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2: The National Kingdom

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AFTER Stephen's death in 1038 Hungary experienced a long period of fluctuating fortunes, for which disputes for the crown were chiefly responsible. There was still no recognised law of succession: the Árpád family tradition, following the national usage, recognised the principle of senioratus, while the natural affection of kings caused them repeatedly to seek to pass over a brother or an uncle in favour of a son. While rebellion against a king recognised as legitimately crowned was rare, there were frequent disputes between rival pretendents to the crown, these civil wars being greatly facilitated by the custom of assigning one third of the country as his appanage to the king's next of kin, known as the 'dux' or 'herceg',whowas thus able to raise an army from among his own followers.

The disputes began almost immediately after Stephen's death. All his sons had died in infancy except one, Imre, and he, too, had predeceased his father. Stephen bequeathed his throne to a nephew, Peter, son of his sister and the Doge Otto Orseolo. Peter was an overbearing youth who disliked his subjects and soon had them in arms against him. In 1041 they rebelled, driving him to take refuge at the court of the Emperor Henry III, and in his place elected Samuel Aba, a 'Kun' who had married another of Stephen's sisters. Aba proved as violent, in other directions, as Peter, who came back, assisted by Henry, in 1046. Aba, fleeing, was strangled by 'Hungarians whom he had harmed during his reign'. Peter was reinstated, but his rule was more unpopular than ever, and the Hungarians now bethought them of the surviving members of the House of Árpád - three brothers, Andrew, Béla and Levente, the sons of Stephen's nephew, Vászoly, who had been living in exile in Poland since their father had committed some offence which had caused Stephen to throw him into prison and put out his eyes. The brothers were called back; Peter was killed in flight, and Andrew became king (1047). He lived peaceably with his brothers until he tried to secure the succession for his seven-year-old son, Salamon, whom he had married as an infant to the Emperor Henry III's child daughter, Judith. Levente had renounced his rights rather than accept Christianity, but when Andrew actually had Salamon crowned, Béla revolted. Andrew was killed in the fighting, Salamon took refuge with his father-in-law and Béla mounted the throne (1060). When he died in 1063, his two sons, Géza and Ladislas, who were mutually devoted, at first accepted Salamon as the lawful king, but in 1074 the cousins quarrelled and Salamon was evicted. Géza ruled for three years (1074-7) and Ladislas after him for eighteen (1077-95). Ladislas had only a daughter, and designated as his successor Almus, the younger of Géza's two sons, the elder, Kálmán, having been destined for the church. However, Kálmán seized the throne on his uncle's death, and although Almus at first accepted the situation, the brothers ended by quarrelling and Kálmán had both Almus and his infant son, Béla, blinded. Kálmán then finished his rule (1095-1116) unchallenged, as did his son Stephen II (1116-31) after him. Dying childless, Stephen was succeeded by the blind Béla II, who had been brought up in secrecy by his father's friends. Under Béla (1131-41) and his son Géza II (1141-62) there was no important internal discord, but the succession of Géza's son, Stephen III (1167-72) was disputed, first by his eldest uncle, Ladislas II, who seized the throne in 1162, and after Ladislas' death, in January 1163, by his younger brother, Stephen IV. Stephen IV's death in the spring of 1165 happily exhausted the sum of Stephen III's uncles, and he had no sons. His brother and successor, Béla III (1172-90) had no domestic rivals to his throne, but the short reign of his elder son, Imre (1196-1204) was spent largely in strife with his younger brother, Andrew, who on Imre's death expelled his infant son, Ladislas IV (who, fortunately for his country, died the next year) before beginning his own long reign (1205 - 35).

This endemic dynastic warfare did Hungary much harm. Not only did the fighting which accompanied it bring with it loss of blood and material devastation, but many claimants to the throne called in foreign help - German, Polish and, in the twelfth century, Byzantine - thus opening the way to foreign interference in the country's internal affairs and sometimes bringing political degradation and temporary or permanent losses of territory. Both Peter and Salamon sacrificed the independent status which St Stephen had won for Hungary by doing homage for their thrones to the Emperor. Stephen III's uncles were clients of Byzantium. Aba's wars against Peter's protectors lost Hungary her territory west of the Leitha, which thereafter became the AustroHungarian frontier until 1918. Syrmium and Dalmatia, acquired earlier, were temporarily lost in the twelfth century.

