Constance Raczyńska from the Potocki family of Podhajec, of the Pilawa (Silver) coat of arms (1783-1852) “The new Lady, energetic and resourceful, introduced the necessary reforms in the life of Rogalin, whose owner did not care about worldly comforts, nor about the kitchen, nor about elegance.” . Constance was born in Tulczyn as the daughter of Szczęsny Potocki and Józefina Mniszchówna. In 1799, at a very young age, she married her 20 year older cousin, the renowned writer and author of, among other things, “Manuscript Found in Saragossa” – Jan Potocki. She gave birth to three children: a boy – Andrzej Bernard and two girls – Irena, the future Lady Łubieńska, and Teresa, who through a favorable marriage entered the Lachman family .
The happiness of the Potocki’s marriage did not last long. Jan was mostly away from home, busy with his travels and discoveries. Upon his return from a research trip to Siberia, he found his wife in love with another man. In the initial period of her life, Constance was considered to be rather promiscuous. “At first, her husband treated her romances with a wink and even wrote about them to his father-in-law. For example, he informed him that Constance never set up official meetings with her lover, but publicly showed him favor. Potocki didn’t take seriously the evidence of his young wife’s infidelity, which always returned to him […] they traveled a lot together. It was probably during the trip to Vienna in 1803 that they met the famous painter Lampi, who painted a portrait of Constance. It was this portrait that almost 30 years later hung in Rogalin”. In 1809, Jan Potocki demanded a divorce, which Constance accepted, but she made sure to separate their property, not wanting to finance her ex-husband’s extravagant lifestyle. Jan, overwhelmed with strong emotions, took his own life in 1815. While her husband was away, Constance usually spent her time in Paris. In 1811, she met Atanazy Raczyński there, her future brother-in-law. He quickly described the future Lady of Rogalin: “Mrs. Jan Potocka has a quite beautiful head and a lot of freshness, but she is very fat and limps. Intellectually it is nothing extraordinary. Her character is changeable; she is domineering and vain, she speaks a lot, indistinctly and ineptly […] [After some years, he added – A.W.] she does not know how to express herself, but she knows how to act and has an infallible instinct in this regard.”.
Constance was one of 9 daughters of Szczęsny Potocki. She probably met Count Edward Raczyński during his stay in Warsaw. The descendants of Potocki had to bear the burden of their father – a Targowica confederate. However, the sincere feeling between Edward and Constance overcame both this inconvenience and the unfriendly attitude towards their relationship from Kazimierz Raczyński. Although the Count, who respected his opinion, married his chosen one only after the death of his grandfather. After moving to Poznań, Constance Potocka decided to open a salon in the Prussian province capital, similar to the one she had in Warsaw. Unfortunately, the rooms in the building of the Raczyński Library, which were awaiting guests, were mostly empty. The forming group of urban intelligentsia had fears and distanced itself from the activities of the noble families. The master of the house himself enjoyed the reputation of a proud and inaccessible man, as did his chosen one.
At Rogalin, Constance was in charge of the estate. She also took an active part in Edward I’s projects. She ordered and searched for Polish publications in the world and brought them to the newly built Library. She also made illustrations for Raczyński’s publications. It was to her that Edward dedicated the first volume of the “Memoirs of Wielkopolska” published in 1817: “To Konstancja Countess Potocka (on the occasion of presenting her with the first copy of this work), I proclaim the book I send you first to be yours; for I write it at your command and adorn it with your drawings. In this undertaking, besides the general good of the historical monuments of our country, I find the dearest benefit to myself, that I may make known to the public the endeavors of the best Polish woman and her unusual skill in the arts.” .
Constance of Potocki also became involved in managing the first female translation team, which in the 1840s translated seventeenth and eighteenth century French manuscripts and writings on the history of Poland . She was also one of the first donors of the Raczyński Library in Poznań. Edward ordered to honor her donation of 1680 volumes of manuscripts purchased from Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz by placing her portrait in one of the library halls .
In the opinion of her contemporaries, she was a determined person who acted quickly. She never remained impartial. “She was a child of the age, in which patriotism embraced human minds and hearts with the power of an element” . When the November Uprising broke out, she clearly took the side of the Polish cause, although she was opposed to revolution. Her attitude was summed up with the statement “The wine is already poured – it must be drunk” . She supported the rebels by financing the field hospital of her daughter-in-law, Klaudyna Potocka . She also took care of the poor, for which she was to receive written thanks from King Frederick Wilhelm himself .
There was no talk of the marriage of the Raczyńskis and Konstancja Potocka for a long time. Atanazy, Edward’s brother, writes about it in his memoirs only in 1826, that is, after nearly 11 years of acquaintance and joint life: “On December 3, Edward left for Ukraine. I suspect he will marry Ms. Janowa […] Certainly it would be better to take marriage with a younger person, but still better than to remain unmarried. His loneliness scared me. “. The wedding with Edward Raczyński takes place on December 16, 1826. In a letter to his brother Atanazy, the newlywed husband describes Konstancja as a good and gentle person . Edward and Konstancja had offspring – son Roger Maurycy Raczyński.
Konstancja’s second husband also ended his life with suicide. He took his own life with a cannon shot on an island on Zaniemysk Lake. According to his wish, he was buried at the local church. At the grave, Konstancja placed the statue of Hygea with her features, funded by Edward for Poznan . On the plinth she ordered to engrave the inscription “The wife meanwhile watches her husband’s corpse and begs for prayers for him”, and in the center a fragment taken from her “Defense of Count Raczyński”: “Here lies Edward Nałęcz, Count Raczyński, who was stingy to himself, helpful to the poor, generous to the Fatherland “.
Despite the turbulent youth stage of her life, Konstancja is remembered as a hardworking and intelligent person who supported the artistic, literary and socio-cultural activities undertaken by her husbands. She was their support, inspired them to work and outlined new horizons of creative searches .