Principality of Transylvania (1570–1711)

gigatos | January 10, 2022


The Principality of Transylvania (Latin: Principatus Transsilvaniae, German: Fürstentum Siebenbürgen, Romanian: Principatul Transilvaniei, Turkish: Transilvanya Prensliği or Erdel Prensliği), with reference to the Edict of Cracow, a historical state formation created by the Treaty of Speyer in 1570 as a consequence of the double election of kings following the Battle of Mohács, a (partially) vassal state of the Ottoman Empire, which played a significant role in early modern Hungarian history.

The principality officially existed from 1570 in the territory of historical Transylvania and Partium, and was intended to replace the state of the Kingdom of Hungary in the east, which had been divided into three parts after the conquest of Buda in 1541, according to the Treaty of Speyer signed on 16 August 1570 (and the Treaty of Drinapoly in 1568). Under the terms of the treaty, King John Sigismund (son of King John of Szapolya), supported by Sultan Suleiman I, renounced the title of King of Hungary and agreed to use only the title of Prince of Transylvania. After his death, he was succeeded on the princely throne first by the Báthorys and then by several Hungarian noble families (such as the Rákóczi, the Bethlenes, the Apafis, etc.). After the Rákóczi War of Independence, it came under the rule of the Habsburg Empire.

It was in the Principality of Transylvania that the free exercise of religion was first established in the history of Europe. The Principality also gave a Polish king, István Báthory, to head the Polish-Lithuanian Union. Throughout its history, the state was headed by a woman governor, before the Treaty of 1570 under Queen Isabella Jagelló, and again under Maria Krystierna of Austria, wife of Sigismund Báthory, and Catherine of Brandenburg, widow of Gábor Bethlen.

International and internal situation, forces before Mohács

The Principality of Transylvania came into being as the culmination of a long process, which included the title of Transylvanian Viceroy, a one-man power over a larger geographical unit. Another important reason was the Habsburg and Turkish threat, the lack of a Hungarian-origin ruling house and the disunity of the nobility.

In 1505, the decree of Cracossa stated that no ruler would be elected from a foreign house and that the succession of the Jagiellonian line would not be recognised. The Diet was obviously already thinking of János Szapolyai. “… the common nobility, fighting for its political rights, found in him – in the corner of the family from below – its ideal. At the Diet of Rákos in 1505, his supporters pledged not to elect a foreign ruler in the interests of Szapolyai”s kingdom.” Ulászló Dobzse did not ratify this decree, therefore it is not law.

Yet it was not in 1505, but as early as 1491, that the political situation that eventually led to the election of a double king began. The first of the three dynastic treaties, renewed in 1506 and 1515, was concluded in that year between the Jagiellos and the Habsburgs. In 1491, Ulászló had no children, and the second was due to the then owner of the Hunyadi estate, Margrave George of Brandenburg, and Ulászló”s fear of the Sapolys. The decree at Cracow opened his eyes to the possibility of a Hungarian claimant to the throne. The third was obviously caused by the Dózsa War and the fear of Szapolyai by Ulászló and the Polish King Sigismund. The events of 1514 strengthened Szapolyai”s authority, since he had opposed the Bakócz crusade from the outset, but had also played a major role in crushing the movement and in the reprisals. His army, tried and tested at the siege of Sendrő in the south in 1513, helped him in this. “…In the end, only one man was able to capitalise on what happened in the summer of 1514: János Szapolyai. The real gain was to regain power.”

The situation “… gave rise to the conviction in public opinion that the source of the troubles was to be sought in the foreign origin of the Jagellos, and that only a national king could put an end to the anarchy The richest aristocratic family in the country, the Szapolyai family, who had risen from the lowly by the grace of Matthias, took the lead in the movement of the common nobility, hoping to gain the throne for one of its members, János, the Transylvanian viceroy. In Ferdinand, the Hungarian nobility saw the German, a stranger bent on the destruction of Hungary.” Ferdinand, however, had given no sign of anti-Hungarianism so far, nor did he pursue such aims in his later life.

There were three independent armies in the country in the 1520s, which in itself shows the feudal fragmentation, the disorder of the internal situation and the very deep royal authority: István Báthori, the prince of Timis, later the Prince-Nadar, Ferenc Frangepán, the Croatian king, and János Szapolyai, the Transylvanian viceroy, fought their battles with their own armies. Even under the most favourable circumstances, royal Hungary was only capable of fielding an army of 25,000 to 30,000 men at most, and the private armies of the three lords greatly depleted the resources available to the king. Of these three, Szapolyai had the greatest wealth and military power, and was already the obvious alternative candidate for king among the nobility in 1505. With this force he was already raiding the southern extremities in 1515, then still in league with the Báthorian Prince. His aim was clearly not to launch an anti-Turkish campaign, but to undermine the Habsburg-Jagello dynastic treaty of 1515, since its implementation would obviously provoke outrage if they succeeded. “The representative of the Fugger banking house in Hungary wrote to his boss that if the Viceroy had won at Zsarno, ”the Hungarians would have reclaimed Anna… and given her to the Viceroy, and nothing would have been gained from the treaty if he had succeeded in winning the victory, and with this glory he would have gained the reign and would have been given the King”s daughter as his wife”.”

After the death of Ulászló II, János Bornemissa and George of Brandenburg were appointed guardians of the child Louis II, so the Habsburg orientation in the government was not compromised. However, the rest of the country”s leadership was more in favour of Szapolyai, so the period 1514-1526 was unstable in terms of domestic politics, central power was weak, and everyone obeyed only what they thought was right from the decisions and laws of the Diet.

From 1521, a permanent Turkish force was stationed in the Serem region. The complete destruction of the southern citadel system established by Sigismund took place within a few years; Sabács, Nándorfehérvár and Zimony were lost. The territorial integrity of the country was already compromised from 1521, with the Turks occupying county territories. Yet this was not the first Turkish-related military event in Hungary: the defeat at Nicapolis in 1396 was soon followed by the liquidation of the buffer state of Havasalföld, and then, with the help of pro-Turkish voivodes, Turks raided Transylvanian territory with increasing frequency. In 1420-21, Hunyad County and Barcovia were besieged, and in 1432 the Saxon towns except Brasov and Sibiu. In 1434, the Olachs of Fogaras allied themselves with the Turks, and in 1438 a Turkish-Olach-Russian army invaded Hungary at the Iron Gate. The reorganization of the southern border defence was the responsibility of the Bans of Ujlak and Hunyadi – Macsov and Sörény – who were given the titles of Ispan of Timis and Viceroy of Transylvania. During the reign of Matthias there was only one attempt by the Turks, which was repulsed by Báthori and Kinizsi at the Battle of Kenyérmezei in 1479.

Mohács and its immediate consequences

The League of Cognac, an alliance of the Habsburgs” enemies, above all the Papal States, the Kingdom of France and Venice, was founded in 1526 and existed until 1529. The League”s aim was to isolate the Habsburg-controlled countries, and as part of this aim they were in close contact with the Turkish Sultan.

On 29 August 1526, the Battle of Mohács was fought, and after the battle on Wednesday, the news reached Buda on Thursday. The queen and her entourage, the papal envoy Burgio and the Germans immediately chose to flee, while the majority of the Hungarians, trusting in Szapolyai, remained in place. The wave of flight escalated at the news that Szapolyai was still stranded at Szeged days later. In the end, a total of 50 soldiers remained to defend Buda! On 11 September, the Turks took Buda without a fight. By 22 September they had crossed the Danube to Pest, so all the Turkish soldiers left Buda Castle – again without a sword stroke, and finally on 13 October they left the country.

