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HUNGARY, 1301-1490


The Magyar nation, which at the close of the ninth century migrated from the Bulgarian-Chazar culture-zone north of the Caucasus and the Black Sea to the heart of Europe, made its new home in a territory adjoining three different spheres of civilisation. Settled at the point of contact between communities—the Western Latin-Germanic, the East European Greek-Slavonic, and the Nomad Turkish which had penetrated as far as the Carpathians—differing from one another (even antagonistic to one another) in race, natural endowments, culture, and political organisation, it became the chief problem of Magyar history to balance the forces of West and East and to secure a peaceful habitation between them. The Magyar State had to decide very early which of these civilisations to choose as the basis for its own.

The choice between Asia and Europe had been already made by the Magyars in their original home, when the Onogur ancestors of the race joined their Bulgarian kin in separating from the nomad Asiatic group of peoples; under Iranian and Greek influence they adopted settled life, changing from nomad shepherds into half-nomads practising agriculture as well. This separation was widened by Duke Arpad, the leader of the Magyar conquerors who occupied Hungary1, when he made an alliance with Leo, Emperor of Constantinople, and Arnulf, Emperor of the West, against his eastern Patzinak and Bulgarian enemies, and then in his new country assumed a defensive attitude of complete isolation from the East. At the end of the tenth and beginning of the eleventh century the nation also made its choice between Byzantium and Rome. By creating permanent peaceful connexions with the West, providing for, the conversion of their people, and establishing the Hungarian Catholic Church and the Christian kingdom, Duke Geza and St Stephen, the first King of Hungary, paved the way for the spread of Western culture and Western modes of life, and definitively brought the Magyars into the Latin-Germanic civilisation. A century later St Ladislas and Koloman (completed the organisation of the State and Church administration of their patriarchal kingship. Reaching the natural frontiers, they created the geographical unity of historical Hungary,' and established the long-lasting union of the Magyar and Croatian peoples which lived amid similar conditions at the meeting of East and West. After the lapse of another half-century, Geza II and Bela III, who had been brought up in the highly cultured court of Manuel, Emperor of Constantinople and ambitious to add the West to his Empire, strengthened the ties binding their nation  to the West by establishing family relationships with the Western— French, Spanish, English—dynasties, by the settlement in Hungary of French monks and German, Flemish, and Walloon farmers and craftsmen, by sending Hungarian priests and Court knights abroad for their education, and by creating fresh political connexions. Obtaining suzerainty over the Balkan States, which were engaged in dividing among themselves the inheritance of the Byzantine Empire then falling to pieces, Bela III established the Balkan hegemony of the Hungarian kingdom; and his son Andrew II was actually able to enter the lists with some chance of success as a candidate for the crown of the Latin Emperors of Constantinople. This endeavour was wrecked on the opposition of the Holy See of Rome; but Hungary became one of the leading powers of Western Christendom at the gateway of the East. In the days of Andrew II, the ideas of Western feudalism and the spirit of the age of chivalry penetrated into the country; and the spirit of the patriarchal kingship was gradually supplanted by the triumphant advance of the system of Estates. The Hungarian kingdom was transformed into a complete Western State, and Hungarian society into a society of Estates organised on a Western model. But this transformation, which took two centuries and a half, was not effected smoothly or without upheavals.

The Christian faith had to fight a bitter contest against the pagan inclinations of the orientally conservative section of the Magyar people; the opposition of the latter was enhanced by the bitterness felt against the domination of the foreign elements—mostly German priests and feoffees—who had acquired a position of authority in the Court and administration of the first kings of Hungary; while the situation was still further aggravated by the aggression of the Romano-Germanic Empire in the eleventh century, which even threatened the independence of the country. The immigrations encouraged by the Hungarian kings for military and economic reasons gave rise to racial antagonisms. The original elements of the nation—the Finnish-Ugrian and Onogur-Turkish (Bulgarian) sections—had long been welded into a single race by many centuries of common life; but the Chazars (Kabars), who had joined the Magyars during the period immediately preceding the conquest of Hungary, as also the Patzinaks, Uzes (Guzes), Cumans, and Turkish-Bulgarian and Arab immigrants who were continually making their way into the new home of the Magyars, together with the Pannonian Slavs, Slovaks, and Bulgarian Slavs, whom the Magyars found in Hungary at the time of its occupation, the Slavonians, Croat-Dalmatians, Bosnians, Serbs, Bulgarians, Cumans, Wallachians, and Russians subjected to Magyar rule by conquests made in the south and north-east, and the immigrants from the west and south—dense swarms of Germans and Flemings, scattered groups of French (Walloons) and Lombard-Italian colonists—all these elements composed a motley crowd which sowed the seeds of fresh racial antagonisms in the Magyar State. There was a continual struggle between the Western political and social organisation introduced by the royal power and the forces of the older social system. With the overthrow of the clan chieftains the older political organisation came to an end; but the tribal organisation of society remained unimpaired, and the clans of the free Magyars (nobles) fought for a very considerable period before yielding place to the new social communities based upon feudal ties. For centuries the original social system of clans existed as a living force side by side with the royal power established in Hungary on the model of the Frankish imperial organisation and under the influence of feudal ideas.

The first national dynasty did the country yeoman service in gradually eliminating these antagonisms. However, in the middle of the thirteenth century the strife broke out again. Immigrations from East and West, the settlement of large masses of Cumans in the Tisza district, together with the German influence prevailing as a result of the settlement of German feoffees—an influence enhanced by the autonomy enjoyed by the Saxons who had settled in compact masses on the northern and southeastern frontiers—revived the racial antagonism between the Eastern and Western elements of the population. Under the influence of pagan Cuman and other Eastern (mostly Muslim and Arab) immigrants, the pagan movement began once more to make headway, while Islam appeared as a fresh influence making for disintegration. Whereas on the one hand the activity of the monks and especially in the thirteenth century of the final's, who enjoyed the support of the Court, led to gratifying symptoms of a deepening of religious life, on the other hand there were signs of the growth of complete religious apathy and of anti-clerical and even antireligious tendencies. The ecclesiastical and secular owners of great estates, which had come into being as the result of enfeoffments on a large scale involving the transfer to private ownership of a considerable proportion of the once enormous Crown lands early in the thirteenth century, began in feudal fashion to organise themselves as an order in the State. This was followed immediately by a movement aiming at counteracting the power of the great estates, viz. the territorial organisation of the military freemen (nobles possessing small estates, royal servientes and milites castri) and the establishment of the autonomous (noble) county assemblies (shiremoots). The crystallisation of the classes of prelates, magnates (barones), and lesser nobility naturally led to the Estates making endeavours to ensure their privileges and obtain political rights. The result of these endeavours was the Golden Bull of 1222—issued by King Andrew II within a few years of the Great Charter of England and in respect of constitutional law pointing to Aragonese influence—which, like the other charters of similar purport dating from the thirteenth century, survived the Acts of the years 1231,1267, 1291, and 1298, and in 1351 was reconfirmed. From that date it remained in force—apart from the abrogation of the ius resistendi in 1687—as the fundamental law of the privileges of the nobility and of the constitution benefiting the Estates, or rather the noble classes, as late as the middle of the nineteenth century.

The Golden Bull was merely one symptom of the great evolution— the break-up of the older organisations and institutions and the gradual formation of new ones—which had begun in the white-hot atmosphere of social, economic, and political movements. There could not be any question now of hindering the dissolution of the older patriarchal kingship and of the institutions of the ancient social organisation which had lived and co-operated with that kingship. The transformation was indeed retarded and the final dissolution postponed during the reign of Bela IV (1235-70) by the strength of the royal power and the social organisation; but the catastrophe that followed in the wake of the Mongol invasion released the forces of dissolution; and during the reign of the infant king Ladislas IV (1272-90), whose mother was a Cuman, and who himself betrayed decided pagan inclinations, there ensued complete anarchy. As a result of the destructive action of personal, social, economic, political, and racial antagonisms the edifice of State and society suddenly began to totter; and by the close of the century, despite the well-intentioned endeavours of the last king of the house of ArpAd, Andrew III (1290-1301), there was a general collapse.

Great landed barons eager to possess power seized the reins of government. The barons holding the highest offices in Court and State began to exercise their official power as a species of private authority: the counties and provinces were treated as private property; and, binding the populations of whole provinces to their service by means of feudal ties, these magnates strove to establish hereditary feudal principalities modelled on those of the West. At the opening of the new century neither the central power, nor the prelates of the Church, nor even the lesser nobility organised in counties, succeeded in effectively resisting the might of the usurpers. The first family dynasty of the new oligarchy was established about 1275 by the Counts of Koszeg (Ban Henry and his sons), descended from the German Heder clan which had migrated to Hungary in the twelfth century. These magnates subjected to their direct or indirect rule the district lying on the right bank of the Danube, as far south as the line of the Save. To the south of the Koszegis, in the part of the trans-Save Croatian province stretching north from the Kapcla range, the Counts of Vodicha—ancestors of the Blagais of later days— acquired supreme control. The northern section of the Croatian seaboard and the islands of Veglia and Arbe were the hereditary province of the Frangepan family. In Croatia beyond the Kapela range the Counts Subich of Brebir—Ban Paul and his sons—ruled as independent princes, extending their influence at times to the Dalmatian towns and Chulmia (Hum) and Bosnia as well. In like manner to these dynasties of German and Croatian origin in the western and southern marches, in the north and east autocratic power was acquired by Matthias Csak, Ladislas Kan, and Amade Aba, descendants of the Magyar dukes who had taken part in the occupation of the country, and by Stephen Akos and Kopasz Borsa, also scions of ancient Magyar clans. Matthias Csdk defied the authority of the king as lord of the north-west highlands, Amade as lord of the north-east highlands; Kopasz ruled over the district between the Upper Tisza and the Kdros; the Akos clan shared the rule of the northern half of the region between the Danube and the Tisza, together with the hilly districts stretching above it, with the Refolds, a family of French origin; while Ladislas Kan ruled supreme as voivode of Transylvania. In the territory of the South Cumania of former days the voivode Basaraba laid the foundations of the future Wallachian principality. In the trans-Save provinces embracing the northern part of the Bosnia and Serbia of to-day —the districts flanking Macva and Belgrade—a member of the Serbian Nemanja dynasty (Stephen Dragutin, who had wedded a member of the house of Arpad) acquired princely authority; while the eastern half of the Szercm district and of the region between the Drave and the Save was under the sway of Ugrin CsAk, a kinsman of the lord of the north-west highlands. On both banks of the middle Tisza an autonomous clan organisation of nomad Cumans had developed into an important power. Apart from the family estates of the royal house lying between Fehervar and Buda, the only part of the country which remained independent of the influence of the various over-mighty magnates was the territory between the Maros, the lower Tisza, and the lower Danube.

