The Radziwiłł Family
The Radziwiłł Family
The Radziwiłł (Radvila) were a Lithuanian aristocratic family. They rose to prominence at the beginning of the 16th century. The family ruled over the Grand Duchy of Lithuania politics and culture until the second half of the 17th century. Their power diminished in the later period, but until the end of the 18th century they continued contributing considerably to politics and culture of both Lithuania and Poland.
This family has produced many notable individuals including Queen Barbara, Cardinal Jerzy Radziwiłł and many generals, politicians, diplomats, ministers (37 dukes, 22 chancellors, marshalls, hetmen and treasurers, three bishops and countless other less significant officials).
The Radziwiłł were the only family in Lithuania to be awarded the title Reichsfurst (Prince) of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1518, Mikołaj Radziwiłł (1470-1522) was granted the title of the Reichsfurst by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. He was the first person in the family to have this title. In 1547, Emperor Charles V granted the title to Mikołaj Radziwiłł "The Red" (1512-1584) and Mikołaj Radziwiłł “The Black” (1515-1565).
The Radziwiłł were the richest noble family of their time. They posessed thousands of estates and had their own army, often more powerful than the entire region’s armies.
A folklore tale says that the surname Radziwiłł (Radvila in Lithuanian) came into existence when a pagan priest Lizdeika found a child in a wolf's lair and named it Radvil (rado vilko- found by wolves). In actuality, the Radziwiłł family is descended from the Astikai noble family, who originates from lands close to Kernavė and have later expanded to Užpaliai and Anykščiai.
The Kernavė nobleman Kristinas Astikas (died ca. 1444) took part in drawing up the historically important treaties of Salynas, Torunė, Horodlė and Melno. In 1419, he became the Castellan of Vilnius. At the signing of the Union of Horodło in 1413, when 47 Polish nobles gave their coats of arms to Lithuanian families, he received the Coat of Arms of Trąby. He had four sons, one of whom was Radziwiłł Ościkowicz (Radvila Astikaitis, died in 1477). He was an energetic statesman, signatory of number of political treaties, Voivode of Trakai and the Castellan of Vilnius. And most importantly, he was the patriarch of the Radziwiłł family.
His son Mikołaj Radziwiłł "The Old" was the first to carry his father's name Radziwiłł as a family name. He was buried at the Bernardine Cemetery in Vilnius.
Mikołaj’s three sons became the progenitors of separate family lines:
Jerzy Radziwiłł (1480–1541) for the Biržai-Dubingiai branch, who later became protestants,
Jan Radziwiłł (1474–1522) for the Nesvyž-Olyka branch, and
Mikołaj Radziwiłł (1470–1522), who was duke from 1518, for the Goniondz–Raigard branch, which soon discontinued.
The fourth son, Albertas (Vaitiekus) Radziwiłł (1478–1519) was the Bishop of Vilnius and the first Lithuanian nobleman to sit on the bishop’s throne.
The Radziwiłł family tree has many branches. The descendants of the Kletsk line of the Nesvyž-Olyka branch survive to this day. Naming all the Radziwiłł would take a lot of time and space, but nonetheless among them there are many politicians, generals, elegant wives, clergy, knights and rebels.
Mikołaj was the Castellan of Trakai and the Voivode of Vilnius. In 1491, he became the Chancellor of Lithuania. From his first marriage to Sofija Ona Mantvydaitė, he had four sons: Mikołaj, Jan, Jerzy and Albert and a daughter Anna. He had no children from his second marriage to Zofia Rohatyńska.
Mikołaj Radziwiłł was a very devout man. He donated money for construction of Saint Bernard church in Vilnius, established the church of Saint George (Jurgis), invited the Carmelite religious order and erected their monastery next to the church. He was buried at the Bernardine Cemetery in Vilnius.
Jerzy Radziwiłł was the forefather of the Biržai-Dubingiai branch of the Radziwiłł family. He was a prominent figure in the state of Lithuania; he held the positions of the Cupbearer (1510), the Castellan of Trakai (1529–1541) and the Grand Hetman (1531–1541).
He had no children from his first marriage with Barbara Kiszka. From his second marriage to Barbara Kolanka he had a son, Mikołaj Radziwiłł "The Red", and daughters Anna and Barbara. Later on, Barbara married Sigismund II Augustus and became queen of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania.
He won 30 battles against the Tartars, Muscovites and crusaders. Because of this he was named Lithuanian Hercules (Pergalingasis). Like his father he was very devout and between Lent and Easter he would seclude himself in the monastery and spend the time reflecting.
