Palatine Báthory István (c 1480-1530)
The powerful Báthory family’s ancestor was the German Gutkeled Clan that was invited to Hungary in the 11th century. However, by the 16th century, they considered themselves Hungarian, and I will use the Oriental name order for their names whereas family names came first, according to the Hungarian customs. Now, let us talk about Báthory István who played a significant role in helping Habsburg Ferdinand to seize the Hungarian throne after the Battle of Mohács in 1526.
Báthory István, who came from the Ecsed branch of the family, has been lame since his birth, hence he was nicknamed the “Lame”. His father was Báthory András, a royal stablemaster, and his mother was Rátóti Julianna. His date of birth is unknown, it is thought it was sometime in the mid-1480s. His name appears in the sources since 1490. His wife, whom he married in 1521, was Princess Sophia, daughter of the Prince of Mazovia. He had a son from her. You can read more about Nyírbátor where the headquarter of the family used to be:
The king appointed him the chief Comes of Szatmár and Zala counties in 1506. He, together with Bornemissza János became the tutor of the young Prince Louis (Lajos), the later King Louis II of Hungary. Between 1508 and 1511 he became the Castellan of Buda castle, it was his rank when he accompanied Prince Louis to be crowned King of the Czechs in 1509. When Louis was crowned, he acted as his teacher.
In 1511, he was appointed as Comes of Temes County and Chief Captain of the Lower Parts of Hungary. This was a dangerous zone close to the Ottomans, roughly included the counties between the River Maros (Mureş) and the Lower-Danube, as well as the counties of Bodrog and Bács. He was very much needed there: on October 12, 1512, he destroyed the raiding Turkish army in the Battle of Illadia.
However, during the peasant war led by Dózsa György in 1514, he had a rather unfortunate role. In May, in the battle of Apátfalva, Csáky Miklós, together with Bishop Csanád, shattered the vanguard of the peasants. The noblemen thought they had scattered the entire peasant army and got heavily drunk, they were celebrating the victory with their soldiers. Taking advantage of their lack of discipline, Dózsa surprised them at Nagylak. Báthory could hardly escape, he retreated to Temesvár (Timisoara), and then the peasant armies besieged his castle. He turned to the Transylvanian voivode, Szapolyai János, for help.
The two of them were thought to have been lethal enemies of each other, but according to the research of Tóth C. Norbert, they had a very good working relationship with each other. In the summer of 1514, Szapolyai defeated the peasant army at Temesvár and rescued Báthory from his distressing situation. Having mercilessly put down the peasants, the following year they led a war together to siege Zsarnó Castle but the campaign ended unsuccessfully.
The king appointed him royal counselor in 1518, and the following year he was appointed a Palatine. It was the highest rank below the monarch. During the Ottoman siege of Nándorfehérvár aka Belgrad (1521), he marched to the southern border, but due to the outbreak of an epidemic in the army, he could not achieve any results. Nándorfehérvár fell to the Turks, and the southern gate of the kingdom stood ajar before the enemy.
During the Diet held in 1523, the oligarch was replaced but was re-appointed as a Palatine the next year. He was again replaced by the pressure of the lower-rank noblemen in 1525, but King Lajos (Louis) II re-appointed him after a year. As I have heard, allegedly it was because of the influence of the king’s wife, Queen Habsburg Maria.
Báthory István took part in the battle of Mohács in 1526 as a Palatine, from which he escaped through the self-sacrifice of his servant. The grateful lord later ransomed his servant, Kecskés Pál from his captivity. From Mohács, Báthory rode straight to his castle at Dévény that was next to Pozsony (Bratislava) castle. Anyone controlled Dévény, controlled the road between Vienna and Buda. Báthory was one of the few high-ranking noblemen who joined the side of Queen Habsburg Maria. Perhaps he guessed that his enemy, Szapolyai will have himself crowned very soon. Anyway, Habsburg Ferdinand’s army could not have attacked Hungary if Báthory had blocked his road at Dévény.
The Dual Kingship commenced in Hungary, Ferdinand and Szapolyai were both kings of the country. However, Ferdinand rewarded Báthory by confirming his rank as a Palatine. He also received Dévény and Kőszeg from him. Until Báthory’s death, Szapolyai hoped to be able to lure his former contestant to his side, though. Szapolyai did not even appoint a palatine until 1530. While Báthory acted as a Palatine, Ferdinand experienced how much power a Palatine really had. Learning from his lesson, he refused to appoint Báthory’s successor until 1554.
Palatine Báthory died in the castle of Dévény, and he was buried by his wife in the St. Martin’s Church in Pozsony (Bratislava). There came many more members from the two branches of the Báthory family who filled high offices and changed Hungarian (and Polish) history for the better or for the worse. As for me, Báthory István does not belong to the group of those Báthory family members who were the “good guys”, things would have turned out very differently without him.
Source: Szibler Gábor
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