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Jeremi Wiśniowiecki
Personal details
Born (1612-08-17)August 17, 1612
Lubny, Kiev Voivodship, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Died August 20, 1651(1651-08-20) (aged 39)
Pawołocz, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Spouse(s) Gryzelda Konstancja Zamoyska

Jeremi Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki (Ukrainian language: Ярема Вишневецький , the first name is also sometimes spelled as Jarema in Polish) (August 17, 1612 – August 20, 1651) was a notable member of the aristocracy of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Prince at Wiśniowiec, Łubnie and Chorol in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the father of the future King of Poland, Michał I. A notable magnate (from the family of Ruthenian origin) and military commander, Wiśniowiecki was heir of one of the biggest fortunes of the state and rose to several notable dignities, among others he was made the voivode of Ruthenian Voivodship after 1646. His conversion from Eastern Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism caused much dissent in Ruthenia and Ukraine. He was one of the wealthies magnates of Poland, ruling over lands inhabited by 230,000 of his subjects.



Raina Mohylanka - his mother.

Jeremi Wiśniowieck was born in 1612; neither the exact date nor the place of his birth are known.[1] His father, Michał Wiśniowiecki, died soon after Jeremi's birth, in 1616,[2] his mother died in 1619.[3] Both of his parents were of the Eastern Orthodox Church rite.[3]

Orphaned at the age of seven, he was raised by his uncle, Konstanty Wiśniowiecki, whose branch of the family were Roman Catholics.[3] Jeremi attended a Jesuit college in Lwów and later, in 1629, he traveled to Italy, where he briefly attended the University of Bologna. He also acquired some military experience in the Netherlands.[3][4] The upbringing by his uncle and the trips abroad polonized him, and turned him from a provincial Ruthenian princeling into one of the youngest magnates of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.[4]

In 1631 he returned to the Commonwealth and took over from his uncle the management of his father's huge estate, which included a large part of what is now Ukraine.[4][5] In 1632 he converted from Eastern Orthodoxy to Catholicism, an action that caused much concern in Ukraine.[5] His decision has been analyzed by historians, and often criticized, particularly in Ukrainian historiography.[5][6] The Orthodox Church feared to lose a powerful protector, and Isaiah Kopinsky, metropolitan bishop of Kiev and a friend of his mother, unsuccessfully plead with him to change his mind.[6] Jeremi would not budge although he remained on decent terms with the Orthdox Church and supported his uncle Peter Mogila, his collegium and the Orthodox Church avoiding provocative actions, moreover his new status allowed him to persecute Jesuits and other Roman Catholic missionaries.[6]

Later life

Prince Jeremi Wisniowiecki - portrait from Wisniowiecki family's portraits collection.

His courtier and later, first biographer, Michał Kałyszowski, counted that Jeremi participated in nine wars in his lifetime.[7] The first of those was the Smolensk Campaign of 1633-1634.[7] In that war he accompanied castellan Aleksander Piaseczyński's southern army and took part in several battles, among them the unsuccessful siege of Putyvl; later that year they took Rylsk and Sevsk before retreating.[8][9] The following year he worked with Adam Kisiel and Łukasz Żółkiewski, commanding his own private army of 4,000.[10] As his troops formed 2/3 of their army (not counting supporting Cossack elements), Jeremi, despite being the most junior of commanders, had much influence over their campaign.[10] Lacking in artillery, they failed to take any major towns, but ravaged the countryside near Sevsk and Kursk.[11] The war ended soon afterward, and in May 1634 he returned to Lubny.[11] For his service, he received a commendation from the king of Poland, Władysław IV Waza, and the castellany of Kiev.[12]

After the war he engaged in a number of conflicts with neighboring magnates and nobility.[13][14] Jeremi was able to afford a sizable private army of several thousands, and through the threat of it he was often able to force his neighbors to a favorable settlement of disputes.[15] Soon after his return from the Russian front, he participated on the side of the Dowmont family in the quarrel over the estate of Dowmontów against another magnate, Samuel Łaszcz, located on his lands; soon after the victorious battle against Łaszcz he bought the lands from the Dowmonts and incorporated them into his estates.[14]

Around that time, in 1636, the Sejm opposed the marriage of Polish king Władysław IV Waza to Wiśniowiecki's sister, Anna.[16] Following this, Jeremi distanced himself from the royal court, although he periodically returned to Warsaw, usually as one of the deputies to the Sejm from the Ruthenian Voivodeship.[17] Soon afterward, Jeremi himself married Gryzelda Zamoyska, daughter of Chancellor Tomasz Zamoyski, on 27 February 1639, on Gryzelda's 16th birthday.[18]

