Voivodes of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

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Voivodes of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth were one of the highest ranking officials who could sit in the Senate of Poland. They were the officials in charge of the voivodeships (provinces/palatinates) of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The office first appears as Palatine (Palatinus) who was the first person after the King. As Poland broke into separate principalities each Prince had his court and his own Palatine. When the Kingdom was (partially) reunited the Palatines became heads of the former Principalities now turned into Palatinates. As such they were members of the King's council (comites palatini). The title got merged with the Polish Wojewoda (Slavic Woi-woda/вои-вода (Cyrillic) consists of two parts with meaning army or war and guide or direct and it is a lexical and institutional equivalent of the Latin Dux Exercituum and the German Herzog all meaning "leader of the army"). The difference between Wojewoda and Herzog is that Herzog, after being a rank appointed by the Monarch became a hereditary title of honour, while Wojewoda remained appointed for life and continued as a real-power position before it also lost meaning to the Starostas. Polish historians still use Palatyn and Wojewoda as synonyms.


The competences of voivodes varied, as they were influenced by historical precedents related to their voivodeships. The smallest were those of the voivodes in Halych Ruthenia (Ruś Halicka), the largest those in the Royal Prussia (Prusy Królewskie). Those competences changed in time as well.

The office was created in the Kingdom of Poland under Piasts, and from the Crown of the Polish Kingdom spread to Grand Duchy of Lithuania after 1569 as an overseer of voivodeship and its administration, but the effectiveness and real powers of this office decreased, so that in the Kingdom of Poland under Jagiellons it was a much less significant post. In the realm of the military, voivodeship retained just the role of the leader of pospolite ruszenie. Administrative competences were limited to the role of Marshal of the sejmik, but even that disappeared by the time of the Commonwealth. His control over the cities was mostly an honorary function, as formally it was the competence of the starost. One of the few competences that voivodes retained throughout history was the power to set and enforce prices (although in fact this competence was delegated to the sub-voivode (podwojewoda)).

Voivodes of Cracow, Poznań, Wilno, Troki, Sandomierz and Kalisz (as well as the Castellan of Cracow) had the keys to the Crown Treasury (skarbiec koronny) on Wawel.

Voivodes were appointed by the king until 1775, when the competence to appoint them was passed to Permanent Council (Rada Nieustająca). The exceptions to this rule were the voivodes of Połock and Wilno, who were elected by the szlachta (nobility) from those lands (although they still had to be approved by the King). As all officials in the Commonwealth, only members of szlachta were eligible to hold an official post.

From 1565, the principle of "incompatibilitas" ("incompatibility") forbade voivodes and castellans to hold a second title as a minister, except for the post of hetman, as well as another voivode of starosta grodowy in his own voivodeship.

In the Commonwealth, where the nobility forbade the use of foreign honorary hereditary titles, lifetime titles connected with offices were still considered legal to use. Also the wives and children of a dignitary enjoyed their own forms of his title. Therefore, even through the powers of the voivode were relatively small, it was a prestigious position much coveted by the nobles. The palatinal families (rodziny wojewodzinskie) are one of the highest rank among today's Polish aristocracy, just next below Princes of dynastic origin.

Although many individual voivodes had significant power in the Commonwealth, it was not because of their title, but because of their wealth and influence that eventually secured them the prestigious title of the voivode. So it's not the title that secured the title.


Even when a voivodeship ceased to exist due to shifting borders, the office remained intact and the voivode preserved his privileges like the right to sit and vote in the Senate. Thus the number of voivodes increased in time, from 32 after the creation of the Commonwealth in 1569 to 37 by the time of its end in 1795.

This is a list of voivodes as they were seated in the Senate of Poland. They sat after the bishops, as the first secular officials, although in practice their power was lesser than that of Ministers of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (who however sat last in the Senate).

Note that among them were seated three distinguished castellans (wyróznieni kasztelanowie): Castellan of Kraków (who had seniority over all voivodes), Castellan of Wilno (who sat after the Voivode of Sandomierz) and Castellan of Troki (who sat after the Voivode of Sieradz). There was also one starost (Starost of Żmudź) who sat after the Voivode of Łęczyca.

