The life and times of Franziska Krasinska

Franziska Krasinska was born into the Polish Slachta (aristocracy) in 1743 or possibly 1742, daughter of Stanislaw Krasinski, the land owner of Maleszowo and Wegrow and Staroste of Nowomiejsk. Her mother was Aniela Humiecka, daughter of Stefan Humiecki the Wovoide of Podole.
After finishing her education her introduction into society was deftly managed by her aunt Zofia, the powerful wife of Antoni Lubomirski the Wovoide of Lublin. She introduced Franziska to the best salons in Warsaw and before long Franciszka, beautiful and charming, reportedly inflamed no small passions among the Polish nobility. She was courted by Jan Chodkiewicz, later the Staroste of Zmudzki; and Jozef Radziwil the Magnate of Klecko. But Prince Charles Christian Joseph of Saxony met Franciszka in 1757 and within three years they were secretly married. Because Franziska did not belong to a ruling dynasty or immediate noble family, the marriage was morganatic.
Prince Charles' father, King Augustus III appointed him Duke of Courland in 1758 and invested him with the Duchy the following year. The aristocracy of the Duchy of Courland mistrusted Prince Charles--they feared a Roman Catholic Duke might favour a Polish-Roman Catholic State. They tried to negotiate limits to Prince Charle's power and many refused to pay homage to the duke's appointment, instead lodged protests in Warsaw and St. Petersburg. For reasons of political sensitivities Prince Charles marriage to Franziska Krasinska was kept secret. Poland's unique political system ensured that power lay not with the elected Saxon King, but with the electing nobles, the King being dependant on their continuing support. The potential for nobles to shift allegiances kept social relationships in a continual political tension.
After her father's death in 1762 Franciszka, under the protection of the Lubomirski family, fought for her rights with the support of the powerful Czartoryski family. There was a flicker of hope after the death of August III, when candidates for the Polish throne were submitted by the Saxons, and Prince Charles was among them. The election of Stanislaw August Poniatowski doused these hopes.
Charles neither obtained the Polish crown nor prevailed in the face of changing fortunes in Russia. The Duchy of Courland was taken from him. In 1763 he was himself dethroned and replaced by his predecessor on the order of Empress Katharina of Russia.
In James Boswell's words "Prince Charles of Saxony, Duke of Courland, of which last dignity the Russian tyrant has deprived him." Boswell was introduced to Prince Charles whom he described as "a charming prince, perfectly gay and affable", at the Palace of Princess Wilhelmine of Anhalt-Dessau, "who gave there this day a splendid entertainment" to the deposed Duke of Courland. At the ball that same evening, "The Duke of Courland danced the best of any man I ever saw." After losing Courland he settled in Dresden for good and dedicated himself to the hunt in Annaburger Heath
Franciszka, separated from Prince Charles, was in straitened circumstances, existing on the meagre funds coming from her inherited Wegrow estate. Receiving little support from her husband, she travelled from place to place. Often she resided in Opole, in the Lublin area with her aunt, Zofia Lubomirska, or with the Sisters of the Holy Sacrament in Warsaw.
In 1767 she stayed in Krakow with the Franciscan Sisters, from there she moved to the Mniszchowski Palace where she organized an open court. At that time Jozef Aleksander Jablonowski, the Wovoide of Nowogrod, was vying for her favours and tried to persuade her to divorce her ungrateful husband.
In 1768 the Bar Confederation was formed by Polish nobles in order to defend the independence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth against Russian influence, King Stanisław August Poniatowski and reformers who were attempting to limit the power of the Commonwealth's magnates.
The connection between the Krasinksi family, the Confederation and the Saxon court gave Franciszka political opportunities and the princess worked to extend the Confederation in Krakow. In the summer of 1769 she moved with Antoni Lubomirski, first to Opole in Silesia, then to Lubliniec where she intensified her activity in the political circle that surrounded the Bishop of Kamieniec.
Her gentleness and nobility made her a guiding light of the confederation and one of the most sympathetic and active women of the movement. She assisted in organizing the Generalnosc (General Staff), sending messengers to Rome and Vienna, maintaining relations with the Prussians, and was an intermediary in border disputes among the confederates. Her own interests were closely aligned with Saxon policies. In 1771, after the departure of the French General Dumouriez she collaborated with Adam Krasinski in planning to bring Prince Charles to Poland as commander of the scattered confederation forces.
As an intermediary she tried to assuage the disputes and antagonisms between the confederation commanders. Josef Bierzynski sought her help after the Generalnosc passed verdict on him; then Szymon Kossakowski went to her for assistance after he was accused of defrauding the confederation of money. She was especially protective of Casimir Pulaski--future hero of the American Revolution and Father of the American Cavalry. He had been in love with her when he was the young Staroste of Warka.
Using these activities as a pretext, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, King of Poland accused Franciszka Krasinska of "moral participation" in the kidnapping plot against him in 1771 and supporting his dethronement. These were unfair accusation because Franciszka condemned the "act of interregnum" and believed a conflict was dependent upon a good relationship with the king.
She dreamed of regaining Courland. She busied herself in trying to recover her husband's inheritance there which had been assumed by the Kettler family. In February 1772 she moved to Koszecin in the misguided belief that diplomacy had the power to make Frederick II, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel a candidate for the Polish throne. By July all confederate resistance had failed and with them Francoise's hopes and dreams. The Bar Confederation proved to be a trigger for the first partition of Poland. The country was carved up between Prussia, Austria and Russia--Poland was no more.
At the end of 1774 she went to Bytom to attempt reconciliation with her husband. Disappointed, she returned to Opole and her beloved sister Barbara Swidzinska. Finally, after intervention by Austrian Empress Maria Theresa and the efforts of Zofia Lubomirska, Prince Charles agreed to have his wife to live with him. In June 1775 he came to Opole incognito and spent several pleasant weeks there. Afterward, Princess Franciszka, sumptuously equipped by her aunt, travelled in the company of Antoni Lubomirski to join her husband in Saxony by New Year's Day. She settled with him at the castle in Elsterwerd.
The life she led there was often unhappy; she had to endure frequent solitude, constant material worries and humiliation of courts which denied her inheritance. After giving official recognition to the marriage in 1776 the Polish Sejm granted her life-long financial support as a Polish princess. With the help of Maria Theresa she bought the Lanckorona estates, but nevertheless had always material difficulties. She died in Saxony in her castle in April 1796.

Steven Wlazly
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