Janusz Radziwiłł (1612–55)

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For other people with the name of Janusz Radziwiłł, see Janusz Radziwiłł (disambiguation).
Janusz II Radziwiłł
Januš Radzivił. Януш Радзівіл (1634).jpg
Portrait by Strobel

POL COA Radziwiłł.svg
Coat of arms Trąby
Spouse(s) Katarzyna Potocka
Maria Lupu
Born (1612-12-12)12 December 1612
Popiela near Biržai, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Died 31 December 1655(1655-12-31) (aged 43)
Tykocin, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Religion Calvinist

Prince Janusz Radziwiłł of Trąby (also known as Janusz the Second or Janusz the Younger, 1612–1655) was a notable Polish noble and magnate. Throughout his life he occupied a number of posts in the state administration, including that of Court Chamberlain of Lithuania (from 1633) and Field Hetman of Lithuania (from 1654). He was also a voivode of Vilna Voivodeship, as well as a starost of Samogitia, Kamieniec, Kazimierz and Sejwy.[1]

In his times he was one of the most powerful people in the Commonwealth, often described as a de facto ruler of the entire Grand Duchy of Lithuania. During the "Deluge", the Swedish invasion of Poland-Lithuania during the Second Northern War, he sided with the Swedish king signing the Treaty of Kėdainiai and the Union of Kėdainiai. This move however antagonised him with most of other nobles, including members of his own family. His forces were eventually defeated in battle and he himself died in a besieged castle at Tykocin.

Early life[edit]

Portrait by David Bailly, 1632.

He was born to one of the most powerful of princely Polish-Lithuanian families and as heir to its Kėdainiai estate (as it is written in the Lithuanian Rhymed Chronicle).

Educated abroad, in Germany and the Netherlands, he took part in the Smolensk War in 1633. He was a Calvinist, but he married a Catholic (first wife, Katarzyna) in 1638. In 1645 he married Maria Lupu, daughter of a Moldavian hospodar Vasile Lupu. Radziwiłł was a protector of the Protestant religion in Lithuania and sponsor of many Protestant schools and churches.

For several decades, the interests between the Radziwłł family and the state (Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth) had begun to drift apart, as the Radziwiłłs increased their magnate status and wealth. Their attempts to acquire more political power in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania culminated in the doings of Janusz Radziwiłł, who is remembered in Polish historiography as one of the Grand Duchy nobles responsible for the end of the Golden Age of the Commonwealth.

Rise to power[edit]

Janusz Radziwiłł's ambitions appeared early in his military career.

Janusz Radziwiłł used his political influence against the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania John II Casimir in order to secure the offices of voivode and hetman.[2] In 1652 he paralyzed the central government by invoking a liberum veto, halting the proceedings of the Sejm (federal parliament of the Commonwealth).[2]

Union with Sweden and fall[edit]

Portrait of two wives of Janusz Radziwiłł, 1640s.

In August 1654 he defeated invading Russians at the Battle of Szkłów, but this was his last victory. Weeks later he was defeated by the Russians at the Battle of Szepielewicze. A few months later, during the Swedish invasion of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the Second Northern War, together with his cousin Bogusław Radziwiłł, Janusz began talks with Swedish king Charles X Gustav of Sweden, discussing how to reverse the Union of Lublin which created the Commonwealth. Janusz first declared the Grand Duchy a Swedish protectorate in the Treaty of Kėdainiai on 17 August 1655,[3] then the brothers signed another treaty on 20 October according to which the Swedish–Lithuanian union was founded, and in which Radziwiłł's were to rule a part of the Grand Duchy.[2]

Janusz was not alone in abandoning the Polish side; many Polish nobles, such as Deputy Chancellor of the Crown Hieronim Radziejowski and Grand Treasurer of the Crown Bogusław Leszczyński, believing that John II Casimir was a weak king or a Jesuit-king, encouraged Charles Gustav to claim the Polish crown. John II Casimir had few friends among the Polish szlachta, as he openly sympathized with Austria and showed disregard and contempt for the Commonwealth. Poznań Voivode Krzysztof Opaliński surrendered Great Poland to Charles Gustav, and soon other voivodes followed.

Although much of the Commonwealth, including Warsaw, Krakow, and the western portions of the Grand Duchy, were taken by the Swedes,[4] King John II Casimir and his allies were able to regain power after a few years starting with the Jasna Góra resistance and the Tyszowce Confederation. The Swedish defeat and eventual retreat from the territories of the Commonwealth spelled an abrupt end for the plans of Janusz and Bogusław.[2] Janusz died in Tykocin, besieged by loyal Commonwealth forces (desperate Swedish defenders later blew themselves up).


Janusz Radziwiłł is ill-remembered in Polish popular culture, particularly due to the negative portrayal of his supposed treason and alliance with Swedes during the Deluge by Polish 19th century Nobel Prize winner, Henryk Sienkiewicz. Sienkiewicz, in his Trilogy, wrote about Radziwiłł's death: "Earthly ruin, a fallen soul, darkness, nothingness-that is all he managed to attain as a reward for service to himself".[2]

Janusz Radziwiłł (1612–1655) is portrayed prominently as Hetman by Władysław Hańcza, in the movie-epic The Deluge by Jerzy Hoffman.


  1. ^ pl:Janusz Radziwiłł (hetman wielki litewski)
  2. ^ a b c d e Peter Paul Bajer Short history of the Radziwill Family
  3. ^ Frost, Robert I (2000). The Northern Wars. War, State and Society in Northeastern Europe 1558–1721. Harlow: Longman. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-582-06429-4. 
  4. ^ Peter K. Gessner. "The reign of the Vasa dynasty (1587–1668)". University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. Retrieved 2009-06-17.