1527-28 The negotiations of Sir Lasky in Istanbul
Hieronymus Łaski aka Laszky Jeromos (1496-1542) was a very talented and brave Polish diplomat of King Szapolyai János. Let us not forget that Szapolyai has very strong Polish connections as he was the son of Princess Piast Hedvig of Teschen. The Hungarian king has made Lasky a Count and rewarded him with rank and wealth for his clever services. Now, let us recall the details of his mission to Istanbul in 1527-28; he was sent there by King Szapolyai János because Hungary was attacked by Habsburg Ferdinand who usurped his throne. This “stab in the back” forced him to seek for the alliance of the Turks; after all the Christian monarchs had failed him. It must be remarked that the Pope, Venice, many German princes, then King Henry VIII of England, as well as Francis, king of France, acknowledged his negotiations with the Ottomans, in fear of an overpowering Habsburg Empire.
We know that the Habsburgs had not helped the war of late King Lajos (Louis) I against Suleiman at all, except for sending some out-of-date cannons that never arrived at Mohács. It is also known, that Habsburg Maria, the widow of King Lajos jumped on the opportunity to call her brother, Ferdinand, King of Bohemia to seize the throne of Hungary, in spite of the fact that the Habsburgs so far just hindered Hungary’s war efforts against the Turks. (Perhaps except for King Habsburg Albert, the only Habsburg monarch who kept his court in Buda and was loved by his Hungarian subjects.) Now, Queen Mary and her few Hungarian supporters unleashed the German mercenaries of her brother Charles, the soldiers who had just sacked Rome, to invade Hungary.
Szapolyai has just put down the bloody Serbian uprising of Cerni Jovan that devastated the southern counties of Hungary. You can read more about this uprising here:
Szapolyai was reestablishing power in the kingdom, under constant fear of the next Ottoman invasion, knowing that neither the Polish king nor the western monarchs would give a darn to save him. The Polish were allied with the Turks just like the French. He had to gain time to fend off the aggression of Habsburg Ferdinand. However, he knew that Sultan Suleiman was not yet strong enough to overrun the whole of Hungary at the moment. There was some room for negotiation.
Note, it was not coming from the evil to negotiate with the Turks: the French and the Polish example can show it clearly, not to speak of the Venetians. There was only one person who had objected to all sort of negotiation with the Ottomans, it was Queen Mary: instead, she sent her husband to certain death. It is presumable, that Hungary would have come out from any negotiations a lot better before Mohács, than after Mohács.
Obviously, Szapolyai’s diplomat, Lasky was not in the best position in Turkey and he was not warmly welcomed in Istanbul.
Pasha Mustafa, the son-in-law of Suleiman said to him:
“Anything else was not entrusted to you? Have you not brought gifts to my Lord?… Our law says that the land where our Lord had already rested just once, is ours forever. You are belittling the Sultan if you talk about the friendship of your king. My younger brother, you have come from a serf: if you brought no tax, I won’t talk to you more.”
Later, the grim Grand Vizier told him:
“Beg my Lord the country to be given to your lord, asking for being merciful for not having mentioned how late you came here…Promise a tax to the Sultan, not mentioning its amount, I am going to decrease it for you. If you act like this, you will succeed… And your Lord will be able to aid us against who? Against the Persians? They are very far from you! Let us give him our Hungary out of sheer friendship for free of charge but let us aid him with our full force? … Take my advice and promise taxes or otherwise, neither your lord nor Ferdinand will get the country. We will turn Buda into Constantinapolis and make it the headquarter of our Empire and we will send the (Crimean) Tatars against Poland…”
Sir Lasky’s job was not easy because he had been instructed not to offer any taxes to the Turks. It seemed to be a mission impossible.