At that time he also engaged in a political conflict over nobility titles, in particular, the title of prince (as well as its variants, such as knyaz).[19] The nobility in the Commonwealth was officially equal, and used a different and non-hereditary titles then those found in rest of the world (see officials of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth); the gist of the conflict, which took much of the Sejm time from 1638 to 1641, revolved around whether old prince titles (awarded to families before their lands were incorporated into the Commonwealth in the 1569 Union of Lublin), and the new titles, awarded more recently by some foreign courts, should be recognized.[19] Wiśniowiecki was one of the chief participants in this debate, successfully defending the old titles, including that of his own family, and succeeding in abolishing the new titles, which gained him the enmity of another powerful magnate, Jerzy Ossoliński.[19] Other than this conflict, in his years as a deputy (1635-1646), Jeremi wasn't involved in any major political issues, and only twice (in 1640 and 1642) he served in the minor function of a commissar for investigating the eastern and southern border disputes.[19]

In 1637 he might have fought under Hetman Mikołaj Potocki against the Cossack rebellion of Pavel Pavluk (the Pawluk Uprising); Jan Widacki notes that historians are not certain whether he did and in either case, no detailed accounts of his possible participation survive.[20] A year later, returning from the Sejm and from the engagement ceremony with Gryzelda, he gathered 4,000 strong division that participated in putting down of the Ostrzanin Uprising and arrived at the region affected by the unrest in June that year.[21] Together with hetman Potocki he defeated the insurgents at the Battle of Żownin, which turned into a rather difficult siege of the Cossack camp that lasted from 13 June till the Cossack relief forces were defeated on 4 August, and the Cossacks capitulated on 7 August.[22]

Final years

In 1641, after the death of his uncle Konstanty Wiśniowiecki, Jeremi became the last adult male of the Wiśniowiecki family and inherited all the remaining estates of the clan, despite a brief conflict with Aleksander Ludwik Radziwiłł who also claimed the inherited land.[23] The conflict stemmed from the fact that Konstanty asked Jeremi to take care of his grandchildren, but their mother, Katarzyna Eugenia Tyszkiewicz, married Aleksander, who declared he is able and willing to take care of her children - and their estates.[23] A year later, Katarzyna Eugenia decided to divorce Aleksander, and the matter was settled in favor of Jeremi.[23]

He also fought against the Tatars in 1640-1646, whose raids on the south-east frontier of the Commonwealth endangered his holdings.[24] In 1644 together with Hetman Stanisław Koniecpolski he took part in the victorious battle of Ochmatów, in which they dealt a terrible defeat to the Crimean Tatars of Toğay bey (Tuhaj Bej).[25]

In 1644, after the false news of the death of Adam Kazanowski, he took over his disputed estate of Rumno by subterfuge.[15] For this he was at first sentenced to exile, but due to his influence, even the king could not realistically expect to enforce this ruling without a civil war.[15][26] Eventually after more discussions at local sejmiks and then in the Sejm, he won the case and was granted the right for Rumno.[26] In 1646, after the death of Koniecpolski, he became the voivode of Ruthenia. He invaded and took over the town of Hadiach which was also being claimed by a son of Koniecpolski, Aleksander Koniecpolski, but a year later, in 1647, he lost that case and was forced to return the town to Koniecpolski.[26][27]

Sarcophagus and cadaver (disputed) of Jeremi Wiśniowiecki in a monastery on Święty Krzyż mountain near Kielce.

On 4 April 1646 Jeremi received the office of the voivode of Ruthenia, which granted him a seat in the Senate of Poland.[28] He as the third member of the Wiśniowiecki family to gain that privilege.[28] Soon afterward, however, he refused to support king Władysław's plan for a war against the Ottoman Empire, even though the king offered him the position of a Field Crown Hetman.[29]

Then the autumn of 1646 he invaded and took over the starostwo kaniowskie vacated recently by banished Samuel Łaszcz.[30] He did so without any legal justifications, which caused a court ruling against him; a ruling that was however never enforced.[30] Later that year, he raised a large private army of about 25,000 for a purpose unknown, as noted by Widacki, who writes that the army, which Jeremi raised with an immense cost for a short time, did not participate in any engagement, nor did it have any clear purpose.[31] He notes that such an army might have been useful in provoking the Ottomans, but as Jeremi was opposed to the war with them up to the point of refusing the hetman office, his actions are puzzling even for the modern historians.[31]

