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Stanisław Koniecpolski
Noble Family Koniecpolski
Coat of Arms Pobóg
Parents Aleksander Koniecpolski

Anna Sroczycka
Consorts Katarzyna Żółkiewska (1615)

Krystyna Lubomirska (1619)

Zofia Opalińska (1646)
Children Aleksander Koniecpolski
Date of Birth 1590/1594
Place of Birth Koniecpolmarker
Date of Death March 11, 1646
Place of Death Brodymarker

Stanisław Koniecpolski (1590/1594 – 11 March 1646) was a Polish nobleman (szlachcic), magnate, official (starost and castellan), voivode of Sandomierzmarker from 1625, and Field and later Grand Crown hetman (second highest military commander, after the king) of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Stanisław Koniecpolski lived a life that involved almost constant warfare, and during his military career he won many victories. Before he reached the age of 20, he had fought in the Dymitriads and the Moldavian Magnate Wars, where he was taken captive by the forces of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Cecora in 1620. After his release in 1623 he defeated Ottoman vassals the Tatars in 1624. With inferior forces fought the Swedishmarker forces of Gustavus Adolphus to a stalemate in Prussia. Koniecpolski tried several more times, July 15 and Aug 9, but was repelled by the Swedes, during the second phase of the Polish-Swedish War (1626–1629), which ended with the Truce of Altmark. Koniecpolski defeated a major Turkish invasion at Kamieniec Podolskimarker (Kamianets-Podilskyi) in Ukrainemarker in 1634, and during his life led many other successful campaigns against the rebellious Cossacks and invading Tatars. He is considered to be one of the most skilled and famous military commanders in the history of Polandmarker and Lithuaniamarker.


Stanisław Koniecpolski was born between 1590 and 1594 into the szlachta and magnate family of Koniecpolscy, likely in their seat of Koniecpolmarker. His father was Aleksander Koniecpolski, a wealthy magnate, voivode (palatine) of Sieradzmarker, a staunch supporter of king Sigismund III of the Swedish House of Vasa. His mother was Anna Sroczycka, daughter of Stanisław Sroczycki, voivode of Kamieniec Podolskimarker, who brought into the Koniecpolscy family large estate in Podolia. Stanisław's brothers were Krzysztof Koniecpolski (chorąży koronny, voivode of Bełskmarker from 1641), Remigiusz Koniecpolski (bishop of Chełm, died in 1640), Jan Koniecpolski (castellan and voivode of Sieradz) and Przedbor Koniecpolski (died in 1611).

Stanisław Koniecpolski had a speech impediment, and throughout his life he stuttered on longer words. When he was 15, his father's influence at the royal court got him the Commonwealth district office of starosta (mayor) of Wieluńmarker. Around that time (1603) he studied at the Cracow Academy in Krakówmarker. After several years of studies, he was sent by his father to the royal court, to continue his education in a more practical fashion; he stayed there for a year or two. He also might have undertaken, over a period of several months, a tour of Western Europe (mostly France). Afterward, Koniecpolski returned to his family's estates.

Early career

Koniecpolski chose to follow a military career, and in 1610 he took part in the Dymitriads against Muscovy. He participated in the battle of Kłuszynmarker. During the siege of the Smolensk fortressmarker on 8 July 1611, the collapsing walls killed his brother, Przedbor, and Stanislaw returned to Koniecpol with his body. In the autumn of the same year he rejoined the army and under the command of Grand Lithuanian Hetman Jan Karol Chodkiewicz took part in the effort to relieve and bring supplies to the besieged Polish forces in the Moscow Kremlinmarker. During that time, he was entrusted by the hetman with the important command of the right flank of the Polish forces.

