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ALEXANDER (1461-1506)

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Originally appearing in Volume V01, Page 552 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ALEXANDER (1461-1506), king of Poland and grand-duke of Lithuania, fourth son of Casimir IV., king of Poland, was elected grand-duke of Lithuania on the death of his father in 1492, and king of Poland on the death of his brother John Albert in 1501. His extreme impecuniosity made him from the first subservient to the Polish senate and nobles (szlachta), who deprived him of the control of the mint—then one of the most lucrative sources of revenue of the Polish kings—curtailed his prerogative, and generally endeavoured to reduce him to a subordinate position. This ill-timed parsimony reacted injuriously upon Polish politics. Thus, for want of funds, Alexander was unable to assist the Grand Master of the Order of the Sword against Muscovite aggression, or prevent Tsar Ivan III. from ravaging Lithuania with the Tatars. The utmost the king could do was to garrison Smolensk and other fortresses and employ his wife Helena, the tsar's daughter, to mediate a truce between his father-in-law and himself. During his reign Poland suffered much humiliation from the attempts of her subject principalities, Prussia and Moldavia, to throw off her yoke. Only the death of Stephen, the great hospodar of Moldavia, enabled Poland still to hold her own on the Danube; while the liberality of Pope Julius II., who issued no fewer than 29 bulls in favour of Poland and granted Alexander Peter's Pence and other financial help, enabled the Polish king to restrain somewhat the arrogance of the Teutonic Order. In Alexander the characteristic virtues of the Jagiellos, patience and generosity, degenerated into slothfulness and extravagance. Frequently he was too poor to pay the expenses of his own table. But he never felt at home in Poland, and bestowed his favour principallyupon his fellow-countrymen, the most notable of whom was the wealthy Lithuanian magnate Michael Glinsky, who justified his master's confidence by his great victory over the Tatars at Kleck (August 5, 1506), the news of which was brought to Alexander on his deathbed. See V. Czerny, The Reigns of John Albert and Alexander Jagiello (Pol.) (Cracow, 1882).
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