Insignia Summorum Principum. Using symbols of power in pursuit of higher rank and status by German prince-electors and Polish-Lithuanian princes


  • Jakub Rogulski



In 1680 an anonymous Polonus Borussus composed a treatise suggesting the equal status between the German imperial princes and the Polish-Lithuanian princely families in terms of their symbolism. Using it as a starting point, the article investigates the way in which these elites expressed their real power and political ambitions in a similar manner. By comparing the Electors of Brandenburg and the houses of Radziwiłł, Wis´niowiecki and Sanguszko it shows that, first, Polonus Borussus did not exaggerate too much when he hinted at the ‘symbolic’ equality of the German electors and the Polish-Lithuanian princes; and second, that these elites differed from each other in two aspects: the primary audiences of their symbolic practices (peers in the case of the German princes as opposed to the middling nobility, the antagonist of the Polish-Lithuanian princes) as well as the potential to exploit symbols (the ‘symbolic audacity’ of the Polish-Lithuanian princes contrasting with the ‘confirmative’ use of the German princes).