On Heraldry and Heraldic Snobbery

“O Heraldyce I Heraldycznem Snobizmie”

A Translation from Symon Konarski’ s “O Heraldyce I Heraldycznem Snobizmie” (On Heraldry and Heraldic Snobbery)

O Klusownikach w Heraldycznej Kniei” (Poachers within the Heraldic Woods) Pages 58 -73

by Leonard Suligowski

Intelligent individuals have realized for some time now, that every human weakness is open to Scrutiny. Scholars have always known that man’s foibles can be cultivated, cared for and nurtured, in a positive way, like one would tend a neglected garden that is overgrown with weeds. Human weaknesses show themselves in many different ways. The law prohibits many of man’s exploitations of the general public, which is often geared for personal gains. Most individuals would not take the risk of getting caught in a fraud however, the egos of others, often rise higher than reality. But the more difficult the undertaking is the larger the gain. Only the brave individuals became involved in the risky aspects of this business. Snobbism is another example of a human weakness. For example, a painter might call himself a “Master” even though this may be a large stretching of the truth. The possibility exists even “if’ in the future this same painter were to actually achieve a higher status and collect praise for his work, and, in fact become a “Master “of his craft, calling himself a “Master Painter”, is like putting the cart before the horse, and there will be many who would object to this form of self promotion.

This type of speculation does not risk much by flattery. It is more difficult to refer to a Lieutenant as “General”. However, referring to someone as “dear Prince”, (when this someone does not possess the right to such title) is not only harmless, but also brings everyone involved much contentment and satisfaction. For instance, during a card game, when one refers to the other using a noble title, he or she is quite pleased that the present company occupies such a high position in the ranks of the society. The person who uses this new expression, has elevated the magnificence of his Polish friend in the foreign country, “for the glory of Poland “. This is a glowing event. These forms of speculations, as far as title snobbism is concerned, are most primitive. It is not difficult to refer to someone as “Prince”. The difficulty lies in conducting most careful research in order to prove that history mistakenly forgot about the existance of 10 sons of supposedly childless Swidrygielly. The youngest of his sons gave the beginning the Swiderski Princely family. The history also omits the fact that the son, of also childless Wojsielki, the son of Mendog himself, was the forefather of the Princes’ family of Weryha Darowskich that however signifies something and by no means is it an easy task to undertake. Conducting successful research requires not only knowledge and utmost ability in the usage of the language, but also a certain degree of bravado and audacity. One may be accused of misrepresentation of facts and falsification of historical events. It has happened before. When such circumstances arise, the accused brings forth multitude of paperwork and articles, which so stipulate that it is more important to rely upon tradition, as opposed to worthless papers or diplomas. The tradition itself is the genuine treasure of history, tradition and only tradition. Such beliefs were held by those who justified title falsifications. At the same time, the same people struggled very diligently in their effort to research the above mentioned and much despised papers and diplomas (Patent invasions). Sometimes they reached as far back as to the time before the partition of Poland. Therefore we even encounter the Swedish titles of Prince or Count. The titled ones should not be held accountable for the fact that the archives department failed to gather or preserve proper documentation.

Many authors of “miraculously found authentic documents” lived in prosperity for the rest of their lives. I already mentioned the tradition. Now the time has come to deal with the subject of Heraldic Poachers, whose names and whose work survived to the present times. I would like to divide them into two groups: The first group includes those who, without much personal gain, forged documents in order to make the history of their families more interesting and appealing. They could have truly believed in what they created. Or, maybe they did it out of concern for their patriotic spirit. Into this category I include Paprocki. It is not completely clear, however, that as a historian and a person who catalogued the history of countless noble families, Mr. Bartoz did not profit in it somehow. In the same category of “not so guilty” Guilty, we can include Okolski, Stupnicki, and also the author known only from his initials “G.B.” (Notices of the Principle Polish families. Dresden 1862). Last, but not least, there is Count Seweryn Uruski, (Notices and Titles offamous Polish Families, Paris/Brussells, 1862). Whose considerable contribution to Polish genealogical literature should not be forgotten. As far as Paprocki, Okolski, Stupnicki, and Uruski are concerned, the mitigating circumstances in their cases make it possible to justify their acts. Kasper Niesiecki was a leader in preserving the integrity of genealogical literature. When Niesiecki decided to publish his scrupulously gathered materials and documents it was not difficult to find knowledgeable and affluent people who would be willing to subsidize his project. Niesiecki was quite familiar with this present state of affairs. He realized that it would be very difficult and even impossible to be able to present his work in a way that it could be understood. Niesiecki realized that his goals would be achieved only at the price of indulging human conceit at the unfortunate but necessary expense of the truth. Niesiecki decided to compromise. In order to present the history in a truthful manner (at least in the last century), be decided to start all the families from Cezar, Korwin, Popiel or Leszek. Niesiecki believed that it was a relatively small price to pay.

