7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April, 18, 2012
Harlem Road Community Center
4255 Harlem Rd, Amherst
Members: Free; Non-members: $5 donation
Contact: Charles Peszynski
Forfeiting a Kingdom, Gaining a Duchy:
The Story of King Stanislas Leszczynski, Duke of Lorraine
PRESENTER: Wanda Slawinska, M.A., M.S.L.S.
Curator of the Fronczak Room Collections At Buffalo State College
Stanislas Leszczynski, 1677-1766, was born in Lwow, Poland, (now Lviv, Ukraine,) into a powerful magnate family in Great Poland. He was a Count of the Holy Roman Empire.
At that time Poland was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This means that the country was a republic, in as much as the kings were elected, much as modern day presidents are elected. This system worked well until some nobles succumbed to the influence of foreign powers.
Leszczynski was twice elected to the Polish throne: once, through the bribery of some Polish nobles aided by the Swedish lobby. Poles wished to get rid of their Saxon king, and Sweden needed an ally against the Russians in the Great Northern War. Later, when the Swedes were defeated by the Russians at Poltava, Leszczynski was deposed. When the Saxon King August II died in 1733, Leszczynski was elected by a great majority. However, two years later he had to abdicate because Russia and Austria persuaded a minority of voters to elect the Saxon who became August III.
Leszczynski was married to the well-born and well educated Catherine and they had two daughters. The royal family went into exile protected by Sweden and France. They settled in the castle o Chambord. In 1925 the exiled King gave his daughter away to young Louis XV, King of France. To compensate for his abdication, King Stanislas received for life the Duchies of Lorraine and Bar, and the right to keep his title of King of Poland, as well as a small pension.
Here the King was able to put his intelligence, his talents and education to work for the good of his subjects, all the while showing great interest in what was happening in Poland. Unfortunately, he was not afforded a third opportunity. Instead, he worked diligently in his Dukedom. He took an interest in the well-being of his subjects. Despite his limited resources, he employed the artist, Jean Lamour and the architect, Emmanuel Here, and transformed their cities into a thing of beauty. Leszczynski supported the arts and sciences, wrote political treatises and hosted meetings with men of the Enlightenment, such as Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau. He even brought joy to their palates.
The people of the Dukedom were grateful and their descendants remembered their benefactor by erecting a monument to him 65 years later.