For all this, it must be said that Hungary was, on the whole, lucky in its kings. Quarrelsome as they were, they were generally able, and often attractive. Ladislas I, who, like Stephen and his son, Imre, was canonised after his death, was the outstanding personality among them: a true paladin and gentle knight, a protector of his faith and his people, and of the poor and defenceless. Kálmán, nicknamed 'the Bookman', was, in spite of his atrocious crime against his brother and nephew, an exceptionally shrewd and enlightened ruler (it was he who enacted a famous Law forbidding trials of witches (strigae), quia non sunt). Several other of the Árpáds were men of ability and of endearing nature. Of them all, only Stephen II was almost entirely bad, and Andrew II, irremediably silly.

There were several factors favourable to Hungary's development in the eleventh and twelfth centuries; chief among them, perhaps, the unusually peaceful conditions prevailing during this period in the steppes. The Petchenegs, who had driven the Magyars into Hungary, were themselves pushed into the Balkans in the eleventh century by the Cumans, whose main power was based further east. Hungary suffered only two severe inroads from them, in 1068 and 1091 respectively, and both were incursions of raiding parties which returned to the steppes with their booty. After Austria grew big at the expense of Germany, most of Hungary's other neighbours were approximately her equals in strength, and Hungary contrived to live with most of them on reasonably friendly terms, particularly since all the smaller countries soon came to be linked by a network of dynastic marriages. The wars which did take place were usually family affairs, waged in support of some claimant to a throne and not with the idea of expansion, for the local nations, including the Hungarians, did not think in terms of national imperialism. 'Who', wrote a chronicler once, 'ever heard of Hungarians ruling Czechs, or Czechs, Hungarians?' One of the great virtues of the Árpáds as rulers was that, in the main, they accepted this outlook.

In these relatively peaceful conditions, the population of Hungary increased rapidly, the natural growth being reinforced by a steady flow of immigration. By the end of the twelfth century the cultivable parts of the Dunántúl carried a reasonably dense population, and the Great Plain, too, was beginning to fill up, although more slowly. The valleys of the Vág and Nyitra, the political appurtenance of which had perhaps been doubtful in the tenth century, now came definitively under Hungarian rule, and Transylvania was effectively occupied (probably in several stages) and incorporated. The frontier now ran along the crest of the western Carpathians, through the Tatra, across the upper Poprad valley, and thence along the watershed of the eastern Carpathians and the Transylvanian Alps. Here, too, there was growth. The valleys debouching from these mountains into the plain filled up, while the upper valleys and the basins behind the passes were settled with semi-military communities. Hungarian expansion did not reach into the Austrian Alps, which were now being recolonised and consolidated by the Babenbergs, nor across the Sava and Danube in the south, but Syrmium was conquered and colonised about 1060, and in 1089-90 Ladislas I occupied (or perhaps reoccupied) 'Slavonia', between the middle courses of the Sava and the Drava. In addition, Kálmán, in 1097 took possession of the former kingdom of Croatia, of which he was crowned king in 1106, having meanwhile secured possession also of the northern Dalmatian coast through a complex transaction which included the betrothal of his cousin, Piroska, to John Comnenus, then heir to the Byzantine throne.

Croatia was a dynastic acquisition. How far the Hungaro-Croat union was real (in later phraseology), and how far only personal, is a question which the historians of the two countries argue and can never resolve, since they are talking in terms to which the Middle Ages assigned no precise and immutable meaning. It is certain that Croatia was never treated as an integral part of Hungary. The royal title ran 'King of Hungary and Croatia' and Croatia was administered by a viceroy ('Ban') through its own institutions.

But there were close links, even here; for instance, the Croat privileged classes seem to have enjoyed automatically the status of their Hungarian counterparts. And the advance to the frontiers in the north and east was a process of organic expansion from the earlier nucleus. The normal procedure was to advance the gyepü when conditions allowed, incorporating the former gyepü land into the county system, and forming a new gyepü beyond it. Eventually, when the frontiers became clearly fixed, counties came into being along the whole line. Transylvania was a partial exception. Here the colonisation was exceptionally extensive, and carried through largely with non-Magyar elements. First a screen of Szekels was set in front of the Magyar settlements in the west of the country, and then the Szekels were moved forward into the valleys behind the main eastern passes, the Magyars following behind them. Then 'Saxons' (really Germans from the Rhineland) were settled in the gaps in the line, round Sibiu, Brassó and Beszterce. Both the Saxons and the Szekels enjoyed extensive self-government, the former directly under the king, the latter under a 'Count of the Szekels' representing him; and the whole area, Saxon and Szekel districts and Hungarian counties, was, in view of its dangerous and exposed situation and its remoteness from the capital, placed under a local governor, the 'Voivode of Transylvania'. Unlike Croatia, however, Transylvania was not a separate Land of the Hungarian Crown, but simply an administratively distinct part of the kingdom of Hungary.