For the chronological list of specific office holders, see the specific articles below.

In 1569, after Union of Lublin:
  1. Voivode of Kraków (wojewoda krakowski). Seat: Kraków.
  2. Voivode of Poznań (wojewoda poznański). Seat: Poznań.
  3. Voivode of Vilnius (wojewoda wileński). Seat: Vilnius.
  4. Voivode of Sandomierz (wojewoda sandomierski). Seat: Sandomierz.
  5. Voivode of Kalisz (wojewoda kaliski). Seat: Kalisz.
  6. Voivode of Trakai (wojewoda trocki). Seat: Trakai.
  7. Voivode of Sieradz (wojewoda sieradzki). Seat: Sieradz.
  8. Voivode of Łęczyca (wojewoda łęczycki). Seat: Łęczyca.
  9. Voivode of Brześć Kujawski (wojewoda brzeski kujawawski). Seat: Brześć Kujawski.
  10. Voivode of Kijów (Kiev) (wojewoda kijowski). Seat: Kijów.
  11. Voivode of Inowrocław (wojewoda inowrocławski). Seat: Inowrocław.
  12. Voivode of Ruś (Ruthenia) (wojewoda ruski). Seat: Lwów (Lviv).
  13. Voivode of Wołyń (wojewoda wołyński). Seat: Łuck.
  14. Voivode of Podole (wojewoda podolski). Seat: Kamieniec Podolski.
  15. Voivode of Smoleńsk (wojewoda smoleński). Seat: Smoleńsk. Notes: province lost in the 1650s, titular office only afterwards.
  16. Voivode of Lublin (wojewoda lubelski). Seat: Lublin.
  17. Voivode of Połock (wojewoda połocki). Seat: Połock.
  18. Voivode of Bełsk (Bełz) (wojewoda bełski). Seat: Bełsk (Bełz).
  19. Voivode of Nowogródek (wojewoda nowogrodzki). Seat: Nowogródek.
  20. Voivode of Płock (wojewoda płocki). Seat: Płock.
  21. Voivode of Witebsk (wojewoda witebski). Seat: Witebsk.
  22. Voivode of Masovia (wojewoda mazowiecki). Seat: Warsaw (Warszawa).
  23. Voivode of Podlaskie (wojewoda podlaski). Seat: Drohiczyn.
  24. Voivode of Rawa (wojewoda rawski). Seat: Rawa Mazowiecka.
  25. Voivode of Brześć Litewski (wojewoda brzeski litewski).
  26. Voivode of Chełmno (wojewoda chełminski). Seat: Chełmno.
  27. Voivode of Mścisław (wojewoda mścisławski). Seat: Mścisław.
  28. Voivode of Malbork (wojewoda malborski). Seat: Malbork.
  29. Voivode of Bracław (wojewoda bracławski). Seat: Bracław.
  30. Voivode of Pomerania (wojewoda pomorski). Seat: Gdańsk (Danzig).
  31. Voivode of Mińsk (wojewoda miński). Seat: Mińsk.
  32. Voivode of Inflanty (Livonia) (wojewoda inflandzki). Seat: Dyneburg.
Created around 1598 and lost in the 1620s:
  1. Voivode of Wenden (wojewoda wendenski). Seat: Wenden (Cēsis).
  2. Voivode of Parnawa (wojewoda parnawski). Seat: Parnawa.
  3. Voivode of Dorpat (wojewoda dorpacki or wojewoda derpski). Seat: Dorpat.
Created in 1635:
  1. Voivode of Czernihów (wojewoda czernihowski). Seat: Czernihów.
Created in 1768:
  1. Voivode of Gniezno (wojewoda gnieźnieński). Seat: Gniezno. Notes: Created in 1768 from the remains of Kalisz Voivodeship after the First Partition. See Gniezno Voivodeship

See also[edit]