The nobility liked the idea of its origin from Popiel. However, the fact that Niesiecki treated them all equally was not easy for them to swallow. The nobles became quite upset. They brought a claim against Niesiecki to the general of the Jesuits. He was prosecuted, jailed and physically abused. That, ultimately led to his demise. As a consequence of their actions, Niesiecki’s work was never published. Polish genealogy lost a complete list of government officials and nobles holding positions all the way down to the local level. Perhaps the most important work of Niesiecki was permanently lost. This work was included in the fifth volume of his “Herbarz”. We know very little of the oldest forgers. Krzystof Stanislaw Janikowski (died in 1680)was, considering the time, a rather skillful paleographer. The deception was discovered and Janikowski was exposed while he was still alive. Then, there was the priest, Stanislaw Wojenski. He died in 1685 in wealth and prosperity, in 1661 he was the Canon of Krakow, in 1679 the Bishop of Kamienic, and was chosen to lead a special commission in charge of inventory of the Treasury Archives of the Crown at the castle of Kracow. There, he planted previously falsified documents. The manuscripts, supposedly from the 1400’s dealt with certain dignities and supposedly received titles for the family Zadorow. Exclusively all were conceived in the authors imagination. The Wojenskis held a rightful claim to the noble origin of the family created by Wojenski, and these titles served the families until 1930. Przybyslaw Dyamentowski, of the clan Drya, nicknamed ‘Mutyna” also became famous by engaging in falsehoods. He was born in 1694, and died in 1774.

