Royal elections in Poland

Royal Elections In Poland

Royal elections in Poland

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Free election (Polish: wolna elekcja) was the election of individual king, rather than of dynasties, to the Polish throne between 1572 and 1791, when "free election" was abolished by the Constitution of May 3, 1791.


The first documented election of a Polish king had occurred as early as 1386, with the selection of Władysław Jagiełło, Grand Duke of Lithuania, to be the first king of Poland's second dynasty. However, while the principle of election continued in effect throughout the nearly two centuries of the Jagiellon Dynasty, it actually amounted to mere confirmation of the incoming dynast.

In 1572 Poland's Jagiellon dynasty became extinct upon the death, without a successor, of King Zygmunt II August. During the ensuing interregnum, anxiety for the safety of the Commonwealth eventually led to agreements among the political classes that, pending election of a new king, supreme authority would be exercised by the Roman Catholic primate, acting as interrex (from the Latin); that confederations (Polish: konfederacje) of nobility would assume power in the country's respective regions; and that, by the "Warsaw Confederation" of 1573, peace would be maintained among the realm's various religions. The most important decision, however, was that the next king would be chosen by election, whose terms were finally established at a convocation sejm (sejm konwokacyjny) in 1573. On the initiative of southern-Polish nobles, supported by the...
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