[size=18pt]The Flags of the Poles and Poland – Part 6[/size]

[size=12pt]The Wettin Kings(Saxon Kings)[/size]

Banner of Królestwo Polskie (Kingdom of Poland) 1697-1764

Banner of Królestwo Polskie

This was the Banner of the Królestwo Polskie (Kingdom of Poland) during the Saxon reign of Poland (1697-1764). It began when the Elector Frederick Augustus of Saxony was elected King of Poland in 1697 as "Augustus II". However, since the Saxons were allied with Russia, a power struggle developed between Augustus II and the Swedish and French who supported King Stanislaw Leszczynski. This dynastic struggle continued until Augustus' death in 1733, and eventually saw Stanislaw Leszczynski ascended to the Polish crown with his French and Swedish support.

In the end, however, the Russians prevailed by imposing the election of Augustus III Sas (the Saxon), son of Augustus II, who would rule for 30-years. During his 30-year rule Augustus spent only three years in Poland and neglected the affairs of the state to the point of allowing total anarchy. His son was supposed to be the next king of Poland, but lost the Russian's support who then forced the election of Catherine the Great's lover, Stanislaus Poniatowski instead.

Nevertheless, the Constitution of 1791, is still regarded as Europe's first modern codified national constitution and it established the hereditary throne of Poland. Unfortunately, it came too late to save the country and Poland was soon erased from the political map by the Third Partition between Russia, Prussia and Austria, who were afraid of the impact that constitution could have had on their own empires and the rest of Europe.

Banner of Stanislaw August Poniatowski 1764-1795

Banner of Stanislaw August Poniatowski

Stanislaw August Poniatowski (Stanislav II), was the last King and Grand Duke of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1764–95). As a young man, through the influence of Russian Empress Elizabeth and Chancellor Bestuzhev-Ryumin, he joined the Russian court as ambassador of Saxony. At Saint Petersburg he met and befriended the married twenty-six-year-old future Empress Catherine Alexeievna (Catherine the Great). By 1768, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had effectively became a protectorate of the Russian Empire. In 1770, the Council of the Bar Confederation proclaimed him dethroned.

As the last king, Poniatowski witnessed the Russian army's crushing of the Bar Confederation (1768-72), and although he protested the first partition of the Commonwealth in 1772, he was powerless to do anything about it. Russia saw to it that Poland did not exist anymore at the end of his reign.

Bar Confederacy Standard 1766-1772

Bar Confederacy Standard

An union of the Polish nobility in the defense of the faith and the independence of the country. It was organized against the king, Slanislus Augustus Poniatowski, and the Russians, who were supporting him. It was the first National Uprising against the foreign meddling in the affairs of the country.

One of the leading military commanders of the Confederacy was Count Kazimierz Pulaski, who eventually became the National Hero of Poland and the United States. In America, he is hailed as the "Father of the American Cavalry." He died, mortally wounded in the Battle of Savannah, while leading the cavalry charge against the British.

During the Confederacy, Pulaski was joined by his good friend, a Hungarian-Slovak aristocrat, Count Maurycy Beniowski (he considered himself Polish after that). He was an ultimate adventurer: captured by the Russians, exiled to the Far East, he managed to escape hijacking a Russian ship and the daughter of the Russian commander. His journeys took him almost around the world, Hawaii, Macau, the United States, France and Madagascar. He established a close friendship with Benjamin Franklin, whom he was trying to persuade to take Madagascar as an American colony, and was in America again to be at his friend's bedside (Pulaski's) just before he died. Finally, he returned one more time to Madagascar where he became an Emperor by popular acclaim.

Banner of Poland-Lithuania 1772

Poland-Lithuania Banner

The last state flag of the Commonwealth of the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The flag features the combined Arms of the Crown (Poland) and Lithuania (Grand Duchy). The Polish White Eagle is joined by the charging knight on the horse Vytis (Chaser).

There was also another banner in use during the rule of the last King Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski, a battle banner of the military formations of the Commonwealth of Both Nations featuring the common coat-of-arms of the State.

The Kosciuszko Insurrection of 1794

Kosciuszko Insurrection Banner

Just before the third and final partition of Poland, General Tadeusz Kosciuszko, the National Hero of Poland and the American War for Independence, organized this uprising against Russia, Prussia, the Polish King and the Targowica Confederation (plotting the demise of the rest of independence left after the second partition). Kosciuszko's proclamation, after he assumed the powers of the Commander-in-Chief of all Polish forces, vowed "not to abuse these powers to oppress any person, but to defend the integrity of the borders of Poland, regain the independence of the nation, and to strengthen universal liberties".

After the initial successes against both Russian and Prussian armies, the Kosciuszko's forces, poorly armed (many peasant carried only straightened scythes) were overwhelmed and Kosciuszko himself, wounded, was taken prisoner and sent to Saint Peterburg. There he was freed on the intervention of the U.S. Ambassador to the Imperial Court, John Paul Jones. Many historians blame Kosciuszko for precipitating the final partition and the demise of Poland for the next 123 years, but others maintain it was planned and inevitable anyway. With better military equipment the insurrection could have a chance to be victorious. Kosciuszko partially abolished the serfdom of the peasants and granted them the civil liberties, thus many of them enlisted in his units.

Although the insurgents used the flags and banners of the Commonwealth, there were other, specific, vexillums carried into battles. One of them, a peasant banner with the slogan "Zywia y Bronia" (We Feed and Defend) is shown here.