Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

The Long War, Part 24/ Troubles in Transylvania, 1596-1599

Prince Báthory Zsigmond

I personally dislike Prince Báthory Zsigmond of Transylvania and so do most of the Hungarian Székelys. His unstable and tyrannic rule has brought about lots of miseries and destructions in the Principality of Transylvania. Let us not forget, that the Transylvanian princes enjoyed greater and more concentrated power above their subjects than any contemporary Habsburg rulers.

King Báthory István of Poland, Prince of Transylvania (1533-1586)

Alas, it was a wrong choice made by King Báthory István (Stefan) of Poland (lived 1533-1586) that placed his nephew, Báthory Zsigmond (1572-1613) to the Transylvanian throne. Now, let us read the research of Szibler Gábor about the 15-Year-War and see whether I was right or not. Please, note that I am using the Eastern name order for Hungarian names where family names come first.

The signature of Báthory Zsigmond

While the Habsburgs and the Kingdom of Hungary were fighting the Ottoman Empire continuously, the world has changed profoundly in Transylvania. Prince Báthory Zsigmond didn’t think the outcome of the war so bright due to its length and failures. Besides, he had some family troubles because he was unable to „sleep the marriage” with Maria Krisztiera, a Habsburg Archduchess. His depressive mood has often overcome him and he decided to resign from his throne. The lost battle of Mezőkeresztes in 1596 didn’t make his mood any better. Here is more about this battle:

Erzherzogin Maria Christina (1574-1621)

He was having lengthy negotiations about this with Emperor Rudolf. He asked for the Silesian Principalities of Oppeln and Ratibor with the rank of an Imperial Prince, in addition to this, he wanted to be a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Still, he hasn`t stopped the war against the Ottoman Empire. His Captain Borbély György of Lippa castle took the forts of Csanád and Arad during the autumn of 1597 but his Chancellor Jósika István could not take Temesvár (Timisoara) castle. Here is more about the strategically so important Lippa castle, one of the “entrances” of Transylvania:

The Turks have also wanted to make peace with him, promising him that he could keep his throne if he accepted the authority of the Sublime Port but Báthory has not agreed. Clearly, Transylvania was not like Wallachia or Moldova where the Sultan was able to control the situation easily, assigning voivodes to his liking. As for the political relationship between the Transylvanian princes and the Sultan, read the story of how Báthory’s uncle, István had been appointed as the prince in 1575:

Báthory and his diplomat, Father Carillo had been discussing the issue in Prague for a year before they could come to terms with Habsburg Rudolf. Zsigmond has finally got the Golden Fleece and the two principalities, plus 50,000 pieces of gold annually. The Emperor made a promise to get the rank of a Cardinal for him by asking the Pope for it. After this, Báthory announced to the Estates of Transylvania in the spring of 1598 that he would resign. In fact, he has left Transylvania in April 1598.
Royal commissioners were supposed to lead the country in his stead (the name of Nádasdy Ferenc had come up here), namely they were the following persons: Bishop Szuhay István of Vác, Istvánffy Miklós, and Bartholomäus Pezzen. Before their arrival, Bocskai István and Maria Christina, the wife of Zsigmond had been in charge of the power.

Bocskai István, Báthory’s general

My remark: as Bocskai was so full-heartedly supporting Zsigmond with his military skills, my mixed feelings about Bocskai István, later Prince of Transylvania is just getting stronger. Here you can read more about the Uprising of Bocskai István and the result of his reign: people like me tend to think that the 15-Year-War was discontinued against the Ottomans because of him:

Archduke Habsburg Miksa (Maximilian) sent his army to Transylvania at the beginning of August but they never arrived there because Báthory Zsigmond has come home unexpectedly in mid-August and has taken the power again. The army of the Sublime Port had already been getting closer to Transylvania and Serdar Szaturdzsi Mehmed has taken Csanád, Arad, and Solymos, then began the siege of Várad Castle.

Várad castle (Oradea)

The new reign of Zsigmond hasn`t lasted for long. The Sultan was his enemy and the Habsburg emperor was angry with him because of his changing of his mind. Finally, the envoys of Zsigmond made a new agreement with Rudolf and they have come to terms by the spring of 1599 regarding the resignation of Báthory. This time, the new ruler of Transylvania would have been Archduke Miksa but Báthory has crossed his plans again. This time, he called his cousin, Cardinal Báthory András home from Poland and handed his rank of a prince over to him. Then, he left for the Principalities of Oppeln and Ratibor. Maria Krisztiera has returned to Graz.

Báthory András (1563-1599) Ruled between 29 March-31 October 1599

Emperor Rudolf has had enough of the ceaseless bargaining and he got angry because Báthory had ceded his power to his cousin without asking for Rudolf`s permission. Cardinal András tried to come to terms with him and with the Turks in vain. Balancing the power was getting too dangerous.
Emperor Rudolf decided to send his armies to Transylvania, led by General Basta and at the same time, he instigated Voivode Michael Vitez of Wallachia to move to Transylvania and take the power over on behalf of the king of Hungary (which was him, Rudolf, too).

Voivode Michael Vitez II (1558-1601)

The Voivode didn’t like Báthory for he thought him a threat against his throne of Wallachia and naturally, he was glad in case he could get the power of Transylvania. As Basta`s army was late, Cardinal Báthory András had to face „only” with the army of Voivode Michael. The Voivode defeated the army of Báthory András on 28 October 1599 at Sellenberk, the fleeing prince was beaten to death by the Hungarian Székely soldiers who were fighting in the army of the Voivode. Then, Voivode Michael marched into Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia, Erdel Belgradi) and began his short reign there. Transylvania has returned to be loyal to King Habsburg Rudolf. 

Source: Szibler Gábor

The Principality of Transylvania (1570-1711)

Do not miss the next part of the Long War Series, subscribe here to receive the updates, and become a Patron of spreading Hungarian history for even a symbolic sum of 1$ per month:




Close Menu