Interview with Captain Thury György, 1561

…about how he outsmarted Bey Hamza, commander of Fehérvár Castle in the summer of 1561…

(Written by Szántai Gábor, edited by Sue Lahner King; please note, that I am using the Eastern name order for Hungarian names.)

The only contemporary portrait of Thury György

„The interviewer from Time And Travel Inc. disguised himself as a young Polish nobleman so he was well received in the knightly hall of Palota Castle. It was none other than the hero of hundreds of duels, Captain Thury György of Palota, the Hungarian El Cid, who raised the first cup to his health. And making his Polish guest sit right next to him at the end of the long table that was always crowded with the most valiant warriors of the Borderland.

Palota castle

The captain was a robust man, his spiky, waxed mustache gave him a savage look, but his blue eyes were mischievously peering into the very liver of our interviewer. The captain was famous for his hospitality, and his kindness was said to be bordering on naivety. He always granted favor to his guests and now our colleague took advantage of it.

After some small talk, he asked him plainly. As in that age, the Hungarian language was quite common in the Polish court, the conversation took place in this manner:

 “Thank you, Your Lordship, for granting me the request to satisfy my curiosity. All I want to know is the latest adventure of Your Lordship about the Turkish Bey Hamza. I want to tell it to my Polish friends in Krakow as Your Lordship has told it to me.”

The noise of the Hungarian soldiers’ murmur slowly ceased and all eyes were attentive to Lord Thury. He twisted his mustache, wet his mouth with a little wine, and then began the tale, generously allowing our interviewer to insert his questions.

“You know, my son, how closely we are eyeing each other with our Turkish neighbors. Alas, we need to be watchful if we don’t want to walk into a trap. Lately, this Bey Hamza has been yearning to catch me unaware because of the reward.”

“What kind of reward, my Lord?”

“As I have helped many Muslim warriors to enter the Paradise of their Allah, some Ottoman dignitaries have gotten rather annoyed. A sack of gold equal to my skull’s weight was offered to the lucky one who could take it.”

“Did the Turkish Bey Hamza want to challenge you for a duel, then?”

Loud giggling was heard from the intently listening warriors’ direction.

“Turk? He was as Turkish as you are, my son. He is a Serbian renegade. But, he was shrewd enough not to choose the sword fight. However valiant and fierce a warrior he is, as it is said about him, he didn’t want to take chances. In fact, I was the one who provoked him.” said the Captain a bit shyly. “I have a good pribék, a turn-cloak renegade who spies on the Turks but the Turks think he is spying on us. He is a daredevil pig. I made him write many letters to the Bey in which he was hinting at how easily he could betray Palota Castle. Finally, the Bey was on the hook.”

“Mercy me, what was his bait?”

“My pribék wrote to him that he wished he had a barrel of poison that he could mix into the wine of the soldiers. A poison that makes people sleep for three days like a dead man. He knew that the Turks had such a liquid.”

“Did the Bey really send it to your pribék?”

“Oh, yes, he did. It was smuggled, in great secret, into Palota castle. Want to give it a try, my son?”

Crackling laughter was spreading in a chain reaction along the table but the warriors were breathlessly listening with round eyes.

“This excellent pribék sneaked out to Bey Hamza at Fehérvár Castle and made him believe that the warriors of Palota are all sleeping soundly and the Bey could do whatever he wanted with them. Hastily, the Turks set out and they arrived at Palota when it was dark. They saw no lights in the fort and the gates were left ajar offering hospitality.”

“Where were you, my Lord?”

“I and these decent warriors here were hiding with our men, in dead silence, right at the inner side of the walls. Armed to the teeth.”

“Was the drawbridge down, Sir?”

“It was, indeed. And the moat was dry, too. Except for the sacks of gunpowder we had hidden on the bottom. They were supposed to give them a warm welcome if they happened to venture into the ditch.”

“Did they assault the fort outright?”

“No, my son, not all Turks are as brainless as Bey Hamza. Their troops, in total silence, were lining up around the moat’s edge but they didn’t dare to cross it. They had been stamping all night long, holding many ladders, hesitating. Only a few dozen yards separated us. We held our breath, didn’t give a sound out.”

“Was Bey Hamza not angry at his men?”

“Angry? He was furious, my pribék said he was tearing at his beard. And you know what? He drew his sword and he was flailing around with it. He even slew some of his men and injured a few more. To no avail. They would not tip-toe into Palota Castle for the fear that we might wake up from our poisonous sleep.”

Captain Thury drank some more wine, and continued:

„At daybreak, they had to return to Fehérvár Castle lagging behind the maddened Bey Hamza. My but how he was raging, even more, when he read my letter a week or so later!”

„Sir, what did you write to him?”

„Well, I sent him a letter so as to cover my pribék. I would have hated to see him killed for this joke. So I wrote: Dear Neighbour, I have come to understand that you paid a visit to my castle a week ago. Had I been sober, I would have greeted you properly as it is befitting to you. As it happened, I drank too much with my warriors and we all slept so deeply for three days that we lay senseless like the dead. Had I been awake, you would not have been able to return to Fehérvár so peacefully.”

„My Lord, and tell me what happened to your pribék?”

„My son, having delivered my letter, he didn’t wait idly to be further questioned. He heard inhuman cries from the hall of Bey Hamza, and then he fled.”

The Hungarian warriors could not resist anymore. They were roaring with laughter and screaming with tears in their eyes, striking their legs and hitting the table with their fists.

Our colleague remarked, that the pribék must have been a smart man to flee because the word was getting around about this jest like brushfire among the members of the Valiant Order on both sides of the 1,000-mile-long Hungarian Borderland.”

Here is more about Lord Thury György, and how he fought in the Battle of Palást:

…and here is my article about his heroic last stand in 1571:

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