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«Res publica» Redefined?

The Polish-Lithuanian Transition Period of the 1560s and 1570s in the Context of European State Formation Processes


Miia Ijäs

The union of Poland and Lithuania was ruled by the Jagiellon royal house from 1385–1572, after which a political transition to an elective monarchy was undertaken. This book studies the political transition from the Jagiellon dynasty to an elective monarchy as a political decision-making process in the 1560s and 1570s. It focuses on the Polish-Lithuanian nobility and clergy as ‘king-makers’ and their relationship with the monarchy. In addition, special attention is paid to the issue of transnational influences and the way in which the international state system affected events in Poland-Lithuania. Thus, this particular political transition is considered in the context of the great events of early modern Europe, such as the Reformation and state-formation processes.
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1. Introduction: the alleged outsider of European developments


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1.  Introduction: the alleged outsider of European developments

The Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania had been united by the Jagiellon royal house since 1385 when the Lithuanian Grand Duke Wladysław Jagiełło was elected as king of Poland. The Jagiellon dynasty came to an end some two centuries later, when King Sigismund II August died in July 1572. By this time, Poland and Lithuania had been united in a political union, which stated that the Polish-Lithuanian estates would jointly elect their future monarch. From the beginning of the first interregnum, the Austrian Habsburg and French Valois candidates, as representatives of the two most powerful dynasties of sixteenth-century Europe, were the favored candidates in the election. Finally, the election of Henry Valois took place in May 1573 and he was crowned in February 1574. However, the Polish-Lithuanian Res publica faced another interregnum in summer 1574, as King Henry left Kraków to claim the French throne after the death of his brother, King Charles IX.

The second interregnum brought great turmoil to Poland-Lithuania. The Polish-Lithuanian estates were gravely divided and at the same time, foreign interference in the realm grew stronger. Because of serious fractures within the Polish-Lithuanian estates, the royal election in December 1575 concluded in a double-election: the majority of the nobility present chose Anna Jagiellon, sister of the late King Sigismund August, and the Transylvanian prince Stefan Batory as their future monarchs, but simultaneously another...

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