, nec non terrarum Cracoviae, Sandomiriae, Siradiae, Lanciciae, Cuiaviae, Kijoviae, Russiae, Woliniae, Prussiae, Masoviae, Podlachiae, Culmensis, Elbingensis, Pomeraniae, Samogitiae, Livoniae etc. dominus et haeres"."
* English translation: "Sigismund Augustus, by the Grace of God, King of
Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Lord and heir of the Lands of Kraków, Sandomierz, Sieradz, Łęczyca, Kuyavia, Kiev, Hereditary Lord of Russia/ Ruthenia, Volhynia, Prussia, Masovia, Podlachia, Culmer Land, Elbing, Pomerania, Samogitia, Livonia etc."
From the outset of his reign, Sigismund came into collision with the country's
nobility, who had already begun curtailing the power of the great families. The ostensible cause of the nobility's animosity to the King was his second marriage, secretly contracted before his accession to the throne, with the beautiful Lithuanian Calvinist, Barbara Radziwiłł, daughter of Hetman Jerzy Radziwiłł.
But the real forces behind the movement seem to have been the
Austrian court and Sigismund's own mother, Bona Sforza, and so violent was the agitation at Sigismund's first " sejm" ( October 31, 1548) that the deputies threatened to renounce their allegiance unless the King repudiated his wife Barbara. He refused, and his moral courage and political dexterity won the day.
By 1550, when Sigismund summoned his second "
Sejm", a reaction had begun in his favor, and the nobilitywas rebuked by Piotr Kmita, Marshal of the " Sejm", who accused them of attempting to unduly diminish the legislative prerogatives of the crown.
The death of Queen Barbara, five months after her coronation (
December 7, 1550), under distressing circumstances which led to a suspicion that she had been poisoned by Bona Sforza, compelled Sigismund to contract a third, purely political union with his first cousin, the Austrian archduchess Catherine, also the sister of his first wife, Elisabeth, who had died within a year of her marriage to him, while he was still only crown prince.
The third bride was sickly and unsympathetic, and Sigismund soon lost all hope of children by her — to his despair, for as he was the last male Jagiellon in the direct line, the dynasty was threatened with extinction. He sought to remedy this by liaisons with two of the most beautiful of his countrywomen,
Barbara Giżankaand Anna Zajączkowska. The sejmwas willing to legitimatize, and acknowledge as Sigismund's successor, any male heir who might be born to him; however, the King was to die childless.
The King's marriage was a matter of great political import to
Protestantsand Catholicsalike. Had Sigismund not been so good a Catholic, he might have imitated Henry VIII of Englandby pleading that his detested third wife was the sister of his first wife, and that consequently the union was uncanonical. The Polish Protestants hoped that he would do so and thus bring about a breach with Rome at the very crisis of the religious struggle in Poland; while the Habsburgs, who coveted the Polish throne, raised every obstacle to the childless King's remarriage.
Not till Queen Catherine's death (
February 28, 1572) was Sigismund set free, but less than six months later he would follow her to the grave.
Sigismund's reign was a period of internal turmoil and external expansion.
He saw the invasion of Poland by the Reformation, and the "peero-cratic" upheaval that placed all political power in the hands of the
nobility; he saw the collapse of the Knights of the Swordin the north (which led to the Commonwealth's acquisition of Livonia) and the consolidation of Turkey's power in the south. Throughout this perilous transitional period, Sigismund successfully steered the ship of state amid the whirlpools that constantly threatened to engulf it. A less imposing figure than his father, the elegant and refined Sigismund II Augustus was nevertheless an even greater statesman than the stern and majestic Sigismund I the Old.
Sigismund II possessed to a high degree the tenacity and patience that seem to have characterized all the Jagiellons, and he added to these qualities a dexterity and diplomatic finesse which he may have inherited from his Italian mother. No other Polish king seems to have so thoroughly understood the nature of the Polish "
sejm". Both the Austrian ambassadors and the papal legates testify to the care with which he controlled his nation. Everything went as he wished, they said, because he seemed to know everything in advance. He managed to get more money than his father ever could, and at one of his " sejm"s he won the hearts of the assembly by unexpectedly appearing before them in the simple grey coat of a Masovian lord. Like his father, a pro-Austrian by conviction, he contrived even in this respect to carry with him the nation, always distrustful of the Germans, and thus avoided serious complications with the dangerous Turks.
Sigismund II mediated for twenty years between the
Roman Catholic Churchand the Protestants without alienating the sympathies of either. His most striking memorial, however, may have been the Union of Lublin, which finally made of Poland and Lithuania one body politic, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth— the "Republic of the Two Nations" ( _pl. Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów, _lt. Abiejų Tautų Respublika). Also, German-speaking Royal Prussiaand Prussian cities were included. This achievement might well have been impossible without Sigismund.
Sigismund died at his beloved
Knyszynon July 6, 1572, aged 52. In 1573, Henry III of Valois was elected as King of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth for a few months, but then returned to France where he was crowned as King Henry III of France. Shortly thereafter, Sigismund's sister Anna of Polandmarried Stefan Batory, and they ruled as King and Queen of Poland.
Besides very close family connections, Sigismund II was especially allied to the Imperial
Habsburgs by his pledge as member of the Order of the Golden Fleece.
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1= Sigismund II Augustus
Sigismund I the Old
Casimir IV Jagiellon
5= Elisabeth of Austria
Gian Galeazzo Sforza
Isabella of Naples
Sophia of Halshany
Albert II of Germany
Elisabeth II of Bohemia
Galeazzo Maria Sforza
Bona of Savoy
Alfonso II of Naples
Ippolita Maria Sforza
Marriages and children
He married three times:
May 5, 1543, Sigismund married his first wife Elisabeth of Austria (July 9, 1526 - June 15, 1545), eldest daughter of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperorand Anna of Bohemia and Hungary.
July 28and August 6, 1547, Sigismund married his second wife Barbara Radziwiłł( December 6, 1520- May 8, 1551).
*In the summer of 1553, Sigismund married
Catherine of Austria( September 15, 1533- February 28, 1572), a younger sister of his first wife.
Diana di Cordona
**Barbara - married Jakub Zawadzki
Sigismund Augustus was a passionate collector of jewels. According to
nuncio Bernardo Bongiovanni's relation, his collection was allocated in 16 chests.Stanisław Cynarski, "Zygmunt August", Wrocław 2004. ISBN 8304047144] Among the precious items in his possession was Charles V's ruby of 80 000 scudos' worth, as well as the Emperor's diamondmedal with HabsburgsEagle on one side and two columns with a sign "Plus Ultra" on the other side. He had also a sultan's sword of 16 000 ducats' worth, 30 precious horse trappings and 20 different private-use armours. [http://www.zwoje-scrolls.com/zwoje31/text08p.htm Polonica w Szwecji] , Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection] His possession includes a rich collection of tapestries (360 pieces [ [http://encyklopedia.interia.pl/haslo?hid=117996 encyklopedia.interia.pl] ] ), commissioned by him in Brusselsin the years 1550-1560. [http://www.wawel.krakow.pl/en/index.php?op=22 Textiles] , Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection]
History of Poland (1385-1569)
History of Poland (1569-1795)
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