Golden Liberty

The Republic at the Zenith of Its Power. Golden Liberty. The Royal Election of 1573, by Jan Matejko

Political system in the Kingdom of Poland and, after the Union of Lublin (1569), in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

- Golden Liberty

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Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

Country and federation of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch in real union, who was both King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania.

The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (green) with vassal states (light green) at their peak in 1619
The Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1526.
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (green) with vassal states (light green) at their peak in 1619
The Union of Lublin joined the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1569.
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at its greatest extent in 1619.
Sigismund III Vasa was a religious zealot and an enlightened despot who presided over an era of prosperity and achievement. His reign also marked the Commonwealth's largest territorial expansion.
Sejm of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (parliment) in the early 17th century
John III Sobieski, victor over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Vienna in 1683.
Augustus II the Strong, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, wearing the Order of the White Eagle which he established in 1705.
Partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793 and 1795.
Royal Castle in Warsaw was the formal residence of Polish kings after the capital was moved from Kraków in 1596
Crown Tribunal in Lublin was the highest court of appeals in the Kingdom of Poland
Palace of the Lithuanian Tribunal in Vilnius, which exclusively was the highest appeal court for the Lithuanian nobility in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Republic at the Zenith of Its Power, the Royal Election of 1573
The Constitution of 3 May adopted in 1791 was the first modern constitution in Europe.
Cereals exports in the years 1619–1799. Agriculture, once extremely profitable to the nobility, became much less so after the mid-17th century.
A historical re-enactor dressed in the Polish Winged Hussars armour
Multi-stage rocket from Artis Magnæ Artilleriæ pars prima by Kazimierz Siemienowicz
Krasiczyn Castle was built between 1580-1631 in the mannerist style.
Wilanów Palace, completed in 1696, exemplifies the opulence of royal and noble residences in the Commonwealth.
Nieborów Palace designed by Dutch architect Tylman van Gameren and built in 1697
Social strata in the Commonwealth's society in 1655. From left: Jew, barber surgeon, painter, butcher, musician, tailor, barmaid, pharmacist, shoemaker, goldsmith, merchant and Armenian
Population density of the Commonwealth per each voivodeship in 1650
Saints Peter and Paul Church in Kraków was built between 1597-1619 by the Jesuit order
Original act of the Warsaw Confederation in 1573, the first act of religious freedom in Europe
First anniversary anthem of the Constitution of 3 May 1791 (1792) in Hebrew, Polish, German and French
Topographical map of the Commonwealth in 1764
Statuta Regni Poloniae in ordinem alphabeti digesta (Statutes of the Polish Kingdom, Arranged in Alphabetical Order), 1563
Grand Marshal of the Crown Łukasz Opaliński portraited with the insignium of his power in the parliament - the Marshal's cane, 1640
Rococo iconostasis in the Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius, designed by Johann Christoph Glaubitz, 1753–1756
18th century amber casket. Gdańsk patronized by the Polish court flourished as the center for amber working in the 17th century.<ref name="gordon_campbell">{{cite book |author=Gordon Campbell |title=The Grove encyclopedia of decorative arts |year=2006 |page=13 |publisher=Oxford University Press US |isbn=01-95189-48-5}}</ref>
Stanisław Poniatowski, Commander of the Royal Guards and Grand Treasurer. Painted by Angelika Kauffmann in 1786.
Equestrian portrait of King Sigismund III of Poland, by Peter Paul Rubens, 1624
Tapestry with the arms of Michał Kazimierz Pac, Jan Leyniers, Brussels, 1667–1669
Silver tankard by Józef Ceypler, Kraków, 1739–1745
Example of the merchant architecture: Konopnica's tenement house in Lublin, 1575
Hussars' armours, first half of the 17th century
De republica emendanda (1554) by Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski, proposed a deep programme of reforms of the state, society and church.
Merkuriusz Polski Ordynaryjny, the first Polish newspaper published on the orders of Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga in 1661
Title page of Treny (1580) by Jan Kochanowski, a series of elegies upon the death of his beloved daughter, is an acknowledged masterpiece.
A plate from Michał Boym's Flora Sinensis (1656), the first description of an ecosystem of the Far East published in Europe<ref>{{cite book |author1=Gwei-Djen Lu |author2=Joseph Needham |author3=Vivienne Lo |title=Celestial lancets: a history and rationale of acupuncture and moxa |year=2002 |page=284 |publisher=Routledge |isbn=07-00714-58-8}}</ref>
Taurus Poniatovii, constellation originated by Marcin Poczobutt in 1777 to honor the king Stanisław II Augustus<ref>{{cite web |author=Ian Ridpath |url= |title=Taurus Poniatovii - Poniatowski's bull | |access-date=2009-05-18}}</ref>
Branicki Palace in Białystok, designed by Tylman van Gameren, is sometimes referred to as the "Polish Versailles."
Pažaislis Monastery in Kaunas, Pietro Puttini, built 1674–1712
Zamość City Hall, designed by Bernardo Morando, is a unique example of Renaissance architecture in Europe, consistently built in accordance with the Italian theories of an "ideal town."<ref name="">{{cite web |url= |title=Old City of Zamość |publisher=UNESCO World Heritage Centre |date=2009-09-23 |access-date=2011-09-15}}</ref>
Plafond Allegory of Spring, Jerzy Siemiginowski, 1680s, Wilanów Palace
Łańcut Synagogue was established by Stanisław Lubomirski, 1733.<ref>After a fire had destroyed a wooden synagogue in 1733 Stanislaw Lubomirski decided to found a new bricked synagogue building. {{cite web |author=Polin Travel |url= |title=Lancut ||access-date=2010-09-02}}</ref>
Saints Peter and Paul Church in Kraków was built between 1597-1619 by the Jesuit order

