John Hunyadi

Annie Lee | Mar 14, 2024

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John Hunyadi (c. 1406-Zemun, Kingdom of Hungary; August 11, 1456) was a leading Hungarian political and military figure in 15th-century Central and Southeastern Europe. According to most contemporary sources, he belonged to a noble family of Vlach (or Romanian) origins. Appointed vaivode of Transylvania and ispan of several southern counties, he assumed responsibility for the defense of the borders in 1441, which were exposed to attacks by the Ottoman Empire.

He adopted the Hussite method of using wagons for military purposes. He also employed professional soldiers, but also mobilized the local peasantry against the invaders. These innovations contributed to his first successes against the Ottoman troops plundering the southern marks in the early 1440s. Although he was defeated at the battle of Varna in 1444 and at the second battle of Kosovo in 1448, his successful "long campaign" across the Balkan Mountains between 1443 and 1444 and the defense of Belgrade in 1456, against troops personally commanded by Sultan Mehmed II, established his reputation as a great general. The pope ordered European churches to ring bells at noon to gather the faithful in prayer for those who were fighting.

He was also an eminent statesman. He actively participated in the civil war between the supporters of Vladislaus III Jagiellon and the younger Ladislaus the Posthumous, two pretenders to the Hungarian throne in the early 1440s, on behalf of the former. Popular among the lower nobility, the Hungarian Diet appointed him, in 1445, one of the "seven captains-in-chief" responsible for the administration of state affairs until Ladislaus (by then unanimously accepted as king) came of age. He would later be appointed regent of Hungary with the title of governor. When he resigned this position in 1452, he was given the first hereditary title (perpetual count of Beszterce) in the Kingdom of Hungary. By then he had become one of the richest landowners in the kingdom and retained his influence in the Diet until his death.

He died about three weeks after his triumph in Belgrade, due to an epidemic that had broken out in the Christian camp. However, his victories over the Turks prevented them from invading the Kingdom of Hungary for more than sixty years. His fame was a decisive factor in the election of his son, Matthias Corvinus, as king by the Diet of 1457. Hunyadi is also a popular historical figure among Hungarians, Romanians, Serbs, Bulgarians and other nations in the region.

The first reference to John Hunyadi comes from a royal privilege issued on October 18, 1409. In this document Sigismund of Luxembourg, King of Hungary, granted the castle of Hunyad and the surrounding lands to his father Vajk and his four brothers. According to the document, his father was serving the Hungarian royal family as a "knight courtier" at the time, suggesting that he was descended from a respected family. Two 15th-century chroniclers, Johannes de Thurocz and Antonio Bonfini, write that he had moved from Wallachia to Hungary at the king's initiative. László Makkai, Malcolm Hebron, Pál Engel and other scholars accept the report of both chroniclers on the Vlach (or Romanian) origins of Hunyadi's father. In contrast to these, Ioan-Aurel Pop says that he originated from the region near Hunyad Castle.

Bonfini was the first chronicler to comment further on an alternative story regarding his origins, and soon declared that it was only a "tasteless story" concocted by his rival, Count Ulrich II of Celje. According to this anecdote, he was not the son of Vajk, but of King Sigismund. The story became especially popular during the reign of his son Matthias Corvinus, who erected a statue of a possible grandfather in Buda. The 16th century chronicler Gáspár Heltai reiterated and expanded the story even further, but modern scholars, such as Bryan Cartledge and András Kubinyi, considered this an unverifiable insidiousness. Hunyadi's popularity among the peoples of the Balkan peninsula gave rise to other legends about his royal lineage.

The identity of his mother is even more unknown. In connection with the supposed paternity of the Hungarian monarch, both Bonfini and Heltai mention that she was the daughter of a wealthy boyar (or nobleman), whose estates were located in Morzsina. Pop proposes that her name was Elizabeth. According to László Makkai, her mother belonged to the Muzsina (or Mușina) family, knezes (or chiefs) of Demsus, but Pop rejects her identification with the Morzsina and Muzsina families.

Regarding his mother, Bonfini also offers an alternative solution and states that she was a distinguished Byzantine noblewoman, but does not mention her name. According to Kubinyi, her Byzantine origin may simply refer to her alleged Orthodox faith. In a letter of 1489, Matthias Corvinus wrote that his grandmother's sister, whom the Ottoman Turks had captured and forced to join the harem of a sultan of uncertain name, became the ancestor of Cem, son of Sultan Mehmed II. On the basis of this letter, Kubinyi says that "the Greek connection cannot be completely ruled out". If Matias Corvinus' report is valid, his father and Mehmed II would be related. On the other hand, Péter E. Kovács points out that this story about the family connection with the Ottoman sultans is nothing but a "pack of lies".

