John III Sobieski

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
John III Sobieski
John III Sobieski of Poland.PNG
John III by Bacciarelli
King of Poland
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Reign 1674–1696
Coronation 2 February 1676
Predecessor Michael
Successor Augustus II the Strong
Born (1629-08-17)17 August 1629
Olesko, Poland (now Ukraine)
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Wilanów, near Warsaw
Burial Wawel, Kraków, Poland
Spouse Marie Casimire Louise
Issue Jakub Ludwik Sobieski
Teresa Teofila Sobieska
Adelaide Luise Sobieska
La Mannone Sobieska
Teresa Kunegunda Sobieska
Aleksander Benedykt Sobieski
Konstanty Władysław Sobieski
Jan Sobieski
House House of Sobieski
Father Jakub Sobieski
Mother Zofia Teofillia Daniłowicz
Religion Roman Catholicism

John III Sobieski (Polish: Jan III Sobieski, Lithuanian: Jonas Sobieskis; 17 August 1629 – 17 June 1696), from 1674 until his death King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, was one of the most notable monarchs of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Sobieski's military skill, demonstrated in wars against the Ottoman Empire, contributed to his prowess as King of Poland. Sobieski's 22-year reign marked a period of the Commonwealth's stabilization, much needed after the turmoil of the Deluge and the Khmelnytsky Uprising.[1] Popular among his subjects, he was an able military commander, most famous for his victory over the Turks at the 1683 Battle of Vienna.[2] After his victories over them, the Ottomans called him the "Lion of Lechistan"; and the Pope called him the savior of Christendom.[3]

Royal titles

  • Official title was (in Latin): Joannes III, Dei Gratia rex Poloniae, magnus dux Lithuaniae, Russiae, Prussiae, Masoviae, Samogitiae, Livoniae, Smolenscie, Kijoviae, Volhyniae, Podlachiae, Severiae, Czernichoviaeque, etc.[4]
  • Official title (Polish): Jan III, z łaski bożej, król Polski, wielki książę litewski, ruski, pruski, mazowiecki, żmudzki, kijowski, wołyński, podlaski i czernichowski, etc.



– Portrait of John III Sobieski (anonymous, 4th quarter of the 17th century)

John Sobieski was born on 17 August 1629, in Olesko, a small town near Lwów in Galicia, now Ukraine, then part of the Ruthenian Voivodeship in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to a notable noble family de Sobieszyn Sobieski of Janina coat of arms.[5][6] His father, Jakub Sobieski, was the Voivode of Ruthenia and Castellan of Kraków; his mother, Zofia Teofillia Daniłowicz was a granddaughter of Hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski.[6] John Sobieski spent his childhood in Żółkiew.[6] After graduating from the Nowodworski College in Kraków in 1643, young John Sobieski then graduated from the philosophical faculty of the Jagiellonian University in 1646.[6][7] After finishing his studies, together with his brother Marek Sobieski, John left for western Europe, where he spent more than two years travelling.[6][8] They visited Leipzig, Antwerp, Paris, London, Leiden and the Hague.[6] During that time, he met influential contemporary figures such as Louis II de Bourbon, Charles II of England and William II, Prince of Orange, and learned French, German and Italian, in addition to Latin.[9]

Both brothers returned to the Commonwealth in 1648. Upon receiving the news of the death of king Władysław IV Vasa and the hostilities of the Khmelnytsky Uprising, they volunteered for the army.[6][10] They both fought in the siege of Zamość.[6] They founded and commanded their own banners (chorągiew) of cavalry (one light, "cossack", and one heavy, of Polish hussars).[6] Soon, the fortunes of war separated the brothers. In 1649, Jakub fought in the Battle of Zboriv.[6] In 1652, Marek died in Tatar captivity after his capture at the Battle of Batih.[6][11] John was promoted to the rank of pułkownik and fought with distinction in the Battle of Berestechko.[12] A promising commander, John was sent by King John II Casimir to Constantinople in the Ottoman Empire as one of the envoys in a diplomatic mission of Mikołaj Bieganowski.[6][13] There, Sobieski learned the Tatar language and the Turkish language and studied Turkish military traditions and tactics.[6][13] It is likely he participated as part of the briefly allied Polish-Tatar forces in the 1655 Battle of Okhmativ.[6]