In the Khmelnytsky Uprising

He fought against the Cossacks again during Khmelnytsky Uprising in 1648-1651. He received information about a growing unrest, and first actions of Khmelnytsky, in February 1648.[32] He begun mobilizing his troops, and in early may learned about the Cossack victory at the Battle of Zhovti Vody.[33] Receiving no orders from hetmans Mikołaj Potocki and Marcin Kalinowski, he begun moving on his own, soon learning about the second Cossack victory at Battle of Korsuń, which meant that his troops (about 6,000 strong) were the only Polish forces in Transdnieper at that moment.[34] After taking in the situation, he begun retreating towards Chernihiv; his army soon became a focal point for various refugees.[35] Passing Chernihiv, he continued through Liubech to Brahin.[35] He continued to Mazyr, Zhytomir, and Pohrebyshche, stopping briefly in Zhytomir for the local sejmik.[36] After some skirmishes near Nemyriv, Machnówka and Starokostiantyniv (Battle of Starokostiantyniv) against the Cossacks forces, often under Maksym Kryvonis.[37] By July he would arrive near Zbarazh.[38]

Wiśniowiecki's fighting retreat had a major impact on the course of the war. In the words of the historian Władysław Konopczyński: "he was not defeated, not victorious, and thus he made the peace more difficult." Politicians in safe Warsaw tried to negotiate with the Cossacks, who in turn used Wisniowiecki's actions as an excuse to delay any serious negotiations.[39]

Around late August or early September Wiśniowiecki met with the army under regimentarzs Władysław Dominik Zasławski-Ostrogski, Mikołaj Ostroróg and Aleksander Koniecpolski. He was not on overly friendly terms with them, as he resented being passed in military nominations, but after short negotiations he agreed to follow their orders, and thus reduced to a junior commander status would have little impact over the next phase of the campaign.[40] On September 23 their forces were however defeated at the Battle of Pyliavtsi; near the end of the battle some accounts suggest Jeremi was offered the hetman's position, but refused.[41] On 28 September, in Lviv, Wiśniowiecki, with popular support, was given a field regimentarz nomination; about a week later this nomination was confirmed by the Sejm.[42] To the anger of Lviv townsfolk, he would however decide to focus on retreating towards the key fortress in Zamość instead of Lviv; he would leave garrisons on both towns, and keep his army in the field.[43] In the end, the cities were not captured by the Cossacks, who in the light of the coming winter decided to retreat, after being paid a ransom by both town councils; no other large field battle would take place this year.[43]

Meanwhile, the convocation sejm of 1648 has elected a new king, Jan Kazimierz II Vasa; Wiśniowiecki would support other candidates: first he would support George I Rákóczi, then after his death, Karol Ferdynand Vasa, Jan Kazimierz's brother.[44] Due to the opposition from Jeremi's detractors, he was not granted a hetman position, although after full two days of debate on that subject he was granted a document that stated he had "a power equal to that of a hetman."[45] Wiśniowiecki faction, arguing for increase in army size, was once again marginalized by the faction that hoped for a peaceful resolution; in the end, the king and most of the szlachta were lulled into a false sense of security, and the military was not reinforced significantly.[46] To add an insult to an injury, the coronation sejm of January–February 1649. held in Kraków, revoked Jeremi's regimentarz rank.[46]

In the first half of 1649, the negotiations with the Cossacks fell through, and the Polish-Lithuanian military begun gathering near the borders with the rebellious Ukraine; a major camp was in Zbarazh, where Jeremi would arrive as well in late June, after gathering a new army o 3,000 in Wiśnicz; this was all he was able to afford at that time, as due to most of is estates being overrun by the Cossacks he was already in debt.[47] Wiśniowiecki's arrival raised the morale of the royal army, and despite having no official rank, both the common soldiers and the new regimentarz promised to take his advice, and even offered him the official command (which he however refused).[47] During the Siege of Zbarazh (July 10 - August 22, 1649) Jeremi was thus not the official commander - that role was taken by regimentarz Andrzej Firlej - but most historians agree he was the real, if unofficial, commander of the Polish-Lithuanian army.[48] The siege would last until the ceasefire of the Treaty of Zboriv.[49] Wiśniowiecki's command during the siege was seen as phenomenal, and his popularity among the troops and nobility rose again, however the king, still not fond of him, gave him a relatively small reward (the land grant of starostwo przasnyskie, much lesser compared to several others he distributed around that time).[49] Needing Wiśniowiecki's support in December that year, the king would grant him once again a temporary hetman nomination, and several more land grants.[50] In April 1660 Jeremi would have to return his temporary hetman office to Mikołaj Potocki, recently released from Cossack's captivity.[50] During December that year, in light of the growing tensions with Muscovy, Jeremi's military faction succeeded in convincing the Sejm to pass a resolution increasing the size of the army to 51,000 - the largest army since the Cossack unrest begun two years ago.[51]