Hunyadi's year of birth is also uncertain. Although Heltai notes that he was born in 1390, he must have actually been born between 1405 and 1407 because his younger brother was born after 1409, and a difference of almost two decades between their ages is not admissible. The place of his birth is also not known. The 16th century Croatian diplomat Antonio Verancsics mentioned that he was a "native" of the Hátszeg region (in Romania). His father died before February 12, 1419 because a royal charter issued on that day refers to Hunyadi, his brothers John the Younger and Vajk the Younger, and his uncle Radol, but not to Vajk.


The Hungarian engraver Andreas Pannonius, who served Hunyadi for five years, wrote that Hunyadi "was accustomed to tolerate both cold and heat in time. Like other young noblemen, he spent his youth serving at the court of powerful magnates. However, the exact list of his employers cannot be completed because fifteenth-century authors recorded contradictory data about his early years.

Poggio Bracciolini, biographer of Filippo of Ozora, ispan (or count) of Temes, writes that he educated Hunyadi from a very young age, which suggests that he was his page around 1420. On the other hand, John Capistrano, a Franciscan friar and papal oidor, mentions in a letter of 1456 that he began his military career serving under Nicholas Újlaki. However, Nicholas was his junior by six years and Engel writes that Capistrano mistook him for his brother Stephen Újlaki. However, Bonfini says that at the beginning of his career he served Demetrius Csupor, bishop of Zagreb or the Csáky family.

According to the Byzantine historian Laonicus Calcocondilas Hunyadi "lived for a time" at the court of Stephen Lazarević, despot of Serbia, who died in 1427.His marriage to Elizabeth Szilágyi corroborates Calcocondilas' report, because her father, Ladislaus Szilágyi was a relative of Stephen Lazarević around 1426.Their marriage took place around 1429.While still a young man, he entered the retinue of King Sigismund. He accompanied the king to Italy in 1431 and under his orders joined the army of Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan. Bonfini says that he "served two years" in the duke's army. Modern scholars, such as Cartledge, Engel, Mureşanu and Teke, say that he became familiar with the principles of contemporary military art, including the employment of mercenaries.

He rejoined the retinue of Sigismund, who in the meantime had been crowned Holy Roman Emperor in Rome at the end of 1433. He served him as a "court knight". He also lent him twelve hundred gold florins in January 1434. In return, he was mortgaged Papi - a market town in Csanád County - and half of the royal revenues on the Maros River ferry. The transaction document lists him as John the Wallachian (or the Romanian). In addition, he gave him additional domains, which included Békésszentandrás and Hódmezővásárhely, and incorporated into each ten villas.

Bonfini writes that he also served at the court of one "Francis Csanádi" who "became so fond of him that he treated him as if he were his own son." Engel identifies him with Francis Talovac, ban of Severin, who was also ispán of Csanád around 1432. Engel says that he worked at Francis' court for at least a year and a half from around October 1434. A Vlach district of Severin's Banat was mortgaged to him during this period.

Sigismund, who entered Prague in the summer of 1436, hired Hunyadi along with his fifty spearmen for three months in October 1437 for twelve hundred and fifty guilders, implying that he had accompanied him to Bohemia; he seems to have studied the tactics of the Hussites on this occasion, as he later applied the elements they used, including the use of wagons as a mobile fortress. Sigismund died on December 9, 1437; his son-in-law, Duke Albert V of Austria, was elected king of Hungary nine days later. According to Teke and Engel, he soon returned to the southern borders of the Kingdom of Hungary that had been subject to Ottoman raids. In opposition to these, Mureşanu says that he served the new king in Bohemia for at least a year, until the end of 1438.

First clashes with the Ottomans

The Ottomans had occupied most of Serbia by the end of 1438.That same year, they raided Transylvania supported by Prince Vlad II Dracul of Wallachia; they sacked Hermannstadt, Gyulafehérvár and other cities.After they besieged Smederevo, the last important Serbian stronghold in June 1439, Đurađ Branković, successor of Stephen Lazarević, fled to Hungary in search of military support. Albert proclaimed the general mobilization of the nobility against the Ottomans, but few nobles gathered in the Titel region and were willing to fight. A notable exception was Hunyadi, who made raids against the besiegers and defeated them in minor skirmishes, which contributed to the rise of his fame. The Ottomans captured Smederevo in August. The king appointed the Hunyadi brothers as banes of Severin and promoted them to the status of "true barons of the kingdom." He also mortgaged them a Vlach district in the County of Temes.

Albert died of dysentery on October 27, 1439. His widow, Elisabeth, daughter of Sigismund, gave birth to a son named Ladislaus the Posthumous. The estates of the kingdom offered the crown to Vladislaus III Jagiellon, King of Poland, but Elisabeth had her youngest son crowned on May 15, 1440. However, Vladislaus III accepted the offer of the estates and also took the crown on July 17. During the ensuing civil war between the supporters of the two monarchs, Hunyadi supported Vladislaus; he fought against the Ottomans in Wallachia, for which he was granted five manors in the vicinity of his family estates on August 9, 1440.

At the beginning of 1441 he annihilated the opposing armies of Vladislaus III at Bátaszék, together with Nicholas Újlaki. Their victory put a definitive end to the civil war. The grateful king appointed them vaivods of Transylvania and counts of the Siculi in February of that year. Shortly afterwards he also gave them the position of Ispánes of Temes and conferred on them the command of Belgrade and all the other castles along the Danube.

Since Nicholas Újlaki spent most of his time at the royal court, Hunyadi administered only Transylvania and the southern border areas. Shortly after his appointment, he visited Transylvania, where supporters of the boy Ladislaus had maintained a strong position. After pacifying Transylvania, the regions under his administration were not affected by internal conflicts, which allowed him to concentrate on defending the borders. By effectively defending the interests of local landowners at the royal court, he strengthened his position in the provinces under his administration. For example, he obtained land grants and privileges for the local nobility.

He set about repairing the walls of Belgrade, which had been damaged during an Ottoman attack. In retaliation for his raids in the Sava River region, he conducted an attack on Ottoman territory in the summer or autumn of 1441. He won a field victory over Ishak Bey, commander of Smederevo. In early 1442, Mezid Bey invaded Transylvania with an army of seventeen thousand men; he was taken by surprise and lost the first battle near Marosszentimre. Mezid besieged Hermannstadt, but the united forces of Hunyadi and Nicholas Újlaki, who meanwhile arrived in Transylvania, forced him to lift the siege. The Ottoman forces were annihilated in the battle of Hermannstadt on March 22, 1442.

Pope Eugenius IV, who had been an enthusiastic propagator of a new crusade against the Ottoman Turks, sent his legate, Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini to Hungary.Cesarini arrived in May 1442 with the task of mediating a peace treaty between Vladislaus III and Elizabeth.The sultan, Murad II, sent Hadım Şehabeddin-governor of Rumelia-to invade Transylvania with a force of seventy thousand soldiers. Şehabeddin declared that the mere sight of his turban would force his enemies to flee far away. Although Hunyadi could only muster an army of fifteen thousand men, he inflicted a crushing defeat on him at the Ialomița River in September 1442. He also placed Basarab II on the throne of Wallachia, but his rival, Vlad II Dracul, returned and forced him to flee in early 1443.

His victories in 1441 and 1442 made him a major enemy of the Ottomans and he was recognized throughout Christendom. He established a vigorous offensive posture in his battles, which allowed him to counter the numerical superiority of his enemies through decisive maneuvers. He also employed mercenaries (many of them Czech Hussite soldiers), which increased the professionalism in his ranks and supplemented them with numerous irregulars gathered from the local peasantry, whom he did not hesitate to employ on the battlefield.

The long campaign

In April 1443, Vladislaus III and his barons decided to organize a major campaign against the Ottoman Empire. With the mediation of Cesarini, a truce was reached with Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg, who had been Ladislaus' tutor. The armistice guaranteed that Frederick III would not attack Hungary for the next twelve months. Hunyadi spent about thirty-two thousand guilders from his personal treasury and hired more than ten thousand mercenaries. The king also gathered troops and reinforcements arrived from Poland and Moldavia; they left for the campaign at the head of an army of between twenty-five and twenty-seven thousand men in the autumn of 1443. In theory, Vladislaus III was in command of the army, but the real leader of the campaign was Hunyadi. Đurađ Branković joined them with a mesnade of eight thousand men.