In 1612, Koniecpolski joined the units of wojsko kwarciane (regular Commonwealth army) in Ukraine under the command of hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski, who greatly influenced his career. In 1614, he was given the responsibility of destroying rebellious units of wojsko kwarciane, who were led by Jan Karwacki. On May 17, together with Jan Żółkiewski, he won a victory at Rohatyn and captured Krawacki. In 1615, he married the daughter of Żółkiewski, Katarzyna. Soon after the marriage, he received an official rank of podstoli koronny.Podhorodecki, p. 44

Hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski, mentor of Koniecpolski

In 1615 and 1616, Koniecpolski gained experience in Ukraine fighting against Tatar hordes, but he failed to break or capture any sizable enemy units.Podhorodecki, p. 45 In 1616, his first wife, Katarzyna, died in labor with his first son, Andrzej.Podhorodecki, p. 46-47 In 1617, alongside Żołkiewski, he took part in the Moldavian Magnate Wars and stood against the powerful Turkish army of Iskander Pasha. The conflict ended in a negotiated cease-fire that year. He also negotiated with Cossacks near Olszanica, Russia, where the Cossack register (list of privileged Cossacks in the Commonwealth military) was limited to 1,000 and Cossack raids on the Black Seamarker were forbidden.Podhorodecki, p. 48-49 Those raids, which reached and pillaged wealthy Ottoman cities, contributed to the Cossacks' income but provoked retaliation raids into the Commonwealth territory.

In 1618, during the session of the Commonwealth parliament (Sejm) and ignoring the opposition of magnate Krzysztof Zbaraski and his allies, king Sigismund III Vasa granted the buława (ceremonial mace or baton) of Grand Crown Hetman to Stanisław Żółkiewski and the baton of Field Crown Hetman to Koniecpolski.Podhorodecki, p. 51

Soon afterward, Koniecpolski was defeated by the Tatars near Oryn, where he made a mistake of charging in front of his army against overwhelming odds and consequently barely made it out of the battle alive.Podhorodecki, p. 56 Koniecpolski thereafter married Krystyna Lubomirska, who in 1620 gave birth to Aleksander.Podhorodecki, p. 58

In 1620, Koniecpolski and Żólkiewski led the army to Cecoramarker to fight against the horde of Kantymir (Khan Temir). The army numbered more than 10,000, and consisted of such regiments as the private forces of magnates Koreccy, Zasławscy, Kazanowscy, Kalinowscy and Potoccy. Koniecpolski commanded the right flank of the Commonwealth forces during the battle of Cecora. On September 19, the Polish forces were defeated but were able to retreat in an organised fashion. The morale of the army was low, and while Koniecpolski stopped the army from disintegrating on 20 and 21 September, the army collapsed and ran towards the river during the later retreat. In the ensuing battle, Żólkiewski was killed and Koniecpolski and many magnates (Samuel Korecki, Mikołaj Struś, Mikołaj Potocki, Jan Żółkiewski, son of Stanisław and Łukasz Żołkiewski) were taken captive.Podhorodecki, p. 65-100 (very detailed account of the battle) The prisoners were transported to Białograd, to Iskander pasha, then near Constantinoplemarker to the Castle of Seven Towers and held in the Black Tower. They returned to Poland in spring 1623 during the aftermath of the Ottoman defeat at Khotyn and the stabilization of Polish-Ottoman relations that was helped by the diplomatic mission of Krzysztof Zbaraski which bought the freedom of captives for 30,000 talars.Podhorodecki, p. 101-110

Castle of the Seven Towers in Istanbul, where Koniecpolski was imprisoned

In July 1623, Koniecpolski took part in the skirmishes against Tatars near Tremblowla. Around February 1624, the Kantymir's forces (horda budziacka) attacked southern Poland. One of its armies was intercepted and destroyed on February 6 by Koniecpolski near Szmańkowice and Martynów (Battle of Martynów around 20 June), forcing the forces of Ali pasha to retreat towards Bukowina. Kantymir's forces crossed the border on June 5 and hetman Koniecpolski crushed them on June 20. Koniecpolski used a new strategy - light Cossack cavalry that was as fast as the Tatars' had driven the enemy towards fortified positions called the tabor. For his victory, the Sejm awarded him 30,000 zlotys and made him voivode of Sandomierz in 1625.

