Jan Zamoyski

Jan Zamoyski (also known as Jan Zamojski) 1542-1605, was a Polish szlachcic, magnate, 1st Ordynat of the Zamosc estate. Royal Secretary from 1605, Lesser Crown Chancellor from 1576, Greater Crown Chancellor from 1578, and Greater Crown Hetman of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1581. General starost of Krakow from 1580 to 1585, starost of Belz, Miedzyrzecze, Krzeszow, Knyszyn and Derpsk. Important advisor to Kings Sigismund II Augustus and Stephen Bathory, he was one of the major opponents of Bathory successor, Sigismund III Vasa. He was one of the most skilled diplomats, politicians and statesmen of his time and a major force in the politics of the Commonwealth throughout his life.

Early years: the royal supporter
He attended the University of Paris and University of Padua. Since his student days he become deeply interested in politics. After he returned to Poland, he was appointed secretary to King Sigismund II. In 1563 he wrote De senatu Romano, a brochure about the Ancient Rome, in which he sought to apply constitutional principles of republican Rome to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Jan ZamoyskiAfter the extinction of the Jagiello dynasty in 1572 during the election sejm (Polish sejm konwokacyjny) he used his influence to enforce the victrom election procedure (meaning all nobles had the right to vote for the king) and for the majority voting procedure. During that time he wrote the Modus electionis brochure. He was a friend of M. Sienicki and H. Ossolinski and soon become the most important leader of the faction of the lesser nobility (szlachta) in the Commonwealth whose goal was the enforcement of law (Polish egzekucja praw and popularysci) - preserving the unique democratic government of the Commonwealth with the dominant role of lesser nobility. He was so influential that this group was later called 'zamojczycy' (Polish adjective made from his name - Zamoyski's people).

He opposed the magnate faction, which wished to offer the throne to the Austrian Habsburgs. During the 1573 election he was in favour of Henryk II Walezy. During the 1575 election he championed the case of anti-Habsburg Stephen Bathory. At that time he was one of the most powerful people in the country, having obtained both the power of Grand Hetman (commander in chief of the armed forces) and of chancellor, soon becoming one of the richest Polish magnates. He supported Batory's politics, which were opposed the Habsburg and Ottomans and supported Bathory in his efforts to strengthen the royal power, weakening the magnate faction. He took part in the preparation and war against Russia in 1579-1581, where he captured Wielize and Zawoloc.

Later years: in opposition to the throne

Jelita Coat of Arms.After the death of Batory in 1586 he helped Zygmunt III Waza to gain the Polish throne, defeating during the short civil war the forces supporting Habsburg archduke Maximilian at Byczyna in 1588, when Maximilian and his magnate supporters tried to seize Polish capital of Krakow by force. Maximilian was taken prisoner and had to give up all pretences to the Polish crown.

Jan Zamoyski (red dressed) on the left side from King Stefan Batory at Pskow.However, from the very beginning of Sigismund III's reign Zamoyski, who was once a staunch supporter of the Commonwealth kings, joined the opposition against the politics of Sigismund III, who wanted to strengthen the royal power and transform the Commonwealth into an absolute monarchy, by allying himself with the Habspurgs and Counter-Reformation forces in order to secure their help for regaining the Sweden throne. The new King feared the chancellor's power, but due to Commonwealth laws he was unable to dismiss him from his posts. In turn, Zamoyski treated the King as a pawn and ignorant foreigner. In opposition to the king, Zamoyski advocated religious tolerance, opposed the growing power of the Roman Catholic Church and Jesuits, and warned against forcing the Commonwealth into useless dynasty wars with Sweden, especially with the constant danger from the Ottoman Empire. His politics and actions where responsible for Poland opposing and eventually avoiding the trend toward absolutism that characterized the other states of Europe. Open conflict between king and chancellor broke out during the Sejm (Polish Diet) of 1592, when Zamoyski found out that Sigismund was plotting to cede the Polish crown to the Habsburgs in exchange for their support of his right to the Swedish throne. Zamoyski failed to dethrone Sigismund but won for himself a free hand in the Moldavian campaign where in 1595 he helped hospodar J. Mohyla to gain the throne. In 1600 he fought against Michal Waleczny, hospodar woloski, who conquered Moldavia few months earlier. He defeated him under Bukova (Bucovu) and restored J.Mohyla to the throne, at that time he also helped his brother, S.Mohyla to gain the throne of Hungary, thus spreading the influence of the Commonwealth to those countries.

In 1600 and 1601 he took part in the war against Sweden commanding the Commonwealth forces at Inflanty and Livonia. In 1600 he recaptured some strongholds from the Swede and year later captured Wolmar and Fellin, and in 1602 Bialy Kamien. The rigours of the campaign, however, were too much for him, and he resigned the command in 1602.

In 1580 he founded the city of Zamosc. During his life he gathered much wealth - he owned 11 cities and 200 villages (around 6400 km²) and was a royal caretaker of another 112 cities and 612 villages (around 17500 km²). In 1595 he founded the Akademia Zamojska.