Hunyadi commanded the vanguard and defeated four smaller Ottoman forces, which prevented their unification. However, the Hungarians were unable to cross the passes of the Balkan Mountains to Edirne. Cold weather and lack of supplies forced the Christian troops to halt the campaign at Zlatitsa. After winning a victory at Kunovica, they returned to Belgrade in January and then to Buda in February 1444.

Battle of Varna and consequences

Although none of the main Ottoman forces had been defeated, the "long campaign" aroused enthusiasm throughout Christian Europe. Pope Eugenius, Duke Philip III of Burgundy and other European rulers demanded a new crusade, promising financial or military support. The formation of a "party" of nobles and clergy under Hunyadi's leadership can be dated to this period. Its main objective was the defense of Hungary against the Ottomans. According to a letter of Đurađ Branković, more than sixty-three thousand guilders were spent to hire mercenaries in the middle of 1444. An eminent representative of Renaissance Humanism in Hungary, John Vitéz became a close friend of Hunyadi at this time.

The advance of Christian forces into Ottoman territory also encouraged the peoples of the Balkan peninsula to revolt on the peripheries of the Ottoman Empire. For example, Skanderbeg, an Albanian nobleman, expelled them from Krujë and all the other fortresses, which were once held by his family. Murad II, whose main concern was the Karamanid rebellion in Anatolia, offered generous peace terms to Vladislaus III. He even promised to withdraw his garrisons from Serbia, thus restoring its semi-autonomous status under Đurađ Branković. He also offered a ten-year armistice. The Hungarian emissaries accepted the offer in Edirne on June 12, 1444.

Đurađ Branković, who was grateful for the restoration of his kingdom, donated his property in Világos in Zaránd County to Hunyadi on July 3. He also proposed that Vladislaus III confirm the advantageous treaty, but Cesarini insisted on continuing the crusade. On August 4 he took an oath to launch a campaign against the Ottoman Empire before the end of the year, even if he had signed a peace treaty. According to Johannes of Thurocz, Hunyadi was appointed to sign the peace treaty on August 15. Within a week, Đurađ Branković mortgaged his extensive domains in the Kingdom of Hungary, including Debrecen, Munkács and Nagybánya, to Hunyadi.

The king, whom Cardinal Cesarini urged to keep his oath, decided to invade the Ottoman Empire in the autumn. At the cardinal's suggestion, Hunyadi was offered the crown of Bulgaria. The Crusaders left Hungary on September 22. They planned to advance towards the Black Sea through the Balkan Mountains. They hoped that the Venetian fleet would hinder the sultan from transferring his forces from Anatolia to the Balkans, but the Genoese transported Murad II's army across the Dardanelles. The two armies clashed near Varna on November 10. Although outnumbered two to one, the Crusaders initially dominated the battlefield. However, Vladislaus III launched a premature attack on the janissaries and was killed. Taking advantage of the Crusaders' panic, the Ottomans annihilated his army. Hunyadi escaped the battlefield, but was captured and imprisoned by Vlach soldiers. However, Vlad II Dracul released him shortly thereafter.

At the next Diet of Hungary, which met in April 1445, the estates decided that they would unanimously recognize the rule of the boy Ladislaus if the current monarch, whose fate was still uncertain, did not return to Hungary by the end of May. The estates also elected "seven captains-in-chief," including Hunyadi, each being responsible for the restoration of internal order in the territory assigned to them. Hunyadi was assigned to administer the lands east of the Tisza River. There he owned at least six castles and lands in some ten counties, making him the most powerful baron in the region under his rule.

He planned to organize a new crusade against the Ottoman Empire. For this purpose, he contacted the pope and other western monarchs by letters in 1445. In September he met in Nicopolis with Waleran de Wavrin (nephew of the chronicler Jean de Wavrin), captain of eight Burgundian galleys, and Vlad II Dracul of Wallachia, who had occupied small Ottoman fortresses along the lower Danube. However, he did not risk a clash with Turkish garrisons stationed on the south bank of the river, and returned to Hungary before winter. Vlad II Dracul soon concluded a peace treaty with the Ottomans.

Regent of Hungary

The estates of the kingdom proclaimed Hunyadi regent, granting him the title of "governor" on June 6, 1446. His election was promoted mainly by the lower nobility, but by that time he was already one of the richest barons in the kingdom. His domains covered an area of over 800 000 hectares (1 976 841.3 acre). He was also one of the few contemporary barons who spent a significant part of his income to finance the wars against the Ottomans, thus bearing a large part of the cost of the fighting for many years.