In 1625, the Zaporozhian Cossacks rebelled, allied with Szanhin Girej, and tried to form an alliance with Muscovy. Koniecpolski reasoned that the Tatars had their share of trouble with Porta and that the budziacka horda of Kantymir would not be able to send major assistance. He gathered a 12,000-strong army of wojsko kwarciane and private units. He promised all Cossacks loyal to the Commonwealth fair treatment, and death to the rebels remaining under Mark Żmajła. On October 25, 1625 near Kryków, he attacked the Cossacks, who managed to stop the first attacks of cavalry and retreated towards Lake Kurukowski. They managed again to stop the second assault and Koniecpolski was "in grave danger at one moment". The conflict ended with a cease-fire, the Treaty of Kurukove; the Cossack register was set at 6,000; and again they promised to stop raiding the Black Sea and provoking the Tatars.

In 1626, the Tatars invaded again, razing and pillaging territories as far as the voivodeships of Belzmarker, Halychmarker and Lvivmarker, while some advance units reached the cities of Ternopilmarker and Tremblowla. Koniecpolski intercepted them near Bila Tserkvamarker. A small army of wojsko kwarciane under Koniecpolski managed to defeat the rear guard of the main Tatar army, which crossed the borders with many treasures and slave in jasyr. Later that year, fearing a repeat of the invasion, Koniecpolski violated a Sejm declaration and recruited and fielded an army of 8,000 against the expected Tatar second wave.

Warfare 1626–1629

Gustavus Adolphus, one of the most famous opponents of Koniecpolski
In 1626, the Tatars did not invade again, but the Swedes crossed the Commonwealth borders instead, rekindling the Polish-Swedish War. In May 1626, Gustavus Adolphus landed in Piławamarker with more than 8,000 soldiers. Near the village of Gniew in a battle (22–30 September 1626) Gustav defeated a Polish army led by King Sigismund. Sigismund retreated and called from reinforcements from other parts of the country. Koniecpolski was tasked with defending Prusy Królewskie (Royal Prussia) from the Swedish incursion.

Koniecpolski's force of 4,200 light cavalry, 1,000 dragoons, and 1,000 infantry quickly moved to Prussia. Strengthened by other units, he had 9,000 men against the 20,000-strong Swedish force. Using the tactic of maneuver warfare, with small mobile units striking at the enemy's communication lines and smaller units, he managed to stop the Swedish attack and force the units under Axel Oxenstierna into a defense.

The Sejm agreed to raise money for the war, but the situation of the Polish forces was difficult. Lithuanian forces were dealt a serious defeat in December 1626 near Koknese in Inflanty Voivodeship and retreated behind the Dvina river. The Swedes planned to strike Koniecpolski from two directions - Oxenstierna from direction of the Vistula and Johann Streiff von Lawentstein and Maxymilian Teuffl from Swedish held Pomorze. The flooding of the Vistula disrupted their plans and allowed Koniecpolski to intercept the enemy units coming from Pomorze. In March/April (dates vary, 12 March being most common) of 1627, near Czarne (Hamersztyn), the Poles forced the Swedish forces to retreat inside the city, and three days later to surrender, leaving behind their banners and insignia. Some Swedish soldiers and mercenaries changed sides at that time. This victory also convinced the Elector of Brandenburgmarker to declare his support for the Commonwealth, and the Lithuanian forces resumed the offensive in Inflanty.

Portrait of hetman Stanisław Koniecpolski

On April 2, 1627, Koniecpolski managed to recapture Puckmarker. During the crossing of the Vistula near Kieżmark, in the vicinity of Danzigmarker, Gustav met the Polish forces but was wounded in the hip and forced to retreat. In July, he led forces to lift the siege of Braniewmarker, and lay siege to Ornetamarker. Koniecpolski responded with the sudden attack and capture of Gniewmarker. Gustavus was reported to be impressed by the speed of Koniecpolski's reaction.

