The Order of Saint Stanislas
A Brief History
The Order of Saint Stanislas was established on 8 May 1765, by King Stanislas II Augustus Poniatowski, the last native King of the Commonwealth of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Order was established by the King to honour the Patron of Poland and to reward those who deserved it. It was a one class order and the highest decoration after the Order of the White Eagle which had been established in 1325.
The Companions of the Order of Saint Stanislas, who were limited in number to 100 persons had to prove descent from the nobility for at least five generations. Their duty in the first instance was faithfulness and obedience to the Monarch and State. They were also obliged to do charity work. At their investiture ceremony they paid 25 red zloty for the upkeep of the Order, which was in those days a very large sum, and as well they had to undertake to pay to the hospital of Jesus the Child in Warsaw an annual oblation of 4 red zlotys.
The first investiture ceremony of the Order of Saint Stanislas took place on the 8 May 1765 in the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw when 35 Companions of the Order were created. The day of the feast of Saint Stanislas (8th May), became the feast day of the Order.
The insignia of the Order of Saint Stanislas consisted of a four armed Polish gold cross, with red enamel, gold ball tips and a white border. Between each arm was an uncrowned Polish eagle in the first version of the insignia and crowned eagles in the later productions. The centre enamelled disk had the likeness of Saint Stanislas holding a staff with the letters SS on the side. The reverse centre disk had the King's monogram S.A. The Order was bestowed in a single class and worn as a sash from the right shoulder to the left hip.
Amongst the first Companions of the Order created by King Stanislas II Augustus Poniatowski were seven members of the Nowina clan, which was the clan of the original Saint's mother, but had now split into several important families that had taken their surnames from their manors and villages. They were: Jacek Nowina-Bzowski (1750-1808) Burgrave of Krakow Castle; Count Jacek Nowina-Jezierski (1722-1805) Castellan of Lukow; Count Adam Nowina-Przerebski (1773-1811) the last of this very important family that had held many of the State Offices from the XVth to XVIIIth centuries; Count Maciej Nowina-Mielzynski (1731-1797) speaker of the Sejm (Parliment); Count Maximilian Nowina-Mielzynski (1738-1799) member of the Sejm; Count Celestyn Nowina-Sokolnicki (1752-1819) member of the Sejm and one of the leaders of the reform group; Count Piotr Prokop Nowina-Sokolnicki (1762-1808) also a member of the Sejm, a future Minister of Justice, and great/great/great/grandfather of the present Grand Master.
After the third and last partition of the old Polish Commonwealth in 1795, between Russia, Austria and Prussia, the Order fell into abeyance. As a result of Napoleons victories, and freed from occupation, the central area of Poland was created into the 'Duchy of Warsaw' under Frederick Augustus I King of Saxony, who became the second Grand Master, renewing the bestowal of the Order of Saint Stanislas and adding a second white stripe to the border of the sash.
As a result of post-Napoleonic reorganisation of Europe at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the Kingdom of Poland was created with Emperor Alexander I of Russia as King of Poland. Alexander I, as the third Grand Master of the Order divided the Order into four classes and the condition to receive a higher class was to have already received a lower class. The obligation of annual payment for the hospital in Warsaw was kept. All persons Knighted into the Order bore the title of 'Companion of Saint Stanislas'.
After the Polish-Russian war of 1830-1831, the Kingdom of Poland was united to the Russian Empire. Emperor and King Nicholas I (1825-1855) as Grand Master of the Order included it into the Orders of the Russian Empire and it was ranked fifth after the Order of Saint Anna. Under the Grand mastership of Emperors Nicholas I, Alexander II, Alexander III, and Nicholas II, the Order was granted to subjects of the Kingdom of Poland and the Russian Empire in particular, to those who held Christian virtues. During that period, bestowal of the Order was accompanied with a grant of nobility. All Companions paid 300 rubles as a passage fee and were obliged to support charities such as hospitals, hospices, orphanages etc.
With the Russian Revolution, and abdication of the last Emperor and King, Nicholas II in March 1917, the Order of Saint Stanislas once again fell into abeyance. It was not re-established by the restored independent Republic of Poland, but was instead superceeded by the Order of Polonia Restituta.
On the 9 June 1979, the Order of Saint Stanislas was re-established in five classes by the legitimate Polish Government (In Exile) which was based in London. From the 9 June 1979 until the 20 December 1990 the Polish Government (In Exile) used the Order of Saint Stanislas as a weapon against communism. The Order was bestowed upon worthy individuals who had been at the forefront in the struggle against communism and as well the Order gave a very high profile to the struggle for independence and the work being done by the European Central Council which was a group of Freedom Fighters made up of the following Governments (In Exile):
The Kingdom of Ethnic Albania The Kingdom of Bulgaria The Independent State of Croatia The Czecheslovac Government (In Exile) The Republic of Free Estonia The Polish Government (In Exile) The Kingdom of Roumania The Republic of Latvia The Republic of Lithuania The republic of the Ukraine Many members of the above listed legitimate Governments (In Exile) were decorated with various grades of the Order of Saint Stanislas. Upon its' re-establishment in 1979, the first Diploma of the Order, along with the Grand Cross and Sash were placed at the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland (Poland's most sacred shrine), by the Reverend General Bernard Witucki, a famous Polish General and a Minister in President Sokolnicki's Government. Later, the second Dipolma of the Order together with the Grand Cross and Sash were presented to His Holiness Pope John Paul II by His Eminence Bishop Ignacy Jez, Bishop of the Diocese of Koszalin and Kolobrezeg during the Papal visit to Poland in 1989. His Holiness wished the Order well and the decoration presented to him is now on display at the Royal Castle in Krakow.
In 1990, following the withdrawl of Soviet Forces from Polish soil and the free election of a new and democratic President, "both" Polish Government's (In Exile) were merged with the now legal Government in Warsaw on the 20 December 1990. Control of all Polish decorations was returned to Warsaw, but by a decree that was signed by the President and all Ministers of the Polish Government (In Exile) the Order of Saint Stanislas was made an Independent Charitable Order of chivalry, entrusted with a special role to assist the poor in Poland and Eastern Europe.
The Order of Saint Stanislas is now a worldwide organisation with Priories established in most countries. The Order is a true international Brotherhood made up of Honourable men and women who have a very real concern for their fellow human beings and wanting to make a difference. Membership into the Order is by invitation from a member in good standing.
Copyright 1994 The Order of Saint Stanislas.
An extract from the book Order of Saint Stanislas 1765
by Michael Subritzky-Kusza Ct, GCStS
Three Feathers Publishing ISBN: 0-473-02931-6