Wladislaus IV of Poland

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(Redirected from Wladyslaw IV Waza)
Władysław IV Waza
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Władysław IV Waza

Reign in Poland From November 8, 1632
until May 20, 1648
Reign in Russia From 1610
until 16351
Coronation On February 6, 1633
in the Wawel Cathedral,
Kraków, Poland
Royal House Vasa
Parents Zygmunt III Waza
Anna Austriaczka
Consorts Cecylia Renata
Ludwika Maria Gonzaga
Children with Cecylia Renata
Zygmunt Kazimierz
Maria Anna Izabela
Date of Birth June 9 1595
Place of Birth Łobzów near Kraków, Poland
Date of Death May 20, 1648
Place of Death Merecz near Wilno,
Place of Burial Wawel Cathedral,
Kraków, Poland

Wladislaus IV Vasa of Poland or (Polish: Władysław IV Waza) (June 9 1595 - May 20 1648), was the son of Sigismund III of Poland (1566-1632), of the House of Vasa, and his wife Anna Austriaczka (also known as Anna of Austria or Anna Habsburżanka) (1573 - 1598). He reigned as King of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from November 8 1632 to his death in 1648.

Wladislaw managed to avoid involving the Commonwealth in the bloody Thirty Years' War that raveaged Western Europe during his reign and was fairly successful in defending the Commonwealth against hostile invasions. He had failed, however, to realize his dreams of fame and conquest, nor had he reformed and strenghtened the Commonwealth. His death would mark the end the Golden Era of the Commonwealth, as conflicts and tensions Wladyslaw failed to resolve would lead in 1648 to the greatest of the Cossacks uprising, the Chmielnicki Uprising, and Swedish invasion, The Deluge.


Royal titles

  • Royal titles in Latin: Vladislaus Quartus Dei gratia rex Poloniae, magnus dux Lithuaniae, Russiae, Prussiae, Masoviae, Samogitiae, Livoniaeque, necnon Suecorum, Gothorum Vandalorumque haereditarius rex, electus magnus dux Moschoviae

Wladyslaw Zygmunt Waza-Jagellon was elected King of Poland 1632. By paternal inheritance, he legally succeeded as King of Sweden. He was a heir to the title King of Jerusalem.


His father Sigismund, grandson of Gustav I of Sweden, had succeded his father to the Swedish throne in 1592 only to be deposed from the throne by his uncle Charles IX of Sweden in 1599. This led to a long standing feud where the Polish kings of the house of Vasa claimed the Swedish throne. The effects of this were the Swedish War (1600-1629) and later, The Deluge of 1655. Sigismund, a devout Catholic, pursued other military conflicts abroad, barely avoiding involving the Commonwealth in the Thirty Year War and supported counter-reformation, both policies which lead to incrasing tensions inside the Commonwealth.

The Prince

Wladislaus at the age of 15 was briefly elected Russian Tsar by Russian boyars in 1610 during the Russian Time of Troubles following the death of Boris Godunov. His election was part of an unsuccessful plan by Sigismund to conquer all of Russia and convert the population to Catholicism. However he was never able to reign in Russia, as his support there was very temporary and depended on shifting internal politics among the boyars. He held on to the title without any real power until 1634.

Before he was elected king of the Commonwealth, he fought in many campaigns, including ones against Russians in 1617-1618 (the end of Dymitriads), Ottomans in 1621 (end of Moldavian_Magnate_Wars) and Swedes in 1626-1629. During that time, as well as during his voyage in Europe (1624-1525) he learned the art of war, and this was later to be reflected when he became king: military matters were always important to him. While not a military genius, and surpassed by famous Commonwealth contemporary hetmans like Stanisław Koniecpolski, Wladislaw was known as a fairly skillful commander on his own.

The king

Wladislaw was married twice. In 1637 he married Cecylia Renata of Habsburgs, daughter of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor, and sister of the Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor. After her death in 1643, he married the French princess Ludwika Maria Gonzaga, daughter of Karol I Gonzaga, prince de Nevers in 1646. He had no heirs. He was succeeded by his half brother and cousin Jan II Kazimierz.

The art connesseur

Wladislaus was also a connesseur of arts and music. He sponsored many musicians and created the first amphitheater in the Warsaw castle, where during his reign dozens of operas and ballets were performed. He also collected paintings and invested in decorative architecture; among his most famous sponsored projects is the monument to his father, the Column of Sigismund which became one of the symbols of Warsaw. Wladislaw assembled an important collection of Italian and Flemish Baroque paintings, much of which were lost in the wars after his death.