With about 7,800 men (including 2,500 cavalry and hussars, Commonwealth elite heavy cavalry), Koniecpolski tried to stop the Swedish army from reaching Danzig, near Tczewmarker. On 7–8 August, a battle with the Swedish forces (10,000 men including 5,000 infantry) took place near the swamps of Mołtawa. The Swedes wanted to provoke the Poles into an attack then destroy them with infantry fire and artillery, but Koniecpolski decided not to attack. The Swedes then took the initiative and attacked with cavalry, but did not manage to draw the Poles within the range of their fire. The consequent Swedish attacks dealt severe damage to Polish cavalry units, but did not manage to cripple the army (whose morale was kept high, thanks to Koniecpolski). The battle ended when Gustavus Adolphus was once again wounded and the Swedes retreated.

After the battle, Koniecpolski saw the need to reform the army and strengthen the firepower of infantry and artillery to match the Swedish units. The Swedes, on the other hand, learned arts of cavalry attacks, charges and melee combat from the Poles. Koniecpolski's tactics led to the defeat of a Swedish flotilla by the small Polish Navy on 28 November 1627 at the battle of Oliwa.

In 1628, the Polish forces, lacking funding, were forced to stop their offensive and switch to defense. Gustavus Adolphus captured Nowy and Brodnicamarker. Koniecpolski counterattacked by using his small forces most efficiently - fast cavalry melee attacks combined with the supporting fire of infantry and artillery, and using fortifications and terrain advantage. The Sejm decided to increase the funds for the war after the battle of Górznomarker, where Stanisław Potocki was defeated. Austriamarker sent help to the Commonwealth in the form of units under field marshall Jan Jerzy Arnheim. Nonetheless, Koniecpolski was forced to withdraw Commonwealth forces from many strategic Polish strongholds in Prussia.

The final battle took place on 27 June 1629 near Trzciana (or Trzcianka). The Swedes attacked in the direction of Grudziądzmarker, were stopped, and retreated to Szturm and Malborkmarker. Koniecpolski attacked the rear guard led by Jan Wilhelm Reingraff, count of Ren, and destroyed it. He also repelled a counterattack by Swedish raitars, who were pushed in the direction of Pułkowicemarker, where another counterattack was led by Gustavus Adolphus with 2,000 raitars. This counterattack was also stopped, and the Swedish forces were saved by the last reserve units led by field marshal Herman Wrangel, who managed to stop the Polish attack. Gustavus Adolphus was wounded and barely managed to escape with his freedom. 1,200 Swedes were killed, Jan Wilhelm Reingraff, and a few hundred were captured. Polish losses were under 200 killed and injured.

This victory was not followed up politically and militarily. A cease-fire in Stary Targ (Truce of Altmark) on 26 October 1629 was in favour of the Swedes, who got the right to tax Polish trade moved through the Baltic (3.5% on the value of goods), kept control of many cities in Prusy Królewskie and for the time were generally recognized as the dominant power on the southern Baltic Sea coast. Koniecpolski had no major influence over the negotiations, as he was called back to Ukraine to crush a Tarar incursion near Kodenica and deal with another uprising of Cossacks, this time led by Taras Fedorovych. At this point, Koniecpolski's opposition in the region coalesced into a general defense of the Eastern Orthodox religion.

Grand Crown Hetman

In 1630, Taras executed Hryhoriy Chorny, who opposed the uprising, and captured the fortress of Korsun. Koniecpolski laid siege to Pereyaslavmarker, but because he lacked the support of artillery and infantry, he could not break its walls. The Cossacks, needing supplies, agreed to negotiations. According to the historian Orest Subtelny, a new treaty was signed in August, granting more liberal terms, including amnesty for the rebels. In one view, Koniecpolski opposed harsh punishment of the rebels, holding that the Cossack situation in the long run was better remedied not by military suppression, but by fairer and more equal treatment, such as an increase in the number of Cossack soldiers (rejestr) and the regular payment of wages. In another, he would have completely destroyed the resistance if it had been within his power.

