1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Poniatowski

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PONIATOWSKI, the name of a Polish princely family of Italian origin, tracing descent from Giuseppe Torelli, who married about 1650 an heiress of the Lithuanian family of Poniator, whose name he assumed.

The first of the Poniatowskis to distinguish himself was Stanislaus Poniatowski (1677–1762), who only belonged to the family by adoption, being the reputed son of Prince Sapieha and a Jewess. He was born at Dereczyn in Lithuania, and was adopted by Sapieha's intendant, Poniatowski. With his father he attached himself to the party of Stanislaus Leszczynski, and became major-general in the army of Charles XII. of Sweden. After the defeat of Pultowa he conveyed Charles XII. across the Dnieper, and remained with him at Bender. From there he was sent to Constantinople, where he extracted from the sultan Achmet III. a promise to march to Moscow. When the grand vizier, Baltagi Mehemet, permitted the tsar Peter I. to retreat unharmed from the banks of the Pruth, Poniatowski exposed his treason. He rejoined Leszczynski in the duchy of Zweibrücken, Bavaria, of which he became governor. After the death of Charles XII. in 1718 he visited Sweden; and was subsequently reconciled with Leszczynski's rival on the throne of Poland, Augustus II., who made him grand treasurer of Lithuania in 1724. On the death of Augustus. II. he tried to secure the reinstatement of Leszczynski, who then resumed his claims to the Polish crown. He was taken prisoner at Danzig by the Russians, and presently gave his allegiance to Augustus III., by whom he was made governor of Cracow. He died at Ryki on the 3rd of August 1762.

His second son Stanislaus Augustus became king of Poland (see Stanislaus II.). Of the other sons, Casimir (1721–1780) was his brother's chancellor; Andrew (1735–1773) entered the Austrian service, rising to the rank of feldzeugmeister; and Michael (1736–1794) became archbishop of Gnesen and primate of Poland. Joseph Anthony Poniatowski (q. v.), son of Andrew, became one of Napoleon's marshals.

Stanislaus Poniatowski (1757–1833), son of Casimir, shared in the aggrandisement of the family during the reign of Stanislaus II., becoming grand treasurer of Lithuania, starost of Podolia and lieutenant-general of the royal army. In 1793 he settled in Vienna, and subsequently in Rome, where he made a magnificent collection of antique gems in his house on the via Flaminia. This collection was sold at Christie's in London in May 1839. He died in Florence on the 13th of February 1833, and with him the Polish and Austrian honours became extinct.

His natural, but recognized, son, Joseph Michael Xavier Francis John Poniatowski (1816-1873), was born at Rome and in 1847 was naturalized as a Tuscan subject. He received the title of prince in Tuscany (1847) and in Austria (1850). He had studied music under Ceccherini at Florence, and wrote numerous operas, in the first of which, Giovanni di Procida, he sang the title role himself at Lucca in 1838. He represented the court of Tuscany in Paris from 1848, and he was made a senator by Napoleon III., whom he followed to England in 1871. His last opera, Gelmina, was produced at Covent Garden in 1872. He died on the 3rd of July 1873, and was buried at Chislehurst. His son, Prince Stanislaus Augustus, married and settled in Paris. He was equerry to Napoleon III., and died in January 1908.