Jewel of the Commonwealth set to make official comeback after being locked away for over 80 years
The Jewel of the Commonwealth is set to make an official comeback after being given the thumbs up by Poland’s culture minister.
Part of the Polish crown jewels and worn by Polish kings and presidents, the last time Chain of the Order of the White Eagle was used was in 1939 when it adorned Poland’s pre-war president Ignacy Mościcki at a New Year’s party.
Since then, it has spent most of its time as a much-admired but under-used exhibit at Warsaw’s Royal Castle.
However, the likelihood of it being worn once again by Polish presidents has taken a leap forward after culture minister Piotr Gliński gave the idea a green light in a letter to the Senate.
“Restoring the chain belonging to the Grand Master of the Order is a justified initiative," the culture boss told upper-house legislators, who have been working on a draft act which would give the president the right to wear the chain.
The Order of the White Eagle is Poland’s oldest and most important gong and is awarded for outstanding civil and military service for Poland, in both peace time and war.
The Order was the brainchild of Poland’s first Saxon king, August II the Strong, on November 1, 1705.
The jewel-encrusted broach was given mainly to regional barons who helped Augustus get elected as king.
The chain, meanwhile, was worn by kings and, later, presidents, to distinguish Grand Masters of the order.
Initially, it was worn by Augustus II and later by his son Augustus
III as a private adornment. However, it became an official element of the Polish crown jewels when Stanisław August Poniatowski wore it at his coronation in 1764 in Warsaw.
The chain was originally composed of 22 links, but now has 24. Twelve of the links have an image of the Polish eagle, while six have an image of the Virgin Mary and a further six have an anagram of the name Maria.
During the partitions, the Romanov tsars Alexander I and Nicholas I draped themselves in the chain on official visits to Warsaw as titular rulers of the puppet Congress Kingdom.
After the November Uprising of 1830-31 though, the chain was not worn again by Russian rulers and was stored in the Kremlin and the Winter Palace.
The chain finally came back to Poland after the signing of the Treaty of Riga in 1921, which ended the Polish-Soviet war.
During the Polish Second Republic, the chain was known as the Jewel of the Commonwealth.
The chain was officially granted to the head of state and was worn for the last time by Ignacy Mościcki on 12 January 1939 at a New Year reception at Warsaw's Royal Castle.
The current attempt to restore the chain is not the first. The Senate proposed an amendment regarding the chain in 1992, but lost by one vote.
The current generation of legislators hopes that the chain will create a historical link with previous Polish republics.
“There is nothing more eloquent than a symbolic chain that connects us with our predecessors, with the Second and First Republics,” reads a fragment of the petition to the Senate's Committee on Human Rights, Rule of Law and Petitions, which voted on a motion to start work on the legal machinery needed to reinstate the insignia to its official role.