Dynastic Intrigues and Domestic Realities during the Reigns of Andrew I and Bela I

Dynastic Intrigues and Domestic Realities during the Reigns of Andrew I and Bela I

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Dynastic Intrigues and Domestic Realities during the Reigns of Andrew I and Bela I

Z. J. Kosztolnyik

Hungarian Studies Review: Vol. XXVIII, Nos. 1-2 (2001)


In the mid-1030s, the cousin of King Stephen I of Hungary, Prince Vazul (the son of Michael, the younger brother of Geza, Stephen’s father) conspired to assassinate the elderly and ailing king. The conspiracy was discovered and the king’s court had Vazul blinded and his three sons: Levente, Andrew and Bela, banished from the kingdom. Next, a new article was added to the recently promulgated Laws of King Stephen (art. ii: 17) regarding conspiracy against king and country. The article pro- claimed that the organizer of such conspiracy may find no refuge in a church. Although this decree shows similarity in concept and wording to the brief entry 5 of the Synod of Mainz (847 a.d.), the phrasing of the Hungarian article is firmer: it outlaws the traitor not only from the community of believers, but from the Church itself.

Upon the death of King Stephen in 1038, his nephew, Peter the Orseolo — the son of one of Stephen’s sisters, and the favourite of Queen Gisela, Stephen’s widow (and the sister of the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry II) — ascended the Hungarian throne. His tyrannical rule (from 1038 to 1041 and from 1044 to 1046) encountered strong opposition. In 1041 Peter fled the realm after which his opponents elected Samuel Aba, the Palatine of the country and husband of Stephen’s other sister, as their king. Unfortunately for Aba, the German imperial court refused to recognise his election to the Hungarian throne and Emperor Henry III invaded Hungary.

Henry’s armies first seized the frontier fortress of Pozsony (Pressburg, today’s Bratislava), then advanced along the left bank of the Danube to the Garam (Hron) River taking possession of nine other Hungarian fortifications. Aba reacted to this invasion by offering peace to the Emperor. Henry refused this offer and embarked on a new invasion this time along the right bank of the Danube. His forces, however, bogged down in the marshes of the Rabca River. In the fall of 1043 Henry concluded peace with Aba, thereby recognizing his royal status.

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