The Ledóchowski Family herb2 Ród Ledóchowskich









Jan Ledóchowski 1791 - 1864
MP in Warsaw 1825 - 1831

de Villain Jan L
A leading politician during the Polish November Uprising in 1831, and subsequently an active émigré in Paris, Jan Halka Ledóchowski was born in Warsaw on 23rd July 1791, the son of Marcin Ledóchowski (who died that year, aged 44) and Marianna Łączyńska.


Mieczysław Ledóchowski told me he was unable to establish exactly how Jan was related to "our" Ledóchowskis and so he was not in his family tree (1).  

The book about the Ledóchowski family by Prelate Sigismund, in German, says that Jan's father Marcin had another son, Józef, and that Marcin was in the third line of Ledóchowskis, descended from Denys (8).  This is confirmed by Barącz (9, pp178-179), who gives the line of descent from Denys (9, pp171-187), one of the four sons of Nestor.

Jan was nevertheless famous (or perhaps notorious) in his time, controversial and eccentric.  

Besides I always had a soft spot for him as he is the only famous person ever called Jan Ledóchowski.

Fighting for Napoleon

Napoleon came to power in the wake of the French Revolution and arrived with his armies in Poland in 1807.  There he was welcomed by Poles hoping to recover Polish independence and, as a first step, established the Duchy of Warsaw as Napoleon's ally.  This historical background can be read in more detail in my story of Jan Ledóchowski's distant cousin Ignacy Ledóchowski, under the headings "Turbulent Times", "In the Austrian Partition" and "Fighting for Napoleon".

CharsznicaJan Ledóchowski's family home was in Charsznica, not far from Jędrzejów, between Kielce and Kraków.  After the 1795 partition this was in West Galicia, in the Austrian Partition, which would explain why he initially studied at the Military Academy in Vienna.  However in 1808, shortly after the Duchy of Warsaw was created, he moved to the Duchy and at the age of 17 joined the newly recreated Polish Army as a Sub-lieutenant.  After the battle of Raszyn in April 1809 he was promoted to Captain and became an Aide de Camp to Prince Józef Poniatowski, the Polish Commander-in-Chief.  He was taken prisoner by the Austrians after the battle of Jedliniec, but released shortly afterwards, probably after the Treaty of Schönbrunn.  He served as a Captain of the 12th infantry regiment in General Dąbrowski's advance guard of Napoleon's Grande Armée in the 1812 invasion of Russia, and distinguished himself at the battles of Borysów, Bobrujsk and Orszmiana or Azmiana (see memorial below).  On 12th September 1812 he was awarded the highest French decoration, the Légion d'Honneur, and the highest Polish decoration, Virtuti Militari (cross seen on the print above).  He was reportedly taken prisoner of war by the Russians but after being freed did not resume his military career.

MP for Jędrzejów

Kingdom of PolandAfter Napoleon was defeated, Poland was partitioned yet again, with victorious neighbours taking most of the country including all the major cities like Kraków, Lwów, Poznań and Wilno.  The only exception was Warsaw, which was left in a small rump state in the middle, about 13% the total area of pre-partition Poland, even smaller than the Duchy of Warsaw had been.  This was known as the Kingdom of Poland or Congress Poland ("Kongresówka), created by the Congress of Vienna.  However it was effectively a puppet state of the Russian Empire, with the Tsar as King.

Jan got involved in politics and was elected prefect and justice of the peace of the Jędrzejów district, where Charsznica was, between Kielce and Kraków.  In 1825 he was elected MP, representing Jędrzejów at the Sejm (Parliament) in Warsaw.  There he was active in opposing the increasingly repressive policies of the Grand Duke Constantine, de facto Governor of Poland in the name of the King, Tsar Alexander I, and was on a list of opposition leaders prepared by the police.

In 1823 Jan bought the village Niesułowice together with Zalipie from Felid (or Feliks) Wielogłowski and his wife Julianna née Męcińśka for around 90,000 złoty.  In 1830 he sold the same to Jerzy and Józefa Lewartowski for around 50,000 złoty, perhaps because he needed funds to support the November 1830 Uprising.  It appears that in Niesułowice he had a romance with a lady called Agata Navara(?) and that on 7th November 1827 she gave birth to an illegitimate son Franciszek, father of Michał, born in 1845, who was in turn the father of Julian Kasprzyk, born in Niesułowice on 18th March 1912 (10).

Water colour
The November 1830 Uprising

The Russian régime became ever more unpopular.  A new Tsar, Nicholas I, crowned himself King of Poland in 1829, but refused to swear to abide by the Constitution and removed democratic institutions.  On 29th November 1830 the so-called "November Uprising" ("powstanie listopadowe") began with a rebellion by young officers, and Ignacy Ledóchowski opened the Arsenal up to the crowd.  In the heady atmosphere of hope and freedom Poles divided themselves, as they did during communism and on many other occasions, between the "extremists', wishing to fight for independence at all costs, and the "moderates", who argued that Poland was so hopelessly outgunned and outnumbered it should seek a compromise with Russia.  Jan Ledóchowski is reported to have been one of the active leaders of the "extremists", in the Sejm and outside it.  He energetically supported the revolutionary leadership and joined a committee led by Prince Adam Czartoryski, Prime Minister of the Revolutionary Government, that was supervising the Commander-in-Chief.

