Prince Corvin János, son of King Matthias (1473-1504)

Prince Corvin János (the drawing of Cserna Károly, made after the mural in the church of Lepoglava)

The illegitimate son of King Matthias and a bourgeois girl from Stein (now part of Krems), Barbara Edelpeck, was born in Buda on 2 April 1473. The boy was surnamed after Matthias’ heraldic animal, the raven (Latin: Corvus), and his first name was given to him in honor of his grandfather, Hunyadi János, the hero of Nándorfehérvár. He was brought up by his grandmother, Szilágyi Erzsébet, and his mind was trained by Taddeo Ugoletti, head of the Corvina Library. In childhood, his left leg was dislocated and he was lame for the rest of his life. You can read more about the relationship between his mother and King Matthias here:

Baldassare Estense: the young Corvin János

His father initially intended for him to become a priest, and in 1480 he nominated him for the bishop of Győr. But when he found out that Queen Beatrix of Aragon, who had married him in 1476, was unable to bear him a child, he took him to himself and chose him as his successor. He gave him a growing number of estates, castles, palaces, and titles. Corvin János also became the prince of Silesia and Troppau. In 1485 the citizens of occupied Vienna swore allegiance to him for the first time. Matthias gave his natural son the upbringing befitting an heir to the throne, bestowing on him many titles and estates so that after his death János would have the strength to take the crown.

Sforza Bianka, Princess of Milan
In November 1487, he married Bianca Sforza of Milan but she was only represented by his agent. Matthias’s wife, Beatrix, was not so fond of her stepson – although her jealousy was unfounded since she did not bear children – and the thwarting of Corvin’s planned marriage to Maria Sforza Bianca (who later became the wife of Emperor Nicholas I) was partly due to her, but there was no open conflict between the prince and the queen. Thus, Bianca never visited Hungary, and in 1493 the Pope finally dissolved the marriage, which was never consummated. Matthias made all the lords on several occasions swear an oath to support the succession of his illegitimate son, who was by then the richest landowner in the country.
Prince Corvin János entered Vienna (in the Philostratus Codex)
After the death of Matthias, however, the Hungarian noble estates did not support Corvin, and in the summer of 1490 the armies of Kinizsi Pál and Báthory István who were considered his father’s most loyal soldiers, defeated Corvin’s army marching with the Holy Crown at Csonthegy. You can read more details about this battle here:
The tombstone of Kinizsi Pál (in Hungary)
The young, and apparently rather half-hearted, prince renounced his claim to the throne in favor of Ulászló II, whose coronation in September he himself carried the crown. He was appointed King of Bosnia and Prince of Slavonia. He recaptured the southern provinces occupied by King Maximilian of Germany.
King Ulászló II
In 1495, he renounced his title as a Slavonic prince and was granted the Croatian-Dalmatian Banate (Bánság / Dukedom). In 1496 he married again, this time to Beatrix of Frangepán, thus becoming related to one of the most influential dynasties in Croatia. When he incited a rebellion against Ulászló in 1497, the king stripped him of his title of Bán (Duke). It was only after his reconciliation with the monarch in 1498 that he regained it.
At his own expense, he recruited soldiers to successfully defend the southern part of the Kingdom of Hungary. He defeated the Turks at Sebenico in 1499 and Mostar in 1500. In 1501, despite the defeat he suffered, he broke the siege ring around Jajca castle. 
Jajca castle
Photo: Igor Trklja
When he renounced the Duchy of Troppau, he received the property of the Pongrác family of Dengeleg (who were related to him). He then succeeded in acquiring part of the Geréb family’s fortune and was in a good financial position when he wanted to be elected as a Palatine in 1503. The small noble party nominated him as the country’s first noble dignity, but Archbishop Bakócz Tamás of Esztergom prevented his election.
Prince Corvin János

In early October 1504, he was defeated by the Turks in Croatia. It was probably here that he died of his wounds a few days later, on 12 October at Korpona. He was 31 years old. According to other sources, he died in the plague but there was also gossip that he was poisoned. An excellent soldier, multilingual (German, Latin, Hungarian, Croatian), and a sophisticated Latinist, the prince was buried in the monastery of Lepoglava. His gravestone has survived.

The gravestone of Corvin János, as it was created in the 18th century (Source: Illik Péter)
Unfortunately, his only son, Kristóf died the following year, and the Hunyadi family died with him. His daughter Elizabeth did not survive her father for long, passing away in 1508. She is buried in Gyula Castle. The Hunyadi clan was also discontinued on the daughter line.
The re-opening of Corvin János’ gravestone
In January 2021, the Hungarian Research Institute (Magyarságkutató Intézet) identified the DNA profiles of Corvin János and Corvin Kristóf – i.e. the House of Hunyadi. Thanks to bone samples taken from the tomb in front of the main altar of the Pauline monastery in Lepoglava, enabled us to identify all the ancestors and descendants of the Hunyadi family.
The COA of the Hunyadi family
Sources: Szibler Gábor, Tarján Tamás, Magyarságkutató Intézet

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The original gravestone of Corvin János (Photo: Lázár Tamás)