A kind of balance helps us to judge the battle of Mohács: the king, 28 barons, 2 high priests (the last two dignitaries make up the royal council!) and most of the county chaplains fell. The top and middle echelons of the state leadership were thus almost extinct. This caused an immediate administrative and governance crisis. Not only the Jagiellonian House in Hungary died out, but also the upper nobility loyal to the monarch, who could have enforced the Habsburg orientation, the enactment of dynastic treaties. The Ferdinand party was reduced to a minority on a basis of extinction.

Double election of the king

The country obviously needed a new ruler to replace Louis II, who had died. There were three ways of obtaining legitimacy, the first and most important of which (succession) was obviously not possible because Louis was childless. According to the principle of denominatio, i.e. appointment, Ferdinand could claim the Hungarian throne, since the Jagello-Habsburg dynastic treaties made him the heir of Louis. The Hungarian common nobility did not support the accession of the Habsburgs at all, citing the unenforceable decree of Cracow, and the pro-Habsburg branch of the nobility virtually died out. The nobility took advantage of the opportunity to elect a king, exercising the right of electio conferred on them by the Golden Bulls. János Szapolyai, the Transylvanian Viceroy of Transylvania, had ”missed” Mohács, so he had the most numerous army in the country at the time, but he was the only candidate of the common nobility. Already on 1 November, he marched on the Buda Castle, which had been abandoned by the Turks. He buried Lajos – at least who was thought to be Lajos, since he had to be buried for the coronation – and then set off for Székesfehérvár.

Shortly after the Battle of Mohács, the Hungarian orders gathered in Tokaj, and a decision was made to convene the Diet. Szapolyai was the chairman of the assembly, but the Electoral Prince István Báthori was not present. Szapolyai convened the Diet in Székesfehérvár without authority, since he was neither king nor noble, “only” a Transylvanian voivode. The Diet could have been convened by these two dignitaries. “… according to Hungarian law, only the Nádor could convene a king-electing parliament in the event of the death of the king.” On 10 November the Diet elected Szapolyai king, and on 11 November he was crowned. The coronation was performed by István Podmaniczky, Bishop of Nitra, as senior high priest. The only serious legitimacy problem is that the Diet itself was illegitimate, and therefore he is an illegitimate ruler, despite the Diet”s decision, the possession of the Crown and the coronation of the senior priest. This could only have been corrected by a regular Diet, convened by the Electoral Council, István Báthori.

However, Szapolyai did not appear at the Diet of Bratislava convened by the Báthori nobility in December, nor did the nobility – especially the middle nobility. The dowager queen, Maria Habsburg, was in the city. The small number of nobles elected Ferdinand, Maria”s brother, as King of Hungary. The Diet passed a new law legalising the right to elect a king. Ferdinand”s kingship also lacked one element of legitimacy – the Crown, which was in Szapolyai”s possession. But Ferdinand did not become counter-king against a legitimate monarch, for there was no such thing. From December 1526, the country had two illegitimate rulers!

The government of Szapolyai: a royal council without a governor. It is unprecedented for a Hungarian king not to have a nádor, perhaps because the appointment of a new nádor would have meant an open break with Nádor Báthori. He began his reign by donating estates. 1527 Diet of Buda – property thesis, general tax obligation. In the spring of 1527, Szapolyai and Ferdinand mutually recognised each other”s dominions in the Treaty of Olomouc, but the agreement was that Szapolyai”s territories would pass to Ferdinand on his death. Szapolyai planned a marriage with Maria Habsburg, which would bring him into the Habsburg kinship and even closer to an independent, true kingdom.

Kingdom of Eastern Hungary

On 6 May 1527, the army of Charles V captured and sacked Rome (Sacco di Roma), which meant the defeat of the League of Cognac created by Clement VII and a relative increase in the prestige of the Habsburgs. The league failed to isolate the German-Roman Empire and force it into a multi-front war. The League continued for two more years, but was no longer able to intervene in any meaningful way. On 2 July 1527, Sapolya joined the already apparently defeated Cognacs League, and in doing so was naturally forced to adopt a kind of Turkish orientation, while abandoning any plans he had for the Habsburgs.

In July 1527, apparently as a result of King János”s foreign policy, a German imperial army started a campaign in Hungary. Buda was captured by Charles V in August. In the meantime, “János Szapolyai was enthroned in the Buda castle in a state of helpless paralysis in the castle of Buda, and in the city of Buda, King János was amazed with a silent mind that the people saw no movement from him. Here he was defeated by 4,300 infantry (3,000 landsknecht and 1,300 light infantry) and 1,000 cavalry on 27 September. He fled to Debrecen, then to Transylvania, and later to Poland, after the Brasov Assembly and the Târgu Mures Assembly voted in favour of Ferdinand.

The Treaty of Olomouc and his behaviour during the German campaign in Hungary caused János Szapolyai”s authority to collapse, and he was even abandoned by Péter Perényi, the crown guard, who was appointed by Szapolyai as the Viceroy of Transylvania (1526-29) and took the Crown with him to Ferdinand. In October 1527, Ferdinand held a Diet in Buda, where Szapolyai was declared unfit, his decrees were abolished, and on 3 November, the Habsburg having already fully fulfilled all the conditions he needed for the kingdom, he was crowned. From then on, the country had one legitimate (Ferdinand) and one illegitimate (John) king.

Elek Bethlen and Miklós Apafi also left Szapolyai”s camp. The believers left Szapolyai not for the reason usually given – that Ferdinand had greater opportunities to fight the Turks – but because they saw King John”s political ineptitude and recognised the Habsburg as a legitimate ruler. If only because the Turks had withdrawn from the country, they had no other Hungarian territory than the Serem region, and did not appear to be a serious opponent. At this time, the main concern of the aristocratic parties was not the Turkish threat, but the feuds and civil war surrounding the throne. In practice, Szapolyai had only the castle of Fogaras left, which was defended by Miklós Tomori until the following spring.

“In a political situation where none of the parties on offer could promise a cure for the country”s serious illness, the unreliability and duplicity can hardly be called surprising. The general feeling of hopelessness is well reflected in the lack of ideology of the two camps…” But the most serious illness of the country at that time was not the Turkish one, and the way to cure it was to have a single legitimate ruler. The two rulers and the Turkish threat are not the disease itself, but only its symptom: the disease is the complete disagreement between the nobility and the middle nobility.The “unformedness” is also characteristic of Szapolyai himself, who at that time, on the advice of Francis I, began to negotiate with Suleiman.

The French monarch had no qualms about this, since on the one hand he had a quasi-alliance with Suleiman, and on the other France was separated from the Ottoman Empire by Hungary and the German-Roman Empire. Suleiman naturally took the opportunity to further foment civil war on his own borders and support an opposing king, and on 27 January 1528 the Treaty of Istanbul was signed, which included a treaty of defence and defiance. The 1528 campaigns of Szapolyai marked the escalation of the civil war: defeat in the spring (8 March Abaújszina), victory in the autumn at Sárospatak. Between the two dates, Szapolyai”s support fundamentally changed, probably caused by the Transylvanian overrun of the troops of the mercenary commander Katzianer. The Transylvanian Saxons and the Hungarians were also separately pitted against each other, regardless of party affiliation, on ethnic grounds. “The hatred was mutual, with the Saxons calling them ”Hungarian wolves” and the Hungarians ”Germanic beasts”.”

