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 that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarian names, where the surname comes first). The Tripartitum was a collection of Hungarian laws, the “Common Law of the Esteemed Kingdom of Hungary in Three Parts”. In practice, it is a manual of Hungarian common law completed by Werbőczy István in 1514 and first published in Vienna in 1517. 
Hungary was divided between Ferdinand and Szapolyai: the Turks occupied the middle of the kingdom only after 1541.
Although it never received official recognition, it was very 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 county assemblies and statutes of the free royal cities), which were always recorded in the law books after the decisions.
The Peasant War of Dózsa in 1514 had weakened the kingdom before the Turk attack

Werbőczy István 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 over the crown, the equality of all nobles over the claims of superiority of the upper nobility (magnates), and the burdensome duties of serfs. A peasant uprising led by Dózsa György had been suppressed in 1514, which influenced Werbőczy’s harsh treatment of serfs. The Tripartite played an important role in maintaining the feudal system in Hungary.

The Tripartitum (1574 edition)

Werbőczy Imre was born in the middle of the 1510s. His father was a loyal supporter of King Szapolyai János, but Imre left his father’s side when Sultan Suleiman occupied Buda Castle in 1541. Imre’s father was an internationally recognized scholar who had been appointed to accompany Emperor Charles V to Worms to take up the cudgels against Martin Luther.

In addition, 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 Nuremberg. In 1517, Werbőczy István was appointed guardian of the infant King Lajos (Louis) II and sent on a foreign mission to enlist the aid of Christendom against the Turks. In 1525 he was for a short time palatine of the Kingdom of Hungary.

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 of poisoning, allegedly by the Ottomans. It was at this point that his son sided with King Ferdinand of Habsburg. Imre began his military career by fighting regularly against the Turks. His battles took place around his estates in Tolna and Baranya County. The famous Hungarian poet and musician Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén was among his followers.

Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén (1510s-1556)
It was Tinódi who wrote a song about one of his great victories, which took place on the field of Kozár (today: Egyházaskozár). In a nutshell, on August 15, 1542, the Ottoman warriors of Kászim Bey of Mohács were sent on a raid. When he heard the news, Werbőczi Imre with his 225 cavalrymen and 200 infantrymen went to Szászvár, where he took up his position. He thought that the border warriors of Pécs Castle would send him reinforcements. But the warriors from Pécs did not arrive and Werbőczy was very angry. He wanted to return home, but he received the news that the Turkish raiding party had set up camp on the field of Kozár with all the captives they had collected to sell on the slave markets.
Erhard Schön: Ottoman slave market, 1532

Werbőczi immediately rushed to meet them, but the Turks anticipated his arrival. The Hungarian cavalrymen were equipped with long lances and their charge brought great success right in the first part of the battle. Many Turks fell, while others fled, leaving their prisoners behind. Werbőczy had already broken his lance and was wounded in the face by a Turk. They started their duel with sharp sabers: but according to Tinódi, “his opponent cut the throat of Werbőczy’s beautiful horse, almost severing its head”.

“The Duel” (painting by Zichy Mihály) – though it was another duel
The animal fell on Imre while the Turk tried to cut it into pieces. Fortunately, Imre’s trusted men rushed in and saved their lord, wounded the Turkish warrior, and took his head as well. During the battle, they killed 90 Turks and captured another 16 of them. Agha Murad, Voivodes Mustafa, and Ibrahim were among the prisoners who were taken to Döbrököz Castle. As for the 220 Hungarian prisoners, they were all released.
the COA of the Werbőczy family
Then, in the fall of 1542, Werbőczi took part in the campaign to retake Buda Castle. After this unsuccessful battle, we find him in December in Tolna County, where he attacked the Ottomans. In the spring of the following year, he fought a duel with Agha Ejmekán, who lost his life in the battle. Imre led his 600 cavalrymen to Fehérvár in 1543 and took part in the defense of the castle. He managed to escape just before the fall of Fehérvár. He went to the castle of Győr, where he joined forces with Zrínyi Miklós, Bakics Péter, and others to scatter the Turkish-Crimean Tatar army that was plundering the Trans-Danubian region at Somlóvásárhely.
the ruins of Döbrököz castle (by Szöllősi Gábor)
Imre’s castle, Döbrököz, fell during the local campaign of the Ottomans in 1545, despite the efforts of Imre and his brave men. Even the Pasha of Buda recognized his deeds. The pasha wrote the following about him: “Werbőczy István had promised to give him his castle, Döbrököz. Then he died and his son immediately sided with the German king and took his castle with him. From there he did great harm to the servants of the Sultan, as everyone knows. He never gave the castle to the Sultan as his father had promised, but the Sultan had to send the Pasha of Buda there with a lot of cannons and men, losing many warriors in the process”. Imre was a member of the Valiant Order of the Hungarian Borderland and fought honestly against the enemy all his life. Read more about the Valiant Order here:


a duel in the 16th century between Turks and Hungarians
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 marshes. After that, Werbőczi left King Ferdinand and went to serve the son of King Szapolyai János in Transylvania. He must have been disappointed with the Habsburgs who did not help Hungary against the enemy. In Transylvania, Imre lived in the castle of Vingárt, then he moved to Mihálczfalva in the spring of 1548. He died young, not much later, and the Werbőczy family ceased to exist.
Döbrököz castle from the air

Source: Szibler Gábor

Dear Readers, I can only make this content available through small donations or by selling my books or T-shirts. 

If you like my writings, please  feel free to support me with a coffee here:

You can check out my books on Amazon or Draft2Digital, they are available in hardcover, paperback, or ebook:


or at https://books2read.com/b/boYd81

“33 Castles, Battles, Legends” (Paperback)
“The Ring of Kékkő Castle” (Paperback)

 My work can also be followed and supported on Patreon:

Become a Patron!

Available in my shop: https://hungarianottomanwars.myspreadshop.com/