Thus even if we leave Croatia out of the account, the effective area of Hungary had by 1200 almost doubled since the original occupation and its population had risen to the big figure (for the time) of some two millions.

The political unity which had been the first of Stephen's great gifts to his country had survived, and so had his second gift of Christianity. His death had, indeed, been followed by a powerful reaction in which attachment to the old beliefs had been inflamed by resentment against both the discipline and the economic burdens (especially that of tithe) imposed by the new faith, and by its foreign associations, as personified in the German and Italian clerics. The second revolt against Peter had been led by the pagan party, who had expected the sons of Vászoly to restore the old religion. In this outburst many monks and clerics had perished, including the saintly St Gerard (Gellért), martyred on the hill overlooking Buda which still bears his name. A second outbreak had occurred in 1063. After this had been put down, however, Christianity had not again been in danger. None of Stephen's successors had rested their power on the church quite so explicitly as he, but several of them, notably Ladislas I, had been powerful protectors and generous patrons of it. The ecclesiastical organisation of the country had been extended pari passu with its political expansion, and the network of monasteries covering the country had grown denser.

Many of the monks were foreigners, chiefly Germans, but some of them Italians or Frenchmen. Their presence had helped to raise the cultural standards of the country, and had also assisted it to make important progress in other fields. By the middle of the twelfth century, agriculture was beginning to go over from stock-breeding to arable farming and viticulture. There were already some towns. The gold, silver and salt-mines were coming into fuller production, to the especial benefit of the king's treasury, into which their yield went. Hungarian coins, and also some Hungarian products, found their way far afield.

All this growth was, of course, gradual, but it soon enabled Hungary to meet any of her neighbours on at least equal terms. In fact, after the accession of Ladislas I, nothing was heard for a long time of German claims to overlordship. Later, the Emperor Manuel Comnenus made pertinacious efforts to establish suzerainty over Hungary, which he invaded no less than ten times in twenty-two years; but although vexatious, his attempts never seriously threatened Hungarian independence. After 1100, indeed, it was more often the Hungarian kings who intervened in their neighbours' affairs, than the converse. Both Kálmán and Stephen II intervened repeatedly in various Russian principalities. Béla III, who had been brought up at the Byzantine court and destined by Manuel, before his marriage, for his heir, ended by turning the tables, and although he did not succeed in acquiring the imperial crown, the lustre of his own easily outshone that of Manuel's successors. He largely dominated the Balkans and also, for a while, exercised sovereignty over Halics.(1) Hungary in his day was almost, or quite, the leading power in south-eastern Europe. Symbolic of this was the fact that while his predecessors' consorts had most often been the daughters of Polish, Russian or Balkan prince-lets, Béla's father-in-law was the king of France himself. An interesting document - the statement of his revenues -sent by Béla to his prospective father-in-law during the marriage negotiations, shows that these were equal to those of his English and French contemporaries and inferior only to those of the two Emperors.

The political form of the country during the period remained that of the absolutist patrimonial kingship. On the very few occasions on which a revision of the laws was undertaken, the optimates, as well as the chief prelates, were consulted, and the king's Council seems to have evolved into a recognised permanent institution. Nevertheless, up to the reign of Andrew II, the field of the king's prerogatives was not restricted and his authority in matters falling within it remained as absolute.

Otto of Freising, writing in the twelfth century, notes that if any grandee committed, or was even suspected of, an offence against the king's majesty, the king could send from his court a servant, of however low degree, who could, single-handed, throw the offender into chains before his

own adherents and carry him off to torture. It was only Andrew's follies and extravagances that produced a revolt, in consequence of which he was forced, in the famous Golden Bull of 1222, to submit to certain restrictions on his freedom of action (e.g., not to appoint foreigners to office without the consent of the Council), and to concede that if he or any of his successors violated these promises, he prelates and other dignitaries and nobles of the realm hould be free to 'resist and withstand' such violation with-out imputation of high treason. This jus resistendi remained a treasured, although seldom invoked, right of the Hungarian nation for more than four centuries thereafter.(2)

