ames (Jakub) Sobieski never king of Poland

Published in Book Reviews, General, Issue 3 (May/June 2011), Letters, Volume 19

Sir,—I greatly enjoyed Éamonn Ó Ciardha’s article on Jacobite jailbreakers and jailbirds (HI 19.2, March/April 2011). However, one small point of Polish history needs correction. James (Jakub) Sobieski, the father of Princess Klementyna (Clementina), was never a king of Poland, so he could never have been an ‘exiled king’, like James Stuart. He was King John III Sobieski’s eldest son, but in seventeenth-century Poland kings were elected. That’s why the Polish state at that time was referred to as a ‘republic’ (rzeczpospolita in Polish), although Norman Davies has translated it as ‘commonwealth’.


Jakub was for years a candidate for the job, but the Poles did not elect him, opting first for a German prince, August II der Starke, and then for Stanislaw Leszczynski, the father of Maria Leszczynska, queen consort of France. Nor was Jakub’s title, prince of Ohlau, Polish: it came from his marriage. The Polish republican monarchy did not allow for any aristocratic titles except ‘king’, although some Lithuanian and Ukrainian aristocrats maintained their own princely titles.


Incidentally, Charles Wogan was very much a man of letters and described the adventure in his own words. I have just read a very nice translation from the French, The rescue of Princess Clementina Stuart. A 1719 adventure of the Irish Brigades by Sir Charles Wogan, translated by Cathy Winch (Belfast Historical and Educational Society, 2008, ISBN 9781872078120). As I read it I thought of Alexandre Dumas, so colourful was the account of his chivalric adventures.—Yours etc.,




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