King Habsburg Matthias II of Hungary (1557-1619)

Portrait of Matthias of Austria (Vienna, 1557-Vienna, 1619), 
The third son of Emperor and King Maximilian was born on February 24, 1557. With two older brothers, he had little chance of succeeding to the throne, but he did acquire some skills in government. He was governor of the Low Countries from 1578 to 1581 (to the displeasure of King Philip II of Spain and Emperor Rudolf II of the Holy Roman Empire), and from the 1580s he essentially ruled the Austrian hereditary provinces and Hungary from Vienna after his brother, Emperor and King Rudolf, moved to Prague. The eccentric emperor left his brothers (Ernest, Matthias, and Maximilian) to rule in his stead.
King Matthias II of Hungary

Thus, Matthias established good relations with the Hungarian, Austrian, and Moravian estates. He took an active part in the operations of the Fifteen Years’ War. Although the actual command was usually given to experienced, battle-hardened Western generals (Mansfeld, Russwurm, Prince Merceur, etc.), the nominal command was always held by one of the Habsburg princes, Matthias or his brother Maximilian.

Matthias portrait as Archduke, 1579
In 1594, Matthias personally led the siege of Esztergom but retreated before the approaching Ottoman general. His hesitation in the Szigetköz region contributed greatly to the fall of Győr to the Turks. The following year, after the death of the talented Karl Mansfeld, he took over the siege of Esztergom, and under his leadership, the castle surrendered on September 2.
Esztergom in 1595
In place of Maximilian, who had lost the battle of Mezőkeresztes and was even less able to take the initiative, Matthias became commander-in-chief again in 1598, and it was under his command that the first siege of Buda in the war took place. However, the operation, launched too late, ended in retreat in November.
The siege of Buda in 1598
In the following years, he did not actually lead the armies, but his deputies did. However, it was largely due to his flexibility that the Peace of Vienna with Prince Bocskai István of Transylvania and the Peace of Zsitvatorok with the Ottomans were signed in 1606.
Emperor Matthias as Archduke
In the Peace of Vienna, the Hungarian Estates were granted more extensive rights than before, freedom of religion, the right to choose the Palatine, and the promise to bring the Holy Crown home to the Kingdom of Hungary from Prague. In the peace treaty at the mouth of the Zsitva, the two exhausted parties concluded a 20-year peace treaty based on the status quo, in which both parties were allowed to keep the territories they held, were promised the release of prisoners, and Rudolf paid the Sultan a lump sum of 200,000 forints. This way, he didn’t have to pay the 30,000 forint annual tax he had been paying for decades. The Habsburgs acknowledged that Transylvania was a vassal of the Porte.
King Matthias II
Rudolf was reluctant to acknowledge the peace treaties, but the increasingly inward-looking monarch, unsuccessful in politics, had lost the confidence of his own family. As soon as the treaties were signed, the archdukes declared Matthias to be the head of the family, and the “Bruderzwist”, the brotherly war soon broke out between the two brothers. Matthias was supported by the Hungarian, Austrian, and Moravian nobility, who also provided him with soldiers. In the end, Matthias, who was marching on Prague, did not need to use arms. On June 25, 1608, Rudolf renounced the Hungarian crown, the Austrian hereditary provinces, and Moravia in the Treaty of Lieben. The Hungarian Holy Crown was transferred from Prague to Pozsony.
Imperial coronation of Matthias in Frankfurt, 1612

Of course, Matthias had to make serious compromises for the help of the Estates. The Peace of Vienna came into force, a large part of society, including the soldiers of the Borderland castles, gained freedom of worship, and the most important offices were filled by the Hungarian nobility. After the death of Nádasdy Tamás in 1562, a new Palatine was elected, and for the first time in history a Protestant leader, Illésházy István, who had participated in the Peace of Vienna and had been sentenced to lose his head and land, was elected. The Diet was given its two-chamber organization, which lasted until 1848.

King Matthias II
In 1611 Matthias took the Bohemian throne from his brother, but he could not become Holy Roman Emperor until Rudolf’s death in 1612. He was forced to make major compromises in Austria and Moravia, but by the end of the 1610s the German nobility, divided into Protestant and Catholic alliances, had reached the point of confrontation. Since Matthias had no children, he made his distant relative, the bigoted Catholic Archduke of Styria Ferdinand, his heir. This was rejected by the Protestant Bohemian Estates, who confronted the Habsburgs on May 23, 1618. They threw the governor and his men out of the windows of Prague Castle (defenestration). The good men did not die because they fell on a huge pile of manure. However, this event triggered the Thirty Years’ War.
During the reign of Matthias II, Hungary was generally peaceful, although his intervention in Transylvanian affairs and his campaign to overthrow Báthory Gábor failed. On May 6, 1615, he signed a peace treaty in Nagyszombat with Bethlen Gábor, the successor of the assassinated Báthory. In the same year, the peace treaty of Zsitvatorok was prolonged.
In 1610 Thurzó György, the successor of the Palatine Illésházy, arrested Báthory Erzsébet, the widow of the Black Bey aka Nádasdy Ferenc, and imprisoned her for life in the castle of Csejte, accusing her of torturing and killing her servant girls. The widow would have been entitled to a court trial, which King Matthias II repeatedly demanded of Thurzó. However, the Palatine skillfully evaded the order, and in the end, the king did not pursue the case any further.
King Matthias II
Unsuccessful policies in Germany and Austria disappointed Matthias. Fortunately for the ailing king, he did not live to see the escalation of the Thirty Years’ War, dying a few months after the defenestration on March 20, 1619. He was buried in the Capuchin Crypt in Vienna, which later became a favorite Habsburg tomb.
King Matthias II
Source: Szibler Gábor

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UNSPECIFIED – SEPTEMBER 20: Portrait of Matthias of Austria (Vienna, 1557-Vienna, 1619), King of Bohemia and Hungary, as Matthias II he was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire and Emperor from 1612 until his death. Painting by Josef Kiss and Friedrich Mayrhofer. Trieste, Castello Di Miramare (Castle) (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)