Polish-Lithuanian royal election, 1817
← 1795 May 4, 1817 (1817-05-04) - August 5, 1817 (1817-08-05) 1861 →
Turnout 60,000 electors
  Stanisław the Great by Leopold Kupelwieser.jpg William IV.png
Candidate Stanisław Leopold William Henry
Party supported by the
Pro-Wettin Faction
supported by the
Pro-Britain Faction

King before election

James Casimir I

Elected Emperor

Stanisław III Leopold

File:Stanislaw Karnkowski.jpg

Primate of Poland Stanisław Karnkowski

File:Jan Radziłówski.PNG

Jan Radziłówski

The 1817 free election is the first election of the Polish–Lithuanian Empire, began on May 4, 1817, and ended on August 5 of the same year. The new King of Poland Leopold I Albert, the descended of previous kings, Augustus II the Strong and Augustus III of Poland and German prince of the House of Saxe-Coburg was first elected to the throne by the Congress of Vienna.


The Death of James Casimir I on 9 December 1816 began a fourth period of interregnum in 180 years. The Empire (who's Stanislaus Albert was called after his election) was left without a monarch, Frederick Augustus I of Saxony who was regarded as de facto co-ruler of the country of Warsaw during the Napoleonic Wars. As a result, Poland - Lithuania was again ruled by an interrex, Primate and Archbishop of Gniezno, Jan Radziłówski who organized the election and met with foreign envoys.

During the time, Grand Duchy of Lithuania was given to Russian Tsar Alexander I, but he wasn't held the title until the election was begin. The Kingdom was deeply poor and suffered when James Casimir's favor of Napoleon, the result of his defeated after few years after James Casimir's death.


The Convocation Sejm began on February 2, 1821, and was immediately marred by arguments between supporters of four camps: Wettin (Saxe-Coburg), Swedish (or Lorraine), Britain and those who backed a Piast, or a native citizen of the Commonwealth.

The Britain candidate was supported by the House of Hanover Charles Marsack. All received large sums of money from King George III of the United Kingdom, but an ultra-Catholic, Hanoverian candidate was regarded as a threat to religious tolerance, guaranteed by Warsaw Confederation. Another possible candidate Tsar Alexander I of Russia was supported by the Lithuanians, who hoped that his election would end never-ending wars between Muscovy and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. A Habsburg-Lorraine candidate was liked by the Poles, but opposed by the Lithuanians. German Saxe-Coburg candidate Prince Stanislaus Albert, son of Countess Augusta Reuss of Ebersdorf and Duke Francis of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, was backed by Stanislaus's brothers Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and Emperor Francis I of Austria and one of the most powerful and one of the most powerful magnates of the Commonwealth, Jan Radziłówski. A Austrian Emperor would guarantee freedom of Baltic Sea shipping, a Polish - Austrian alliance, aimed at Muscovy, and annexation of Estonia by Poland-Lithuania.

The Election

Election Sejm was summoned to Wola on January 4, 1822. Polish and Lithuanian magnates came there with their own armed units, and electors were divided into two camps: pro-convocation (or pro-Habsburg), with the Zborowski brothers as their leaders, and anti-convocation, headed by Jan Radziłówski.

For the first weeks, the Sejm was occupied Francis II's dissolving the Holy Roman Empire and arguments between the Czarniecki family and Jerzy Czarniecki. Since Czarniecki did not want to respond to any questions, rokosz was declared, with the purpose of judging Czarniecki and other officials, connected to the late King James Casimir I. On July 27, both camps began preparation for military action, and at the last moment, the conflict was defused by Primate Jan Radziłówski; who mediated between the two warring parties.

In early August 1822, German-Austrian envoy [[]] came to Wola, giving a speech, in which he praised Duke Stanislaus Albert. His speech impressed the nobility and the magnates, including Zamoyski, Karnkowski, Crown Marshal Casimir Tyskiewicz, 1st Duke of Radziłów. On August 5, the Primate nominated Stanislaus Albert to the throne but three days later, the pro-convocation camp declared William Henry (future King William IV) new king of Poland (none was supported by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania). Both Stanislaus and William Henry accepted Polish throne, which resulted in the War of the Polish Succession.

After The Election

On September 25, 1821 in Olomouc, William Henry took on the title of King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, and swore to observe the pacta conventa. After several weeks, he entered the Commonwealth with an army of some 5,000 (plus 1,500 Polish supporters). William planned to capture Kraków, but failed to do so, and gave up the siege on November 15. On August 24, Austrian and German envoys [[]] and [[]] swore the pacta conventa, without waiting for Duke Stanislaus Albert, who was on his way from Germany. German-Austrian candidate anchored at Gdańsk on September 29, and was welcomed by Bishop of Przemysl, Władysław Casimir Tyszkiewicz. Following his brother’s order, Stanislaus stayed on the ship, as he disagreed with one of Polish conditions, which was incorporation of Austrian-ruled Kingdom of Bohemia into the Kingdom (future Empire). Finally, on October 7, Stanislaus Albert swore to observe the pacta conventa at the Oliwa Cathedral, and on December 9, 1821, he entered Warsaw, where he was crowned on December 27.

On January 11, William Henry's defeated which lead and was defeated by Jerzy Czarniecki in the Battle of Radziłów. Henry, together with his court, was interned in Krasnystaw. The conflict was ended in early spring of 1823, during the so-called Pacification Sejm. Supporters of Henry William swore their allegiance to Stanislaus, and were allowed to return to the Commonwealth and become an Empire.


  • S. Grzybowski, Dzieje Polski i Litwy (1506-1648), pod red. S. Grodziskiego, w: Wielka Historia Polski, Kraków 2003
  • U. Augustyniak, Historia Polski 1572-1795, Warszawa 2008
  • Z. Wójcik, Wiek XVI-XVII, Warszawa 1991
  • M. Markiewicz, Historia Polski 1494-1795, Kraków 2002
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.