Other clauses of this famous charter dealt with the position of the freemen - that body which later usage knew as the 'Hungarian nation'.(3) Since St Stephen's day the composition in terms of ancestry of this class must have changed largely, for the limitation of 'noble' status (the term 'noble' was just coming into usage, but may conveniently be used here) to the male line must of itself already have greatly diminished the number of families able to claim it jure descensus a Scythia; not to mention the high mortality rate in a class which by definition was military. Other former freemen had lost their status through rebellion or personal crime, had had it filched from them by powerful neighbours, or had been driven by need to take employment out of their class. On the other and, successive kings had repeatedly carried through the necessary replenishment of the national defence forces by promoting unfree elements or importing foreigners.

The relative measure (it had, of course, never been more than relative) of economic homogeneity which steppe economy had enabled the old class to preserve had also naturally vanished apace under the new conditions, and especially with the transition to private property in land. Foolish kings or pretendents to the Crown had accelerated the process by buying, or rewarding, supporters with grants of land, sometimes very large, and even in the twelfth century we find here and there magnates who own vast estates and demean themselves on them in almost regal fashion. At the other extreme, many 'nobles' sank into real poverty, while preserving their political status. These 'sandalled nobles', as later generations called them, may already have outnumbered the more prosperous members of the 'nation'.

The wiser kings had, however, fought against the development of a magnate class so Kálmán had enacted that all donations made since St Stephen's day should revert to the Crown on the extinction of the beneficiaries' direct heirs - and had reflised to make offices of state hereditary. The class had thus never become institutionalised, and it had, incidentally, accelerated its own metabolism by the frequent commission of offences which entailed confiscation of its estates. The 'nation' had thus never developed along the hierarchical lines which characterised the societies of the contemporary western and central Europe. The most serious threat, to date, to the freedom of its weaker members, had come during Andrew's reign - he had been a notable offender in the matter of lavish bestowal of estates on supporters - and they had then revolted in defence of their old liberties. The most important clauses of the Golden Bull were those which restored their original status, making the 'nation' once more a legally undifferentiated class, the body politic - under and with the king - of Hungary, all of whose members had the same duty of bearing arms when required(4) and the same privilege of paying no taxation to the civic power.

The passage of time had, indeed, altered the social and political function of the 'nation' in another important respect. As we have said, the warriors who followed Árpád across the Carpathians were probably nearly, if not quite as numerous as their domestic slaves and the autochthonous populations put together: they could not unreasonably claim to be Hungary incorporate. But the promotions to their ranks, which in any case grew much rarer in the twelfth century,(5) probably did not even make good the wastage; they certainly did not keep pace with the growth of the unfree population. They dwindled to an oligarchy numbering only a comparatively small fraction of the total population. Further, the transition to private ownership of land, which gathered pace with the spread of arable farming, and took place equally on clan and crown land, combined with the effects of two centuries of donation, confiscation and migration, had altered the geographical distribution of the class. The old relatively clear-cut division into clan and crown lands was gone. There were still substantial areas of purely crown land, still pockets of clan land held by communities of small nobles, but by and large, the nobles were in the thirteenth century developing into a landlord class, spread fairly evenly over the entire country.

This change brought with it a modification of the political organisation. The county system now covered the whole country, except for the royal free boroughs and the specially exempted areas, such as those donated to the Transylvanian Saxons; and whatever the position may have been before, the nobles of each county now had to recognise the authority of the local Ispán. Towards the end of Andrew II's reign the nobles of one county initiated the practice, which was later generalised and institutionalised, of electing four of their own members in practice, naturally, respected and influential men - as 'assessors' to represent their interests against encroachments by tyrannous Ispáns or lawless magnates. By 1267 this identification of the administration with the local nobility had gone so far that Béla IV ordered that two or three nobles from each county should attend the Court which he promised to hold annually for the airing of grievances.

Among the other classes of the population, slavery was on its way out. Still fairly common at the beginning of the thirteenth century, it had almost disappeared by the end of it, except for a few non-Christian slaves. The rest of the unfree population, although still politically non-existent, were now no longer chattels and enjoyed a measure of security in law. Some were farm-hands or craftsmen, employed on the big estates, lay or ecclesiastical; others in practice tenant farmers, paying a rent in labour or kind for their holdings. Their obligations were at any rate not onerous enough to deter a steady flow of immigrants from entering the country, and their right of free migration was, at this period, not questioned. Some communities, such as the Transylvanian Saxons, were personally free and paid only a nominal rent for their land.