After the start of the Swedish invasion of Poland known as "The Deluge", John Sobieski was among the Greater Polish regiments led by Krzysztof Opaliński, Palatine of Poznań which capitulated at Ujście, and swore allegiance to King Charles X Gustav of Sweden.[6][13] However, around late March 1656, he abandoned their side, returning to the side of Polish king John II Casimir Vasa, enlisting under the command of hetmans Stefan Czarniecki and Jerzy Sebastian Lubomirski.[6]


John III Sobieski, the victor of the Battle of Khotyn.

By 26 May 1656 he received the position of the chorąży koronny (Standard-bearer of the Crown).[14] During the three-day-long battle of Warsaw of 1656, Sobieski's commanded a 2,000-man strong regiment of Tatar cavalry.[14][15] He took part in a number of engagements over the next two years, including in the Siege of Toruń in 1658.[14] In 1659 he was elected a deputy to Sejm (Polish parliament), and was one of the Polish negotiators in the Treaty of Hadiach with the Cossacks.[14] In 1660 he took part in the last offensive against the Swedes in Prussia, and received royal rewards in the form of the starost of Stryj office.[14] Soon afterward he took part in the war against the Russians, participating in the Battle of Slobodyshche and Battle of Lyubar, and later that year he again was one of the negotiators of a new treaty with the Cossacks (the Treaty of Cudnów).[14]

Through personal connections, he became a strong supporter of the French faction in the Polish royal court, represented by Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga. His pro-French allegiance would be reinforced in 1665, when he married Marie Casimire Louise de la Grange d'Arquien and was promoted to the rank of Grand Marshal of the Crown and, the following year, to the rank of Field Hetman of the Crown.[5]

In 1662 he was again elected a deputy to the Sejm, and took part in the work on reforming the military. He was also a member of the Sejm in 1664 and 1665.[14] In between he participated in the Russian campaign of 1663.[14] Sobieski remained loyal to the King during the infamous Lubomirski Rebellion of 1665–66, though it was a difficult decision for him.[14][16] He participated in the Sejm of 1665, and after some delays, accepted the prestigious office of the Marshal of the Crown on 18 May that year.[16] Around late April or early May 1666 he received another high office of the Commonwealth, that of the Field Crown Hetman.[16] Soon afterward, he was defeated at the conciliatory Battle of Mątwy, and signed the Agreement of Łęgonice on the 21 July, which ended the Lubomirski's Rebellion.[16]

In October of 1667 he achieved another victory over the Cossacks of Petro Doroshenko and their Crimean Tatar allies in the Battle of Podhajce during the Polish–Cossack–Tatar War (1666–71).[13] This allowed him to regain his image as a skilled military leader.[16] Later that year, in November, his first child, Jakub Ludwik Henryk Sobieski was born in Paris.[16] On 5 February 1668 he achieved the rank of Grand Hetman of the Crown, the highest military rank in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and thereby the de facto commander-in-chief of the entire Polish Army.[13] Later that year he supported the French candidacy of Louis, Grand Condé for the Polish throne, and after this candidacy fell apart, Philip William, Elector Palatine.[16] Following the election of Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki he joined the opposition faction; he and his allies helped veto several sejms (including the coronation ones), and his attitude has once again resulted in him losing popularity among the regular szlachta.[16] As his pro-French stance in politics alienated some, his military victories against invading Tatars in 1671 helped him gain other allies.[16] Year 1672 saw internal politics destabilizing the Commonwealth, as the pro-French faction of Sobieski and pro-court faction of king Wiśniowiecki formed two confederations, which despite the large Ottoman incursions in the south seemed more concerned with one another than with uniting to defend the country.[17] The court faction called openly for confiscation of his estates, dismissal from the office, and declared him an "enemy of the state".[17] This culminated in the humiliating to the Commonwealth Treaty of Buchach, where the Commonwealth was forced to cede territories to the Ottomans, but promise an annual tribute.[18] Sobieski eventually succeeded in balancing politics and national defense, and a combination of his military victories over the invaders, and successful negotiations at the Sejm in the April of 1673 led to a compromise in which the court faction dropped its demands and challenges against him.[17]