Szapolyai tried to win over the urban bourgeoisie, the peasantry of the field towns and the serfs, although he only restored the right of free movement, which had been abolished in 1514, in 1536. “The sympathy and financial support of the cívis, which was indeed won, could not, however, replace the lost means of power. In King John”s part of the country, the rule of the large estates, which had caused so much trouble before Mohács, returned unmasked. Bálint Török ruled in Veszprém and Somogy, Péter Perényi in Baranya and Zemplén, Imre Czibak in Bihar while he lived (until 1534), István Werbőczy in Tolna and Nógrád, Václav Maylád (1534-40) in Fogaras and its environs, Péter Petrovics in Temes, the Kostkaks, Podmaniczky, Bebek, Ráskay in other lands, in the name of the king, but mostly at their own pleasure.” The serfs and peasants, however, had not yet forgotten Szapolyai”s activities in 1514.

From 10 May 1529, a Turkish campaign was launched. As a result of this Turkish campaign, the Moldavian Viceroy Rares Peter, who had been a loyalist of Ferdinand in Transylvania, sided with Szapolyai. On 22 June, the German army led by Bálint Török, the Grand Vizier of Timis, was severely defeated at Földvár in Barcovy, and as a result, the incoming Szapolyai army – led by István Báthori and Kocsárd Kun – did not even take up the fight, but disbanded without a battle. It was then that Szapolyai donated the Banská Štiavnica region to Rares Peter. Rares marched against Beszterce because they were reluctant to submit to him, and they held out against him until July 1530, when Rares gave up the siege.

On 18 August 1529, the “kiss of the hand of Mohács” took place, and from then on we can speak of Szapolyai”s Turkish vassal kingdom. This was preceded by the Treaty of Cambrai of 5 August, concluded between the representatives of King Francis I and Emperor Charles V. The League of Cognac was thus dissolved and the southern and western borders of the German-Roman Empire were secured. Nevertheless, the period from 1529 to 1536 was marked by Ferdinand”s refusal to give any form of assistance to his Transylvanian supporters, who opposed John solely on their own account. The imminent Turkish threat forced more and more lords to abandon Ferdinand, the last of the great landlords, István Majláth, defecting to Szapolyai in early 1532.

On 8 September 1529, Szapolyai retook Buda and the Crown was returned to him. The quick end of the siege was largely due to the panic of the mercenaries, who accepted the Turkish offer of a ransom. The defence led by Tamás Nádasdy worked well, despite a defensive force of only 900 men, until then. By 22 September the Turkish army was already besieging Vienna until 15 October, when the end of the war season brought the campaign to an end. In the meantime, Aloisio (Lodovico) Gritti – a confidant of Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pargali – and 3,000 (or 8,000) Janissaries remained in Buda. On 21 December Clement VII excommunicated Sapolya for his Turkish connections. By this time, it no longer mattered that the Pope himself was a quasi-allie of Suleiman in the Cognacian League war.

On May 8, 1530, at the call of István Báthori, a Diet was convened in Bratislava, but the reigning governor died that day, no one appointed a new reigning governor, and the Diet was dissolved without any meaningful activity.

In the autumn of 1530 a German campaign was launched against Szapolyai. From 31 October to 20 December, Buda was besieged without success. From December 1530, Ferdinand became co-royal of Charles V, the German king. The reason for this move was the formation of the Schmalkalden alliance against Charles V among the Protestant princes. In response, Szapolyai appointed Gritti as governor at Christmas. On 21 January 1531, Ferdinand and Szapolyai concluded a truce.

Suleiman led a revenge campaign against the siege of Buda in 1532. The advance was halted at Kőszeg, but it remains to be seen whether this was due to the 800 soldiers led by Miklós Jurisics or to the imperial army gathered under Vienna, which far outnumbered the force needed to defend Vienna.

On 30 December 1532, Ferdinand and Szapolyai signed another truce. Suleiman, seized in the Turkish-Persian wars, also made peace with Ferdinand on 22 June 1533. Two main acts of the peace: 1) Suleiman adopted Ferdinand and Mary as his children, and 2) declared that Ferdinand was in rightful possession of the territories he controlled. These are to be designated to Gritti. Gritti, in turn, defected to Ferdinand and was assassinated on 29 September 1534 at Medyes. The immediate cause of the rebellion against him was the murder of Imre Czibak, Bishop of Wroclaw, but his turncoat attitude and his much-maligned stubbornness and haughty arrogance also played a large part.

Gritti marched to Transylvania, where Ferenc Patócsy declared a popular uprising against him. The rebel army was led by Kun Kocsárd, who was joined by Viscount Peter Rares, who had been called in by Gritti but had defected. Szapolyai had fallen into the trap he had set for himself: Gritti was a matter of love for the Turks, while his country was a matter of love for Czibak. He chose the simplest solution: he did not intervene on either side, which in turn caused discontent on both sides.

The investigation of the Porta was led by Prince Junis, who found Szapolyai guilty. King John sat on a shaky throne for a year and a half, and everyone expected him to fall out of Suleiman”s good graces. Finally, on 15 March 1536 – when Suleiman”s vizier and Gritti”s de facto chief, Ibrahim, fell from grace – he was saved. By this time, Szapolyai was already negotiating his own abdication with Charles V, and the abdication took place in January 1536. This was the Treaty of Naples, in which Sapolyai agreed to abdicate the throne on three conditions. 1. retention of the royal title; 2. compensation for his family estates in the royal territories. 3. his marriage to a Habsburg princess.

The massacre of Imre Czibak by Gritti paved the way for the rise and political career of another adventurer. This was the “friend” George, who inherited the bishopric of Wroclaw. György Utyeszen(ov)ics, also known as Martinuzzi, but most often referred to as György Fráter, became the most important and influential politician of the period to come, and a decidedly history-making force.

In December 1534, Paul III lifted the excommunication of Szapolyai in the spirit of international unity against the Turks. In the autumn of 1535, the long besieged Sibiu also came under his authority, making him hegemon in Transylvania.In 1536-38, however, the new Franco-German war changed the Habsburg position again. The Treaty of Naples could not be fulfilled because Charles V could no longer withdraw his forces from the western theatre of operations to invade Hungary. Suleiman”s relations with Sapolya were normalised during 1536, and the fall from grace of Ibrahim in March 1536 was accompanied by the dropping of the Gritti affair.

Suleiman”s next campaign came on schedule the following year. In 1537, the German campaign in the Highlands stalled at Tokaj, and the Battle of Gara on 9 October ended in a Turkish victory. Katzianer”s army of 40,000 men was defeated by the nobles of Sendrő and Bosnia. It was a significant defeat, which for a time determined Ferdinand”s room for manoeuvre. In addition to all this, the fact must be established that, with King John in collusion with the Turks, Ferdinand was the sole custodian of the war against the Turks, but he could not, could not, endure both the civil war and the Turkish fighting. He was accused of not fighting the Turks, while in all his anti-Turkish actions Hungarian troops were blocking him, dividing his forces and weakening his position.

By the end of 1537, both sides were left without supporters. On 24 February 1538, a secret agreement was concluded (the Treaty of Wroclaw), the essence of which was the recognition by both sides of the status of “one country, two kings”. This agreement was already signed by George Frater. The two parties mutually recognised each other as kings, but the unity of the country was maintained under all circumstances. Regarding the future fate of the country: 1. the Crown would pass to Ferdinand after the death of Szapolyai (even if Szapolyai had a son), 2. the throne would only revert to Szapolyai”s heirs in the event of the childlessness of Charles V and Ferdinand”s heirs. The treaty was ratified by Charles V on 22 November 1538 in Toledo.

“Both camps agreed to this peace agreement only because it made a concrete promise to unite the country. There were very few people who dared to suspect whether John I was sincere when he signed the peace of Vratislav? Is there any value in an agreement in which one party offers the other a country which it does not freely possess: the other offers a non-existent principality in return?”

