“Ukraine” in the titulature of the engravings of the kings of Poland in the XVIIᵉ century


 The name “Ukraine” was then used more often in the sense in which the Old Russian word “outskirts” appears in written sources from the twelfth century, when it was about various border territories. And the word “Ukrainian”, judging also on the basis of archival documents, originally meant border service people who ensured the protection of external borders.

Vladimir Poutine, “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, 12 july2021

For Putin the word “Ukraine” has only a geographical meaning and no meaning to designate a nation and a state. In his eyes, they are recent Western constructions against Russia and Orthodoxy.

However, this word has had a political and national meaning since the 17th century. Bogdan Khmelnitsky’s engravings describe him as “Duke of the Nation (People) of Ukraine” and King of Poland John III Sobieski calls himself as “Grand Duke of Ukraine”. We need to come back to the emergence of the term and its connection to the complex policy implemented by the King of Poland on the Cossacks in Ukraine.

Geographical and ethnological description of Ukraine

First, the term “Ukraine” designates, for geographers, a region and a people. The term “Ukraina”, which appeared in the 12th century, would be translated “in the country” or “the land of the people” or even the “principality” of the Rus’ of Kyiv. Russian historians and then Putin have put forward that this term, translated into Russian “okraïna”, designates the “periphery” or the “border” of the empire, Poland-Lithuania or Kyiv. The term “Ukraine” appears in French under the Pen of Guillaume le Vasseur de Beauplan who is a spectator of the events that take place in the middle of the 17th century.

Guillaume de Beauplan, Carte de l’Ukraine, 1648, Wiki Common (détail).

The geographer served from 1631 for the King of Poland, notably in Podolia, Volhynia and on the lands of the Cossacks along the Dnieper. He campaigned for the Grand Hetman of the Crown and Polish Senator Stanisław Koniecpolski. He travels to Sea of ​​Azov and Crimea. For him, the term can be changed by “wild fields”. He is repeateting the imperial view of Poland who wants since the sejm of 1590 to take Ukraine as all country.

In 1648, he gave a first map of Ukraine. Then he wrote Description d’Ukraine qui sont plusieurs provinces du Royaume de Pologne en 1660. This map was improved at the beginning of the 18th century by Guillaume Delisle, a pupil of the Cassinis. The term is adopted and included in geography books and dictionaries. Ukraine seems to regroup two palatinates (voivodies) of Lesser Poland: Kiyv and Bratslav. It is therefore located in the south-east of the Kingdom of Poland after the palatinates of Ruthenia, Podolia and Volhynia. It is thus truly at the creation of the hetmanate that the term “Ukraine” associated with “land of the Cossacks” designates a people, a territory and a social and political organization.

Jean-Baptiste Audiffet, La géographie ancienne, moderne et historique, 1689, tome 1er, p.365.

Secondly, it is thus also a diverse, poorly known people that is described. The success of Beauplan’s texts and maps made the term “Ukrainian land of the Cossacks” popular. In his Description d’Ukranie of 1660, he gives the image of a Cossack nation different from the Poles and Russians.

Guillaume le Vasseur Beauplan, Description d’Ukranie, 1660, p.4

Subsequently, the Description historique de l’Empire russien by Philipp Johann von Strahlenberg from 1757 explains that the word Ukraine is used less and less.

Philipp Johann von Strahlenberg, Description historique de l’Empire russien , Paris, 1757, p.270-271.

During the 18th century, the Russian Empire, which conquered most of the Ukrainian territories, set up a policy of Russification which also involved changing terminology, as can be seen in dictionnaire de géographie or Les fastes de la Pologne et de la Russie . Despite everything, the term, still remembered, became during the 19th century that of a nation and then of a country.

André Guillaume Contant d’Orville, Les fastes de la Pologne et de la Russie, Paris, Costard, 1769, Volume 2, p.16


Union of Lublin: Sigismund II Augustus, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania and Russia

In 1569, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania decided to unite definitively in the face of the threat from the Muscovites and the Ottomans. From this date a single king is at the head of the entity of the Republic of the Two Nations without anything being able to separate them as under the Jagiellons Jean Albert and Alexandre in the 15th century. He is elected by the grand sejm.

Abraham Hogenberg, König Sigismund III. von Polen, Brunswick, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum.

On an engraving of Sigismund II Augustus, the titulature is “King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Russia, Prussia, Mazovia, Samogia, Livonia, Severia etc”. The list of titles is completed by a series of about forty coats of arms. This title seems to become exemplary for the kings of Poland.

Philipp Johann von Strahlenberg, Description historique de l’Empire russien , Paris, 1757, p.263.

The term “Russia” is used in the title and not “Ukraine”. This term refers to “Ruthenia” or “Kyiv Rus'”. Princes from the region of Moscow and Vladimir created a new kingdom and took the title of “Tsar of Muscovy” to attach themselves to Byzantium and Orthodoxy. The two terms Ruthenia/Kyiv Rus’/Duchy of Russia and Muscovy/Kingdom of Russia which are found on the different engravings should therefore not be confused.