As regent, he was authorized to exercise most of the royal prerogatives during the period of the king's minority; he could grant land concessions, but only up to the size of thirty-two peasant estates. He also attempted to pacify the border regions. Shortly after his election, he launched an unsuccessful campaign against Ulrich II. The latter administered Slavonia under the title of ban (which he had arbitrarily adopted) and refused to relinquish his office.

Hunyadi convinced Jan Jiskra, a Czech commander who controlled the northern regions of the kingdom (in present-day Slovakia), to sign a three-year armistice on September 13, 1446. Jiskra did not keep the truce, however, and armed conflicts continued. In November, he proceeded against Emperor Frederick III, who refused to release his protégé and had occupied Kőszeg, Sopron and other cities along the western border. Hungarian armies sacked Austria, Styria, Carinthia and Carniola, but no decisive battle was fought.A truce was signed with Frederick III on June 1, 1447.Although he resigned from Győr, his position as guardian of the young king was confirmed.The estates of the kingdom were disappointed, and the Diet elected Ladislaus Garai - head of Hunyadi's opponents - nádor of Hungary in September 1447.

Hunyadi accelerated his negotiations, which had begun the previous year with Alfonso V of Aragon and I of Naples. He even offered him the Hungarian crown in exchange for his participation in an anti-Ottoman crusade and confirmation of his governorship. However, Alfonso V refrained from signing an agreement. Hunyadi invaded Wallachia and dethroned Vlad II Dracul in December 1447. According to the contemporary Polish chronicler Jan Długosz, he had blinded "the man he promised to appoint as prince," and planned to "appropriate" the Wallachian throne for himself. He proclaimed himself "vaivode of the Transalpine land" and referred to the town Târgoviște in Wallachia as "his fortress" in a letter on December 4. There is no doubt that he appointed a new prince, but modern historians debate whether this was Vladislaus II (whom he referred to as his kinsman in a letter) or Dan (who seems to have been the son of Basarab II). In February 1448 he sent an army to Moldavia to support the pretender Peter in seizing the throne. In return, Peter recognized Hungarian sovereignty and helped to garrison the fort of Chilia Veche on the lower Danube.

Hunyadi made a new attempt to expel Ulrich II from Slavonia, but was unable to defeat him. In June, they reached an agreement that confirmed his position as ban in Slavonia. Some time later, he sent emissaries to the two most prominent Albanian nobles -Skanderbeg and his father-in-law Gjergj Arianiti- to seek their help against the Ottomans. Pope Eugenius suggested that the anti-Ottoman campaign be postponed. However, Hunyadi stated in a letter dated September 8, 1448, that "they had enslaved many men, raped their women, and carried carts loaded with the heads of their people" and expressed his determination to drive "the enemy out of Europe." In the same letter, he explained his military strategy to the pope, stating that "power is always greater when attack is used instead of defense."

The Hungarians left for the new campaign at the head of an army of sixteen thousand soldiers in September 1448.About eight thousand Vlach soldiers also joined their campaign.But Đurađ Branković refused to render aid to the Hungarians; Hunyadi treated him as an enemy and his army marched through Serbia plundering the country. To prevent the unification of the Hungarian and Albanian armies, the sultan confronted the Hungarians at Kosovo Polje on October 17. The battle, which lasted three days, ended with the catastrophic defeat of the Hungarians. About seventeen thousand Christian soldiers were killed or captured and Hunyadi could barely escape from the battlefield. On his way to Hungary, he was captured by Đurađ Branković, who held him prisoner in the fortress of Smederevo. At first he weighed handing him over to the Ottomans. However, the Hungarian barons and prelates who gathered in Szeged persuaded him to make peace. According to the treaty, he was obliged to pay a ransom of one hundred thousand guilders and return all the domains he had acquired in Serbia. In addition his eldest son, Ladislaus Hunyadi, was sent to the court of Đurađ Branković as a hostage. At the end of December 1448 he regained his freedom and returned to Hungary.

