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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 18 December 2016
A Polish messenger
Topic: Diplomacy

On 17 August 1701 a Polish messenger arrived in the Swedish headquarters at Bixten (today Biksti in Latvia). Gustaf Adlerfelt calls him "the starosta Potocki, a son of the Crown Hetman" and states that he came on behalf of Cardinal Radziejowski, who wanted to tell Charles XII that it was not a very good idea to insist upon the removal of King Augustus. The Poles did not like this at all, according to Radziejowski. If Charles however would drop this proposal the Cardinal and the Republic would be ready to work for peace and were prepared to offer satisfaction. 

Later historians have had very little to add. Carl von Rosen in 1935 simply followed Nordberg (whose account is very similar to Adlerfelt's) and Gustaf Jonasson did the same in 1960. According to Jonasson the starosta was called Józef Potocki, a name he likely got from Nordberg's index. 

The Grand Crown Hetman in 1701 was Stanisław Jan Jabłonowski, so the messenger was rather a son of Field Hetman Feliks Kazimierz Potocki. Hetman Potocki had several sons: Michał, Józef Felicjan, Stanisław and Jerzy. Circumstantial evidence would seem to suggest that Nordberg likely got the name Józef from more famous Voivode of Kiev, later a close ally of the Swedes and that the messenger was in fact Michał, starosta of Krasnystaw since 1686 and one of the most "difficult" Polish leaders the Swedes faced during the Great Northern War. In 1702-1703 he repeatedly tricked the Swedes (most notably the cunning Magnus Stenbock), but eventually regained the favor of Charles XII and fought at Kalisz in 1706 (where his units rapidly fled). When Augustus returned to Poland in 1709 Michał Potocki left the Swedish side and then soon enough broke with Augustus again, joining Jan Grudziński's raid into Poland in 1712.  A few years later he fought the Saxons as member of the Tarnogrod Confederation. When Augustus died in 1733 Michał Potocki followed the example of many of his old Swedish and Polish comrades in arms and joined Stanisław Leszczyński's side once more. Eventually unsuccessful this time as well he reconciled with the victorious Augustus III. He died in 1749 and was buried in Sędziszów Małopolski.  

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:26 PM CET
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Sunday, 4 December 2016
24 March 1702 : part 3
Topic: Diplomacy

The news about the meeting at Jurburg reached Riga in early April. On the 9th Governor General Dahlbergh wrote to Major General Horn in Narva, telling him that the meeting had been followed by an advance by the Swedish army, apparently towards Warsaw. Dahlbergh prayed that the enterprise would end well, noting that it had been reported from Poland that Great Crown Hetman Jabłonowski had died - "we have lost a man of good intentions."

Two days earlier Dahlbergh had informed the Chancery in Stockholm. Jabłonowski had, he said, on a number of occasions made considerable efforts for the common good.


LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol.  74

Riksarkivet, Kanslikollegium E VII : 5

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:51 PM CET
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Sunday, 27 November 2016
24 March 1702 : part 2
Topic: Diplomacy

In the afternoon Piper held another meeting, undoubtedly of more lasting consequences. The Grand Treasurer of Lithuania Benedykt Sapieha, his ally Kazimierz Michał Pac and one of his sons along with one of Hetman Sapieha's sons met with Piper, Josias Cederhielm and Georg Wachschlager, the Swedish envoy in Warsaw. After some initial pleasantries the Grand Treasurer expressed his gratitude for the assistance given to his family by Charles XII. Pac pointed out that his actions had resulted in breaking up of the recent diet in Warsaw. Piper assured him that Charles XII was well aware of it and would remember Pac's effort. Piper then asked Sapieha to list the issues he wanted to have discussed and clarified. They were:

1. What were the King's intentions? 

2. That Sapieha and the magnates he had consulted wanted a good relationship beween Sweden and the Republic. 

3. That they wanted a such a close relationship between Sweden and the Republic that the interests of the two countries would be firmly united.

