The Henrician Articles were an act of the Electoral Sejm adopted on May 12, 1573 during the interregnum after the death of King Sigismund August. In the political debate that took place during the interregnum, it was considered that the assumption of foreign origin by the monarch, which was expected during the forthcoming election, should be preceded by an improvement in the political system of the Republic of Poland, the results of which would then be presented to the electorate for approval, as a necessary condition for its assumption of power. However, the implementation of a thorough reform, due to the need to break the political crisis connected with the election of the monarch, contributed to the decision to formulate and prepare a limited set of political rights, rights and freedoms, which would be granted appropriate political guarantees. The resolution of the Election Sejm was oblated (adopted to records) in the Land and City Books of Warsaw on 20 May 1573. A document containing a resolution of the States of the Commonwealth, which was accompanied by an act containing a set of legal and military provisions formally drawn up in the form of a royal privilege, was then taken by the Polish State's diplomatic mission to France, which had succeeded in declaring Prince Henri de Valois a king, and submitted to it for approval (the king made this decision on September 19, 1573, at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris). King Henry, however, avoided re-confirming the articles during his coronation oath, which he took during his coronation on arrival in Poland, discussed them at the coronation Sejm, and finally left Poland in June 1573, never returning to it again, while taking the French throne after his deceased brother Charles. His departure was considered as leaving the throne and in the second election, conducted in December 1575, the princess Anna Jagiellonka was elected as the ruler, and Stefan Batory, the governor of Transylvania, was elected as her husband. The articles, adopted in 1573 on the occasion of the election of King Henry, were named after him and submitted to Elector King Stefan for approval on 8 February 1576 in Meggyes. After the confirmation of the Articles was brought by the royal envoys to Cracow on March 3, 1576, the coronation Sejm convened to Cracow adopted a resolution on the adoption of the acts approved by King Stefan, and then ordered the Chancellor of the Crown to oblat (adopt to records) again in the court records. The text was printed and delivered to the starosts (mayors) through the Crown Chancellery to be oblated (adopted to records) in the city books and announced in public places. King Stefan swore it during his coronation in Cracow on May 1, 1576, issuing an appropriate coronation diploma on May 4, 1576, in which he recognized the law in force. The articles were then included in the Sejm constitution adopted at the end of the coronation Sejm on May 30, 1576, thus becoming a fundamental Sejm law after a long period of gaining legal force in the years 1573-1576.
Within the scope of statutory regulations, the Henrician Articles, as a set of political laws, were divided into two types of norms. On the one hand, they contained norms introducing political changes, constituting a new legal state, or at least modified in the form of certain additions, covering both institutional issues and including, in addition, a certain scope of rights and freedoms and their political guarantees. On the other hand, the Henrician Articles contain norms that were already known in the past, in various forms, which have been repeated here once again.
Among the political changes of an institutional nature, the Articles defined first of all the legal basis for the existence of royal authority as the superior authority of the Commonwealth, at the same time determining the legal scope of its activity. In this sense, it was primarily the sources of royal authority that were regulated, considering the election, which was given the character of a viritim election, carried out in the form of a universal, free and direct participation in the election of the ruler for all entitled persons (unusquisque qui vellet). In this way, the election was used as a political and legal institution for the establishment of the royal authority, and in time it became a rule of law, in accordance with the conditions laid down in the first free election.
Moreover, it was included in the Henrician Articles, which also constituted the constitution of a certain rule concerning matters that had not been regulated so far, but were in the past the cause of unclear proceedings, and a source of abuse, as well as a statutory definition of the scope of competence of particular bodies of the Commonwealth, especially the Sejm and the royal authority. In the case of royal authority, the provisions of the articles, being a constitutional solution, came down to the statutory allocation of tasks and powers to make decisions by the king to matters requiring a joint decision in the royal council and all the others in which the king could make decisions on his own, being obliged to act due to his duties. Without prejudice to the matters belonging to the Sejm (utique res et negotia comitiis regni publici attinentia propterea nihil perturbantes), which are explicitly, but generally reserved in the Articles, a requirement to bind the royal will to certain decisions was thus introduced, as a rule of law, and outlined in the Articles on matters related to the conduct of external policy and the disposal of the military - the view on these matters of the crown councils. Regardless of the wording of the Henrician Articles, which concerned the powers themselves, but were related to them in a way, the procedure of making decisions by the king in state matters in the crown council was also defined in the Henrician Articles. The procedure was to reach royal conclusions in case of disagreement on state matters that could arise between persons entitled to participate in the decision on these matters. In such situations, the king should not make decisions on his own, but should try to bring about one common view, bearing in mind, in accordance with the laws, the opinions of all, but also taking into account the compliance with the laws and freedoms of all the territories of the Commonwealth.