Ivan IV, tsar de Russie, XVI-XVIIe s., Wiki Common.

The tsar wants to be the continuator of the orthodox Byzantine empire as well as that of the former Rus’ principality of Kyiv by taking the title of emperor of all the Rus’. This is a message to the ruler of Lithuania and Poland. In 1558, the Patriarch of Constantinople recognized the titles of Tsar Ivan IV while the princes of the west refused him this recognition. He remained only “Grand Duke of Moscow” until the 18th century.

Henri de Valois king of France and Poland

Prince Henri de Valois was elected to the throne of Poland in 1573 but on the death of his older brother in 1574, he became king of France. The two titles are put on the engravings but the crown of France is put first since it is more prestigious.


Etienne Batory

Prince Stepan Batory of Transylvania was elected to the crown of Poland in 1576. He married Anne Jagellon, daughter of Sigismund I and sister of King Sigismund II August. From then on he used the title: “By the grace of God, King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Russia, Prussia, Mazovia, Samogia, Kiwonia, Volhynia, Podlachia and Prince of Transylvania” as can be seen on a document from 1579.

[List do Iwana Groźnego], 1579, Archiwum Morstinów(détail).

The titles are reminiscent of those of Sigismund II Augustus of House Jagiellon. On the engravings, the character has few titles highlighting his status as “King of Poland” and “Grand Duke of Lithuania” which are the most important titles. He also has the title of “Duke of Russia”.

Wladyslaw IV and John Casimir Vasa: King of Poland and Sweden

Sigismond III Vasa is king of Poland in 1587 then king of Sweden in 1592. In 1610 Ladislas IV his son is designated tsar by the victory of Stanisław Żółkiewski who takes Moscow. He was then king of Poland from 1632. In 1648 John II Casimir Vasa his brother succeeded him. In 1607, his cousin Charles was crowned king of Sweden after years of civil war.

Egidius Sadeler, Portret van Sigismund III, koning van Polen, 1597 – 1629, Amsterdam, RijksMuseum.

According to an engraving his title is “Wladyslaw IV, King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Ruthenia, Prussia, Masovia, Samogitia, Livonia, and also Hereditary King of the Swedes, Goths and Vandals, elected Grand Duke of Muscovy”.

Georg Förster et Jeremias Falck, Wladislaus IV., König von Polen,, 1630-1677, Brunswick, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum

The Vasa branch of Poland will always claim the throne of Sweden which in their eyes has been usurped. But this title is not claimed later by the kings of Poland who succeed them.

Johann Wyd Hoffman, Ioannes Casimirus Dei Gracia [!] Rex Poloniae ac Svecia [!] &., Warszawa, Biblioteka Narodowa

Hetmanate and Grand Duchy of Ruthenia

In 1648, the Cossacks led by the hetman Bohdan Khmelnitsky revolted against the king of Poland, this conflict which opens is seen by some as a “war of liberation”. On December 27, 1648 the hetman was crowned by the Patriarch of Jerusalem in Kyiv. But defeated in 1649, King John II Casimir Vasa signed the Treaty of Zboriv and recognized the hetman as the sole leader of the Cossacks, thus creating a new territorial and political entity called the hetmanate.

But the conflict continues because of the opposition of the Polish Catholic primates to recognize the privileges given to the Orthodox. In 1653, the Tsar decided to go to war and support the Cossacks against Poland. The assembly gathered in Moscow decides that the “Cossack land” comes under the protection of Russia because of the unification of Orthodox Christians under the aegis of the Church of Moscow. The assembly of Pereïaslav in 1654 with the envoys of the Cossacks ratifies the decision by a treaty (now lost). On January 8, 1654 the hetman sent a letter to the tsar “sovereign of great and small Russia” which was included in the title from February 1654. For Russia it was a founding act of “reunification of the Rus’ “under the aegis of the ‘Orthodox Church. In 1655 the Tsar added “White Russia” to his titles.

Tabula nova totius REGNI POLONIÆ. 
in quo sunt Ducatus et Provinciae Prussia, Cujavia, Mazovia, Russia Nigra, & c. 
1679 (détail), Andriy Baitsar.