The truce of Zborov did not last long, and in the spring of 1651 Khmelnytsky's Cossacks begun advancing west again.[52] On 1 June he brought his private army to the royal army in Sokal.[53] He commanded the left wing of the Polish-Lithuanian army in the victorious battle of Berestechko on 28–30 June 1651.[54] The Polish-Lithuanian army advanced after the retreating Cossacks, but on 17 July [N.S.] the "king left the whole army to Potocki...and having given the order that the army march into Ukraine, the king himself Warsaw to celebrate his victories over the Cossacks".[55] On 14 August Jeremi suddenly fell ill while in a camp near the village of Pawołocz, and died on August 20, 1651, at the age of only 39.[56] His cause of death was never known; while some - even contemporaries - speculated he was poisoned, no evidence of that was ever found.[57] Based on sparse descriptions of his illness and subsequent investigations, some medical historians suggest the cause of death might have been a disease related to cholera.[57] However, one account states, "following a cheerful conversation with other officers who had congregated for a military council in his tent on Sunday, 13 August N.S. he had eaten some cucumbers with zest and washed them down with mead, and from that contracted dysentery. After lying ill for a week, he died there, at Pavoloch".[58] He was given "a ceremonial funeral with the entire army present. On 22 August, Jeremi's body was seen off with the utmost pomp on its journey to his residence".[58]

His indebted family was not able to provide him with a funeral his rank and fame deserved; in the end, he never received the large funeral and the temporary location of his body, the monastery of Holy Cross at Łysa Góra, became his final resting place.[59] His body was lost in the fire at the end of the 18th century, which also prevents a modern reexamination of the cause of his death.[57]


Majority of Wiśniowiecki family estates were found on the eastern side of the Dnieper River (Volhynian, Ruthenian and Kiev Voivodships), and most of them were acquired by Jeremi's grandfather, Aleksander Wiśniowiecki, in 16th century.[60][61] The capital of his estate was located at a fortified manor at Lubny, where his father rebuild an old castle; the population of the town itself could be estimated at about 1,000.[62] Jeremi inherited lands inhabited, according to an estimate from 1628, by about 4,500 subjects, of which Lubny was the largest town; smaller towns in his lands included Khorol, Piratyn and Przyłuka.[62] By 1646 his lands were inhabited by 230,000 of his subjects; the number of towns on his lands rose from several to about thirty, and their population increased as well.[63] The prosperity of those lands reflected Jeremi's skills in economic management, and the income from his territories - estimated at about 600,000 zloties yearly - made him one of the wealthiest magnates in the Commonwealth.[13] Because of its size and relatively consistent borders, Wiśniowiecki's estate was often named the Wiśniowieckiland (Wiśniowieczczyzna).[60]

Despite his wealth, he was not known for a lavish life.[64] His court of about a hundred people was not know for being overly extravagant, he built no luxurious residences, and he did not even had a single portrait of himself made during his life.[64] Due to this fact, we are not sure how he looked like; although a number of portraits and other works depicting him exists, there is no proof any of them are based on his real look, and some are clearly contradictory.[65]

Jan Widacki notes that much of the historiography focuses on the military and political aspects of Wiśniowiecki's life, and few of his critics discuss his successes in economic development of his estates.[13]

Remembrance and popular culture

Jeremi Wiśniowiecki was widely popular among szlachta, who saw in him a defender of tradition, a patriot and an able military commander.[66] For his protection of civilian population, including Jews, during the Uprising, he has been praised by contemporary Jewish historians.[67] He was praised by a contemporary poet, Samuel Twardowski, diary writers and historians.[66] He as been idolized till the 19th century, as the legendary, perfect "knight of the borderlands"; his bust is among the 20 busts of famous historical personas in the 18th century Knight Room of the Warsaw Castle.[66] In the 19th century this image begun to waver, as a new wave in historiography begun to reinterpret his life, as the era of positivism in Poland put more value into builders, and less into warriors.[68] Further, at that time the Polish historian begun to also question the traditional view of the "Ukrainian problem", and the way that the Polish szlachta had dealt with the Cossacks; slowly, Jeremi begun to be portrayed less as a hero, with various aspects of his life and personality being questioned and criticized in the works of historians such as Karol Szajnocha and Józef Szujski.[68] While his portrayal (as a major secondary character) in the first part of Henryk Sienkiewicz's trilogy, With Fire and Sword which describes the history of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the Khmelnytsky Uprising, was rather positive, criticism of his persona intensified, in particular from Sienkiewicz detractors such as Zygmunt Kaczkowski and Olgierd Górka.[69]

The 1930s saw a first modern historical work about Jeremi, by Władysław Tomkiewicz.[70] In the era of the People's Republic of Poland, communist historiography forced all works to describe him as "an enemy of the people", through this begun to be relaxed after 1965.[71] Widacki, analyzing the works of other historians notes that Władysław Czapliński was rather sympathetic to Jeremi, while Paweł Jasienica was critical of him.[71]

Jacek Kaczmarski dedicated one of his songs, Kniazia Jaremy nawrócenie to Jeremi Wiśniowiecki.[72]

Andrzej Seweryn played Jeremi Wiśniowiecki in the 1999 film With Fire and Sword.[73]

See also

  • Lithuanian nobility
  • Wiśniowiecki family
  • List of szlachta


  1. Widacki, p. 18
  2. Romanski, p. 52
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Widacki, p. 19
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Widacki, p. 20
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Widacki, p. 21
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Widacki, p. 22
  7. 7.0 7.1 Widacki, p. 26
  8. Widacki, p. 27
  9. Widacki, p. 28
  10. 10.0 10.1 Widacki, p. 30
  11. 11.0 11.1 Widacki, p. 31
  12. Widacki, p. 32
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Widacki, p. 40
  14. 14.0 14.1 Widacki, p. 41
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Widacki, p. 42
  16. Widacki, p. 67
  17. Widacki, p. 68
  18. Widacki, p. 49
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Widacki, pp. 70-74
  20. Widacki, pp. 56-58
  21. Widacki, pp. 58-60
  22. Widacki, pp. 61-65
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Widacki, pp. 50-52
  24. Widacki, pp. 76-85
  25. Widacki, pp. 79-82
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Widacki, p. 43
  27. Widacki, p. 44
  28. 28.0 28.1 Widacki, p. 91
  29. Widacki, pp. 95-96
  30. 30.0 30.1 Widacki, pp. 99-100
  31. 31.0 31.1 Widacki, pp. 101-102
  32. Widacki, p. 103
  33. Widacki, p. 105
  34. Widacki, p. 107
  35. 35.0 35.1 Widacki, p. 108
  36. Widacki, pp. 109-113
  37. Widacki, pp. 114-122
  38. Widacki, p. 123
  39. Widacki, pp. 123-129
  40. Widacki, pp. 135-138
  41. Widacki, pp. 143-143
  42. Widacki, pp. 147-148
  43. 43.0 43.1 Widacki, pp. 149-151
  44. Widacki, pp. 155-156
  45. Widacki, pp. 154-155
  46. 46.0 46.1 Widacki, pp. 158-162
  47. 47.0 47.1 Widacki, pp. 178-183
  48. Widacki, p. 186
  49. 49.0 49.1 Widacki, pp. 208-211
  50. 50.0 50.1 Widacki, pp. 226-233
  51. Widacki, p. 242
  52. Widacki, pp. 244-246
  53. Widacki, pp. 250-251
  54. Widacki, pp. 252-253
  55. Hrushevsky, M., 2004, History of Ukraine-Rus, Volume Nine, Book One, The Cossack Age, 1650-1653, Toronto: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, ISBN 1895571227, p. 361
  56. Widacki, pp. 264-268
  57. 57.0 57.1 57.2 Widacki, pp. 270-271
  58. 58.0 58.1 Hrushevsky, M., 2004, History of Ukraine-Rus, Volume Nine, Book One, The Cossack Age, 1650-1653, Toronto: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, ISBN 1895571227, p. 366
  59. Widacki, pp. 269-270
  60. 60.0 60.1 Widacki, p. 33
  61. Widacki, p. 34
  62. 62.0 62.1 Widacki, p. 38
  63. Widacki, p. 39
  64. 64.0 64.1 Widacki, p. 54
  65. Widacki, pp. 285-286
  66. 66.0 66.1 66.2 Widacki, pp. 272-273
  67. Romuald Romański (January 2009). Książę Jeremi Wiśniowiecki. Bellona. p. 8. ISBN 978-83-11-11524-8. Retrieved 26 December 2012. 
  68. 68.0 68.1 Widacki, pp. 274-275
  69. Widacki, pp. 275-276
  70. Widacki, p. 277
  71. 71.0 71.1 Widacki, pp. 277-278
  72. "Kniazia Jaremy nawrócenie". 1993-02-16. Retrieved 2012-12-27. 
  73. "WIEM, darmowa encyklopedia".,,,,jeremiasz,haslo.html. Retrieved 2012-12-27. 

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