The second important institutional change, introduced into the Henrician Articles, was the issue of determining and clarifying the position of the Sejm in the system of the Commonwealth. The Hernican Articles did not constitute the Sejm as such, as it was, apart from the King, the second of the most important institutions of the Commonwealth, stabilized as the supreme body of state authority at least since the Constitution of Nihil novi of 1505, formally connected with the most important attribute of sovereign power, i.e. lawmaking. However, in the Henrician Articles, a more detailed regulation of the principles of the functioning of the Sejm was introduced. The inclusion of these matters in the basic act was a departure from the law, based on the activities of the Sejm on the custom, dependent on the functioning of legal principles of the political system, determined above all by practice, and the transition to the law based on the constitutional norm. Although the material scope of the regulation, as described in general terms, was not extensive, as it was limited primarily to the issue of convening and closing the Sejm of the Commonwealth and the introduction of the principle of its cyclical convening, at least once in the following two years. On the other hand, clarification of the tasks and general competencies of the Sejm was done only in general, indirectly, through other regulations defining them. These approaches came down to significant solutions from the point of view of broadly understood lawmaking and decision-making in the Sejm, especially in connection with the declaration of war and the convocation of a common move. The inclusion of these matters in the basic act and the announcement in a separate constitution of the coronation Sejm of 30 May 1576 provided the basis for a decisive clarification of the legal and political position of the Sejm, allowing for the clarification of its mutual relations with other bodies and legal and military institutions of the Commonwealth, namely the king and the Sejmiks (reginal assemblies).
Finally, significant institutional changes, which were introduced in the Henrician Articles, took place in the scope of the functioning of the third political force of the Commonwealth, i.e. the crown council. Its customary provenance, as a body operating under and alongside the royal guarantee and at the same time constituting, as a result of the evolution of the Sejm, its third Sejm state in the form of a Senate, was, like the Sejm itself, constituted in the Henrician Articles, as a permanent, constitutionally recognized body with a stable political position, designed to secure and control the process of making decisions by the king in the scope of statutorily defined matters. In addition, the introduction of a separate permanent institution of the council of senators of residents into the Henrician state system in the form of advisory and control emanations was aimed at statutory strengthening of the permanent advisory functions of the crown council.
From the constitutional point of view, the most important of the Henrician Articles was the normative inclusion and ordering in their internal systematics of all the basic elements constituting the state system for the authority of the Commonwealth: the King, the Sejm, understood as the legislative body and the highest judicial body (iudicium comitiale) and the Kingdom Council (Senate), and at the same time determining their mutual relations, based on legally defined and accepted competencies. However, the arrangement of the organs of the Commonwealth, which de facto constituted public authority, was shaped in the Henrician Articles in such a way as to determine their position within the entire state system. It should be stressed that the structure of dividing the authorities of the Commonwealth into three elements, but at the same time grouped together in the body presiding over the Commonwealth, which we find in the Henrician Articles, was not made in order to limit the activities of any of the elements of the system, which sometimes happened in the assessment of the royal authority, and which in some courts was seen as the source of the future collapse of the Commonwealth. In fact, such a structure of the political system was shown rather as the place of these political elements in the political system. In the ideological sense, however, which is binding in the creation of this structure, all three aforementioned, most important elements of the political system, which were described in the Henrician Articles (king, parliament and kingdom council), constituted a whole of power, mutually balanced, teamed, moreover, in the highest organ of power, which was the Sejm.
