Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

20 December 1626: Prince Bethlen signed a truce with King Ferdinand II

The statue of Prince Bethlen Gábor in Enyed

The events leading to the Treaty of 1626

We have to talk about the previous treaty which was signed on 31 December 1621 between Prince Bethlen Gábor and King Ferdinand II in Nikolsburg. The village is now called Mikulov, it is in the Czech Republic. Bethlen Gábor, Prince of Transylvania, led the first campaign against King Ferdinand II between 1619 and 1621, together with the allied Bohemian orders. In the first years of the Thirty Years’ War, however, Bohemia and Transylvania proved insufficient to defeat the mighty Habsburg Empire, although they were at the gates of Vienna by the end of 1619. In November of the following year, however, Ferdinand’s forces defeated the Bohemian orders at White Mountain, forcing Bethlen to fight on alone. Read more about Bethlen’s life here:

He found that the estates and people of the country were growing weary of war, and his ally, the Sublime Porte was only waiting to increase the territory of its empire at the expense of Hungary, but he was relieved to find that the Imperial court was inclined to peace. Ferdinand’s real enemies were not the tiny Transylvania, but the principalities of the Protestant Union allied against him, backed by Denmark, Sweden, and France, ever jealous of the Habsburgs’ European power.

Transylvania in the 30 Years’ War

Ferdinand was therefore willing to make concessions to keep his eastern adversary at peace. The military setbacks also made Bethlen understand the need for an agreement, so from the summer of 1621, he sent his messages to Vienna more and more often, and even released the Jesuit monks, including Káldi György, who had been imprisoned in Nagyszombat. Their mission was to promote peace.

Káldi translated the Bible into Hungarian in 1626

As a result of this, the peace delegation met in October. Bethlen sent Thurzó Imre, while the Imperialists were represented by Esterházy Miklós, later Palatine, and Pázmány Péter, Archbishop of Esztergom. They were accompanied by Archbishop Dietrichstein, the owner of Nikolsburg Castle. Thurzó was one of the main promoters of peace but sadly died a few days later at a very young age. His place was taken by his relative, Thurzó Szaniszló. 

The Hungarians’ Holy Crown (Photo: Ráfael Csaba)

In the course of the bargaining, Bethlen paid a high price. He had to give up the Hungarian royal title he had won via election in 1620 and the coronation jewels he owned. The positions were slow to converge, and the future of Bethlen’s part of the Kingdom of Hungary was in question, as the prince tried to keep as much of it as possible. Perhaps this was also why he did not push for the inclusion of an article guaranteeing the rights of Protestants in the peace treaty. He did, however, achieve that he could hire as many specialists as he wished from the territory of the Holy Roman Empire. In doing so, he allowed persecuted Anabaptist Christians, who were excellent craftsmen, to leave for Transylvania, where they could enjoy religious freedom. You can read more about them here:

A tile, made by the Anabaptist craftsmen

The peace ensured Bethlen’s right to the Transylvanian principality, which had previously been disputed in Vienna and Pozsony. For the rest of his life, he was granted seven counties in Upper Hungary (Szatmár, Szabolcs, Bereg, Ugocsa, Zemplén, and Abaúj), together with the city of Kassa. In addition, he was raised to the rank of German Imperial prince, the dukedoms of Opole and Ratibor were granted to his family, and he received the castle of Munkács by hereditary right and Ecsed by pledge. He received 50,000 forints for the maintenance of the outlying castles in his territory.

Bethlen’s gold Forint, minted in 1625

So Bethlen gained a lot from the peace, instead of the uncertain royal title he received territories and dignities, he could strengthen his treasury and his army, and he made Transylvania a player in European power politics. The Peace of Nikolsburg was confirmed by the Peace of Vienna (1623) and the Peace of Pozsony (1626), which concluded his two further campaigns.

Pozsony in the 17th century

The Treaty of 1626 of Pozsony

As the Habsburgs were getting stronger, Prince Bethlen launched his fourth campaign against them in order to decrease their power. In fact, he was quite afraid that the Catholic Habsburg troops would soon appear on the borders of Transylvania and that the efforts and results of his previous two campaigns (1619-21 and 1623) would diminish.
Prince Bethlen Gábor
 At the same time, England, France, the Netherlands, and Denmark were trying to hinder the Habsburgs` influence in the Holy Roman Empire. In addition to that, Bethlen married Catherine, the daughter of Prince of Brandenburg in 1625 so he had personal ties to the Protestant alliance. You can read more about her here:
Finally, he sent his armies in August 1626 and his main objective was to join the army of General Mansfeld who was approaching Vienna from the direction of Silesia. The leader of the Catholic League, General Wallenstein was on his heels, though. Mansfeld was unable to stop Wallenstein so he was coming near to Hungary.
General Wallenstein
As for Wallenstein, I must remark that he regarded Bethlen as his personal enemy and in his letter to King Ferdinand II, he recommended getting rid of Bethlen by poisoning him. It was not unusual of him as he had also poisoned the father of Zrínyi Miklós before because of an argument.
Emperor Ferdinand II
Bethlen was allied with Pasha Murteza of Buda and their combined Ottoman-Transylvanian army was waiting for the 30,000-strong-army of Wallenstein at Drégelypalánk Castle in North Hungary. As the infantrymen of Mansfeld haven`t arrived yet, Bethlen didn`t dare take up a fight with Wallenstein so he withdrew to Szécsény Castle during the night of 30 September. The Imperial general was also afraid of attacking Bethlen so he also withdrew his troops on the next day and moved toward Érsekújvár (Nové Zámky) Castle.
Archbishop Pázmány Péter
 Emperor Ferdinand II sent Archbishop Pázmány Péter of Esztergom to Bethlen in order to offer a truce. Bethlen signed the truce on 20 December 1626. In fact, the document confirmed the points of the previous Peace of Nikolsburg which had been signed in 1621.
It was Bethlen`s last campaign in the 30-Year-War. It was the next ruler of Transylvania, Prince Rákóczi György who started a new war against the Habsburgs.
The campaigns of Bethlen
(My remark: you can find the description of Szécsény, Érsekújvár, Pozsony, and Drégely castles on my page.)
(Source: Szibler Gábor)

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The flag of Bethlen Gábor