Duchy of Warsaw

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Duchy of Warsaw
Księstwo Warszawskie
Flag of the Duchy of Warsaw Coat of arms of the Duchy of Warsaw
flag coat of arms
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892) .svg

Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg

navigation Military ensign of Vistula Flotilla of Congress Poland.svg
Constitution Constitution of the Duchy of Warsaw
Official language Polish
Capital Warsaw
Form of government Duchy
Government system Constitutional monarchy
Head of state Duke Friedrich August I.
Head of government Chairman of the Council of Ministers (de jure)
French ambassadors (de facto)
surface 155,000 km²
Residents 4,300,000
Population density 27.7 inhabitants / km²
currency 1 zloty = 30 groszy
founding July 9, 1807
resolution June 9, 1815 ( Congress of Vienna )
National anthem Mazurek Dąbrowskiego
Time zone UTC + 1 CET
The Duchy of Warsaw within the borders of 1809

The Duchy of Warsaw ( Polish Księstwo Warszawskie , French Duché de Varsovie ) was a Polish rump and satellite state established by Emperor Napoléon in 1807 , which existed until 1815. At first it essentially consisted of the part of Poland that had been annexed by Prussia during the Second and Third Partition of Poland , and was expanded in 1809 to include the Polish area of Western Galicia annexed by Austria in the Third Partition .

The term Grand Duchy of Warsaw is often mistakenly used for the duchy .

State name

Contrary to popular belief today, the Duchy of Warsaw was never a Grand Duchy. The Tilsit Peace Treaty (1807) expressly mentions a Duché de Varsovie (French Duchy of Warsaw), as does the text of the Constitution of July 22, 1807, and Article 2 of the Vienna Congress Act (1815) only knows one Duchy of Warsaw (see "Links" for sources). Saxony's King Friedrich August, who ruled Warsaw in personal union, called himself FRID.AUG.REX SAX.DUX VARSOW on his thalers minted for Poland . ("King of Saxony. Duke of Warsaw"). The Atlas historique by A. Le Sage (alias Emmanuel de Las Cases), published in Paris in 1808, describes the new state on a map on page 26 as Duché De Varsovie Donné Au Roi De Saxe Par Le Traité De Tilsit (“Duchy of Warsaw, the King of Saxony was transferred by the Treaty of Tilsit ”). The German-language administrative literature also speaks of the Duchy of Warsaw (Jaffé 1909, pp. 85–147).

Nevertheless, the term “Grand Duchy of Warsaw” can still be found many times today - even in renowned specialist literature and in historical atlases. The error may be based on a continued confusion with the Polish part of Greater Poland or the Grand Duchy of Posen (then Prussian), founded in 1815 .


Overview of the regions (after the partitions of Poland ) from which the duchy arose in part

In order to completely defeat Prussia in 1806, Napoleon relied on an uprising in that part of Prussia that had belonged to the Kingdom of Poland until its dissolution in 1795 . Even vague promises of the restoration of a Polish state were enough for the Polish magnates , the population and the soldiers of the Polish legions in Napoleon's service to not only revolt swiftly, but also to work hard for the new Polish state. A Polish administration was established in a very short time. Since January 1807, the former marshal of the four-year-old Sejm , Stanisław Małachowski (1736–1809), headed a provisional government commission. As early as the spring, 30,000 soldiers were ready for action and formed into three legions. These were under the command of generals of the old Polish army, Józef Zajączek (1752–1826) and Jan Henryk Dąbrowski (1755–1818), as well as the former war minister and nephew of the last Polish king, Stanisław August Poniatowski , Józef Poniatowski (1763–1813) ).

In the Peace of Tilsit (July 7/9, 1807) Prussia was forced by Napoleon to cede the areas annexed in the course of the Second and Third Partition of Poland . From them Napoleon founded a satellite state , the Duchy of Warsaw. Napoleon appointed his ally, the Saxon King Friedrich August I , to be Duke. On July 22, 1807, Napoleon enacted a constitution for the new state. The new state had an area of ​​104,000 km² with 2.6 million inhabitants. Napoleon gave the district of Białystok in the Tilsiter peace to the former enemy Russia, with whom he wanted to get on well. Gdansk and its surroundings and the Hela peninsula exclave were spun off from Prussia and transformed into the Republic of Gdansk . In an addendum, the Second Elbingen Convention of November 10, 1807, Napoleon forced Prussia to cede to the new duchy areas gained in the First Partition of Poland , the southeastern part of the Netzedistrikt and the Kulmerland .


As early as 1791, the Polish aristocratic republic had given the Saxon Elector Friedrich August III. (1750–1827) offered the hereditary Polish royal dignity as descendants of two Polish kings. When Napoleon transferred the Duchy of Warsaw to his ally, whom he had elevated to the status of king in 1806, in 1807, Friedrich August could not refuse this time. On July 22, 1807, Napoleon imposed a constitution based on the French model, dictated by him in Dresden in a few hours, on the Duchy , although the Polish government, consisting of the Council of Ministers, President Stanisław Kostka Potocki (1755-1821) and the Council of State, the constitution of May 3, 1791 wanted to put into force.

In the constitutional reality, it was ensured that power was de facto not with the Duke but with the French ambassador, whose body was the Council of Ministers. In addition, the clergy and nobility were clearly privileged in this constitution and retained their property rights. In the country, large landowners were placed in administrative positions and thus remained in their positions of power. Because the abolition of serfdom was not linked to a regulation of land ownership, it resulted in a further disenfranchisement of the peasants.

Following the French model, the state was initially divided into the six departments of Posen , Bydgoszcz , Kalisz , Warsaw , Płock and Łomża . In 1809 the departments of Cracow, Radom, Siedlce and Lublin were added.

Chairwoman of the Council of Ministers of the Duchy of Warsaw
No. Surname Beginning of the term of office Term expires
1 Stanisław Małachowski October 5, 1807 December 14, 1807
2 Ludwik Szymon Gutakowski December 14, 1807 November 1808
3 Józef Poniatowski November 1808 March 25, 1809
3 Stanislaw Kostka Potocki March 25, 1809 May 1813


Emperor Napoleon awarding the new constitution to Stanisław Małachowski

With the Duchy of Warsaw, Napoleon created a buffer state between his former and potential opponents of the war, Austria and Russia, and weakened the defeated Prussia considerably by ceding extensive territories. In return, he strengthened Saxony as a potential medium-sized state against Prussia and Austria. Above all, however, it created a conflict between Saxony on the one hand and its former allies Russia and Prussia on the other, which isolated Saxony from Austria and tied it all the more to Napoleon.

Proclamation - Friedrich August
Leipzig, April 24, 1809

When Austria tried during the Fifth Coalition War in the spring of 1809 to occupy the duchy as a bargaining chip in order to offer it to Prussia or Russia as the price for an alliance, its campaign turned into a fiasco.

On April 24, 1809, Friedrich August published a proclamation in which he explained the political situation to his people in detail, especially regarding Austria's warlike activities (see picture on the left).

The fighting lasted until the Znojmo Armistice was concluded in mid-July 1809, when the Austrian troops only occupied the area south of Krakow , which, like almost the entire Crown Land of Galicia , was occupied by Russian and Polish troops. Peace negotiations began in Hungarian Altenburg and ended with the Peace of Schönbrunn in October .

In the talks held exclusively by Napoleon or his plenipotentiaries and the incumbent Austrian Foreign Minister, the affiliation of Galicia and the possibility of a restoration of Poland were also discussed. Polish hopes were dashed. The negotiating partners solved both problems in favor of the courted Russia. It was allowed to enlarge again at Poland's expense, as Austria had to cede the Galician district of Tarnopol to it. The Duchy of Warsaw received all of Western Galicia as well as Zamość, which was annexed during the First Partition of Austria, together with the Zamosc district . Furthermore, half of the income from the Wieliczka Salt Mine went to Friedrich August. His box money rose from 0.167 to 1.5 million thalers. The area gained was divided into four new departments: Krakow , Radom , Siedlce and Lublin . The duchy grew to 155,430 km² with a total of 4.4 million inhabitants.


Appeal of the King of Saxony to the residents of Warsaw on January 21, 1813

The duchy provided 96,000 soldiers for the upcoming war with Russia, the largest contingent after France and the Confederation of the Rhine. In order not to irritate Russia's Tsar Alexander I , this troop was initially not allowed to be called "Polish". It was set up under the name "Nordic Legion". The rest had to serve in French regiments of the Imperial Guard , the Vistula Legion and the Danube Legion. In economic terms, the French emperor made the small state unrestrained responsible for the war with Russia. The deployment base for the Russian campaign in 1812 was essentially on Polish territory. The soldiers also had to be fed and equipped in these areas. Of 96,000 Polish soldiers, only about 24,000 returned from the campaign.

