Early modern theorists of diplomacy in Poland: Krzysztof Warszewicki

by Michał Nowakowski

In the history of early modern diplomacy Krzysztof Warszewicki (1543–1603) went down as the author of the most popular and, at the same time, the most extensive diplomacy manual in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth: De legato legationeque (first published in 1595 in Cracow). 

Born in 1543 in the Masovia region, he spent most of his childhood outside of Poland. Particularly important was the several-year stay at the court of Ferdinand I Habsburg (1503–64), later emperor and then king of Bohemia and Hungary. It was there that Warszewicki not only discovered what a truly court life consisted of (he even found himself in Ferdinand’s retinue at the wedding of Mary Tudor (1516–58) and Philip II (1527–98) in London), but also learned about the characteristic way of the Habsburg dynasty of governing the state. The years spent at Ferdinand’s court turned out to be an exceptionally practical school of political life for Warszewicki, which permanently shaped his views on the state and society. After returning to his homeland, he stayed for a while at the court of one of the Polish magnates, and then again went to the West—this time in order to receive a formal education. After a short stay in Leipzig and Wittemberg, he remained longer in Bologna, popular among the well-to-do Polish youth of that time.

At the age of 21, Warszewicki was back in the Commonwealth and began his extremely turbulent political career—initially under the supervision of Adam Konarski (1526–74), the bishop of Poznań. He quickly established himself as an excellent speaker and quite skillful politician who could easily count on making a brilliant career. However, reality verified these hopes. His hot temper, not entirely clear conscience, often incorrect assessment of the situation, as well as the simple bad luck meant that instead of favors and honors, he usually encountered dangers and difficulties. 

After the death of Sigismund II Augustus (1520–72), the last Polish king of the Jagiellonian dynasty in the male line, the entire Polish nobility voted for the new king in the so-called electio viritim. Warszewicki happily supported the candidacy of Henri de Valois (1551–89). Unfortunately for the Pole, the new king soon left the Polish throne for the French one. 

During subsequent elections, Warszewicki consistently supported the Habsburg candidates. In 1575 he supported Maximilian II (1527–76; son of Ferdinand, at whose court he stayed in his youth). After Maximilian’s defeat, he accompanied him to Regensburg. Thanks to the intercession of the papal nuncio, Warszewicki managed to obtain the forgiveness of Stephen Báthory (1533–86), elected the new Polish king, who even allowed him to enter his service. He then had, inter alia, an opportunity to participate in peace negotiations with Moscow and to serve as an ambassador to Sweden.

After Báthory’s death, Warszewicki again decided to support the Habsburg candidacy, namely Archduke Maximilian III (1558–1618)—whom he accompanied at the Battle of Byczyna (1588). There, the Habsburg army was spectacularly defeated by the chancellor of the Polish Crown, Jan Zamoyski (1542–1605), who at the time supported the king-elect, Sigismund III Vasa (1566–1632). This loss forced Warszewicki to leave the country once again. After spending several years at the Habsburg court in Prague, he managed, however, to obtain the forgiveness of Sigismund III, who, although granted him a certain allowance, decided not to use his diplomatic and political talents. Warszewicki died, largely forgotten, in 1603 in Cracow. His last years were filled with travels and writing. It is worth emphasizing that he was a very prolific author. In his works, he was particularly keen on theological, moralizing and political themes (constantly oscillating around the postulate of strengthening royal power). The latter category includes his most famous works: Paradoxa (1579), Turcicae (1595), De optimo statu libertatis (1598), and the aforementioned treatise on diplomacy, De legato legationeque.


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