On 11 November 1673 Sobieski added a major victory to his list, this time defeating the Ottomans in the Battle of Chocim and capturing the fortress located there.[13] The news of the battle coincided with the news of the death of Michael I, King of Poland, who had died the day before the battle.[13] This made Sobieski one of the leading figures of the state, so on 19 May the following year, he was elected monarch of the Commonwealth.[5] His candidacy was almost universally supported, with only a dozen or so members of the diet opposing him (mainly centered around the Lithuanian magnate Pac family).[17] In light of the war, requiring Sobieski to be on the frontlines, the coronation ceremony was significantly delayed – John Sobieski was crowned John III almost two years later, on 2 February 1676.[5][17]

King of Poland

Sobieski's coronation (1676), relief, Wilanów Palace
Portrait of John III by Jan Tricius
Relief of Vienna by Bacciarelli

Though Poland-Lithuania was at that time the largest and one of the most populous states of Europe,[19] Sobieski became a king of a country devastated by almost half a century of constant war.[20] The treasury was almost empty and the court had little to offer the powerful magnates, who often allied themselves with foreign courts rather than the state.[21][22]

Sobieski had a number of long term plans, including establishing his own dynasty in the Commonwealth, regaining lost territories, and strengthening the country through various reforms.[22][23] One of his ambitions was to unify Christian Europe in a crusade to drive the Turks out of Europe.[23] At the beginning of his reign, Sobieski also envisioned an alliance with France and the Ottomans against the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and Brandenburg.[18][22][24]

His goals, however, had to be tempered by the immediate reality of Ottoman threat in the south. In the autumn of 1674, he recommenced the war against the Ottomans and managed to recapture a number of cities and fortresses of including Bratslav, Mogilev, and Bar, which re-established a strongly fortified line defending Poland's southern border in the Ukraine.[17] In 1675, Sobieski defeated the Turks and Tatar offensive aiming at Lviv.[17][25] In 1676, the Tatars began a counter-offensive and crossed the Dneper, but could not retake the strategic town of Żórawno, and the peace treaty (the Treaty of Żurawno) was signed soon afterwards.[17] Although Kamieniec Podolski and much of Podolia remained a part of the Ottoman Empire, Poland counteracted its significance with the return of the towns of Bila Tserkva and Pavoloch.[17]

The signing of the treaty with the Ottomans began a period of peace that was much needed for the repair of the country and strengthening of the royal authority. Sobieski managed to completely reform the Polish army.[24] The military was reorganised into regiments, the infantry finally dropped pikes, replacing them with battle-axes, and the Polish cavalry adopted hussars and dragoons formations.[26] Sobieski also greatly increased the number of guns and introduced new artillery tactics.[26]

Sobieski also planned to conquer Prussia with Swedish troops and French support.[24] Regaining control of this autonomous province was in Commonwealth's best interest, and Sobieski also hoped for it to become part of his family domain.[22] This secret pact of 1675 (known as the Treaty of Jaworów), failed to bring a change in the status quo for a number of reasons. The wars with the Ottoman Empire were not decisively solved in the Commonwealth's favor, during which time the Great Elector made treaties with France, the Swedes were repelled during their invasion, and plans for a Commonwealth's own military campaign against Prussia ran into opposition from the Commonwealth's magnates, many of them taking the Great Elector's side.[17][22][25][27][28] Backed by Brandenburg and Austrian Habsburg Monarchy, internal enemies of Sobieski even planned to dethrone him and elect Charles of Lorraine.[27]

The French-Prussian treaty of 1678 meant that Sobieski's plans for a campaign against Prussia lost their major foreign ally; consequently Sobieski started to distance himself from the pro-French faction, which in turn resulted in the cooling down of the Polish-French relations; the Sejm of 1683 which saw French ambassador expelled for involvement with a plan to dethrone Sobieski definitely marked the end of the Polish-French alliance.[27] At the same time he made peace with the pro-Habsburg faction, and started to gravitate more towards an alliance with Austria.[27][28] This did not, however, end the existence of strong internal opposition to Sobieski, however it changed a number of allegiances, and further opposition was temporarily weakened through the king's successful political maneuvering, including granting the Grand Hetman office to one of opposition's chief leaders, Stanisław Jan Jabłonowski.[27][29]

