Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

Baron Nádasdy Tamás (1498-1562)

Nádasdy Tamás

Baron Nádasdy Tamás de Nádasd et Fogarasföld (I), called the Great Palatine (1498–1562), was a Hungarian nobleman, great landowner, and a statesman. Born into the House of Nádasdy, he was the son of Nádasdy I Ferenc de Nádasd (1492-1541) and his first wife, Therjék Orsolya de Szenterzsébet (d. 1529). After Tamás’s mother’s death, his father remarried Véssey Orsolya de Vésse. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)

He was educated at Graz, Bologna, and Rome. In 1521 he accompanied Thomas Cajetan (whom the pope had sent to Hungary to preach a crusade against the Turks) to Buda as his interpreter. In 1525 he became a member of the council of state and was sent by King Lajos (Louis) II to the Diet of Speyer to ask for help in the imminent Turkish war. During his absence the Mohács catastrophe took place, and Nádasdy only returned to Hungary in time to escort the queen-widow from Komárom to Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava). He was sent to offer the Hungarian crown to archduke Ferdinand, and on his coronation (3 November 1527) was made commandant of Buda castle. In 1528 with the help of Cseszneky György, commander of Tata castle, Nádasdy occupied Győr for Ferdinand.

After the capture of Buda by Sultan Suleiman, Nádasdy went over to King Szapolyai János. In 1530 he successfully defended Buda against the Imperial troops. In 1533 his jealousy of the dominant influence of Lodovico Gritti caused him to desert Szapolyai for Ferdinand, to whom he afterward remained faithful.

Lodovico Gritti, the natural son of the Venetian Doge, the sultan’s diplomat

In 1535 he married Kanizsay Orsolya de Kanizsa (1523-1571), the last member and heiress of the powerful and wealthy Kanizsay family. He was endowed with enormous estates by the emperor, and from 1537 onwards became Ferdinand’s secret but most influential counselor. Subsequently, as  Ban (Duke) of Croatia-Slavonia, he valiantly defended that border province against the Turks.

Kanizsai Orsolya

He did his utmost to promote education, and the school that he founded at Újsziget, where he also set up a printing press, received a warm eulogy from Philip Melanchthon. As the Ottoman Empire was extending its borders, the defense of Hungary had to be organized more effectively. It was for the first time in September 1540 when King Ferdinand appointed a „Chief Captain of the Country” (supremus capitaneus regni Hungariae), he was Perényi Péter. He had to give him this title because, in case of getting the support of Lord Perényi, he had to grant him the same rank that Perényi had received from the late King Szapolyai in 1537. Read more about the Perényi family here:

Perényi Péter
Yet, Buda fell in 1541 and its re-taking resulted in a failure in the next year. It became clear that the Turks would not leave soon so the defense of the remaining part of the Kingdom of Hungary had to be reorganized. There were foreign mercenaries who were led by chief commanders, appointed by the king. On the other hand, there were Hungarian units in each County, not to mention the Hungarian field troops and Borderland guards which were also paid by the king. Their commander would have been the Palatine of the kingdom but the king has not appointed anyone to this highest function for years.
Nádasdy Tamás
The Hungarian Estates held a Diet in Besztercebánya (Banská Bystrica) in February and in March 1542 where they elected Báthory András as Chief Captain of the Country. Now, there were two Chief Captains but their role was separated. Chief Captain Perényi owned his lands mainly in the northern part of the kingdom so he was supposed to control the areas north and east of the Danube River while Báthory`s domains were mainly in the South-Trans Danubian Region so he was put in charge of the Trans-Danubian Region. Soon, Perényi was arrested by the king in October, the lord was accused of plotting with the Turks.
Nádasdy and Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén, the lutist
As the Ottoman attacks were going on, his title had to be given to someone, though. The Estates met in Pozsony in November where they elected Nádasdy Tamás as Chief Captain. Accordingly, the king appointed him in his letter of 23 December 1542. Nádasdy was allowed to keep 500 cavalrymen but in addition to this, the king gave him 1,000 riders and 1,000 infantrymen. As Nádasdy`s domains were in the Trans-Danubian Region, he exchanged his captaincy’s area with Báthory. Báthory took up his headquarters in East Hungary.
Hungary in 1550
Their tasks were to block the smaller Ottoman raids and to bring relief to the minor Borderland castles when they were besieged. They were in charge of the military affairs in the counties they controlled as well as leading the armed noblemen who were obliged to serve in times of war. The Diet voted for a military tax every year to support their expenses.
a Hungarian nobleman from the 16th century
Nevertheless, these troops proved to be insufficient to guard the Frontier effectively. It was the reason why Nádasdy had to invest money from his own pocket to pay for his soldiers and castles, not to mention the spy network and all the additional costs. The 2,000 soldiers offered by the king were not always available, either. He got a lot fewer men from the king but in spite of this, the Chief Captain did his best.
a Hungarian nobleman in the 16th century
He had all the crossing places and fords of the Rába River assessed in order to block them in case of peril. He had dams built on the river, too. Unfortunately, he did not receive the promised money from the king so at the beginning of 1546 he gave in his resignation. His successor, Késás Pál died within a year and after some pause, the king appointed Nádasdy again in 1548. Nádasdy accepted it only under the condition that the king increased the number of his cavalrymen by 200 riders, 25 of whom were supposed to be sent from Nádasdy`s servants. Besides, he wanted to have 300 riders paid by the king and 36 infantrymen. Thus, he could lead a unit of more than 500 men which was promised to be more effective. He also demanded that the Treasury should pay the men in time and muster the army regularly. As for his own payment, Nádasdy wanted to get 300 Forints annually and further sums to pay his spies and envoys.
Maximilian’s Forint (1578)
In 1547 he presided over the Diet of Nagyszombat.  The second part of Nádasdy`s captaincy was more effective because there was a truce between the Sultan and the Habsburgs so there was not anticipating bigger attacks and could focus on reinforcing the Borderland system. He was quite successful in strengthening the defense in the southern part of the Trans-Danubian Region, mainly in Somogy County. The central stronghold of the area was Szigetvár Castle and it became the headquarter of his unit, too. They were also building out the smaller palisade-walled castles in the neighboring lands.
The Nádasdy castle in Sárvár (Photo: Civertan)
Nádasdy was quite disheartened in 1551 when the attempts of uniting the Kingdom of Hungary and Transylvania failed and he was shocked by the successful Ottoman attack in 1552. He was often sick and the king didn`t send the payment of his soldiers as it had been agreed. Bánffy István acted on his behalf since July 1552 and Nádasdy resigned in December which was accepted by King Ferdinand.
The New Testament of Sylvester printed in Sárvár
Actually, he never entirely abandoned his role because he became Palatine of Hungary in 1554 and was acting as Chief Captain of the Country (generalis et supremus capitaneus) again. In fact, the Chief Captain of the Trans Danubian Region was Tahy Ferenc but in the reality, it was Nádasdy who commanded him. As it was, Nádasdy relieved the siege of Szigetvár in 1556. In 1559, he was elected Palatine by the Diet of Pozsony. In his declining years, he aided the heroic Zrínyi Miklós aka Nikola Zrinski against the Ottomans,  and he organized the re-taking of Hegyesd Castle in 1562. This was his last military deed. He died two months later on 2 June.
Sárvár (by Fodor Zsolt)

Sources: Szibler Gábor and Wikipedia 

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Sárvár castle (Source: