The letter of Zrínyi Miklós in 1664

Zrínyi Miklós 1620-1664

Zrinyi Miklós (Nikol Zrinski) wrote the following letter before his death to Emperor Leopold I, in 1664, in the Italian language.

By this time, his loyalty to the Habsburg ruler had been greatly forsaken. 

He survived his heroic campaign, the burning of the bridge of Eszék, in only ten months.

The Emperor didn’t appoint him as the general of the combined Christian army against the Ottomans. Instead of him, it was Montecuccoli, his adversary who was appointed. The disillusioned Zrínyi went home to Csáktornya (Cakovec) and realized that the Habsburgs had undermined his efforts and sabotaged the liberation of Hungary and Croatia.

Soon, he died in a hunting accident on 18 November 1664, killed by a boar. Some say the Turks wanted to offer him the crown of Hungary. We will never know whether he would have accepted it.

The Zrínyi brothers burned the famous Bridge of Eszék (Osiek)

Here is the letter: „…the strength of the Turks is like Antheus from ancient Greek mythology, who regained his strength anytime he touched the ground…the Turks are winning even if they are not victorious.” Zrínyi is re-listing his reasons for an offensive war, launched by the would-be allied Christian powers:

„The saber of the Sultan would not make a difference between us, he would care neither about our political relations nor about the divisions among our states nor about our envious and suspicious nature: rather, he would bathe his sword in the blood of treaded-down Christendom. The mad rage of the Muslims would wade through us without comparison, without sorting out the interests of Northern Protestants and Roman Catholics, regardless of the conflicting goals and principles of the Austrian and the French monarchies.

So what is the reason for repining the regional conferences when the flame of the fire burning on our borders is big enough to consume the last of the Christians on this Earth? If (God save us) Croatia fell and the Turks could have a free way to go, what would befall the domains of Venice and the opposite shore of the Adriatic Sea or the lands of Spain and Rome?

Yet, I haven’t heard that the European powers would understand this and would take up arms under Christ’s flag. Nam tua res agitur, paries cum proximus ardet Ucalegon. (Your own safety is in danger when the neighboring wall blazes). But what if the conflagration, which is presently burning in Hungary and is covering Germany in smoke, making Italy’s eyes run with tears, would seem like a remote, negligible, and underestimated spark from the spyglasses of France and England? In this case, let them cast their look, for Heaven’s sake, toward the Mediterranian Sea and tell me what is the meaning of the huge pirate activity that is devastating those seas with more than seventy ships. They are Turks, aren’t they?”

Here is a link where you can see more about Csáktornya castle:

Also, here is my article about Zrínyi’s death:

Zrínyi’s thoughts about war and religion:

Zrínyi was a devout Catholic but he was far from being a fanatic. He addressed the Protestant nobility like this:
„I am of a different faith, but your Lordships’ freedom is my freedom, if you are hurt, I am hurt, too. I wish the Prince had a hundred thousand good Popists, a hundred thousand Calvinists, and the same Lutheran warriors, they could save this homeland…”
„I hold a confiding Lutheran in higher esteem than an evil-hearted Catholic.”
Here he refers to the contemporary belief that the Hungarian king Ulászlo I had broken the alliance with Sultan Murad II and because of his perfidy he was killed at the Battle of Várna in 1444:
„Dear Sir, we have to keep our oaths even to infidels, how much more we should keep our words to our Christian brothers.” (…) „Attacking someone under the name of the religion is not right, it is against God’s mercy; also, it is a great sin and wrong to break our agreement with our enemy, under the cover of religion.”

Zrínyi was also affected by the French idea of separating church and state and the concept of national absolutism.
This time the Swedish king was paying closer attention to the anti-Ottoman wars and the Protestant Transylvania. Stäyger, the delegate of the Swedish ruler in Vienna, in 1655, writes home that the Catholic aristocrat Zrínyi spoke against the Jesuits and had had a conflict with Prince Auerperg in the Court of Vienna, on an audience of the Emperor which almost resulted in a duel.
The Duel (between a Turkish and a Hungarian warrior), by Zichy Mihály
Zrínyi’s opinion about religious wars was plain:
„I can hardly believe that it would either be kind before God or acceptable for men to attack all of our neighbors or any Christian princes only under the excuse of religion. Other reasons force us to fight against the Turks or against other enemies who either share our faith or not: there are more noble reasons than the religion.”
The works of Zrínyi Miklós in English:

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