The war rages in Poland-Lithuania known as the “Deluge (Potop)”. Batoh’s defeat against the Cossacks in 1652 marked the beginning of this period when the Polish army was destroyed. Sweden and Russia invade the territory of the Republic. In 1657, Bohdan Khmelnitsky died and the question of Cossack status remained unresolved. The hetmanate is agitated by a period of division and internal conflicts called “ruin” by historiography. In 1658 his successor the hetman Ivan Vyhovsky signed the Treaty of Hadiach which established a new entity, the “Grand Duchy of Ruthenia” or “Grand Principality of the Rus'”. This text was complicated to put in place seeing both the opposition of some of the Cossacks wanting to continue the Orthodox rapprochement with Russia and that of the Polish and Lithuanian Catholic nobles seeing the arrival of potential rivals of the hetmanate. The hetman becomes prince of the kingdom but his diplomatic prerogatives disappear. Religious tensions increase for fear of Polish domination over the Orthodox. The Ukrainian peasant population sees in it a guarantee of noble privileges. A revolt is born. The Polish defeats against the Russians only amplified the opposition to the treaty which was very quickly forgotten.

In 1660, peace treaty was signed with Sweden in Oliva. Russia continues to support the Cossack revolt but the Polish army enters the territory of the Cossacks on the left bank of the Dnieper under Russian domination since the Treaty of Pereïaslav of 1654.

Abraham van Westerfeld, Vue de la cathédrale de Sophie de Kyiv, 1651, Wiki Wand.

Negotiations open when neither of the two belligerents manages to gain the upper hand over the other. During the Treaty of Androussovo in 1667, Belarus and western Ukraine (region of Kiyv, Volhynia, Podolia and Galicia) returned to Poland but the cities of Smolensk, Chernihiv and Kyiv remained under the control of the tsar. The treaty proposes to return Kyiv two years after signing. The Orthodox clergy fiercely opposed it and the city was never returned. From then on the hetmanate or “Cossack land” was separated into three: the Right Bank under the protection of the King of Poland, the Left Bank under the protection of the Tsar since the Treaty of Slobodyshche of 1660, and the very largely independent Sich Zaporogue until its destruction by the Tsar in 1709.

Ukraine, a “lost land” to be reconquered

In 1668, the hetman Petro Doroshenko placed himself under the protection of the Muslim Empire. In 1669 General Michał Wiśniowiecki was elected King of Poland in a period of trouble. The same year Jan Sobieski, a brilliant Polish general, became grand hetman of the crown.

Romeyn de Hooghe, Triomphe de Jean III Sobieski Roi de Pologne, 1675, Warszawa, Biblioteka Narodowa.

In 1674, when Jean Sobieski ascended the throne, war raged with the Ottoman Empire. In 1675, the King of Poland proposed to the Cossack colonel Ostap Gogol to become hetman of the right bank. In 1676 the king became the protector of the Cossacks of the right bank. He is sacred in Krakow and invites the hetman to the ceremony of February 2, 1676. He appoints many hetmans in a policy of regaining control of this area with a view to reconquering “Lost Ukraine and Podolia” as well as the city of Kyiv considered a Polish “hereditary” land according to historian Taras Chukhlib.

Romeyn de Hooghe, Triomphe de Jean III Sobieski Roi de Pologne, 1675, Warszawa, Biblioteka Narodowa (détail)

The engraving of his triumphal entry into Krakow in 1675 is made from a drawing by Francesco Gratta the Younger. This military march shows several allegorical figures, ancient and modern, passing under a temple of virtue. The king is in Roman costume on a horse and leads the troop towards the queen on a balcony. It is preceded by three figures in the center joining hands, they are from right to left the allegory of Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine. The King of Poland also had many engravings made on his victories over the Ottomans as Grand Hetman of the Crown. About this region, he is in competition with the tsar. This area is very important to guarantee his kingdom from Tatar or Ottoman invasions. He knows that “he who has the Cossacks keeps the Ukraine” (Taras Chukhlib p.277) as he had remarked then Grand Hetman of the Crown.

I have to admit it’s a corpse disgusting, not Ukraine, because it’s probably not the one they took from their ancestors.Who died there, if not the Rus’ people? What burned down if not the glorious city (Kyiv)? Where did the smoke go, if not on the churches and the houses of God? Whose graves and graves were swept away, if not your parents or your children, lost for nothing? To whom was the desert left, if not driven like cattle to the captivity of Christian souls?

Universel du roi Sobieski en 1675

We see in this text that the king recognizes the Cossacks’ right to live in Ukraine, which belongs to them. They are the ones who die in wars and no one else. He recognizes a certain freedom of worship in them and forgives them their former betrayals. This policy should also make it possible to better fight the Ottomans and reconquer Podolia. In 1675, the king decided to ally himself with the tsar against the Ottomans. The stake was of great importance since they themselves had tried to unify the Cossacks under the aegis of Youri son of the great Khmelnitsky named between 1677 and 1678, as “prince of Little Russia”, “Dux Cosacorum” or ” Dux in Ukraine”. He “did not use the title of Prince Sarmatiae” to please the one he described as “My clearest and strongest king of Poland!” After attempts with the Ottomans, the king of Poland approaches the hetman and promises to keep his titles if he joins him in exchange the Ukraine would regain its status of the treaty of 1658 and that the Orthodox faith would not be threatened there but this attempt remains a letter dead.

