Emeric, King of Hungary


Emeric of Hungary (in Slovak Imrich) (Albareale, 1174 – Strigonius, November 30, 1204) was king of Hungary from 1196 until his death.

Crowned while his father was still alive, when his parent died he had to fight with his brother Andrew, who forced Emeric to grant him dominion over Croatia and Dalmatia by way of appanage. Emeric also intervened in the internal struggles of neighboring countries and assisted the papal legate in his own mission to the Bogomili of Bosnia, considered a heretical sect. During his reign, Doge Enrico Dandolo persuaded those who participated in the Fourth Crusade to conquer Zara, which was held in Magyar hands. He also could not prevent the rise of Bulgaria along the southern borders of his kingdom. Emeric was the first Hungarian monarch to use the Arpadi coat of arms as his personal crest and to adopt the title King of Serbia. Before his death, Emeric had his four-year-old son, Ladislaus III, crowned king.

Early years (1174-1195)

The firstborn son of Béla III of Hungary and his first wife Agnes of Antioch, Emeric was born around 1174 and, when he was only eight years old, on May 16, 1182, he was crowned at the behest of his father, who wanted to secure the succession, by the Archbishop of Strigonius Nicholas. Providing him with an adequate education was a priest from Split named Bernard. At the same time that he was crowned, he was betrothed to Agnes, the youngest of Frederick Barbarossa’s daughters, but the child’s death shortly thereafter, when she was only four years old, broke off all negotiations. In about 1195 Emeric was crowned again and his father named him duke of Croatia and Dalmatia.

Wars with his brother (1196-1200)

In his will, Béla left his undivided kingdom in the hands of Emeric, while his youngest son Andrew was left a large sum of money on the condition that he set it aside to participate in a crusade. Béla III died on April 23, 1196, and Emeric, who formally succeeded him, soon began to clash with his brother, who had used the inheritance money to recruit followers among the local aristocrats. With the help of Leopold VI of Babenberg, Emeric defeated Andrew in December 1197 and forced him to accept, by way of appanage, Slavonia, Croatia and Dalmatia. This did not prompt his brother to abandon his intentions, so much so that he continued to conspire against the crown; however, Emeric could count on the support of Pope Innocent III, who continued to try to convince Andrew to comply with his father’s wishes and organize a crusade.

Disagreements within the royal family also cost the two brothers in economic terms, considering that they in fact had to make substantial donations in terms of fiefs to secure the necessary support. As an example, Emeric had to make a large donation to the archbishop of Strigonius, to whom he also gave the royal palace of Strigonius. In early 1199, Emeric was informed that his brother was plotting together with Bishop Boleslaus of Vác, reasoning that he went to the cleric and personally arrested him on March 10. At the same time, he deprived his brother’s supporters of their titles. In the summer of 1199 Emeric succeeded in defeating his brother’s army near Lake Balaton, forcing his opponent to flee to Austria. It was only with the mediation of the papal legate Gregory that the two counterparts came to peace. Under the terms of the agreement, control of Dalmatia and Croatia was returned to the younger brother in the early 1200s.

Wars in the Balkans (1200-1203)

In 1196, in Serbia, Stephen Nemanja had abdicated, in favor of his middle son Stephen Prvovenčani, while his eldest son and heir presumptive Vukan Nemanjić continued to rule his domains on the Adriatic Sea coast. While his father was still alive, Vukan did not dare to openly oppose his brother but, when he died in 1200, began plotting against Stephen. In the meantime, the pope persuaded Emeric to support the papal legate against the Serbian Bogomils and, for this reason, he allied with Vukan against Stephen. Their alliance proved fruitful, considering that Stephen was beaten in 1201 or 1202 and was forced to flee to Bulgaria; for his part, Emeric, who had obtained some lands west of the Morava, appointed himself “king of Serbia” and placed Vukan under his aegis. He was inolrre the first monarch to use a royal seal depicting the so-called “stripes of the Harpads,” which later became part of Hungary’s coat of arms.