The hope of Szapolyai”s Habsburg marriage ended with the Treaty of Vratislav. He asked the daughter of the Polish king Sigismund the Elder, 32 years younger than him and just 20 years old, Isabella, to marry him. The wedding took place on 2 March 1539. On 7 July 1540, István Szapolyai was born. Szapolyai died 10 (or 14) days later and the child”s guardians were Bálint Török, Péter Petrovics and György Fráter.

Ferdinand tried again to take Buda in 1540 (from 21 October), but Leonhard Vels” army left in November without accomplishing anything. “The defence of Buda is organised by Bálint Török, the guardian of the infant king and commander-in-chief of the Hungarian armies. He has a well-assembled force of 4,000 troops: 1,000,000 Hungarian and Rhaetian cavalry and 2,000 infantry.” The result of the campaign on the German side was the capture of Esztergom, Visegrád, Vác and Pest.

János Zsigmond

“The Hungarian of Transylvania in the 16th century, whether he professed to be a follower of the Habsburgs or the Szapolyai, knew only one Hungarian state and at its head one crowned king; he regarded the struggle between the two legitimacies as a temporary blow of fate and trusted unswervingly in the speedy restoration of the unity of the state. Therefore, we can only practically speak of the Western and Eastern Hungarian kingdoms as a separate state…”

Lavishing between Turkish and German

After the death of King János, the supporters of Szapolyai take three positions: 1. the implementation of the Treaty of Vratislav, 2. the Treaty of Vratislav should be respected only if Ferdinand comes to Hungary in force, 3. the will of Szapolyai is decisive. The latter position was represented by George Frater, who asked Suleiman to confirm the child”s position (kingdom). However, in the light of developments, it is easy to imagine that Szapolyai”s will was not exactly what György Fráter claimed. On 13 September 1540, under pressure from György Fráter, the Szapolyai party elected the infant son of the deceased monarch, János Zsigmond, as King of Hungary at the Diet of Rákosmezek. This decision perpetuated the division of the Kingdom of Hungary.

The title of King John II: rex electus, non coronatus, which emphasises the legitimacy derived from the right of the Diet to elect the king, in opposition to the Holy Crown principle. However, the Diet of Cracow was as irregular as the Diet of Székesfehérvár in 1526, for the same reason. Since Szapolyai was not a legitimate king, he could not appoint a nationally competent noble. István Werbőczy had no right to call a Diet. Moreover, the Treaty of Vratislav was clear and unambiguous, and the Diet would not have had the power to appoint a new ruler. The child István was anointed king under the name of János II, which was clearly intended to continue the reign of Szapolyai.

Ferdinand presented Suleiman with the secret treaty of Vratislav, which he used to prove the unreliability of the Szapolyai kings to the Porte, and then in the late autumn and winter of 1540 and early spring of 1541 he led campaigns against the part of the country of John II. At the end of September 1540, the Turkish envoy, Tsar Tsaus of Sinan, recognised István Majláth as prince. This decision was not accepted by the Transylvanian orders because it would have sanctified the division of Hungary (i.e. in the eyes of the people of the time, it was still in one piece!). Majláth therefore sided with Ferdinand.

Ferdinand sent Ferenc Nádasdy and Gáspár Horváth to help Majláth, who together turned South Transylvania against Zsigmond János. In the north, “Imre Bebek, the envoy of Isabella”s government, successfully held the opposing party together”. The end of 1540 thus led to a new climax of the civil war, when not only Ferdinand”s and John II”s parties were at loggerheads, but many lords, regardless of party affiliation and even without a resolution between the parties, plundered the estates of others – such as Imre Balassa, the Transylvanian chief captain, or his brother Menyhert Balassa, the chief bailiff of Hövti and Barsi. Boldizsár Bornemissza, the unnamed Transylvanian captain-general, and István Majláth concluded a peace treaty in January 1541, although there was no truce. In May, Suleiman had already given a firm order to the Transylvanian leadership to accept John II as their lord, otherwise the Turkish forces and the Oláh voivodes would invade Transylvania. István Majláth was finally captured by Peter Rares and handed over to the Porte, and Majláth was imprisoned in the Seven Towers for the rest of his life.

On 29 August 1541, the Turks occupied Buda. As Pest had been in the hands of Ferdinand since the previous autumn campaign and Buda in the hands of John II, an interesting military situation developed. The Turks had besieged Pest from March onwards, while Buda provided them with fire cover. György Fráter personally led assaults with a mixed Hungarian-Russian-Turkish contingent during the first three days of April. They were almost in when, on 4 April, the Turkish army suddenly pitched its tent and moved on.

On the third of May, Wilhelm von Roggendorf arrived in Óbuda and besieged Buda, defended by the forces of John II – this time with the support of Pest. In June 1541, György Fráter was openly called a Turkish patron in the city council. At this time, a letter from the Sultan arrived, urging him to persevere, saying that the army of liberation was on its way. After the failure of the resulting coup, Roggendorf virtually abandoned the siege and switched to a blockade.

The besieging army of Roggendorf was completely crushed by the arrival of the Turkish “rescue army”, under the pressure of Bálint Török”s troops and the defenders who had attacked from the castle, despite the fact that they had defended their positions with strong fortifications. The Turks were supposed to have come to the aid of John II, but it turned out to be a siege. It may be mentioned here that the Habsburg troops of Admiral Roggendorf and Peter Perényi, combined with the armies of Bálint Török and Peter Petrovic, could have successfully engaged the Turkish forces. Instead, the Szapolyai loyalists first overwhelmed the Hungarian-German armies (with Turkish help), then complained that they did not have enough forces to fight the Turks and chose to surrender.

“In 1541, the Turkish intention of conquest, its dangerous nature, was once again proven – but also that the Habsburgs were of little strength and not capable of serious operations in Hungary.” It is clear from the above why. Apart from the situation of the German-Roman Empire in the west and south, here not only the Turks but also the Hungarians had to be fought in order to fulfil the Hungarian will.

The era of György Fráter Martinuzzi

On 31 August, Suleiman divided up the Hungarian territories ruled by the Szapolyai dukes – in other words, he acted as a hegemon, not as an ally: Isabella and John II were given Transylvanian Vojvodina, George Frater was given Tisza Transdanubia, and Peter Petrovitch was given Timisoara. (Bálint Török was already in captivity, Werbőczy was poisoned in Buda). György Fráter could have handed over the country to Ferdinand, provided he had sufficient forces in Hungary – but this was unlikely after the events of August. This is the first sign of the future “independent” Transylvania: the territories allocated would effectively cover Transylvania and the later specified Partium, the future principality. Hitherto, the parties had taken painstaking care to maintain the unity of the country despite the civil war, but now the territories actually held became territories recognised by a third party.

On 18 October 1541 the Diet of Debrecen was convened by György Fráter. Here he tried to get the kingdom of John II, who had ruled under Turkish protectorate, accepted and to establish an independent state organisation for him. The idea of a sovereign eastern Hungary was first mooted at this time. Only the three Transylvanian nations and the nobility of Transdanubia took part in the Diet.

On 29 December 1541, the Treaty of Gyalu was signed, again by George Frater. According to its content, the whole country would be Ferdinand”s property if John II received compensation for the possessions of the Szapolyai family remaining in the pro-Ferdinand part of the country (Szepes and its appurtenances) and if Ferdinand took part in the fight against the Turks. Nevertheless, three weeks later, on 20 January 1542, at the assembly in Târgu Mures, he proclaimed again that as governor of John II he was carrying out the will of the Sultan, and the assembly voted in favour of Turkish rule and the appointment of Martinuzzi as governor.