Jean-Baptiste Bonacina, Giorgio Chimilinschi, 1670, Coll. particuliere.

An engraving from the end of the 17th century presents him as a simple “General of the Cossacks”. The titles given by the Ottomans were never greeted by military victories, they were not remembered. In 1683 a large Cossack assembly of the right bank recognized the suzerainty of the king of Poland as “as father and pastor”, according to the letter they sent to the king on July 23, 1683. They agreed to go to war against the Ottomans in the south. On August 24, 1683, the king appointed Stefan Kunitsky as hetman, giving him a necklace, a mace and a seal with “the ancient arms of Ukraine” (the armed Cossack). He is described in several gazettes as “General of the Cossacks” as in the engraving by Yuri Khmelnitsky. He conquered all of Wallachia, Podolia and the land of the Tatars.

Charles de La Haye, Ioannes III D.G. Rex Poloniarum […], 1692, Warszawa, Biblioteka Narodowa.

The king is victorious with his troops and the cossacks against the Ottomans in front of Vienna in 1683. In 1685, the sejm of the king of Poland recognizes “all the cossacks of the sich and the Ukrainians under the orders of Kunitsy, the right to to settle in Ukraine, and that they will be given back their former freedoms and privileges”. The king offers them protection if they recognize that they are subjects of the Republic. The king thus offers them a form of autonomy through a constitution and in exchange he can create troops in a period of financial crisis.

Leone Franco, Andriy Mohyla, 1649, Wiki Common.

The policy of the king is rewarded with success, the troops (approximately 3000 Cossacks) of Mohyla are effective and make it possible to reconquer the Ottoman zones. The hetman signed several documents “Andriy Mohyla Hetman of S.A.R. – Army of Zaporozhe”. But the tsar in 1688 sent a letter to the king demanding that the use of this title be stopped.

Recueil. Portraits d’Alexis-Michaelowitz, XVIIe s., Paris, BnF Gallica.

The policy of the king is rewarded with success, the troops (approximately 3000 Cossacks) of Mohyla are effective and make it possible to reconquer the Ottoman zones. The hetman signed several documents “”Andriy Mohyla Hetman of S.A.R. – Army of Zaporozhe”. But the tsar in 1688 sent a letter to the king demanding that the use of this title be stopped.

Jan III Sobieski: Duke of Ukraine or Duke of Russia?

Jeremias, Winckler, Jan III., König von Polen, Herzog 1670-1690, Brunswick, Anton Ulrich-Museum.

The documents issued in the name of King Jan III Sobieski use the titulature introduced by Sigismund, but new features appear.

Tiltle of Sobieski, 1676, Archives departementales de l’Aube.

The term “Ukraine” appears under King Jan III Sobieski abandoning the term “Russia” or “Ruthenia”. Several engravings have the following title “King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Ukraine”. The engraving in honor of his 1676 coronation uses this term. It represents the approach of the King of Poland to Wawel Castle, before which allegorically, in the form of dancers, represent Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine. In both versions of the engraving, the signature in French or in Latin is with the term “Grand Duke of Lithuania, Ukraine”.

Romeyn de Hooghe, Krönung Johann III von Polen, 1675, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum (détail)

The term “Ukraine” also appears on two engravings of portraits of the king and queen from a series by United Provinces designer Nicolaes II Visscher engraved by Pieter Stevens. In 1679, he produced a map of the Kingdom of Poland with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Ukraine. The three entities are in capital letters. The king wants to stand out from his predecessors. It is also a sign of good will towards the “tsar of all the Russias” in a policy of rapprochement and peace.

On important engravings like that of his coronation, it is the term Ukraine that the king decides to put forward. He wants to follow in the footsteps of the famous hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky as the protector of Ukrainians.

Competition with Hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky

An engraving of the hetman shows that he bore the title “Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Zaporovia, Initiator of the Peasants’ Rebellion, Cossack Insurgents and the ‘dux’ of the people of Ukraine”. The word leader in Latin “dux” having given the word duke, so it can also be translated as “duke of the Ukrainian people” which would be closer to the title of the king “grand duke of Lithuania and Ukraine”. The “dux” refers in ancient Rome to the commander of the troops or warlord. The engraving made by Guillaume Hondius of the hetman opposes the title of the king by showing that the title comes to him from the people and not from an election of nobility. When he entered Kyiv in 1648, the Orthodox Metropolitan of the city Sylvester and the Patriarch of Jerusalem Paised I welcomed him as “prince (princeps)”. This engraving is the work of an artist from the court of Poland, would he have met the hetman in talks with the republic?

Willem Hondius, Bohdan Chmielnicki, 1651, Brunswick, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum

This image of the hetman becomes canonical and is found in many icons. She obtained great popularity after Poltava as a foil to that of Mazepa accused of treachery by the Tsar. But this image was commissioned by King John Casmir Vasa as a sign of rapprochement with the hetman. The latter had been defeated during the battle of Bila Tserkva which allows the king to sign a favorable agreement with reduction of the Cossacks and territorial gain in his favor. The hetman then attempted a rapprochement with Poland by agreeing to pacify the palatinate of Kyiv.