Between 1201 and 1202 Emeric participated in the Fourth Crusade to the Holy Land. Emeric later defeated Kulin, the bano of Bosnia, who had sided with the Bogomili, and on April 8, 1203 Kulin swore his allegiance to the Church of Rome and to Emeric himself. Between 1202 and 1203 Emeric executed a campaign against Kalojan of Bulgaria, who was allying with Stephen in an attempt to retake Serbia. The clash occurred between the borders of Bulgaria and Serbia, and Emeric was forced to withdraw from the Braničevo region while Vukan had to leave the city of Niš; from that time Stephen resumed control of Serbia and his brother returned to his maritime domains.

While executing preparations for campaigns in the Balkans, Venetian Doge Enrico Dandolo signed a treaty with the crusade commanders under which they agreed to help him recapture Zadar, a city in Dalmatia that had accepted the sovereignty of the Magyar monarchs since 1186. Despite Innocent III forbidding this clause, the Serenissima and its allies stormed the fortress of Zadar on November 24, 1202. Once taken from the Hungarians, Emeric wrote to the pope and, at his request, persuaded him to excommunicate the crusaders, although this was not enough to restore control over the city, which remained in the hands of Venice under a treaty signed at the same historical juncture.

Last years (1203-1204)

In the fall of 1203 Andrew began to conspire against his brother again, and so the two armies were once again reunited. However, when he realized that his forces were outnumbered, Emeric chose to go and talk to Andrew alone at the city of Varaždin. According to the near-coeval Thomas Archdeacon, Emeric entered his unarmed brother’s camp stating, “Now I will see who dares to raise a hand to spill the blood of the royal lineage!” No one dared to stop the king, who approached Andrew and captured him without resistance. Duke Andrew was held in captivity for months, but his supporters freed him in early 1204.

After defeats in Serbia, probably due to the outbreak of civil war, Emeric set up preparations for a campaign against Bulgaria, but disbanded his army at the request of Pope Innocent. The latter, who denied consent to the Magyar ruler because he was negotiating an ecclesiastical union with Kaloyan, sent him a royal crown, but Emeric imprisoned the papal legate who was delivering the crown to Bulgaria as he was transiting Hungary.

Despite his young age, Emeric was falling ill, and on August 26, 1204, feeling his death approaching, he crowned his son to ensure his succession and entrusted him to his brother Andrew, to whom he made a promise to protect him and help him rule the kingdom of Hungary until he came of age, as Thomas Archdeacon attests. As the Chronica Picta states, Emeric died three months later, on November 30. His remains were buried at Eger Cathedral.

Between 1196 and 1200 that Emeric married his wife, Constance of Aragon, daughter of Alfonso II. The couple, based on what the available sources let them infer, had a son, Ladislaus III, who was born around 1200 and died on May 7, 1205. Queen Constance, who survived both her husband and her son, later celebrated her marriage to Frederick II of Swabia, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Secondary sources


  1. Emerico d’Ungheria (re)
  2. Emeric, King of Hungary
  3. ^ Makk (1994), p. 282; Kristó e Makk (1996), p. 225; Bartl et al. (2002), p. 30; Makk (1989), p. 114.
  4. ^ Kristó e Makk (1996), p. 225.
  5. ^ Makk (1989), p. 116.
  6. 1,0 1,1 1,2 Makk 1994, σελ. 282.
  7. 2,0 2,1 2,2 2,3 Kristó & Makk 1996, σελ. 225.
  8. Bartl και άλλοι 2002, σελ. 30.
  9. Makk 1989, σελ. 114.
  10. Makk 1989, σελ. 116.
  11. Szabados György: Imre és András. Századok, 133. évf. (1999) 1. sz. 85-111.
  12. Bernát spalatói érsek. In: Korai Magyar Történeti Lexikon. Főszerk. Kristó Gyula. Budapest, 1994. 99. old.
  13. Gyula Kristo, Histoire de la Hongrie Médiévale, tome 1 : Le Temps des Arpads, Presses Universitaires de Rennes (2000) (ISBN 2-86847-533-7) p. 123.
  14. Francis Dvornik Les Slaves de l’Antiquité aux débuts de l’Époque Contemporaine Seuil Paris (1970) (ISBN 9782020026673) p. 407.
  15. Titre que les rois de Hongrie revandiquent jusqu’en 1918  !
  16. Gyula Kristo, Op.cit p. 124.
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