Biržai Duchy territorial growth began with Jerzy Radziwiłł. He started buying up lands initially from noblemen in Upytė. According to an inventory from 1528-1530, the domain included Joniškėlis, Ageniškis, Parovėja and Lezmanovas.
At the beginning of the 16th century Biržai Duchy had around 503 households. The enlargement came to a halt on January 12, 1530, when King Sigismund I the Old forbade the noblemen of Upytė to sell or pledge their lands to nobles in Livonia to the north. The ban was lifted some time after. As a consequence, in 1532–1535, Jerzy Radziwiłł purchased a lot of land from Upytė’s landowners, such as the Kirkilai, Kmitovičiai-Narbitovičiai and other families.
According to Edvardas Kotlubajus’ book “Radvilos”, Jerzy Radziwiłł was ill during last six years of his life and died before Easter 1541. His burial place is not known.
Mikołaj Radziwiłł “The Red” studied in Germany and travelled a great deal around Europe. Upon his arrival to Lithuania, he got involved into politics. He was the Grand Hetman twice (1553–1566 and 1572–1584) and in 1565 he became the Chancellor and the Voivode of Vilnius.
He was a talented general, one of the most prominent Lithuanian commanders during the Livonian War in 1558–1583. He distinguished himself during the Battle of Ula (January 26, 1564) when his army beat the Russian one which was 5 times bigger. Mikołaj took part in the Lublin Seim as one of the chief representatives of Lithuania. He refused to sign the Union of Lublin in 1569, which was to create a single state out of Poland and Lithuania.
Mikołaj Radziwiłł was a devout Evangelical reformer. He supported the church generously and founded parishes. He restored the evangelical reformist school in Vilnius and opened one in Biržai in 1584. On February 10, 1547, Emperor Charles V granted the title of Reichsfurst (Prince) of the Holy Roman Empire to Mikołaj Radziwiłł "The Red", for his bravery in battles against the Russians and the Tartars. Mikołaj started calling himself the Duke of Biržai-Dubingiai. On January 25, the king Sigismund II Augustus of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth approved the title. This also meant that the domain of Biržai was turned into a duchy. On November 24, 1541, Mikołaj married Katarzyna Tomicka-Iwińska and they had two sons, Mikołaj and Krzysztof.
Mikołaj Radziwiłł “The Red” visited Biržai in autumn 1553 and later stayed for longer periods in 1556, 1557 and 1561. He would pay a visit occasionally and he contracted local people, called seniūnai, to run the estate for him.
During this period, Biržai is referred to as township, a castle only existed in Papilys. Mikołaj invited the Tartars and Germans to Biržai. The first mention of Germans certain Gevertas and Berynas was in 1560s, in the second oldest written record of Biržai (after 1520).
In 1570, there were 12 German households in Biržai, including the family names Vechmanai, Melderiai, Hilieriai, Stinkusai, Vinkievičiai, Endrychovai and Tynkauzai. They owned a total of 521 voloks, which they have received from the Duke for their military services.
The first Tatars of Biržai were given land in Niutanai, Lotkov and Aspariškiai. As early as in times of Krzysztof Radziwiłł "The Thunderbolt" a separate Cossak-Tartar flag was raised in battles for Biržai.
In 1555, the Biržai Duchy was mentioned as one of the three biggest dominions in possession of Mikołaj Radziwiłł “The Red”. Chronicles from 1561 describe the estate which had four barns, a brewery, a bakery, a kitchen and three manors: Joniškėlis, Ageniškis and Papilys.
Between 1569 and 1571, Mikołaj gave land to noblemen in exchange for their military service: Pagervės farm and Niutanai village to the Slepščiai family, 12 voloks to J.Tulevičius, 15 to Hanusas Tynkauzas, 30 to Kristupas Melderis and 40 to Fronckas Vechmanas.
In 1568, Mikołaj Radziwiłł “The Red” gave the Papilys castle, estate and the township (500 voloks total), as a wedding gift to his son, Krzysztof Mikołaj Radziwiłł “The Thunderbolt” and his bride Ona Sobkovna. He died on April 27, 1584. His remains were kept in Vilnius until 1588. Later his son transferred them to Dubingiai, where they were buried on May 15, 1588 in the reformist church he himself had established.
During the wars with the Swedes, Krzysztof won the Battle of Kokenhausen in 1601 and drove out the Swedes out of Vidzemė in present-day Latvia. However, after King Sigismund III Vasa of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth replaced him with Jan "Sobiepan" Zamoyski, Krzysztof Radziwiłł quit military service.
