Saul, King for a Day

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Saul was one of the sons of Samuel Judah Katzenellenbogen, the Rabbi who helped Prince Mikolaj Radziwill return to Poland from Italy after all his belongings were stolen; Saul was also elected king for one day.

"Friendship is the ability to trust someone else." - Proverb.

Saul Katzenellenbogen – Wahl was born in 1542, in Padua[1.123][109][110] in a family of rabbis of German origin (see Katzenellenbogen). He was in Poland at the time when his father Samuel Judah[1.124] helped Prince Radziwill return to his country, and one of the things his father asked Mikolaj Radziwill was to find his son (see The Rabbi, the Prince and a Promise Kept for Five Hundred Years ).

After returning to Poland, the Prince began looking in all Jewish religious schools – the yeshivas – around the country, until he found Saul in Brest – Litovsk. Upon meeting him, the Prince offered Saul to continue his studies in his own castle because the student caused a very good impression on him. Over time Saul's reputation began to grow across Poland, and he became a "faktor," like many members of this extended family. Being a faktor or Court Jew running the finances of the high nobility and the state itself, put Saul in a position of much power within the Polish ιlite.

Stefan Batory, the elected King of Poland, died, and so it was necessary to elect a new ruler for the country. The nobles assembled but could not reach an agreement. Half of them supported the candidate from the Zamoyski family, while the other half wanted the Zborowski candidate.

Naturally, Saul was around during the election. We know from the familiar stories of other Court Jews, that during the elections of kings and while the lower nobility – the "szlachta" – and the high nobility – the "magnaty" – of Poland, comprehensive lobby strategies were put to practice in order to influence the voters.

But the needs of the state couldn't wait, and so, it was necessary to provide Poland with an acting chief of state until a decision on the definitive king could be reached.

So Radziwill proposed Saul as an interim king to the assembly, being that the Court Jew had an enormous reputation and was trusted by almost everyone.

Saul was elected, and his reign lasted one day, altough some say that it might have lasted for a few days, until the next king of Poland was elected.

The members of the class of the magnates were really the ones with power; there were very few families among this class – perhaps fifty or so -, but the lower nobility was more abundant in Poland than in other European nations. The szlachta was something of a middle class in Poland, with some rights and privileges over peasants. Jews were not especially liked by the lower nobility because they saw them as rivals and in fact, some Polish kings had given Jews some privileges in the country in order to counter the influence of the lower nobility and the guilds.

The szlachta was comprised by several sub-classes of people, categorized by their wealth, and not by any specific title. At the bottom of the scale were the nobles that had no wealth but only their title. But during the election of a monarch, they had equal voting rights. Nevertheless, they were easy targets for the influence of any faktor willing to take advantage of opportunities like debts that could be pardoned in exchange for a vote in the right direction.

Considering all this, it is a testament to Saul's reputation that everyone agreed and accepted that he was the one to be entrusted with the country while they were all busy trying to elect a new king.

After the election, Saul added "Wahl" to its surname, meaning "choice" in German; many of his direct descendants carried the composite surname, or just Wahl, which is simpler than Katzenellenbogen. Saul was our first cousin, 13x removed.

Some years ago, a distant relative descending directly from Saul Katzenellenbogen – Wahl told me that his ancestors, after moving from Poland to Hungary, were popularly known there as "The Princes of Poland" either because of the familiar wealth or the tale of the king for a day. In either case, he wasn't our only king, but certainly the most colorful.


The Republic at Zenith of Power. Golden Liberty. Election A.D. 1573.
The Republic at Zenith of Power. Golden Liberty. Election A.D. 1573. Jan Matejko.
The election of a king during the XVI century; after these elections were made in Wola, near Warsaw, the Skowronek family
purchased land plots there in order to 'be close' and since they were faktors, probably lobby and influence the electors.
From Wikipedia, The free Encyclopaedia[111].



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