What a wedding it was ...
wedding is not only one of the most important family celebrations but
also a special kind of ceremony or spectacle for the nearest and dearest.
Yet when popular personages or celebrities are to tie the knot, all those
who share the joy of the newlyweds become the participants of the ceremony.
One of the most famous 19th-century weddings was that of Barbara Chłapowska
and General Jan Henryk D±browski. The ceremony was held on 5th November
The General's close ties with Wielkopolska can be traced back to the year
1792, when called upon Polish authorities he joined the ranks of the Polish
army. Alas Poland was soon defeated in the war with Russia and then Ko¶ciuszko's
Rising proved unsuccessful, therefore, D±browski had to emigrate. Since
1797 he was in command of the Polish Legions in Italy. Being one of the
most respected and well liked Polish commanders, D±browski was a hero
of the song which was later to become the Polish national anthem.
In October 1806 Napoleon Bonaparte defeated the Prussian army and began
his march eastwards. To hasten the final demise of the enemy Napoleon
sent J. H. D±browski to Wielkopolska commissioning him to trigger an armed
uprising in the area. Early November saw fighting, in the result of which
the Prussian army withdrew from the region. Incidentally widowed D±browski
had an opportunity to meet Barbara Chłapowska, a lady to whom he took
a strong fancy. Their meeting was a sheer coincidence since the lady pleaded
with D±browski to free her brother, who had been taken captive by the
Being much younger than the General, Barbara Chłapowska was a very attractive
woman and had many admirers. She could not resist, however, the romantic
proposal of marriage by the 50-year-old General. The wedding ceremony
was held a year after the uprising in Wielkopolska commenced. The nuptials
in the Poznań cathedral were followed by a wedding reception in the town
hall in the Old Market Square. The reception soon evolved into a patriotic
celebration. After a military parade and a speech by General Antoni "Amilkar"
Kosiński, the bride was presented with a diamond brooch on a velvet cushion,
a gift from the Ruling Committee of the Duchy of Warsaw and a golden box
inlaid with amethysts from the ladies of Wielkopolska. Amongst the tokens
of remembrance of this ceremony is a painting by Franciszek Sypniewski,
depicting the wedding reception in the town hall. A glow of happiness
and joy triggered by the nuptials of this well liked and esteemed general
In spite of a considerable age difference (i.e. over 20 years), the marriage
proved very harmonious and successful. The D±browskis lived for some time
in Poznań to settle eventually in an estate in Winna Góra near Miłosław.
This estate was bestowed onto D±browski by Napoleon Bonaparte. The years
1807-1818 were marked by wars, sickness, the feeling of defeat of the
French emperor and brought about the end of an epoch. Yet for the General
it was a period of family ambience and a peaceful existance by the side
of his devoted wife and two children, his daughter Bogusława and son Bronisław.
The General died in Winna Góra in June 1818. It was his wife and daughter
who cherished his memory most fervently. They are all buried in the local
church, which is regarded today as one of the national shrines. And it
all had started on a November day in 1807 ...
Finally, I would like to add that a Basia featuring in the lyrics of the
Polish national anthem was not Barbara Chłapowska. The author of the lyrics,
Józef Wybicki, simply needed a name which would rhyme with the next line.
As a matter of fact, the General met his future wife only 9 years after
the so-called "D±browski's mazurek" was written.