4. That a suitable method for bringing this into fruition would be found. 

Benedykt Sapieha then asked: Did Charles XII still insist on having King Augustus removed from the throne? Yes, Piper replied, Charles could not change his mind on that point as he viewed the dethronisation as the only method of bringing security to Sweden as well as to the Republic. Sapieha agreed and stated the most Poles shared this view, but they had not had the resources to act. There was also uncertainty about the Swedish intentions. Some believed that Charles wanted to make large conquests from the Republic. It was, Sapieha emphasized, absolutely vital for Charles to make a firm statement about his aims. Piper replied that these were well-known and the King was a man of his word. It was unnecessary to have doubts on this point. Charles XII wanted to have Augustus removed because this was the only way to bring Sweden and the Republic together in an alliance for mutual benefit. The King's program was:

1. The removal of King Augustus

2. The election of a new Polish king with whom a good friendship could be entertained.

3. The full restitution of the Sapieha family.

The first two had long been the King's position, but the third was new. Charles XII had realized, Piper said, that he and the Sapieha family had a common interest. The Sapiehas had proved their friendship and deserved Swedish support. While Piper explained this, the Grand Treasurer got tears in his eyes and said that the Sapiehas would for the rest of their lives remain faithful to Charles. The Republic was, he assured Piper, well pleased with the King's declaration of his intentions.

(To be continued...)

Source: Riksarkivet, Diplomatica, Polonica, vol. 310

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:08 PM CET
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Sunday, 20 November 2016
24 March 1702 : part 1
Topic: Diplomacy

On 24 March 1702 Carl Piper, head of the Field Chancery, held a couple of important meetings in Jurburg (Jurbarkas) on the right bank of the river Neman. He first held talks with Mikołaj Franciszek Ogiński, Court Treasurer of Lithuania. Oginski claimed that he had been sent by Prince Jakub Ludwik Sobieski with an important mission. Oginski wanted the Swedish forces to continue advancing towards Warsaw in order to force King Augustus to flee. The whole army would not be needed, Oginski suggested. 3,000-4,000 would be entirely sufficient. It would also be advisable to have some units march on Vilnius. The most important part of his mission from Prince Jakub did however concern the Cossacks and Tatars. They would be able to give Sweden assistance in the war with Russia. Oginski possessed, he claimed, estates near the border to the Cossacks and they had told him of their fear of Russia and how the Czar already had begun to limit their rights. The Cossacks had informed both Cardinal Radziejowski and Prince Jakub of their need for foreign support and they had thought it best to contact Charles XII. 

Piper replied that it seemed risky to make contact with the Cossacks, who had "neither head nor firm decisions" - Mazepa had been arrested by the Czar and had no deputy. Oginski said that the arrest of Mazepa had caused a lot of irritation among the Cossacks, but there were 15 colonels who corresponded with each other about the important decisions. 

Help could also be obtained from the Tatars if they received money. But, the Swedes replied, the Tatars were allied with the Ottoman Empire. Could they really go to war wíth Russia without his permission? Oginski did not give a clear reply to this, but said that the Ottomans were less than happy with the Russians and the Tatars feared that the Czar had designs on their land. 

Piper promised that he would bring the matter to the King's attention and praised Oginski's devotion. Oginski assured Piper that he had taken no part in his brother's rebellion - they had always been in disagreement. The Court Treasurer said that he would send a message through his son in Vilnius and recommend Grzegorz Antoni to make peace with the Sapiehas. 


Source: Riksarkivet, Diplomatica, Polonica, vol. 310. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:46 PM CET
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Sunday, 8 May 2016
Not so quiet anymore
Topic: Diplomacy

On 14 September 1700 Lindehielm sent a new report to Stockholm. In this he referred to a letter from Lt. Col. Appoloff in Nyen, who had written about the panic which had spread in Ingria because of the Russian advance. Lindehielm had immediately returned to Viborg, where he on the 11th received similar news from Narva. According to the report about 100 Russian horse had crossed the border and attacked an estate, wounded two men and plundered the manor. Lindehielm had immediately taken steps to mobilize the units available and had sought to appoint suitable officers and non-commissioned officers. He had also instructed the bailiffs to make the peasants ready to fight any raiding party. The peasants had declared their willingness to do so, but were asking for muskets and gunpowder. Lindehielm had immediately written about this to Krigskollegium in Stockholm and reiterated this request - the local stores were small and unless more arrived from Stockholm the consequences might be dangerous. Lindehielm was also attempting to find more men for the garrison. The town's defenses were in a poor state because the inhabitants had neglected them, but Lindehielm was attempting to plug the holes with palisades and chevaux de frise so as to make an immediate storming impossible. 