But Hieronymus Łaski did not get frightened of the Ottomans. He made a ripost:
“If you don’t need the alliance I have brought, just give me a traveling document and I’ll go home from where I had come from…Yet, beware, if the gossip turns into reality and Emperor Charles and England will make a coalition with France, even the dead will rise against you. I don’t deny that now we are in need because it would be a great task to make war against Ferdinand and you but the time is not far when you yourselves will find my proposed alliance reasonable and acceptable according to your interests. And if you want me to respect you – behold, you had said it yourself that your Lord values respect higher than wealth – then, give back those Slavonian and Croatian lands that you had taken away from Hungary during the time of King Louis…Then, my king will pay respect to you always…and accept you as his tutor and caretaker.”
Hearing this, Grand Vizier Ibrahim began to laugh and left. The next day, he sent a message by Ludovico Gritti, namely that he would insist on Hungary’s paying taxes. Lasky replied like this:
“The Hungarian nation would find it disgusting and the Christian powers would be alienated from Hungary, even the French king would refuse his help.”
Gritti brought the Vizier’s message in January 1528 to this:
“The Pasha has given up about demanding taxes but he would like the Hungarian king to send an annual gift of 10,000 gold Forints.”
But Lasky declared it would mean tax-paying all the same, and went on bargaining:
“If the lands of the Szerémség (Sirmium) are not given back to us for our friendship, then my king would be ready to send a gift every fifth year if its amount was not fixed before.”
Later Lasky added:
“Give us back the Szerémség (Sirmium) and we will come annually with a gift.”
Finally, the Turks have been a bit softened up and Lasky was given an appointment to Sultan Suleiman. There, he made a speech, mentioning that King Szapolyai János had sent two envoys before him but they disappeared and he himself arrived empty-handed just because he was robbed when crossing Wallachia. He was offering his king’s alliance to the Sultan against the Habsburgs.
Suleiman replied to him this way:
“I am receiving the kindness of your king towards me with a grateful heart: but anyway, his country had been mine so far as I have gained it by the right of war and saber. Yet, I’ve understood his good desire towards me, so I am going to give this right to him, and besides, I’ll help him against the Austrian Ferdinand for the mutual relief of both sides.”
All in all, Lasky has succeeded in making an alliance with the Ottoman Empire without turning Hungary into a vassal state which would pay taxes to the Sultan. These were the two hard conditions that had been given to him by King Szapolyai. Yet, the Sultan upheld his claim for Hungary. You can read here more about the reasons why Hungarians dislike Suleiman:
Let us not forget, that in the meanwhile the Habsburg propaganda was spreading the lies that the Hungarians were openly trafficking with the Turks. In fact, it was Ferdinand who had sent envoys to Suleiman, asking for peace in exchange for paying taxes to him because Ferdinand was not able to protect Hungary at all – he has lost the Castle of Jajca at that very time.
It was Lasky’s deed to have carried out this truce and it has resulted in Suleiman’s campaign against Ferdinand. The Sultan fixed his eyes on Vienna, the desirable Gold Apple, his attention was distracted from the rest of Hungary for the time being. As we can see, it was a grave mistake, Suleiman got stuck in the Hungarian Borderland castles and died at Szigetvár in 1566 without gaining Vienna. Read more about the Turks’ “Red / Gold Apple” concept here:
It was how King Szapolyai could be restored to power; it was not the best situation but on this basis, a semi-independent Transylvania was to be born instead of losing everything either to the Turks or to the Habsburgs. As for Lasky, he was awarded in exchange for his service with Szepes castle, along with Késmárk castle, and the mining town Gölnicbánya, including the village of Rihnó.
Later he was even appointed as Voivode of Transylvania but unfortunately, he turned against his king after 1532 and conspired with Ludovico Gritti, hoping to get the throne of Transylvania. Soon, Gritti was slaughtered in Transylvania, and Lasky was imprisoned because of his too high ambitions. Eventually, Szapolyai pardoned him and released him; then Lasky took Ferdinand’s side.
In fact, the founder of the Transylvania Principality became the son of King Szapolyai, under the shadow of the crescent moon, though.
Source: based on Szibler Gábor’s research
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