The medieval history of Hungary is full of unexpected twists. A prince prepared to continue his father’s work suddenly dies on a hunt. A king respected by both his friends and foes has only daughters. A soldier receives orders to castrate a prince, but he refuses. Helló Magyar collected five such turning points from medieval Hungarian history when everything could have changed below.
Who was the founder of Christian Hungary? Almost everybody knows that the first Christian king, Stephen I (1000-1038). If you read a bit more about the history of Hungary, you might add Stephen’s father, Géza (972-997). He invited priests and knights for the first time to Hungary. However, a ruler always needs a descendant who continues his work. That was especially true in Hungary. The state, the church, and the new faith were all weak in 1038. It was realistic that, without a strong ruler, Christianity would remain only an episode in the history of the Hungarians.
Stephen prepared his only son, Emeric for the task with great care.
He even wrote the Admonitions for him, which is a mirror for princes, a literary work summarizing the principles of government. Helló Magyar says that it might have been Emeric who led the Hungarian forces defeating the German army sent by Holy-Roman emperor Conrad II in 1030. However, Emeric died during a wild boar hunt in 1031. Since Stephen had no more sons, the young Kingdom of Hungary sunk into 8-year-long anarchy after the king passed away. Only Andrew I (1046-1060) could reestablish the order.
If Stephen I founded the medieval Hungarian kingdom, it was Ladislaus I (1077-1095) who made it a European great power. Ladislaus was respected for his legislative work and conquests, too. However, he had “only” two daughters.
Piroska (Eiréné) is a saint of the Byzantine church and was the wife of John II Komnenos (1118-1143), the second emperor to rule during the Komnenian restoration of the Byzantine Empire.
Piroska was born around 1088, and even if Ladislaus had a son after her, he would probably never become a king. That is because the absolute primogeniture form of succession was not yet solid then. Therefore, instead of an infant, the throne would have probably passed to Kálmán and Álmos, the adult nephews of Ladislaus. However, Ladislaus’s son could have caused trouble later.
Only a few Hungarians know that the Árpád dynasty almost died out in the first quarter of the 12th century. Both King Kálmán and his brother had only one son. However, since Álmos conspired many times to overthrow his king, Kálmán blinded him and his son, Béla. Thus, they became unable to become rulers ever.
Sources tell that Kálmán ordered the castration of Prince Béla, but the soldiers did not fulfil the task and showed the testicles of a dog to the king. And that was the luck of the Árpád dynasty. Stephen II (1116-1131), the son of King Kálmán, could not father children due to an unknown illness, so
the nobles chose Béla the Blind in 1131 instead of Kálmán’s nephew, Saul.
If Béla had been castrated, the Árpád dynasty would have died out in 1131 instead of 1301. Furthermore, Hungary could have become part of the Byzantine Empire since Manuel I Komnenos aspired to the Hungarian throne through her mother, Piroska (Eiréné), the daughter of Ladislaus.
Stephen III (1162-1172) struggled during his short reign a lot. He had to fight against the Byzantian Empire and his rival uncles, Ladislaus II and Stephen IV. His heir was Prine Béla, but he lived then in Constantinople, and many considered him as the next ruler of the Eastern empire. However, the archbishop of Esztergom and his mother wanted to see his brother, Géza, on the throne. However, Béla was victorious, and
his brother and mother died in prison.
Béla III’s (1172-1196) reign was one of the most prosperous eras of medieval Hungary.
Béla IV (1235-1270) is widely remembered as the second founder of the country after the Tatar attack in 1240-1241. Fewer know that Hungary almost split into two parts during the second part of his reign. That was because he had two sons, István and Béla. Though the king preferred Béla, István managed to receive the title of the “young king”. As a result, he became the ruler of the Eastern part of the country. However, the conflict between the father and the son remained. Therefore, Béla IV launched an unexpected attack against his son in 1264-65, which István could only stop in Transylvania. Finally, he defeated his father near Isaszeg. Attila Zsoldos,
a Hungarian historian, believes that the fragmentation of the country was very realistic just a couple of decades after the Mongol invasion.
Interestingly, the king’s favourite, Prince Béla, had died before he could sit on the throne. Thus, István V (1270-1272) inherited Hungary.
Source: Helló Magyar