On 6 June 1446, Hunyadi became Governor of Hungary

Lord Hunyadi János, Governor of Hungary

On June 5, 1446, the noble estates of Hungary elected Hunyadi János, the Transylvanian voivode, and captain-general, the most talented commander in the war against the Turks, as governor of the country. The first governor in Hungarian history was Hunyadi János, the father of the future King Matthias Corvinus. In Hungarian legal history, this institution was established in 1446. The governor’s task is to rule the country in place of the king, for example, if there is no legitimate king or if the king is still a minor. The office was thus equivalent to the title of the regent. Its Latin name is ‘gubernator’.

Hunyadi János (a portrayal from the 16th century)

On November 10, 1444, near Várna, Hunyadi’s crusading armies suffered a decisive defeat at the hands of Sultan Murad II (r. 1421-1451), and the king of the country, Ulászló I (r. 1440-1444), was also killed in the battle. (Please, note that I always use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.) You can read more about the outcome of this battle on my page:


King Ulászló dies at the Battle of Varna, (by Jan Matejko)

After the return of the defeated army in February 1445, the Diet of Rákos Field (near Pest) was at a loss as to whom to give the supreme power to after the death of Ulászló who had no heir. The next king was supposed to be the child of King Habsburg Albert who used to be the only righteous Habsburg king of the Hungarians. However, after his death, Emperor Frederick III (r. 1440-1493) refused to let the late King Albert’s son, László, return from Vienna. In the end, the noble estates appointed seven captain-generals to head the country. The most powerful of these, Hunyadi,  the hero of the anti-Turk struggle, who held the office of Voivode of Transylvania, was then able to advance to the position of governor at the next Diet of Rákos, representing László who was still in Frederick’s captivity.

King Habsburg Albert (1488)
According to the decision of 5 June 1446, Hunyadi János was allowed to exercise supreme power as governor under the supervision of a council of state and with a number of other restrictions. The voivode-chief captain, who directly ruled Trans-Tisza River Region and Transylvania, was in possession of the royal castles, the king’s armies, and the mints. Hunyadi was obliged to seek the approval of the Diet for appointments and donations – they could also pass laws together – and his expenditures were supervised by the Treasurer. Initially, Hunyadi did not manage the royal estates and the income from them, but in 1447, together with Buda Castle, he finally acquired this right. At this Diet, he also succeeded in abolishing the post of captain-general, thus further increasing the power of himself and his party, which was largely composed of commoners.
Hunyadi János birtokai 1456-ban.
At the beginning of his seven-year reign, Hunyadi waged war against Frederick III, who held the heir to the throne, but after fruitless fighting against the Habsburgs’ Hereditary Provinces, he concluded a truce for two years. He also organized a campaign against the Bohemian Hussites, who had been rebelling in the Highlands (northern part of Hungary), but proved unable to defeat the Czech mercenary leader Jiskra throughout his life (only Matthias could force him to make peace by taking him into his mercenary army).
Jan Jiskra
As governor, Hunyadi János continued his struggles in the Balkans with the help of the kingdom’s revenues: after 1445 he forced the “buffer states” south of the Kingdom of Hungary to pay homage to Hungary, and in 1448 he attacked the Ottoman Empire, he was the head of a Christian – Hungarian-Hungarian-Albanian – coalition. Defeated in the second battle of Kosovo (Rigómező), against more than twice his superior numbers, Hunyadi later retreated to defend the frontiers. To add to his troubles, on his return home, the Serbian despot George Brankovic took revenge for his capture by the Serbian governor and imprisoned him in the castle of Szendrő, from where he was released only after paying a heavy ransom. Read more about the Battle of Kosovo in 1448 on my page:


Kosovo Polje aka Rigómező

In 1450, Hunyadi and Frederick sat down again in Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava) to discuss the fate of László, but the emperor again refused to return the heir to the throne, and Ulrik Cillei accused him of trying to seize the supreme power for himself. After long negotiations, Albert’s son returned home in 1452 – without the Holy Crown – and Hunyadi abdicated a year later, in 1453, in favor of the king, who had just turned 14.

King László V, the Postumous in 1457
King László V (r. 1453-1457) then bestowed on him the titles of Captain-General and Count of Beszterce, but he no longer claimed his services as governor. After that, the young king was manipulated by the circle of László’s supporters in Vienna and by Frederick III, who shaped Hungarian domestic politics. There was an alliance between the high lords, namely between Cillei, Újlaki Miklós, and  Palatine Garai Miklós who moved the young king as a puppet. Hunyadi retreated to Transylvania and devoted himself to organizing the defense against the Turks, increasing his glory with a number of deeds, including the triumph of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade), until his death in 1456.
Nándorfehérvár in 1521
During his reign, Hunyadi János was suspected by many of using his power to usurp the throne – it is not known to what extent these accusations are true, but for reasons beyond his control, this was achieved after his death with the reign of Matthias Corvinus, his son.
Hunyadi’s statue in Budapest
The governors of the Kingdom of Hungary were:
• Hunyadi János (1446–1453)
• Szilágyi Mihály (1458)
• Lodovico Gritti (1530–1534)
• Johann Caspar von Ampringen (1673–1681)
• Kossuth Lajos (1849) – Governor-President
• Duke Habsburg József Ágost (1919. 08.05.- 25.)
• Horthy Miklós (Governor) (1920–1944)
/Source: partly from Rubicon/
Hunyadi János in the Chronicle of Thuróczi

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