A peculiar detail, Lindehielm added, was that as the Russian traders who had visited during the summer gradually had left, five russian vessels had arrived in a small port 40 km from Viborg to trade at the local market which was held at this time every year. When the locals had asked why they came now that there was a war between Sweden and Russia, the Russian traders had replied that they knew nothing about a war. This, and the relative quiet since the first news came from Narva, seemed to suggest that the danger perhaps wasn't as great as had been feared (i.e. that the attack had been an isolated incident).

Just as Lindehielm finished his letter a visitor arrived. A man, who had been sent from the army, said that when he passed Narva there were firm reports that the Russian army was advancing. The war had begun...

Source: Riksarkivet, ÄK 243, vol. 77


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:00 PM MEST
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Monday, 2 May 2016
All quiet
Topic: Diplomacy

On 3 September 1700 the County Governor in Viborg Anders Lindehielm sent a letter to Stockholm and enclosed a summary of the latest reports from the border. One of these stated that the Ottomans were besieging Azov, which suggested that there was no danger of a Russian attack on Sweden. The second came from a spy, who had visited the border area and spoken with a Russian official. The latter had told him that there were no worrying news from Russia. The forces that were gathering near the borders were in preparation for a war with Poland. Lindehielm wrote that all sorts of rumours circulated, but he hoped that nothing serious would happen. It seemed unlikely, he added, that the Czar would take action on a new front as long as the war with the Ottomans was ongoing.

On 9 September Lindehielm wrote again, this time saying that the Russian forces gathered near the border were rumoured to be mainly intended as support for King Augustus, but also to attack the Swedish borders. These reports had caused such fear among the inhabitants of Nyen that they had started to pack their things. A local official had come from Nyen to Viborg to request soldiers, muskets and ammunition in order to mobilize the peasants. Lindehielm had replied that he couldn't believe the Czar would break his assurances in such a way. Anyway, without orders from the General (likely Governor Otto Vellingk) Lindehielm could not help.

Source: Riksarkivet, ÄK 243, vol. 77 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 4:43 PM MEST
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Sunday, 21 February 2016
A report from London
Topic: Diplomacy

The Governor Generals of Livonia kept a fairly extensive correspondence with Swedish diplomats abroad and it went far beyond the area of immedia interest (Poland and Russia). A typical item from 1670:

On 30 December 1670 the Swedish envoy to London wrote to Claes Tott (1630-1674), one of the more illustrous men to hold the position (his grandfather had married a daughter of Erik XIV and Claes Tott had been one of Queen Christina's favourites). In his letter Leijonbergh reports on recent events. During Christmas the Court had spent the first day "with devotion", but the following days with comedies and other amusements. On the 29th Parliament had met. "Johan Coventry" (Sir John Coventry), who had had recently been attacked (on the 21st) had appeared before Parliament to show his wounds.

"Sir Edward Sprag" (Edward Spragge) was reportedly chasing 9 pirate ships from Algier. In the meantime money was being collected in London for ransoming English captives and the Archbishop of Canterbury (Gilbert Sheldon) had reportedly pledged 4,000 pound sterling.

At the Royal Exchange there was great unrest as a result of a large "Harzican" (Hurricane) near Barbados. 12 ships were reportedly missing.

"Mons. Bertue" (Charles Bertie), brother of the Earl of Lindsey, had been ordered to prepare for his journey to Denmark where he would serve as Envoy.