With the extinction of the national dynasty the key to the situation passed into the hands of the great barons, who claimed royal authority; combining in leagues, these magnates endeavoured to secure the throne for their own candidates. There were several pretenders to the throne, all basing their claims on descent in the female line from Arpid, seeing that the great nobles now at feud all agreed that the new king must be chosen from the descendants of the first duke of the country, as provided in the ancient covenant made with him. From the very outset the candidate who had the best chance of success was Charles Robert (Carobert) of Anjou, grandson of Charles II of Naples and Mary of Hungary, who stood nearest to the throne in the order of inheritance in the female line. For years, however, the victory of his claim was hindered by the support of the Pope, who had granted Hungary to his protege as a lief without consulting the Hungarian Estates. He was acknowledged by the Croatian nobles, with Ban Paul Subich at their head, and by a few Magyar nobles in the south. He was indeed actually crowned by them; but his coronation was declared invalid by the majority of the nation. All the prelates and large numbers of aristocrats and lesser nobles, under the leadership of the most powerful oligarchs, determined to support the claim of Wenceslas, prince of Bohemia, the chosen son-in-law of the last king of the house of Arpad, whose father was the great-grandson of Bela IV and had claimed the Hungarian throne at the time of the accession of Andrew III. Nevertheless, the papal legates—Cardinals Nicholas Boccasini and Gentile—succeeded by skilful diplomacy in winning the prelates to the side of Charles Robert, and later also gained over the over-mighty barons. After this change in the public temper neither Wenceslas nor Duke Otto of Bavaria, who made an attempt to secure the throne after his departure, was able to hold the field.

When Gentile had acknowledged in the Pope’s name—though only tacitly—the right of the Estates to approve the succession and elect their king by acclamation, the Estates on their part acknowledged the right of the Pope to confirm the election; and in 1308 the young Angevin prince was acclaimed the lawful hereditary King of Hungary, to reign under the name of Charles, and was subsequently crowned with the Holy Crown of St Stephen.

With the accession of Charles I (1308-42) we enter a fresh and a brilliant period of Hungarian history, which closed with the death of Matthias Hunyadi in 1490, and may be called the period of Hungary’s greatness as a medieval power. During this era Hungary played just as leading a role in the direction of affairs in the eastern region of Western Christendom as France and England did in the western region. The monarchs who laid the foundation of this position as a Great Power were the native kings Geza II and Bela III. But its full development was due to the branch of the French Capetian dynasty which had found its way to Hungary—to the Hungarian branch of the house of Anjou, and in particular to Charles I, who, after finally breaking the power of the provincial dynasts, against whom he fought unceasingly for a decade and a half, created the economic, military, and administrative substructure of this power by dint of a quarter of a century of skilful organising work.

It was out of the question to restore the older political organisation— the immense royal domains and the patriarchal power built up on that organisation; and Charles, being a practical politician, never attempted to do so. During the era of internal struggles and of the rise of magnate oligarchs, the older institutions had fallen into decay and the older ties had been severed. The royal boroughs had to a large extent come into the possession of the provincial dynasts and their adherents, some of them falling into the hands of the lesser nobility, which had grown into a separate class by the inclusion of all the freemen doing military service. The parts of the country left in the immediate possession of the Crown took the form of small farming establishments grouped round the numerous royal castles built for purposes of national defence after the Mongol invasion. The most important constituent elements of the former royal army—the battalions of the milites castri and the servientes—had been dispersed, or had been absorbed in the private armies of the provincial magnates, and from being the organs of the central power developed into instruments of the centrifugal forces serving the ambitions of the local dynasts. Extensive organisations for the exercise of political power came into being round the persons of single over-mighty barons. The victory of the king did indeed result in these provincial organisations falling to pieces; but their remains came into the possession, not of the king himself, but of the landowning class which had maintained its loyalty to the Crown—of the new aristocracy which had taken part in the overthrow of the great dynasts, and of the landed gentry who had been delivered from the pressure of those barons’ power. Numerous economic, social, and military units and corporations quite independent of one another—privileged members of the landed class and autonomous counties—secured an existence of their own; and in Hungary in the abeyance of the central power the economic and military forces had been in the hands of these units and corporations. Had the older tribal organisation of society been in existence, this state of things would have involved a great danger to the royal power. That organisation was, however, already defunct. During the interregnum the ancient clans followed the institutions of the kingship and fell into decay; and the consciousness of tribal interconnexion disappeared among the branches of the original clans. During the internal struggles the branches of the clans, which had become estranged politically and disunited geographically, formed into independent families and became antagonists; and the separation became complete after the victory of King Charles. The clan names (e.g de gencre Csak)—which denoted tribal interconnexion and expressed the economic, legal, and cultural community uniting the members of the several clans—lost their vogue; and the new families which had separated from the clans adopted independent family names of their own. The place of the older society resting on the basis of tribal connexions and feudal relations was taken by a new society of Estates based upon class ties. Among the lesser nobility there had been signs of a process of unification as far back as 1222—a process expressed in 1351 in the unification of the law of inheritance for the nobility. The property-law of the clans which occupied the country, under which allodial freehold passed from branch to branch within the clan and was completely inalienable until the extinction of descendants in the male line, was extended by the law of “entail” (wzcito) to those sections of the nobility—the descendants of the original feoffees, of servientes, milites castri etc.—which had formerly under the feudal law been able to inherit only in the line of the original feoffees and their brothers; these sections had already, under the Golden Bull of 1222, acquired the other privileges of nobility. The adoption of the principle of “entail” had eliminated all legal differences between the various members of the landed nobility (great and small proprietors); and it had also removed the former motley character of the society composed of the free military elements differentiated according to the character of the service. Great landed baron, noble official, noble with a mediumsized estate, and lesser noble in the service of some lord whose service was based upon feudal relations—all alike were now legally members of one and the same class (una et cadem nobilitas). But the differences in respect of wealth and social position still remained. Accordingly, the owners of great estates who enjoyed immunity from the county administration still continued to play the part of an independent aristocratic class (barones et proceres); and this magnate class organised itself in its turn, so that despite the equality of the nobles before the law there was still a clear differentiation between the prelates, magnates, and lesser nobility as distinct classes of society—a differentiation which found expression in a bitter political struggle between those classes. In the new organisation of society the class next below the lesser nobility was that comprising the bourgeoisie, provided by the foreigners (hospites) of the town communities and settlements, and the elements (partly foreignGerman, French, and Italian—and partly Magyar) of the free merchants, craftsmen, and agriculturists living in the autonomous parish organisations. The innumerable fractions of the lower stratum of society, dividend according to the character and measure of their previous feudal service, which were subject to baronial jurisdiction and did not possess either privileges of nobility or civil rights—the descendants of freemen, freedmen, and slaves—were now welded into one large uniform peasant class. This class had previously been the highest among free dependents on the king and the lords; it inherited the name jobbágy, which came to correspond to the English villein; but in respect of imposts it was on a level with the former lower classes of servientes.

King Charles used every means to further the advance in wealth and power of the new landed families which owed their origin to the break-up of the older clans; for he desired to build up the new political organisation of his kingdom, in keeping with the change of conditions, on the basis of the economic strength of his subjects, above all of the new landed aristocracy. In 1324, when the power of the insurgent dynasts had been completely shattered, he followed the example set by the older kings of the house of Arpdd and allotted the chief offices of State—formerly the objects of barter between the king and the owners of the great estates-—to his most trustworthy personal adherents, who, being put at the head of the counties and of the Transylvanian, Slavonian, Croatian, and other provinces, laboured systematically to create order and to augment the authority and the military and economic resources of the kingship.

The new military organisation was based on the power of the new landed classes, which, while they could not vie in wealth and political strength with the provincial dynasts who had been overthrown, as a whole represented the united strength of the country, and on the economic strength of the great ecclesiastical and secular landowners and of the county nobility; this organisation was called “banderia” the name being taken from the military banner (bandiere) which now came into fashion. In contrast to the army of the house of Arpad based upon the military tenants of the royal estates, this new army was composed of the armed bands (banderia) of the landed classes—i.e. of king, prelates, great barons, and lesser nobility—which were thus the private forces of the Estates. The strength of a banderium ranged from 300 to 400 (later, in the fifteenth century, it had only 50) mounted knights or soldiers; while the troops of the landowners supplying a smaller number of armed men were included, together with the lesser nobles who took the field in person, in the county battalions—in the subordinate provinces, in the provincial battalions—also called banderia. The peace footing of the royal banderium was 1000 horsemen; but in times of war it was supplemented and reached a far larger number. An important complementary element of the royal army was supplied by the garrisons serving under castellans in the castles scattered all over the country, which played a significant role in securing the peaceful administration of the provinces and ensuring the maintenance of order and consolidation.