Both the extension of the frontiers, and the immigration, had, of course, brought large new numbers of non-Magyars into Hungary. Croatia was purely Slavonic, with an Italian element in the sea-board towns. The political consolidation of the north-west added a fairly substantial Slovak population, later reinforced by immigration from Moravia. Russians filtered over the north-eastern Carpathians; Vlachs were found in, or entered, Transylvania. There was a big organised immigration of Germans: besides the Transylvanian Saxons, already mentioned, another large body of 'Saxons' was brought in to develop the mines of the Szepes east of the Tatra. The towns throughout Hungary were, as throughout most of eastern Europe, mainly German. Considerable numbers of Petchenegs and kindred peoples entered Hungary from the east as refugees. Other, smaller, groups included Jews, Walloon vintners, and 'Ishmaelites' (Bulgars from the Kama), men skilled in the minting of money.

But this did not alter the essentially Magyar national character of the state. The Kuns were no longer distinguishable from Magyars. The recruits to the noble class, at least in the interior of the country, usually became completely Magyarised within a generation or so.(6) But neither was the picture of a 'ruling race' dominating 'subject peoples' any more generally true. The peasants of the Slovak mountains, the Saxons behind their barrier of jealously-guarded privileges, the German burghers of the towns, and the Vlachs and Jews, with their alien religions and outlandish modes of life, kept their distinct national identities, but the Szekels and all the eastern immigrants, with the smaller diasporae, melted in the Magyar flood, which was also now swollen by great numbers of déclassé Magyars. Documents show that except in the peripheral areas and the towns, the majority of the unfree populations now bore Magyar names.

When in 1235 death ended Andrew II's long and ill-fated reign, his son, Béla IV, did what he could to re-establish the royal authority. Several truculent aristocrats were thrown into prison, and commissioners sent out to check the donations, a number of which were rescinded. But before Béla could complete his reforms, they legitimacy of recent were interrupted by the heaviest calamity which Hungary had experienced since the foundation of the state: the terrible Mongol invasion.

The Mongols, or Tatars, had been threatening eastern Europe for half a generation. As early as 1223 they had inflicted a terrible defeat on the combined Cuman and Russian armies on the Kalka. This battle had not, however, decisively broken the power of the Cumans, who continued to hold up the Tatar expansion for a long decade, but in 1239 they were crushingly defeated again, near the mouth of the Volga. In December 1240 Kiev was laid in ashes, and now the way to Poland and Hungary lay open.

Béla - almost the only man in his country who took the danger at its full value - had organised a system of defences on the passes and had tried to collect an army inside Hungary. But when the Tatars moved again, in the spring of 1241, they easily overran the frontier posts, and on 11 April outmanoeuvered the Hungarian army which met them at Mohi, on the Sajó, and almost destroyed it. Béla himself barely escaped with his life to the Austrian frontier, where Frederick of Austria could find nothing better to do than to blackmail him for an indemnity, extort three counties from him as security for the payment of it, and even invade them himself. The Tatars ravaged central Hungary at their leisure all summer and autumn, then, the Danube having frozen hard, crossed it on Christmas Day and spread destruction in the Dunántúl, while Béla, pursued by their light cavalry, fled ingloriously enough to an island off the Dalmatian coast. Hungary was saved from complete destruction only by the death of the Great Khan Ogotai in far-away Karakorum. Batu Khan, commander of the Tatar armies in the west, led them back to take part in the contest for the succession, and in March 1242 the Tatars quitted Hungary as suddenly as they had entered it just a year before.

But they left total devastation behind them. Even of Hungary's walled places, not all had escaped. Székesfehérvár had been saved by the marshes round it, and the citadel of Esztergom had held out. But the town had fallen, as had Buda and many another. When they took a town the Tatars commonly reduced it to ashes and slaughtered all its inhabitants. In the countryside they had spared the peasants until the harvest was reaped, promising them that they would not be molested; but the harvest in, had butchered them. Finally, while leaving the country, they had beaten it for slaves: years after, the missionaries Plan Carpini and Rubruquis found Magyar slaves still in bondage in Tartary.

