The beginning of King Matthias’ Reign
What was the position of the Kingdom of Hungary when King Matthias began his reign in 1458? Was it much different than in the age of Zrínyi Miklós (Nikola Zrinski), nearly two hundred years later? Or today? Let us scrutinize the early stage of his reign with the aid of Zrínyi Miklós and Bajzsi-Zsilinszky Endre. Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first…
Verily, young King Matthias began his reign in a quite unfriendly political environment. Although Sultan Mohamed II, the conqueror of the Byzantine Empire had been dealt with during the warlike governing years of his father, Hunyadi János. However, Matthias simply could not turn the head of his horse towards the Turks while his back was not secure.
The death of László, the elder brother of Matthias was still fresh
Bajcsy-Zsilinszky writes about this in 1939: „The Emperor had been literally trying to paralyze Hunyadi János during his entire career and the Holy Roman Empire did not support him, without the smallest whiffle of Christian solidarity. He was just a spectator and not a supporter of the heroic struggle of the Hungarians against the terrible all-sweeping imperialism of the Ottoman crescent moon. (…) …the old German plan to break the Hungarians’ rule over the Danube Valley and finish their sovereignty was simply not feasible during the reign of King Habsburg László V. due to the freshly gained renown of Hunyadi János. (…) Yet, the situation changed after the election of King Matthias. `The wounds of the Hungarian nation have been reopened` as it was said later by Prince Rákóczi II Ferenc. The Emperor had the Hungarian Crown with him, and he was neither willing to cede the Holy Crown nor give up his claims for the Hungarian throne.”
Zrínyi Miklós (died 1664) appreciated not only the martial talent of King Matthias of Hungary (died 1490) but also praised his political skills. However, Count Zrínyi could not write in a more straightforward manner about the conflict between Matthias and the Germans because of his own contemporary Habsburg Emperor. Nevertheless, he recommended we learn from Matthias’ strong-handed negotiations:
As we had done before, let us follow the writing of Zrínyi who was not accidentally taking his time to write about King Matthias (Mátyás). The parallel is unmistakable if we read what Zrínyi wrote about it in his work born in 1657:
“Mátyás could barely take a good hard grip on the rod of the country, he has had at once three such enemies and armies against him whereas each of them thought to swallow him along with his country. There were two world-owning emperors among them, the German and the Turk, the third one was the Bohemian Giskra in his own country (in Hungary) who was as hard to exterminate as killing off the maggots from the rotten wound.
Come on, brave king, let’s see whether you can be compared to Hercules, the son of Jupiter who had killed two dragons in his cradle at the same time, killing one with each hand. But your situation was even more difficult than his, having your hands full with two enemies already, tell me, what would you do with your third foe, with your traitor servants? Add to this the poverty of your country, the emptiness of your treasury, and the overall confusion in the country for the fear of these great enemies: what are you going to do, where will you begin?
Your general, Nagy Simon has been just defeated, your valiant army is fleeing freely from the Germans, and Vas County is burning with smoke: you can see it from far away. But what worth the gold would have if it burned in a fire, and what would be the worth of a good helmsman if he could steer the boat around only in good weather?
Fate has created these confusions and wars in order to make Mátyás’ road to glory and immortality harder. So the king has pulled together all his cleverness and strength and promised to give amnesty and offices to all the traitors, winning them over to his side.
Then, he sent again Nagy Simon and Count Szentgyörgyi Zsigmond, his former enemy, against the Roman Emperor who has been defeated this time…thus shaking the German thoughts off from the head of the haughty Emperor; who had been menacing, now has begun to fear his prey whom he had held in his house, namely the Crown (my remark: the Holy Crown of the Hungarians was kept in possession of the Emperor and without this crown, no legitimate ruler could be called the king of Hungary, that’s why Matthias had to pay a horrible ransom to get it back later); the Emperor would be happy already if this crown were not in his hand, he thought he would suffer harm if he kept it for long. But the magnanimity of the king saved the Emperor from this fear; he cast a milk loaf into the throat of the Emperor as Aeneas did it to Cerberus, cast seventy-thousand gold pieces to cover his stingy eyes. (Mean: ransoming the Crown)
On the other hand, Rozgonyi Sebestyén was driving out the Bohemians from their many holes but he was unable to throw Giskra out without the king; the king set out against him with his full force and entire army; being greater, his untamable soul has tamed him, turning Giskra, the captain of thieves into his faithful and valiant follower. (My remark: later, Giskra’s Bohemian Hussite mercenaries became the core of the king’s Black Army, the first standing army in Europe.) Other kings would have waited for catching him for a long time, fighting against the wind, pursuing him from town to town; but our king had not thought of these vain thoughts; instead, he wished to serve the common good and didn’t pursue to be praised…
In the third part, the Turk has beaten the country. Hali Bey, a famous and valiant soldier of his age, has tried the luck of the king twice, once between the Száva and the Danube Rivers, and once in Transylvania. Yet, he had paid dearly for having given a try because both he and his army have winded up disgracefully; for he left behind his booty and the lives of half of his warriors and all his honor and this gave a deservedly good reason to him to write to his own Sultan that although the years of the Hungarian king are young, yet his renown and wisdom, luck are mature and thick; and the Sultan should not feel ashamed for the defeat of his army nor regard him off-handed if he wanted no harm coming to the Muslim Empire because of this child. The action of the king has been proof of Bey Hali’s letter because he has marched against Jajca Castle which was so strong that it would have been impossible to take for anybody else, except Mátyás who touched it in a Hungarian manner and took it easily, causing eternal dishonor and annoyance to the Turk Sultan. Sultan Mahomet wanted to take revenge, set out with lots of preparations, surrounded Jajca, trying to retake it with a hard siege.
(See Jajca Castle here: https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/ottoman-occupied-lands/jajca/ )
Yet, the king hasn’t fallen asleep like the Emperor had done it before and he sent his army, letting Szapolyai Imre (who was called Scribe Imre at that time) go ahead of them.
Beat him, Sultan, if you dare this scribe, face the king’s army if you want to seem as terrible as you tell it to the world.
No, Mahomet did not wish it, knowing that wherever the Hungarian army was heard to come, the king was among them whom he did not think a good idea to face. The Sultan has gone from Jajca like the smoke, leaving behind his tents, cannons, his great wealth. Who scared him off? It was God, who gifted such a terrible power to the name of the king that nobody dared to meet him on the field, so much so that even the little girls were singing this song everywhere about Sultan Mahomet: “When he saw the flag of the king, he let the mouth of his good horse run.”
Conclusion: Hungary was surrounded by many mighty enemies but the young king was able to fight them in spite of his young age. He beat the Bohemians, the Germans, and the Turks with the help of his capable generals. In his work, Zrínyi was visibly yearning for a king like him.
Sources: Zrínyi Miklós, Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Endre, Őseink és unokáink https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100064700707283
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