The new army—the origins of which, despite its having been organised on French and Neapolitan models, reach back to the days of Bela IV—possessed a distinctively feudal character. The banderia were to a very large extent private armies; and even the county and provincial banderia, which represented the political element, were not without certain feudal features. This military system based upon feudal foundations made the royal power to some extent dependent upon the great landowner class which provided the bulk of the banderia. The danger inherent in this circumstance was, however, counteracted by the banderia of the king, the queen, and the prelates, and by the county forces of the lesser nobles, who for two centuries consciously opposed the owners of great estates, as well as by the battalions of the Cuman and Saxon settlers directly dependent on the king, of the Siculians (Széklers) of Transylvania, and of the Slavonian nobles, which were under the control of the county sheriffs (comites) and other high officials owing their positions to the confidence of the sovereign.

However, Charles also provided another counterpoise. He followed in the footsteps of Andrew II and Bela IV and built up a new organisation of the public finances, which had been deprived of all income from the demesne; he drew upon economic sources independent of the landed baronial class. Such sources were provided by the remnants of the royal demesne and the royal dues and tolls, and in connexion therewith by the taxation of those free elements of the population which were independent of the great estates—in particular of the burghers of the towns who were developing into a professional, industrial, and commercial class. The income from the demesne was made more lucrative by the organisation of the small farming establishments referred to above, the possession of which converted the king once more into the wealthiest landowner in the country, though this property was nothing like so enormous as the extensive demesne-lands of the kings of the house of Arpad had been. Charles succeeded in augmenting the revenue obtained from the royal customs by a complete re-organisation of the administration of the customs (regale), which at the close of the twelfth and beginning of the thirteenth century had provided 44% of the royal revenue but had subsequently been utterly exhausted. His object was to exploit as far as possible the wealth of the country and to increase his revenue on a large scale. He knew that this object could not be attained by overburdening his subjects, but rather by enhancing their capacity to pay and by increasing the number of contributors through a circumspect economic policy. Behind all his financial reforms there were grouped economic measures aiming at increasing the general welfare of the country. Now that the policy of agricultural settlements followed by the house of Arpad was comparatively of less importance, the king found the chief expedient of his economic policy to be the organisation of industrial and commercial settlements and the foundation of towns. The provision of agricultural settlements was, indeed, still of far-reaching consequence in a country as thinly populated as Hungary, and was effected by the private farming establishments of the landed classes themselves. The prelates, the new aristocracy, and the king himself in his character as a land-owner, did all in their power to encourage immigration. Large numbers of Czech, Polish, Russian, and German settlers entered the highlands of northern Hungary from the adjoining countries and from the more densely inhabited parts of Hungary itself, mostly under the direction of German contractors or factors (Schultheiss). And it was at this period that there began, under the direction of Cuman, Bulgarian, and Serbian factors (Knyaz), the immigration of Rumanians or Wallachs on a large scale into the wooded districts of Transylvania and the trans-Tisza region.

However, the king attached far greater importance to strengthening the bourgeois element which could be taxed by means of customs and fiscal imposts; and this endeavour was accompanied by the foundation of a whole series of towns (including Bártfa, Eperjes, Kassa, Kormdcádnya, Kolozsvár, Brassé, Beszterce, and Mármarossziget) and by the conferment on others (e.g. Buda, Komárom, Pozsony, Sopron) of fresh privileges. Abandoning the system of internal duties, which abuses had made the object of universal hatred, he built up the system of frontier duties which had been developing so strikingly since the beginning of the thirteenth century; he increased the foreign trade of the country by granting various privileges which would enhance the yield of that system, and concluded customs and road agreements with Venice, Bohemia, and Poland. He made an alliance with the King of Bohemia against the Duke of Austria who was exploiting the right of detaining goods in Vienna (ius stapuli), and through the mutual acknowledgement by Buda and Brunn (Brno) of the staple right exercised by them he ensured the unbroken course of the trade of the two countries going west and south by diverting it from the Vienna route.

With the new system of mining law, modelled on that of Bohemia, he paved the way for the Hungarian gold mines—the richest in medieval Europe—to increase their production. At the same time he put an end once for all to the system of an annual renewal of the coinage which had been in vogue for centuries; he minted denarii and groats of permanent currency, and restored the credit of the Hungarian coinage; and he began the minting of the Hungarian gold florin which continued of the same weight down to the nineteenth century, thus putting into circulation a means of payment in international trade. This measure, by means of the monopoly in the precious metal put into force simultaneously, ensured the Treasury and the mining and trading communities a considerable permanent revenue. At the close of the thirteenth century, owing to the shrinkage of the revenue from the demesnes and customs (regale), practically the only reliable source of income was the extraordinary tax (collecta, subsidium). After the re-organisation of the customs (regale), this lost much of its importance; nevertheless, Charles resorted to the source of income provided by the extraordinary tax, still imposed at this period without consulting the Estates, and fixed its scale at one-quarter or one-eighth of a silver mark per house. By introducing the regular town tax (census), originating from a fusion of the tenement rent (terragium) and the extraordinary tax, he exploited to an increased degree the taxable capacity of the burghers and the inhabitants of the tenement lands. In connexion with the collection of the papal tithes the king did not shrink even from taxing the Church revenues; he made the licence to collect the tithes subject to the payment to the Treasury of one-third of the revenue accruing, thereby taxing revenues which according to the view then dominant were exempt from taxation. Along with the reorganisation of the customs (regale) he placed the fiscal administration upon a new basis—on the lines of decentralisation subject to a business management by tax-farmers who were strictly controlled—under the direction of the royal treasurer (magister tavarnicorum).

Whereas the development in national policy, in the military organisation, in the administration, and in the management even of the public finances, was of a feudal tendency, Charles’ financial policy developed in a decidedly political direction; this was shewn, not only in the domanial revenues being replaced by revenues obtained on the basis of the ius regale, but also in the method of utilising the rights involved therein. The new constitutional State protected itself against the complete feudalisation of the royal power and its reduction to dependence upon private law, by availing itself of economic resources based upon legal relations founded upon public law. The vitality of the new State organisation rested on the two chief pillars of the banderial military system and the customs (regale) administration, and the predominance of the central power was secured by distributing the military and economic burdens between two different classes whose interests were divergent, the power of the Crown serving to balance the two. The devolution of the military burdens upon the landed nobility and of the public revenue burdens upon the bourgeoisie meant a proportional and balanced distribution of political functions—at all times the characteristic endeavour of the sovereigns of feudal States who possessed a strong personality.

Along with the re-organisation of the military and financial systems, there was effected a transformation of the administrative and judicial systems too, this being done on the lines of local self-government, although provision was made to secure the intensive influence of the royal power. It was in the days of Charles and with his assistance that the autonomous territorial organisation of the Hungarian landed nobility was fully developed; this noble comitatus (county assembly), with its extensive administrative functions and its political rights, is the most characteristically Magyar institution of the feudal State, and has succeeded in a modified form in surviving the latest changes. It was at the same period that the judicial system of the royal Curia (Supreme Court of Justice), which has been in existence for centuries since, came into being. The prominence of feudal features in the political organisation and the dominance of a spirit of self-government in the provincial administration meant the triumph of the ideas of feudal constitutionalism. In the national policy, however, the royal power stood in the way of the complete predominance of this spirit. There was a break in the constitutional development which had begun with the Golden Bull and had advanced rapidly at the close of the thirteenth century; there was indeed a reaction. Charles was not inclined to share with his subjects the royal power he had had such difficulty in acquiring, and from 1324 did not even hold a parliament. Though the Estates assembled in Székesfehérvár once every year, on St Stephen’s Day (20 August), their assembly did not exceed the dimensions of the royal judicial moots (assizes) of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The private powers which had obtained a share of the government had to come to terms with the might of the Crown now reviving in a new form out of the wreck of the kingship established by St Stephen; and it was the union of these two factors that gave birth to the new State organisation of constitutional Hungary, based upon the balanced co-operation of the monarchic and feudal forces, and to the greatest achievement of that co-operation—the position as a great power enjoyed by Hungary in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

The kings of the house of Arpad created two conceptions of foreign policy of a practical value—(1) a defensive alliance with the Holy Roman Empire to meet any eventual danger from the East, and (2) an alliance between Poland, Hungary, Croatia, and the Papal See. This latter alliance was designed to unite the peoples living on the eastern fringe of the Western sphere of civilisation, and be defensive towards the power of Germany and expansive towards the Balkans and the north-east; it also envisaged a possible entente with France. Since the Mongol invasion the foreign policy of Hungary had been based upon the former system; and in the early part of his reign Charles, too, adhered to it. However, as soon as he had succeeded in restoring internal order, he began to look elsewhere. Making succession treaties and a political alliance with his uncles, Casimir and Robert, then reigning in Poland and Naples, he revived the foreign policy of Geza II and Bela III, a policy of which his son Lewis the Great, a king possessing eminent qualities as a man and great capacity as a ruler, also became a most important champion.