The successes

Wladislaw was elected to the Polish throne on his father's death in 1632. In an attempt to take advantage of confusion expected after the death of the Polish king, Tsar Michael Romanov ordered an attack on the Commonwealth. A Muscovite army (of approximately 34,500) crossed the Commonwealth eastern frontier in October 1632 and laid siege to Smolensk (which was ceded to Poland by Russia in 1618, at the end of the Dymitriad wars). In the war against Russia in 1632-1634 (the Smolensk War), Wladyslaw succeeded in breaking the siege in September 1633 and then in turn surrounded the Russian army, which was then forced to surrender on March 1, 1634. The resulting Peace of Polyanov (Treaty of Polanów), favourable to Poland, confirmed the prewar territorial status quo. Muscovy also agreed to pay 20,000 rubles in exchange for Wladyslaw's renunciation of all claims to the tsardom and return of the royal insignia, which were in the Commonwealth possession since the Dymitriads. It was during that campaign that Wladislaw started the modernisation program of the Commonwealth army, emphasising the usage of modern infantry and artillery. He also attempted to create a Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Navy to secure part of the Baltic, although this plan never succeeded.

Following the Smolensk campaign, the Commonwealth was threatened by another attack by the Ottoman Empire. During the wars against Ottomans in 1633-1634 Wladyslaw moved the Commonwealth army south of the Muscovy border and forced the Turks to come to terms with him. In the resulting treaty, both countries agreed again to curb the border raids by Cossacks and the Tatars, to a shared joint suzerainty (a condominium) over Moldavia and Wallachia (Wołoszczyzna).

After the southern campaign, Commonwealth was threatened from the north. Sweden, weakened by involvement in the Thirty Years' War, agreed to sign the Armistice of Stuhmsdorf (Treaty of Szturmska Wieś) in 1635, favourable to the Commonwealth in terms of territorial concessions. Wladyslaw failed, however, to find any method for regaining the Swedish crown, which had been held and then lost by his father.

The king, while Catholic, was very tolerant and didn't support more aggressive policies of the Counter-Reformation. While it can be argued he often played one religious movement against other as a means of conserving his own powers, it is a fact he was in effect one of the most tolerant monarchs of his time.

The failures

Wladislaw used the title of the King of Sweden, although he had no control over Sweden whatsoever and never set food in that country. He would continue his attempts to regain the Swedish throne, with similar lack of results as his father.

In interal politics he attempted to strenghten the power of the monarch, but this was mostly thwarted by szlachta, who valued their independence and democratic powers. Wladyslaw suffered continuing difficulties caused by the efforts of the Polish Sejm (parliament) to check the King's power and limit his dynastic ambitions. Szlachta viewed Vladislaus' military dreams as an attempt to strenghten his position during war and thus the Sejm strongly opposed majority of his plans to war (for example, with Sweden in 1635 or Turks in 1646), and usually thwarted them by denying the funds for military campaigns and withholding its cosignature on the declaration of war. Similary, Wladislaw foreign ambitions came to little, as his attempts to mediate in the Thirty's Year War between the warring German and Scandinavian powers came to nothing, and his support for the Habsburgs brought him almost nothing in return.

Many historians argue that Wladislaus was very ambitious and dreamed of achieving great fame through conquests, and in the latter years he planned to use the Cossacks to provoke the Turks into attacking Poland so that his military leadership would be indispensable. On various times he set his sights on regaining the Swedish crown, capturing the Russian throne and even conquering the entire Ottoman Empire. He was often able to convince the restless Cossacks to join his side, but with little support from szlachta and foreign allies (like the Habsburgs), he constantly failed in those attempts, often resulting in uncessary border wars and diluting the strenght of the Commonwealth, which later proved fatal when the country was finally invaded by its neigbours.

Wladislaw died in 1648, year after the death of his son, on the eve of the Chmielnicki Uprising and The Deluge. He failed to realize his conquest dreams and he didn't reform the Commonwealth. Wladislaw managed to avoid involving the Commonwealth in the bloody Thirty's Year War but his legacy would end the Golden Era of the Commonwealth. Cossacks, angered because Wladislaw promises to them failed to materialize, were beginning their greatest revolt against Polish rule, which would be exploited by Swedish invasion.

Preceded by:
Vasili IV
Tsar of Russia
(in name only)
Succeeded by:
Michael I
Preceded by:
Sigismund III
King of Poland
Succeeded by:
John II Casimir

Template:End box

Template:Kings and Dukes of Poland

See also


et:Władysław IV pl:Władysław IV Waza sv:Vladislav IV av Polen


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