The Crown of the Kingdom of Poland (Polish: Korona Królestwa Polskiego, Latin: Corona Regni Poloniae), or simply the Polish Crown or just the Crown, is the common name for the historic (but unconsolidated) Late Middle Ages territorial possessions of the King of Poland, including Poland proper. The Polish Crown was at the helm of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The kingdom has been traditionally dated back to c. 966, when Mieszko I and his pagan Slavic realm joined Christian Europe (Baptism of Poland), thus culminating the process of creation of the state of Poland started by his Polan Piast dynasty ancestors. His oldest son and successor, Prince Bolesław I Chrobry, Duke of Poland, became the first crowned King of Poland in 1025.
The Union of Lublin (Polish: unia lubelska); (Lithuanian: Liublino unija) created the single state of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth on July 1, 1569 with a real union between the Crown and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Before then, the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania only had a personal union. The Union of Lublin also made the Crown an elective monarchy; this in turn ended the Jagiellonian dynasty once Henry de Valois was elected on May 16, 1573 as monarch.
On May 30, 1574, two months after Henry de Valois was coronated King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania on February 22, 1574, he was made King of France, and was coronated King of France on February 13, 1575. He left the throne of the Crown on May 12, 1575, two months after he was coronated King of France. Anna Jagiellon was elected after him.
The Constitution of May 3, 1791 is the second-oldest, codified national constitution in history, and the oldest codified national constitution in Europe; the oldest being the United States Constitution. It was called the Government Act (Ustawa Rządowa) Drafting for it began on October 6, 1788 and lasted 32 months. Stanisław II Augustus was the principal author of the Constitution, and he wanted the Crown to be a constitutional monarchy, similar to the one in Great Britain. On May 3, 1791, the Great Sejm convened, and they read and adopted the new constitution. It enfranchised the bourgeoisie, separated the government into three branches, abolished liberum veto, and stopped the abuses of the Repnin Sejm.
It made Poland a constitutional monarchy with the King as the head of the executive branch with his cabinet of ministers, called the Guardians of the Laws. The legislative branch was bicameral with an elected Sejm and an appointed Senate; the King was given the power to break ties in the Senate, and the head of the Sejm was the Sejm Marshal. The Crown Tribunal, the highest appellate court in the Crown, was reformed. The Sejm would elect their judges for the Sejm Court (the Crown's parliamentary court) from their deputies (posłowie).
The Government Act angered Catherine II who believed that Poland needed permission from the Russian Empire for any political reform; she argued that Poland had fallen pray to radical Jacobinism that was prominent in France at the time. Russia invaded the Commonwealth in 1792. The Constitution was in place for less than 19 months; it was annulled by the Grodno Sejm.
The creation of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland was a milestone in the evolution of Polish statehood and the European identity. It represented the concept of the Polish kingdom (nation) as distinctly separate from the person of the monarch. The introduction of the concept marked the transformation of the Polish government from a patrimonial monarchy (a hereditary monarchy) to a "quasi-constitutional monarchy" (monarchia stanowa) in which power resided in the nobility, the clergy and (to some extent) the working class, also referred to as an "elective monarchy".
A related concept that evolved soon afterward was that of Rzeczpospolita ("Commonwealth"), which was an alternate to the Crown as a name for the Polish state after the Treaty of Lublin in 1569. The Crown of the Kingdom of Poland was also related to other symbols of Poland, such as the capital (Kraków), the Polish coat of arms and the flag of Poland.
The concept of the Crown also had geographical aspects, particularly related to the indivisibility of the Polish Crown's territory. It can be also seen as a unit of administrative division, the territories under direct administration of the Polish state from the Middle Ages to the late 18th century (currently part of Poland, Ukraine and some border counties of Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Slovakia, and Romania, among others). Parts formed part at the early Kingdom of Poland, then, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until its final collapse in 1795.
At the same time, the Crown also referred to all lands that the Polish state (not the monarch) could claim to have the right to rule over, including those that were not within Polish borders.
The term distinguishes those territories federated with the Crown Grand Duchy of Lithuania () from various fiefdom territories (which enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy or semi-independence from the King), such as the Duchy of Prussia () and the Duchy of Courland ().
Prior to the 1569 Union of Lublin, Crown territories may be understood as those of Poland proper, inhabited by Poles, or other areas under the sovereignty of Polish nobility. With the Union of Lublin, however, most of present-day Ukraine (which had a negligible Polish population and had until then been governed by the Lithuania), passed onto Polish administration, thus becoming Crown territory.
During that period, a term for a Pole from the Crown territory was koroniarz (plural: koroniarze) - or Crownlander(s) in English - derived from Korona - the Crown.
Depending on context, the Polish "Crown" may also refer to "The Crown", a term used to distinguish the personal influence and private assets of the Commonwealth's current monarch from government authority and property. It often meant a distinction between persons loyal to the elected king (royalists) and persons loyal to Polish magnates (confederates).
Crown lands were divided into two provinces: Lesser Poland (Polish: Małopolska) and Greater Poland (Polish: Wielkopolska). These were further divided into administrative units known as voivodeships (the Polish names of the voivodships and towns are shown below in brackets).
Royal Prussia (Polish: Prusy Królewskie) was a province of the Kingdom of Poland from 1466 and then of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1772. Royal Prussia included Pomerelia, Chełmno Land (Kulmerland), Malbork Voivodeship (Marienburg), Gdańsk (Danzig), Toruń (Thorn), and Elbląg (Elbing). Polish historian Henryk Wisner writes that Royal Prussia belonged to the Province of Greater Poland.
As one of the terms of the Treaty of Lubowla, the Hungarian crown exchanged, for a loan of sixty times the amount of 37,000 Prague groschen (approximately seven tonnes of pure silver), 16 rich salt-producing towns in the area of Spisz (Zips), as well as a right to incorporate them into Poland until the debt was repaid. The towns affected were: Biała, Lubica, Wierzbów, Spiska Sobota, Poprad, Straże, Spiskie Włochy, Nowa Wieś, Spiska Nowa Wieś, Ruszkinowce, Wielka, Spiskie Podgrodzie, Maciejowce, Twarożne.
Wenceslaus I sold the Duchy of Siewierz to the Archbishop of Kraków, Zbigniew Cardinal Oleśnicki, for 6,000 silver groats in 1443. After that point it was considered to be associated with the Lesser Poland Province and was the only ecclesiastical duchy in Lesser Poland. The junction of the duchy with the Lesser Poland Province was concluded in 1790 when the Great Sejm formally incorporated the Duchy, as part of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, into the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The Prince-Bishopric of Warmia (Polish: Biskupie Księstwo Warmińskie,) was a semi independent ecclesiastical state, ruled by the incumbent ordinary of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Warmia, and a protectorate of Kingdom of Poland, later part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth after the Peace of Thorn (1466-1772)
After the childless death of the last of the House of Pomerania, Bogislaw XIV in 1637, Lauenburg and Bütow Land again became a terra (land, ziemia) of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland. In 1641 it became part of the Pomeranian Voivodeship of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. After the 1657 Treaty of Bydgoszcz, which amended the Treaty of Wehlau, it was granted to the Hohenzollern dynasty of Brandenburg-Prussia in return for her help against Sweden in the Swedish-Polish War under the same favorable conditions the House of Pomerania had enjoyed before. Lauenburg and Bütow Land was officially a Polish fiefdom until the First Partition of Poland in 1772 when King Frederick II of Prussia incorporated the territory into Prussia and the subsequent Treaty of Warsaw in 1773 made the former conditions obsolete.
The Duchy of Livonia was held as a condominium (joint domain) with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was held as a condominium (joint domain) with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.