At the time of the accession of Lewis the Great (1342-82) the position of Hungary in international politics was an extremely favourable one. The Eastern and Western powers—the two Empires and the Mongols—whose ambitions of expansion had caused so much anxiety in previous centuries, had fallen into utter decay. The only powers of any significance in comparison with or in opposition to the kingdom of Hungary, which had been so enormously strengthened by the reign of the first Angevin king, were the three neighbouring countries of Bohemia (now a kingdom under the half-French house of Luxemburg), Poland, and Serbia. In the case of Poland, however, Lewis, besides being connected by ties of kinship and alliance with its king, was acknowledged as the heir to its throne. Ties of friendship and kinship connected him with the Bohemian Crown Prince too, who barely four years later, as Charles IV, obtained the German and imperial crowns, and was, like Lewis himself, a member of the great French coalition which at this period was master of practically the whole of Europe. Both Lewis and Charles of Bohemia were associated with the French imperialism called into being at the close of the thirteenth century—the schemes of the European hegemony of the Capet-Anjou houses and the dynasties related to them—which resulted in members of these families after 1346 occupying the thrones of most Latin-Christian countries (with the exception of the Scandinavian States) and acquiring also the dignity of Holy Roman Emperor and the empty title of Latin Emperor of Constantinople. As a consequence, there was no danger threatening from east or north or west. There was, however, a serious rival to the south of Hungary: Serbia had, under the rule of Stephen Dusan, a gifted and ambitious king of the Nemanja dynasty, made an alliance with Venice (which for two decades had kept the Dalmatian towns under its control), with the Croatian nobles of the south who were discontented with the rule of the Hungarian king, and with the malcontents of the decaying Byzantine Empire, and had achieved the position of a great power. Extending his frontiers on the south as far as the Gulf of Corinth and the Rhodope range, and causing himself to be crowned Tsar, Dusan claimed the inheritance of the Eastern Empire and proposed to extend his power to the north as far as the Save. Against the growing Serbian power, however, Lewis found valuable allies in the lord of the feudal Bosnian province which stood in the way of Serbian expansion to the north, as also in the kingdom of Naples, which was in control of the Albanian seaboard and the Morea. Stephen, Ban of Bosnia, was a near relative of the Hungarian king; later on, the ties of kinship were drawn closer still by the marriage of Lewis (after the death of his Bohemian fiancée) to Stephen’s daughter. At the time of Lewis’ accession his younger brother, Andrew, Prince of Salerno, was husband of Joanna, the heiress of the kingdom of Naples.

In this situation Lewis the Great saw that the first thing he had to do was to check the movement of the Croatian malcontents, to recover the Dalmatian coast towns, and to weaken the power of Serbia. The armed expedition to the south for this purpose was, however, unexpectedly stopped by the change that took place in Naples in the autumn of 1345. The Angevins of Naples—the Princes of Durazzo and Taranto, and also Joanna, the young, ambitious, and inordinately passionate Queen of Naples herself—looked askance at the efforts to obtain the power made by her husband Andrew, who claimed a share in the royal authority. At first they merely tried to prevent his coronation; but, when their efforts failed, they had him murdered by hired assassins. The murder, which to all appearance was committed with the knowledge of Andrew’s wife and of Louis, Prince of Taranto, was a profound outrage on Lewis the Great’s fraternal feelings and also on the claim to the throne of Naples inherited from his father, who had been deprived of his inheritance in favour of the younger branch in the person of King Robert, Joanna’s grandfather. When he heard of the deed of horror, Lewis applied to Pope Clement VI, the suzerain of Naples, for redress, and requested the assistance of his father-in-law, Charles IV of Luxemburg, who was on the friendliest terms with the Pope, his whilom tutor. He sent ambassadors to the papal Court at Avignon to demand the severe punishment of the guilty persons and the recognition of his own claim to the Neapolitan throne. However, all he got from the Pope, who was influenced by Naples and Paris, was courteous words, his demand for action being met with a rigid refusal; so in 1347, and again in 1350, he sent a punitive expedition against Naples. And he did succeed—the Italian towns and princes who sympathised with him observing a benevolent neutrality—in occupying the kingdom of Naples at the head of his Hungarian troops and German mercenaries, and in linking it for three years by a personal union with Hungary. Yet the Pope, as suzerain, refused to acknowledge the legality of Lewis’ rule; and, as the majority of the Neapolitans regarded the Hungarian regime with dislike, at the end of 1350 Lewis evacuated Naples and led his army home. In connexion with these events, his relations became strained with his fiancée’s father, the Emperor Charles IV, who, though to all appearance supporting his son-in-law, remained on the side of the Franco-Papal alliance which supported Joanna and was hostile to the King of Hungary. Though it did not lead to a diplomatic conflict or to any more serious complications than petty warfare carried  on in the interest of Poland, this tension resulted in a final breach between Lewis the Great and the French political combination referred to above. The scheme for a union of the Neapolitan and Hungarian thrones and for the creation of a vast Angevin dominion embracing Italy, the Balkans, Hungary, and Poland had miscarried. The eastern link of the conception of a system of States under the Capet-Anjou houses inaugurated by the French King Philip the Fair and Charles of Anjou, King of Naples, had been torn from the chain of French alliances encircling and dominating the whole of Western Europe. The dynastic schemes of the Hungarian royal house, so far as they were connected with the ambitions of the French dynasties, had failed; and their place was taken by a policy of expansion based upon the foreign policy of the kings of the house of Arpad.

After the failure of the attempt to acquire Naples, Lewis the Great concentrated all his forces on an endeavour to develop, to full completion the political conception of the kings of the house of Arpad, to secure the hegemony of the Balkans, to overcome the Serbian, Bulgarian, and Vlach principalities, and to obtain the crown of Poland, which included the former Galician and Lodomerian provinces of Andrew II. In 1358, after a campaign lasting two years, he recovered the Dalmatian towns from Venice, and made the republic of Ragusa, which had not previously been subject to Hungarian rule, acknowledge his suzerainty. Twenty years later Lewis was compelled once more to take up arms in defence of Dalmatia; but after the desperate struggle with the Genoese at Chioggia, Venice, under the Treaty of Turin, renounced all claim to the possession of that province. After securing Dalmatia, Lewis turned against Serbia; and upon the death of Tsar Stephen Dusan he did eventually succeed in making the weak Tsar Stephen Uros acknowledge his overlordship. He once more conquered and organised the provinces on the right bank of the Save which had belonged to the house of Arpad, the banates of Maisva and Kucevo, and the stronghold of Belgrade. About the year 1360 he annexed to his country as a separate vassal kingdom the northern part of Bulgaria, which had been split into sections. By obtaining possession of Croatia, Dalmatia, Bosnia, Macva, North Bulgaria, and the two new Vlach principalities of Cumania, the Hungarian kingdom at this period attained its greatest expansion. In 1372, after the death of King Casimir, the crown of Poland too fell to the Hungarian sovereign. With the personal union between Hungary and Poland the Polish-Hungarian-Croatian federation which originated in the eleventh century during the reign of St Ladislas, and had subsequently been frequently revived, was for ten years consolidated into a personal union of States.

The internal government of Lewis the Great was accompanied by results similar to these military and diplomatic successes. The king’s noble qualities, which were so highly praised by his contemporaries—his love of justice and his fairness, his chivalry and reverence for law—secured him an unprecedented authority. It is characteristic of him that during the forty years of his reign—barely a decade or two after the cessation of the gravest internal disorders—not a single attempt was made by the barons (who were certainly not deficient in tendencies to insubordination) to rebel or incite any political discontent. Great credit is due to Lewis for his revival of the chivalric forms of life, ceremonies and customs which had been introduced at the beginning of the thirteenth century but had subsequently sunk into oblivion in the coarse age of party warfare. There was a formal chivalric court of honour (curia militaris) for the maintenance of the laws of honour interpreted in the sense of the age of chivalry. This court, and the Order of the Knights of St George, which was under strict statutes of its own, rendered signal service in refining the forms of social intercourse and in softening the manners which had been made ruder in the age of club-law. The age of the Angevins generally, and that of Lewis the Great in particular, was the golden age in Hungary of respect for the chivalric ideal in the noblest sense of the word and for the spirit of chivalry. In older Hungarian history this spirit of chivalry was expressed in the intensive cult of the figure of the Hungarian king St Ladislas, who was depicted as the ideal chivalric knight—a cult which Lewis himself and later on his son-in-law King Sigismund did everything in their power to foster.

The spirit of the French age of chivalry was manifested also in the support accorded to chivalric poetry, arts, and science. It was the churches erected by Charles and Lewis the Great that raised the Gothic architecture of Hungary—an art abounding in French influences—to its zenith. In the manuscripts belonging to Lewis’ library which have come down to us we find the first important products of Hungarian miniature painting; and the taste of his Court is reflected also in the creations of the eminent sculptors, Nicholas Kolozsvari and his two sons Martin and George, one of these creations, the statue of St George in Prague, being among the finest products of contemporary art. There was a noteworthy revival in the production of precious metals in Hungary; and its abundance enabled the silversmith craft of Hungary, which had begun to come to the fore as far back as the days of the Arpad kings, and had subsequently reached a very high level, to make a great advance. A noteworthy cultural creation owing its origin to Lewis the Great was the University of Pecs, which was founded by him in 1367, only two years after the second German university, that of Vienna. In the field of legislation special attention is due to the Act of 1351, by which Lewis the Great confirmed the Golden Bull of 1222, fixing the rights of the nobility for centuries to come and raising the guarantees of the new constitution to the status of a permanent law. It was this same Act that for the first time regulated the feudal obligations of the new peasant class; while in the field of criminal law it broke with the previous practice and forbade the punishment of children for the sins of their fathers.

Since Lewis the Great died without male issue, his death was followed by a fresh period of struggles for the crown. Though the Estates acknowledged his daughter Mary (1382-95) as his heir, Charles of Durazzo, who claimed the throne by right of the male line of the house of Anjou, opposed Sigismund of Luxemburg, Mary’s betrothed, who had been designated to share her authority as king, and successfully invaded Hungary. After the tragic murder of Charles in 1387, Sigismund, the younger son of the Emperor Charles IV, was crowned king, though after the death of Queen Mary in 1395 a section of the aristocracy advanced the claims of Charles of Durazzo’s son, Ladislas, King of Naples, to the throne. Ladislas based his claim upon his right of succession, while Sigismund based his upon the election of the Estates; and Tvrtko, King of Bosnia, a nephew of Lewis the Great’s consort, taking advantage of the chaos that ensued, attempted to wrest the Bosnian and Croat-Dalmatian provinces from Hungary.