Willem Hondius, Ioannes Casimirus Dei Gratia Rex Poloniae, 1648, Brunswick, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum.

King Sobieski takes as a model both the images of these predecessors and that of the hetman. He is shown 3/4 as a warrior on the engravings with the title “Duke of Ukraine”. It uses the title both to recall the engraving of the hetman and to show the possibility for the Cossacks to return to the agreements of 1658. The engravings are written in Latin allowing distribution to the elites of Ukraine.

Gloryfikacja Jana Sobieskiego na tle bitwy pod Chocimiem w 1673, ryc. Romeyna de Hooghe, 1674, Biblioteka Narodowa

In 1684, he knows that the Cossacks are “for the Republic the most dangerous poison and at the same time its most powerful shield”. In 1652, his older brother Marek Sobieski, starost of Krasnystaw, had been captured after the defeat at Batoh and beheaded with the remains of the Polish army (thousands of dead were counted). Despite the disastrous memories of relations with the Cossacks, the king knew that he could not create a new policy for the Republic without them. Since 1676, he even imagined, starting from the Ukraine (he was born in Olesko, in the Palatinate of Ruthenia, which makes him say that he loves the Cossacks “since childhood”) and the Cossacks, making hereditary the crown. By numerous engravings, he recalls his victories against the Ottomans at the battle of Khotin or Lviv where the Cossacks did not play a negligible role.


A great campaign of propaganda by the engravings proposes to assert its rights on Ukraine and the Cossacks in the eyes of the European powers. In this logic it highlights its image with a clear text in Latin.

Nicolaes Visscher II et Pieter, Stevens, Jan III, König von Polen vers 1669-1702, Brunswick, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum.

A caricatural image of the hetman is made after 1651 without it being possible to know if it is King Jan Kasimir Vasa or Jan Sobieski who is responsible for it. The quality of the work does not allow it to be attributed to Hondius. The term “dux” is replaced by “ductor” or “guide” or “driver” which removes its military value of command. But this engraving is also found with the term “dux”.

The ears refer to the myth of Midas decked out in donkey ears by Apollo after betting on a satyr instead of Apollo in a lyre contest. King Midas out of shame has to put on a cap to hide them. The ears also refer to those of the animal known for its laziness and stupidity. So the caricature brings the hetman out of humanity, and the Cossacks following him are as stupid as a donkey. But it is possible that this caricature predates the reign of King Jan III since his policy was rather in favor of the Cossacks.

Philibbert Bouttats, et Nicolaes Visscher I, Janus III. D.G. Rex Poloniarum Magnus Dux Lithuaniae Ukrainae Etc.,
1688 -1730, Brunswick, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum.

The king’s policy, although sometimes referred to as “Cossackism”, did not achieve its ends. King Jan III Sobieski failed to find a fair solution to Polish-Ukrainian relations. This relationship deteriorates every year and upon his death only the hetman Mazepa was able to propose a more stable relationship for the Cossacks gathering around him a certain unity of Cossack claims according to historian Tatiana Tairova-Yakovleva.

Conclusion: la succession de Sobieski

Johann Baptiste Homann, Ukrania quae et Terra Cosaccorum cum vicinis Walachiae, Moldoviae, 1720. L’auteur a mis lUkraine en jaune.

With the death of Sobieski the title of duke of Ukraine is lost. Frederic August of Saxony or Stanislas Leszczynski use a title without the term “Ukraine”. The engraving of Augustus II shows him in bowl-capped armour, the model is very close to some of Sobieski’s engravings. Territorial claims on the left bank of the Dnieper are no longer on the agenda of a monarch elected with the help of the tsar.

Although King August II used the Cossacks against the Turks, their help was no longer essential since the king could count on his army from Saxony. Its political rapprochement with Russia is marked by a desire to leave the Cossack troops to the tsar. In 1702, he decided to dismiss the Cossack regiments from the Kiyv region and then ordered the dismantling of the camps on the left bank from 1711.

Anonyme?, Portrait of the Hetman Ivan Mazepa , 1709, Getty Images.

The Ukrainian “Ruin” ends with the arrival of the hetman Mazepa in 1687 at the head of the left bank. Remaining twenty years in power, he managed to unify Ukraine and give autonomy to the hetmanate until the defeat of Poltava and his death in 1709. This is what an engraving recalls which is inscribed “hetman of all ‘Ukraine’ in Latin.

