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Napoleon's Polish marshal Prince Poniatowski honoured

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 08.05.2013 07:00
Wreaths were laid on Tuesday at the statue of Prince Jozef Poniatowski in Warsaw on the 250th anniversary of the soldier's birth.
Statue of Jozef Poniatowski. Photo: PAP/Tomasz GzellStatue of Jozef Poniatowski. Photo: PAP/Tomasz Gzell

Statue of Prince Jozef Poniatowski: photo - PAP/Tomasz Gzell

The prince, who fought repeatedly for his country's independence – ultimately as a marshal in Napoleon's Grande Armée – endures as a national hero in Poland, and his statue takes pride of place outside the presidential palace in Warsaw.

Schoolchildren bearing the prince's Christian name took part in a special tribute at the palace on Tuesday, during which young historians from the Polish Academy of Sciences recounted anecdotes about 'Prince Pepi', as he was known as a young man.

The youngsters toured an exhibition that included the prince's pistol and sabre, and the event was rounded off with a suitably grand 250th birthday cake.

Prince Jozef Poniatowski was the nephew of the last king of Poland, Stanislaw August Poniatowski. Trained for a military career, he served as a general in the Polish army and as minister of war.

With Poland's sovereignty on the verge of being snuffed out, he fought in the anti-Tsarist Kosciuszko Insurrection (1794) and in the war against Austria, and later commanded Polish troops in the 1812 Napoleonic campaign against Russia.

As a reward for his services, Poniatowski was made a Marshal of France and entrusted with the duty of covering the French Army’s retreat at the Battle of Leipzig. He heroically defended the town but having refused to surrender to the overwhelming enemy forces, he plunged into the Elster River and died in its waters, aged fifty.

Prince Jozef Poniatowski is buried at Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, alongside Polish monarchs and national heroes.

He served as an inspiration for Polish freedom fighters during the partitions of Poland.

An exhibition of historical memorabilia connected with his life is to be held at the Royal Castle in the autumn. (mk/nh)

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