His defeat and the humiliating treaty with the Serbs weakened his position. The prelates and barons confirmed the treaty and assigned Đurađ Branković to negotiate with the Ottomans, and Hunyadi resigned as vaivode of Transylvania. He invaded the lands controlled by Jiskra and his Czech mercenaries in the autumn of 1449, but was unable to defeat them. On the other hand, the rulers of two neighboring countries - Thomas of Bosnia and Bogdan II of Moldavia - signed a treaty and promised to be loyal to him. In early 1450, they signed a peace treaty at Mezőkövesd, acknowledging that many prosperous towns in Upper Hungary, including Presburg and Kassa, remained under Jiskra's rule.

At Hunyadi's request, the Diet of March 1450 ordered the confiscation of Đurađ Branković's property in the Kingdom of Hungary. The Hungarians departed for Serbia, which forced the release of Ladislaus Hunyadi. Hunyadi, Ladislaus Garai and Nicholas Újlaki signed a treaty on July 17, 1450, promising mutual assistance in preserving their positions in case the king returned to Hungary. In October, peace was signed with Frederick III, who confirmed his position as the king's guardian for another eight years. With the mediation of Nicholas Újlaki and other barons, Huyadi also concluded a peace treaty with Đurađ Branković in August 1451, which authorized him to exchange the disputed domains for one hundred and fifty-five thousand gold florins. He then launched a military expedition against Jiskra, but the Czech commander defeated the Hungarian troops near Losonc on September 7. With the mediation of Serbia, Hungary and the Ottoman Empire signed a three-year truce on November 20.

The Austrian nobles rose in open rebellion against Frederick III, who ruled the duchy in the name of Ladislaus in late 1451 and early 1452. The leader of the rebellion, Ulrich Eizinger sought the help of the other two Ladislaus kingdoms, Bohemia and Hungary. The Hungarian Diet, which met in Pressburg in February 1452, sent a delegation to Vienna. On March 5, the Austrians and Hungarians jointly requested the emperor to relinquish the guardianship of their young sovereign. He initially refused to meet their demand. Hunyadi convened a Diet to discuss the situation, but before it reached a decision, the united troops of the Austrians and Bohemians forced the emperor to hand Ladislaus over to Ulrich II on September 4. In the meantime, Hunyadi had met with Jiskra in Körmöcbánya where they signed a treaty on August 24. According to the treaty, he would keep Léva and his right to collect a "thirtieth" tariff duty on Késmárk and Ólubló. In September Hunyadi sent ambassadors to Constantinople and promised military aid to the Byzantine emperor Constantine XI Paleologus. In return, he demanded two Byzantine forts on the Black Sea, Selimbria and Mesembria, but the emperor refused.

Hunyadi convened a Diet in Buda, but the barons and prelates preferred to visit Ladislaus in Vienna in November. At the Vienna Diet, he resigned the regency, but the king appointed him "captain general of the kingdom" on January 30, 1453. The king even authorized him to keep the castles and revenues he possessed at that time. He also received Beszterce - a district of the Transylvanian Saxons - with the title of "perpetual count" from Ladislaus, which was the first grant of a hereditary title in the Kingdom of Hungary.

Conflicts and reconciliations

In a letter of April 28, 1453, Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini - future Pope Pius II - claimed that Ladislaus' kingdoms were administered by "three men": Hunyadi in Hungary, George of Podiebrad in Bohemia and Ulrich II in Austria. However, the former's position gradually weakened, because even many of his former allies regarded his actions as retaining their power with suspicion. The citizens of Beszterce forced him to issue a charter confirming their traditional liberties on July 22. Nicholas Újlaki, his lifelong friend, forged a formal alliance with the nádor Ladislaus Garai and the royal judge Ladislaus Pálóci, declaring his intention to restore royal authority in September.

Hunyadi accompanied the young king to Prague and signed a treaty with Ulrich Eizinger (who had expelled Ulrich II of Austria) and George of Podiebrad at the end of the year. Returning to Hungary, he convened a Diet in the name of the king, but without his authorization, in order to make preparations for a war against the Ottomans who had conquered Constantinople in May 1453. The Diet ordered the mobilization of the armed forces and his position as supreme commander was confirmed for a year, but many of the decisions were never carried out. For example, the Diet obliged all landowners to equip four cavalry and two infantry soldiers for every hundred peasant families in their domains, but this law was never implemented in practice.

