By Adam Zamoyski
One evening in December 1755, Stanisław Antoni Poniatowski, the twenty-three-year-old secretary to the British Ambassador in St Petersburg, was once brought into the bed room of the Grand Duchess Catherine Alekseyevna. This marked the start of a torrid and clandestine affair which resulted in Stanisław being topped King of Poland in 1764.
The younger king used to be a rushing determine within the best eighteenth-century culture. He was once an ideal representation of the contradictions of Europe's ideological and spiritual viewpoints: he worshipped cause yet used to be led through the center; professed Catholicism yet believed in windfall; toyed with the occult and practised freemasonry.
A nice believer in paintings and schooling, he spent fortunes on cultural tasks, and discovering that he was once blocked politically via Catherine, he placed his energies right into a social and creative regeneration of his state. He reworked the temper and outlook of his nation and taken it to a brand new section of reform and independence, culminating within the passing of the structure in 1791, hailed in Britain, France and the U.S. as one of many maximum occasions of the century.
Poland's neighbours, although, seen this beacon of liberty of their midst with alarm, and as they invaded and partitioned it, Stanislaw was once pressured to monitor the destruction of his life's paintings, and eventually pressured to abdicate, a damaged guy, deceived and disappointed.
‘The final King of Poland’ is the wealthy and mesmerizing tale of a private dream with all of the parts of grand tragedy, whereas even as a huge chronicle of the delivery and loss of life of liberalism in Poland and the institution of Russian strength in Europe.
‘Intelligent, impressively reasearched, fantastically written.’ – Neal Ascherson, The autonomous on Sunday.
‘Writing japanese eu background is nearly actually a nightmare: a floor of operetta, underneath which lurk unending, it sounds as if unnecessary, issues, all finishing in catastrophe. Adam Zamoyski has risen with nice triumph above this, and has contributed a piece of genuine scholarship that also is remarkably effortless to read.’ – Norman Stone, The Sunday occasions.
‘A pleasant instance of the biographer's artwork, with a textual content as delicate to the subject's character because it is specialist within the affairs of the subject's times.’ – Norman Davies, the days Literary complement.
‘A story jam-packed with pathos, and Zamoyski tells it well.’ – Niall Ferguson, The Sunday Telegraph.
Count Adam Stefan Zamoyski is a historian and a member of the traditional Zamoyski family members of Polish the Aristocracy. His books contain ‘The Forgotten Few’, ‘Holy insanity: Romantics, Patriots and Revolutionaries’, and ‘Paderewski’.
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The style within which the Polish magnates lived, their energy, the honor which they loved, all this struck me and confident me that there has been no situation to be envied greater than that of a grandee of Poland,’ wrote Alexander Vorontsov, destiny chancellor of Russia, who spent a number of months in Warsaw in 1758.  overseas governments pensioned the magnates to be able to keep watch over the interior affairs of the rustic, yet their funds had little impact, because the magnates acted in response to their very own purposes of kingdom. They milked Versailles and St Petersburg, and did precisely as they happy. Poland, within the phrases of 1 English vacationer, had fallen ‘into a country of just about overall aristocracy’.  ‘This republic had enormous status and weight in Europe on the time,’ opined Vorontsov. ‘Although its didn't let it to play an energetic position in international affairs, i don't see that any such function is vital to the happiness of a state. ’ there has been definitely whatever to be acknowledged for the absence of nation interference, and an English diplomat coming from Prussia ‘found the air of a Republic fresh’ in contrast.  yet the sort of merits have been the results of indolence instead of idealism, underpinned through a stagnant academic process. The sons of magnates for the main half eschewed university altogether, and have been taught the rudiments of a lifetime of unruly drunkenness by means of neighborhood clerics or international charlatans. except vibrant relations mythologies, the one a part of their schooling that was once strictly utilized used to be the inculcation of the entire varieties and ceremonies of post-Tridentine Catholicism. Polish society flattered itself that it used to be ardently connected to the religion of Rome, and this used to be definitely mirrored within the period of time and energy spent in difficult non secular ritual, which flourished in pilgrimages and processions, and within the erection of impressive shrines and church buildings at each flip. yet non secular orthodoxy co-existed with laxity of morals, and a powerful mystical culture with the main cynical observance. Morals have been inflexible within the recesses of the nation-state and free in Warsaw, the place divorce used to be rife, and the place, within the phrases of the traveling English diplomat Wraxall, ‘Women of the 1st contrast derive extra delight and recognize from the rank or features in their enthusiasts, than from these in their husbands. ’ Warsaw obtained enthusiastic compliment from all travelers, who came upon it cosmopolitan, sophisticated and pleased. however the remainder of the rustic awarded a dismal element, with appalling roads and filthy hotels, villages of crumbling wood hovels and sleepy decrepit cities. The manor-houses of the szlachta have been little greater. They have been typified, within the phrases of a French vacationer, via ‘a nice variety of servants and horses, and nearly no furnishings; an oriental luxurious and not one of the facilities of life’.  The magnates inhabited amazing palaces crammed with French furnishings and superb photos, yet those have been imported baubles bearing little relation to the panorama within which they nestled, and sometimes even much less to the cultural point in their vendors.