Poland and France have long had a close relationship. Though the two nations are both republics, their royal histories were joined in the matrimonial bed when the French princess Ludwika Maria somehow married to become the wife of both Władysław IV and Jan Kazimierz (though not at the same time). Jan III Sobieski was also married to a French princess, and Louis XV of France was the husband of Maria, daughter of King Stanisław Leszczyński – while in his own right, and with no need to marry anyone, Henryk III was king of both Poland and France for a time.
In war, as in politics, Poland and France have shared much. An exhibition at Wawel Royal Castle displays one aspect of this relation – dedicated as it is to the Poles who fought in Napoleon’s ‘Grand Armee’. Almost certainly, the Poles were hopeful that their support for Napoleon would lead to the emanciapation of their nation, but when Napoleon marched on Russia and his army was destroyed, Polish hopes died with it.
The exhibition includes artefacts that have belonged to the families of the soldiers of the Polish regiments, many of which have never been on public display before. Among them are portraits, documents, personal items, and more, which illustrate not just the Polish fighting force in Napoleon’s armies, but day to day life in the Duchy of Warsaw.
It is on a Wawel Castle until November 18. There’s a short film celebrating Poland’s contribution to the Grand Armee here:
- Napoleon’s Disastrous Invasion of Russia, 200 Years Ago (history.com)
- Russia Celebrates 200th Anniversary of 1812 Patriotic-War (socialnetworkinglab.com)
- Moscow War of 1812 Museum unveils rarities (english.ruvr.ru)