The struggle finally ended in favour of Sigismund; but as a result of the feuds the dominions of Lewis the Great had shrunk considerably. Poland had separated from Hungary on the death of Lewis. The throne of Poland was given to Hedwig (Jadviga), Lewis’ youngest daughter; and after her premature death the Polish crown came into the sole possession of her husband, Jagiello, Grand Prince of Lithuania, who adopted the name of Vladyslav II, and of his successors. Dalmatia was re-occupied by Venice, while the provinces of the Balkan vassals were conquered at the end of the century by the Ottoman-Turkish hosts which, coming from Asia and surrounding Constantinople, had penetrated into Europe and made a permanent settlement there. Sultan Murad in 1389 annihilated the Serbian forces; in 1396, at Nicopolis, Sultan Bayazid gained a bloody victory over the huge army of King Sigismund, which had been reinforced by French, Spanish, German, and Italian auxiliaries. The eastern danger had revived again in the gravest form; and for the next three hundred years the Turkish question became the central problem of Hungarian policy.

The mighty kingdom of the Arpads and Angevins would have had little difficulty in resisting the Asiatic power, which had at its disposal forces far inferior to those of the Mongol empire of yore; but Sigismund and his successors had not the strength of their predecessors. The succession wars which followed on the extinction of the Angevins combined with the weakness of female rule to bring about events almost the exact counterpart of those which had preceded and followed the extinction of the House of Arpad. The great landed magnates belonging to the aristocracy of the Angevin age were insatiable of wealth and power; and, taking advantage of the situation, they seized the reins of government. A few leading aristocratic families formed leagues and fought bitterly against one another; they did not hesitate during these struggles even to throw their sovereign into prison. And, though the lesser nobility was already better able to resist the ambitions of the great laud-owners, since the self-governing counties provided them with a fully developed organisation, Sigismund was nevertheless driven to submit to a compromise with the great barons. Being king by election, and the once rich material resources of the Crown being now completely exhausted, the king was dependent upon the support of the landed nobility. He therefore entered into a family alliance with the league of the most powerful lords; and he chose his second wife, Barbara of Cilli, from among them. Besides securing his power in this way, he was, however, set upon strengthening the class of noble freemen which was independent of the great land-owners. During his reign the county organisation of the nobles (comitatus) developed into an active political factor; and at the parliaments—now, as a consequence of the triumph of the constitutional spirit, held regularly—the lesser nobility became a serious political power capable of counteracting the influence of the barons.

While on the one hand he secured the lesser nobility as political allies, Sigismund’s objects in developing the county organisations (comitatus) and extending the rights of the bourgeoisie were of a financial character. His luxurious habits and far-reaching political ambitions involved him in enormous expenditure; and he acquired the necessary funds from the industrial and commercial classes—burghers and Jews—whose resources were drained in a measure far in excess of that of normal taxation. He later, in 1405, shewed his gratitude and esteem outwardly by inviting deputies of the craftsmen too to attend Parliament. This did not, however, confer any political advantages upon this class; for they had only collective votes, one for each corporation, whereas the nobles were entitled to attend in person. There was a financial motive also behind the struggle with the Holy See over the appointments to high offices in the Church; at the outset we find a political reason too, the support given by Pope Boniface IX to Ladislas of Naples against Sigismund, because the latter, in 1404, had issued a Placetum regium claiming the right to fill bishoprics and thereby—in the face of the unceasing protests of the Holy See—converting into an effective law the Hungarian king’s supreme right of advowson derived from the privileges conferred upon St Stephen. In view of the constantly increasing menace from the Turks, Sigismund also developed the military system considerably. In 1435 the banderial system and its organisation were regulated by law; and Sigismund created the new militia (militia portalis) for active service comprised within the limits of the banderial system, the landed nobles being required to provide one well-equipped mounted soldier for every 33 villein holdings, thus bringing the strength of the regular army of Hungary up to some 120,000. However, the new militia imposed fresh serious charges upon the feudal villeins, the mass of the population, who had been excluded from all political rights, though the burdens devolving upon this class at this period were almost intolerable already.

The scale of the contributions in kind payable by the villein class— which came into being in the fourteenth century and remained in existence until its enfranchisement in 1848—had been fixed in 1351 by Lewis the Great at the amount of one-ninth (nona) to be collected for every tithe paid to the Church, thus creating a second tithe of each product of the soil. This charge undoubtedly involved a relief as compared with the contributions in kind devolving on the lowest class of agricultural labourers (the servi) of the earlier Middle Ages, which amounted to one-third, and indeed even to one-half, of the produce. But it exceeded the measure of the former feudal contributions of the free peasants absorbed into the villein class, who paid their taxes in cash, as also of the classes of freemen and servientes who had been required to contribute various imposts or to perform customary labour-services. And the land-owners, even after the systematic introduction of contributions in kind, still formulated a claim both to the previous monetary contributions from the higher classes of the people (the amount of these contributions being a quarter silver mark = 1 gold florin) and also to the various labour-dues, whether performed by men or by their animals. All these burdens were laid upon the villein class as a whole, which was required already to pay two-tenths of its produce. In addition it was compelled to pay the extraordinary royal tax, which had previously been a charge on freemen and freedmen but had not been imposed on the serf classes; this amounted usually to 1 gold florin, though in more than one year it exceeded double, or even quadruple, that amount. The establishment of the new militia (militia portalis) further involved the obligation to supply one active soldier for every 33 villein families. Seeing that the members of the peasant class, which possessed no political rights whatsoever, were subject in justice and administration to their feudal lords, they were entirely at the mercy of those lords; and in the period of territorial expansion the lords did not shrink from exploiting the situation. As a result, after the end of the fourteenth century, there was a constant increase in the number of complaints against the encroachments of the prelates, who illegally demanded the payment of their tithes in money, and of the land-owners, who demanded labour-dues in excess of the customary scale and special contributions in kind. Seeing that the government during the reigns of the successors of the Angevins depended exclusively upon the economic resources of the landed classes, the villeins could not hope for any assistance from that quarter. They were indeed granted the right of free migration, and were no longer legally bound to the soil as formerly; but in practice, owing to reasons of an economic nature, this right was hardly capable of being enforced, and offered but little compensation for the constantly increasing charges imposed upon them. All these causes contributed to impoverish the peasantry; and the tendency to increase the public taxes, due to the extravagance of Sigismund and the Turkish wars, rendered the burdens of that class practically intolerable. Its situation had become far worse than that of its forerunners in the thirteenth century, so that it was natural that familiarity with the idea of the literal equality of men, which penetrated into Hungary and Bohemia with the teaching of the Hussites, stirred the peasants to demand a mitigation of them burdens; and when they met with a rigid refusal from ecclesiastical and secular land-owners alike, their discontent found vent in bloody revolt. The first peasant rebellion broke into flame in the last year of Sigismund’s reign, and was followed eighty years later by a series of partial revolts culminating in the general peasant rising of 1514, which resulted in the revocation of the villeins’ right of free migration and in their complete subjection.

Sigismund’s power was made stable and his popularity increased when, after the death of his brother Wenceslas, he inherited the throne of Bohemia; and both had been earlier enhanced when in 1410 he was elected King of the Romans. His struggle against the heretics of Bohemia and his activity in the field of ecclesiastical politics do not come within the scope of Hungarian history, although these movements indirectly affected Hungary, since the followers of John Hus, after his condemnation, to death at the stake by the Council of Constance, organised marauding bands and for two decades devastated the Hungarian highlands in repeated incursions. On the other hand, again, the Hussite teachings, though only in secret, struck root in Hungary also.

In warlike operations Sigismund was not lucky. Though he succeeded in suppressing the rebellions in Hungary and the Bosnian-Croatian revolt as well, Dalmatia came again into the possession of Venice, the expedition which he sent in 1412 failing to recover that province. Sigismund was also unfortunate in his campaigns against the Turks: in 1428 he was defeated a second time on the Lower Danube; and it was only in the last year of his life, at the castle of Smederevo (Semendria), that he was able to win a victory due to the strategy of John Hunyadi, the triumphant hero of the subsequent Hungarian-Turkish warfare, who here made his first appearance at the head of his battalions.

After the reign of Sigismund the politics of Hungary were dominated by two great problems: the defensive struggle against the Turks, and the political feud (constantly increasing in bitterness) between the two landed Estates, the great land-owners and the lesser nobility.

The Ottoman Sultans, during the fourth decade of the fifteenth century, established a footing on the line of the Lower Danube and the Drina facing the kingdom of Hungary and the small Balkan principalities under Hungarian protection—the provinces of the despot George Brankovic, who then ruled over the remaining fragments of the Serbian people, of the King of Bosnia, and of George Castriota (Skanderbeg), Prince of Albania. The other inhabitants of the Balkans—Serbians, Bulgarians, and even the Wallachians living on the north bank of the Danube—were driven to submit, so that the difficult task of hindering the inevitable advance of the Ottomans devolved upon the kingdom of Hungary.

