Persons related to Chopin Persons related to Chopin

Franciszek Grembecki

Franciszek Grembecki

*ok. 1747, †26 I 1827 Ciepliny

Until now, little was known about Franciszek Grembecki, a witness at the wedding of Justyna and Mikołaj Chopin and official godfather to Fryderyk Chopin. Particularly disputed was the essence and nature of his close relationship with the Chopins. Recent research allows us to clear up these doubts unequivocally.

Franciszek was born c.1747, the third son of Marcin and Marianna, née Słucka, doubtless in the region of Kujawy, which is where he would hold a number of public posts: in 1785 he appears as burgrave of the town of Przedecz, in the years 1792 and 1807 as ‘regent' of Przedecz, and in 1812 as land bailiff. These functions characterise Grembecki's personal, social and professional career rather well. In Poland, a burgrave was a sort of assistant to the starosta, by whom he was appointed. His duties were not clearly specified and often overlapped with those of the deputy starosta. Initially, the burgrave's sphere of competence included maintaining safety on the highways, executing court sentences, catching criminals and tending to the castle, but with time he became an officer of the judiciary. The regent (regens) of Przedecz worked at the municipal court; he was in charge of the court office and prepared the documentation and procedure before the municipal judge. The land bailiff was most probably responsible for land boundaries (camerarius granitialis terrestris); appointed by the chamberlain, he too was linked to the judiciary, being responsible for dealing with boundary disputes between landowners, delineating these boundaries, establishing the conditions for agreements between neighbours, producing plans of the land and acquainting himself with the court records concerning disputes. Such an official had to be familiar with the law and calculation, and also skilled in geometry and surveying.

All these functions, discharged by Grembecki in Kujawy over several decades, gave him excellent qualifications and the trust of the local landowners. Testimony to this effect are the numerous powers of attorney given to him to appear in court on behalf of third parties. Among those to issue him such proxies were Franciszek-Ksawery Zboiński, Castellan of Płock (in 1812), Kacper Skarbek of Izbica (in 1791) and his ex-wife Ludwika Skarbek, née Fenger-a key figure in the Chopin family history. It is the proxy given to Grembecki in Warsaw on 1 September 1807 by Ludwika Skarbek that provides the key to understanding the character of their relationship. In it, the countess empowered Grembecki to conduct all legal actions in her name, accepting all his decisions in advance. This shows her complete confidence in him-not surprising when one considers that Grembecki had already conducted many of the Skarbeks' affairs for over a decade.

His quite frequent appearance in Kujawy court records and his long residence in the neighbourhood of Izbica during the period when Fryderyk Chopin's grandparents, Jakub and Antonina Krzyżanowski, were living there allow the authors to advance the hypothesis that Grembecki's presence in such important circumstances for the Chopin family was due mainly to his long-standing intimacy with Justyna's parents, especially since Jakub was no longer alive (he died in 1805). It is telling that around the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Franciszek's brother, Jan Grembecki, lived with his family in the locality of Długie (the birthplace of Justyna Krzyżanowska). Therefore, it also seems highly likely that he was acquainted with the family of Jakub Krzyżanowski.

On the basis of the above-mentioned documents, we are able to characterise Grembecki's relationship with the Skarbek family, and with Ludwika Skarbek in particular, when she was living at Żelazowa Wola: a long-standing acquaintance with Grembecki from her time in Izbica and a complete confidence in him with regard to official matters, leading her to entrust to him difficult legal affairs. There was certainly a need for Grembecki to make quite frequent visits to Ludwika Skarbek, be it at Żelazowa Wola or in Warsaw when she was staying there, and by the same stroke frequent personal meetings with Mikołaj and Justyna Chopin. Given that Grembecki had known the Krzyżanowskis for several decades (he must have known Justyna and her siblings since they were children), Justyna Chopin doubtless saw these encounters almost as family meetings, reminding her of the years she spent with her parents on the Skarbeks' estate in Kujawy. We may imagine these encounters as carrying a certain sentimental aspect, and so it is not surprising that Franciszek Grembecki led the orphaned Justyna down the aisle at her wedding and held her son at his baptism.

Grembecki lived a long life, dying childless in his Ciepliny home on 26 January 1827. A preserved inventory made after his death not only allows us to infer certain details of his biography, but also-through the picture that emerges of the material surroundings in which he lived at his manor house-to sketch a portrait of his person.

Grembecki, a confirmed bachelor, possessed no hereditary estate; for over thirty years he leased the village of Ciepliny in Kujawy (in the parish of Izbica), belonging to the Modzerowo estate, and on that account paid ‘rent to the Izbica demesne'. He also had a couple of monetary endowments on the estates of Konary and Koczewy in the district of Orłów. According to the aforementioned inventory, drawn up before witnesses and family in his home in Ciepliny two weeks after Franciszek's death, he left the sum of 681 zloty in deposit with his nephew, Józef; a will was found in his desk in which he bequeathed certain sums to his employees. For thirty years his closest companion was one Mateusz-Michał Ziemecki, a country gentleman who, ‘in the duties of service but as a friend', fulfilled the role of steward and managed Grembecki's domestic affairs, as the latter's activities demanded frequent travelling and absence from home. For the last four years of his life, Grembecki's housekeeper was Marcjanna Dąbrowska, and his servant was Jan Krassowski. His brother's son, Józef Grembecki, lived in the nearby village of Złota in the district of Łęczyce, and his sister's son, Agaton Szatkowski, Polish army captain (12th infantry regiment; 1807-1813) and Knight of the Cross of the Virtuti Militari, lived in the village of Chodów in the district of Orłów. The inventory also mentions the names of Zuzanna Grembecka and Joanna Borkowska, née Grembecka, although their kinship with the deceased is not specified.

The Grembecki family hails from the region of Płock, and its seat is the village of Grąbiec in the district of Sierpc. Many Grembeckis appear in the records of the regions of Płock and Dobrzyn, but-just as the representatives of other families-Grembeckis also moved to other regions of Poland. One of them, Franciszek (b. c.1760), appeared in Kujawy and the neighbouring region of Łęczyce. He was married to Zofia Pruska (d. before 1758) and in 1755 transferred his estate of Obałki to his son, Mateusz. His other children were Józef, Marcin, Jan and Petronella. Mateusz (or Tomasz-Mateusz), married to Teresa Rydzewska, widow of Józef Polichnowski, died childless. He served as burgrave of the town of Łęczyce (1758-1765). His brother Józef, married to Magdalena Słucka, widow of Piotr Rożniecki, leased, in the years 1760-1765, the estate of Roguszki in the district of Przedecz in Kujawy. Another brother, Marcin, married to Marianna (Franciszka) Słucka, died c.1766 and left four children: Sebastian, married to Helena Zabokrzycka, Jan, ‘our' Franciszek and a daughter, married name Szatkowska, whose son was the above-mentioned Agaton Szatkowski. Jan married twice: first to Rozalia Kossowska, with whom he had a son, Józef-Florian, and a daughter, Zuzanna-Klara (b. Długie, 1806); later to Urszula Myślińska.

Piotr Mysłakowski and Andrzej Sikorski (June 2006)

Piotr Mysłakowski and Andrzej Sikorski, Chopinowie. Krąg rodzinno-towarzyski [The Chopins. Their Family and Social Circle] (Warsaw, 2005).



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