Its political system was characterized by strict checks upon monarchical power.


Lower house of the bicameral parliament of Poland.

The first Sejm in Łęczyca. Recording of laws. A.D. 1180
In 1791, the "Great Sejm" or Four-Year Sejm of 1788–1792 and Senate adopted the May 3rd Constitution at the Royal Castle in Warsaw
Tadeusz Rejtan tries to prevent the legalisation of the first partition of Poland by preventing the members of the Sejm from leaving the chamber (1773). Painting by Jan Matejko
Stanisław Dubois speaking to envoys and diplomats in the Sejm, 1931
Józef Beck, Minister of Foreign Affairs, delivers his famous Honour Speech in the Sejm, 5 May 1939.
The Sejm building in Warsaw
The Sejm's main hall
Sessions chamber in the Sejm
Sessions chamber viewed from the rostrum
Sejm cross
Column hall in the Sejm

At the time, Poland's nobility, which accounted for around 10% of the state's population (then the highest amount in Europe), was becoming particularly influential, and with the eventual development of the Golden Liberty, the Sejm's powers increased dramatically.

Jan Zamoyski

Polish nobleman, magnate, and the 1st ordynat of Zamość.

Portrait by Jan Szwankowski, ca. 1602
Zamoyski coat of arms
Jan Zamoyski, engraving by Dominicus Custos
Griselda Báthory
Zamoyski (in red) to the left of King Stephen Bathory at Pskov
Zamoyski at Byczyna. Sketch by Jan Matejko
Zamoyski by Bacciarelli
Portrait of Zamoyski, Wilanów Palace collection, 19th century
Bust of Hetman Jan Zamoyski in the Royal Castle in Warsaw
Zamoyski's tomb inside the Cathedral of the Resurrection, Zamość

He was a colleague of Mikołaj Sienicki and Hieronim Ossolinski, and with them he was one of the leaders of a faction of the lesser and middle nobility (szlachta) in the Commonwealth, whose goal was the reform the country – the execution movement – preserving the unique constitutional and parliamentary government of the Commonwealth with the dominant role of poorer nobility (Golden Freedom).


The szlachta ( Polish:, exonym) were the noble estate of the realm in the Kingdom of Poland, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth who, as a class, had the dominating position in the state, exercising extensive political rights and power.