Although Friedrich August called on the residents of Warsaw to persevere on January 21, 1813 (see the call on the right), Warsaw could not be held. On February 6, 1813, Russian troops occupied Warsaw and the government moved to Krakow. There Poniatowski had already managed to build a small but powerful new army of 18,000 soldiers by April 1813. Although by June 1813 the entire territory except for the fortresses Modlin and Zamosc had been occupied by Russian troops, a status quo existed that kept the political structure of the duchy alive for a while.

Austria, Russia and Napoleon tried to get this army, which at this time could stop the advance of the allies or hasten the end of Napoleon. The politically influential “Familia” magnate group tried to negotiate a relatively sovereign kingdom of Poland with the Russian tsar as king. At that time, this was also the overwhelming wish of that part of the population who had already lost faith in Napoleon and in his sincerity on the Polish question. Friedrich August saw the political situation differently, and so he became Napoleon's last vassal in Germany.

Poniatowski followed his sovereign to Saxony with the Polish army in order to provide military support to the French Emperor in the Battle of Leipzig (October 1813) one last time . Once again the Polish army was almost completely destroyed when it was deployed in the focal points and to cover Napoleon's retreat. Napoleon made Prince Józef Poniatowski Maréchal d'Empire after the first day of the battle and thus granted him French citizenship. During the flight of the defeated Napoleon troops, he drowned in the White Elster . The Saxon king was taken prisoner in Leipzig . As the only German prince who remained loyal to Napoleon, feared for the existence of his kingdom after his defeat in the wars of liberation .


At the Congress of Vienna , after difficult negotiations, the victorious powers and France agreed to downsize the Kingdom of Saxony in favor of Prussia and to convert the likewise reduced Duchy of Warsaw into a Kingdom of Poland under the scepter of the Russian Emperor . On May 22, 1815, Friedrich August renounced the Duchy of Warsaw (after he had had thalers minted in Dresden as "rex sax. Dux Varsov." In 1814) and released his Polish subjects from the oath of loyalty.

The Republic of Krakow and the Grand Duchy of Poznan did not belong to the Kingdom of Poland . The latter fell to Prussia, but remained outside the German Confederation , which was also a new formation and had the borders of the Holy Roman Empire , which was dissolved in 1806 .


  • Jerzy B. Flatt: Topography of the Duchy of Warsaw together with a brief outline of Polish history down to the most recent times . Böhme, Leipzig 1810 ( online ).
  • Moritz Jaffé: The city of Poznan under Prussian rule. A contribution to the history of the German East. Constitution and administrative organization of the cities. Third volume. Kingdom of Prussia. Second part (= writings of the Verein für Socialpolitik. Vol. 119,2). Leipzig 1909.
  • Samuel G. Laube (transl.): Collection of laws of the former Duchy of Warsaw . Mehwald, Posen 1816.
  • Marian Gumowski: Handbook of Polish Numismatics . ADEVA, Graz 1960.
  • Monika Senkowska-Gluck: The Duchy of Warsaw. In: Heinz-Otto Sieburg (Ed.): Napoleon and Europe. Cologne / Berlin 1971, pp. 221-230.
  • Gotthold Rhode : History of Poland . 3rd edition, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1980, ISBN 3-534-00763-8 .
  • Jerzy Topolski : The History of Poland . Interpress, Warsaw 1985, ISBN 83-223-1956-8 .
  • Ingo Zimmermann : Saxony's margraves, electors and kings. The Wettins in Meissnian-Saxon history . Koehler & Amelang, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-7338-0217-9 .

Web links

Commons : Duchy of Warsaw  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Atlas historique, généalogique, chronologique et géographique, A. Le Sage (Las Cases), Paris, 1808, page 26
  2. http://www.verfassungen.eu/pl/verf07-i.htm
  3. Monika Senkowska-Gluck: The Duchy of Warsaw , in: Heinz-Otto Sieburg (Ed.): Napoleon and Europe , Cologne, Berlin 1971, p. 225f.
  4. On the course of the negotiations see Heinrich Ritter von Srbik : Metternich. The Statesman and the Man , Volume I, second edition. Bruckmann, Munich 1944, pp. 118–122, on the restoration of Poland in an alliance system of the states threatened by Napoleon as an option for Austria if the fighting resumes, p. 121.
  5. ^ Adam Zamoyski : 1812: Napoleon's campaign in Russia . Beck, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-406-63170-2 . P. 600.