Those who survived had done so because they had escaped in time into forests or marshes. That year, with the plague and starvation which followed it, cost Hungary -something like half its total population, the losses ranging from 60 per cent in the Alföld (100 per cent in certain parts of it) to 20 per cent in the Dunántúl. Only the northwest and the Szekel areas of Transylvania had come off fairly lightly.

To the sheer physical destruction of man and his works were added, of course, political and social disintegration and the threat of further assaults from greedy neighbours, headed by Frederick of Austria.

King Béla, whom his country not unjustly dubbed its second founder, set himself with courage, intelligence and tact to repair something of this damage. Drawing from experience the lesson that only walled places ensured safety, he organised a complete new defensive system, based on chains of fortresses. He reorganised the army, replacing the old light archers by a small force of heavy cavalry. He repopulated the country by calling in great new numbers of colonists from all available quarters, paying especial attention to the foundation of new towns, which were equipped with generous charters. In a few years Hungary was well on the way to internal recovery and its international position seemed more potent than ever. In the west, the counties seized by Frederick were recovered and, for a short time, Béla even took Styria away from the Austrian. In the south and east, Hungary was surrounded by a ring of 'Bánáts' or client states embracing Bosnia and north Serbia. Severin, Cumania (in the later Wallachia) and Galicia.

Some of this work was of permanent advantage to Hungary; in particular, the multiplication of the towns lastingly benefited its economic structure. But many of Béla's improvisations, although unavoidable, had dangerous consequences. To get the fortresses built quickly he had been obliged, willy-nilly, to give great territorial magnates, new or old, practically a free hand on their domains. Half a dozen of these families - the Kôszegis on the Austrian frontier, the Csáks on the Moravian, the Abas and Borsas in the north, the Káns in Transylvania, the Subiches in Croatia, made meteoric rises to near-sovereign state; a state of things which was particularly dangerous because with the extinction in Austria, of the Babenberg line in 1246, a scramble for its inheritance had begun, opening up golden prospects for a powerful local magnate to rise higher still, if he did not take his loyalty to his own monarch too seriously.

A danger of a different sort threatened from the Cumans. After the Battle of the Volga the Great Khan of the Cumans, a certain Kötöny or Kuthen, had sought asylum in Hungary with the broken survivors of his nation, still a large host. Béla had received them, seeing in them a force which could defend him against the Tatars and also help him against disloyal subjects of his own. But his hospitality had had disastrous consequences. It had given the Tatar Khan his pretext to attack Hungary, for 'harbouring his rebellious slaves'; meanwhile the Hungarians, for good reasons and for ill, had violently resented the presence of the wild newcomers, and just as the Tatars were crossing the mountain passes, had murdered Kuthen. Thereupon the enraged Cumans had left Hungary for the Balkans, murdering and pillaging as they went, so that Béla had not even had their help at the crucial moment.

Afterwards he called them back, with the smaller people of the Jazyges, and settled them on empty lands on the two banks of the Tisza, and to ensure their loyalty, married his elder son, Stephen, to a Cuman princess. The Cumans proved in fact a valuable fighting force, but they were detested by the Hungarians, whose villages they pillaged and whose women they raped. They were, moreover, mostly still pagans, for missionary work in which heroic friars had engaged among them for a generation previously had so far borne little fruit.

When Béla died, in 1270, the weak points in his work soon made themselves felt. Stephen, who incidentally had done much to embitter his father's last years and to undermine his work, died after a reign of only two years; no loss in himself, but his heir, Ladislas, was only ten years old. The 'Cumanian woman', his mother, who assumed the regency, was hated by the Hungarians, and although some of the magnates tried loyally enough to keep the state together, others, especially a few great west Hungarian and Croat families, made themselves into 'kinglets', who fought each other, and the king, for control of the state or for their own independence, allying themselves without scrupie with foreign rulers. In the confusion, many of Béla IV's foreign acquisitions were lost again. When Ladislas came to man the estate, things were no better. He had grown up into a wild, undisciplined youth, far more of a Cuman than a Magyar. He favoured his mother's people so much that there seemed a danger that Hungary might revert to paganism; in the course of repeated exchanges, one Pope laid the country under interdict and another authorised the bishops to preach a crusade against the king. It took all the efforts of the Christian barons to mediate a settlement under which the Cumans, in return for the retention of their liberties and of certain national customs, undertook to accept Christianity, to exchange their tents for fixed abodes and 'to abstain from killing Christians and from shedding their blood'. Meanwhile, Ladislas himself neglected his wife and took pleasure only among Cuman women. At last, in 1290, he was murdered 'by those same Cumans whom he had loved'.