The death of János Statileo, Bishop of Transylvania, also paved Fráter”s way, as he took the bishop”s estates for granted, and for a time no new Transylvanian bishop was appointed: Nagylak, Csanád, Kisvárda were forcibly taken into his possession, and he also laid his hands on the property of Gáspár Drágffy as guardian of his minor child (Tasnád, Erdőd, Valkó). Fráter took great care to make sure that both Ferdinand and Suleiman considered him their man. According to bad rumours, he was also responsible for the capture of Bálint Török in Istanbul. This would seem to be confirmed by the fact that the Turks imprisoned no other overlord than Bálint Török, and the reason for his capture and detention remains a mystery to this day.

In the spring of 1542, the imperial army, originally inspired by Martinuzzi, started its campaign – while the Torda Assembly had already arranged the state power and administration of independent Transylvania under Turkish dependence. It was then that Frater re-established contact with Ferdinand. From 28 September to 8 October, Ferdinand again besieged Buda, this time without success. George Frater only announced the Treaty of Gyalu at the Diet of Banská Bánya. As a result, the Diet now voted in favour of Ferdinand. The political background of the “devilish friend” and the effectiveness of his swing policy are clearly shown by the fact that Ferdinand entrusted him with the government of Transylvania.

The Turks launched a campaign in 1543 under Suleiman”s personal leadership in retaliation for the German campaign of 1542. Pécs, Siklós, Valkó, Székesfehérvár, Tata, Esztergom fell victim to this. On the news of the Turkish campaign (or on the orders of the Porte), Viceroy Peter Rares also invaded Transylvania, from where he was driven out by the forces of George Frater. After his victory in Banská Štiavnica, the union of the Chapel was renewed. The Turks had already driven a physical wedge between the two parts of the country by capturing Esztergom and Visegrád, making transport – especially east-west movement of the army – almost impossible. The only military road between the two parts of the country was the Váh valley. It was probably for this reason – and because of his stabilising situation in Transylvania – that George Frater formally broke with Ferdinand at the Diet of Torda on 20 December 1542. The Treaty of Gyalu was denounced and the Turkish tax was voted in favour. The immediate reason given was to avoid a Turkish vendetta. The Diet of 1544 gave Martinuzzi the title of chief magistrate and the powers of governor against the wishes of Queen Isabella. By this time, George Frater had completely ousted the widowed Queen Mother from politics.

In 1544, it was not the main Turkish force, but the invading army stationed here that continued the conquest: Ozora, Simontornya, Visegrád, Nógrád, Hatvan fell. The primary reason for this was the Turkish-Persian war, Suleiman had his main forces elsewhere. Ferdinand”s inability to defend himself effectively against the minor Turkish invasion was due to the Schmalkalden War and the Hungarian civil war – on 10 November 1545, the Habsburgs and the Sultan concluded a 15-year truce in Drinapoly.

The year 1545 was the year of the decline of Martinuzzi”s power and authority. The Diet of Torda on 24 April 1545 was already dominated by the rivalry between Isabella and George Frater, which meant that the latter was not re-elected governor. They finalised their break with the western part of the country and with Ferdinand by ”depriving King Ferdinand I of the rights which had hitherto been granted to him, at least in principle, of the right to grant estates and to administer the supreme court. They recognised John Sigismund as their lord as King John II of Hungary, and forbade any of his subjects to have any contact with outside powers, including Bratislava and Vienna.” The Diet of Cluj in 1546 had already demanded the full accountability of Frater.

This took place simply because the Porta demanded new territories (Becse, Becskerek), and this was attributed to Fráter”s pro-Turkish policy. The friend was only saved from failure by the promise of Isabella”s involvement in political life.

Peace of Drinapolis and the fall of Frater

On 19 June 1547, the first Peace of Drinapoly (or Stambuli) was concluded for five years. In it, each party recognises the other”s right to the part of the country it possesses (the Principality of Transylvania is not mentioned, and the Porta does not explicitly refer to the eastern part of the country), Ferdinand agrees to pay an annual tax of 30,000 gold pieces for his part of the country (honorarium munus).

On 31 March 1547, King Francis I of France died, ending the Franco-German War. On 24 April, Charles V defeated the Protestant princes at Mühlberg. The Schmalkalden War ended. The German-Roman Empire was free of threats, so the Peace of Drinapoly caused a huge outcry in Hungarian society.

George Frater tried to exploit the power vacuum to reunify the country under the sceptre of Ferdinand. Isabella planned to do something similar, but bypassed Frater and contacted Vienna. Years had passed with the Martinuzzi-Izabella duel, while the former”s aim became increasingly clear: by compensating John II financially, Izabella would disappear from the scene, and Ferdinand would become king of a united Hungary while remaining at the head of Transylvania. The Treaty of Nyírbátor of 1549 served precisely this purpose. In fact, it was a repetition of the Treaty of Gyalu (Ferdinand would receive the eastern part of the country, provided that there were sufficient anti-Turkish forces and that John II was compensated financially). This was complemented by the fact that there was now also provision for compensation for Isabella, and that Fráter was now also a candidate for the title of Archbishop of Esztergom and for the cardinal”s hat.

Isabella”s party then turned to the Turks. In 1550, the Porte was already demanding the head of George Frater, while the control of Transylvania was entrusted to Izabella and Petrovitch. The Ola Viceroy and the Buda Pasha Kashim marched in a combined force to enforce the sentence. Martinuzzi proclaimed an uprising against the Turks: ”the Szeklers beat out the Moldavian voivode, and János Kendi the Havaselvei who had entered the Strait of Vöröstorn. Bálint Török”s son, János, who was seeking revenge for his father”s fate, dispersed Khazim”s vanguard, while the valiant captain of Varad, Tamás Petrovics Varkocs, attacked Petrovich in his home.”

The Turkish permit (athname or ahdnáme) arrived in January 1551, but it was somewhat too late, because after the repulsion of the Turkish-Laoist attack, Ferdinand”s army, led by Giambattista Castaldo, appeared in Transylvania in the spring of 1551, apparently to implement the pact with György Fráter.

This time, Isabella asked in vain for Turkish support. She had to be content with the Treaty of Birbátor between George Frater and Ferdinand: John II received the Duchy of Opeln and Ratibor in Silesia, together with the title, 100,000 forints and an annual annuity of 15,000 gold florins. On 19 July 1551, the Treaty of Gyulafehervár was signed, and on 21 July 1551, Isabella handed over the Crown to Ferdinand. On the 26th, at the Diet of Kolozsvár, she abdicated and left for Poland, and together with the Transylvanian orders, swore allegiance to Ferdinand. Martinuzzi became Viceroy of Transylvania together with András Báthori. This meant that for the first time since 1526, the country had a king in 1551, even if he was a territorially truncated one – meaning that George Frater”s objective had been achieved.

The Turkish response was not delayed, and if not the main force, then a strong army led by Mehmed Sokoli, the Prince-Bishop of Begler, marched towards Transylvania. Castaldo”s 7,000 mercenaries were by no means a sufficient counterforce. Once again, Martinuzzi demonstrated his exceptional political skills: he persuaded the prince-elector that he was still the ruler of Transylvania against Ferdinand, and he was willing to pay John II”s taxes. This was enough for the Porte. The Prince Begler, however, after the capture of Csanád and Lippa, began to besiege Timisoara, whereupon George Frater had to give himself up.

