Stanislaus II,1732–98, last king of Poland (1764–95). He was born Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski. His mother was a member of the powerful CzartoryskiCzartoryski
, Polish princely family. Although of ancient lineage, it rose to prominence only in the 17th cent., and in the 18th cent. during the reign of the Saxon kings of Poland it virtually ruled the country.
..... Click the link for more information. family, which furthered Stanislaus's career. He was (1756–58) Polish ambassador to St. Petersburg, where he became a lover of Czarina Catherine IICatherine II
or Catherine the Great,
1729–96, czarina of Russia (1762–96). Rise to Power
A German princess, the daughter of Christian Augustus, prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, she emerged from the obscurity of her relatively modest background in 1744
..... Click the link for more information. . Catherine, with Frederick IIFrederick II
or Frederick the Great,
1712–86, king of Prussia (1740–86), son and successor of Frederick William I. Early Life
Frederick's coarse and tyrannical father despised the prince, who showed a taste for French art and literature and no
..... Click the link for more information. of Prussia, secured Stanislaus's election to the Polish throne after the death of Augustus III. Russian influence thus became paramount in Poland; the Russian ambassador at Warsaw virtually ruled the land. In 1768 anti-Russian members of the Polish nobility united (see Bar, Confederation ofBar, Confederation of,
union formed in 1768 at Bar, in Podolia (now in W Ukraine), by a number of Polish nobles to oppose the interference of Catherine II of Russia in Polish affairs.
..... Click the link for more information. ) and in 1770 declared Stanislaus deposed. The rebellion was crushed by the Russians, and in 1772, Russia, Prussia, and Austria took vast territories from Poland in the first Polish partition (see Poland, partitions ofPoland, partitions of.
The basic causes leading to the three successive partitions (1772, 1793, 1795) that eliminated Poland from the map were the decay and the internal disunity of Poland and the emergence of its neighbors, Russia and Prussia, as leading European powers.
..... Click the link for more information. ). Although Stanislaus largely owed his throne to foreign powers, he sincerely sought to bulwark the decaying Polish state by internal reforms. In 1773 a national commission began the complete reorganization of Polish education. In 1791 the diet adopted the May Constitution, which abolished the liberum veto, a procedure that enabled a deputy to dissolve the diet and annul its previous decisions; strengthened the central administration; and opened public offices to the burgher class. The peasants' lot was ameliorated; serfdom, however, was not abolished. The throne, after the death of Stanislaus, was to be hereditary in the electoral branch of the house of Saxony. Russia, seeing its hold on Poland threatened, fostered the creation (1792) of the Confederation of Targovica, which sought to restore the old constitution. Russian troops, soon joined by Prussian forces, again invaded Poland. Stanislaus halted military resistance and, seeking a reconciliation with Russia, joined the Confederation of Targovica. The second Polish partition (1793) was the result. It left a truncated kingdom and made Stanislaus a vassal of Russia. The national uprising of 1794, led by KosciuskoKosciusko or Kosciuszko, Thaddeus
, Pol. Tadeusz Andrzej Bonawentura Košciuszko, 1746–1817, Polish general.
..... Click the link for more information. , was defeated by Russian and Prussian troops, and in 1795 the third partition completed the liquidation of Poland. Stanislaus, who had taken no firm stand in 1794, abdicated at Grodno and went to live in Russia. Although weak in politics, he was a generous patron of art, science, and—especially—literature.
See study by A. N. Bain (1909, repr. 1970).