Legally, until 1584, Biržai Duchy belonged to Mikołaj Radziwiłł “The Red”. However, Krzysztof managed it from 1571. On December 6, 1580, Stephen Báthory, the King of Poland, gave him Naujamiestis. Krzysztof fully established Salamiestis estate. In 1584, M. Roda sold his estate near Biržai (later known as Naradava) to Krzysztof Radziwiłł for 3000 groschen. On April 17, 1584, river Nemunėlis was defined as the northern border of Biržai Duchy.
In 1586-1589, duke Radziwiłł “The Thunderbolt” built the first Italian-style bastion fortress in Biržai. On March 9, 1589, Sigismund III Vasa granted Magdeburg Rights to Biržai.
In 1598, Krzysztof Radziwiłł “The Thunderbolt” possesed 106 voloks in Kiemėnai. He purchased the Saločiai estate from a man named Komarovsky in 1601. In doing this, he formed Biržai Duchy, initiated at the turn of the 16th century. In 1604, written records refer to the Biržai lands as a duchy for the first time.
Krzysztof Radziwiłł “The Thunderbolt” married four times – Katarzyna Sobek Sulejówka (died 1576), Katarzyna Ostrogska (died 1579), Katarzyna Tęczyńska (died 1592) and Elżbieta Ostrogska(died 1599). From his first marriage he had a son, Janusz Radziwiłł and from the third a son Krzysztof Radziwiłł and a daughter Elżbieta. Krzysztof Radziwiłł “The Thunderbolt” died on November 20, 1603 in Lososna and was buried in Vyžuonai on April 8, 1604.
Janusz Radziwill was duke of Biržai-Dubingiai and Slutsk. He studied in Germany and travelled around Austria and France. Upon his return to Lithuania, he was appointed the Cupbearer in 1599. At the beginning of the 17th century, there was a great deal of publicity over his marriage to the young duchess of Slutsk, Zofia Olelkowicz Słucka. She was an orphan and her patrons were against the wedding.
The marriage didn’t last long due to Zofia’s death in 1612. In 1613, Janusz married a daughter of the Brandenburg elector, Elisabeth Sofie von Brandenburg, and in 1620 they had a son Bogusław.
In 1606–1608, he took an active role in the rebellion of nobles Zebrzydowski's Rokosz against the Polish-Lithuanian King Sigismund III Vasa, who was seeking absolute power. In 1609, the rebels were granted amnesty and the king renounce aspirations for absolute monarchy.
In 1619, Janusz Radziwill was appointed the last Castellan of Vilnius. The following year, soon after the birth of his son, he died in Czarlin, not far from Gdansk. His body was taken to Lithuania and buried in Dubingiai on February 16, 1621.
Krzysztof Radziwiłł was an energetic Reformist, a prominent military figure and patron of the arts. In 1601, he studied at the universities of Leipzig and Heidelberg. In the Netherlands he studied military science. Upon his return to Lithuania, he held several positions: Hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1615), Castellan of Vilnius, Voivode of Vilnius (1633) and Grand Hetman (1635). He was in charge of the Lithuanian army during wars with Sweden and fought the Russians near Smolensk.
He zealously supported the Evangelical Reformist Church establishing colleges for them in Kėdainiai in 1625 and Slutsk in 1626. At the Warsaw Convoction Sejm in 1632 he secured equal legal rights for Catholic and non-Catholic confessions.
Krzysztof Radziwiłł initiated reconstruction works on the Biržai fortress in 1637. It did not only include restoration, but also the change from Italian to Dutch style. This meant that the bastions and ramparts surrounding the fortress become its main features. The residential palace and the grounds were also reconstructed.
The reconstruction project was prepared by Georgas Pirkas, an engineer and military architect. The works were carried out by Jonas Penkalskis, seniūnas (chief) of Biržai. He led the reconstruction and even designed the bridge.
Krzysztof kept a close eye on everything and personally took an active part in the start of the project. He corresponded with the architects and supervisors. In July 1637, 90,000 bricks were laid and by the end of 1638 two-storey ramparts had been built.
In 1624, Krzysztof Radziwiłł wrote “Reflections on the Beginning of the Livonian War” and “Military and Political Affairs 1621–1632”. According to a document dated April 21, 1604, which concerned the Radziwiłł family's property division, Krzysztof Radziwiłł inherited all of the family’s lands in northern Lithuania: Biržai, Nemunėlio Radviliškis, Ageniškis, Parovėja, Naradava, Saločiai and Salamiestis. The territory of Biržai Duchy did not change throughout the first half of the 17th century. A map of Biržai from 1645 shows that land size was the same during the rules of Janusz Radziwill and Krzysztof Radziwiłł. The Biržai elders managed the estates of Papilys, Salamiestis, Nemunėlis Radviliškis and Saločiai. As Krzysztof Radziwiłł himself noted, Biržai was “a good and useful duchy”. He probably resided most frequently in Biržai of all the Radziwiłł. He would come here for leisure, to the castle and estates of Papilys and Parovėja.