Conscious that Poland lacked allies and risked war against most of its neighbours (similar to the Deluge), by 1683 Sobieski allied himself with Leopold I, of the Holy Roman Empire.[27] Both sides promised to come to one's another aid if their capitals are threatened.[22] The alliance was signed by royal representatives on 31 March 1683, and ratified by the Emperor and Polish parliament within weeks.[30] Although aimed directly against the Ottomans and indirectly against France, it had the advantage of gaining internal support for the defense of Poland's southern borders.[27] This was a beginning of what would become the Holy League, championed by Pope Innocent XI to preserve Christendom.[31]

Meantime, in the spring of 1683, royal spies uncovered Turkish preparations for a military campaign. Sobieski feared that the target might be the Polish cities of Lwów and Kraków.[13] To counteract the threat, Sobieski began the fortification of the cities and ordered universal military conscription.[13] In July, the Austrian envoy asked for Polish assistance.[32] Soon afterward, the Polish army started massing for an expedition against the Ottoman, and in August was joined by Bavarians and Saxon allies under Charles of Lorraine.[30][32]

Battle of Vienna

Sobieski sending message of victory to the Pope after the Battle of Vienna, by Jan Matejko, 1880, National Museum, Kraków

Sobieski's greatest success came in 1683, with his victory at the Battle of Vienna, in joint command of Polish, Austrian and German troops, against the invading Ottoman Turks under Kara Mustafa.[27][32]

Upon reaching Vienna, with the Ottoman army close to breaching the walls, Sobieski ordered a full attack on 12 September. On early morning of that day, the united army of about 65,000[33]–76,000[32] men (including 22,000,[33] 25,000[32] or 27,000 Poles[27]) attacked a Turkish force of about 80,000[33]–115,000[32] men. At about 5 pm, after observing the infantry battle from the hilltop, Sobieski led the Polish husaria cavalry along with Austrians and Germans in a massive charge down the hillside. Soon, the Ottoman battle line was broken and the Ottoman forces scattered in disarray.[34] At 5:30 pm, Sobieski entered the deserted tent of Kara Mustafa and the Battle of Vienna ended.[30][32]

The Pope and other foreign dignitaries hailed Sobieski as the "Savior of Vienna and Western European civilization."[35] In a letter to his wife, he wrote, "All the common people kissed my hands, my feet, my clothes; others only touched me, saying: 'Ah, let us kiss so valiant a hand!'"[36]

The war with Ottomans was not yet over, and Sobieski continued the campaign with the Battle of Párkány on 7–9 October.[37] After early victories, the Polish found themselves a junior partner in the Holy League, gaining no lasting territorial or political rewards.[37] The prolonged and indecisive war would also weaken his position at home.[37] For the next four years Poland would blockade the key fortress at Kamenets, and Ottoman Tatars would raid the borderlands. In 1691, Sobieski undertook another expedition to Moldovia, with slightly better results, but still with no decisive victories.[37]

Later years and death

Sobieski and his sons

Although the King spent much time on the battlefields, which could suggest a good state of health, towards the end of his life he became seriously and increasingly ill.[38]

King John III Sobieski died in Wilanów, Poland on 17 June 1696 from a sudden heart attack.[38] His wife, Marie Casimire Louise, died in 1716 in Blois, France, and her body was returned to Poland. They are interred together in Wawel Cathedral, Kraków, Poland.[39] He was succeeded by Augustus II.[40]

Portrayal of Sobieski's royal crown, Gdańsk.

