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For other nobles of the same name, please see Sigismund.
Sigismund II Augustus
unknown artist
King of Poland
Reign 1548 - 1569
Predecessor Sigismund I the Old
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Reign 1548 - 1569
Predecessor Sigismund I the Old
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as King of Poland & Grand Duke of Lithuania
Reign 1569 - 1572
Successor Interrex 1572 - 1573
Henry of Valois in 1573
Spouses Elisabeth of Austria
(m. 5 May 1543)
Barbara Radziwiłł
(m. 1547)
(dec. 7 December 1550)
Catherine of Austria
(m. 1553)
Dynasty Jagiellon
Father Sigismund I of Poland
Mother Bona Sforza
Born 1 August 1520(1520-08-01)
Kraków, Poland
Died 7 July 1572 (aged 51)
Knyszyn, Poland
Burial 10 February 1574
Wawel Cathedral, Kraków
Signature
Coat of Arms of Jagiellon kings of Poland.svg

Sigismund II Augustus I[1] (Polish: Zygmunt II August, Ruthenian: Żygimont III Awgust I, Belarusian: Жыгімонт Аўгуст; Lithuanian: Žygimantas III Augustas I, German: Sigismund II. August; 1 August 1520 — 7 July 1572) was King of Poland and 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 Jagiellons remained childless, and thus the Union of Lublin introduced Elective monarchy.

Contents

Royal titles

  • 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."

Biography

Sigismund II Augustus. Drawing by Jan Matejko

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 (said to be 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 (31 October 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 nobility was 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 (7 December 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 Giżanka and Anna Zajączkowska. The sejm was 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.

Death of Barbara Radziwiłł Painting by Józef Simmler
Letter of Roxelana, wife of Suleiman the Magnificent, to Sigismund Augustus, complementing him for his accession to the throne in 1549.

The King's marriage was a matter of great political import to Protestants and Catholics alike. Had Sigismund not been so good a Catholic, he might have imitated Henry VIII of England by 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 (28 February 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 Sword in 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.

Death of Sigismund II at Knyszyn, by Jan Matejko, 1886, oil on canvas, National Museum, Warsaw.

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 sejms 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 Church and 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" (Polish: Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów, Lithuanian: Abiejų Tautų Respublika). Also, German-speaking Royal Prussia and Prussian cities were included. This achievement might well have been impossible without Sigismund.

Sigismund died at his beloved Knyszyn on 6 July 1572, aged 51. In 1573, Henry III of Valois was elected King of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth for a few months, but then returned to France where he was crowned King Henry III of France. Shortly thereafter, Sigismund's sister Anna of Poland married Stefan Batory, and they ruled as King and Queen of Poland.

In addition to his family connections, Sigismund II was allied to the Imperial Habsburgs by his pledge as member of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

Ancestors

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jogaila
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Casimir IV Jagiellon
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sophia of Halshany
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sigismund I the Old
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Albert II of Germany
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Elisabeth of Austria
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Elisabeth of Bohemia
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sigismund II Augustus
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Galeazzo Maria Sforza
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gian Galeazzo Sforza
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bona of Savoy
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bona Sforza
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Alfonso II of Naples
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Isabella of Naples
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ippolita Maria Sforza
 
 
 
 
 
 

Marriages and children

He married three times:

Elzbieta Habsburzanka.jpg
Barbara Radziwiłł.jpg
  • Between 28 July and 6 August 1547, Sigismund married his second wife Barbara Radziwiłł (6 December 1520 – 8 May 1551).
KatarzynaHabs.jpg
  • In the summer of 1553, Sigismund married Catherine of Austria (15 September 1533 – 28 February 1572), a younger sister of his first wife.

Mistresses

  • Diana di Cordona
  • Miss Weiss
  • Miss Relska
    • daughter
  • Zuzanna Orłowska
  • Anna Zajączkowska
  • Barbara Giżycka (died 1589)
    • Barbara (died after 5 Jun 1615) - married Jakub Zawadzki

Patronage

Sigismund Augustus was a passionate collector of jewels. According to nuncio Bernardo Bongiovanni's relation, his collection was allocated in 16 chests.[2] Among the precious items in his possession was Charles V's ruby of 80 000 scudos' worth, as well as the Emperor's diamond medal with Habsburgs Eagle on one side and two columns with a sign Plus Ultra on the other side.[2] He had also a sultan's sword of 16 000 ducats' worth, 30 precious horse trappings[2] and 20 different private-use armours.[3] His possession includes a rich collection of tapestries (360 pieces[4]), commissioned by him in Brussels in the years 1550-1560.[5]

References

  1. ^ Kings Augustus II and Augustus III bore their numbers after him.
  2. ^ a b c Stanisław Cynarski, Zygmunt August, Wrocław 2004. ISBN 8304047144
  3. ^ a b Polonica w Szwecji, Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection
  4. ^ encyklopedia.interia.pl
  5. ^ a b Textiles, Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection
  6. ^ Lileyko Jerzy, Vademecum Zamku Warszawskiego, Warszawa 1980. ISBN 8322318189

See also

Sigismund II Augustus
Born: 1 August 1520 Died: 7 July 1572
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Sigismund I the Old
King of Poland
1548–1572
Succeeded by
Henry III
Grand Duke of Lithuania
1548–1572

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

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