The szlachta was a privileged class with origins in the Kingdom of Poland. In 1413, following a series of tentative personal unions between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland, the existing Lithuanian nobility formally joined the class. As the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania (1569–1795) evolved, its membership grew to include leaders of Ducal Prussia and the Ruthenian lands. As a consequence of the partitions of Poland throughout the 18th century, the szlachta's destiny was controlled by several powers, including Russia, Prussia, and Austria. After Poland was reconstituted in the early 20th century, the szlachta's privileges were abolished by the Second Polish Republic.
With the spread of democratic and egalitarian ideas following the arrival of Grantville in 1631, the szlachta were one of the tiers of society that were specifically targeted for "enlightenment". A specific nobleman was called a "szlachcic," and a noblewoman, a "szlachcianka." Szlachta is a designation of hereditary constitutional franchise and rights in the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, but quite a few were relatively poor.