Polish National Independence Day

Poland

November 11th, 1918 marked the establishment of Poland as a sovereign state after World War II, when Józef Piłsudski became the Chief of State. After 123 years of being partitioned, conquered, and variously divided up, Poland was finally back on the map!

It seems like the white Polish eagle does not derive from the aquila of the Roman Empire or the black eagle of the later Holy Roman Empire. Instead, it appears to have derived from the Piast dynasty, going back to the turn of the second millennium. That is extremely early for any heraldic figure, but there are Piast coins that are about a thousand years old that show an eagle. I suppose it’s remotely possible that the Piasts adopted the symbol from Charlemagne and his succeeding Holy Roman Emperors, but there’s no solid evidence for that. They seem to have been ethnically Slavic and mostly settled around Gniezno, so it’s unclear whether they would have encountered the Franks.

Like any good ancient coat of arms, Poland’s has a historically dubious legend associated with it. The legend holds that Lech, one of three brothers, found a white eagle’s nest while out hunting. The bird reared up to defend its nest, the light from the sunset behind it. Lech was so struck by the sight he decided to found a town near the site and use the white eagle for his emblem. (In Polish, gniazdo means “nest” and is the source of the name Gniezno.)

The white eagle has persisted through the centuries without many changes at all. Even the Soviets didn’t manage to ruin a perfectly good coat of arms for once; the biggest change they made was removing the crown. Even that was replaced when the Communist government fell in 1989, though, and the present arms were readopted in 1990.

Arms of Stanislaw August Poniatowski

 

King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania 1764-1795 (1732-1798)

Blazon: Per quarterly I and IV gules an eagle displayed argent, armed and crowned or (Poland); II and III, gules a knight upon a horse salient, bearing in his dexter arm a sword fesswise argent and on his sinister an escutcheon azure a cross patriarchal or (Lithuania); overall in the fess point an escutcheon argent, a bull passant gules upon a base vert (Poniatowski)

Arms of Stanislaw I Leszczynski

 

King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania 1706-1709 and 1733-1736 (1677-1766)

Blazon: Per quarterly I and IV gules an eagle displayed argent, armed and crowned or (Poland); II and III, gules a knight upon a horse salient, bearing in his dexter arm a sword fesswise argent and on his sinister an escutcheon azure a cross patriarchal or (Lithuania); overall in the fess point an escutcheon argent, a bull’s head caboshed sable, ringed and armed or (Leszczynski)

Arms of Augustus II the Strong

 

Elector of Saxony 1694-1733, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania 1697-1706, King of Poland 1709-1733 (1670-1733)

Blazon: Per quarterly I and IV gules an eagle displayed argent, armed and crowned or (Poland); II and III, gules a knight upon a horse salient, bearing in his dexter arm a sword fesswise argent and on his sinister an escutcheon azure a cross patriarchal or (Lithuania); overall in the fess point an escutcheon per pale the first per fess argent and sable, two swords in saltire, points towards the chief gules (Arch-Marshal of the Holy Roman Empire) and barry of ten sable and or, a ducal coronet in bend vert (Saxony)

Arms of John III Sobieski

 

King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania 1674-1696 (1629-1696)

Blazon: Per quarterly I and IV gules an eagle displayed argent, armed and crowned or (Poland); II and III, gules a knight upon a horse salient, bearing in his dexter arm a sword fesswise argent and on his sinister an escutcheon azure a cross patriarchal or (Lithuania); overall in the fess point an escutcheon azure a round escutcheon or (Sobieski)

Arms of Michal Korybut Wisniowiecki

 

King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania 1669-1673 (1640-1673)

Blazon: Per quarterly I and IV gules an eagle displayed argent, armed and crowned or (Poland); II and III, gules a knight upon a horse salient, bearing in his dexter arm a sword fesswise argent and on his sinister an escutcheon azure a cross patriarchal or (Lithuania); overall in the fess point an escutcheon gules, a crescent points towards the base, issuant therefrom a cross crosslet, in
base a molet of five points argent (Wisniowiecki)

Arms of Sigismund III Vasa

 

King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania 1587-1632, King of Sweden 1592-1599 (1566-1632)

Blazon: Per quarterly I and IV gules an eagle displayed argent, armed and crowned or (Poland); II and III, gules a knight upon a horse salient, bearing in his dexter arm a sword fesswise argent and on his sinister an escutcheon azure a cross patriarchal or (Lithuania); overall in the fess point an escutcheon per cross pate or, I and IV azure three crowns or (Sweden moderne), II and III azure three bendlets sinister wavy argent, a lion rampant crowned or, armed and langued gules (Sweden ancien), all surmounted by an escutcheon per bend argent azure and gules, a garb or (Vasa)