Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

Werbőczi Imre (1510s-1548)

a Hungarian nobleman in the 16th century
His father was the famous Palatine Werbőczi István (1458-1541) who wrote the Tripartitum. (Note, I use the Eastern name order for Hungarian names where family names come first.) The Tripartitum was a collection of Hungarian laws, the “Customary Law of the Renowned Kingdom of Hungary in Three Parts”. Practically, it is a manual of Hungarian customary law completed in 1514 by Werbőczy István and first published at Vienna in 1517. Although it never received official approval, it was highly influential and went through fifty editions in three hundred years.

However, the Tripartitum did not include the so-called written law (parliamentary laws, royal decrees, and statutes of the assemblies of the counties and the statutes of the free royal cities), which were always recorded in the law books after the decisions. 

Werbőczy was a petty nobleman and the Tripatitum “enshrines the ideals of a typical contemporary member of his class”. It asserts the privileges of the nobility against the crown, the equality of all nobles as against the claims of superiority of the upper nobility (magnates), and the onerous duties of serfs. A peasant revolt led by Dózsa György had been suppressed earlier in 1514, which influenced Werbőczy’s harsh treatment of serfs. The Tripartitum played a large role in perpetuating Hungary’s feudal system.

The Tripartitum (1574 edition)

Werbőczy Imre was born in the mid-1510s. His father used to be a faithful supporter of King Szapolyai János but Imre left his father’s side when Sultan Suleiman occupied Buda castle in 1541. Behold, it could have been hard to break up with such a famous father: his father was an internationally accepted scholar who had been appointed to accompany Emperor Charles V to Worms to take up the cudgels against Martin Luther. Moreover, Pope Clement VII had commended Werbőczy as a scholar for his eminence in canon law and theology during Werbőczy’s dispute with Martin Luther at the Imperial Diet of Nurnberg. In 1517 Werbőczy István was appointed the guardian of the infant King Lajos (Louis) II and was sent on a foreign mission to solicit the aid of Christendom against the Turks.  In 1525,  he was the Palatine of the Kingdom of Hungary for a short time.

Werbőczy István

After 1541, his father stayed in Buda and his son must have blamed the fall of Buda to the Turks as his father’s political failure. However, a short time later his father died because he was poisoned, allegedly by the Ottomans. It was the point when his son took the side of King Habsburg Ferdinand. Imre began his military career by fighting regularly against the Turks. His fights took place around his domains in Tolna and in Baranya County. The famous Hungarian poet and musician, Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén was among his retinue. 

Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén (1510s-1556)
It was Tinódi who wrote a song about one of his big victories that took place in the field of Kozár (today: Egyházaskozár). In a nutshell, it happened like this: the Ottoman warriors of Kászim Bey of Mohács were sent for a raid on 15 August 1542. Hearing this, Werbőczi Imre set out with his 225 cavalrymen and 200 infantrymen and went to Szászvár where he took up positions. He thought that the Borderland warriors of Pécs castle would send him reinforcement. Yet, the warriors of Pécs failed to arrive and Werbőczy was very angry. He wanted to return home but he received the news that the raiding Turk party made camp on the field of Kozár, with all the captives they collected to sell on the slave markets. 

  Werbőczi immediately rushed to meet them but the Turks were anticipating his coming. The Hungarian cavalrymen were equipped with long lances and their charge brought a large success, right in the first part of the battle. Many Turks fell while others fled, leaving behind their captives. Werbőczy had already broken his lance and he was injured by a Turk on his face. They began their duel with sharp sabers: but according to Tinódi “his opponent cut the throat of Werbőczy’s nice horse, almost separating its head.” The animal fell on Imre, while the Turk was trying to cut him to pieces. Fortunately, Imre’s trusted men hurried there and rescued their lord, wounding the Turk warrior, then, taking his head, too. During the battle, they killed 90 Turks and captured a further 16 of them. Among the captives, there were Agha Murad, Voivodes Mustafa, and Ibrahim who were taken to Döbrököz castle. As for the 220 Hungarian captives, they were all freed.
the COA of the Werbőczy family
Then, Werbőczi took part in the campaign in the autumn of 1542 that tried to retake Buda castle. After this unsuccessful fight, we find him in Tolna County in December where he was attacking the Ottomans. During the spring of the next year, he fought a duel with Agha Ejmekán who lost his life in the fight. Imre led his 600 cavalrymen to Fehérvár in 1543 and he took part in the defense of the castle. He managed to escape just before the fall of Fehérvár. He left for Győr castle where he joined forces with Zrínyi Miklós, Bakics Péter, and others in order to scatter the Turkish-Crimean Tatar army at Somlóvásárhely that had been plundering the Trans-Danubian Region.
the ruins of Döbrököz castle (by Szöllősi Gábor)
Imre’s castle, Döbrököz fell during the Ottomans’ local campaign of 1545 in spite of his and his valiant men’s efforts. Even the Pasha of Buda acknowledged his deeds. The Pasha wrote about him like this: “Werbőczy István had promised to give him his castle, Döbrököz. Then, he died and his son sided with the German king at once, taking along his castle. From there, he has been doing great harm to the servants of the Sultan as everybody knows it. He never gave the castle to the Sultan as his father had promised it but the Sultan had to send the Pasha of Buda there with lots of cannons and men, losing many warriors while taking it.” Imre was a member of the Valiant Order of the Hungarian Borderland, and fought honestly against the foe all his life. Here is more about the Valiant Order:

As we can see, the Ottomans suffered heavy losses during the siege. Although Bey Kászim wanted to get him hard, Imre somehow managed to escape from Döbrököz through the marshlands. After this, Werbőczi quit King Ferdinand and went to serve the son of King Szapolyai János in Transylvania. He must have been disappointed in the Habsburgs who failed to help Hungary against the enemy. In Transylvania, Imre lived in Vingárt castle, then he moved to Mihálczfalva during the spring of 1548. He died young, not much later, and the Werbőczy family has been discontinued.
Döbrököz castle from the air

Source: Szibler Gábor

You can support my work if you happen to click on an Amazon advertisement in my article and end up buying anything: then, Amazon would give me 1-2% of your purchase. At least they said so. Thank you very much.

Please, subscribe to my page:

Become a Patron!