The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a princely family, originally in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, later in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and from the 18th to the 20th century in the Russian Empire and Prussia.

The Radziwiłłs were Lithuanian magnates who owned vast estates, castles, small towns, and even cities. Between the 15th and 18th centuries members of the Radziwiłł family held high administrative and military posts. The first historically known member of the family was Mikołaj Radziwiłł, who died in 1477. In 1518, Mikołaj III Radziwiłł (died 1522) acquired the title of prince of the Holy Roman Empire, which in 1547 was made a hereditary family title. (The senior member of the family bore the title of duke of Ołyka.) The Radziwiłł family was divided into three branches. The first branch, the princes of Goniądz, died out in the male line in 1546, and the second branch, the princes of Birże and Dubinki, died out in the male line in 1669. The third branch comprised the princes of Nieśwież and Ołyka; the senior Nieśwież branch died out in 1813.

The most prominent members of the Radziwiłł family from the 15th to the 18th century were as follows:

Jeny Radziwłł (1480–1541). For his 30 military victories Jerzy was given the epithet “victor.” His daughter, Barbara Radziwiłł (1521–51), was the wife of the Polish king Sigismund II Augustus.

Mikołaj Radziwłł the Red (1512–84). Son of Jerzy. Radziwiłł the Red headed the separatist Lithuanian magnates at the time of the negotiation and conclusion of the Union of Lublin (1569). Prior to 1579 he directed the compilation of the Lithuanian Statute of 1588.

Mikołaj Radziwłł the Black (1515–65). A Calvinist, Radziwiłł the Black published the Radziwiłł Bible with his own money in 1563.

Jerzy Radziwłł (1556–1600). A Roman Catholic and a Jesuit, Radziwiłł became bishop of Kraków and was made a cardinal in 1584 and papal nuncio in Poland in 1592. He persecuted the Calvinists.

Albrycht Stanisław Radziwłł (1595–1656). Radziwiłł was a vigorous opponent of Orthodoxy. He is known for his memoirs, covering the period from 1632 to 1656.

Krzysztof Radziwiłł (died 1640). Radziwiłł fought in the Russo-Polish War of 1632–34 and helped negotiate the Polia-novka Treaty of 1634.

Janusz Radziwłł (1612–55). Son of Krzysztof. Radziwiłł led the Lithuanian forces who crushed the national liberation war in Byelorussia in 1648–49. In 1651 his army occupied Kiev, but in 1654–55 he was defeated by Russian and Ukrainian forces. After the occupation of Vilnius by a Russian army in July 1655 and the capture of Warsaw by Swedish troops in August 1655, Janusz Radziwiłł became the head of the pro-Swedish faction among the Lithuanian magnates. Together with Bogusław Radziwiłł, hetman of Gąsiewski, and Parczewski, the bishop of Żmudż, he. signed the Keidana Treaty, making Lithuania a Swedish protectorate.

Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł (1734–90). Radziwiłł was the Lithuanian crown hetman and took part in the Confederation of Bar of 1768. After the defeat of the uprising he went over to the side of the Russian government. At the end of the 18th century he took part in the magnates’ power struggle, thereby contributing to Poland’s loss of independence.


Lappo, I. I. Velikoe kniazhestvo Litovskoe za vremia ot zakliucheniia Liublinskoi unii do smerti Stefana Batoriia (1569–1586). St. Petersburg, 1901.
Lappo, I. I. Litovskii statut 1588 g, vol. 1. Kaunas, 1934.
Dunin-Borkowski, J. S. Genealogie żyjących ulytułowanych rodów Polskich. Lwó w, 1895.
Wolff, J. Senatorowie i dygnitarze Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskiego, 1386–1795. Kraków, 1885.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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