In the Henrician Articles, not only did the system of governing bodies, united in one, the highest body of the Commonwealth, decide about the law, but at the same time this system meant that it was not possible to legislate if no consensus was reached between the governing bodies. In a similar way, an office could not be created without universal consent, although its establishment was left to the executive by law. De facto, therefore, the constitutionally established sovereign power was created in the Henrician Articles. However, the competence of the authorities has been defined not enumeratively, but systematically, through the normative formulation of exclusions, which do not fall within the scope of the authority's activity and thus are not subject to regulation. Thus, they did not get involved in presenting everything that was once a matter of sovereignty as a sum of powers. On the other hand, the sovereign power was precisely defined by its abstract, legal approach, which proved not so much the lack of clarity or incompetence in the formulation of concepts, concerning powers and duties, but was more a result of the legislative sense, resulting from knowledge as well as experience and public awareness of the need to describe the system. At the same time, in addition to the systematics of public authorities, the Henrician Articles contained political guarantees of rights and freedoms, which were important for determining the position of state organized individuals.
All of these provisions constituted a circle of norms, constituting a legally certain political system, creating its institutional structure, in which each of the bodies acquired both individually and together some permanent solutions. As regards the changes concerning rights and freedoms and their guarantees in the political system, the Henrician Articles contain, first of all, the political principles concerning freedom of religion (although contested from the very beginning), as well as the political guarantees concerning the protection of rights and freedoms and the observance of the legal order and its non-violation, i.e. the introduction of the possibility to apply the right to terminate the right to obey the law.
This reasoning and approach to particular issues was also evident in the case of the norms already known from the past, which appeared in various forms and which, by incorporating them into the Henrician Articles, including the new and modified ones, were included in a single fundamental act, giving them a new, constitutional meaning. These included, first of all, matters related to the royal person, such as the duties of the ruler to take an oath during the coronation of the king, taking up the defense of borders, matrimonial matters, symbols and indications of the royal authority, but also matters related to his own rights, such as, for example, filling offices, conducting foreign policy, and supervising the office of starosta (mayor). However, in the area of rights and freedoms, these matters included: exercising the judiciary, customs and tax rights and freedoms, ownership rights to noble land, guarantees of the application of Polish law, as well as rights related to moving troops abroad and military service abroad. Thus, as a constitutional act, the Henrician Articles specified - but it can be considered - that they described the system on similar principles as those adopted in the formal constitutions. This was particularly visible in relation to the previous period, when the system legislation was shaped much closer to the material aspect of the constitution, which in itself constituted a change of fundamental significance for the system.
These solutions become particularly important when we refer them to other, similar acts that arose and functioned in other countries at the time. Henrician Articles, which are often cited, first of all as an instrument of limiting royal power, are supposed to constitute a "bits" - as it was illustratively described - for his arbitrariness, which was painfully felt at a time when there were no legal regulations in this area. In the emerging situation of infinity, they found their source in a different, legal, but at the same time constitutional regulation. The measure of political changes connected with the implementation of the Henrician Articles was also determined by the importance of the legal act itself, i.e. the Henrician Articles. As a single, separate legal and political act, they did not cover the entire political system of the Commonwealth, but de facto they became an incomplete but clear foundation for the political system of the Commonwealth, on which the order in the new changed situation could be based. The Henrician Articles, due to their function and importance, were therefore a constitutional act which, reflecting the political system of the state, did so on the basis of a hierarchy of norms, which, as we know, was one of the most important features of constitutionalism. It can also be considered that, in the process of creating the legal and political order of the Commonwealth, they were much more a constitutional act, which, despite its original formal form as a resolution of the States of the Commonwealth, was accompanied by an act containing a set of legal and political provisions, which was formally drawn up in the form of a royal privilege - it was in its entirety the work of the nation. In this sense, the Henrician Articles, being an act that was stuck in the midst of acts existing in the European tradition that were only of a fundamental nature, already served as a formal constitutional act in their function, thus anticipating other similar European solutions. This state shows that the Henrician articles, not so much in terms of the number and breadth of their political regulations (even though they were already among the fundamental solutions of the political system), but above all in terms of their weight and significance, constituted a certain important order, setting the path for the changes that European constitutionalism followed in the future.
The Henrician Articles were not repealed, as they were formally in force until the Constitution was adopted on May 3, 1791, when the Commonwealth was given a completely new system. The repeal of the legal order established by the Constitution of 3 May, which took place at the Grodno Sejm in 1793, meant the restoration of the former legal and political order, including the validity of all legal acts prior to the Constitution of 3 May 1791, including, as it should be recognized, the validity of the Henrician Articles, which, however, was crossed out by the final liquidation of the Commonwealth in the Third Partition of Poland in 1795.