Wojciech Wincenty Wieladko; Przebyslaw Dyamentowski’s “copycat”, and his successor, produced the largest number of titles. Wieladko was born in 1745 and died in 1822, as an old man in his house (Kamienica) in Warsaw. Towards the end of his days some people realized that Wieladko occupied himself with creating titles for not so noble families. Supposedly, August II bestowed the title of Count upon 14 Polish families. Today, we know that the king granted no such titles. A very small possibility exists that a mistake could have been made. However, I believe that all or almost all of the titles were fabricated in Wieladek’s little house in Warsaw. Not in the Castle in Warsaw or the Palace in Drezno. A flood of documents, providing evidence as to the noble titles (Legitimization in Provincial assemblies) appeared from 1785 to 1832 came from the office of Mr. Wojciech. Besides many others in this group, I can include hypothetical noble titles of the Jezierskis, herb Rogala, Labedzkis, or Szantyrow. The above creations did survive its author, but not for long. There were just too many of them. It became necessary to revise many noble books. Specially assigned to this task, people had a better knowledge of these documents as compared to local delegates working with Provincial noble marshalls. Revision was completed around 1850. Several entries were annulled. New processes of legitimization were requested. As a consequence, today, it would be of no use to look for: Jezierskis, herb Rogala; Labedzkis; Szantyrow and many more in the official documents of titled nobility. Few families could be found in Provincial acts, but not in part S (titled nobility) of the noble books. As an example, I will give you the Szantyr family that was officially excluded from their legitimization recorded in Minsk in 1819. Not until 1848, were they included again; however, not into part 5, but into 1 and 4. It is not in the family’s interest to make their misfortune known to others. Today not very many people browse through the Provincial lists and quite a few remember the wonderful origin traces from 1003 and uncompleted tasks of including these families into volume 5. It is not up to me to decide whether the author wrote what be did in defense of the Szantyra title because he was not familiar with the facts or he was counting on the ignorance of the reader. In the middle of the 19th century, we come across a Zdanowski who falsified documents in the Poznan archives where he worked. In the second half of the 19th century, one by the name of Leszek was quite engaged in a similar business in the city of Plock. I do not believe that special government agencies in charge of investigating the legitimacy of noble titles, were totally free of falsifying them. With my own eyes I saw primitively falsified passages in the grodzki Piotrowski books (later on, these same books served as a source for official documents) what contributed to a significant increase in the number of Polish nobility. J.N. Bobrowicz’s colleague, Ludwik Zielinski (they worked together during the second edition of Niesiecki) does not have a clean conscience either. It is a special case when one’s crime of document falsification was not solved in a timely manner, and, therefore, there is practically no chance to know the identity of its perpetrator. During the publication years of “Heroldia” (in Warsaw), someone stole blank forms from its office files attesting that the process of conformation of noble descent was conveyed in a proper and legitimate manner. If things were not bad enough, all of the stolen forms had an “in blanco” signature of the Heroldia ‘s director. As a consequence of his frequent absences and in order to prevent delays in issuing the diplomas, the Director would sign blank forms. Without his signature the documents had no legal value. The signed form was subsequently given a name of a person, who obtained conformation of noble descent; and a corresponding clan sign painted or imprinted on it as well. A priest, Antoni Szlagowski was quite surprised when in the 1930’s, he realized that the document (obtained from his father) which proclaimed noble origin of the Szlagowski family did not exist in the acts of the former Heroldia and his name is not included in the list of the Nobility of the Polish Kingdom. He decided to investigate. What he found out (from the people in the Archives of the ancient records in Warsaw, located at #1 Jezuicka St.) is that a skillful middle man, in order to save himself some time and avoid going through the processes, presented (for a “suitable fee) the Szlagowski family history with false documentation. This document stated that the family’s noble origin was determined accordingly with the rules of due process. It is clear that, as far as the above example is concerned, it would be unjust to blame the members of the Szlagowski family for this unfortunate incident. I do not know how many documents which originated in a similar manner still exist. The chances are that many falsified documents were destroyed during World War II. If not they continue to rest in private archives of many families. Those families do not realize that the documents portrayed by them as something important and priceless are nothing more than a piece of paper. The knowledge of paleography was not wide spread, therefore, the business of fabricating documents was blooming. The only thing required was an imagination. The rest was relatively easy. No one ever checked the penmanship style of the document or the ink it was written with. No one even compared the handwriting of the entry, with the one that existed above or below. Today, document forgers encounter numerous obstacles and difficulties. However, the “blind” faith of some people remained just the same when Baron “X” or Prince “Y” receives the joyful news that a famous heraldic researcher (or antiquarian) found a very interesting document, which beyond any doubt acknowledges and verifies the noble origin of this, or that, family.

Ludgard Grochoiski could serve as the best example. The damage inflicted upon the genealogical knowledge was most substantial. His publication, “Herold”, and other organizations created by him, in Warsaw, could be seen as a well of information about what damage could be done as a result of illegitimate relationships between erudition and fantasy. In a few hundred years, it will be impossible to determine where the truth ends, and the fiction begins. Grocholski was not alone. One of his collaborators was Jan Godziemba Maleszewski Maleszewo. He wrote in Herold under many aliases and his forgeries could be seen as most detrimental. The accurate assessment of Herold and the included articles, given Professor Dworzaczek in Geneologia, page 128 and, before him, Leon Bialkowski in his work about traditions. Grochoiski and his group were the masters of fraud. However, there were others whose “work” and the damage it inflicted was comparably smaller. There was S. Starykon Kasprzycki whose “Encyclopedia of Polish Nobility” is nothing less than a disgrace to genealogical research; and there was S.Szydlowski and a few others. Historians of their own families belong to a separate grouping. The most primitive author of monographs is “Prince” Aleksander Weryha (actually Darowski) and his work “Princely families of Weryhow”, Warsaw 1937. “Count” Wlodzimierz Bern deCosban, to a great extent, defended the non existing title of the Bern family. Consequently, he was greatly ridiculed. He was the author of (among other things) a funny little brochure, the text of which could be quite amusing to a historian. Aleksander Wlodarski, an archivist from Warsaw, editor of “Family Armorials”, (hr.S. Uruski) and a large number of monographies does not deserve to be remembered as a truthful human being either. He was the person in charge of publication of the 15 volume armorial, “RODZINA. I Ierbarz Szlachly Polskiej”.