Sejm Resolution Dethroning the Tsar

On 24th January 1831 the Warsaw press published a proclamation by the Russian Field Marshal Diebitsch, who was invading with a 115,000 strong army, calling on the Poles to surrender unconditionally.  A demonstration had already been called for 25th January to honour the memory of the "Decembristis", an opposition group in Russia, executed earlier.  Like many demonstrations today, it ended up in Plac Zamkowy square in the Old Town opposite Parliament, which was in the same building as the former Royal Palace.

DethronementInside the building, in a session of the combined Houses of Parliament presided over by the Speaker Władysław Ostrowski (the son of Ignacy Ledóchowski's aunt Apolonia), arguments raged between the extremists and moderates and, as they could hear shouting from the demonstration outside, the atmosphere got tenser and tenser.

Roman Sołtyk submitted a resolution to dethrone the Tsar Nicholas I as King of Poland.  Immediately after a speech by F. Wołowski, Jan Ledóchowski ran into the middlle of the chamber and called out in a powerful bass voice:
"Wyrzeknijmy więc wszyscy razem: nie ma Mikołaja!"

"Let's all state together then: Nicholas must go!" (2,3)

DethronementThis is a classic double entendre as the most obvious meaning of "nie ma Mikołaja!" is "Nicholas isn't here!" or "Nicholas has gone!".  Tsar Nicholas I was of course not there in Warsaw and at least one of the people in the print by François le Villian (4) could have been pointing at the empty throne.  However this was clearly interpreted by everyone present as having the other possible meaning, namely that Nicholas must go.  This cry, reported in the records of the Sejm and in all the press, became part of the history of the November Uprising.

Parliament then passed a unanimous Resolution(click to enlarge) dethroning Tsar Nicholas I as King of Poland. "...Our long sufferings known to the whole world...our liberties so often violated, and the Polish nation, today free us from our loyalty to our ruler...The Polish nation ....hereby declares, that it is a free people and that it has the right to give the crown to whomever it considers worthy of it..."  The actual resolution was apparently read in a very balanced tone due to the efforts of the moderate faction led by Prince Adam Czartoryski, who, after signing it, said:

"You have lost Poland!"

Although there are versions that Jan Ledóchowski only issued his call now (4), this seems a bit less logical given the literal meaning of the words he used.  According to family tradition, he now started a new chant, "Precz z Mikołajem":

"Down with Nicholas!" (5).

which was taken up by the crowd outside and celebrated by people throughout Warsaw (6).

Whatever the precise nature and sequence of these chaotic events there is no doubt that Jan Ledóchowski was one of the first to sign the Resolution together with the acting Prime Minister Prince Adam Czartoryski:


Giovanni LIn the biography he wrote (2), Zajewski sounds as if he did not like Jan Ledóchowski: "A shouter, a rabble-rouser, exceptionally talkative, he kept changing his mind, but he was a geniune patriot".  Perhaps he was a bit unfair, under pressure from Poles with different opinions.  Jan continued to be active in the revolutionary Sejm and the details can be read in the Polish texts (2).  On 11th July, after losing a vote, he resigned as an MP but the Sejm refused to accept his resignation.  The Russians treated the dethronement of their Tsar as a declaration of war.  Jan took part in the revolutionary battles as the Russians closed in, and from July he led a regiment drafted from the Kraków province.

On 6th September Warsaw fell and on 9th October Ignacy Ledóchowski surrendered the Fortress of Modlin.  Poland was hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned.  With hindsight, the "extremists" were proved wrong and the "moderates" were proved right. This time. 

In Exile

Jan kept a promise he made in January 1831 that he would emigrate in the event of disaster.  Travelling via Galicia, Hungary and Stuttgart, he eventually ended up in Paris, where he continued his active and controversial political career in émigré circles.

ChapelMemorialJan was tried and sentenced to death in his absence, and his family property Charsznica was confiscated.  He apparently collaborated in the purchase of the property at auction by P. Steinkeller and its onsale to the Helcel family.  He visited Niesułowice to see his grandson Michał (12) and Kraków around 1847-8 and again during the 1863 January Uprising, but was expelled by the police.

Jan Ledóchowski married Joanna Wielowiejska in 1819 but had no children.  Later on in Paris he was close to Kunegunda Małachowska who gave him financial support.  According to Zajewski, she left him a fortune in her will, which he quickly wasted.

