Borbála, the true love of King Matthias

King Matthias Corvinus (reigned 1458-1490), the great Renaissance monarch of Hungary stayed in Diósgyőr Castle near Miskolc on 13 November 1473 because it was the day when he signed a document there. In this German letter, he gifted a house in Besztercebánya (Banská Bystrica) and a mine along with agricultural buildings and lands to a woman called Borbála. In the letter, she was called a noblewoman and received the villages called Szent Jakab, Podlavicz, Rechka, Mayer- and Ulmanfalva and  Németfalva in Zólyom county. 

The interior of Borbála’s house in Besztercebánya

Boroszlói aka Edelpeck Borbála was from Stein which is located on the bank of the Danube in Lower Austria, today it belongs to Krems an der Donauh. Her father was Hans Edelpeck/Edelpöck (Edelpeck/Edelpöck János). However, we know about the campaign of King Matthias in Boroszló (Wroclaw / Breslau), you can read about it here:

We do not have any paintings of Borbála but there are a few mysteries about her: there is a document that was allegedly written by King Matthias himself. It is called “Semonest” and contains the king’s speeches to Borbála. However, contemporary sources claim that “Fama est, ut sermones regias (Matthias) ad Borbalam, matrem filii Regis veridici esse”, meaning that the speeches written by Matthias to Borbála include only gossip and no truth. As the original copies of these writings were destroyed in WWII, the researchers haven’t been able to decide the authenticity of the document.

Beatrix and Matthias

Matthias met Borbála in 1470 in Vienna where King Frederick III was organizing festivities to celebrate the meeting of the two monarchs. Having met her, Matthias took Borbála to Buda. Borbála was the king’s lover, and the mother of his natural son, Corvin János who was born in Buda on 2 April 1473.  Borbála took their child to Besztercebánya (Banská Bystrica) where she began to educate him in the house that Matthias had given to her. Originally, the house in Besztercebánya used to belong to Laki Thúz János and Ernuszt János in 1466, King Matthias got hold of it in 1470. Borbála and her son lived there until 1476. In the picture, you can see the now so-called “Thurzó House” on the main square of Besztercebánya which was given to Borbála. 

The Thurzó house in Besztercebánya

Corvin János was not at all illegitimate because the ruler accepted him as his legitimate son in 1479. The reason for this was the fact that Matthias didn’t have a male heir from his wife, Beatrix of Aragon (1457-1508) whom he had wed in 1476.

Queen Beatrix

 After the wedding of Matthias, Borbála had to give her hand to Friedrich von Enzersdorf in 1476: they had two children from that marriage. We do not know their names. They lived in a castle in Lower Austria in Enzersdorf that was purchased for them by Matthias for 9,500 pieces of Gold. The king visited her there, too. We know for sure that they met in 1482 and 1484.

Baldassare Estense: the young Corvin János

Beatrix accused Borbála of witchcraft, accusing her that she made her barren. Beatrix called János „figliolo della putana”, the son of a whore. Towards the end of Matthias’ reign, the king was desperately trying to give lots of lands and offices to his only son and was thinking of divorcing Beatrix but he died in the very year when Beatrix heard of that. It is assumed that Beatrix could have had a hand in poisoning him. 

The interior of Borbála’s house in Besztercebánya

In fact, Beatrix’s father had been an illegitimate son, too. Yet, the Queen tried to make the Pope excommunicate Borbála.
When the document was signed in 1473, János was just half a year old; we can learn from it that the lovers had met in Vienna but they were together in Diósgyőr. Here is more about the castle of Diósgyőr:

in Diósgyőr castle

 Unfortunately, Albrecht Dürer arrived in Vienna in 1490 only after the death of Matthias but he painted a picture of Borbála’s son, Corvin János.  It remained to be seen whether the great artist ever painted a picture of Borbála as well. However, there is a theory that suggests that the portrait of Saint Borbála in the Saint Katalin church of Besztercebánya may have been painted after the face of Boroszlói Borbála. The painter who created the painting at the Saint Borbála altar in 1509 used for his work the etchings that his master, Albrecht Dürer had made.

The Saint Borbála altar in Besztercebánya

More about the Hungarian connections of Dürer: 

Borbála left a generous Last Will in 1491, then she went to the Nunnery of Klosterneuburg.  She died there in 1495 and was buried in the St. Ágnes Chapel. Her son, Corvin János died in 1504.


(Source: Ritoókné Szalay Ágnes and Miskolc Blog and Ősi Gyökér 2010/4)


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