See: D. Makiłła, Artykuły henrykowskie (1573-1576). Geneza-Obowiązywanie-Stosowanie. Studum historyczno-prawne [The Henrician Articles (1573-1576). Origin-Validity-Applicability. Legal and historical research], Warszawa 2012; W. Sobociński, O ustawie konstytucyjnej państwa polskiego z r. 1573 [On the Constitutional Act of the Polish State of 1573], Czasopismo Prawno-Historyczne, v. 1, 1948, p.75-89; W. Sobociński, Pakta konwenta. Studium z historii prawa polskiego [Pacta conventa. Study of the Polish law history],, Kraków 1939; D. Makiłła, Artykuły henrykowskie (1573-1576). Zakres wprowadzanych zmian w ustroju Rzeczypospolitej oraz ich ocena [The Henrician Articles (1573-1576). Origin-Validity-Applicability. Legal and historical research], in: Rok 1573. Dokonania przodków sprzed 440 lat [1573: The achievements of the ancestors 440 years ago], edition J. Dzięgielewski, K. Koehler, D. Muszytowska, Warszawa 2014, p. 155-168; S. Płaza, Próby reform ustrojowych w czasie pierwszego bezkrólewia [1572-1574] [Attemts to reform political system during first interregnum (1572 - 1574)], Kraków 1969; E. Dubas- Urwanowicz, Koronne zjazdy szlacheckie w dwóch pierwszych bezkrólewiach po śmierci Zygmunta Augusta [Royal nobility congresses during two first interregna, following the death of Sigismund II Augustus], Białystok 1998; J. Dzięgielewski, Sejmy elekcyjne. Elektorzy. Elekcje 1573-1674 [Election sejms. Electors. 1573-1674 elections ], Pułtusk 2003; T. Piliński, Bezkrólewie po Zygmuncie Auguście i elekcya króla Henryka przez Tadeusza Pilińskiego [Interregnum following the death of Sigismund II Augustus and the election of King Henry by Tadeusz Piliński], Kraków 1872; Ś. Orzelski, Bezkrólewia ksiąg ośmioro, czyli dzieje Polski od zgonu Zygmunta Augusta r. 1572 aż do r. 1576 skreślone przez Świętosława z Borzejewic Orzelskiego, starostę radziejowskiego. Z rękopisu Cesarskiej Publicznej Biblioteki, przypisami i życiorysem uzupełnił Włodzimierz Spasowicz [Eight books of interregna, that is Polish history since the death of king Sigismund I Augustus in 1572 to the year 1576, depicted by Świetosław Orzelski of Borzejewice, a starost of Radziejów] Przełożył z rękopisu Cesarskiej Publicznej Biblioteki, przypisami i życiorysem uzupełnił Włodzimierz Spasowicz [Translated from manuscript of Imperial Public Library, annotations and biographies completed by Włodzimierz Spasowicz], Petersburg 1856, v. 3, p. 227-233; tenże: Interregni Poloniae libri VIII, Wyd. Edward Kuntze, Kraków 1917; E. H. de Noailles, Henri de Valois et la Pologne par le Marquis de Noailles tome troiseme [Henri de Valois and Poland by the Marquis de Noailles Part III], t.1- 3, Paris 1867; Diariusz poselstwa polskiego do Francji po Henryka Walezego w 1573 roku [The diary of the Polish deputation to France in purpose to bring Henri de Valois in 1573]. Prepared by Adam Przyboś and Roman Żelewski, Wrocław 1963, p. 175-181; D. Makiłła, Prerogatywa królewska wobec sejmików w polskim prawie ustrojowym drugiej połowy XVI w., w: Szlachta polska i jej dziedzictwo. Księga na 65 lat prof. dr hab. Jana Dzięgielewskiego [The royal privilege over the Sejmiks (regional assemblies) in the Polish political system law of the second half of the 16th century, in: The Polish nobility and its legacy. The Book for 65 Years Prof. Dr. Jan Dzięgielewski], Editorial Committee: Dariusz Kuźmina, Radosław Lolo, Kazimierz Łatak, Edward Potkowski, Warszawa 2013, p. 99-110. Legislation see: Volumina legum, edition Jozafat Ohryzko, v. 2, Petersburg 1859, p. 911-915; Volumina Constitutionum, v. 2. 1550-1609, Vol. 1. 1550-1585. Prepared for printing by: Stanisław Grodziski, Irena Dwornicka and Wacław Uruszczak, Warszawa 2005, p. 326-329.