What happened to the wives and fiancées of the 13 Martyrs of Arad? – 6 October 1849
The son of the first Hungarian PM wanted to marry a member of the Habsburg family but Mrs Batthyány baulked his plan and said that “We do not marry into the murderer family!” Most wives married again after October 6 but honoured the memories of their husbands until death. They did not have an easy life as, after the lost freedom fight, most of their properties were confiscated, but they never bowed before Franz Joseph I.
We already wrote about the 13 Martyrs of Arad executed on 6 October 1849, in the city of Arad, after the Hungarian Revolution (1848-1849) was militarily defeated by the troops of the Austrian Empire and Russia. After this, Franz Joseph I re-established the Habsburg rule in Hungary, introducing the era of retaliation led by Haynau. This lasted until the Compromise of 1867. We wrote about the last sentences of the martyrs, and how the first Hungarian PM tried to kill himself in prison with a paper knife. However, we have never mentioned what had happened with the wives of the martyrs, even though sometimes, their lives after October 6 was even harder than facing the firing squad.
Mrs Batthány: Antónia Zichy (1816-1888)
After the execution of his husband, she emigrated to Paris and later moved to Zürich. Mrs Batthyány returned home to Dáka only in 1856 so she could take part in the funeral ceremony of his former husband, the first Hungarian PM. When his son met Baroness Marie Louise von Wallersee, the niece of Sissy, Franz Joseph’s wife, and wanted to marry her, she said that “we do not marry into the murderer family!” She threatened his son that on the day of the wedding, she would commit suicide. Thus, the planned marriage was cancelled. She was buried in 1888 and the farewell letter of his husband was placed on her heart.
Mrs Damjanich: Emília Csernovics (1819-1909)
She was of Serbian origins like her husband; however, they talked in Hungarian instead of German within the family. They married in 1847 in Arad because Damjanich was stationed in the city under the command of Haynau, who was a family friend of theirs those days, invited to lunch many times by the Damjanich family. The widow commemorated the execution of the 13 Martyrs together with her fellow sufferers every year after 1849. After the Compromise, she wanted to get back her confiscated trousseau; however, her application was rejected. A former officer of the Hungarian National Army advised her that she should turn directly to Franz Joseph but she simply left the room the moment she heard his idea.
Mrs Dessewffy: Emma Merse (1823-1871)
They married only in July 1849. Her husband asked General János Máriássy to take care of his wife after his execution. Finally, he married her in 1857, one year after he was released from prison.
Mrs Kiss: Krisztina Horváth Szentgyörgyi (1805-?)
General Ernő Kiss met his later wife as a young officer in 1825, at a ball in Balatonfüred. The event was organized by Krisztina’s father, and it was the first Anna Ball in the city. Unfortunately, Krisztina died presumably in 1828, so Ernő Kiss addressed his farewell letters to his daughters. Interestingly, one of his collateral descendants was Miklós Kiss whose wife, Katharina Schratt, was a mistress of Franz Joseph.
Mrs Knezić: Katalin Kapitány (1819-1853)
They married in 1844 and had two daughters by 1849. Before his execution, the General sent back his wedding ring. According to the family, Katalin died when she heard about the execution of her husband. Other sources say that she went mad in 1853.
Mrs Láhner: Lucia Conchetti (1821-1895)
She was a real beauty who married György Láhner in 1839. In fact, the bride was 18 while the groom was already 44. After October 6th, she remained in Hungary for a while, but because of the permanent harassments, she later returned to Italy. She was buried there and, although the cemetery was eliminated a couple of years ago, her grave was not found.
Mrs Lázár: Mária Reviczky (1812-1873)
They married in 1844, although the woman already had 3 children. Lázár wrote a beautiful farewell to her before his execution. “I would like to breathe into you my last sigh – but that will happen anyway … and my soul will be around you forever. Be calm and live happily – in eternal love” – he wrote.
Mrs Leiningen-Westerburg: Elíz Sissány (1827-1898)
Since Elíz Sissány was the descendant of an ancient Hungarian aristocrat family, Károly Leiningen-Westerburg, born in Hessen, became a Hungarian noble by his marriage to her in 1844. In fact, he applied voluntarily to the Hungarian army in 1848. His farewell letter is one of the most moving love confessions written in the cells of Arad. “How gladly would I have lived since I was as blissful in our marriage as a man can be … thank you again for your devoted love and everything you have done for me.” She married again in 1854 to Leiningen-Westerburg’s old friend, Count József Bethlen.
Mrs Pöltenberg: Paulina Kakowska (1822-1874)
They married in 1840 in Tarnopol, and they saw each other for the last time in August 1848. In his farewell letter, Ernő Pöltenberg encouraged his wife to marry again after his execution: “Be happy because you deserve it! God bless you! Your unhappy Ernő!” However, Paulina mourned her husband until her death. She tried to search his mortal remains later, but the excavations were not successful.
Mrs Schweidel: Domicella Bilinska (1804-1888)
József Schweidel met the Polish Domicella in Galicia and married her in 1827 in Lemberg. They had a very happy marriage blessed by 5 children. One of them, Adalbert, was in prison in Arad like his father in 1849, but he was released after his father’s execution. Interestingly, the leader of the retaliation, Haynau, offered to take him on his name, but the boy refused to accept.
Mrs Vécsey: Karolina Duffaud (1815-1900)
Károly Vécsey met Karolina, the daughter of a French engineer, during the days of the revolution. They married only in the summer of 1849 because Karolina had to be separated from his previous husband first. Vécsey was disinherited by his father, but his wife never left him. She managed to acquire his corpse with the help of a friend of hers and buried him in secret. She mourned his husband until her death.
Lajos Aulich and Ignác Török never married.
Featured image: The 13 martyrs of Arad on the scaffold