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Paul Salvator Riedelski-Piast (1884-1944)


Self-proclaimed Prince and claimant to the Polish throne, associated with the Edlestons of Gainford


Paul Salvator Riedelski-Piast (also known as Paul Piast-Riedelski or Pawel Zbawca Riedelski-Piast) laid claim to the Polish throne during the First World War.

Poland did not exist as an independent state in 1914-1918. Its territory was split between Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia, and Riedelski actively campaigned for the reinstatement of Polish independence after the war had ended.

Closely allied to his political interest in the ‘Polish Question’ was his own claim to be descended from the ancient dynasty of Piast, and his ambition, as a self-proclaimed Prince, to be installed on the Polish throne when the war was over. Over time his aspirations shifted and he came to support the idea of Poland as an independent republic, with himself taking a prominent role in its first government.

Although Poland was recognised as an independent republic by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Riedelski never achieved his ambition to return to the country and lead the Polish people.

RIEDELSKI’S LIFE AND HIS CONNECTION WITH THE EDLESTONS

According to his own account, Riedelski was born in Jena, Germany in 1884/85. After receiving an education in France, he emigrated to the United Kingdom. The exact date is unknown but it was certainly before 1908 as he had a book published in Liverpool in that year.

He lived in Bath and later in Liverpool in absolute poverty, suffering from consumption and malnutrition. From the 1911 census we know that he lodged with the Wright family at 148 Harrowby Street in Liverpool as a self-employed professor of modern languages under the name of Pawel Prince Zbawca Riedelski. Later he moved to 18 Catharine Street, Liverpool and lived with the Burns family.

In 1915 he befriended Robert Holmes Edleston of Gainford in County Durham, who supported Riedelski’s pursuits through his own political and social connexions. Edleston, however, did not seem to want this fact to be widely known, although he was interested in Poland himself and had visited Krakow and other places on several occasions.

Riedelski’s cause was probably one of the many new activities that Robert Edleston took up to fill the vacuum in his life following the premature death of his wife Maud Emily Acland on September 1915. Riedelski corresponded regularly with Robert Edleston and his sister Alice between 1915 and 1942 and this correspondence is now preserved in the Edleston family papers (D/Ed 18/1) at Durham County Record Office.

During the First World War Riedelski considered himself as Poland’s ambassador to the UK and, aside from his political ambitions, became very interested in the fate of his Polish compatriots who had been captured after the sinking of the SMS Blucher at the battle of Dogger Bank in January 1915. As they had been conscripted into the German army the men were kept by the British as German prisoners of war in Stobs Camp, near Hawick, in Scotland. Riedelski organised financial relief for the prisoners and provided them with Polish literature. However, when he tried to visit them, he was denied access to the camp.

Riedelski established a ‘Polish National League’ [not to be confused with the National League (Liga Narodowa), precursor of the National Democracy (Narodowa Demokracja), at that time representing a Polish conspiratorial independence movement with Roman Dmowski among its leaders]. After studying his many letters to Edleston, it becomes quite clear that his presidency over the League and political activity was mainly to strengthen his self-created image of a ‘Prince’ in his claims to the Polish throne. However, in doing so, he also took part in discussions on the so called ‘Polish Question’ among the European powers – the issue, in international politics, of the existence of Poland as an independent state. Poland had lost its independent status in the late 18th century after being invaded by Russia, Prussia and Austria, but this was reinstated at the end of the First World War.

Riedelski gave a number of public lectures on Poland, mostly for the Gainford Literary Society and the Union of Democratic Control. He also published pamphlets with explanations of his claims to the Polish historical royal name of ‘Piast’ and very actively corresponded with politicians and members of royal families mostly, but not only, in Europe. All this in the hope that Poland would be reinstated in the political arena after the war, with him on the Polish throne. With time though, he became more in favour of Poland as an independent republic with a political system similar to the Swiss one, in which he saw himself at least as a cabinet member in the first government, if not prime minister.

His interference, including several letters addressed directly to the British Prime Minister, only confused the British government, which in the long run damaged the efforts of the Polish politicians trying to obtain British support for the first independent Polish government after the First World War.

In his letters to Edleston, Riedelski expressed a strong wish to go to the United States in order to find more support (mainly financial) for his vision. Apart from the financial obstacles, he was unable to leave the UK without permission from the Foreign Office as he was considered by the authorities to be a naturalized German. Riedelski fiercely protested against being labelled as German on several occasions. He considered himself Polish and provided Edleston with numerous (rather vague) accounts of his family’s circumstances.

In the 1920s he found employment as an interpreter on ‘White Star’ liners travelling mostly between Liverpool – New York – Hamburg – Boston. It seems that he remained with the ‘White Star’ line at least until 1930 as his name is listed among the crew on manifests of aliens employed by the company provided for the American Consulate in Liverpool.
See Ancestry New York passenger lists:
http://search.ancestrylibrary.com/cgibin/sse.dlldb=nypl&gss=sfs28_ms_db&new=1&rank=1&msT=1&gsln=Riedelski&MSAV=0&uidh=rc8

Riedelski, as stated on his death certificate, died in Liverpool on 11 March 1944 after suffering a stroke. The last mention of him in the Edleston records is in a letter from William J. Laughrey, Liverpool, dated 24 April 1944, containing a duplicate of Riedelski’s will. Laughrey informed Edleston of Riedelski’s sudden death and his funeral arrangements, which were covered by the St Vincent de Paul Society [ref. D/Ed 18/1/391].

PUBLISHED WORKS

Prince Zbacoca-Riedelski, … Aut gaudium aut condemnationem acta nostra producunt
Author: Paul Salvator Riedelski-Piast
Publisher: Liverpool, 1908.

Polish aspirations
Author: Paul Salvator Riedelski-Piast, Prince
Publisher: [London] Printed for the author, 1918
Subjects: Polish question.

Esquisse historique de la race dynastique des Piasts
Author: Paul Salvator Riedelski-Piast, Prince
Publisher: Marseille, Imp. chez Isnard, Lami, Manya et cie. [1938]
Subjects: Piast dynasty.

[Historical sketch of the dynastical race of Piast and the re-organised Royal and sovereign Order of Piast] Supplement.
Author: Paul Salvator Riedelski-Piast, Prince
Publisher: London, British chapter O.P. [1938]
Subjects: Order of Piast.

A straight talk on Poland, the Piasts, Germany. (All complete in a nutshell)
Author: Paul Salvator Riedelski-Piast, Prince
Publisher: [Liverpool], 1940
Subjects: Piast dynasty.

from Online Computer Library Center
http://www.worldcat.org/identities/lccn-n95110825/

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Matters of the moment (statements by Prince Paul Salvator Riedelski-Piast, permanent President of Polish National League on Polish claims to independence)
Main Author: Laogh
Citation: The Catholic bulletin , Vol. VIII, pp. 327-330, July, 1918
Format: Journal Article
Published: July, 1918
Subjects: Riedelski-Piast, Paul Salvator, Prince

Riedelski is mentioned among other pretenders to the Polish throne by a Polish author, Szymon Konarski, in his book on heraldry: ‘O heraldyce i heraldycznym snobizmie’.

He is also mentioned by Norman Davies, British historian, in his article for the Slavonic and East European Review, No. 118, January 1972: The Poles in Great Britain 1914-1919.

Where to find more information:
Teesdale Mercury Archive
http://www.teesdalemercuryarchive.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=63&searchword=riedelski&year_from=1915&year_to=1944&searchphrase=&oneword=&oneword1=&oneword2=&un1=&SearchType=simple#1

The Order of Piast
https://san-luigi.org/2013/11/01/order-of-piast-and-the-san-luigi-orders/

Civil Parish: Gainford

Birth date: 1884/1885

Death date: 11-Mar-1944

Armed force/civilian: Civilian

Gender: Male

Contributed by Durham County Record Office | Durham at War volunteers Callum, Candela, Courtney, Duncan, Eileen, Elaine, Jackie, Judith, Leanne, Linda, Margaret, Miriam and Sarah