John II Casimir Vasa

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For other monarchs with similar names, see John of Poland (disambiguation).
John II Casimir
Bacciarelli - Jan Kazimierz.jpeg
John II Casimir by Bacciarelli
King of Poland
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Reign November 1648 – 16 September 1668
Coronation 19 January 1649
Predecessor Władysław IV Vasa
Successor Michael I
Spouse Ludwika Maria Gonzaga
Claudine Françoise Mignot
Issue John Sigismund, Crown Prince of Poland
Princess Maria Anna
House House of Vasa
Father Sigismund III Vasa
Mother Constance of Austria
Born (1609-03-22)22 March 1609
Kraków, Poland
Died 16 December 1672(1672-12-16) (aged 63)
Nevers, France
Burial 31 January 1676
Wawel Cathedral
Signature

John II Casimir (Polish: Jan II Kazimierz Waza; German: Johann II. Kasimir Wasa; Lithuanian: Jonas Kazimieras Vaza (22 March 1609 – 16 December 1672) was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania[1] during the era of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Duke of Opole in Upper Silesia, and titular King of Sweden 1648–1660. In Poland, he is known and commonly referred as Jan Kazimierz. His parents were Sigismund III Vasa (1566–1632) and Constance of Austria (1588–1631). His older brother, and predecessor on the throne, was Władysław IV Vasa.

Related to the Habsburg rulers of the Holy Roman Empire he was the third and last monarch on the Polish throne from the House of Vasa. He was the last ruler of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth bearing a blood connection to the Jagiellon dynasty, through the female line.

Royal titles[edit]

  • Official titles in Latin: Ioannes Casimirus, Dei Gratia rex Poloniae, magnus dux Lithuaniae, Russie, Prussiae, Masoviae, Samogitiae, Livoniae, Smolenscie, Severiae, Czernichoviaeque; nec non-Suecorum, Gothorum, Vandalorumque haereditarius rex, etc.

Biography[edit]

Portrait of Prince John Casimir of Poland by Anthony van Dyck, ca. 1640

His father Sigismund, grandson of Gustav I of Sweden, had in 1592 succeeded his own father to the Swedish throne, only to be deposed in 1599 by his uncle, Charles IX of Sweden. This led to a long-standing feud wherein the Polish kings of the House of Vasa claimed the Swedish throne, resulting in the Polish–Swedish War of 1600–1629. Poland and Sweden were also on opposite sides in the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), although in that war Poland for the most part avoided taking part in any major military actions.

John Casimir for most of his life remained in the shadow of his brother, Władysław IV Waza. He had few friends among the Polish nobility (szlachta), as he openly sympathized with Austria and showed disregard and contempt for Polish culture. Unfriendly, secretive, dividing his time between lavish partying and religious contemplation, and disliking politics, he did not have a strong power base nor influence at the Polish court. He did display talent as a military commander, showing his abilities in the Smolensk War against Muscovy (1633).

Between 1632 and 1635, Władysław IV sought to enhance his brother's influence by negotiating a marriage for John Casimir to Christina of Sweden, then to an Italian princess, but to no avail. In 1637 John Casimir undertook a diplomatic mission to Vienna, which he abandoned to join the army of the Holy Roman Empire and fight against the French. After his regiment was defeated in battle, he spent a year living lavishly at the Viennese court.

In 1636 he returned to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and fell in love with Baroness Guldentern, but his desire to marry her was thwarted by King Władysław. In return, Władysław attempted to make him the sovereign of Courland, but this was vetoed by the Commonwealth parliament (Sejm). Taking offence at this, John Casimir in 1638 left for Spain to become Viceroy of Portugal, but was captured by French agents and imprisoned by order of Cardinal Richelieu until 1640. He was then freed by a diplomatic mission of the Voivod of Smolensk, Krzysztof Gosiewski.

John II Casimir

In 1641 John Casimir decided to become a Jesuit. In 1642 he again left the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, accompanying his sister to Germany. In 1643 he joined the Jesuits, against vocal opposition from King Władysław, causing a diplomatic rift between the Commonwealth and the Pope. John Casimir was made a cardinal, but in December 1646, finding himself unsuited to ecclesiastical life, he returned to Poland. In October 1647 he resigned as cardinal to stand in elections for the Polish throne. He attempted to gain the support of the Habsburgs and marry an Austrian princess.