The works of Edward Redziejowski and Ludwig Korwin inflicted comparably less damage. As far as Redziejowski’s work is concerned, it becomes quite clear after reading only a few pages of his work, that we are dealing with total ignorance. As far as Kowrin, his work seems to serve with bias. A large number of foreign authors, summoned by our own specialists of falsification, could also be charged with “pollution” of Polish genealogy. In this category we can include the little known French Armorials. Besides the monographs of Arnebert, Brissac, Caraman Chimay, and others, we have genealogies of Bem deCosban, Bielski, Gizycki, Gubrynowicz, Jablonowski, Montresor and Swidrygiello Swiderski. The imagination required from writing such works is truly admirable. It is not a coincidence that the representatives of all seven families were Herolida ‘s close friends.(Heroldia Heraldic Institute on Saska Kepa in Warsaw)

” The Armorial of the Princely and Countly families ofPoland” Groningue 1897, authored by Le Comte de Saint Obin is simply a collection of the absurd. In the last years, a noble title was bestowed upon the Wisniewski /Wiszniewski family a family of counts and princes were supposed descendants of a dynasty that originated in the year 550AD, by Prus, the first (the dynast ruled in Prussian Poland) Among a number of distinguished members of that family we have King Michal Wisniowiecki,(yes!) [his name was added on later]. Also the dates confirming that the title of prince was given to the family “by the Polish King in 1783” was mentioned there. I do not know who gave them the title of Prussian Princes on December 16, 1861. As the last entry in this “fantasy list” there is an Austrian title of the count given to Tadeusz Wisniewski on March 13, 1877. This entry is genuine. Each and every piece of information can be found on pages 85 & 86 of the “Annual of the French Nobless”, 1939 1950″ published in 1951 in Paris. This same family is mentioned on page 97 in “International rRegister of Nobility” (Brussells, 1955) published under the direction of de F. Koller. Mr. Koller had deprived the Wisniewski family of the protoplast from 550. All other bright elements including King Michal and the family’s dynastic origin were not disputed. He described the family shield: (the Prussian, yes) over all an escutcheon red, with a cross and a half, surmounted of a royal crown. The well recognized publishing house of Gotajski’s Almanac had its own wrong doing on its conscience as well. Professor Dworzaczek had already discussed numerous inaccuracies and errors, made by the above institution. Therefore, there is no need for me to do so. I will mention on the case of the “Gotha” of Counts from 1862. On page 654 there is the monograph (invalid and erroneous) of the Pilawa Potockis and, after it, just like after the Trojan horse, there are totally implausable monographs of the Potocki’s of the Lis clan, (page 664) and the Rostworowski’s (page 725).

As far as the Almanac de Got/ia in all of its categories: Princes, Counts or Barons, there is a need to emphasize the fact that the genealogies of the last generations are portrayed in an accurate and truthful manner. However, the information about the historical origin of each and every family as well as the mentioned titles of the “marriage connected” individuals must be considered with utmost caution and skepticism. Therefore, the names of the most prominent persons, and the dates of obtained titles, by them, or the titles of those who married a princess, countess, or baroness have to be cautiously viewed in a similar manner. I will not mention here the numerous mistakes made by the authors of our Armorials, (Zychlinski and A.A. Kosinski [Golden Book of Polish Nobility], because much more renowned writers such as Baron Artur Reyski or Wlodzmierz Dworzaczek already dealt with that subject. “The Genealogical Handbook of Nobility” (C.A. Stark Verlag, Limburg or D.Lahn) which endorses the ambitions or moral beneficiaries of the formal publishings of J. Perthes (Almanach de Got/ia), but it also includes the monographs of Polish families.