The revival of the eastern danger necessarily involved a change in the tenor of Hungarian foreign policy. The headway made by the Turks resulted in completely frustrating the Balkan expansion of the Arpads and Angevins. Feudal Hungary lacked the strong central power which had enabled the Arpad and Angevin dynasties to make such mighty displays of strength. The banderial army, consisting of private bands of troops, and the foreign mercenaries were far inferior to the royal army of the older kingdom which had been under central control; nor was the royal treasury able to procure the supplies required for the prosecution of warfare out of its own resources (the revenues of the royal domains and customs—regale). The strength of the army and the amount realised by taxation alike depended upon the decision of the Estates, now that the voting of both had been converted by the advance of the constitutional spirit into a parliamentary prerogative of the nobility. Under such circumstances the success of a conflict with the Turkish army, which was highly disciplined and splendidly trained, was inconceivable without foreign aid; so that the consciousness of the need for a military alliance with the German neighbours of Hungary grew continually stronger and stronger in the public opinion of the country. The consequence was the abandonment of Lewis the Great’s conception of an alliance between Poland, Hungary, Croatia, and Italy and the revival of the defensive policy adopted by Bela IV as a means of protection against the Mongols. The idea of an alliance with the Holy Roman Empire had come to the fore already in the closing years of Lewis the Great’s reign, when he had designated the son of the Emperor Charles IV to be his daughter Mary’s consort. With Sigismund’s accession to the thrones of Bohemia and of the Empire this alliance assumed the more concrete form of a personal union; and the idea of an alliance of the same kind appears also during the reigns of Sigismund’s immediate successors. His son-in-law and heir, Albert of Habsburg (1437-39), was King of the Romans and Duke of Austria; Albert’s son Ladislas (Laszlo) V (1444-57) was also Duke of Austria and King of Bohemia; and both were elected to the throne by the Estates to ensure the alliance with the Empire. The election of Vladyslav I (1439-44), King of Poland, was the last attempt to revive the policy of Lewis the Great; but the lamentable defeat and death of this king at Varna resulted in the definitive triumph of the idea of a German-Bohemian alliance. Matthias Hunyadi himself—the national king raised to the throne by the reaction against the rule of foreign princes—Was compelled to adopt this line of policy; it was by the conquest of provinces of the Empire and by entering the lists as candidate for the imperial crown that he endeavoured to secure the aid of Germany against the Turks. It was the national desire to secure effectual protection against the Turkish advance that after the death of Matthias raised the weak Czech Jagiellos to the throne of St Stephen; and it was the same consideration that after the disastrous rout on the field of Mohacs induced the Hungarians to offer the crown to the house of Habsburg.

This change of tendency in foreign policy, sanctioned by the will of the Estates, which their right of electing the king had converted into a decisive factor, shews quite clearly that the Hungarians of the fifteenth century regarded the Turkish danger as the vital problem of their national life and indeed of their national existence, and looked upon the task of driving back the Ottoman power as a historical mission and a duty which they owed alike to their own nation and to the lands of Western civilisation as a whole. In the first—twenty years’—phase of the protracted struggle which began with the relief of the castle of Semendria in the year of Sigismund’s death, the leading role was played by John Hunyadi (Hunyadi János), a member of the lesser nobility who rose eventually to the dignity of Governor or Regent of the country.

The first ancestors of the Hunyadis known to history—Radoslav and Serbe—belonged to the ranks of the Southern Slav factors (knyaz) who organised the Wallachian (Rumanian) shepherds of the province of South Wallachia in village communities and also aided in settling them in Hungarian territory; but Serbe’s son Vajk was a knight in the Court of Sigismund, receiving the castle of Hunyad in Transylvania, together with the adjacent demesne, as a reward for his knightly prowess. Vajk Hunyadi, created a Hungarian noble by the grant of this fief, wedded a Magyar woman; their eldest son, John, also began his career as a knight in the Court of Sigismund. After the victory at Semendria he rose rapidly. In 1439 King Albert placed him at the head of the banale of Szbreny (Severin) on the Danube in Wallachia, a position destined to be of the utmost importance in the struggle against the Turks. Vladyslav I made him captain of Néndorfehérvár (the Hungarian frontier-fortress standing on the site today occupied by Belgrade, the Serbian capital), and later appointed him voivode of Transylvania, in which capacity he was made commander-in-chief of the armies operating against the Turks. After the death of Vladyslav in the disastrous battle of Varna, Hunyadi became a member of the national government (Committee of Seven) elected by the Estates to act during the absence of the king, who was presumed to have been taken prisoner; then, when Albert’s posthumous son was acknowledged and accepted as Ladislas V, at the Parliament held at Rákos in 1446, Hunyadi was elected to act as Governor or Regent of Hungary during the minority and absence from the country of the young monarch. In his capacity as Regent Hunyadi enjoyed a power which but for slight restrictions was that of a king; and even after the assumption of royal power by Ladislas V (in 1452) he remained in possession of the real supreme authority in his capacity as Viceroy and Captain-General. His enormous power and universal authority rested upon the undivided confidence of the lesser nobility and upon the position ensured by the extensive estates acquired by him in recognition of his military services to the country, estates which provided him with resources enabling him to equip an army vying with that of the king himself.

Though he took his due share in every field in the direction of national policy, he regarded the driving back of the Turkish power and the securing of the southern frontiers of the country as the primary task of his life. In 1442 he inflicted a double defeat upon the army of Mezid Bey which had invaded Transylvania; and then, on the bank of the Lower Danube, he dispersed the vast host which was hurrying under the command of Sehab-ad-dm Pasha to the assistance of Mezid Bey. In the autumn of 1443 he crossed the Danube into Bulgarian territory, and, after taking the fortresses of Nis, Pirot, and Sofia, conducted his army over the Haemus range as well. A year later Vladyslav I made a treaty at Szeged with the Sultan, whom the news of the defeats inflicted upon his armies had impelled to offer to make peace; but, encouraged by an absolution from his oath granted by the papal legate, Cardinal Cesarini, the Hungarian king broke his compact and began to wage war against the Turks on Bulgarian soil* Hunyadi joined his sovereign at Nicopolis; but the troops promised by the Christian princes of Europe never arrived, and the Hungarian army was defeated at Varna. Vladyslav fell; and Hunyadi himself had the greatest difficulty in escaping from the clutches of Vlad “the Devil,” the double-faced Voivode of Wallachia. During the years which followed, Hunyadi was engaged in the direction of the internal affairs of the country, which had been left without a king; and in 1448 the treachery of his Wallachian and Serbian allies involved him in a fresh defeat—on the Field of Blackbirds or Kossovo—at the hands of the Turks. Five years later (1453), by the capture of Constantinople, the new Sultan, Mahomet II, became master of the whole Balkan peninsula; and in 1456 he started to attack Hungary at the head of an army said to have numbered nearly 200,000 men. While besieging the fortress of Belgrade, however, this army was decisively beaten by Hunyadi, assisted by Giovanni Capistrano, the Franciscan friar who had put himself at the head of the European crusaders; and the fortress was relieved. The victory at Belgrade stemmed the tide of Turkish expansion for a long period; and in commemoration of the triumph of the Christian arms the Pope ordained that a bell should be rung every day in all churches in Christendom. Unfortunately, however, Hunyadi fell a victim to the plague which had broken out in the Christian camp.

John Hunyadi’s rapid rise to power was largely due to the bitter struggle between the magnates and the lesser nobility. According to the new political conception which developed after the extinction of the house of Anjou, the lesser nobility, which was in a numerical majority in Parliament, endeavoured continuously to increase its influence upon the direction of the affairs of the nation. John Hunyadi was the leader of the party of the lesser nobility; the great land-owners despised him, but they feared him too; and during the period when he was acting as Regent he made Parliament invite six lesser nobles to sit on the National Council attached to his person as an advisory body, which contained two prelates and four secular magnates, his object being thereby to ensure the predominance of the lesser nobility in politics and in government. His appointment as commander-in-chief and his election as Regent was therefore a victory of the lesser nobility over the haughty and imperious aristocracy; and this was the reason why the great conqueror of the Turks, who on his father’s side was of foreign origin, became the hero of the knightly order of Hungarian nobles and the darling of all classes of the nation alike.

The internal problem of the period was indeed the struggle between the Estates. During the days of the Arpad kings down to the reign of Bela IV, and during the reigns of the two strong Angevin sovereigns, the royal power had appeared personified in the person of the reigning king. During the reign of the minor, Ladislas IV, however, power passed from hand to hand and came successively into the possession of the various party governments, the result being that the royal power came eventually to be regarded as impersonal. It was at this period that the use of the words corona and later corona sacra came into vogue in place of the words rex and regnum, this change being accompanied by the cult of the Holy Crown presented originally to St Stephen by the Pope—which had originally been an ecclesiastical symbol—as a symbol of the royal power. This cult had reached such an importance by the accession of the first Angevin king that a coronation performed without the Holy Crown was not regarded as valid. And now, in the days of Ladislas V, also a minor, when the reins of government were in the hands of Hunyadi, a lesser noble elected to the office of Regent by the Estates, the conception of the Holy Crown received a wider interpretation in public law: that Crown was raised from a mere symbol of the royal power to the political symbol of the nation corporate embracing the sovereign himself and the Estates endowed with political rights. Under this interpretation, which was systematised half a century later by Stephen Verboczy, the great jurist responsible for the scientific codification of Hungarian private and public law, power is possessed, not by the king, but by the Holy Crown, the members of which are the king and the nation—in other words, the Estates endowed with political rights, or the totum corpus sacrae coronas—that power being enjoyed and exercised as a trust by the king crowned with that Crown. The doctrine of the Holy Crown in the form in which it has existed in the legal system of constitutional Hungary is without doubt the conception of Verboczy; but its roots reach back to the political conception of the lesser nobility in the days of Ladislas V, while the foundations of the historical development of this thesis may be traced as far back as the thirteenth century, to the reign of Ladislas IV.

