Early modern theorists of diplomacy in Poland: Stanisław Miński

by Michał Nowakowski

Among the authors of early modern diplomatic manuals, Stanisław Miński (c.1561–1607) undoubtedly made the greatest political career. Almost two decades younger than Krzysztof Warszewicki (1543–1603), just like him, he came from the old Masovian nobility. We can only guess that Miński was educated at the Pułtusk Jesuit college. Perhaps it was there that he had the opportunity to attract the attention of the bishop of Płock, Piotr Dunin Wolski (1531–90). 

Apparently, the bishop recognized the young man’s potential, because he decided to take him to Rome, where Wolski was sent on behalf of king Stephen Báthory (1533–86) to pope Gregory XIII (1502–85). The ambassador and his retinue set off in 1579, and returned to the Commonwealth only in 1583. For Minski, it was a completely unique opportunity to learn proper aristocratic manners at one of the most prestigious European courts, while also acquiring Western languages. This experience must have had a profound impact on the cultural and rhetorical formation of Miński, complementing, in a way, the education received from the Jesuits. 

After returning to Poland, Miński found himself in the circle of the royal court. In June 1583 he attended the wedding of Jan Zamoyski (1542–1605), grand chancellor of the Polish Crown, with Gryzelda (1569–90), king Báthory’s (1533–86) niece. During the royal election of 1587, just like Ławryn Piaseczyński (c.1550–1606), he supported the candidacy of Sigismund Vasa (1566–1632). In a short time, he became one of the closest associates of the newly elected monarch, who eagerly used his services in the most crucial affairs of the court. For his merits, Miński received various favors: in 1590 he was appointed, for example, the voivode of Łęczyca. In 1593, the king entrusted him with performing an obedient legation to the pope Clement VIII (1536–1605). It is worth emphasizing, contrary to some historians, that Miński was well suited to the task. For he was not only the monarch’s close associate (which is always an asset for every diplomat), but also had an experience from a similar mission, when he accompanied bishop Wolski. The purpose of the legation, apart from making an usual declaration of obedience to the pope, was to complete the canonization process of Jacek Odrowąż (1183–1257)—which Poles had been striving for a long time. Miński performed all his tasks without any omissions, gaining the recognition of the pope himself. Clement even praised the diplomat in correspondence with Polish dignitaries and publicly showed him signs of favor. 

Miński’s legation to Rome became the basis for writing a manual for future diplomats (composed a little over a decade later). In Sposób odprawowania poselstwa (The manner of performing legations, c. 1605-7) he described in detail the duties of an ambassador at the papal court, as well as the local customs, fashion and etiquette. 

Unfortunately for Miński, his long and lavish legation had a heavy impact on his economical situation, since he had to, to a large extent, finance the legation by himself. Sigismund III tried to somehow reward the diplomat by granting him various allowances. Nevertheless, Miński was forced to resort to selling some of his properties together with his ancestral town, Mińsk.

In 1595, however, he had to take up the diplomatic trade again, namely, representing Archduchess Maria (1551–1608), the queen mother, at the baptism of prince Władysław. A year later, he participated in talks with the envoys of emperor Rudolf II (1552–1612) about the possibility of creating an anti-Turkish league. In 1606, Miński became the deputy chancellor of the Polish Crown, thus becoming (together with the chancellor) the head of the entire diplomatic service. A few months later, alongside Piotr Tylicki (1543–1616), he represented Sigismund III towards the rebels who, however, were not persuaded by the king’s envoys. About this time, Minski’s health deteriorated significantly. As a consequence, he went for treatment to Naples, but was soon summoned back, since the political situation in the Commonwealth continued to worsen. However, he only managed to reach Padua, where he died on July 21, 1607.


Banaszak Marian: Z dziejów dyplomacji watykańskiej. Poselstwa obediencyjne w latach 1534-1605, p. II, Dzieje poselstw polskich, Warszawa 1975.

Gruszecki Stefan: Stanisław Miński – zapomniany podkanclerzy koronny (ok. 1561-1607) In Dzieje Mińska Mazowieckiego, Warszawa 1975, 121-156.

Gruszecki Stefan: Miński Stanisław In Polski Słownik Biograficzny, vol. XXI, Wrocław 1976, 320-321.

Jarmiński Leszek: Trudne starania o wysłanie posła Zygmunta III Wazy z obediencją do papieża Klemensa VIII, „Odrodzenie i Reformacja w Polsce” 41 (1997), 169-175.

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