He obstructed the supply of the Hungarian-German armies assembled at Lippa, while encouraging the Pasha defending the city to persevere. “Castaldo asked Ferdinand for permission before the campaign at Lippa to prevent the possible betrayal of his friend by the most far-reaching countermeasures, and after Ferdinand had agreed to this, the surrender of Csanád, the postponement of Pallavicini”s march to Transylvania and especially the events at Lippa seemed to be sufficient reason for him to take the ultimate step: the murder of his friend.” George Frater was murdered on 17 December 1551 by Pallavicini, with Ferdinand”s tacit approval, although only a few months before he had been a candidate for the cardinalate and the archbishopric of Esztergom.

Age of Castle Wars

The “age of the castle wars” (1552-1568) dawned.In 1552, a three-way Turkish campaign was launched against Hungary. The operations were launched by Ali Pasha of Buda with the capture of Szeged, followed by the castles of Veszprém, Drégely and Nógrád County from June to August. The other Turkish corps, led by Mehmed Sokollu, held Castaldo”s forces at bay. These two manoeuvres were intended to prepare and assist the attack of the main forces led by Serdar Kara Ahmed: Timisoara, Lippa, Solymos, Lugos and Caransebes were the victims of a well thought-out and well executed campaign. Afterwards, Ahmed and Mehmed together besieged Solnok, and after its capture, Ali”s armies joined in and besieged Eger. Eger”s undoubtedly heroic resistance proved fruitful as winter approached: on 18 October the Turks decided to end the year”s campaign.

In 1553, Castaldo withdrew from Transylvania, and was replaced by the hero of Eger, István Dobó, who became Viceroy, with Ferenc Kendi as his sub-viceroy. Ferdinand initiated negotiations with the Porte. In Transylvania, under Dobó, Turkish orientation obviously did not become a priority, which resulted in constant Turkish threats. Finally, in December 1555, the Diet again turned to Ferdinand for help. However, the same assembly, without waiting for Ferdinand”s reply, elected Menyhért Balassa as captain-general and entrusted him with the entire Transylvanian army. This not only ended István Dobó”s voivodeship, but also marked an open break with Ferdinand, which was sanctioned by the Diet of January 1556, convened by Balassa. On 14 June 1556, Ferdinand abdicated Transylvania in a letter to the Turkish Sultan, while the Buda Pasha Khadim Ali had been besieging Szigetvár since May.

In September 1556 John II and Isabella returned to Transylvania. Isabella ruled until 1559, despite the fact that John II had already reached the “legal age” in 1554 and could have been enfranchised in 1558 at the latest. War raged on in the Upper Tisza, with neither side gaining any significant advantage. The peace of Satu Mare in 1565 brought this civil war to a close, although Samosújvár, under the command of István Dobó, held out for Ferdinand until November and Varad until the following April.

In 1559, Isabella died. The government that Isabella had built up over three years remained virtually unchanged until the death of John II. “The court of Gyulafehérvár was not the court of the Transylvanian prince, but of the elected Hungarian king, and the government represented not the self-government of Transylvania, but the Sapolya dynasty.” The court also included Gáspár Bekes, who later caused much confusion, and the three Báthori brothers, Mihály Csáky, Kristóf Hagymási, Tamás Varkocs and György Blandrata. The eastern part of the country over which Isabella ruled already corresponded territorially to the later Principality of Transylvania: the geographical Transylvania, the Tiszántúl and the Temesköz. The latter two were at this time beginning to be called parts of Hungary, i.e. Partium. Initially, John II wanted to extend his territory to the Danube.

At that time, the aim of both parties was to see the country run by one hand. This was Martinuzzi”s objective, and it had not changed by 1560. János II was isolated when Ferenc Zay was appointed chief captain of Kassa and Antal Székely helped James Heraclides to the chair of the Moldavian voivode. As a result of this action, Menyhért Balassa, the commander-in-chief of the Transylvanian armies, also defected to Ferdinand. The immediate consequences of this were the loss of Nagybánya, Szatmár and Tasnád, which cut off the upper Tisza from John II, and consequently a significant part of Partium was already out of his hands.

1562 was a “black year” for Transylvania: on 4 March, István Báthori was defeated by the armies of Zay and Balassa at Hadad, and in the summer the Székely rebellion broke out. The latter was suppressed by Báthori, who then asked Ferdinand for peace under the pretext of the approaching Turkish campaign. The Szekler rebellion did not benefit either the Szekler people or the authority of the monarchy: the Szekler people permanently lost their collective privileges and their seats were incorporated into the counties, and János II was willing to give up the title of rex electus in exchange for adequate compensation for the internal and external failure.

On 2 August 1562, Ferdinand and Suleiman concluded an 8-year peace treaty in Istanbul. In the summer of 1563, Turkish and Polish troops drove Heraclides out of Moldavia, loosening the ring around Transylvania. In the summer of 1564, the Turks captured Satu Mare and surrendered it to John II.

John II”s use of titles

For a long time, the negotiations between John II and Ferdinand revolved around the use of titles. Transylvania wanted the title János, Prince of Hungary and Transylvania, while Ferdinand”s version was János Zsigmond, Prince of Transylvania and parts of Hungary. The differences are telling. The Janosian formulation wanted to express the country-wide scope of the title rex electus and the unity of Hungary by including Hungary. The Ferdinand, by including the name Sigismund, emphasised the Polish dynastic line, that only the Jagiellonian kinship of John was a real title, and the recognition not of the whole of Hungary, but only of the parts of it cut off from Royal Hungary by the Turks. This was not a one-sided reason on the part of the Austrians, as the negotiations had been initiated by Isabella, and it just so happened that the Polish king”s envoy, Stanisław Nieżowski, was his representative. This Polish envoy may not have understood the subtle difference and may therefore have played a significant role in shaping Ferdinand”s position. However, Ferdinand died in 1564.

Later that year, his successor, Miksa, pushed back John II, who had reached Kassia, and then captured Tokaj, which opened the way to Transylvania. The Swiss mercenary commander Lazar Schwendi was already on the border of Transylvania in the spring of 1565. In the Peace of Satu Mare (1565), John II renounced the title of rex electus and all Hungarian territories except Bihar without compensation. In exchange for possession of Transylvania, he swore an oath of allegiance to Micah, and the treaty stipulated that in the event of his death without issue, his territories would be inherited by Micah.

Turkish-Hungarian relations

John II”s regression did not please the Porte, of course. Suleiman confirmed John II and assured him that, in the event of his death, Transylvania would be free to choose its next ruler. All this cost only 10,000 gold florins in taxes. In 1566, Suleiman launched another three-pronged campaign: in June, the Buda Pasha Arslan besieged Várpalota, in July Pertev Pasha took Gyula, and Suleiman himself besieged Szigetvár in August. The Sultan was killed in the siege on 6 September, but Miklós Zrínyi did not know this and died a heroic death during his “storming out” on 8 September, losing the castle. The fall of Szigetvár opened the way to the west, towards the Habsburg hereditary provinces. Meanwhile, John II, in the Turkish lee, besieged Tokaj, but quickly abandoned it on news of Suleiman”s death.

The new sultan, Selim II (Korhely), and the threatened Miksa concluded a peace treaty in Drinapolis on 17 February 1568 (the Second Peace of Drinapolis), in which Miksa accepted the existence of the conquered territories. In return for a tribute of 30,000 gold pieces, Selim recognised Miksa as protector of John II. Micah was unable to achieve his main goal, the recovery of Partium, while John II did not regain the territories he had lost in the north.