In 1632, a few months before his death, Zygmunt III Waza awarded Koniecpolski the position of Grand Crown Hetman. After the king's death, the hetman played a major role directing political affairs in the Commonwealth and supported the free election of the son of Zygmunt, Władysław IV Waza in 1632. In return, a year after the election, Władysław rewarded Koniecpolski with the office of the castellan of Krakówmarker, the most prestigious office among the Commonwealth district offices. Koniecpolski became an influential advisor to the new king, often encouraging Wladyslaw to direct Polish foreign policy against the Tatars. Koniecpolski also supported Władysław's military reforms. Koniecpolski, together with kanclerz Jerzy Ossoliński, became an important supporter of Władysław as long as the king's actions were carried out according to the law; Koniecpolski never supported any of Władysław's actions that were not supported by the Sejm, as required by Commonwealth law.
Fortress of Kamianets-Podilskyi, modern day

In 1633, Koniecpolski thwarted the Turks' attacks on the Commonwealth, defeating their forces on July 4 at Sasowy Róg. On October 22 of that year, he resisted and repulsed a larger Ottoman invasion force of over 20,000 at Kamianets-Podilskyimarker. His forces numbered 11,000. Those defeats and Koniecpolski's attitude convinced the Turks to sign a new treaty on September 19, 1634. The treaty repeated the statements of the Treaty of Chocim from 1621 andended the Ottoman-Commonwealth War . In 1635, after Cossacks under Ivan Sulyma captured and destroyed the Polish fort "Kudak"marker (near modern Dnepropetrovskmarker), Koniecpolski led an expedition that retook the fort and punished the insurgents; Sulima was taken prisoner and executed. That year he was also present at the Treaty of Sztumska Wieś.

Koniecpolski understood the need to modernize the army and actively cooperated with Władysław IV on various projects leading to this goal, like drafting mercenary units experienced in the western art of war, and further development of artillery (he supervised the construction of arsenals in Kudakmarker, Barmarker and Kamieniec Podolski, and built forges on his Ukrainian estates). He was the patron of many talented artillery and engineering officers. It is possible that he also sponsored cartographers like William le Vasseur de Beauplan, who created a map of Ukraine, and Sebastian Aders, who created a map of the Crimeamarker. He also supported the plan to create the Commonwealth Baltic Fleet.

Koniecpolski became the de facto unofficial ruler of Ukraine as king Władysław trusted him with most political decisions about this southeastern region of the Commonwealth. Some foreigners referred to him as the 'viceking of Ukraine', although such a position never existed in the Commonwealth. With the knowledge and support of the king, Koniecpolski sent and received diplomatic missions from Istanbulmarker, carried out negotiations and signed out treaties, and as a hetman, had a direct control over a significant part of Commonwealth military. He had his own espionage network stretching from Muscovy to the Ottoman Empire.

The magnate

Over the course of his life, Koniecpolski gathered much wealth. He was a possessor of 16 districts (starostwa), and his yearly revenue was more than 500,000 zlotys. He sponsored the construction of the Koniecpolski Palacemarker in Warsawmarker. Koniecpolski invested much of his wealth into developing his Ukrainian estates. He founded the town of Brodymarker, which flourished with his investments, becaming an important local commercial center; Koniecpolski fortified the town with a citadel and bastions in 1633 and set up workshops (a manufacture) producing Persian-type samite fabrics, carpets and rugs there. He also constructed a fortified palace in Pidhirtsimarker (Ukraine) with beautiful Italian gardens. More than 100,000 people lived on his estates in Western Ukraine.

Koniecpolski was regarded as an honorable and fair person, and liked by most of the szlachta. What was especially rare for a Commonwealth magnate, he was said to have almost no enemies. His main opponents in politics were those who opposed king Władysław, and on Ukraine, magnate Jeremi Wiśniowiecki, who vied with Koniecpolski about the control over Ukraine region. He was extremely unpopular in Ukraine, especially after the Commonwealth's armies were billeted there to compensate for a lack of regular payments.