Voltaire, Histoire de Charles XII,1768 , p.154

Further readings

Білецький (Платон Олександрович), Українське мистецтво другої половини XVII-XVIII століть, Київ, Мистецтво, 1981. (Biletsky, Platon Alexandrovitch), Art ukrainien de la seconde moitié des XVII-XVIII siècle)

Чухліб (Тарас), Гетьмани і монархи. Українська держава в міжнародних відносинах 1648 – 1714 рр. – К.: Інститут історії України НАНУ, 2003 (Chukhlib (Taras), Hetmans et monarque. L’Etat ukrainien dans les relations internationales 1648-1714)

Plokhy (Serhii), Tsars & Cossacks – A Study in Iconography, Cambridge, Harvard Papers in Ukrainian Studies, 2002.( Plokhy (Serhii), Tsar et les cosaques. Une étude de l’iconographie)

Таирова-Яковлева (Татьяна), Между Речью Посполитой и Россией. Правобережная Украина в эпоху гайдамаков, Нестор-История, 2020 (Tairova-Yakovleva (Tatyana), Entre la République des Deux-Nations et la Russie. L’Ukraine de la rive droite à l’ère des Haïdamaks)

Widacka (Hanna), Jan III Sobieski w grafice XVII i XVIII wieku, Warszawa, Państ. Wydaw. Naukowe, 1987 (Widacka (Hanna), Jan III Sobieski et son image XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles)

La plantation des routes dans la généralité du Berry au XVIIIe siècle

La route des Lumières

L’arrêt du roi du 3 mai 1720 définit les « grandes routes » c’est à dire celles qui mènent aux côtes, aux frontières ou aux grandes capitales provinciales comme devant être de 60 pieds de large et les « chemins royaux » de 36 pieds1. Alors que Louis Ligier, dans La nouvelle maison rustique, leur donne « soixante-douze pieds de large dans les bois et vingt-quatre pieds ailleurs pour le moins »2. Quand le chemin royal est pavé, on l’accompagne d’un chemin de terre. Ligier poursuit que « dans les grandes routes allants de Paris dans les provinces, les inspecteurs des Ponts et chaussées doivent faire entretenir aux dépends du roi, des fossés de quatre pieds de large sur deux pieds de profondeur, à l’extrémité des chemins de terre qui accompagnent le pavé et lorsqu’il n’y a point de chemins de terre déterminés, on doit faire des fossés à dix-huit pieds de distance de chaque coté du pavé dans les grandes routes et à douze pieds dans les routes moins considérables »3.

Atlas de Trudaine pour la généralité de Bourges.
“N° 302 Nièvre n° 1. Grande route de Paris à Lyon depuis Maltaverne jusqu’à Barbeloup[…]”, Archives nationales

L’intendant du Berry rappelle que « plusieurs arrêts du conseils et notamment ceux des 26 mai 1705 et 17 juin 1721 chargent les propriétaires des héritages, qui aboutissent aux grandes toutes, d’entretenir [en] chaque endroit soit les fossés faits ou qui seront faits à l’avenir », mais il ajoute que « la dépense de la première ouverture n’est point à leur charge »4. Il vient ensuite les chemins de traverses et les chemins vicinaux. Les chemins de traverse sont les chemins reliant les bourgs, les villages, les villes moyennes et petites. Ils dépendent pour la plupart du seigneur du lieu. Ce sont des chemins coupant les axes principaux définis comme route royale. Ils sont souvent mal faits et peu entretenus, mesurant entre seize et huit pieds de large. Ce sont les commerçants et les paysans locaux avec leurs charrettes ou chariots qui les empruntent pour aller de village en village en fonction de la saison agricole et des foires. Mais ces chemins ne permettent pas les grands trajets car ils deviennent parfois impraticables en hiver. Et enfin les « chemins vicinaux » qui sont les chemins privés reliant des sites peu éloignés aux villages. Dans ces sortes de chemins, on peut retrouver les allées et avenues menant aux châteaux.

Vue aérienne de l’avenue de Valençay, coll. part.

Louis Liger, qui a fait un long article sur les chemins5 , préconise la plantation d’arbres le long des chemins car « les routes en seraient plus belles, les chemins moins défaits, les terres mêmes moins exploitées ; on emploierait très utilement un terrain souvent perdu et on aurait toujours, du moins à la longue, de beaux et bon plants dans ce Royaume, où l’on ne saurait avoir ni trop de bois ni trop de fruit »6.

L’alignement vu par les ingénieurs du Berry

Un mémoire écrit pour l’alignement des routes à la sortie de la ville de Gien mentionne que « le but que doivent se proposer les ingénieurs qui sont chargés de tirer les alignements des routes est sans doute : 1°le bien public et celui de l’État en les faisant passer, autant que faire se peut, par la ligne la plus courte et sur le terrain le plus solide, afin de diminuer les travaux, la dépense et de soulager les corvéables ; 2° de faire l’ornement des villes en leur procurant de belles routes hors de leurs enceintes ; 3° de faire trouver aux voyageurs leur agrément et leur sûreté en les traçant dans un pays découvert et élevé ; 4° enfin de diminuer la perte des particuliers en tirant des alignements sur le terrain le moins précieux»7.