Szlachta in costumes of the Voivodeships of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 17th and 18th century.
Journey of a Polish Lord During the Times of King Augustus III of Poland, by Jan Chełmiński, 1880.
Michał Kazimierz Ogiński, a nobleman from 18th century Poland and the Enlightenment
Szlachcic sejmik representative Tadeusz Rejtan (lower right), with szlachta republican right of ending any Senate (Sejm) session and nullifying any legislation passed (Liberum veto), defying Russian, Prussian, and Austrian autocratic might to cease legalization of the First Partition of Poland, by halting the Partition Sejm's exit from the Senate chamber on 30 September 1773, in effect proclaiming, "Murder me, not Poland." Painting by Jan Matejko, 1866
A Polish peasant in stocks in a 16th-century Polish woodcut
Lech I
Polish Armor
Bolesław I the Tall (1127-1201) with heraldic shield, by Jan Matejko
Jogaila (Władysław II)
Epitaph of szlachcic John of Ujazd sealed with the Srzeniawa coat of arms by unknown artist. It is located at the church of Czchów, Kraków Voivodeship, Lesser Poland province, Crown of the Kingdom of Poland; 1450.
Szlachta 1228-1333
Polish coats of arms in the Gelre Armorial (compiled before 1396), among them Leliwa coat of arms, Ogończyk coat of arms, Ostoja coat of arms (Ostoja knights' clan), Nałęcz coat of arms.
Ennoblement of the Odrowąż family in the 12th century by the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire with Odrowąż coat of arms received by Prandota the Old, probable founder of Saint John the Baptist church in Prandocin village, Duchy of Kraków, Kingdom of Poland. From Liber Genesos illustris Familiae Shidlovicae (Book of the Genesis of the Illustrious Family Szydłowiecki). Painting by Stanisław Samostrzelnik
Election of Stanisław August Poniatowski in 1764
Franciszek Salezy Potocki, wearing the Order of the White Eagle.
The Commonwealth's Power at Its Zenith, Golden Liberty, the Election of 1573. Painting by Jan Matejko
Henry of Valois, first elected monarch of Poland-Lithuania
Magnates of Poland and Lithuania. Drawing by Jan Matejko, circa 1893
The Peasant Uprising of 1846, the largest peasant uprising against szlachta rulership on Polish lands in the 19th century.
Coat of arms of the Order of Malta
Barbara Sanguszko, philanthropist, writer and salon hostess at Poddębice. Oil by Marcello Bacciarelli
Dożynki by Alfred Wierusz-Kowalski, 1910
Ogar Polski
Elżbieta Potocka by Wojciech Kossak
"Brach", Polish Hunting Dog
Prince Konstanty Ostrogski on a Lithuanian commemorative stamp
Elżbieta Czartoryska as Bacciarelli's Blue Marquise
Polish Nobleman with a Parrot, by Józef Simmler, 1859.
Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł, the richest noble of his time.
Prot Potocki, banker and industrialist who turned Odessa from a sleepy fishing village into an international trade centre
Magnate palace: Branicki family palace
Middle nobility manor house (dwór): Żądło-Dąbrowski family manor
"In Front of the Manor House" by Wojciech Gerson; Year: 1856 - painting of a lesser szlachta/nobility homestead (dwór)

The szlachta secured substantial and increasing political power and rights throughout its history, beginning with the reign of King Casimir III the Great between 1333 and 1370 in the Kingdom of Poland until the decline and end of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the late 18th century.

Union of Lublin

Signed on 1 July 1569 in Lublin, Poland, and created a single state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the largest countries in Europe at the time.

Act of the Union of Lublin from 1569
The Union of Lublin, painting by Marcello Bacciarelli. Two knights hold entangled banners with the coats of arms of both states. A ribbon flutters over them with the inscription: IN COMMVNE BONVM - [COMPL]EXV SOCIATA PERENNI ("For the common good - united forever")
The Union of Lublin, painting by Jan Matejko. King Sigismund II Augustus holds the cross at the centre while surrounded by statesmen, diplomats, the clergy and nobles
Poland and Lithuania in 1526, before the Union of Lublin
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569
Religions in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1750: mostly Roman Catholic in the west and Eastern Catholic (Byzantine rite) in the east (orange color)
Coat of arms of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Memory of the union lasted long. Painting commemorating Polish–Lithuanian union; circa 1861. The motto reads "Eternal union."