From Drinápolyt to the Principality of Transylvania

“Although the peace of Drinapoly extended to Transylvania, it took years before a final peace was concluded between Miksa and Prince John Sigismund. In 1567, it was mainly the serious illness of John Sigismund that put an end to the war. The prince considered his condition so dangerous that he made a will and brought the question of succession to the throne before the Diet. The Orders decided to fill the throne by free election in the event of a vacancy, taking into account the policy set out in the will of John Sigismund. János Zsigmond himself had no definite candidate, and sometimes he thought of one or other of his councillors, sometimes of Kristóf Hagymási, captain of Vratislav, and sometimes of Gáspár Békés, while the public”s attention was increasingly turned to István Báthory, who had served his master with devotion in both diplomatic and military spheres. As a good Catholic, even in Vienna he was desired as prince.”

On 1 December 1570, John II, and on 10 March 1571, Nicholas signed the Treaty of Speyer. John Sigismund had already renounced the title of rex electus in Satu Mare in 1565, when he became princeps, or prince-prince according to the common understanding. However, the term princeps in Hungarian also means prince, but it has also meant the titles of bani and voivode since its earliest occurrence in 1111. John Sigismund – known as John II, King of Hungary – did not become a prince by abdication, but became the Transylvanian Viceroy of the Kingdom of Hungary. At least legally.

The significance of the treaty is that it clarified the legal status and the definition of Partium, and also stated that the Principality of Transylvania was an inalienable part of the Hungarian Crown, while at the same time it elevated Transylvania from being part of the Kingdom of Hungary to the Crown.

This could almost be called the Principality of Transylvania – in which the prince is in fact only the princeps of the Hungarian king – if the Treaty of Speyer had not been exclusively about the Szapolyai family. However, there was nothing in it about giving Transylvania political autonomy to choose its own prince. Hungary”s unity was now undermined by the fact that János Zsigmond died on 14 March 1571, four days after Miksa had signed it, so that the Treaty of Speyer was never enacted and kept.

It was not the Treaty of Speyer that came into force, but Suleiman”s Athnamé (solemn treaty of alliance) of 1566, which promised Transylvania the right to choose its prince freely.

István Báthory

After the death of János Zsigmond, the Transylvanian orders chose István Báthory, the son of the former Transylvanian Viceroy of the same name, as their ruler. Báthory, in keeping with the Treaty of Speyer, initially used the title of voivode, and only took the title of prince in 1575, after his election as King of Poland.

As King of Poland, he moved his seat to Krakow and appointed his brother Kristóf governor of Transylvania.

The first crisis of the Principality

The year 1595 began with a series of political and diplomatic changes. In January, Sultan Murad III died, and his successor, Mehmed III, replaced Sinan, who had started a long war, and appointed Ferhad Pasha as Grand Vizier. Meanwhile, in Prague, Sigismund Báthory and Emperor Rudolf had formed an alliance. Havasalföld and Moldavia were also held by Transylvania. Although the Ottoman main forces succeeded in conquering the whole of Havasalföld, they were unable to defeat the troops led by Prince Michael II of Havasalföld near Călugăreni on 23 August, and the Transylvanian-Havasalföld-Moldava forces, united under the banner of Sigismund Báthory, recaptured the whole of the voivodeship. In fact, the army, led by István Bocskai and Mihály Vitéz, actually defeated the Grand Vizier”s rearguard at Gyurgyevo at the end of October and captured the castle guarding the crossing. Another part of the Transylvanian troops operated along the Mures, and succeeded, among other things, in retaking the castles of Lippa and Jenő.

The war dragged on, and a stalemate developed: the Transylvanian armies tried unsuccessfully to take Timisoara in 1596, and again in 1597. In9696 and again in the first attempts to conquer Temerovo, the French and the Ottoman forces tried again in the first and second attempts to conquer Temerovo, and in the second, in 9696 and again in the first attempts to conquer Temerovo.

At first, Zsigmond Báthory was able to call barely more than 15 thousand people to arms, so on 15 September he was forced to liberate the serfs, thus gaining their support. Thanks to this move, some 25,000 Szekler men joined the prince”s army. Sigismund had barely returned home from the campaign when he revoked the charter issued to the Székelys, and in the spring of 1596 an uprising broke out (the Bloody Carnival), which was crushed to blood by the prince”s soldiers. After that, Báthory could no longer count on the help of the Szeklers, and his later ventures were always a failure. The already unstable Báthory therefore agreed with Emperor Rudolf to abdicate the Transylvanian throne in exchange for estates within the Habsburg Empire, which he did in 1598, but after a short time he changed his mind and returned to the throne, but a year later he abdicated again in favour of his cousin András Báthory, and then moved to Poland.

András Báthory tried to make peace with the Turks, so that he could maintain good relations with the Habsburgs, while at the same time he made a defensive alliance with the rulers of the Wallachian Lowlands and Moldavia in order to protect the country. In the meantime, Rudolf had reached an agreement with Viceroy Mihály to remove Báthory. To this end, in the autumn of 1599, Mihály attacked Transylvania without a declaration of war. The prince hastily gathered his army and marched against the Romanian army, but was defeated at the Battle of Sellenberg on 28 October. Accompanied by a few of his loyal men, the Prince tried to flee to Poland, but was assassinated by Szeklers led by Balázs Ördög at Pásztorbükk near Csíkszentdomokos.

Mihály was elected prince by the Szekler and Saxon side in the early 1600s, but Emperor Rudolf was only willing to recognise him as governor of Transylvania. Although he initially had the support of the Transylvanian lords, he soon alienated them by appointing Romanian boyars to all offices and putting his own loyalists at the head of the castles. Only the Szeklers remained loyal to him all the time, as he liberated them from serfdom and organized a separate army of them. During his reign, he completely plundered the state treasury, as a result of which he could not pay his mercenaries, who therefore began to rob and plunder. In order to remedy the financial situation, he also attacked and conquered Moldova, but it soon became clear that Moldova was not in a rosy situation either. The nobility, dissatisfied with his rule, rebelled and called Sigismund Báthory back to the principality, assisted by the chief captain Giorgio Basta of Cassa, on the orders of Emperor Rudolf. Michael”s army was defeated at the Battle of Mirislo, and he was forced to flee for the time being.

Sigismund, however, disappointed Rudolph by abandoning his previous policy and entering into negotiations with the Turks, for which Basta and Michael joined forces and defeated his troops at the Battle of Gorosloh, and forced him into exile again, this time for good.

Basta then thought it better to get rid of Michael, so on 19 August 1601 he and his Walloon mercenaries had him murdered. He then became the de facto ruler of Transylvania, as Emperor Rudolf”s emissary. He established a reign of terror in the country, and his mercenaries roamed freely. This was opposed by an uprising led by Moses of Székely in 1603. Among the rebels was the future prince of Transylvania, Gábor Bethlen. The rebels launched their attack at the end of March, reinforced by Turkish-Tatar auxiliaries, starting from Timisoara. By 15 April, they had already conquered all of Transylvania, with the exception of Sighisoara, Triciscia and Partium. On 9 May the Diet elected Moses Székely prince.

The Habsburgs tried to make peace with him, but he refused the peace offer. However, the Habsburgs then managed to mobilise their ally, Prince Radu IX of Transylvania, who attacked Transylvania from the south and then routed the army of Moses of Székely near Brasov, in which the prince himself fell.

The prince”s body was buried secretly in his own garden by Judge Michael Weiss of Brasov. In Transylvania, Basta”s mercenaries continued their rampage with impunity until the success of Bocskai”s rebellion.

