The Court of King Alexander Jagiello
In 1897, the book Liber Quitantarium Alexandri Regis ab a. 1502 ad 1506 – Ksiega skarbowa krola Aleksandra Jag. was published famous genealogist Adolf Pawinski in Warszawa 1897. This book is a chronicle of royal treasure activities during the reign of King Alexander Jagiello from 1502 to 1506. Interestingly, the text refers to money granted by the King to his entourage and mentions Andrzej Książyk.
According to genealogist and historian Adam Boniecki, Andrzej Książyk was Łożniczy of King Aleksander Jagiello from 1503 to 1505. This position can be understood with two different positions. Łożniczy can be the equivalent of cubicularius lectistrator, a court office granted to a nobleman (szlachcic) as an honorific position. In the time of King Aleksander Jagiello, such position would be given to a young nobleman as a royal expression of gratitude. Łożniczy can also be the equivalent of master of the royal bedroom, a service position with some privileges.
Aleksander Jagiello had been Grand Duke of Lithuania since 1492 when he became King of Poland after the death of his brother Jan I Olbracht in December 1501. He was 40, did not know much about Poland. He had only few Polish supporters. The chronicles of his short reign (1501-1506) tell that he badly missed Lithuania and hardly spoke Polish. In support to his Russian and Orthodox wife Helena, King Aleksander faced the disapprobation of Polish courtesans. In the Wavel Castel, corridors were a place for gossips and conspiracies.
Here we can speculate about the reasons of such a royal favour for Andrzej Książyk. In 1503, most of the royal entourage was not Polish. King Alexander was unpopular and he was facing serious suspicions of Russian espionage. Moreover, chronicles of the time report a fierce confrontation between the Poles and the “Russo-Lithuanian” courtiers. To address criticisms, King Aleksander had to shift the balance to the benefit of the Poles.
Many historians explain that “royal bedroom” can have a definition extended to the private apartments of the King. In such circumstances, there is no doubt that Andrzej Książyk had a strategic position in the Wavel Castel. He had an exclusive position to access to the King and he was responsible with anything related to the royal privacy and intimacy. Supervising close servants (valets, barbers, physicians), he knew all the secrets of the King. He knew his habits, his tastes. He guessed royal desires. Andrzej organized all private activities with the utmost discretion. He was certainly the closest person to the sovereign. Moreover, the Łożniczy had the duty to follow the King wherever he had go, including on battlefields or in diplomatic missions.
From our 21st century perspective, this job sounds like some kind of upper class servant. In fact, the position of Łożniczy was a privilege that ensured much influence. Later, in the time of Stefan Batory, the holder of the position would receive the formal title of Chamberlain. During the reign of Stanislaw August, Chamberlains ruled on the private entourage of the King and built very influential positions.
Andrzej Książyk succeeded to the previous Łożniczy during the third year of the reign and held this position until King Alexander Jagiello left Poland for Lithuania. Sadly, King Alexander died in Vilnius, alone, without courtesans and only assisted by his wife Helena.
The presence of Andrzej Książyk at the Court needs to be investigated further. Was he recommended by a Polish grandee? Did someone of the Niwiński/Książyk family had served the Jagiellonian dynasty in some recent battles? The book Liber Quitantarium mentions the financial reparation of a financial damage in Wielkopolska. Who was the final recipient of this royal money: was it Andrzej or a member of his family?
In the volatile environment of the Court, Andrzej was considered as a "loyal Pole", as opposed to "hostile Poles" from Central Poland. This loyalty might be related to the Podlaskie origins of the Książyk Family. Probably, Andrzej spoke Polish and Lithuanian - a serious asset to navigate the complex environment of the Court.
Alexander Jagiello was not the greatest King of Poland but we can be proud that Andrzej was chosen among all the dworzanin of the royal entourage to serve the Crown. As mentioned in the Liber Quitantarium, Andrzej Książyk benefited from the royal gratitude for his services. At this stage of our researches, we have no more records but we will try to get more about this discreet ancestor.
A view of the Wavel Castel in 1493. This is the oldest picture of the Royal Castel in Krakow. Aleksander Jagiello was King of Poland from 1502 to 1506.