Atlas de Trudaine pour la “Généralité de Bourges n° 9. Route de Bourges à Gien, par Argent, Aubigni, Prelly-le-Chêtif, Merry-en-??? et Allogni, depuis Bourges jusqu’à la fin de la généralité peu au-delà d’Argent”, Archives nationales.

On voit ainsi que les routes sont, à la fois par leurs tracés et par leurs plantations, un ornement du territoire autour des villes. Deux critères permettent de leur conférer un caractère ornemental et monumental, tout d’abord leur parcours puis leurs plantations d’arbres. Le tracé rectiligne de la route est un des grands préceptes des ingénieurs mais une fois sur le terrain, les différents acteurs qui entrent en jeu doivent trouver le meilleur tracé. En effet, on peut le voir lors de la création de la route de Bourges à Montluçon par Saint-Amand. Les projets de la route de Bourges à Clermont par Montluçon et Saint-Amand sont vérifiés par l’intendant, sur les lieux avec l’ingénieur.

Atlas de Trudaine pour la généralité de Bourges.
“N° 320. Généralité de Bourges. N° 20. Chemin de Bourges à Saint-Amand passant par Dun-le-Roy, 8 cartes, et 3 feuilles de ponts, Cher”, Archives nationales.

Ils sont d’accord pour « que l’alignement pris sur la droite du coteau qui se trouve en ce lieu doit à tous égard être adopté plutôt que l’autre, [car] son exposition qui est au grand air et au soleil, se trouvant à mi-côte, fait non seulement un fort bel effet, mais encore est très avantageuse pour la beauté et la conservation du chemin, au lieu que de l’autre coté [où] il se trouve dans un fond ou il serait toujours humide et mauvais [car] la montagne formant un rideau qui empercherait de recevoir le soleil »8 .Ce tracé doit être le plus adapté pour proposer aux voyageurs un passage agréable et sûr, mais aussi permettre une meilleur conservation du chemin nouvellement réalisé. Après son implantation, l’ingénieur doit s’intéresser à la plantation d’alignement. Les alignements d’arbres modifient la perception que l’on a de la route.

Les plantations par l’exemple du Berry

Un alignement est un ensemble d’arbres plantés à distance régulière pour souligner un axe de communication tel qu’une route ou un canal. Les arbres permettent de conduire le regard du voyageur au loin. De plus, l’alignement des arbres peut permettre de masquer ou de révéler les points forts du paysage le long de la route. Enfin, l’arbre permet l’ombrage et l’humidité de l’air pour le voyageur. Il répond donc autant à un besoin d’agrément qu’à un besoin utilitaire. On peut ajouter que les fruits et les bois permettent aux riverains qui en jouissent d’avoir un revenu et un moyen de chauffage. Les pépinières royales produisent des essences d’arbres propices à la fois à l’ombrage et à la fois par leur silhouette à souligner les axes. Un état des arbres, pour l’année 1773, des pépinières pour les Ponts et chaussées de la généralité de Bourges, « tant pour les grandes routes que pour différents particuliers, d’après les ordres de Mr. L’intendant », nous renseigne sur les essences utilisable : pour la « pépinière de Bourges : 800 ormes, 209 noyers, 1544 peupliers d’Italie », et pour la « pépinières de La Charité : 483 noyers, 409 sycomores, 400 frênes, 258 peupliers d’Italie et 111 arbres fruitiers. » Mais « on ignore s’il en a été délivré de la pépinière de Châteauroux»9. Pour cette année 1773, il y a donc 4124 arbres pour deux pépinières. Les pépinières avaient en charge d’élever les jeunes arbres et arbustes, de les conserver et de les proposer aux particuliers qui pouvaient les acheter. Les essences étaient variées et les propriétaires les utilisaient régulièrement.

Avenue de Montgeoffroy au XIXe siècle, Geoportail.

Ainsi, à Montgeoffroy, sur un plan de 1775, l’allée principale est composée d’ormes, les deux autres, de peupliers noirs (léards) et de peupliers10. A Argent, l’allée principale fut plantée d’acacias, qui ont été enlevés dans les années 1960 et la route de tilleuls. Les peupliers d’Italie poussent avec une tige munie de branches latérales et d’une flèche verticale. Les ormes ou acacias présentent un tronc droit surmonté de plusieurs branches appelées couronne, seule la taille générale de l’arbre varie. Ils permettent par leur allure élancée ou leur tronc droit de souligner les axes de communications. La plantation plus ou moins rapprochée permet l’ombrage. On ne retrouve ni les tilleuls, ni les acacias dans les pépinières royales, en cela, on peut supposer que l’intendant, qui a lui même des pépinières, fait pousser ses arbres ou que ce sont des plantations postérieures à l’état de 1773. Les particuliers pouvaient se fournir dans les pépinières.

