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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

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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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6. The confirmation of Polish-Lithuanian statehood

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6.  The confirmation of Polish-Lithuanian statehood

During the time of the first two royal elections, there were three agreements made between the estates and a monarch on how the administration and separation of powers would be organized in the Polish-Lithuanian Res publica. These agreements are known as pacta conventa. First, there was the pacta conventa and coronation oath of Henry Valois. These ‘Henrician articles’ are often seen by historians as the documents that confirm the Polish-Lithuanian privileges and noble freedom under the system of elective monarchy. During the winter 1575–1576 there were two more agreements: one for Emperor Maximilian II and one for Stefan Batory. In comparison to the pacta conventa of Henry Valois, these two documents have largely been neglected by previous historians. This is because the pacta conventa of Maximilian II was never ratified as his coronation in Poland-Lithuania never took place and the pacta conventa of Stefan Batory has been seen as a less important document by comparison with the famous Henrician articles.

I would question the way in which previous – especially Polish – historiography has concentrated mainly on the documents of the election of Henry Valois as those of the elective monarchy in general. It is arguable that neither the short reign of Henry Valois nor his pacta conventa secured the Polish-Lithuanian state through the transition period. Although King Henry’s election was an important event, it was not enough to secure the continuity of the Polish-Lithuanian state. In...

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