Matthias Corvinus of Hungary

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Matthias Corvinus (Matthias the Just) (February 23 1443 (?) – April 6 1490) was King of Hungary, ruling between 1458 and 1490. He was also crowned King of Bohemia in 1469 and ruled Moravia, Silesia, and Lusatia; from 1486, Matthias was Duke of Austria.


[edit] Name variants

  • Hungarian: Hunyadi Mátyás or Corvin Mátyás, Romanian: Matei (or, seldom, Mateiaş) Corvin, Slovak: Matej Korvín, Czech: Matyáš Korvín, Croatian, Slovene: Matija Korvin or Kralj Matjaž, Polish: Maciej Korwin, Serbian: Matija Korvin (Матија Корвин).
  • In English, his first name is occasionally given as Matthew, while Corvinus may be rendered as Corwin or Corvin.

[edit] Early life

Matthias was born in the house currently known as "Matthias Corvinus House" in Kolozsvár/Klausenburg (present-day Cluj-Napoca), Transylvania, the second son of John Hunyadi – a successful Hungarian military leader of Vlach ancestry, who had risen through the ranks of the nobility to become regent of Hungary –, and Erzsébet Szilágyi, from a Hungarian noble family. The later epithet Corvinus was coined by Matthias' biographer, the Italian Antonio Bonfini, who claimed that the Hunyadi family (whose coat of arms depicts a ravencorvus in Latin) descended from the ancient Roman gens of the Corvini.

Image:Johannes de Thurocz 164 Cod Pal germ 156 Chronica Hungarorum.jpg
Corvinus heraldry as depicted in Johannes de Thurocz's German manuscript (1490)

After the death of Matthias's father, there was a two-year struggle between Hungary's various barons and its Habsburg king, Ladislaus Posthumus (also king of Bohemia), with treachery from all sides; Matthias's older brother László Hunyadi was one party attempting to gain control. In 1457, László was captured with a trick and beheaded, while the king died (possibly of poisoning) in November that year. The lower aristocrats and the people of Pest came out in support of electing Matthias as king, while most barons, thinking the young scholar would be a weak ruler, also agreed to support his election.

[edit] Rule

[edit] Early rule and Renaissance inspiration

Thus, on January 20, 1458, Matthias was elected king by the Diet. At this time Matthias was a hostage of the new Hussite king of Bohemia, George of Podebrady, who released him under the condition of marrying his daughter. The opposing party initially fought some battles against Matthias, but these came to a close in 1463, when the other contender, Emperor Frederick III, officially accepted Matthias as the rightful king of Hungary and gave back the Holy Crown. Matthias was finally crowned March 29, 1464.

Matthias was 15 when he was elected King of Hungary. Matthias was educated in Italian, and his fascination with the achievements of the Italian Renaissance led to the promotion of Mediterranean cultural influences in Hungary. Buda, Esztergom, Székesfehérvár and Visegrád were amongst the towns in Hungary that benefited from the establishment of public health and education and a new legal system under Matthias' rule.

He proved an extremely generous patron, as artists from the Italian city-states (such as Galeotto Marzio) and Western Europe were present in large numbers at his Court. His library, the Bibliotheca Corviniana, was Europe's greatest collection of historical chronicles and philosophic and scientific works in the 15th century, and second only in size to the Vatican Library. He spoke Hungarian, Romanian, Croatian, Latin, and later also German, Czech, Slovak, and other Slavic languages.

[edit] Conflicts in Central Europe

Matthias gained independence of and power over the barons by dividing them, and by raising a large royal army (fekete sereg or Black Army) of mercenaries, whose main force included the remnants of the Hussites in the Czech lands. At this time Hungary reached its greatest territorial extent of the epoch (present-day southeastern Germany in the west, Dalmatia in the south, Bulgaria in the east, and Poland in the north).

He was victorious against the Ottoman Empire, both in beating back attacks and starting smaller campaigns of retaliation: 1463-64 in Bosnia, 1475 in Southern Hungary, 1479-83 in Transylvania, Wallachia, Serbia, and Bosnia; and in 1481 he sent a contingent to help in the retaking of the Tarentine port Otranto. Like his father, Matthias desired to strengthen the Kingdom of Hungary to the point where it became the foremost regional power and overlord, strong enough to push back the Ottomans; toward that end he deemed necessary the conquering of large parts of the Holy Roman Empire. Until his death in 1490, Matthias Corvinus gained control of Moravia, Silesia, Lusatia (these in 1468/1469/1479-1490), and half of present-day Austria (1477/1483-1491); he even ruled from Vienna after 1485.

