Augustus III of Poland

Augustus III (Polish: August III Sas, Lithuanian: Augustas III; 17 October 1696 5 October 1763) was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1734 until 1763, as well as Elector of Saxony in the Holy Roman Empire from 1733 until 1763 where he was known as Frederick Augustus II (German: Friedrich August II).

Augustus III
Portrait by Louis de Silvestre
King of Poland
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Reign1734 – 5 October 1763
Coronation17 January 1734
Wawel Cathedral, Kraków
PredecessorStanisław I
SuccessorStanisław II Augustus
Elector of Saxony
PredecessorFrederick Augustus I
SuccessorFrederick Christian
Born17 October 1696
Dresden, Electorate of Saxony
Died5 October 1763(1763-10-05) (aged 66)
Dresden, Electorate of Saxony
SpouseMaria Josepha of Austria
Frederick Christian, Elector of Saxony
Maria Amalia, Queen of Spain
Princess Maria Margaretha
Maria Anna Sophia, Electress of Bavaria
Prince Franz Xavier
Maria Josepha, Dauphine of France
Carl, Duke of Courland
Maria Christina, Abbess of Remiremont
Princess Maria Elisabeth
Albert Casimir, Duke of Teschen
Clemens Wenceslaus, Archbishop of Trier
Maria Kunigunde, Abbess of Essen
HouseHouse of Wettin
FatherAugustus II the Strong
MotherChristiane Eberhardine of Brandenburg-Bayreuth
ReligionRoman Catholicism

He was the only legitimate son of Augustus II the Strong, and converted to the Roman Catholicism in 1712 to secure his candidacy for the Polish throne. In 1719 he married Maria Josepha, daughter of Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor, and became Elector of Saxony following his father's death in 1733. Augustus was able to gain the support of Charles VI by agreeing to the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 and also gained recognition from Russian Empress Anna by supporting Russia's claim to the region of Courland. He was elected king of Poland by a small minority on 5 October 1733 and subsequently banished the former Polish king Stanisław I. He was crowned in Kraków on 17 January 1734.[1]

Augustus was supportive of Austria against Prussia in the War of the Austrian Succession (1742) and again in the Seven Years' War (1756), both of which resulted in Saxony being defeated and occupied by the Prussian Kingdom. In Poland, his rule was marked by the increasing influence of the Czartoryski and Poniatowski families, and by the intervention of Catherine the Great in Polish affairs. His rule deepened the social anarchy in Poland and increased the country's dependence on its neighbours, notably Prussia, Austria and Russia. The Russian Empire prevented him from installing his family on the Polish throne, supporting instead the aristocrat Stanisław August Poniatowski, the lover of Catherine the Great. throughout his reign, Augustus was known to be more interested in ease and pleasure than in affairs of state; this notable patron of the arts left the administration of Saxony and Poland to his chief adviser, Heinrich von Brühl, who in turn left Polish administration chiefly to the powerful Czartoryski family.

Royal titles

Royal titles in Latin: Augustus tertius, Dei gratia rex Poloniae, magnus dux Lithuaniæ, Russiæ, Prussiæ, Masoviæ, Samogitiæ, Kijoviæ, Volhiniæ, Podoliæ, Podlachiæ, Livoniæ, Smolensciæ, Severiæ, Czerniechoviæque, nec non-hæreditarius dux Saxoniæ et princeps elector etc.

English translation: August III, by the grace of God, King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Ruthenia, Prussia, Masovia, Samogitia, Kiev, Volhynia, Podolia, Podlachia, Livonia, Smolensk, Severia, Chernihiv, and also hereditary Duke of Saxony and Prince-Elector, etc.


Augustus was the only legitimate son of Augustus II the Strong, Prince-Elector of Saxony and king of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth who belonged to the Albertine line of the House of Wettin. His mother was Christiane Eberhardine of Brandenburg-Bayreuth. Groomed to succeed his father as king of Poland, Augustus converted to Catholicism in 1712; when publicly announced, this caused discontent among the Protestant Saxon aristocracy.[2][3] Faced with a hereditary Catholic succession for Saxony, Prussia and Hanover attempted to oust Saxony from the directorship of the Protestant body in the Reichstag, but Saxony managed to retain the directorship.[4]

Upon the death of Augustus II in 1733, Augustus inherited the Saxon electorate and was elected to the Polish throne, with the support of the Russian Empire and the Holy Roman Empire. He was opposed by the forces of Stanisław I Leszczyński, who had usurped the throne with Swedish support during the Great Northern War. Reigning from 1706 until 1709, Stanisław was overthrown after the Swedish defeat at Poltava. Returning from exile in 1733 with the support of Louis XV of France, Stanisław sparked the War of the Polish Succession, which concluded in 1738 with a victory for Augustus' Russian and Imperial allies.[2]

As King, Augustus was uninterested in the affairs of his Polish–Lithuanian dominion, focusing instead on hunting, the opera, and the collection of artwork (see Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister). He spent less than three years of his thirty-year reign in Poland, where political feuding between the House of Czartoryski and the Potocki paralysed the Sejm (Liberum Veto), fostering internal political anarchy and weakening the Commonwealth. Augustus delegated most of his powers and responsibilities in the Commonwealth to Heinrich von Brühl, who served in effect as the viceroy of Poland.

