The last king of Poland owed his throne largely to his youthful romance with the future Catherine the Great of Russia. But Stanislaw Augustus was nobody's pawn. He was an ambitious, highly intelligent and complex character, a dashing figure in the finest eighteenth-century tradition. A great believer in art and education, he spent fortunes on cultural projects, and finding that he was blocked politically by Catherine, he put his energies into a programme of social and artistic regeneration. He transformed the mood of his country and brought it to a new phase of reform and independence.
Poland's neighbours, however, viewed this beacon of liberty in their midst with alarm, and as they invaded and partitioned it, Stanislaw saw the destruction of his life's work, and ultimately was forced to abdicate, a broken man, deceived and disillusioned.
Author: Zamoyski, Adam
Publication date: 31/03/2020