Nicolas Chopin

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Nicolas Chopin
Mikolaj Chopin.jpg
Nicolas Chopin. Photo of lost painting by Ambroży Mieroszewski, 1829
Born(1771-04-15)15 April 1771
Marainville-sur-Madon, Vosges, France
Died3 May 1844(1844-05-03) (aged 73)
Cause of death Tuberculosis
Spouse(s)Justyna Krzyżanowska
Children Ludwika Chopin Jędrzejewicz
Frédéric Chopin
Izabella Chopin Barcińska
Emilia Chopin
Parent(s)François Chopin
Marguerite Deflin

Nicolas Chopin (in Polish : Mikołaj Chopin; 15 April 1771 3 May 1844) was a teacher of French language in Prussian- and Russian-ruled Poland, and father of Polish composer Frédéric Chopin. [1]

Polish language West Slavic language spoken in Poland

Polish is a West Slavic language of the Lechitic group. It is spoken primarily in Poland and serves as the native language of the Poles. In addition to being an official language of Poland, it is also used by Polish minorities in other countries. There are over 50 million Polish language speakers around the world and it is one of the official languages of the European Union.

Partitions of Poland forced partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The Partitions of Poland were three partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that took place toward the end of the 18th century and ended the existence of the state, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland and Lithuania for 123 years. The partitions were conducted by Habsburg Austria, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Russian Empire, which divided up the Commonwealth lands among themselves progressively in the process of territorial seizures and annexations.



Justyna Chopin, nee Krzyzanowska, wife of Nicolas and mother of Frederic Justyna Chopin.jpg
Justyna Chopin, née Krzyżanowska, wife of Nicolas and mother of Frédéric

Nicolas Chopin was born in the village of Marainville-sur-Madon (Vosges department), in the province of Lorraine, France. He was the son of François Chopin (9 November 1738, Ambacourt – 31 January 1814, Marainville), a wheelwright and village administrator for Marainville, and Marguerite, née Deflin (1 February 1736, Diarville – 21 August 1794, Marainville), an educator respected by her colleagues and students. François and Marguerite were married on 17 January 1769. [2]

Marainville-sur-Madon Commune in Grand Est, France

Marainville-sur-Madon is a commune in the Vosges department in Grand Est in northeastern France.

Vosges Mountain range in France

The Vosges are a range of low mountains in eastern France, near its border with Germany. Together with the Palatine Forest to the north on the German side of the border, they form a single geomorphological unit and low mountain range of around 8,000 km2 (3,100 sq mi) in area. It runs in a north-northeast direction from the Burgundian Gate to the Börrstadt Basin, and forms the western boundary of the Upper Rhine Plain.

Ambacourt Commune in Grand Est, France

Ambacourt is a commune in the Vosges department in Grand Est in northeastern France.

Nicolas had four sisters, only two of whom survived to adulthood: Anne (b. 23 November 1769, Marainville), who married Joseph Thomas on 13 February 1798, and Marguerite (5 August 1775, Marainville – 10 March 1845), who married Nicolas Bastien on 2 December 1798. Nicolas' godmother was his aunt Thérèse Lhumbert née Chopin, the half-sister of his father François. [2]

Nicolas graduated from the gymnasium at Tantimont, a nearby advanced secondary school dedicated to training youth for the teaching profession and the priesthood. As village administrator, François Chopin was acquainted with Adam Jan Weydlich, [3] the Polish-born estate administrator for Count Michał Jan Pac. Weydlich took an interest in the education of young Nicolas, teaching him the rudiments of the Polish language, while Weydlich's wife—a Parisian, Françoise-Nicole née Schelling—taught him French and German literature, music, etiquette, calligraphy, and accounting. [4]

Gymnasium (school) type of school providing advanced secondary education in Europe

A gymnasium is a type of school with a strong emphasis on academic learning, and providing advanced secondary education in some parts of Europe comparable to British grammar schools, sixth form colleges and US preparatory high schools. In its current meaning, it usually refers to secondary schools focused on preparing students to enter a university for advanced academic study. Before the 20th century, the system of gymnasiums was a widespread feature of educational system throughout many countries of central, north, eastern, and south Europe.

Michał Jan Pac Polish noble

Michał Jan Pac (1730–1787) was a Polish-Lithuanian nobleman, Lithuanian Marshal of the Bar Confederation from 1769 until 1772, Chamberlain of King Augustus.

In late 1787, after the death of Count Pac, Weydlich returned to Poland with his family, and he offered sixteen-year-old Nicolas the chance to come with him. Weydlich became the supervisor of a tobacco company (Manufaktura Tytoniowa w Warszawie) founded in 1777 by Jan Dekert, Piotr Blank (pl), and Andrzej Rafałowicz (pl). Nicolas worked at the factory, 1787–89, probably as an accounting clerk. Nicolas and the Weydlich family lived with Adam's brother, Franciszek Weydlich, in tenements of the Holy Cross Church on Krakowskie Przedmieście.

