Prince Apafi Mihály (1632-1690)
Apafi came to the throne at a time when the Transylvanian state was fatally weakened: after Rákóczi György II (r. 1648-1660) had launched a campaign to seize the throne of Poland in 1657, against the Turkish prohibition, the disobedient prince was punished by the Porte by forcing the Crimean Tatars into Transylvania. You can read more about this war here:
In the years after 1657, all the works of the Golden Age of Transylvania were reduced to ashes, and as a guarantee, Várad castle and the Partium region came under direct Turkish rule from 1660. Kemény János, who had lost his life at the Battle of Sászfenes (22 May 1660), succeeded Rákóczi in the principality after defeating Barcsay Ákos, who had initially been supported by the Turks. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.) Here is more about these princes:
Finally, the Porte chose Apafi, who had been taken prisoner by the Crimean Tatars after the Polish campaign of 1657 and freed for a substantial ransom. He was taken from the side of his wife who was about to deliver a baby by the soldiers of Ali Pasha of Buda for his inauguration on 2 September 1661.
The new prince was understandably unpopular in Transylvania, and the nobles of the country continued to support Kemény János. Apafi’s rule was finally secured by the victory of the Turks in Nagyszőlő in January 1662, during which Kemény János was killed. The new ruler, who was the sole holder of power, came to power under difficult circumstances, and the ominous lesson he had to learn during his reign, following the example of Rákóczi György, was that one wrong decision could lead to the destruction of Transylvania and with it the hopes of a future independent Hungarian state. To understand better the position of Transylvania, here is an article about its semi-independence, based on the lecture of Balla Péter:
As far as possible, Apafi’s reign was a period of prosperity: he restored the manufactories, founded educational institutions, including Romanian schools, promoted religious tolerance, and welcomed scholars and politicians with great hospitality who had fled the Habsburg-ruled Kingdom of Hungary (e.g. However, he had little room for maneuver in foreign policy, as after 1660 the Porte put more pressure than ever on Transylvania, increasing taxes, war taxes and interfering in everyday affairs, so it was not easy for Apafi to carry on the legacy of his predecessors.
The prince’s aim was to preserve the partial independence of Transylvania and to establish an independent Hungary after the expulsion of the Turks, and his main task was to gather forces. Apafi was very much interested in the Kingdom of Hungary, he also contacted the Viennese court, and at the same time supported and later welcomed the lords involved in the Wesselényi conspiracy. In the meantime, however, as a vassal of the Sultan, he was forced to take part in the 1663-64 Treaty of Vasvár, which fixed the unfavorable position of Transylvania after 1660.
Apafi sought the alliance of the French against the Habsburgs in order to preserve independence, and a great achievement of his diplomacy was the mention of Transylvania as an ally of Louis XIV (r. 1643-1715) in the Treaty of Nijmegen of 1679. For the cautiously politicized prince, the action of Thököly Imre was a great blow; the organization of the Kuruc movement had drained the country of the fugitives who, in Apafi’s mind, were the basis of a liberating army. With Thököly’s anti-Habsburg uprising, he essentially squandered this force, and with his “kingdom” in the Highlands, Thököly carved out a fourth part of Hungary.
After the failure of Kara Mustafa’s campaign in Vienna in 1683, the Holy League counterattack could begin, and the liberation of the country began, which initially resulted in a permanent Turkish military presence in Transylvania. Apafi had already joined the Holy League by a secret treaty in early 1684, but the weakening Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Tatar auxiliaries were still a force that the principality could not have withstood.
The recapture of Buda and the Christian victory at Nagyharsány in 1687 only caused the Porte such a loss that it had to relinquish Transylvania, where the troops of the general-in-chief Charles of Lotharingia marched later that year to request winter quarters, which the exhausted Prince of Transylvania could only redeem with two million Forints.
In Balázsfalva, Apafi concluded a treaty with Archduke Charles, on the basis of which the Habsburg Empire would recognize Transylvania’s independent statehood, and also guaranteed to prevent harassment and pillaging by the military on several points. In Vienna, however, this treaty was considered too advantageous for the existing situation, and in 1688 General Caraffa forced Apafi to sign a new treaty at Fogaras castle, in which he accepted the Emperor’s majesty and was forced to renounce his claim to retain an independent Hungarian state from the Habsburgs.
Already after the death of the monarch, Leopold I (r. 1657-1705) issued the Diploma Leopoldinum of 1690, which settled the situation of Transylvania within the Habsburg Empire, granting the principality an independent governorship, a Diet, and greater religious tolerance.
Apafi died in the castle of Fogaras on 15 April, leaving his principality to his son, Apafi Mihály II, who had no real power, but only his title until his death in 1713. In historical memory, Apafi is remembered as a weak-minded ruler and an incompetent prince, a judgment often made in parallel with that of Bethlen Gábor (r. 1613-1629) or Rákóczi György I (r. 1630-1648). Those who condemn Apafi, however, fail to take into account his virtues and the fact that his reign could not have been a golden age, not because of the prince’s fault, but because of the crumbling Transylvania and changing political circumstances, and that his plans were thwarted by forces beyond his control.
Source: Tarján M. Tamás, Rubicon
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