Queen Beatrice of Aragon died in Naples on September 23, 1508. She was the wife of King Hunyadi Mátyás alias Matthias (reigned 1458-1490) of Hungary and for a short time of King Ulászló II (reigned 1490-1516). Beatrice (or Beatrix) proved to be one of the most unpopular queens of all time, not only because of her childlessness but also because of her alleged lust for power and intrigues.
The second wife of King Matthias Hunyadi, she was born in 1457 to King Ferdinand I of Naples (r. 1458-1494). As the court of the Aragonese dynasty in southern Italy was a bastion of Renaissance culture at the time, Beatrix received a very distinguished upbringing, and her careful education later played a very important role not only in her noble marriage but also in the birth of Hungarian Latinism.
After the death of Matthias’s first wife, Catherine of Podjebrad, in 1464, the monarch was unable to find a new wife, and although Beatrix of Aragon had been promised to two Italian princes, the 17-year-old princess finally became the bride of the Hungarian king.
Two years after the proposal, in the fall of 1476, Beatrix and her large court traveled to Hungary, and in December the royal couple were married in a lavish ceremony.
The arrival of the Neapolitan princess brought radical changes to Visegrád, as Beatrix, accustomed to Italian etiquette, switched from an open and direct court to a more representative – and at the same time more reserved – court life.
The queen later became unpopular for a number of other reasons, the most important of which was that Beatrix was unable to produce an heir to the throne for 14 years, probably because of her infertility.
At the same time, Beatrix’s arrival had a number of positive effects: thanks to her, several famous figures of the Italian Renaissance visited Hungary in the last decade of Matthias’s reign: for example, the historians Antonio Bonfini and Petrus Ransanus, Diomede Caraffa and Roberto Caracciolo, who were inspired by Beatrix herself, traveled to Hungary as a result of their contacts with Naples.
Thanks to the Italian-style court, Visegrád became the center of intellectual life in Central Europe, although, at the same time, Matthias became isolated from his Hungarian environment, which was also frowned upon by the aristocracy of the time. For the reasons mentioned above, Beatrice’s activities were also perceived negatively in other areas, for example, her political ambitions were attributed to her thirst for power from the outset.
As the years went by, the barren queen found herself in a very uncomfortable position, as Matthias, lacking a legitimate heir to the throne, nominated his son, János Corvin, born to Edelpeck Borbála, as his successor. Beatrix, in her bitterness, did her utmost to prevent Prince János Corvin’s successful succession, thwarting the prince’s planned marriage, while at the same time managing to persuade Matthias to elevate her minions to high positions. Read more about Borbála here:
The queen’s unpopularity is shown by the fact that the death of King Matthias in May 1490 was widely attributed to her masterstroke. (My note: Beatrix had already murdered one of her lovers in Naples, so she was apt to commit murder. Sz. G.)
You can read many more details about the death of King Matthias here:
After her widowhood, the ambitious queen did her utmost to preserve her throne by a second marriage, which was considered disloyal and a blatant crime by posterity but was not alien to the spirit of the times (the barons had once hatched a similar plan to marry the widows of Ulászló I (r. 1440-1444) and Albert (r. 1437-1439)).
In October 1490, Beatrix finally managed to get King Ulászló II, who had been invited to the Hungarian throne, to marry her, but the Jagello king was not too keen on the marriage, so he tricked the widow.
Before the wedding, King Ulászló secretly wrote a declaration that he would stand at the altar under duress, and Bishop Bakócz Tamás of Eger – at the groom’s request – deliberately made a mistake during the wedding ceremony. By the time the trick was discovered, Ulászló had already stabilized his rule, and the deceived queen watched helplessly as her patrons, such as Archbishop Hippolytus of Este, were removed from their positions, while the king began a very humiliating and lengthy procedure to annul the marriage.
Finally, in 1500, Pope Alexander VI declared the marriage of Beatrix and King Ulászló null and void, and the queen, having spent most of her fortune, decided to return to her homeland. The humiliated woman spent the last years of her life on the island of Ischia and in Naples, and after her own downfall, she saw the Aragonese dynasty’s power in the peninsula decline during the wars in Italy. The ambitious queen ended her life in Naples on September 23, 1508, and was buried in a convent in the city.
As a result, Beatrice of Aragon has been portrayed in a very negative light, and the otherwise highly intelligent woman is still remembered as a power-hungry schemer. Although the queen was indeed ambitious as a ruler, and on many occasions even confronted King Matthias with her ambitions, her bad reputation is mainly due to the fact that she was unable to bear a child for one of the greatest rulers in Hungarian history – and it was not her fault, but nature’s.
(Szántai Gábor’s note: however, many people remember her as the cold-blooded assassin of the greatest Hungarian king).
/Source: Rubicon – Tarján M. Tamás/
You can read more articles on the life of King Matthias in my Series about him: