Writings about King Matthias Corvinus (1443-1490)

King Matthias Corvinus from a Corvina Codex

I thought it most befitting to start remembering the deeds of this monarch by going through the work of Count Zrínyi Miklós aka Nicolas Zrinski (1620-1664) that he had written about King Matthias Corvinus. Zrínyi was the famous great-grandson of Captain Miklós Zrínyi aka Nikola Šubić Zrinski (1508-1566), the Hero of Szigetvár Castle’s siege, and he was also a poet and a military leader of his age who could almost liberate Hungary from the Ottoman Turks, had his efforts not been undermined by Habsburg interests.

The poet and general, Zrínyi Miklós (1620-1664)

He was Hungarian-Croatian but he chose to compose his book about King Matthias in the Hungarian language in 1657. This work is one of his four writings that are not poetic but rather prosaic. He used to bring up the examples of old Hungarian kings, here is what he wrote of King Saint Stephen of Hungary:

„The crown of our old King Saint Stephen is nothing without his sword; it is useless to wear his crown without wearing his sword as well. Other nations that are far from the pagan neighbor, which may have greater hopes, do not see peril as close as we do, can have clothes made of purple, velvet, and damask. We, having suffered so much damage from the pagans, at war with them for so long can only wear chain shirt and armor, in short: weapons and iron.”

(It is in his work „The Remedy for the Turkish Opium”)

The Hungarians’ Sacred Crown (Photo: Ráfael Csaba)

Why did he find it important to write down his observations about the last nationally elected Hungarian king? Did he perhaps want a Hungarian king elected instead of the Habsburgs? 

Let him be our guide in the subsequent chapters of my series that I will post on my page about King Matthias Corvinus, one of the greatest Hungarian kings.

King Matthias Corvinus, Mátyás király

We are going to see it and perhaps we will guess why Zrínyi’s work was not particularly liked in Vienna.
First, let me share with you a few sentences from the introduction of Zrínyi’s writing about King Matthias:

“This king (=Matthias) had not spent the country’s wealth on either crazy buildings or insanely expensive receptions of guests or for making idiots richer but rather for his homeland’s strengthening, making it more glorious and famous. Who would not wish to help such a king with his own added value?”

“Ez a király sem bolond épületekre, sem eszelyős költséges vendégségekre, sem bolondok gazdagítására nem költötte az ország jövedelmét, hanem hazája megmaradására, dícsősítésére és öregbülésére. Kicsoda nem kévánná maga értékével segíteni az ilyen királt?.. .”

These remarks must have been quite timely in Zrínyi’s age and even in our days. King Matthias appears in Hungarian and in European Folklore alike. However, this is the only entry in the famous Folklore Dictionary, where King Matthias is mentioned:

„Kralj Matjaž, King Mathias of the Slovenes, successor to Kresnik, and legendary conqueror of the Turks. Like Kresnik, Matjaž too was married to his sister, Alenčica, whom, in legend, he rescued from the Turks, or in Slovenian traditional ballad, from the underworld. Matjaž is also a king in the mountain, sleeping till the day of Slovenia’s utter need when he will emerge and save everything… It is said that during World War II the peasants thought King Matjaž would ride again and save Slovenia.”
Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore Mythology and Legend. Editor: Maria Leach. New
York, 1950. vol. I. p. 589-590. –

King Matthias and his Queen Beatrix

It is time to translate more about him into English.

Here is a video of the palace of King Matthias Corvinus at Visegrád, with English subtitles:


The COA of Matthias; Buda in 1490; his gold;  Available: https://hungarianottomanwars.myspreadshop.com/

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