Ladislaus convened a new Diet, which met in March or April. His envoys - three Austrian nobles - announced that the king intended to administer the royal revenues through officials elected by the Diet and the creation of two councils (also with members elected by the estates) in order to assist him in the government of the country. However, the Diet refused to ratify most of the royal proposals, only the establishment of a royal council consisting of six prelates, six barons and six nobles was accepted. Hunyadi, who knew very well that Ladislaus was trying to limit his authority, demanded an explanation, but the king denied any knowledge of the act of his representatives. On the other hand, Jiskra returned to Hungary at Ladislaus' request, and Ladislaus entrusted him with the administration of the mining towns. In response, Hunyadi persuaded Ulrich II to cede to him a number of royal fortresses (and the lands belonging to them) that had been mortgaged in Trencsén County.

Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II invaded Serbia in May 1454 and laid siege to Smederevo, thus violating the November 1451 truce between his empire and Hungary. Hunyadi decided to intervene and began assembling his armies in Belgrade, which forced the sultan to lift the siege and abandon Serbia in August. However, an Ottoman force of 32,000 men continued to plunder Serbia until it was put to flight by the Hungarians at Kruševac on September 29. It raided the Ottoman Empire and destroyed Vidin before returning to Belgrade.

Frederick III convened the Imperial Diet in Wiener Neustadt to discuss the possibilities of a new crusade against the Turks. At the conference, where emissaries of the Hungarians, Poles, Aragonese and Burgundians were also present, no final decisions were made, because the emperor refrained from attacking the Ottomans. According to Aeneas Silvio Piccolomini, Frederick III prevented Hunyadi from participating in the meeting. In contrast to the emperor, the new pope, Callixtus III, was a fierce supporter of the crusade.

King Ladislaus visited Buda in February 1456. Ulrich II, who accompanied him to Buda, confirmed his old alliance with Ladislaus Garai and Nicholas Újlaki. The three barons turned against Hunyadi and accused him of abusing his authority. A new Ottoman invasion against Serbia promoted a new reconciliation between Hunyadi and his opponents, and he gave up the administration of part of the royal revenues and three fortresses including Buda. On the other hand, they reached an agreement that they would refrain from the king employing foreigners in the administration in June 1455. Hunyadi and Ulrich II also reconciled the following month when they engaged their children, Matthias and Elisabeth of Celje, in marriage.

Victory in Belgrade and death

Emissaries from the Republic of Ragusa were the first to inform the Hungarian nobles of the preparations that Mehmed II had made for an invasion against Hungary. In a letter addressed to Hunyadi, who mentions him as "the Maccabee of our time", the papal legate, Juan Carvajal made it clear that there was little chance of foreign help against the Ottomans. With the support of the latter, Vladislaus II of Wallachia even sacked parts of southern Transylvania at the end of 1455.

John Capistran began preaching an anti-Ottoman crusade in Hungary in February 1456. The Diet ordered the mobilization of armed forces in April, but most of the barons did not obey and continued the war against their local adversaries, including the Hussites in Upper Hungary. Before leaving Transylvania against the Ottomans, Hunyadi had to face a rebellion of the Vlachs in Fogaras County. He also supported Vlad Dracula - son of the late Vlad II Dracul - to seize the Wallachian throne from Vladislaus II.

King Ladislaus left Hungary for Vienna in May. Hunyadi hired five thousand Hungarian, Czech and Polish mercenaries and sent them to Belgrade, which was the key stronghold of the defense of Hungary's southern borders. Ottoman forces marched through Serbia and approached Belgrade in June. A crusade composed mainly of peasants from nearby counties, who had been aroused by Capistrano's fiery oratory, also began to assemble at the fortress in the first days of July. The siege of the city, which was commanded personally by the sultan, began with the bombardment of the walls on July 4.

Hunyadi proceeded to form a relief army and assembled a flotilla of two hundred ships on the Danube.The flotilla destroyed the Ottoman navy on July 14.This triumph prevented the besiegers from completing the blockade, which allowed Hunyadi and his troops to enter the fortress.The Ottomans launched a general assault on July 21.With the help of crusaders who arrived continuously at the fortress, the Hungarians repulsed their fierce attacks and broke into their camp on July 22. With the help of crusaders who continually arrived at the fortress, the Hunyads repulsed their fierce attacks and broke into their camp on July 22. Although wounded during the scuffle, Mehmed II decided to resist, but a mutiny in his camp forced him to lift the siege and withdraw from Belgrade during the night.

The victory of the Crusaders over the sultan who had conquered Constantinople generated enthusiasm throughout Europe. Processions to celebrate Hunyadi's triumph were held in Venice and Oxford. However, in the Christian camp, unrest was growing, because the peasants denied that the barons had played any role in the victory. To avoid open rebellion, the Crusader army was disbanded.

