The aged Sultan Suleiman was planning to launch a new campaign against Hungary in 1566. There are different opinions among historians regarding the target of his campaign, though. However, we know that the “casus belli” was that Emperor Maximilian, the “Viennese king” had failed to pay taxes to the sultan. It was the immediate reason for Pasha Szokollu Mehmed, the new Grand Vizier to summon the sultan’s army. Hearing this, Pasha Arszlán of Buda wanted to distinguish himself before the new Grand Vizier with a military deed. He decided to launch a private war before the sultan’s army would arrive. He wanted to impress the Grand Vizier and the sultan so he wrote the following letter to Suleiman, according to the contemporary historian, Istvánffy Miklós: “The Emperor does not have a proper army and he has no idea about the sultan’s coming. If the sultan comes quickly, wherever he would turn his weapon, his war could conquer not just Hungary but even Vienna could be taken.”
Pasha Arszlán wanted to take Palota castle but he tried to distract the Christians’ attention from his target by ambushing the castle of Ajnácskő with the troops of the Elayet of Buda on 24 April 1566. It was the period of the Dual Kingship of Hungary when the army of the Habsburgs was fighting against the troops of King János Zsigmond of Eastern Hungary, and there had been bloody clashes between them during the previous year around Ajnácskő castle’s area. Thus, the Habsburgs were given a reason to expect the larger Ottoman army of the sultan in North Hungary.
Right after this move, Arszlán (his name means “oroszlán” in the Hungarian language, and “lion” in the English) turned his army against Palota castle. The Hussars of Palota provided a reason for his attack because they had just scattered a Turk raiding party near Fehérvár castle at the end of May. This way, the pasha’s action could appear as an act of rightful revenge. Yet, Captain Thury György of Palota castle had known Arszlán’s plan since February and he was urging the Royal Treasury to send the missing payment to his soldiers. He also asked for reinforcement. Both requests sounded quite futile because similar letters were often sent to Vienna from the unpaid castle warriors of the 1,000-mile-Borderland. Here is more about the Borderland of Hungary:
Against all the odds, Thury received 100-100 Hungarian riflemen (Hajdú soldiers) from pápa and Győr castles. With them, the number of the defenders of Palota was still just 450 men. The rest of the reinforcing army was gathering near Pápa castle. The widow of Nádasdy Tamás sent there 200 Hussars and 600 infantrymen, Batthyány Ferenc gave 100 Hussars and 300 Hajdú soldiers but the noblemen of the region were also called to arms. The garrison of Pápa castle joined them, led by Török Ferenc and Nádasdy Kristóf. The famous Borderland warrior, Captain Gyulaffy László of Tihany castle also hurried there with his men. Altogether 10,000 soldiers came together to relieve Palota castle. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)
Thury György sent his brother called Farkas and Pálffy Ferenc (aka “Csorba” because he had broken teeth) to Emperor Maximilian in Vienna for help. The ruler promised to send 2,000 German infantrymen to reinforce Palota castle. The Ottoman army assembled at Székesfehérvár (Fehérvár) castle and arrived at Palota castle on 5 June 1566, and they surrounded the walls. There are different opinions about the number of besiegers. According to the chronicle of Verancsics Antal, there were 5,000 soldiers but Istvánffy made them about 8-10,000 men. They built trenches around the castle and their cannons bombarded the round bastion on the right side of the gate, along with the other bastion called Móré. You can read more about the castle of Palota here, and find more pictures as well:
The walls proved to be too strong, and the cannons had to be deployed elsewhere. They took them on higher ground, east of the castle. Their target was the wall at the castle’s church that stood on the eastern side of Palota. Soon, they breached it, and a huge gap appeared. The ruins of the wall fell into the moat and filled it. Before the general assault, Pasha Arszlán summoned his two captives, Pap Péter and Scribe Péter. Finally, they admitted that there is a 3-4 meter deep ditch at the chapel where the attackers should cross. We will never know whether the captives told the truth or not but Arszlán delayed the assault and continued the bombardment. In the meantime, the castle’s cannons managed to destroy two artillerymen of the Pasha of Buda.
During the first phase of the siege, Thury and his Hussars sallied one night and slaughtered many soldiers in the Ottoman camp. The reinforcing army had already come together by this time but Emperor Maximilian did not allow them to attack the enemy. Lord Batthyény sent a desperate letter to Lady Nádasdy on 12 June, he wrote: “I cannot say anything else, except for the God’s wrath is on us. We have to beg Him to have mercy on us.” Thury sent another brother of his from Palota who hurried to Vienna to tell the ruler that many thousands of cannon balls have fallen on the castle, and even one of the towers collapsed. Thury promised to hold the castle at the cost of his life but pleaded for help.
More soldiers arrived in Győr to join the reinforcing army and Pasha Arszlán received news about their moves. He wanted to find out more about the coming army and sent his officer, Deli Lufti of Tata castle, and his 40 “beslia” riders to spy on the Christian army at Győr. Lufti set out on 14 June and soon he hid his men in the forest in the Bakony Mountain at Ménfő. Soon, they heard a noise and saw that 300 wagons appearing, full of riflemen. They were not the reinforcing army’s soldiers, they were just the men of the Judge of Győr city, who had sent many wagons to the Bakony hill to collect wood and branches. Many citizens of Győr were Germans, they spoke and sang in German while working. Lufti bravely attacked them, though. The riflemen repelled his attack and he fled to Pasha Arszlán. Lufti reported to him that “the enemy is close, they are coming on wagons for the sake of speed, they are coming”.
The cavalry of the real reinforcing army did move out as well on 15 June. On the way to Palota castle, they set houses and stacks of straw on fire and Pasha Arszlán began to worry in earnest. Seeing the flames in the distance, the enemy left the camp at night immediately. They took the cannons back to Fehérvár castle but they left behind the tents, the flags, and the food. The cavalry fled, leaving behind the lagging Turk infantry. (Note, according to the Ottoman payrolls, the mercenaries serving in the Ottoman Occupied Lands of Hungary were 96% not Turks but Albanians, Serbs, and south-Slavic people.)
The reinforcing Imperial army arrived at Palota the next day. They were led by Chief Captain Eric von Salm of Győr castle. Thury rode out to receive them and gave them the Ottoman tents to make camp. They held a military council and decided to go on and take Veszprém castle back. They did accordingly and Veszprém was liberated on 30 June. The Hungarian and Imperial army was also able to seize Tata castle, along with Gesztes and Vitány castles. As a result of the failure, the Grand Vizier had Pasha Arszlán beheaded on 3 August. Then, Grand Vizier Szokollu Mehmed appointed his cousin, Szokollu Mustafa as the Pasha of Buda. He became the Begler-Bey who succeeded to keep this post, the third-highest rank in the Ottoman Empire for the longest time.
You can read more about the Deeds of Captain Thury György on my page: