Balassi Ferenc, younger brother of Balassi Bálint

Balassi Ferenc

We know much about the famous Balassi Bálint, the warrior-poet but it is proper to commemorate his younger brother, Balassi Ferenc, who fell in the Battle of Monostorpály on 22 July 1594 when fighting the Crimean Tatars. (My remark: note, that I am intentionally using the Hungarian name order according to the Hungarian grammar where the Christian name comes second, unlike in English. I would like to introduce this usage as far as Hungarian names are concerned.)

Ferenc was born in 1563, his father was Lord Balassa and Lady Sulyok Anna. The sisters of his mother, Sára and Krisztina were the wives of Captain Dobó István of Eger and Bocskai György. Thus, he (like Bálint) was the cousin of Bocskai István, later Prince of Transylvania. Like Bálint, Ferenc was learning in Nurnberg (he went there when he was barely past 10). He has been to Poland several times, too, to visit their lands in Poland and their relative who was nobody else than King Báthory István (Stephen), king of Poland and Prince of Transylvania. The other reason for his visits was that his father had been imprisoned by Emperor Maximilian in 1569 but the old Balassa escaped from there and fled to Poland. Ferenc spoke very well in Latin, Polish and German as well.

Eger castle in 1596

He began his military career in 1585, he was a lieutenant in Eger Castle, commanding to 50 horsemen in 1591. He was on very good terms with Captain Rákóczi Zsigmond of Eger who later became Prince of Transylvania. Ferenc fought in the Battle of Szikszó in 1588 when they defeated the Turks. 

After his years in Eger, he became Vice-Captain of Tokaj Castle and he was appointed as its captain in 1593. He has been fighting in all the first battles of the 15-Year-War. Bocskai István sent those young Hungarians from Transylvania to him who had wanted to fight against the Turks but were not allowed to do so because Transylvania was not involved in the war just then.

A Hungarian soldier from 1593

Ferenc got a severe wound in the battle of Tura on 1 May 1594 so he could not be at the siege of Esztergom where his elder brother died.
His wound was not fully healed but he joined the fight against the Tatar troops of Khan Ghazi Girály on 22 July 1594 at Monostorpályi. There he received several injuries and finally he was killed by an arrow. Habardy László, Prebend of Eger wrote about it in 1594 like this: “Our men attacked the Tatars near to the village of Monostoros, the enemy lost 100 soldiers while we lost 30 warriors. However, our unit was not big enough to withstand the enemy, it was the time when Balassi Ferenc was killed.”

According to the Chronicle of Szepesi Laczkó Máté, on 17 July 1594: “…the Tatars came out from the direction of Huszt, the lords were fighting a lot against them and Honorable and Respected Lord Balassi Ferenc fell during that fight. It took place at Pályi, towards Debrecen…”

The contemporary public opinion was shocked by learning of the deaths of the two Balassi brothers. Next year, the two brothers` deeds were praised in a 41-verses-long poem where the deeds of Ferenc were more emphasized than Bálint`s.
Lieutenant Káthay Mihály, a former comrade of Ferenc from Eger and later Chancellor of Prince Bocskai, lamented over their deaths, especially of Ferenc’s loss.

Kékkő (Modry Kamen, Slovakia), the center of the Balassa family (Photo: Civertan)

The Catholics regarded Ferenc as the best example of the Christian soldiers, the „miles christianus”; his high esteem derived from his rhetorical abilities which were as necessary things for a good noble soldier as the valiant military deeds.
He had no wife and left behind no children. The village of Monostorpályi commemorated him on a marble memorial tablet in the church in 2016.
Let us think of Ferenc, too, when we praise the art of Balassa Bálint.

(Source: Szibler Gábor)

I wrote a historical novel “The Ring of Kékkő Castle”; Kékkő was the eagle-nest of the Balassi family…Here is more about this castle:

Kékkő castle

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