Source: EAA, Tartu, EAA 278.2.186 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:16 PM CET
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Sunday, 6 September 2015
The Czar in Riga 1697
Topic: Diplomacy

This subject has been extensively covered by Alexander Bergengrün and others. Perhaps a few odd bits and pieces from the archive of the Livonian Governor General are worth noting:

On 16 December 1700 Erik Dahlbergh wrote to Olof Hermelin, who was working on a refutation of the Russian complaints against Sweden, i.e. the reasons for attacking Narva. One of the items on the agenda was the supposed maltreatment of the Great Embassy when it passed through Livonia in 1697, notably the fact that Dahlbergh did not acknowledge the presence of the Czar and failed to show him the necessary courtesy. This was a point Dahlbergh found hard to accept. As far as he had been informed Peter was travelling incognito and had threatened to execute anyone who failed to keep his secret. How could the Russians possibly complain about this, the Governor General wrote. The Czar had made a point of staying among the servants and the "riffraff". Yes, Peter had even served wine to Lefort, the nominal head of the Embassy. When Lefort and Captain Johan Brask were playing card the Czar had stood behind Brask's chair just like another servant, Dahlbergh wrote to Hermelin. The Russian manifesto deserved a very harsh reply as their complaints were totally unfounded. They know no honour, the enraged Dahlbergh exclaimed. 

Source: LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 72 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:56 PM MEST
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Sunday, 26 July 2015
Guiscard at Riga
Topic: Diplomacy

It's sometimes stated that the French ambassador Guiscard was present in Riga during the Düna crossing on 9 July 1701. I am not where this story comes from, but it was used to great effect by Frans G. Bengtsson in his vivid description of the event. Unfortunately it's entirely fictitious. Guiscard was not permitted to accompany the army when it marsched southwards in June and instead went to Reval (Tallinn). In late July (Guiscard says the 29th, Dahlbergh in one letter writes the 27th and in another the 29th) Guiscard came to Riga, despite Governor General Dahlbergh having informed him of the King's wish that the foreign diplomats should remain in Reval. The French ambassador, Dahlbergh writes, had many ideas for restoring the peace, but they were all dependent upon the King respecting the neutrality of the Polish Republic. The Dutch ambassador was also in Riga, impatiently requesting an audience with Charles.


LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol.  73

Brulin, H., Sverige och Frankrike under nordiska kriget... - Upsala, 1905


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:04 PM MEST
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Sunday, 22 February 2015
Patkul's mission to Courland
Topic: Diplomacy

In one of the many LVVA fond 7349 volumes which contain documents once belonging to Carl Schirren there are a couple of odd Patkul items which suggest that the future conspirator at some point was entrusted with a diplomatic mission to the Duke of Courland (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol. 200). Unfortunately neither of the two drafts are dated, but Schirren's assumption (in a covering note) was that they are older than 1690. Patkul's task concerned a problem which for a long time irritated both the merchants in Riga and the Swedish government, i.e. the many small "illegal" harbors along the coast of Courland (for this issue, see for example Arnold Soom's Der baltische Getreidehandel im 17 Jahrhunderts, pp. 163 ff.).

Is it possible to date the two items (a letter to the Duke and the instruction for Patkul? Well, they are obviously younger than May 1687 as he called "Captain". If the documents were issued by Governor General Hastfer it would seem likely that it was done during the periods he was present in Riga (July 1687-May 1689, June-October 1690, June-October 1693 or August-December 1695). Based on Patkul's later activities as a spokesman of the Livonian nobility only the first two periods are reasonable possibilities and the first one the more likely. When scanning Hastfer's outgoing letters I soon found an interesting item, dated 22 October 1688 (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 40, pp. 639-641). In a letter to Charles XI Hastfer reports that he has appointed a commission consisting of Leonhard Gustaf von Budberg, H. G. Trautvetter and Captain Patkul. There task was to look into a border conflict between the Livonian estate Pulkarn and Baldohn in Courland. The interesting thing about the composition of this commission is that Budberg was a "Landrat", Trautvetter a member of the court of appeal in Dorpat and Patkul a simple captain. So why this choice? Well, this as well as Patkul's appointment as captain in 1687 (and Patkul's subsequent letter of gratitude to Hastfer) suggests that he during this period of time was quite close to the Governor General, indeed something of a protegé. Whether this commission and Patkul's mission of discussing trade issues were connected I don't know, but if not it would seem likely that the commission came first. 

In his work about the struggle of the Livonian nobility against Swedish absolutism Alvin Isberg suggests that Patkul made himself a name as a outspoken defender of old privileges in private meeting with other nobles in 1689. My hunch is that was quite different - Patkul was perceived as being close to Hastfer and because of this (and his own ability) quickly became a rising star. Once he reached the top Patkul turned out to have a very different agenda...

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:49 PM CET
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