Perhaps Zajewski was unfair to Jan.   The Polish National School in Paris remembers that he gave it 29,000 francs, a huge sum in those days (12).  

Jan Ledóchowski died in Paris on 10th September 1864, aged 73.  He was buried together with other prominent Poles, including a Zakrzewski, at Montmartre cemetery in a little chapel "Beati qui lucent..", Av. Berlioz, first right into Chemin des Israélites, third row right, grave plot no. 24.  His name is hidden on the right side wall.

A memorial "Przed twe ołtarze.." was built in his honour, down Av. Lavalée to the corner with Chemin St-Nicholas, straight ahead, second row right, grave plot no. 47.  

Both the inscriptions "Beati qui lucent.." and "Przed twe ołtarze.." seem to be clever plays on the wording of traditional prayers - or mistake(s) (11)?  I am most grateful to Jan Lasocki, Raymond Bocti and Barbara Kłosowicz for helping me find the little chapel and the memorial (11).

When I was at Cambridge in the 1970s I found several large volumes on the records of the Sejm during this period.  The index contained many references to Jan Ledóchowski, which gradually became less frequent with time.  This was probably because he eventually went off to fight, but I did not have the combination of time, inclination, Polish language skills and brains needed to work my way through it all and draw conclusions.Leaflet

More detail on Jan's political career can be read in the Polish texts (2).


The original Resolution

The original Resolution itself ended up in the Polish Library in Paris, which had a copy in one of its leaflets (on the right) (7).  Once when I was visiting the Library, I asked to see it, but they said that it would be too difficult to find at short notice.  In 2008, when the Warsaw City Museum was preparing an Exhibition on the Ledóchowski family, we wrote to the Library asking to borrow the Resolution, or for a scan or a photocopy, but did not receive a reply.





Jan Ledóchowski 2017, updated 2022





(1) „… aby pozostał nasz ślad”  („ we may leave a trace”).  Mieczysław Ledóchowski.  Published by Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Ossolineum,  Wrocław 2002.  ISBN 83-7095-051-5, pp 34-35, 82-91.

(2) Polski Słownik Biograficzny (A "dictionary" or collection of historical biographies of well known Poles). Ministerstwo Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego.  Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.  Kraków 1971.  Text on Jan Ledóchowski by Władysław Zajewski.

(3) Jędrzejów.  Wikipedia.

(4) Uchwała Sejmu o detronizacji Mikołaja 1Wikipedia.

(5) The Russian Empire.  Hugh Seton-Watson.  Oxford University Press, 1967 [822103/7/67], p285.

(6) 25 stycznia 1831 Interia Nowa Historia

(7) Bibliothèque Polonaise à Paris.  Société Historique et Littéraire Polonaise, 6 quai d'Orléans, Paris.  Imprimerie de Busagny. 95520 OSNY. p14.

(8) Das Buch von meiner Lebensfahrt.  Prelate Sigismund Halka Ledochowski.  Vlast Prag -an der Jahreswende 1934-1935, pp 301-303.

(9) Pamiętnik Szlachetnego Ledóchowskiego Domu (Memoir of the Noble House of Ledóchowski).  Fr Sadok Barącz.  Published by "Gaz. naród" J. Dobrzańskiego i K.Gromana, Lwów 1879, pp 171-179.

(10) Information provided by Paweł Kwadrans, greatgreatgrandson of this Franciszek.

(11) Jan Lasocki was the first to find the memorial for me.  Raymond Bocti, husband of my cousin Nathalie Bocti, put me in touch with Barbara Kłosowicz, President of La Société pour la Protection des Souvenirs et Tombeaux Historiques Polonais en France, who sent me the precise locations.  

At the top of the chapel the words "Beati qui lucent quoniam ipsi consolabuntur" seem to mean "Blessed are those who shine for they shall be comforted".  Perhaps this was an error, or perhaps the authors had in mind that these heroes of the November Uprising were "shining examples", and this was a deliberate play on St. Matthew 5.4: "Beati qui lugent ..." or "Blessed are those who mourn...", appearing just before or after "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth".  Consider also the wording on the memorial discussed below.

On top of the memorial the words "Przed twe ołtarze zanosim błaganie, ojczyzne wolność racz im wrócić Panie" seem to mean "At your altar we beseech you O Lord, return their country and freedom to them".  This may be an error or more likely a play on the normal wording of the Polish hymn sung under Austrian, Prussian, Russian, German and Soviet Communist occupations: "...ojczyznę wolną racz nam wrócić Panie" "...please return our free country to us".

(12) Thank you Jan Herczyński for pointing out to me the reference to Jan Ledóchowski's donation on the Polish National School's website.

Detailed information on living family members will be included in this website only if submitted or approved by them. Sczegółowa informacja o żyjących członkach rodziny może zostać umieszczona na tych stronach jedynie w wypadku gdy dana osoba wyrazi zgodę. Jan Ledóchowski