Nicholas II Romanov, the last Emperor of All-Russia, used also (among many others) titles: Grand Prince of Lithuania, and King of Poland.

The Wikipedia states he was "a titular" King of Poland. In the reference it is written:

In 1831, the Russian tsars were deposed from the Polish throne, but they soon took control of the country, ruling it as part of Russia, and abolished the separate monarchy. However, they continued to use this title. See November Uprising.

It is also noticeable that there were no "Poland" in Russia as result of January Uprising in 1863, but Vistula Province.

In traditional education in Poland children are thought that the last king of Poland was Stanisław August Poniatowski and Wikipedia also says he was the last king of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania (ended his reign in 1795, and Nicholas II in 1917), however, in the table in the very ending of the article, he was succeeded by three Emperors (Russian Tsar as King of Poland).

During the WW1, on November 5th, 1916, when all (Russian) Poland was conquered by Central Powers, the German and Austrian Emperors declared that they will grant Poland some autonomy. As this event is hardly known in Poland, this was probably the main factor that made the independent Poland two years later. However, a Kingdom of Poland was to be (re)created and as there was no king (so Tsar was not legal to Germans), but a Regency Council.

This Regency Council took power from German governor Hans von Beseler on October 6th, 1918, making thus independent Poland after 123 years. At this time the Tsar was already dead.

My questions are:

  1. Was Nicholas II the real king of Poland, or was he king of Poland the same way as Henry VIII was King of France?
  2. If Regency council passed all power to Józef Piłsudski, and the 2nd Polish Republic was created on basis of German-Austrian Kingdom of Poland, was in some way Nicholas overthrown? (The Kingdom of Poland was created from conquered Russian lands)
  3. Who should be considered as the last king of Poland: Stanisław August Poniatowski, Nicholas II Romanov or sede vacante, represented by Regency Council?

Was Nicholas II REAL king of Poland? It is open to interpretations. But IMHO, it was just a title taken by Tsars. There was no state called 'Poland' but fragments or partitions of original Poland, which were provinces/districts in Prussia, Austria and Russia.

Stanisław August Poniatowski was the last king (reign 1764-95) of independent Poland because, Poland ceased to exist as a state after 1795, until it become independent in 1918.

Nicholas II was only the last man to have title - 'King of Poland'.

Partitions - 1772, 1773 and 1795

Partitions of Poland

Map showing territories of Poland annexed by Austria, Prussia and Russia

Poland ceased to exist after three partitions, in 1772,1773 and 1795, done by Prussia, Austria and Russia, Russia gaining the largest fragment.

At Congress of Vienna, in 1815, again Russia got the large part of Napoleonic Duchy of Warsaw as a "Kingdom of Poland" from Prussia. So, Congress of Poland was formed. It was a personal union of the Russian parcel of Poland with the Russian Empire.

So, from 1815, Tsars started using the tile "King of Poland", even though much part of original Poland remained under Prussia and Austria.

Later, after the two uprisings in 1830-31 and 1863-64 in so called Kingdom of Poland, its autonomy was stripped off and it was called Vistula land And in 1867 was made an official part of the Russian Empire. But still Tsars of Russia retained the title of "King of Poland".

So, Nicholas II, as a king of Poland, was NOT like what Henry VIII as a King of France was. France had her own Kings. English monarchs just made claims.

Nicholas II, WW-I and Regency Council:

During WW-I The Kingdom of Poland of 1916-18 was proposed in 1916 by Germany and Austria-Hungary following their conquest of the former Congress Poland or Russian Poland by the Act of 5th November. It was only a client or puppet state of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Regency Council was the highest body and it announced the independence of Poland in 1918.

Nicholas II was not 'overthrown' but was force to abdicate after the February Revolution in March 1917 and later executed in July, 1918. It has nothing to do with Poland, directly.

  • Thank you for your answer. I don't understand: if Poland ceased to exist, after the January Uprising and was named Vistula land, why did Nicholas II use title "King of Poland"? You say "it was just a title taken by Tsars" but he could be also a Prince of Universe. I think the title mattered and was some prestige. In my opinion, if he used the title, he recognized somehow that Poland existed. There was no coronation, but he had everything else required: territory of Poland, control and continuation with Congress Poland. – Voitcus Jun 27 '13 at 13:19
  • The existence of Poland was only in fragments. The prestige related to "King of Poland", I guess, was due to the image of Poland created by John III Sobieski and the influence one will get in central and western Europe after annexing the Poland. For the same, Catherine II wanted to absorbed the whole Poland in Russia but, Frederick the Great was determined to foil her plans which led to partitions. – fortytwo Jun 27 '13 at 15:32

During the Napoleonic wars Napoleon granted Poland a level of autonomy (duchy of warsaw) but it was still a puppet state of the French Empire. Many Poles backed Napoleon, up to 100,000 Poles served in the Grand Armee and King Poniatowski's nephew, Jozef Poniatowski even became a marshal of France. However after the fall of Napoleon the Grand duchy of warsaw, which included lands from Prussia and Austria as well, was left to question of what to do with it. Prince Jerzy Czartoryski, once a dear friend and right hand man to Tsar Alexander vied for the tsar to reclaim the lost territories of Poland and join them to the Russian Empire in a dynastic union, crowning himself "king of Poland". More or less that did happen, Alexander gained the lands of the grand duchy of Warsaw, however they did not reclaim the lands of Partitioned Poland. Alexander did Crown himself King of Poland. This gave rise the the Congress Kingdom of Poland. It was granted a degree of Autonomy; however it was still under the Empire. The congress Kingdom however became slowly liquidated and lost most of all its autonomy; many uprisings in Poland forced the Tsars to punish Polish lands and took away their autonomy and later discouraged Polish indentity and language. However during this whole time they still recognized that they did have Poland in the Russian empire and did style themselves legitimate kings of Poland. ( Russia did in fact have rule over the majority of Partitioned Poland). Most Poles however will say they don't recognize this because they viewed these time as times of supression and foreign rule, to a degree this is correct but one must also see that the Polish nation pre partition was a country with a broken ruling class, very corrupt and almost incapable of self rule which evidently helped lead to the partitions. In the end its a matter of opinion.

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    Could you break this into paragraphs please? – LateralFractal Nov 10 '14 at 4:15
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    It is also worth to mention that presently the only person to have a dynastic claim to the crown of Poland is Maria Vladimirovna of the house of Romanov, she descends from the line of Emperor Alexander II. Her mother descends from a royal Georgian-Polish line, Bagration-Muhkrani. – Lach Nov 10 '14 at 4:23
  • I believe that the Polish constitution of 1791 said that after the current King Stanisław August Poniatowski the rightful king would be the heir of the Saxon kings of Poland. I believe there are currently 2 possible claimants to the Saxon throne and thus indirectly to the Polish throne. There are, of course, several other potential hereditary claimants as well. – M.A. Golding Jul 24 '16 at 4:26

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