Last years

After 1635 Koniecpolski's declining health made him reliant on the younger hetman Mikołaj Potocki, who successfully crushed Cossack uprisings in 1637 and 1638, and a Tatar uprising in 1639. Koniecpolski's influence also protected the outlaw Samuel Łaszcz, another able commander.

Hetman Mikołaj Potocki

One of the Koniecpolski's greatest victories was during the winter campaign against the Turks in 1644. This was the largest army he had commanded so far: 19,000 soldiers (60% of them were private forces of the magnates, Koniecpolski's own forces numbered 2,200). He dealt a crushing defeat to Toğay bey's (Tuhaj Bej) forces near Ochmatów and pursued them. Many Turks drowned near Sina Woda when the ice cover on the water collapsed. This campaign brought more fame to Koniecpolski, who had not only predicted the place and time of the Turks' attack, but also destroyed their forces before they used their usual strategy of splitting the main forces into highly mobile and difficult to intercept units (czambuls).

This victory led Władysław IV to consider waging an offensive war against the Turks. Koniecpolski supported the limited war against the Crimean Chanate, but opposed Władysław's plan to wage the war on the entire Ottoman Empire, considering it an unrealistic folly. He set forth his strategic concept in a plan he titled "Dyskurs o Zniesieniu Tatarow Krymskich" (A Discourse on the Destruction of the Crimean Tartars). Koniecpolski also strongly advised that a coalition with Moscow would be useful for this campaign.

King Władysław continued to push for a crusade against Turkey, but the push had little internal support and failed to achieve anything except to spread false hope among the Cossacks, to whom he promised privileges and money for participation in that crusade. Koniecpolski foresaw danger in the discontent of the Cossacks and advocated a policy designed to accommodate their demands. This was met with little support or success.

After Koniecpolski's wife Krystyna died, Koniecpolski soon married the 16-year-old Zofia Opalińska, daughter of future Crown Marshal Łukasz Opaliński on 16 January, 1646. Koniecpolski died on 11 March, 1646 in Brody. Many sources point to his new marriage as the source of his death. Joachim Jerlicz wrote in his diary that he overdosed on an aphrodisiac.


  1. Koniecpolski Stanisław, WIEM Encyklopedia, retrieved on 16 July 2009
  2. Podhorodecki, p. 14-15
  3. Podhorodecki, p. 22-23
  4. Podhorodecki, p. 28
  5. Podhorodecki, p. 33-34
  6. Podhorodecki, p. 35
  7. Podhorodecki, p. 36
  8. Jerzy Besala, Stanisław Żółkiewski, PIW, 1988
  9. Podhorodecki, p. 42-43
  10. Podhorodecki, p. 40-41
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  17. THE CAMBRIDGE HISTORY OF POLAND, CUP Archive, pg. 473, [5]
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a. The year of Koniecpolski's birth is not certain since there are several conflicting sources. Leszek Podhorodecki, in his biography Stanisław Koniecpolski ok. 1592–1646, chose the date 1592, which is likely the "average" of other sources (1590 being the earliest, 1594 the latest given by various sources). As he notes, the date 1591 is the most common ( used for example by Encyclopædia Britannica, 7 August 2007), and the date 1593 or 1594 was proposed in Polski Słownik Biograficzny by historian Władysław Czapliński, whom Podhorodecki calls 'a great specialist of that era', noting however that Czapliński fails to justify this date.

Further reading

  • Czapliński, Antoni and Topolski Jerzy, Historia Polski (History of Poland), 1988, ISBN 8304019191
  • Davies, Norman, God's Playground, ISBN 0-231-05353-3 and ISBN 0-231-05351-7 (two volumes)
  • Hetmani Rzeczypospolitej Obojga Narodów (1994). Warsawmarker: Bellona. ISBN 83-11-08275-8.
  • Jasienica, Paweł, Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów, 1982, ISBN 83-06-00788-3
  • Podhorodecki, Leszek (1978). Stanisław Koniecpolski ok. 1592–1646. Wydawnictwo Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej. ISBN B0000E946H.

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