Reformation in Poland: Warsaw resists King Alex

“But I’ve had my own successes despite the senate. You probably don’t remember Conrad III the Red, prince of Mazovia? He died in 1503, the same year as the cardinal. He left two young sons from his third wife and a young widow. So while his widow was weeping, I sent men up to Warsaw to see if there was anything she needed. I just wanted to be helpful, not make a grab for Warsaw as some people said I was doing, but why shouldn’t I if Mazovia might fall into other, less friendly hands like the Teutonic knights? My ministers thought it was a good idea. What happened? As soon as the good people of Warsaw saw my men on the horizon they bolted the city gates and went up onto the walls to defend themselves, yes, against the king’s men. Once my men were within ear shot of the city the people on the ramparts started hurling abuse at them and at me, their king. No respect for authority. One of my brighter men shouted back, “Are we not all Poles? Aren’t you, you and you sir, all Poles? Aren’t I and him and him? Why don’t you open the gates?” I am sure you’ll agree that this was a perfectly reasonable question. I was king of all Poland. But reasoning has never been our strong point when heated emotion gets in the way, which it so often does. The question went over the heads of the Poles on the walls. They wouldn’t open the gates and I was advised not to call off my men. An impasse. My men were left outside and the citizens of Warsaw were stuck inside. One of my knights claimed that he had a bucket full of human effluent thrown over him when he was relieving himself under the walls. He is inclined to exaggerate but it may be true.

A woman’s thinking resolved the problem. The boys’ mum was Anna Radzwill, a member of the powerful clan from Wilno. I knew them well from my time as Grand Duke. She sent me thirty thousand ducats to call my men back to Cracow with a reminder that her family could be awkward if they wanted to be, as if I needed reminding. I took her advice and was 30 thousand the richer for only a small dent to the king’s authority. A success, I call it. At least I had some money of my own.


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