Augustus's eldest surviving son, Frederick Christian of Saxony, succeeded his father as Elector. A Russian-supported coup d'état in Poland, instigated by the Czartoryskis, resulted in the election of Stanisław August Poniatowski as king of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania on 7 September 1764. Reigning under the name Stanisław II, Poniatowski was the son of the elder Stanisław Poniatowski, a powerful Polish noble and a onetime agent of Stanisław I; he was a lover of Catherine II of Russia and as such enjoyed strong support from that Empress's court.

The king certainly knew four languages: Polish, German, French and Latin.[5] In his youth he also studied Russian.[6]

Patron of the arts and legacy

Augustus III was a great patron of the arts and architecture. During his reign the Baroque Catholic Church of the Royal Court in Dresden (present-day Dresden Cathedral) was built, in which he was later buried as one of the few Polish kings buried outside the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków. He greatly expanded the Dresden art gallery, to the extent that in 1747 it was placed in a new location at the present-day Johanneum, where it remained until 1855, when it was moved to the newly built Semper Gallery. In 1748 he founded the Opera House (Operalnia) in Warsaw and the Collegium medico-chirurgicum, the first medical school in Dresden.[7] During his reign, the extension of the Saxon Palace in Warsaw, begun by his father Augustus II, was completed, and the reconstruction of the eastern façade of the Royal Castle was ordered, thus creating the so-called Saxon Facade, an iconic part of the Vistula panorama of the Warsaw Old Town.

In 1733, the composer Johann Sebastian Bach dedicated the Kyrie–Gloria Mass in B minor, BWV 232 I (early version), to Augustus in honor of his succession to the Saxon electorate, with the hope of appointment as Court Composer, a title Bach received three years later.[8] Bach's title of Koeniglicher Pohlnischer Hoff Compositeur (Royal Polish Court Composer, and court composer to the Elector of Saxony) is engraved on the title page of Bach's famous Goldberg Variations. Augustus III was also the patron of composer Johann Adolph Hasse, who was granted the title of the Royal-Polish and Electoral-Saxon Kapellmeister by his father, Augustus II, in 1731,[9] and thanks to Augustus III the same title was obtained in 1716 by composer Johann David Heinichen.[10]

August was portrayed by Ernst Dernburg in the 1941 film Friedemann Bach.

Marriage and children

In Dresden on 20 August 1719, Augustus married Archduchess Maria Josepha of Austria, the eldest child of Joseph I, the Holy Roman Emperor. They had sixteen children:[2][3]


See also

Notes and references

  2. Flathe, Heinrich Theodor (1878), "Friedrich August II., Kurfürst von Sachsen", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (in German), Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 7: 784–86.
  3. Staszewski, Jacek (1996), August III. Kurfürst von Sachsen und König von Polen (in German), Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, ISBN 3-05-002600-6.
  4. Kalipke, Andreas (2010). "The Corpus Evangelicorum". In Coy, J.P.; Marschke, B. Benjamin; Sabean D.W. (eds.). The Holy Roman Empire, Reconsidered. Berghahn. pp. 228–247.
  5. Jacek Staszewski, August III Sas, Wrocław, 2010, p. 27–29, 70 (in Polish)
  6. Staszewski, Op. cit., p. 28
  7. "Collegium medico-chirurgicum". Stadtwiki Dresden. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  8. "Missa in B Minor ("Kyrie" and "Gloria" of the B Minor Mass)". World Digital Library. 1733. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  9. "Johann Adolph Hasse Museum". KomponistenQuartier. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  10. "Słuchajmy Heinichena..." Radio Kraków. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  11. "Christine", Saxony Albert, NL: Royalty guide, 1735, archived from the original (JPEG) on 28 February 2008.
  12. "Elisabeth", Saxony Albert, NL: Royalty guide, 1736, archived from the original (JPEG) on 28 February 2008.
  • Bach, Johann Sebastian, "Mass in B Minor", Cue points, Oregon Bach festival, archived from the original (Adobe Flash) on 23 July 2011, retrieved 21 August 2011.
Augustus III of Poland (Frederick Augustus II of Saxony)
Born: 17 October 1696 Died: 5 October 1763
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Stanisław I
King of Poland
Succeeded by
Stanisław II August
Preceded by
Frederick Augustus I
Elector of Saxony
Succeeded by
Frederick Christian
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