The latter ones are quiet uneven. Besides principal families, it also includes the genealogy of the Tyszkiewicz family, which could serve as a perfect example of how monographs are not supposed to be written. In one of the later volumes (1965), the genealogy of Potocki’s clan Pilawa was included. Unfortunately, many of the same mistakes were repeated as they were in previously described Gotha Grabiowski from 1862. Separate groups of document forgers are made up of priests. Bad faith was not usually the reason behind their actions. When a proud father of a baptized child who, at the same time just happened to be the great benefactor of a small village church, requested that the word “Generosus” or “Magnj’Icus” were put before the child’s name in the certificate of baptism. How could a priest refuse such a request? Denying such a request could result in alienating the benefactor. The consequences are quite obvious and the priest would not want that to happen. Therefore, the words “Generosus” or Magnificus” could not be seen as an undisputable proof of noble descent.

Lugard Grochoiski, always filled with initiatives, came up with an idea of obtaining physical proofs of noble descent. Yes, the same physical (paper) proofs he fought against so frequently on other occasions. It is common knowledge that if such proofs do exist it is not worth much. However, if it does exist, it may become quite useful. When such a document in some unexplained way, falls in the hands of a person, it is more than certain that this person will complain about some “paper titles” no longer. Aleksander Wlodarski, an employee of The State Archives, helped establish a new precendent. From the State Archives, legally confirmed for its accuracy, for consistancy in selections, from using old Latin words (“is) in which the last name of the client had the ear pleasing word placed before it: “comes”. So far everything is legal and officially permitted. The next stage of the process had to do with the translation of the above document from Latin into the Polish language. The translator was compelled to substitute the Polish word “hrabia” [Count] for the Latin word “comes”. Today, we realize that the meaning of this word was quite different. The person translating the document saw the Polish word “hrabia” as the only one serving the purpose of the translation. Newly translated “versions” of the document (legally approved by the appropriate administration)was taken by Grochoiski (or a person appointed by him) to Paris where the Polish Embassy or the Consulate General gave an accurate translation (confirmation of translated agreement) of the word “hrabia” to “comte”(this time into the French language). Next, the French official document was sent to Madrid (because it was already approved by a proper Polish authority). At the time the person in charge of Heroldia in Spain was an elderly individual. The document was presented to him and subsequently sent back to Poland. Attached was a note stating that the existance and content of the document was properly acknowledged and that the Polish family “X,” existing as early as the 150’ century with its proper title, is now officially registered in the Archives in Madrid. In this way, or another, the “Princely” Jablonowski family (one should not confuse it with the famous but extinct family bearing the same name) was registered in Madrid on December 24, 1927. The families of Bielski (May 29,, 1928) and Swidrygiello swiderskich (July 26, 1928) followed in the similar manner. Also the Baron family of deGubry Gubrynowiczow de Mengen was catalogued on April 18, 1928. W. Dworzaczek mentions the latter family in his “Genealogia” on pages 128 & 147. I am not entirely certain whether or not additional families were not approved in a similar way. I do know, however, about others that were not successful in their attempt. The reason behind their failure was the Polish Consul General in Paris. The frequency of confirmation requests, for middle ages, acts arose his suspicion. The scheme became clear to him subsequent requests for confirmations were firmly rejected. Multiple interventions were of no avail. Then, the war in Spain had begun and the dispute ended. Against all odds the case came to life again after the last war. The instigator was Count Chebda de Cienie Cienski. He registered his “Piast Title”in the College of Arms in London. Either after, or shortly before him Zbigniew Belina Prazmowski registered his, middle age, title of Baron in Edynburg. Prazmowski left no son and heir, therefore his title became extinct after his death.