In 1648 John Casimir was elected to succeed his half-brother on the Polish throne. The reign of the last of the Vasas in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth would be dominated by the Russo-Polish War (1654–67), followed by the war with Sweden ("The Deluge"), the scene for which had been set by the Commonwealth's two previous Vasa kings. Most of Poland was invaded by the Swedish army during the Deluge without much of a fight, due to the conspiratorial complicity of Polish and Lithuanian governors and nobility. In the course of a few years, the Commonwealth rose to force the Swedes out of Poland, ending the short-lived intrusions and campaigns.

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1660

In 1660 John II Casimir was forced to renounce his claim to the Swedish throne and acknowledge Swedish sovereignty over Livonia and the city of Riga.

John Casimir had married his brother's widow, Marie Louise Gonzaga (Polish: Maria Ludwika), who was a major support to the King. Marie Louise died in 1667.

On 16 September 1668, John II Casimir abdicated the Polish–Lithuanian throne, and returned to France, where he joined the Jesuits and became abbot of Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. He died in 1672.

Legacy[edit]

John Casimir left no surviving children. All his brothers and sisters having predeceased him without surviving issue, he was the last of the line of Bona Sforza. With him, all the legitimate issue of Alfonso II of Naples died out. His heir in Ferdinand I of Naples and in the Brienne succession was his distant cousin, Henry de La Tremoille, Prince of Talmond and Taranto, the heir-general of Frederick IV of Naples (second son of Ferdinand I of Naples and Isabella of Clermont), who also was the heir-general of Federigo's first wife, Anne of Savoy.

John Casimir was, after his brother, the head of the genealogical line of St.Bridget of Sweden, descending in primogeniture from Bridget's sister. After his death, the headship was offered to his second cousin, the already-abdicated Christina I of Sweden.

Patron of the arts[edit]

Portrait of a Bearded Man in Black Beret

The collection of the Polish Vasas was looted by Swedes and Germans of Brandenburg who brutally sacked Warsaw in the 1650s, during the Deluge.[2] Though some of the works survived hidden in Opole like The Rape of Europa by Guido Reni.

The most important additions to the royal collection were made by John II Casimir, a passionate collector of Dutch paintings, and a patron of Daniel Schultz (who painted a famous portrait of a son of Crimean Aga Dedesh, and was made Royal falconer in reward for his father's contribution during the war with Russia in 1663[3]). A major part of the king's painting collection was acquired in 1660s, by way of Hendrick van Uylenburgh, an agent in Amsterdam, and later his son Gerrit van Uylenburgh. These were mainly Dutch paintings and works by Rembrandt. The collection also included works by Rubens, Jordaens, Reni, Guercino, Jan Brueghel the Younger, and Bassano, among others.[2]

When John Casimir abdicated the Polish–Lithuanian throne, he brought many of his paintings with him to France. The collection remaining at Royal Castle in Warsaw was looted during the Great Northern War or appropriated in 1720 by Frederick Augustus I, Elector of Saxony, like two paintings by Rembrandt – Portrait of a Bearded Man in Black Beret (1657 also known as the Portrait of a Rabbi) and Portrait of a Man in the Hat Decorated with Pearls (1667), today displayed in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, Germany.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Historical Collections of the Vilnius University Library – MANUSCRIPTS". UNESCO. Retrieved 20 June 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c Lileyko Jerzy, Vademecum Zamku Warszawskiego, Warszawa, 1980. ISBN 83-223-1818-9 p. 129
  3. ^ Dedesz Aga

Ancestors[edit]

John II Casimir Vasa
Born: 22 March 1609 Died: 6 December 1672
Regnal titles
Vacant
Title last held by
Vladislaus IV
King of Poland
Grand Duke of Lithuania

1648–1668
Vacant
Title next held by
Michael
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Władysław IV
— TITULAR —
King of Sweden
1648–1660
Reason for succession failure:
Father deposed in 1599
Treaty of Oliva
Brienne claim
1648–1672
Succeeded by
Henri de La Trémoille