Friday, February 18, 2011

49/365: The Golden Rider

49/365: The Golden Rider
49/365: The Golden Rider, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 18th

Goldener Reiter, a golden statue of Augustus the Strong, a Saxon prince who was also king of Poland, and so the statue depicts him riding East. More information about this king on Wikipedia- the story is tangled (what's a Polish king doing on a pedestal in Dresden, you might wonder) and full of silliness.

For example, Augustus did not actually win the election (Poland had been electing its kings since a bout of interregnum in the late 16th century, with hilarious consequences...but that's another story) but he decided that he didn't care, and raced towards Cracow, where all Polish kings were crowned. He arrived there before the actual winner of the election, the French prince Conti, and bribed his supporters to grant him entry into the capital. But once inside, he discovered an insurmountable obstacle: the doors to the castle vault, where the royal insignia were kept, were shut, and six of the seven keys required to open them were in the hands of men who favoured Conti!

What to do? To break down the doors would be a sacrilege. So, believe it or not, a hole was knocked in the vault wall. The sacred doors remained intact, the insignia were recovered, and in 1697, Augustus the Strong was crowned King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania (we were a Commonwealth back then).

Seven years later, he was dethroned by the opposition...but refused to acknowledge the fact until 1706. And in 1709, he came back again! Backed by the Tsar Peter The Great, he climbed right back up on that throne.

That's just a fraction of this guy's story.

No wonder that his son decided his shamelessly perserverent parent deserved a golden statue in his honour.


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