The conception of the central power latent in this political interpretation was an instinctive move on the part of the lesser nobility for self-defence against the encroachments of the aristocracy; and it is owing to this move that the oligarchs of the fifteenth century were unable to obtain a power equal to that exercised by their predecessors two centuries previously, when the national assembly of the prelates and lesser nobles had had to submit its resolutions for approval and ratification, not to the king, but to the king and barons who jointly represented the royal power or— to use the expression then in vogue—the power of the Crown. It was this same political conception that the nation relied upon later, in the days of the Habsburgs, in its struggle against the anti-constitutional endeavours of the foreign princes. The conception of the division of the power between king and Estates comprised in constitutional law is reflected also in the elections to the throne made in the fifteenth century. The successive dynasties—Luxemburgs, Habsburgs, Jagiellos—had at all times proclaimed and considered the transfer of the crown by right of heredity to be the only legal method. The nobility, on the other hand, regarding both lines, male and female, of the ancient dynasty ruling by hereditary right as extinct with the deaths of Lewis the Great and his daughter, insisted upon their right to elect their king. The conflict of the two principles usually resulted in a solution by compromise, as may be seen in the cases of Sigismund, Albert of Habsburg, and Lewis II. However, after the death of King Albert in 1439 the conflict led to a civil war between the Habsburg party, which stood for the right of that king’s posthumous son Ladislas on the ground of legitimate inheritance, and the adherents of the right of free election—the Jagiello party—who raised Vladyslav, King of Poland, to the throne by election. Out of this struggle, which when repeated in 1526 resulted in the country becoming divided into two opposing sections and thus indirectly in the advance of the Turks into the heart of Hungary, the nation was led, in the middle of the fifteenth century, into smoother waters by John Hunyadi and his son King Matthias Corvinus.

The struggle between the aristocracy and the lesser nobility (gentry) for the possession of power, which John Hunyadi, with the aid of his paramount authority, succeeded for a time in restricting within narrow limits, after his death broke out again with renewed violence. The aristocratic league which had secured a predominant influence over the helpless young king Ladislas, under the direction of Ulrich of Cilli, the king’s cousin, incited the monarch against Hunyadi’s sons; and the rivalry of the two parties degenerated into implacable hatred when the adherents of the Hunyadis cut the conspirator Cilli to pieces, and when the king, breaking the promise he had given, threw the responsibility upon Ladislas Hunyadi and had him executed, while he took his younger brother Matthias prisoner and dragged him off to captivity in Prague. The treatment meted out to the sons of the national hero provoked great  bitterness all over the country among the lesser nobility; and when, barely a year later, news came of the death of Ladislas V, the public opinion of the Hungarians espoused the cause of the surviving son of the great Hunyadi with irrepressible enthusiasm.

Two members of the aristocracy possessing great power—Ladislas Garai, Count Palatine, and Nicholas Ujlaki, Voivode of Transylvania— themselves aspired to the throne. Others again endeavoured to obtain the kingship for one of the sons-in-law of King Albert of Habsburg—for Casimir, King of Poland, or William, Duke of Saxony. Though at the outset he supported the claims of the King of Poland, the Emperor Frederick of Habsburg would have liked to secure the Hungarian throne for himself, having the Holy Crown, entrusted to his keeping during the minority of Ladislas V, still in his possession. However, not one of the claimants was able to hold his own against the Hunyadi party. The lesser nobles stood in serried ranks behind Michael Szilágyi, the organiser of young Matthias’ party, and his sister, John Hunyadi’s widow; and they enjoyed the support of a section of the prelates too, who were under the direction of the great humanist, John Vitéz, Bishop of Nagyvdrad. Seeing how things stood, the most powerful of the magnates changed their attitude and perforce joined Matthias’ party. Then the Parliament convened by the Count Palatine early in 1458 elected Matthias Hunyadi king, appointing his uncle Michael Szilágyi as Regent; this was done both because Matthias was a minor and in order to ensure the influence of the lesser nobility on the conduct of affairs.

This was the first time since the extinction of the house of Arpad that a national king had occupied the throne of St Stephen. The lesser nobles, however, dictated severe conditions to the young king who had been chosen from their own ranks. Regarding Matthias as a party king, they made every effort to ensure their influence on his conduct of the government, and at the same time to mitigate the burdens of military service, of which the Turkish wars had compelled Hunyadi to take full advantage. One of the conditions governing the election (capitulationcs) stipulated that the king was to defend the country with his own soldiers and at his own expense, being entitled to call the banderia of the magnates to arms only in the event of great danger and the levies of the lesser nobility only in extreme urgency as a last resort. Szilágyi accepted these conditions, agreeing also to the stipulation of the league of magnates which required Matthias to wed the Count Palatine’s daughter. But King Matthias (1458-90) frustrated all these calculations. He returned from his captivity in Bohemia as the betrothed of the daughter of George Podébrady, who had been raised to the throne of Bohemia by the Bohemian Estates, and with an energy and earnestness that belied his youth (he was only eighteen) seized the reins of power, compelling his uncle to resign his office as Regent. Hereupon, a section of the aristocracy got into touch with the Emperor Frederick III and invited him to occupy the Hungarian throne. However, Matthias compelled these magnates to yield one after another, and, after defeating the imperial armies, made peace with Frederick: the Emperor agreed to surrender the Holy Crown, while Matthias on his part undertook that in the event of his not having a male heir Frederick and his successors should, by virtue of the right handed down by Albert and Ladislas V, be entitled to succeed to the Hungarian throne.

After having secured his throne, Matthias turned against the Turks. He once more reduced Wallachia and Serbia to the position of vassals of the Hungarian Crown, victoriously compelled the Turks to withdraw also from the fortress of Jajce in Bosnia, and, in order to ensure the success of his further efforts, without delay began the work of reforming the military and financial organisation. The banderial system, as a result of the negligence of those under obligation of military service, did not represent such a force as it had a hundred years previously. With the object of further developing the militia (portalis) established by Sigismund, the Parliament of 1458 itself required the nobility to provide one mounted soldier for every 20 villein-holdings (sessiones), separate county battalions being organised out of the portalis cavalry and placed under the command of captains appointed by the king. Later, in 1465, Matthias, with the consent of Parliament, required nobles possessing fewer than ten villein-holdings to do military service in person, and compelled the more wealthy to provide one mounted soldier each for every ten villein-holdings. In addition to these measures, which amounted practically to universal conscription, Matthias established a standing army which, except for the smaller mounted army of Charles VII of France, was the first of its kind in Europe. Matthias’’ standing army comprised both cavalry and infantry. By these measures the peace footing of the military forces of Hungary advanced to some 40,000, and the war footing to 150,000 or 200,000 men. Simultaneously with the abolition of the land tax of 18 dinars which had been introduced instead of the coinage tax (lucrum camerae)—the seignorage—he established a Treasury tax of 20 dinars, extending the obligation to pay this tax to all the villeins, poor nobles, and privileged settlers (Saxons and Cumans) alike. More than once he imposed the extraordinary tax without it being voted by Parliament, fixing the amount at 1 gold florin a year. The new system of taxation increased the revenue of the treasury, the same object being served also by re-organising the customs duties on foreign trade and by intensifying the activity of the mines.

Whereas his military and financial reforms were directed by considerations of foreign policy, Matthias’ important reforms of administration and justice were inspired by a desire to restore internal order and to improve the situation of the lower classes oppressed by the selfishness of the landed Estates. The reform of the administration of justice carried out towards the close of his reign aimed at a re-organisation of the courts and at a simplification of legal procedure. The lowest court—the county court with a bench consisting of four justices representing the county nobility and ten homines regii—was re-organised into a court holding public trials on fixed dates, against the judgments of which appeal could be made to the judicial commissions of the royal Curia. In the field of legal procedure the king introduced an important measure providing for the abolition of trial by combat, as well as completely abrogating the system of compositions; thus the penal code was developed in the direction of public law. In the Court administration—probably under the influence of Italian models—the king broke with the older feudal organisation and laid the foundations of the professional central bureaucracy, in this point anticipating many States of Western Europe.

Matthias’ reforms in administration and justice reflect that spirit of fairness and that strong sense of justice which, together with the unrivalled energy of his personality, were the most typical features of his character. In the administration of justice he did not permit any secondary consideration. His hand fell heavily on the privileged classes; yet there is hardly a name which has been the object of such universal praise—or worshipped for so long a period with such fervour—in Hungary as his was. Though he did not formally commit any breach of the constitution, and had his laws passed by Parliament, he nevertheless had but little respect for the privileges and constitutional rights of the mighty lords. All the greater was his understanding for the troubles of the lowly, the oppressed, the petty nobles, and the villeins; and he did all in his power to relieve them. This was the secret of his great popularity and the source of the epithet “the just” conferred upon him by posterity. He was one of the great Renaissance princes who were the harbingers of modem absolutism, princes who, by relying upon the support of the lower classes of their subjects, were able to assert their power to the full.

An impressive manifestation of the personality of this great Renaissance prince was the foundation of his famous library in Buda, the Bibliotheca Corviniana, which according to the evidence of his contemporaries vied both in quantity and in quality with the wealthy Renaissance libraries of the Vatican and of Urbino. The library, which the Hungarian Estates, in the agreement made with John Corvinus after Matthias’ death, declared to be inalienable national property, thereby converting it into one of the first public libraries in Europe, fell after the capture of Buda in 1526 partly into the hands of the Turks, the remainder being carried off by Mary of Habsburg and Ferdinand I and scattered all over the world; but the remains which are still in existence—some 160 volumes decorated by the most famous miniature painters of the fifteenth century—are eloquent evidence of the artistic leanings and taste of the great king and bibliophile. It is to this artistic taste that we owe the advance made by Renaissance architecture, which flourished in the age of Matthias side by side with the Gothic architecture now at the zenith of its development. The earliest important monument of this style of architecture in Hungary was the palace in Buda, of which only fragments have survived. The court of Matthias offered a home and a generous livelihood to the humanistic artists and scholars who had accepted his invitation to come to Hungary; these artists and scholars obtained Hungarian pupils and founded schools; but all this was swept away by the days of chaos and upheaval which followed his death. Humanism had found its way to Hungary already in the days of Sigismund. Later on, John Vitéz, Archbishop of Esztergom (Gran), the personal friend of Hunyadi who acted as tutor to young Matthias, became the leader of the humanistic literary circle in Hungary. It was Vitéz who had awakened in Matthias a desire to encourage science and scholarship; and the latter welcomed to his court the humanistic historians Bonfini, Galeotti, and Ranzano, the founders of the humanistic school of Hungarian historiography, who enjoyed his constant patronage. Regiomontanus too, the eminent astronomer, came to Hungary; and it was with his co-operation that Matthias founded the Academia Istropolitana at Pozsony (Pressburg) to replace the university founded by Lewis the Great at Pecs, which had been destroyed. A large number of Hungarian humanists were active, under the direction of John Vitéz, furthering science and poetry. The most eminent of these humanists was John Csezmiczei, Bishop of Pecs, who under the name of “Janus Pannonius” attained distinction among the neo-Latin poets. It was with the co-operation of these savants that, after the death of Matthias, the first scientific association was formed (the Sodalitas Litteraria Danubiana). And it was in the age of Matthias (in 1473) that the first Hungarian printing press—that founded by Andrew Hesz of Nuremberg—began its operations in Buda, the first product of this press being the Chronicon Budense, which offers such striking proof of the revival of historical research in the days of the great king.

