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4 Annotations

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The English never thought much of the Polish-Lithuanian Sejm. In 1598 John Peyton, identified recently as the author of an extensive report on the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth prepared for King James, observed that the Sejm was faction-ridden, and marveled that ‘according to the auncient custome of the Northern nations, whose power is in their fyste, they come into the Senate armed’.

John Peyton expressed surprise that ‘considering the deadly feude of greate familyes and the virulent inveighing against them they comme not to strokes to the manifeste ruine of the state’. He scoffed at the slowness of deliberations on account of ‘tedious orations in both howses’ — the Senate and the Chamber of Envoys — and that, on account of the principle of unanimity that governed debate, ‘matters for the publike goode (especially yf they bringe with them any charge) are not very easeley concluded’.

By 1700, when the notorious Liberum Veto — the logical extension of the principle of unanimity, by which the objection of one envoy could not only block legislation, but could break the Sejm — had become institutionalized, the Sejm was a laughingstock.

Yet the opportunity to be King of Poland was a consideration for the exiled James II. Louis XIV thought it an excellent solution to having his impoverished cousin camping near Paris permanently.

For more on Poland's form of (read lack of) democracy:

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The Scots were particularly numerous in the vicinity of Danzig (Gdansk) where many Poles of Scottish descent remain; thus it is probable that Lech Walesa, the late Solidarity leader, was distantly related to Sir William Wallace.

In 1650 Charles II sent Sir John Denham and William, Lord Crofts, to Poland, and they collected 10,000/. from Scotsmen residing there, according to Denham's versified narrative of the journey.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The Polish Winged Hussars, an elite branch of the Polish army during the 16th and 17th centuries, dominated the European continent for over 200 years. They defeated the Swedes, Teutonic Knights, Tatars, Russians, and Ottoman Turks. The Hussars were a tactical shock-force which annihilated armies twice their size with terrifying ferocity and speed.

The origins of the hussar were the Serbian exiles who fled their homeland after the defeat under the Ottoman Turks in the late 15th century. The Hungarians organized their own hussar units into an effective cavalry which repeatedly proved themselves in battle.

Like the Hungarians, the early Polish Hussars wore no armor and were armed only with the lance, sabre and shield. This gave them greater maneuverability and speed in battle against the heavy, lumbering knights.

By the mid-16th-century, Polish King and Lithuanian Grand Duke, Stefan Batory (1576-1586), reorganized the Polish and Lithuanian cavalry along similar lines as the Hungarians. He included armor, but made sure the Hussars remained a fast cavalry.

The most distinctive feature of the Polish Hussars were pairs of huge wings attached to their backs, each constructed of wooden frames to which eagle, ostrich, swan and goose feathers were attached. Feathers were inserted into holes the length of the wood, and the frame was either painted, or covered with crimson velvet and mounted in brass. By a series of metal rods on the batten, the wings were attached to the backplate of the hussar's armor.

By the 1590s the double frame was replaced by a single decorative wing attached to back of the saddle on the left side. This is the image promoted by painters throughout the ages.

In reality, Polish Hussars probably donned the wings only for ceremonial purposes. The weight would have been self-defeating in battle.

Such a sight is alarming, but it is unlikely feathers can emit enough noise to be heard in battle. However, another feature contributed to the awesome appearance of the Polish Hussars: in addition to their uniforms (and wings), draped over one shoulder was the pelt of a leopard, tiger, or wolf, the total of which must have struck fear in their enemies.

According to Guillamde de Beauplan, a French military engineer and cartographer under King Jan Casimir (1609 — 1672), the kopia-lance was hollowed out from the handgrip to tip, the lower part being of solid wood, which was surmounted by a pennant from 6 to 8 ft. in length, which swirled, creating a snapping, popping sound, which, in the case of the famous charge in Vienna, was made by 1,683 men. Combined with the leopard skins and wings they made a fearful sound and appearance which frightened both enemy infantry and cavalry.

Extracts lightly edited from

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

During the Diary years the King of Poland was John II Casimir Vesa, but it was far from a settled situation. He returned to the throne in 1660 after a few years of exile, and in September sent an envoy to congratulate Charles II on his Restoration. I suspect one had gone in the other direction as well.…

"Uneasy is the head that wears a crown" is something both John II and Charles II would agree on.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


  • Aug