Poles apart – how exiled count faced his detractors

AN old market town coaching inn such as The George in Colchester High St is a sort of design classic in its way. Because of writers such as Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie – because of the numerous films and BBC costume dramas which we export – the image is well embedded. The rest of the world expects to see such places whenever they visit us.

You can build as many VAFs as you wish but when those coaches disgorge their camera-clicking cargoes of tourists on to England’s streets, it is hostelries such as the George to which many will naturally gravitate.

Now, I don’t actually know why His Serene Highness, Prince Grand Master Count Juliusz, gave the hotel in question the framed award, which observant visitors may notice just inside the front door but I suspect it was simply because, deep down, he liked the place.

As an aristocrat claiming to be the President of the Polish Government in exile, it was probably a suitable kind of venue for him. Quite apart from anything else, it’s a serviceable local, too.

The Order of St Stanislas, which the award mentions and which our Count was the Grand Master of, was an institution founded about two centuries ago on the Eve of St Stanislas, an important Polish saint. The person who founded it was the last King of Poland, also called Stanislas.


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The Order was about all things noble, gallant and crucially, Polish. Some years later though, after a lot of complex historical and political stuff which we really don’t have time for here, the organisation stopped being the Order of St Stanislas. This was because it was felt, after a regime change or two, that too many Russians and other foreigners were getting the awards.

Today’s Order of St Stanislas which was revived after the war, still bestows awards. Most of these awards are in recognition of charitable works, advances in science, excellence in the arts and many other things, The George Hotel included. The Order of St Stanislas now branches all over the world. Why, there’s even one in Alaska.

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Not everyone, as I mentioned in the Joy of Essex last week, agreed that the Count was necessarily the Polish President in Exile, or even that his own Order of St Stanislas, re-founded again in 1984, was the true one.

He did, however, appear to have huge support worldwide and the award ceremonies continued under his aegis until his death in the summer of 2009. This is quite a thing, when we consider that Count Juliusz Nowina Solkinicki ran the whole shebang from a house in a suburban street just off the Maldon Road.

Among many attempts to discredit him, in 1991 Mr Drzycimski, press spokesman for the President of the Polish Republic, issued a statement saying that they, the Polish authorities did not recognise the Count’s legitimacy.

The arguments for and against Count Solkinicki raged back and forth for some years. Amongst other things, his military rank – at one point he seemed to have become a Major General – was in dispute.

The attendant conclusion by his detractors, however, was that it was the awarding of honours, which was the Count’s chief business and main source of his income.

He was also, his accusers alleged, involved with several other orders and of keeping some rather rarified company. In one case, he is cited as having an association with the late George King – not to be confused with King George – himself a fascinating chap. George King, or His Serene Highness, Prince Doctor George de Santorini, Count of Florina, was also Prince and Grand Master of the Mystic Order of St Peter.

According to reports, Mr King claimed that he received telepathic messages from Mars, where Jesus and Buddha ruled a kingdom of intelligent Martians. It was further alleged that King believed that he was earthly rep for the Interplanetary Parliament – whose headquarters are on Saturn. Are you still with me? Sit back and pause for breath. I needed to.

Suffice it to say that my curiosity concerning a single framed award in the George Hotel’s lobby, culminated in me throwing myself on to a grenade of research, an action which has only succeeded in confusing me still further. Was that nice old gentleman, the Polish Count who went to The George Hotel, really all that he claimed to be?

If he wasn’t, why did I find so many pictures of him in exotic locations with such important-looking and strangely-dressed people? If he was merely a Great Pretender, it seemed to be a pretty good act – even if he only ran it from a house in the Colchester suburbs.

However disrespectful it might seem, the following thought occurred to me. Whether or not Colchester’s own Polish Count was genuine, I had to ask myself if his actions and activities were any less legitimate than those of, say, our own Royal Family?

The Windsors do, after all, give out numerous gongs, sashay around in strange costumes and divide their time between large castles and sundry grand houses. The only real difference here, is that Count Solkinicki was Polish and ran a rather small business, whereas our own Royals were originally German and Greek and run a somewhat bigger one.

Meanwhile, that award, still hanging in its frame in the George Hotel’s entrance, remains, a single souvenir of the enigmatic Count Juliusz, who lived in exile for all those years in a modest house in an ordinary Colchester street.

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