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Polish nobility - what is the status of princes and aristocrats in modern Poland?


frankdom 5 | 8
24 Apr 2015 #1
Recently I saw an item in the British press about a Polish prince who was annoyed with some UKIP utterances; in fact he challenged a British politician to a duel - a somewhat oldfashioned strategy. I am not here writing about UK politics but I would like to know about the status of Polish princes, princes and aristocrats in modern Poland. Surely they did not survive (politically) the Marxist years? Or did they all migrate overseas to be princes without land? What is their position economically and politically in the modern Poland? What is the opinion of the man and woman in the street about them?
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446
25 Apr 2015 #2
The 1921 constitution abolished the nobility and gentry lineage no longer provided any special privileges. But there is no law against displaying one's ancestral coat of arms or pursuing heraldry and genealogy or unofficially calling oneself a count.. Many people nowadays have no opinion about the gentry or are negatively disposed to them. You'll heart things like they frittered away their fortunes away in Monte Carlo and lived beyond their means when the country was enslaved (partitions). Individual landed aristocrats however are fondly remembered for their efforts to improve local agriculture, found churches, promote education for peasant children and patriotically serve in the insurrections.
jon357 66 | 16,977
25 Apr 2015 #3
unofficially calling oneself a count.. Many people nowadays have no opinion about the gentry or are negatively disposed to them.

Unofficially is the key here. In England, Scotland, Spain, Holland, Scandinavia etc the courts rule on succession to titles and arbitrate in disputes. In Poland it's all unofficial for the reason (the constitution) that you mentioned.

As for being negatively disposed, it's worth reminding that there's the tradition that all the gentry (szlachty) were considered equal in theory. One reason why Joseph Conrad declined a knighthood which he was offered coincidentally during the period of great optimism when Poland regained independence.

Another negative point, I once heard a lady say, who lives as it happens in the same building as myself and a Count (one of the better known Polish aristocratic surnames but who doesn't use his title) some amusing things about the poor taste of certain people who' we build modern houses in our neighbourhood with porticos and pillars to underline their noble origins.
Polsyr 6 | 769
25 Apr 2015 #4
Another negative point

Wouldn't happen to be in Konstancin by any chance? :)
jon357 66 | 16,977
25 Apr 2015 #5
Other direction, near the Pałac Bruhl'a.

Too late to edit. If I remember correctly there's an informal (and informal is the key word here) organisation set up post-1989 by aristocracy in Poland which compiles a list of them. Being Poland there are in fact at least 2 rival organisations.

One issue is where the titles derive from, given that all szlachta are supposed to be equal (though in practice they were never anything like equal). Some come from the Lithuanian part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. These are the old and truly posh ones. The others were given by Russia, Austria or Germany during the partitions and some argue (very reasonably) that they aren't Polish at all and in fact conflict with Polish tradition.

There are also Poles who've received titles abroad. If Lech Wałęsa took British citizenship he'd be entitled to style himself 'Sir Lech', and Pope JPII (although as Head of State in the Vatican he automatically lost any citizenship he held elsewhere, including Poland) had a bevy of titles.
Yoursir Grenwod
25 Apr 2015 #6
Your a noble if you have a noble heart :)
Papers just a confirmation. Proof like when people were knighted after battle and so on
Crow 146 | 9,107
25 Apr 2015 #7
It would be so romantic and noble to have Kingdom of Poland in Europe. But, which nobleman could be able today to claim right on Polish throne is question for itself. What is interesting is that if we apply medieval Polish standards from the era of `Sarmatism`, person for the throne could be elected. Now, i`m not quite sure how was King elected during `Sarmatism`, by the voices of just nobility or by the voices of all people who had right to vote. And who had right to vote?
jon357 66 | 16,977
25 Apr 2015 #8
Only the gentry (szlachta in Polish) could vote. They held the elections on the Election Field in those days outside Warsaw (now in Wola, behind Powązki Cemetery).

Hard to imagine many people wanting that back.
Crow 146 | 9,107
25 Apr 2015 #9
Hard to imagine many people wanting that back.

but who knows. If we look realistically, all known `receipts` for democracy may failed in some circumstances, no matter the form of government. We today in our time are witnesses how democracy in republics worldwide is failing. True, there are also failed monarchies in our time. But, what i want to tell- there is no general rule which government leads to democracy. i would say that good standard of living (accompanied by the positive moral values) provides environment desirable by modern humans and, `good standard of living` implies responsible and competent leadership no matter form of the government.
jon357 66 | 16,977
25 Apr 2015 #10
As Sir Winston said "democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others". In Poland, remember, people struggled long and hard to get it.