In 1606, he married Anna Kiszka and they had three sons and two daughters. Unfortunately only two of them survived: Janusz and Katarzyna. Krzysztof Radziwiłł died on September 16, 1640 in Svėdasai. He was supposed to be buried in Biržai, but instead he was buried with honors in a family crypt in Vyžuonos. Since Krzysztof was famous from his stables and his two Tatar-Cossack units (100 horses each) took part in the funeral.
Duke Janusz Radziwiłł was one of the brightest personalities of his era. He was a renowned political and military leader, a well-educated patron of culture and a protector of Evangelical Reformers Church. He received an excellent education at the universities of Leipzig in 1629–1631 and Leiden in 1633. He spoke four languages. In 1646, he was promoted to the Field Hetman and seniūnas of Žemaičiai. In 1653, he became the Voivode of Vilnius and in 1654 the Grand Hetman. He victoriously fought the rebellious Cossacks of Bogdan Khmelnitsky and especially distinguished himself in Kiev battle in 1651.
During the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth wars he led the Lithuanian army against both Sweden and Russia. On October 20, 1655, together with 1,134 people, many of them his allies among the nobility, he signed a treaty with Sweden in Kėdainiai. The treaty ended Lithuania’s union with Poland and started a new one with Sweden. The same accord was kept in Lithuania to include caste and religious freedoms. The noblemen of Lithuania hoped to get better protection against Russia. However, according to the Kėdainiai treaty, a Swedish army was allowed to enter the fortress of Biržai.
Janusz Radziwiłł died in Tykocin on December 31, 1655. His remains stayed there for a year before being moved to Kėdainiai. Janusz dedicated a lot of his time to Biržai Duchy. It consisted of one town, four townships and between 2,250 and 3,000 villages and small landowners’ farmsteads.
The Tartars were also given land for their military service. They served in the cavalry under the Biržai Duchy flag or in the hussars’ detachments. Germans, noblemen and townsfolk from Courland and Livonia settled both in Biržai town and in the duchy.
An important feature of land administration in the duchy at this time was the farmsteads (folwarks) belonging to the Evangelical Lutherans and Reformers. Evangelical Reformist and Lutheran priests were granted annual benefits as well as farmsteads for temporary use.
Bogusław Radziwiłł, the only son of Janusz Radziwłł and Elisabeth Sofie von Brandenburg, was born in Gdansk on May 3, 1620. His father died when he was seven years old. He lived outside Lithuania with his mother until the age of eight. When his mother remarried, he began his studies at the Kėdainiai Evangelical Reformist School.
He studied at the Utrecht University and travelled around Europe. He was appointed the Standard-bearer in 1638 and the Master of the Stables in 1646. He took part in the Netherlands’ mid-17th century wars of liberation against Spain. In the wars against Russia and Sweden, he was one of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania army leaders. Bogusław was one of the initiators of the Treaty of Kėdainiai with Sweden in 1655.
In 1657, after moving to Prussia, he was appointed the General Elector for the region. When his cousin Janusz died in 1655, he became custodian of his daughter Anna Maria. They married later and had a daughter Ludwika Karolina in 1667. He died unexpectedly on December 31, 1669 in Königsberg. He was buried in Königsberg Cathedral. Bogusław was the last male offspring of the Biržai–Dubingiai branch of the Radziwiłł family. His daughter Ludwika Karolina was his only heiress, according to his will.
Duchess Ludwika Karolina was born on February 27, 1667. Before his death her father, Bogusław Radziwiłł, left a will appointing her 11 custodians and tutors. On October 28, 1680, the duchess was engaged to the Margrave Louis of Brandenburg, brother of Brandenburg Elector Friedrich III. The couple married on January 7, 1681.
The duchess was an ardent believer and supporter of Evangelical Reformist Church. She established a scholarship fund at the universties in Königsberg, Frankfurt (Oder) and Berlin for 12 young men who chose to study theoology.
Margrave Louis died on March 28, 1687. Many noblemen were seeking her hand in marriage. Prince Jacob, son of Polish-Lithuanian King Jan Kasimir III, was among them. However, Liudvika Karolina married Charles III Philip, the Count of Palatinate-Neuburg.
The Duchess Ludwika Karolina died on March 25, 1695 in Brzeg, Silesia. She is buried there. She and Charles III Philip had four children. Only one daugther survived Elizabeth Auguste Sophie. The daugther later married Joseph Charles of Sulbach, the Count of Palatinate-Sulzbach.