Jan Dekert Polish merchant and activist

Jan Dekert or Jan Dekiert was a Polish merchant of German descent and political activist. Starting in the 1760s, he rose to become one of the most prominent merchants in the Polish capital of Warsaw. He was an activist arguing for more rights for the burghers in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth while opposing Jewish merchants. As the representative of Warsaw, he was elected a deputy to the Sejms of 1784 and 1786, as well as to the Great Sejm (1788–1792). He was the mayor of Warsaw (1789–1790), during which period he organized the Black Procession on 2 December 1789. This was a major step towards the passing of the Free Royal Cities Act enfranchising burghers, as one of the reforms of the Great Sejm and part of the Constitution of the 3rd May, 1791.

Holy Cross Church, Warsaw Roman Catholic church in Warsaw, Poland

The Church of the Holy Cross is a Roman Catholic house of worship in Warsaw, Poland. Located on Krakowskie Przedmieście opposite the main Warsaw University campus, it is one of the most notable Baroque churches in Poland's capital.

Krakowskie Przedmieście street in Warsaw

Krakowskie Przedmieście is one of the best known and most prestigious streets of Poland's capital Warsaw, surrounded by historic palaces, churches and manor-houses. Krakowskie Przedmieście Royal Avenue constitutes the northernmost part of Warsaw's Royal Route, and links the Old Town and Royal Castle with some of the most notable institutions in Warsaw, including – proceeding southward – the Presidential Palace, Warsaw University, and the Polish Academy of Sciences headquartered in the Staszic Palace. The immediate southward extension of Krakowskie Przedmieście along the Royal Route is ulica Nowy Świat.

Nicolas stayed there until 1792, working as Adam's personal assistant and possibly tutoring his children: Henryka (b. 1777) and Mikołaj (b. 1783). His friends from this period included Jakub Benik (24 July 1772 Dobre Miasto, Warmia – 20 January 1827 Warsaw) and Jan Austen (early 1774 Wilkie, Warmia – 6 May 1828 Warsaw), a professor at the Elementary School of Artillery and Engineering (Szkoła Elementarna Artylerii i Inżynierów) for the Army of the Duchy of Warsaw. [4] There is one extant letter written by Nicolas to his parents during this time; in the letter, he explains that he does not want to return to France due to the French Revolution and the likelihood that he would be conscripted into the army. [5]

Army of the Duchy of Warsaw

Army of the Duchy of Warsaw refers to the military forces of the Duchy of Warsaw. The Army was significantly based on the Polish Legions; it numbered about 30,000 and was expanded during wartime to almost 100,000. It was composed of infantry with a strong cavalry force supported by artillery. The Napoleonic customs and traditions resulted in some social tensions, but are generally credited with helpful modernization and useful reforms.

French Revolution social and political revolution in France and its colonies occurring from 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Frederic Chopin at 25, by Maria Wodzinska, 1835 Chopin, by Wodzinska.JPG
Frédéric Chopin at 25, by Maria Wodzińska, 1835
Fryderyk Chopin at 19, by Ambrozy Mieroszewski, 1829 Fryderyk Chopin.jpg
Fryderyk Chopin at 19, by Ambroży Mieroszewski, 1829

The year 1792 saw the Second Partition of Poland, and the tobacco factory was closed down. From 1792-1794, he resided in Szafarnia (Dobrzyń county) with Jan Dziewanowski as tutor and teacher to his son Jan Nepomucen Dziewanowski, [6] , who later became the godfather to Nicolas' daughter, Ludwika [7] . During the 1794 outbreak of the Kościuszko Uprising, Nicolas joined the Warsaw municipal militia, rising to the rank of lieutenant. After a year he was wounded, just as the uprising was collapsing.

Finding himself again unemployed, he was soon engaged at Czerniewo, in Mazowsze Province, as tutor to the Łączyński family (one of whose daughters, Maria, after later marrying Anastazy Walewski, would gain fame as mistress to Napoleon Bonaparte). Nicolas spent some six years with them. Central and Eastern Europe was then flooded with refugees from areas affected by revolution, and many of them found the same kind of employment as Nicolas. On Polish lands it became fashionable for even modestly well-to-do nobility to have a French aristocrat in their homes. Nicolas was not "well-born," so his position bespoke the substantial education and social graces that he had acquired during his previous seven years among his adoptive Polish compatriots.

Nicolas spent the next several years at Żelazowa Wola with Countess Ludwika Skarbek and her family (relatives of the Łączyńskis), tutoring the four children. On 2 June 1806, [1] he married a poor relative of the Skarbeks who lived with them and ran the household, Tekla Justyna Krzyżanowska (daughter of Jakub Krzyżanowski and Antonina, née' Kołomińska, of Długie in Włocławek County). Justyna's brother would be the father of Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski, later a Union general in the American Civil War. [8]

A year later their first daughter was born, Ludwika (Louise), and they moved to a larger house on the estate.