A democracy, however, entirely compatible with aristocracy and monarchy; indeed the various European countries (plus Canada, Australia, New Zealand) that have a monarchy and in some cases an aristocracy are among the healthiest, most stable and most thriving democracies in the world.

For people in Poland, it's something that never worked well for them and something that only the lunatic fringe would want to re-establish. In Poland, people are largely happy with the constitutional republic that they dreamed of for so long.
Yoursir Grenwod
25 Apr 2015 #11
every Polish citizen is equal, no matter economical, political or social rank "szlachcic na zagrodzie równy wojewodzie"
Poles are the root of the Piasts and will defend the standard just like the national anthem says.

As long as we yet live, we won't perish.
I don't i need this forum anymore thank you to the admin for my stay I am happy now :)
jon357 66 | 16,977
25 Apr 2015 #12
every Polish citizen is equal

Since 1921 (with a break between 1939 and 1945), yes.

"szlachcic na zagrodzie równy wojewodzie"

None are now szlachta in any sense and most are not descended from szlachta. And most szlachta were not aristocracy.
Novichok - | 2,027
11 Jan 2021 #13
Were the aristocrats issued a picture ID where it said, Aristocrat?
Mr Grunwald 29 | 2,014
11 Jan 2021 #14
@Novichok
This was at a time when photographs became a novelty so: Of course not, ones identity papers did not include any pictures.
Novichok - | 2,027
11 Jan 2021 #15
Then how would I prove I was an aristocrat? Did they get tattooed?
pawian 176 | 14,299
11 Jan 2021 #16
You need to cut them and see their blood - if it is blue, then he/she is of aristocratic origin. The last time you cut yourself while shaving - what colour was it? Red, blue or pink?
Novichok - | 2,027
11 Jan 2021 #17
I am dead serious. How do you get to be an "aristocrat"? Donation? Achievement in science?
Can you be stripped of the title? What are the benefits? First in line to rent a car? A better seat at the opera?
Mr Grunwald 29 | 2,014
11 Jan 2021 #18
@Novichok
In the by gone era the supporters of a king or somebody claiming a throne, after conquering lands redistributed a lot of land to their loyal supporters. These supporters gained these lands and governed them on behalf of the ruler, later on one got nobled or knighted by the king for achievements (loyal service, scientific discovery or on the field of battle) this status came useally with a privilege and connections (most lucrative were connections with the royal court)

Privileges included right to vote, less taxation or exempted from it and military service (quite similar privileges as a modern state citizen nowadays)

As there are less royal rulers and nobility around, the chance of becoming one grows slimmer by the day, there are different traditions of enoblement from country to country.

While most countries had a hierarchy of titles showing the amount of land one had and status, other countries saw upon titled nobility as foreign (Hrabia is an example of an aristocratic title with foreign background, useally considered to be bought for money in the Austrian partition)

Nowadays nobility doesn't give any special privileges, except in U.K with the House of Lords. It's only a lifestyle and tradition that is left, unless the family hasn't lost it's estates, then it's that too
Novichok - | 2,027
11 Jan 2021 #19
Thanks. Now I see why the French and the Bolsheviks were right.
pawian 176 | 14,299
11 Jan 2021 #20
How do you get to be an "aristocrat"?

You parents must be ones.
jon357 66 | 16,977
12 Jan 2021 #21
And it has to be regulated somehow, in a registry or by the courts.

There's an informal association (even more than one) in Poland that someone organised however they have no legal force at all and are giggled at by people they've approached.
Mr Grunwald 29 | 2,014
12 Jan 2021 #22
@Novichok
Right about what excactly?

@pawian
I can hardly imagine HIM being one or having aristocratic heritage dear pawian

@jon357
It doesn't have to be regulated, too much paperwork. Especially as it doesn't give any legal advantages. Since the partition of Poland it has been quite problematic to adress it. Most noble families have a clue about the requirements
jon357 66 | 16,977
10 Feb 2021 #23
It doesn't have to be regulated, too much paperwork

If it's unregulated, anybody could suddenly start to call themselves counts or princes.

