Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

22 December 1671 Emperor Leopold dismissed his Hungarian soldiers

Emperor Leopold I (aka Lipót, reigned 1658-1705)
In Hungarian history, the day when Emperor Leopold issued this decree marks the beginning of the so-called Kuruc Age… But the anti-Habsburg riots and conspiracies date back to 1666. In 1671 the situation was tense, as a contemporary Hungarian poem put it:
“We are crippled between two heathens, one of whom is a domestic crucifix, the other is sheer madness…” (In the Hungarian language: „Két pogány között vagyunk elepedve, az egyik házi köröszt, a másik merő fene…”)
A Kuruc soldier
It was on December 22, 1671, when Emperor Leopold, King of Hungary, issued his decree dismissing the majority of Hungarian soldiers, members of the Valiant Order, who were serving in the Borderland castles. The time of “bujdosás” or exile had 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 also read about the Wesselényi Conspiracy.
The leaders of the Wesselényi Conspiracy were executed in 1671
The Habsburg ruler decided to break with the traditional way of governing Hungary. Leopold did not convene the Diet and ruled by issuing decrees. He also broke the agreement of the Peace of Vienna of 1606, which obliged him to rule the Kingdom of Hungary by convening the Diet. This document declared that he should give the highest offices to Hungarians and allow freedom of religion. He abruptly abrogated all this, and in addition, he dismissed two-thirds of the Hungarian soldiers on December 22, 1671.
The Borderland in 1664
We have many sources from the 17th century that tell us about the continuous deterioration of the Frontier. For example, a document from 1668 states that the soldiers of the captain of Keszthely Castle had not been paid for four years, and they desperately threatened him to abandon the castle. We know another fortress along the important defensive line on the southern shore of Lake Balaton, Zalavár Castle, where only 4 Hajdú soldiers remained out of 90 soldiers due to the same problem.
Leopold’s 10-Ducat gold coin
Now these men must have joined the bands of roving warriors that roam the countryside. Their numbers have been estimated at 8-15,000. It does not matter which number is more accurate because they were experienced warriors with a firm ideology. The Valiant Order’s main enemy was the Ottomans, but they also disliked the Habsburgs. Here is more about the Valiant Order:
According to some Hungarian historians like Bencédi László or Czigány István, it was rather those soldiers who had participated in the Wesselényi Conspiracy who were dismissed. (Please note that I am using the Oriental name order for Hungarians, where surnames come first).
Kuruc troops vs. Imperials
There is a contemporary “exile song” that seems to confirm this. Its anonymous author tells us that he was the soldier of Zrínyi Miklós (Nikola Zrinski) in Csáktornya (Cakovec). It is assumed that after the tragic death of the brave lord in 1664, the soldier went to serve Zrínyi Péter (Petar Zrinski), Miklós’s younger brother, who was also a renowned warrior. The Peace of Vasvár was shameful not only for the nobility but also for the commoners. The members of the Valiant Order who served on the Borderland were the main base for the conspirators, namely Wesselényi, Zrínyi Péter, and Nádasdy.
The execution of Petar Zrinski (Zrínyi Péter) in 1671
It is obvious that these crowds of dismissed soldiers, feeling insulted and without bread, were not only a threat to public safety, but they consciously turned against the Habsburgs, calling them oppressors. The absolutist policies of the Habsburg dynasty alienated the entire Hungarian society and provided a broad base for the conspiring aristocracy. In the eyes of the Hungarians, the Court’s new, harsh style of rule was a breach of trust, a punishment of the Valiant Order, which had carried the burden of defending Western Europe for many generations.
rebel “kuruc” soldiers
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 and fields are getting green,
Those birds were singing…
The tears are 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
Valiant victories.
May God be your leader
In all you do, you brave;
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.)
Kuruc vs. Imperials
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.
(…)
Jóakaróim vitézek,
Kik hol vagytok végbeliek:
Isten legyen már veletek,
Emlékezetben legyetek.
Gyakor szerencsés csatákot
Vitézül nektek kívánok,
Adja Isten jövendőben
Tiveletek egyetemben.
Mindenben Isten vezéretek
Légyen, vitézek, tinéktek;
Mikor pogányokkal víttok,
Nemzetünkért vagdalkoztok.
Óh, én kedves laktom földem,
Ki engemet feltartottál,
Szárnyomra is bocsátottál:
Isten áldjon bő áldással! (…)”
I tried to translate the next song, too:
“Not only is it obvious
Christians’ bloodsucker
Pagan corrupts his son,
But even a hairy neighbor (i.e. the Habsburgs),
Like a dog that’s a martinet,
Shall make fangs for thee,
To bite you,
To take your wealth
To win your land.
Let us be old Hungarians!
Lovers of the homeland
Defenders of freedom;
Let us be avenging Panthers
For the destruction of our country
On the ruin of our nation.”
In Hungarian:
“Nemcsak nyilvánvaló
Keresztyén vérszopó
Pogány megrontja fiát,
De még hajas szomszíd,
Mardosó kutyakint,
Reád készít agyarát,
Hogy tíged megmarjon,
Javaiddal bírjon,
Elnyerhesse hazádat.
Lígyünk rígi magyarok!
Hazája-szeretők
Szabadság oltalmazók;
Ország pusztításán
Nemzetünk rontásán
Bosszúálló párducok.”
The lands occupied by the “kuruc” troops of Thököly
(Source: Szerecz Miklós, translation, sometimes from archaic Hungarian into English: Szántai Gábor)

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