Legacy and significance

Sobieski is remembered in Poland as a "hero king", victor at Vienna who defeated the Ottoman threat, an image that became particularly well recognized after his story was retold on the works of the 19th century literature.[41] In the Polish Biographical Dictionary he is described as "an individual above his contemporaries, but still one of them"; an oligarch and a magnate, interested in personal wealth and power.[41] He failed to reform the ailing Commonwealth, and to secure the throne for his heir.[41] At the same time, he displayed high military prowess, he was well educated and literate, and a patron of science and arts. He supported the astronomer Johannes Hevelius, mathematician Adam Adamandy Kochański and the historian and poet Wespazjan Kochowski. His Wilanów Palace became the first of many palaces that would dot the lands of the Commonwealth over the next two centuries.[41]


On 5 July 1665, he married the widow of Jan "Sobiepan" Zamoyski, Marie Casimire Louise de la Grange d'Arquien (1641–1716), of Nevers, Burgundy, France. Their children were:

  • Jakub Ludwik Henryk (2 November 1667 – 19 December 1737), Crown Prince of Poland, married Countess Palatine Hedwig Elisabeth of Neuburg and had issue.
  • Twin Daughters (9 May 1669), stillborn or died shortly after birth.
  • Teresa Teofila (October 1670), was a frail child and failed to survive for more than a month.
  • Adelajda Ludwika (15 October 1672 – 10 February 1677), called "Barbelune", died at the age of four.
  • Maria Teresa (18 October 1673 – 7 December 1675), called "La Mannone", died at the age of two.
  • Daughter (October 1674), stillborn or died shortly after birth.
  • Teresa Kunegunda (4 March 1676 – 10 March 1730), married Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria and had issue.
  • Aleksander Benedykt (6 September 1677 – 19 November 1714), died unmarried.
  • Daughter (13 November 1678), stillborn or died shortly after birth.
  • Konstanty Władysław (1 May 1680 – 28 February 1726), married Maria Józefa Wessel but had no issue.
  • Jan (4 June 1682 – 1 January/12 April 1685), died at the age of two.
  • Daughter (20 December 1684), stillborn or died shortly after birth.

Sobieski family

See also


  1. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  2. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  3. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  4. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 Red. (Eds.), Jan III Sobieski, p.413
  7. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  8. Tindal Palmer 1815, p. 5
  9. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  10. Tindal Palmer 1815, p. 7
  11. Tindal Palmer 1815, pp. 12–13
  12. Tindal Palmer 1815, p. 20
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 14.8 Red. (Eds.), Jan III Sobieski, p.414
  15. Tindal Palmer 1815, pp. 23–24
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 16.8 Red. (Eds.), Jan III Sobieski, p.415
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 17.5 17.6 17.7 17.8 17.9 Red. (Eds.), Jan III Sobieski, p.416
  18. 18.0 18.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  19. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  20. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  21. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 27.4 27.5 27.6 27.7 27.8 Red. (Eds.), Jan III Sobieski, p.417
  28. 28.0 28.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  29. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  31. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 32.3 32.4 32.5 32.6 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  34. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  35. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  36. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 Red. (Eds.), Jan III Sobieski, p.418
  38. 38.0 38.1 Red. (Eds.), Jan III Sobieski, p.419
  40. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 41.3 Red. (Eds.), Jan III Sobieski, p.420


  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.

Further reading

  • Chełmecki, König J. Sobieski und die Befreiung Wiens (Vienna, 1883)
  • Coyer, Histoire de Jean Sobieski (Amsterdam, 1761 and 1783)
  • Du Hamel de Breuil, Sobieski et sa politique de 1674 à 1683 (Paris, 1894)
  • Dupont, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire de Sobieski (Warsaw, 1885)
  • Rieder, Johann III., König von Polen (Vienna, 1883)
  • Salvandy, Histoire de Pologne avant et sous le roi Jean Sobieski (two volumes, new edition, Paris, 1855)
  • Tatham, John Sobieski (Oxford, 1881)
  • Varvounis, Jan Sobieski: The King Who Saved Europe (2012)
  • Waliszewski, Acta (three volumes, Cracow, 1684)

External links

John III Sobieski
Born: 17 August 1629 Died: 17 June 1696
Regnal titles
Title last held by
Michael I
King of Poland
Grand Duke of Lithuania

Title next held by
Augustus II
Political offices
Title last held by
Stefan Czarniecki
Field Crown Hetman of Poland
Succeeded by
Dymitr Wiśniowiecki
Title last held by
Stanisław "Rewera" Potocki
Great Crown Hetman of Poland
Preceded by Great Marshal of the Crown of Poland
Succeeded by
Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski