Wives of Polish Descent in the 16th Century Noble Radziwiłł Family Cover Image

XVI a. didikų Radvilų lenkų kilmės žmonos
Wives of Polish Descent in the 16th Century Noble Radziwiłł Family

Author(s): Raimonda Ragauskienė
Subject(s): History
Published by: Lietuvos edukologijos universitetas
Keywords: mixed marriage; closed-open marriage; marriage strategy; 16th century GDL; nobility; Polonization; GDL consolidation with Poland in the 16th century

Summary/Abstract: Until the end of the 16th century one of several factors bringing the societies of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) and Poland together were mixed marriages between different social classes of the two societies. GDL and Polish nobles were the first to initiate such a marriage strategy, with the Radziwiłł family playing a special role in this respect. However, the coverage of the issue of mixed noble marriages in historiography is only marginal. The article presents a more detailed context of the marriage strategy of the GDL nobility (until the end of the 16th century), with a special focus on the topic of mixed marriages in the noble Radziwiłł family. The tradition of dynastic marriages can be traced to the very first rulers of the state of Lithuania, which was continued by the ruling Gediminids-Jagiellonian dynasty. Until the early 15th century they mostly selected their wives from the countries of the East, with the Jagiellons giving a special preference to Orthodox believers. What is more, the Southeastern and Central-Western European direction gradually strengthened in the marriage strategy of the rulers. From the late 15th century the latter direction became the dominant one. The GDL nobility tried to follow the example of the rulers and was among the first social classes to select open-type marriages with foreign women. However, the process intensified from the late 15th century only. Until that time closed-type marriages (with the spouses selected from local nobility) dominated among the GDL nobles, despite several exceptions. The first marriages in the direction of the East were solemnized in the end of the 15th century – the beginning of the 16th century. Marriage relations were established with the refugees of exclusive rank or their descendants who could offer important estate complexes or other exceptional valuables. This direction was not popular in the marriage strategy of the GDL ruling elite, even between Ruthenian relatives. In the context of the countries of the East, the nobility “yielded” its positions to the lower nobility, in particular in the second half of the 16th century. Nobles would usually search for appropriate partners in Central Europe, mostly in Mazovia and Poland, occasionally German regions. Podlesia, which at that time was part of the GDL, played an exclusive role of an intermediary (until 1569) in the marriage policy of the GDL nobility. Mixed marriages in the direction of Central Europe were not common until the 1550s. Individual families, such as Kieżgajłowie (Lith. Kęsgailos), Gasztołdowie (Lith. Goštautai) or Ostik (Lith. Astikai), even if expressing their favourable attitude, did not establish marriage relations with foreigners. The phenomenon acquired a mass scale at the end of the 16th century – the beginning of the 17th century. During this period, daughters were also married to the men of German descent or Poles in comparatively self-contained famil

  • Issue Year: 87/2012
  • Issue No: 3
  • Page Range: 3-15
  • Page Count: 13
  • Language: Lithuanian