The szlachta ( (About this sound listen), exonym: Nobility) was a legally privileged noble class in the Kingdom of Poland, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Ruthenia, Samogitia (both after Union of Lublin became a single state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth) and the Zaporozhian Host.[1][2] It originated and gained considerable institutional privileges between 1333 and 1370 in Kingdom of Poland during the reign of King Casimir III the Great.[3]:211 In 1413, following a series of tentative personal unions between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Crown Kingdom of Poland, the existing Lithuanian-Ruthenian nobility formally joined this class.[3]:211 As the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569–1795) evolved and expanded in territory, its membership grew to include the leaders of Ducal Prussia and Livonia.

The origins of the szlachta are shrouded in obscurity and mystery and have been the subject of a variety of theories.[3]:207 Traditionally, its members were owners of landed property, often in the form of "manor farms" or so-called folwarks. The nobility negotiated substantial and increasing political and legal privileges for itself throughout its entire history until the decline of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the late 18th century.

During the Partitions of Poland from 1772 to 1795, its members began to lose these legal privileges and social status. From that point until 1918, the legal status of the nobility was essentially dependent upon the policies of the three partitioning powers: the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Habsburg Monarchy. The legal privileges of the szlachta were legally abolished in the Second Polish Republic by the March Constitution of 1921.

The notion that all Polish nobles were social equals, regardless of their financial status or offices held, is enshrined in a traditional Polish saying:

Szlachcic na zagrodzie
równy wojewodzie.

—which may roughly be rendered:

The noble on the croft
Is the voivode's equal.

or "the tenant farmer noble stands equal to the noble army commander".

This page was last edited on 14 June 2018, at 22:03 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

Related Topics

Recently Viewed