Tilleul argenté, gravure 1801, coll. part.

Ainsi l’intendant explique qu’ « il a été accordé à des particuliers pour les planter où ils ont jugé à propos. Il paraît que le désir d’exciter à cet égard l’émulation dans cette province, fit le principe de l’institution des pépinières qui y sont établies. Priez que dans l’origine, on accordait même des gratifications aux cultivateurs qui par leur zêle et leur intelligence parviennent à former les plus belles plantation. Et je croirais manquer à la justice et à l’objet même de l’établissement si je leur refusais aujourd’hui des arbres lorsqu’il y en a de reste, après une réserve suffisante pour les routes. Je sais d’ailleurs que ces distribution particulières ont lieu dans toutes les provinces où il y a des pépinières à leurs frais comme sont celles du Berry»11. Mais, on peut remarquer, d’après l’ingénieur en chef Valframbert, en 1773, que l’intendant dirige la « destination des arbres des pépinières, [et] que l’imposition pour subvenir à cette dépense étant sur sa province, il en était seul l’administrateur ». Et surtout qu’il ne paierait pas l’ingénieur s’il continuait à « faire faire des plantations de routes aux frais du roi ». Ainsi l’ingénieur fait « remarquer, […] qu’il n’y a eu que deux personnes dans la province qui aient voulu planter à leurs frais »12. Trudaine préférait que ce soit les pépinières qui fournissent toutes les plantations des routes et qu’elles soient plantées par les Ponts et chaussées alors que l’intendant voudrait « engager les propriétaires riverains des routes à les planter eux-mêmes » et il poursuit qu’il leur en donnerait de ses réserves pour qu’elles « ne coûtent proprement pas un sol au roi ». En conséquence, « c’est la province qui en fait tous les frais et il paraît dans l’ordre qu’elles tournent, à un certain point, au profit de ses habitants. »

Plan de la pépinière du Roule à Paris, Gallica.

L’intendant rajoute que planter des arbres en terre ne suffit pas car « ils exigent pendant plusieurs années des soins particuliers » et que « le propriétaire seul peut les faire donner parce qu’il les regarde comme sa propre chose et son ouvrage, tandis que cela serait impossible à l’administration »13. Il conclut que faire faire des plantations par corvée serait une pure perte par rapport à la quantité d’ouvrages à faire et que cela occuperait un ingénieur qui n’a aucun pouvoir de police sur les arbres après leur plantation. Turgot finit par trancher avec l’arrêt du conseil du 6 février 1776 qui préconise que« les bords des routes seront plantés d’arbres propres au terrain, dans les cas où ladite plantation sera jugée convenable, en égard à la situation et disposition desdites routes »14. Ces plantations devaient être l’œuvre des propriétaires en bordure de route comme l’ajoute l’arrêt du 17 avril 177615.


1. Jean Le Rond d’Alembert et Denis Diderot, Encyclopédie, Paris, Briasson, Le Breton, David, Durand, t. III, 1753. p.279. 2. Louis Liger, La nouvelle maison rustique, septième édition, Paris, Saugrain, tome I, 1755, p.894. 3Ibid.,p.895. 4. Arch dept. du Cher, C110, copie sans date de la lettre de l’intendant Dupré de Saint-Maur à M. d’Aumont, procureur du roi au bureau des finances. 5. Louis Liger, La nouvelle maison rustique, op. cit., septième édition, Paris, Saugrain, tome I, 1755, p.894-897. 6. Ibid., p.894. 7. Arch. dept. du Cher, C1245, mémoire du commissaire terrier de Claude-Charles Feydeau de Marville, comte de Gien. 8. Arch. dept. du Cher, C110, lettre de l’intendant Dupré de Saint-Maur à Trudaine du 20 août 1770. 9. Arch. dept. du Cher, C112, mémoire sur les pépinières royales du 19 avril 1774. 10. Voir Gouiric (Nicole), « La peuplomanie dans les jardins de la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle : propos inspirés par les peupliers de Méréville », Polia, n°10, 2008, figure p.47. 11. Arch. dept. du Cher, C112, lettre de l’intendant Dupré de Saint-Maur à Trudaine du 19 avril 1774. 12. Arch. ENPC, MS 2433, boite 2, lettre de Valframbert à Perronet du 3 décembre 1773. 13. Arch. dept. du Cher, C112, lettre de l’intendant Dupré de Saint-Maur à Trudaine du 29 juin 1773. 14.  Vignon (Eugène-Jean-Marie), Études historiques sur l’administration des voies publiques en France au XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, op.cit., pièce justificative n°548, 8 février 1776, « arrêt du conseil du roi sur la largeur des routes », p.226. 15Ibid., pièce justificative n°549, 17 avril 1776, « arrêt du conseil qui fixe à un an le délai accordé aux propriétaires riverains pour planter […] », p. 228.

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