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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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5. Between alternatives: the royal elections of 1573 and 1575


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5.  Between alternatives: the royal elections of 1573 and 1575

In the context of the Polish-Lithuanian royal elections, previous scholarship has concentrated primarily on the domestic issues of the Polish-Lithuanian Res publica and on the confirmation of noble privileges under the system of elective monarchy. This has meant a concentration on the Warsaw Confederation and the Henrician articles (pacta conventa), as restrictions on royal authority for the benefit of the nobility. These are of course important documents of the transition period, but I would argue that foreign policy issues were as important as the domestic situation for the decision-making process during a royal election. This was a consequence of the sixteenth-century political system and separation of powers, according to which foreign policy and international relations were seen as the primary domain of royal power. In foreign policy, a monarch was expected to be a strong ruler among other European – including Russian and Ottoman – rulers. The status of a monarch among other European rulers was crucial so that the monarch would be able to secure peace for his realm and, when necessary, wage war effectively. In domestic matters, on the other hand, the royal house was not necessarily seen as the sole or highest authority, at least not in the Polish-Lithuanian Res publica.

In a royal election it was important to decide which religious faith was the most beneficial for the king as an actor in international – or ‘inter-realm’ – relations. There was also...

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