From the loyal Hungarians' point of view the most serious aspect of Ladislas' refusal to have commerce with his wife had been the danger that this might involve the extinction of the dynasty; for Ladislas' only brother had predeceased him, dying unmarried, as had his only paternal uncle. One Árpád of the blood was still alive, for Andrew II's third wife, Beatrice d'Este, had been delivered of a boy soon after her husband's death (on which she had returned to her father's people), and this boy had in due course married into a family of rich Venetian bankers and

although himself dying young, had left a son, another Andrew. A party in Hungary had been supporting the claim of this boy to be regarded as heir presumptive to Ladislas, and meanwhile, 'Duke of Slavonia'. Since a few months before Ladislas' death Andrew had, however, been a prisoner at the court of Albrecht of Habsburg, now installed in Vienna. Meanwhile his rivals had been impugning his father's parentage, and when Ladislas died, claims to the succession were put forward by, or on behalf of, three descendants of the house of Árpád in the female line: the Angevin Charles Martell of Naples, son of Ladislas' sister Maria (the candidature supported by the Pope), the Bavarian Otto of Wittelsbach, son of Stephen V's sister Elizabeth, and the Bohemian Wenceslas II, grandson of Béla IV's sister Anne. In addition, the German King Rudolph of Habsburg recalled that Béla IV, in his extremity, had done him homage and invested his son Albrecht with Hungary.

The question was resolved by the prompt action of the Archbishop of Esztergom, Ladomer, who got Andrew smuggled out of Vienna, disguised as a friar, and brought to Hungary, where he was crowned amid the jubilation of by far the greater part of the country. It was a coup which might have proved a great blessing to the country, for true Árpád or not, Andrew showed himself to be one of the best of the Hungarian kings. He defended his position against the foreign claimants. Leaning on the smaller nobles, he succeeded in making headway against the unruly magnates, incidentally sanctioning a number of valuable constitutional institutions (for the idea of constitutional rule was not strange to his Venice-trained mind). On coronation he swore to respect the country's liberties; he repeated and extended Andrew II's pledge to make no appointments to higher office without the consent of the Royal Council, and even agreed to the institution of a permanent salaried Council, its membership to include representatives of their 'prelates, barons and nobles', whose consent was required for any major decision. 'All the barons and nobles of the realm'(7) were to meet annually to enquire into the state of the kingdom and the conduct of the high officials. Unhappily, he died on 14 January 1301, leaving only an infant daughter, and thus 'the last golden twig of the generation, blood and lineage of St Stephen, the first Hungarian king', was broken.

1. Roughly equivalent to the later Galicia

2. In a second edition of the Bull this clause was whittled down to recognition by the King that the Primate-Archbishop was entitled to excommunicate him if he violated his oath.

3. In the following paragraphs I have adopted an old-fashioned and probably somewhere over-simplified view of the processes described. Many modern Hungarian historians postulate an almost total decay of the old free class and the rise of a totally new one, the servientes regis, with a status originally inferior to that of the old freemen. Under this interpretation, the privileges granted in the Golden Bull to the 'servientes regis' apply only to this new class, while the older freemen are not mentioned in the Bull at all. Those holding it explain the omission by saying that the privileges of the older class were so obvious as to need no reaffirmation. I find this interpretation contrary to common sense, to Hungarian psychology, and also to a number of texts. In any case, even if a distinction existed in 1222 between the freemen by hereditary right and the servientes regis, it disappeared soon after it. A decree issued by Béla IV in 1247 speaks specifically of 'nobiles Hungariae universi qui et servientes regis dicunter', who approach Béla with the request 'ut ipsos in libertate a S. Stephano rege statuta et abtenta dignaremus conservare'.

4. A novelty in the Bull was that foreign service had to be paid.

5. This was due partly to the opposition of the existing nobles to further dilution of their privileges, partly to the introduction as principal arm of heavy cavalry, which made it useless to ennoble men who could not afford the new equipment.

6. This generalisation does not apply to the remote peasant communities on the periphery who were 'ennobled' en masse, i.e., relieved of taxation in return for guarding the frontiers. But it is true of practically all families for whom ennoblement meant real advance in the social scale.

7. This does not, of course, mean a general assembly of all the 'nobles' of Hungary, but of their representatives, the class from which the county 'assessors' were drawn.

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