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The Renaissance in Poland generated fascinating tales of love and intrigue that have been retold and reinterpreted in each succeeding age—but almost always in Polish. Jeff Prince's retelling of the love story of Sigismund Augustus and Barbara Radziwill in English and for an American audience has produced a novel that is both true to the historical record and a reinterpretation for our times. When it is published, it will bring renewed and deserved attention to the Golden Age in Poland and Lithuania.
While earning his Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Virginia and then teaching for almost a decade at Northwestern University, Jeffrey R. Prince read widely in Renaissance literature and history in connection with courses on Shakespeare and Elizabethan poetry. Therefore, he was shocked when during his first visit to Krakow, he stumbled across Lucas Cranach's portrait miniatures of the last Jagiellonian kings and queens of Poland. Like most Americans, Jeff had never heard of the Jagiellonian dynasty and knew very little about the Golden Age over which it presided.
For a former academic with a passion for research, here was a beckoning subject, related to his area of expertise, but still mysterious, still to be explored. He delved into the dynasty's 200-year history at the Library of Congress near his home in Washington, DC, and visited the relevant sites in Poland and Lithuania. When he learned enough to ask the right questions, he arranged interviews with experts in both countries—curators and biographers who proved generous with their time and insights. Eventually, he focused on the most intriguing and touching episode in the dynastic saga and decided to present it to the American audience in novel form. The actual writing took five years, and the manuscript was completed in 2020.
This program is sponsored by Krystyna Piorkowska Foundation.