22 December 1671 Emperor Leopold dismissed his Hungarian soldiers
In Hungarian history, the day when Emperor Leopold issued this decree marks the beginning of the so-called Kuruc-age…However, the anti-Habsburg riots and conspirations reach back to 1666. In 1671, the situation was tense, as the contemporary Hungarian poem said:
„We are being crippled between two pagans, one of them a domestic crucifix, the other is sheer dickens…” (In the Hungarian language: „Két pogány között vagyunk elepedve, az egyik házi köröszt, a másik merő fene…”)
It was on 22 December 1671 when Emperor Leopold, King of Hungary issued his decree in which he was dismissing the majority of the Hungarian soldiers, the members of the Valiant Order who had been serving in the Borderland castles. The time of „bujdosás” or exile has come. I had written in my previous post that after the shameful Peace of Vasvár in 1664, the emperor did his best to alienate his Hungarian subjects and we read about the Wesselényi Conspiracy as well.
The Habsburg ruler decided to break the traditional way of governing Hungary. Leopold didn`t call together the Diet and ruled by issuing decrees. He also broke the agreement of the Peace of Vienna made in 1606 which had obliged him to rule the kingdom of Hungary by calling together the Diet. This document declared that he should give the highest offices to Hungarians and allow the freedom of religion. He has put aside all of this quite abruptly, and on the top of that, he dismissed two-thirds of the Hungarian soldiers on 22 December 1671.
We have many sources from the 17th century which tell us about the continuous deterioration of the Frontier. For example, a document from 1668 says that the soldiers of the Captain of Keszthely Castle had not received any payment for four years and they were desperately threatening him to abandon the castle. We know another fort located along the so important defense line on the southern bank of Lake Balaton, Zalavár Castle where only 4 Hajdú soldiers remained out of 90 soldiers due to the same problem.
Now, these men must have joined the wandering groups of marauders throughout the countryside. Their number is estimated between 8-15,000. It does not matter much which number is more appropriate because they were seasoned warriors with a firm ideology. The Valiant Order`s main enemy was the Ottomans but they disliked the Habsburgs as well. Here is more about the Valiant Order:
According to some Hungarian historians like Bencédi László or Czigány István, rather those soldiers were dismissed who had had a part in the Wesselényi Conspiracy. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)
Indeed, there is a contemporary „exile-song” that seems to confirm this. Its anonymous author tells us that he had been the soldier of Zrínyi Miklós (Nikola Zrinski) at Csáktornya (Cakovec). It is assumable that after the valiant lord`s tragic death in 1664, the soldier went to serve Zrínyi Péter (Petar Zrinski), Miklós` younger brother who was also a renowned warrior. The Peace of Vasvár was shameful not only to the noblemen but to the commoners, too. The members of the Valiant Order who served on the Frontier used to be the main basis for the plotters, namely for Wesselényi, Zrínyi Péter, and Nádasdy.
It is quite obvious that these crowds of dismissed soldiers, feeling offended and having no bread, were not only a threat to the public safety but they turned against the Habsburgs quite consciously, claiming them oppressors. The absolutistic politics of the Habsburg dynasty have alienated the entire Hungarian society, providing a broad basis to the plotting aristocracy. According to the Hungarians, the new, strict ruling style of the Court was a breach of trust, a penalty against the Valiant Order which had been carrying the burden of defending Western Europe for many generations till now.
The anonymous soldier praised the life of the Frontier like this:
For the nice weather of spring,
I see that all folks were glad for,
Forests, fields are getting green,
Those birds were singing…
The tear is rolling from my eyes,
Crying I look around at them,
`Cause my Homeland has turned into mourning,
Its nice Coat of Arms was weeping…
Valiant soldiers, you well-wishers,
Where are you, you Frontier-lads,
May God be with you from now on,
Let you be remembered…
Many lucky battles,
I do wish you,
May God grant you in the future
May God be your leader
In all you do, you braves;
When you fight the pagans,
You are hacking for our Nation.
Oh, my dear land where I lived,
Who kept me alive,
Who brought me up and put me on my wings,
May God bless you plentifully!”
(Translated by me but you may give me a better English translation.)
It is the Hungarian text:
Az tavaszi szép időnek
Látom mindenek örülnek,
Erdők, mezők megzöldülnek,
Az madarak énekölnek.
Legörögvén szemem könyve
Sirván nézek mindenekre,
Mert hazámnak gyászra fordult
Az mint látom, szép címere.
Kik hol vagytok végbeliek:
Isten legyen már veletek,
Gyakor szerencsés csatákot
Vitézül nektek kívánok,
Adja Isten jövendőben
Mindenben Isten vezéretek
Légyen, vitézek, tinéktek;
Mikor pogányokkal víttok,
Óh, én kedves laktom földem,
Ki engemet feltartottál,
Szárnyomra is bocsátottál:
Isten áldjon bő áldással! (…)”
(I haven`t even tried to translate the next song. Any thoughts?)
Pogány megrontja fiát,
De még hajas szomszíd,
Reád készít agyarát,
Hogy tíged megmarjon,
Lígyünk rígi magyarok!
(Source: Szerecz Miklós, translation, sometimes from archaic Hungarian into English: Szántai Gábor)
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