The remarkable revival and rapid development in Matthias’ reign of science, scholarship, and art was almost overshadowed by his signal success as a general. However, while his father had practically confined his attention to the Turkish campaigns, Matthias made the adjoining provinces of the Romano-Germanic Empire (Austria and Bohemia) the primary objects of his wars. In 1468 he had a conflict with his whilom father-in-law, George of Bohemia, who had maintained secret relations with the discontented Hungarian magnates conspiring against their king, and who by his Hussite leanings and Hussite policy had at the same time provoked the bitter hostility of the Holy See. Pope Paul II prompted Matthias to undertake a crusade against Bohemia, the Hungarian king being encouraged also by the Emperor Frederick III, who was delighted to see that the relations between his Czech and Hungarian neighbours had cooled. Not that Matthias needed much encouragement: the war against Bohemia fitted into his political schemes; so he invaded Moravia, occupied Brno and Olomouc, and penetrated into Bohemia, whereupon the Czech-Moravian and Silesian Estates, at a Parliament held at Olomouc in 1469, elected him King of Bohemia, crowning him at Brno. In answer to this move George Podebrady induced the Bohemian Estates to elect as his successor Vladislav, son of the Polish king Casimir, thereby creating a breach between Matthias and Poland. After the death of Podebrady in 1471, the Emperor too acknowledged Vladislav as King of Bohemia, while at home there was discontent owing to the failure to carry on the war against the Turks and to the heavy burdens involved by the taxes imposed for the purpose of carrying on the Bohemian contest; and the insurgent magnates invited Casimir, Prince of Poland, to occupy the throne. Prince Casimir actually entered Hungary with an army; but Matthias had meanwhile disarmed the disaffection of the magnates, and the Polish claimant was compelled to retire without having achieved anything. Then in 1474 Matthias led a fresh expedition against Bohemia, this time with the approval of the Hungarian Estates; and, anticipating the proposed Austrian-Czech-Rumanian offensive against Hungary, he entered Breslau in triumph. After an armistice of four years, the Treaty of Olomouc (1478) finally put an end to hostilities; under this treaty Bohemia was left to Vladislav, but the subordinate provinces—Moravia, Silesia, and Lusatia (Lausitz)—came into the possession of Matthias, who also retained the title of King of Bohemia.

By this time Matthias was at war with the Emperor Frederick too, whose double-dealing in the conflict with Bohemia had forced the Hungarian king to resort to armed intervention. Between 1477 and 1485 Matthias conducted three campaigns against the Emperor’s Austrian hereditary provinces; the result of these campaigns was the fall of Vienna and the subjection of Lower Austria and Styria to the Hungarian king.

By acquiring possession of these Bohemian and Austrian provinces Matthias had paved the way to the imperial throne. He first made a peaceful attempt to obtain it; and in 1471 he did succeed in securing from the Emperor Frederick a promise that the latter would recommend the Electors and the German Reichstag to accept Matthias as his successor. About the same time Matthias opened negotiations with the Electors themselves, one of whom—Albert of Hohenzollern, Margrave of Brandenburg—declared his willingness to support him, while the others refused to entertain the suggestion. Failing to achieve his object in this manner owing to the duplicity of the Emperor, in 1474 he invited Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, to make an alliance for the purpose of breaking the power of the Habsburgs. Charles, however, turned a deaf ear; and after his death in 1477 this scheme too came to nought. Then Matthias concentrated his forces on the work of securing the possession of the neighbouring imperial provinces of Bohemia and Austria, in order to be able in the event of the election of a new king on the death of Frederick to enter the lists in the struggle for the crown as the mightiest prince of the Empire.

Matthias Hunyadi has been very severely reproached, both by his contemporaries and by posterity, for departing from the path marked out by his father, and, instead of energetically continuing the struggle against the Turks, squandering the forces of his country and his own eminent military capacity in campaigns of conquest in the West. However, this reproach is not quite just; for in the years 1475-76 and again in 1479 and 1481 he began campaigns for the purpose of freeing the frontier zones of Bosnia and harassing the Turkish frontier district in Bulgaria; and the records of these campaigns shew that he never lost sight of the Turkish danger, and that the ultimate object of his policy in the West was the organisation of an eventual expedition on a huge scale for the expulsion of the Ottomans. Experience had taught Matthias, as it had taught his father before him, that all he had to expect in the struggle against the Turks was the papal subsidy, which came to take the place of the auxiliary hosts the West had undertaken to send to his aid; so it had become evident to him that he could not reckon upon the assistance of Western Europe except in the event of a close political connexion based upon a German-Hungarian federation. Despite her undoubted power, Hungary seemed to him too weak to oppose the oriental enemy which was disciplined by the Asiatic despotism of the Turks; even as national king he paved the way for a personal union with the east German provinces and, if possible, with the whole Empire, thereby resuming the foreign policy of Béla IV and Sigismund. Owing to his death, which ensued unexpectedly at the early age of fifty, and to the weakness of his successor, his policy proved a failure; but his conception—to revive Sigismund’s personal union of German, Czech, and Hungarian—appears in the light of results to have been the only one calculated to provide the means of checking the advance of the Turks and averting the national catastrophe of 1526. The conquest of a large section of Bohemia and of the Austrian provinces was a masterly achievement and a signal feat of generalship; and the conception of foreign policy expressed in these conquests is eloquent proof of Matthias’ sound practical appreciation of the situation.

In the last year of his life the question of the succession caused Matthias the greatest anxiety. His married life with both his consorts—Catherine Podébrady and Beatrice of Naples, both of whom he had wedded for political reasons—had been unhappy; and both marriages remained without issue. His only child was his illegitimate son, John Corvinus, whose mother was the daughter of a Breslau burgher. Though at his death he was only fifty years of age, he had already made every effort to secure Prince John’s succession to the throne. The result of these efforts was the so-called Lex Palatini (Law of the Palatine), which later on acquired such importance in constitutional law. Under this law the Count Palatine became Captain-General of the country, second only to the king as head of the judicature, guardian of the king during his minority, regent of the country during the king’s absence or during an interregnum, intermediary between king and nation in the event of any quarrel between the two; at royal elections it was his privilege to proclaim the assembling of Parliament for the purpose and to record the first vote. At a later period this law put into the hands of the Estates electing the Count Palatine a strong constitutional guarantee against the absolutist tendencies of their Habsburg sovereigns. By this law Matthias had desired to ensure the succession of John Corvinus to the throne; for simultaneously with the  promulgation of the law he had made one of his most devoted adherents—Imre Szapolyai, a man who had been advanced from the obscurity of a poor lesser noble to the dignity and wealth of a magnate—Count Palatine. Nevertheless, he failed to achieve his object. Szapolyai died before him; and when, in April 1490, the king too passed away unexpectedly, the palatinate was vacant, so that Prince John lacked the official support which his father had desired to secure him. But the young prince lacked also the energy essential for obtaining the crown; and he lacked his father’s authority too. Though he had followers among the lesser nobles whom the Hunyadis had exalted and by the grant of estates had advanced at the expense of the aristocratic families, public opinion was not on his side. The Estates had had enough of the glorious but severe rule of the Hunyadis. They preferred to put themselves under the rule of Vladislav Jagiello, the prince who had abandoned the kingdom of Poland for Bohemia. They hoped that they would find him to be a weak king yielding to their will and respecting their rights. This anticipation proved to be correct. Vladislav II (1490-1516) was a weak ruler, during whose reign there was a renewal of the troubles which the Hunyadi regime had for half a century kept in check; and Hungary began to approach her doom to the accompaniment of bitter internal feuds on the one hand and an unceasing heroic defensive struggle against the Turks on the other.

The aristocracy and the gentry, nobility and villeins, prelates and towns, the court favourites—some of whom were foreigners—and the provincial Hungarian nobility jealous of their liberty, the political feuds of all these several factors with one another and with the weak power of the Crown, in a few short years destroyed the results achieved by the rule of Matthias. It was only by selling the finest of the Corvin manuscripts and of the artistic gems of the royal collection, and by the aid of loans obtained from subjects allowed to make havoc of the royal property, that this successor of Lewis the Great and of Matthias Hunyadi was able to maintain his unpretentious household. And this financial decay was only one of the many symptoms of the utter decline of the central power and of the royal authority, and of the collapse of the constitutional State, which was accompanied by signs of anarchy; and as a result, despite the heroic bravery of her soldiers, thirty-six years after the death of Matthias Hungary was brought to the field of Mohács, where in 1526, with the death of King Lewis II and the annihilation of his army, two-thirds of her territory were lost and remained for a century and a half under the Turkish yoke.