As unfortunately some people do in countries where titles are informal and not a matter of law.
Mr Grunwald 29 | 2,014
10 Feb 2021 #24
@jon357
In personal relations it get's easily self regulated, not to mention the internet, published sources and ancestral lineage and DNA tests posted and shared on certain internet sites. (Yes there are sites where you can find people you are related to by simply giving your own heritage history)

Not to mention it's not widely popular among most people in modern society, where plenty of people think of it as outdated, a thing of the past or irrelevant. So more often then not, one is more prone to become an target of ridicule. Rather then awe or respect.

And yes there are people even changing their names to prince/princess or surnames. Protected titles are reserved for professional use via education (doctors etc)

So in Poland the heritage itself has more sway among Polish nobility itself, not the title in itself. It's more about belonging to a social group which is restricted, not by law (like in the past) but, through social connections.

Most everyday Poles probably have no clue or idea there actually still are Polish nobles in Polish society at large as, fashion and design/clothes used by nobility today aren't class restricted (certain way of clothing/lifestyle was restricted by law and punished dutifully as claiming privileges falsely was a major offense)

Nowadays if you wear a Kontusz, nobody will bat much of an eye at you and will most likely think it's a reenactment performance from the trilogy of Sienkiewicz or something.

Also not to mention the unnecessary funding of Złoty only a small portion of society would interested in/ be conscious about. So I honestly don't see it as a problem in Poland. U.K on the other hand with certain nobility having their own political chamber, it's another story which could easily create a scandal.
jon357 66 | 16,977
10 Feb 2021 #25
In personal relations it get's easily self regulated,

This isn't 'personal relations'. It's using specific titles, which is why many countries regulate them through the court system. You can't just call yourself a Duke.

Polish nobility

The Polish nobility (magnaty) were only ever very small in number compared to gentlefolk (szlachta) who were 12 to 18% of the population..

And yes there are people even changing their names to prince/princess or surnames.

Not in countries where this is regulated by the courts.

Most everyday Poles probably have no clue or idea there actually still are Polish nobles in Polish society at large

There are very few, and of course it's only informal since the Polish state doesn't recognise titles.
Mr Grunwald 29 | 2,014
11 Feb 2021 #26
@jon357
Exactly right, it's informal. Drand Dukes or in general magnateria were a Grand Duchy of Lithuania case. Not that of the crown of Poland, it isn't first after the 3rd of May constitution that the whole of Poland-Lithuania was formally integrated. It was disputed many times before, especially when Prussian delegates didn't see the need to be considered to be under Polish jurisidicial law etc.

Of course, then the partitions happened and any regulations had to wait until 1918 with the nightmare of three different law systems. Then the Polish state was decided to not recognize them making it an informal matter. Then came the PRL era which outright branded anyone with background of nobility/aristocracy/magnateria as enemies of the PRL. Then came 1989 and after 1989 the areas that included such aristocrats (Grand Duchy of Lithuania) wasn't part of Poland anymore.

So it's not an issue
Also if there is any group pushing for noble titles being recognized in Poland it's the nobility, and the traditions of Polish nobility has been that if you have any aristocratic title it's of foreign origin and most likely bought...
jon357 66 | 16,977
11 Feb 2021 #27
Exactly right, it's informal.

And therefore open to abuse and largely meaningless.

So it's not an issue

It's an issue when people use spurious titles to build a false image of respectability.
Lenka 3 | 2,558
11 Feb 2021 #28
It is an issue if for anyone a title gives any extra respectability...
jon357 66 | 16,977
11 Feb 2021 #29
if for anyone a title gives any extra respectability...

It usually does for people from places where they're regulated and often connected with ownership of huge swathes of land and who have to protect their reputation (or it gets in the newspapers).

I've come across people using them here when they want something. In all but one case it was people best avoided.
Lenka 3 | 2,558
11 Feb 2021 #30
It usually does for people from places where they're regulated

Which is completely wrong in my opinion. There is no accomplishment in being born into noble family. The only person that possibly could justify being treated differently because of that is the person who was given it (if the reason for it was noble enough). If you become a Lady because you are the Prime Minister's wife hair dresser then well...


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