In the meantime, a plague had broken out and killed many people in the Christian camp. Hunyadi also fell ill and died near Zemun on August 11. He was buried in St. Michael's Cathedral in Gyulafehérvár.

In 1432, Hunyadi married Elizabeth Szilágyi, a Hungarian noblewoman. They had two sons, Ladislaus and Matthias. The former was executed by order of King Ladislaus for the murder of Ulrich II, a relative of the king. Matthias was elected king on January 20, 1458 after the death of Ladislaus. It was the first time in the history of the Kingdom of Hungary that a member of the nobility, without descent or dynastic kinship, ascended the royal throne.

Noon bells

Pope Callistus III ordered the bells of all European churches to be rung every day at noon, as a call to believers to pray for the Christian defenders of the city of Belgrade. The practice of the noon bell ringing is traditionally attributed to the international commemoration of the victory of Belgrade and the order of Pope Callistus III.

The custom still exists even among Protestant and Orthodox congregations. In the history of Oxford University, the victory was greeted with a peal of bells and great celebrations also in England. Hunyadi sent a special messenger (among others), Erasmus Fullar, to Oxford with the news of the victory.

National hero

Together with his son Matthias Corvinus, he is considered a national hero in Hungary and is praised as its defender against the Ottoman threat.Romanian historiography also gives him a place of importance in the history of this country.However, the Romanian national consciousness did not embrace him to the extent that the Hungarian national consciousness did.Hunyadi, a Hungarian hero, was subordinated to the ideology of national communism in the era of Nicolae Ceaușescu and transmuted into a Romanian hero.

Pope Pius II writes that Hunyadi did not so much increase the glory of the Hungarians, but especially the glory of the Romanians among whom he was born. The French writer and diplomat Philippe de Commines described him as a very brave knight, calling him the White Knight of Wallachia, a person of great honor and prudence, who had long ruled the Kingdom of Hungary, and had won several battles over the Turks.

Pietro Ranzano wrote in his work Annales omnium temporum (1490-1492) that he was commonly called "Ianco" (Ioanne Huniate, Ianco vulgo cognominator). In the chronicles written by Byzantine Greek authors (such as Jorge Frantzés and Laónico Calcocondilas) he is called Ianco.

In Bulgarian folklore, Hunyadi's memory was preserved in the heroic character of the epic song Yankul(a) Voivoda, along with Sekula Detentse, a fictional hero perhaps inspired by his nephew, Tomáš Székely. He was also modeled along with Roger de Flor for the fictional character in Tirante the White, the epic romance written by Joanot Martorell, published in Valencia in 1490. Both shared, for example, the emblem of a raven on their coat of arms. In 1515, the English printer Wynkyn de Worde published a long metrical romance called Capystranus, a graphic account of the defeat of the Turks. In 1791, Hannah Brand produced a new play called Huniades or The Siege of Belgrade, which was performed to a packed house at the King's Theatre in Norwich.

On February 28, 1863, by the imperial resolution of Franz Joseph I of Austria, Hunyadi was listed among the "most famous, to the eternal emulation worthy warlords and generals of Austria", added to his honor and memory a life-size statue in the hall of the then Museum of Arms of the Imperial and Royal Court (today's Museum of Military History in Vienna). The statue was created in 1872 by the sculptor Karl Peckary (1848-1896) in Carrara marble and was dedicated by Emperor Franz Joseph himself.


  1. John Hunyadi
  2. Juan Hunyadi
  3. ^ Kubinyi 2008, p. 7.
  4. ^ a b Teke 1980, p. 80.
  5. ^ a b E. Kovács 1990, p. 7.
  6. ^ Kubinyi 2008, pp. 7–8.
  7. Kubinyi, 2008, p. 7.
  8. a b Teke, 1980, p. 80.
  9. a b E. Kovács, 1990, p. 7.
  10. Kubinyi, 2008, pp. 7-8.
  11. a b c d e Makkai, 1994, p. 227.
  12. 1,0 1,1 1,2 (Αγγλικά) SNAC. w6ff4s5m. Ανακτήθηκε στις 9  Οκτωβρίου 2017.
  13. Este artigo incorpora texto (em inglês) da Encyclopædia Britannica (11.ª edição), publicação em domínio público.

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