Studia Maritima (Jan 2018)


  • Gabriela Majewska

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 31


Read online

SummaryMagnus Stenbock was one of the most outstanding commanders in the army of Charles XII during the Great Northern War (1700–1721). Magnus spent the years 1702–1706 in the Polish territory as an invader with the Swedish troops. His attitude towards Poland and the Polish resulted from his war experience, especially the easy victories over the Polish. The victories confirmed the Swedes in their belief about the low military value of the Polish army and favoured a disdainful approach to the inhabitants of the Commonwealth. Although many Poles took sides with the Swedes and collaborated with them, Stenbock did not trust them, he accused them of hypocrisy, duplicity, instability in their opinions, disobedience and unscrupulousness. The situation of the Polish collaborating with Charles XII required a skill of manoeuvring, so that the exacted taxes would be the least possible burdensome, and on the other hand the ruthless methods of exacting the taxes triggered in the Polish resistance and disobedience. Socialising with the Polish aristocracy and gentry Stenbock noticed their quarrels, intrigues, and dissolution. Their lavish life was attractive for the Swedish general who was not accustomed to luxury and splendour. His interest was aroused not only by the exotic way the Polish got dressed, but also by their arms, silverware, carpets, expensive cloths, furs, bedclothes, tablecloths, mirrors, clocks, paintings. Magnus took many of those artefacts to Sweden as loots. The general harshly judged the Polish battle worthiness, but in defence of Scania against Denmark he formed a levy in mass of peasants following the example of Poland. Staying for five years in Poland Magnus Stenbock had many occasions to get to know the Polish; yet, he quite often gave simplified, exaggerated or unjust opinions. Many traits of the Polish character deserved to be condemned, but their duplicity, disobedience or instability – the features the general complained of – were results of the situation the Poles collaborating with the Swedes found themselves in, and of the way the Swedish army behaved in Poland. Opinions on Poland and its inhabitants given by Magnus Stenbock did not differ from the ones given by Charles XII and other army commanders.