Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

Ferenc, the kidnapped son of Lord Perényi – Part Two

Hungary after the fall of Buda (1541)

Lord Perényi, a dividing historical figure

So far we have learned that Lord Perényi was powerful enough to play his own plot in order to gain the Hungarian throne. He thought himself better than Szapolyai or Ferdinand, the two kings of the Dual Kingship of Hungary after 1526.

His „Third Way” would have been gaining the Crown for himself or for his son, Ferenc as King of Hungary; he wanted to establish a similar system in Hungary to Venice whereas he would have been the elected leader of the „noble community”, like the Doge of Venice. You can read more about these in my first article:

Ferenc, the Sultan’s hostage

We know that the 8-year-old Ferenc was captured by Sultan Suleiman in 1532. Suleiman lost his faith in Perényi Péter because of Lodovico Gritti had revealed Perényi`s plots against him. Gritti, the Governor of Hungary on behalf of the Sultan, could have received this information from his father, Andreas Gritti, the Doge of Venice. Remember, Perényi was negotiating with the Doge and even made a show of visiting him in Venice with 600 Hussars.

Hungarian Hussars in the 16th century

Suleiman was made to believe that Perényi had allied himself with King Habsburg Ferdinand and they wanted to attack from behind the Sultan`s army which was to march towards Vienna, using Perényi`s castles of Siklós and Valpó. So Gritti took the young boy first to Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade) then, in April of 1533 to the Sultan`s Seraglio in Istanbul.

According to the unpublished work of Sztárai Mihály (1500-1575): „The history of how Perényi Ferenc escaped from captivity” (1543), he was given a noble education, befitting to a Muslim noble boy and he was also circumcised as a Muslim. He pretended as if he had forgotten the Hungarian language but he never did that.

Children being registered for Janissary education, 1558

Allegedly, Suleiman summoned him before sending his army to relieve the siege of Buda in 1542 and tested his loyalty by asking him a few questions. We know that his father, Perényi Péter had been doing the best to free him but Ferenc pretended to hate him. The Sultan wanted to make Ferenc the lord of Hungary, perhaps its king on his behalf. Thus, the lad was given a small Ottoman unit and he was dressed up as a young aristocrat and put in charge of them in the army which set out to Buda. However, instructions were given to keep an eye on him in secret.

Ottoman army on the march (1566)

We also know that the Sultan had offered to set free Majláth István (later he was their candidate for leading Transylvania as a prince) and Török Bálint, too. There must have been some reason in these plans because later, the marching Ottoman army in 1543 avoided and took care not to destroy the lands and the properties of Török Bálint. According to the hearsay, Suleiman would have given back all the occupied lands of Hungary to these noblemen if they had sworn fealty to him.

Just to illustrate Perényi’s wealth: his annual income was 100,000 Ducats which was less than the tax paid by Transylvania to the Ottoman Empire some 50 years later. King Lous II used to have only five times larger income in the 1520s. Perényi was the richest lord of Hungary in the 1530s. 

A Ducat of King Ferdinand from 1542

We also know that Perényi Péter was in charge of the Hungarian auxiliary troops of General Joachim Brandenburg, leading 15,000 Hungarians who had taken the city of Pest opposite to Buda in 1542. Perhaps the Sultan thought that Perényi Péter would not dare to attack them if Perényi Ferenc was in the Turk army. (Note, I’m intentionally using the Eastern name order for Hungarians.)

Sztárai Mihály, the tutor of Perényi Ferenc

You can read more about the fortified town of Pest here:

The miraculous escape of the boy

Yet, Ferenc Perényi crossed Suleiman`s plans because he ran away from the Ottoman army when they were near to the Croatian-Hungarian lands. It was his tutor, Sztárai Mihály who wrote down his adventures. As for Sztárai, he fought in the Battle of Mohács, then became a Reformed Pastor who established 120 Reformed communities in the South-Trans-Danubian Region during the perilous years of Ottoman expansion.  He wrote down how the young Ferenc escaped through hostile lands, helped by some Croatians, and how he was reunited with his mother. However, his brother Gábor doubted his identity and didn`t let him meet his father. As for Perényi Gábor, we know that later he had his wife poisoned out of jealousy and there are tales that he was either poisoning Ferenc or drowning him into the Bodrog River just to avoid splitting the family`s property. Also, Perényi Gábor kept his mother in deep poverty because she had been helping Ferenc to regain something from his father`s inheritance.

Perényi Péter is also remembered as the founder of Reformed College of Sárospatak (1531)

We know that Ferenc was still alive in 1546 because it was when he told stories about the Sultan’s Persian campaign of 1535 to a Hungarian singer and musician called Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén (1510-1556).
We know nothing else about Ferenc except the brilliant adventures written about him by Sztárai Mihály. His tragic life fits into the group of questions that begin with “what would have happened if…”

Yet, I have a gut feeling that Ferenc could have been a better ruler than the baby János Zsigmond who became the ruler of Eastern Hungary after 1541.

Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén

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