In addition, the royal power continued to wane, and while the neighbouring states continued to evolve into strong, centralized absolute monarchies, the Commonwealth slid with its Golden Liberty into a political anarchy that eventually cost it its very existence.

Nobility privileges in Poland

Plaque at Radom Castle, commemorating 500th anniversary of adoption there, in 1505, of Act of Nihil novi
Polish szlachta nobles in Gdańsk. Painting by Wilhelm August Stryowski.
"The Commonwealth's Power at Its Zenith. Golden Liberty. The Election of 1573." Painting by Jan Matejko.

The privileges of the szlachta (Poland's nobility) formed a cornerstone of "Golden Liberty" in the Kingdom of Poland and, later, in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.


Legislative body of government.

The facing benches of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom are said to contribute to an adversarial style of debate.
Knesset, the parliament of Israel
The House of Representatives of Japan
The Federal Assembly of Switzerland
A 1215 edition of Magna Carta, as featured on display at the British Library
The statue of Oliver Cromwell, as it stands outside the House of Commons at the Palace of Westminster
Iceland's parliament house, the Alþingishúsið, at Austurvöllur in Reykjavík, built in 1880–1881, home of one of the oldest still-acting parliaments in the world
The Art Deco-styled session hall of the Parliament House of Finland
The First Sejm in Łęczyca. Recording of laws. A.D. 1180
State Duma of the Federal Assembly of Russia
The debating chamber of the reconvened Scottish Parliament from the public gallery
The Congress of Deputies, the lower house of the Spanish Parliament
The Palace of Westminster, London
The centre block of the Parliament of Canada Building in Ottawa
The Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest
The National Diet Building in Tokyo, Japan
Parliament House (Sansad Bhavan), seen from Rajpath in New Delhi, India
Parliament House, Canberra, Australia
The Parliament House of Riigikogu in Tallinn, Estonia
Parliament of Åland
Greater than 10%<ref>{{cite web |title=10% Share of women in parliament |url= |website=Our World in Data |access-date=15 February 2020}}</ref>
Greater than 20%<ref>{{cite web |title=20% Share of women in parliament |url= |website=Our World in Data |access-date=15 February 2020}}</ref>
Greater than 30%<ref>{{cite web |title=30% Share of women in parliament |url= |website=Our World in Data |access-date=15 February 2020}}</ref>

With the subsequent development of Polish Golden Liberty in the next several decades, the Sejm's powers systematically increased.

Liberum veto

Parliamentary device in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Sejm session at the Royal Castle, Warsaw, 1622

It was seen as one of the key principles of the Commonwealth political system and culture, the Golden Liberty.

Nihil novi

Original Latin title of a 1505 act or constitution adopted by the Polish Sejm (parliament), meeting in the royal castle at Radom.

Plaque at Radom Castle, commemorating 500th anniversary of adoption there, in 1505, of Act of Nihil novi

Nihil novi effectively established "nobles' democracy" in what came to be known as the Polish "Commonwealth [or Republic] of the Nobility".

Partitions of Poland

The Partitions of Poland were three partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that took place toward the end of the 18th century and ended the existence of the state, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland and Lithuania for 123 years.

Allegory of the first partition of Poland, showing Catherine the Great of Russia (left), Joseph II of Austria and Frederick the Great of Prussia (right) quarrelling over their territorial seizures
Włodzimierz Tetmajer, Allegory of Dead Poland, St. Nicholas Cathedral, Kalisz
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth after the First Partition, as a protectorate of the Russian Empire (1773–89)
Rejtan at Sejm 1773, oil on canvas by Jan Matejko, 1866, 282 x, Royal Castle in Warsaw
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth after the Second Partition (1793)
1793 Russian campaign medal
"A map of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania including Samogitia and Curland divided according to their dismemberments with the Kingdom of Prussia" from 1799
The partition of Poland according to the German–Soviet Pact; division of Polish territories in the years 1939–1941

In the War in Defense of the Constitution, pro-Russian conservative Polish magnates, the Confederation of Targowica, fought against Polish forces supporting the constitution, believing that Russians would help them restore the Golden Liberty.