In 1810 their only son Fryderyk was born. His godfather was Fryderyk Skarbek, who had been tutored by Nicolas Chopin.

Grave of Nicolas and Justyna Chopin, Powazki Cemetery, Warsaw Grob rodzicow Fryderyka Chopina Stare Powazki 2014.JPG
Grave of Nicolas and Justyna Chopin, Powązki Cemetery, Warsaw

Count Skarbek had fallen into debt and fled the Duchy of Warsaw, leaving his wife and four children. At their age they no longer required a tutor, so it was clear the Countess would no longer be able to employ the Chopins. Probably Nicolas had been thinking of moving to Warsaw even before the birth of his son Fryderyk.

In July that year, Nicolas and Justyna and their children moved to Warsaw, to the Saxon Palace, which housed the Warsaw Lyceum where he would teach French language. In October 1810, Nicolas was appointed "collaborator" (kollaborant) and, in June 1814, regular professor of French language at the Lyceum. He held this post until the lyceum's closure in 1833. [1]

Apart from these positions, in 1812 he was appointed professor of French language at an Elementary Artillery and Engineers School (Szkoła Elementarna Artylerii i Inżynierów), and in 1820 at a Military Training School (Szkoła Aplikacyjna Wojskowa), where he was active until the school was closed down in 1831. [1]

In 1833, with the reorganization of the educational system following the November 1830 Uprising, Chopin was to have received a position at a planned Pedagogical Institute. While awaiting the new appointment, he received half-wages and evaluated French-teacher candidates and French works proposed for use in public schools. In 1837, when the Institute failed to materialize, Chopin retired. Nevertheless, he continued on the Examining Committee till 1841. In addition, for a brief period in 1837, he was lecturer in French language at the Roman Catholic Clerical Academy (Akademia Duchowna) in Warsaw. [1]

Nicolas Chopin died of tuberculosis in Warsaw on 3 May 1844, aged seventy-three. [1] He is interred with his wife at Powązki Cemetery.


Frederic Chopin's sister, Ludwika Jedrzejewicz. She gave him his first piano lessons and smuggled his heart (concealed under her skirts) back to Warsaw. Ludwika Chopin.jpg
Frédéric Chopin's sister, Ludwika Jędrzejewicz. She gave him his first piano lessons and smuggled his heart (concealed under her skirts) back to Warsaw.

On 2 June 1806, Chopin married Justyna née Krzyżanowska. The couple had four children: Ludwika, born 1807, who married Józef Jędrzejewicz; their only son, Fryderyk Franciszek, born 1810, a pianist and composer best known as Frédéric Chopin; Izabela, born 9 July 1811, who married Antoni Barciński; and Emilia, born in 1812, who died of tuberculosis in 1827, aged fourteen. [1]

In 1829 Ambroży Mieroszewski painted oil portraits of Mikołaj (Nicolas) Chopin and Justyna Chopin (died October 1861, aged 81) and their surviving children: Fryderyk (the earliest known portrait of him, and one of the most convincing); Fryderyk's older sister Ludwika; and his younger sister Izabela. (That same year, Mieroszewski also painted Fryderyk's first professional piano teacher, Wojciech Żywny. [9]

Fryderyk's first cousin Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski (1824–87) — the son of Fryderyk's mother's brother — became a Union Army brigadier general in the American Civil War.


Nicolas Chopin was, according to Wincenty Łopaciński, a man of great intelligence and culture, universally esteemed, a model teacher, and solicitous of his brilliant son Frédéric. Though he had come from a foreign country, with time he became completely Polonized and "undoubtedly considered himself a Pole." [10] This was borne out by his willingness to fight for Poland's independence in the Kościuszko Uprising, after he had earlier refused to return to revolutionary France for fear of being conscripted into the French army.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Łopaciński, "Chopin, Mikołaj," p. 426.
  2. 1 2 Wróblewska-Straus, Hanna. "Nicolas Chopin". Korespondencja Fryderyka Chopina, Vol. I, p. 571.
  3. "Adam Weydlich" Fryderyk Chopin Institute
  4. 1 2 Wróblewska-Straus, Hanna. "Nicolas Chopin". Korespondencja Fryderyka Chopina, Vol. I, p. 572.
  5. Samson, Jim. Chopin. p.5
  6. Institute, The Fryderyk Chopin. "Fryderyk Chopin - Information Centre - Mikołaj Chopin - Biography". Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  7. Institute, The Fryderyk Chopin. "Fryderyk Chopin - Information Centre - Jan Nepomucen Dziewanowski - Biography". Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  8. Jarosław Krawczyk, "Wielkie odkrycia ludzkości" ("Mankind's Great Discoveries"),Rzeczpospolita, vol. 17, 12 June 2008.
  9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 29 March 2008.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Catalog of Polish paintings lost in World War II.
  10. Łopaciński, "Chopin, Mikołaj," p. 427.

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