At the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, the Habsburg Empire was accumulating millions of Rhenish forints in debt every year. Rudolf sought to alleviate the problem of a depleted treasury during the Fifteen Years” War, and to pay his mercenary commanders and war suppliers, by acquiring the wealth of the Hungarian aristocracy. Suits for usurpation and usurpation of sovereignty were brought against Hungarian barons and wealthier families, usually with the loss of land and property. Concepcion proceedings were started against the Drugets of Homona, Zsigmond Rákóczi, Tamás Nádasdy (not the Nader), Mihály Telekessy, the Alaghy, Balassa and Kállay families. In March 1603, the judgement was handed down in the case of István Illésházy: the nobleman”s castles and manors were confiscated.It is noteworthy that in 1602 the Habsburgs also tried and interned in Prague István Bocskai, who was the main representative of pro-Habsburg policy in Transylvania and who had entered the principality into the war on the anti-Turkish side. Bocska was only allowed to return to his Bihar estates two years later.

On behalf of the refugees who had fled to Turkish territory, Gábor Bethlen encouraged Bocska to lead an anti-Hapsburg uprising, and promised the Turkish alliance. Their correspondence was intercepted by his opponent, the Count Belgiojoso, the chief captain of Kassa. Bocskai had earlier accepted the unpaid armed hajds into his service. So when the Habsburg court wanted to arrest him on charges of insurrection, he defied the imperial troops. He persuaded Balázs Németi and Balázs Lippai, captains of the Hajdú, to lead the Hajdú to a decisive victory over the imperial army led by János Petz in the region of Álmosd and Bihardiószeg on the night of 14 to 15 October 1604. After 15 October, Bocskai marched to Debrecen and Várad, and at Tokaj he and his army of the Hajdúks defeated Belgiojoso. On 11 November 1604, he also marched on Kassa. After that, Eastern Hungary also fell into Bocskai”s hands. On 12 November 1604, the new leader of the War of Independence issued a proclamation from Kassa calling on the nobility to join him, which widened the struggle for independence.

The wandering hajduks and the oppressed serfs who joined them fought for freedom against the Habsburg rule. Bocskai”s army was soon joined by the urban bourgeoisie, the common nobility and even a significant part of the aristocracy, who had rebelled against the foreign mercenaries” insurgency and the violent counter-reformation. By the end of 1605, the part of Hungary not conquered by the Turks and Transylvania were in the possession of the rebels, while Bocskai was elected Prince of Hungary and Transylvania by the Diet of Serench on 17 April 1605.

Rudolf was eventually forced to negotiate. Bocskai was also inclined to peace, on the one hand because the results of the War of Independence were endangered by the growing antagonism between the nobles and the Hajdúks within the rebel camp, and on the other hand because he did not want to throw himself into the arms of the Turks, which would have been inevitable if he had broken with the Habsburgs.

The Peace of Vienna, concluded on 23 June 1606, guaranteed the rights of the Hungarian order and freedom of religion, and annexed the counties of Szatmár, Bereg and Ugocsa to Transylvania for the lifetime of Bocskai and his descendants. On 24 September, King Rudolf issued a special charter stating that Transylvania and Partium would not revert to the crown even if Bocskai”s descendants died out, and that he would cede to the prince and his descendants the counties of Ugocsa, Bereg, Szatmár and Szabolcs, the castle of Tokaj with all its appurtenances, and the towns of Tarcal, Bodrogkeresztúr and Olaszliszka. The Peace of Sighisoara, brokered by Bocskai in the same year, also ended the 15-year war.

Thanks to the Bocskai War of Independence, royal Hungary was governed by a system of dualism until 1671, when open absolutism was introduced.

The heyday of Transylvania

After a long crisis, the period 1613-48 was the heyday of the Principality of Transylvania. The Hungarian nobles, the Szeklers, who held collective nobility, and the Saxons, who enjoyed urban privileges, were prosperous compared to the populations of the other two Hungarian provinces, and the whole population of the country lived in security.

At the court of Prince Gábor Bethlen in Gyulafehérvár, the arts and sciences were generously supported. Gábor Bethlen successfully intervened on the side of the Protestant rulers in the Thirty Years” War.

Prince Gábor Bethlen died in 1629. His widow, Catherine of Brandenburg, was not accepted by the Transylvanian nobles as prince. György I Rákóczi was elected in his place.

The decline of the Principality

He was the son of György I. Rákóczi and Zsuzsanna Lorántffy. His rule led to the fall of Transylvania.

Main article:Apafi Mihály I and Apafi Mihály II

After the defeat of Rákóczi”s War of Independence, Transylvania was ruled by the Habsburgs as Hungarian kings until the end of the First World War. In order to consolidate their power, they settled German-speakers in the Banat and Satu Mare regions, thus essentially “encircling” Transylvania, including the Kingdom of Hungary and Saxony, as well as Bukovina. The Hungarian ethnic block living in the interior of the territory was further fragmented by the arrival of some 400,000 Romanians from beyond the Carpathians (adding to the number of Romanians already living there).

The last Tatar invasion of Transylvania and Hungary was in 1717. The Turks sent Tatars into Transylvania to distract the imperial troops, but the military and peasants of the duchy put an end to the operation. Although, compared to the attacks of earlier times, the last Tatar invasion fell short of the devastation of the past, it did allow new masses of Romanians, as well as German and other settlers, to settle in the country, further reducing the number of Hungarians.

Autonomous statehood

The Principality of Transylvania is often referred to as an independent country and the sole guardian of Hungarian state sovereignty during the period of historical Hungary”s division into three parts. The Principality was a vassal of the Ottoman Empire, but this did not mean direct Turkish rule over the country. Rather, it was a mutual contract between two rulers, which the Transylvanian princes voluntarily accepted.

This dependency has been to the advantage of both countries. For Transylvania, Turkish patronage was a guarantee of independent statehood against the ever-threatening Habsburg Empire. The rulers of the country were freely elected by the Transylvanian Diet. The elected prince, however, received his insignia of power from the Sultan, whose approval was required for his rule. The Transylvanian prince paid an annual tax (haraj) to the Ottoman Empire and generally did not act in foreign and military affairs without the Sultan”s consent. In his domestic policy, however, he was completely independent. No Turkish army was stationed in Transylvania. Only the Sultan”s ambassador was present in Gyulafeherevo, just as the Prince of Transylvania had a permanent diplomatic representation in Istanbul (the so-called ”Transylvanian House”).

The Transylvanian princes mostly tried not to take any steps that would have violated the Turkish alliance, for example, they avoided open foreign policy activities aimed at reunifying the Kingdom of Hungary. In return, the Sultan also refrained from interfering in the internal politics of Transylvania and from any restriction on the autonomy of the princes. If he had tried to do so, the Principality of Transylvania, as the successor to the former Kingdom of Hungary, could have counted on the intervention of the Habsburgs, who ruled as Hungarian kings. Although this Habsburg intervention never proved to be truly effective, its potential was enough to deter the Turks. This was the famous ”swing policy” of the Transylvanian princes.

Transylvania was thus a truly independent state, in contrast to the provinces of Transylvania and Moldavia. The two Romanian states, which were also vassals of the Turks, were not independent in their internal politics either, as the viceroyalty, constantly competing for power, put their country at the mercy of the Turkish sultans, who always put their own minions – often brought up in Istanbul – on the throne.

Religious policy

In the 16th century, almost the whole of Hungary became adherents of the Reformed (Calvinist) religion, which became a “national cause” linked to the opposition to the Habsburgs. While the brutal religious wars raged in Western Europe, the first Transylvanian prince, János Zsigmond, who had in the meantime become a Unitarian, was the first in the world to enshrine freedom of conscience and religion in law at the Diet of Torda in 1568. Transylvanian support for the Reformation also had a huge impact on the development of Hungarian science and literature in the Hungarian language.

Number and ethnic distribution of the population


  1. Erdélyi Fejedelemség
  2. Principality of Transylvania (1570–1711)
Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

Ads Blocker Detected!!!

We have detected that you are using extensions to block ads. Please support us by disabling these ads blocker.