[edit] Policies in Wallachia and Moldavia

At times Matthias had Vlad III Dracula, the Prince of Wallachia, as his vassal. Although Vlad had much success against the Ottoman armies, the two Christian rulers disagreed in 1462, leading to Matthias invading Wallachia and imprisoning Vlad in Buda. However, wide-ranging support from many Western leaders for Vlad III prompted Matthias to gradually grant privileged status to his controversial prisoner. As the Ottoman Empire appeared to be increasingly threatening as Dracula had warned, he was sent to reconquer Wallachia with Hungarian support in 1476. Despite the earlier disagreements between the two leaders, it was ultimately a major blow to Hungary's status in the Danubian Principalities when Vlad was killed in battle with the Ottomans that same year.

Also in 1467, a conflict erupted between Matthias and the Moldavian Prince Stephen III, after the latter became weary of Hungarian policies in Wallachia and their presence at Kilia; added to this was the fact that Matthias had already taken sides in the Moldavian conflicts preceding Stephen's rule, as he had backed Alexăndrel (and, possibly, the ruler referred to as Ciubăr Vodă), deposing Petru Aron. Stephen occupied Kilia, sparking Hungarian retaliation, that ended in Matthias' defeat in the Battle of Baia in December (the King himself is said to have been wounded).

[edit] Legacy

Matthias's empire collapsed after his death, since he had no children except for an illegitimate son, John Corvin, whom the noblemen of the country did not accept as their king. The weak king of Bohemia, Ladislaus II of the Polish/Lithuanian Jagiellon line, followed him – Ladislaus nominally ruled the areas Matthias conquered except Austria – but real power was in the hand of the nobles. In 1514, two years before Ladislaus's death, the nobility crushed the peasant rebellion of György Dózsa with ruthless methods. As central rule degenerated, the stage was set for a defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. In 1521, Belgrade fell, and, in 1526, the Hungarian army was destroyed in the Battle at Mohács.

High taxes to sustain his lavish lifestyle and the Black Army (cumulated with the fact that the latter went on marauding across the Kingdom after being disbanded upon Matthias's death) could imply that he wasn't very popular with his contemporaries. But the fact that he was elected king in a small anti-Habsburg popular revolution, that he kept the barons in check, persistent rumours about him sounding public opinion by mingling among commoners incognito, and harsh period known witnessed by Hungary later ensured that Matthias' reign is considered one of the most glorious chapters of Hungarian history. Songs and tales converted him into Matthias the Just (Mátyás az igazságos in Hungarian), a ruler of justice and great wisdom, as arguably the most popular hero of Hungarian folklore. He is also one of the sleeping kings.

This popularity is partially mirrored in modern Romania: 1800s Romantic nationalism invested in Matthias and his fathers' Vlach origins, their Christian warrior stances, and their cultural achievements, while ignoring their fluctuating relationships with rulers in Wallachia and Moldavia; in one notable example, Matthias (cited as Corvin) is mentioned in the poem that became the national anthem of Romania, Deşteaptă-te, române! (next to Michael the Brave and Stephen III).

[edit] External links

Preceded by:
Ladislaus Posthumus
King of Hungary
Succeeded by:
Ulászló II
Preceded by:
George of Podebrady
King of Bohemia
Succeeded by:
Ladislaus II
bs:Matija Korvin

cs:Matyáš Korvín de:Matthias Corvinus et:Mátyás I es:Matías Corvino eo:Matiaso la 1-a fr:Matthias Ier de Hongrie hr:Matija Korvin it:Mattia Corvino he:מתיאש הוניאדי lv:Matjāšs Hunjadi hu:Hunyadi Mátyás nl:Matthias Corvinus ja:マーチャーシュ・コルヴィヌス pl:Maciej Korwin pt:Matias I da Hungria ro:Matei Corvin ru:Хуньяди, Матьяш sk:Matej Korvín sr:Матија Хуњади sv:Mattias I Corvinus zh:马加什一世

Matthias Corvinus of Hungary

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