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The Eastern Hungarian Kingdom[1][2][3] (in Hungarian: Keleti Magyar Királyság) is the modern name used to designate the realm of John Zápolya and his son John Sigismund Zápolya, counter-kings to the Habsburg Hungarian Kings. There were several attempts to reunite the two Hungarian kingdoms under Habsburg rule,[3] but the Turks prevented this by taking the Eastern Hungarian Kingdom under their protection.[3] The exact territory of the polity was disputed because both kings (the Habsburgs and the Zápolyas) claimed the whole kingdom. Temporary territorial division occurred only at the secret negotiations of Treaty of Nagyvárad in 1538. The Eastern Hungarian Kingdom is the predecessor of Principality of Transylvania that was established in 1570 in accordance with Treaty of Speyer (ratified in 1571).[4]

John I's reign

In 1526, the main Hungarian army was defeated by the Ottomans at Battle of Mohács, Louis the Hungarian king was killed in action, however the Turks withdrew their troops and did not invade the country yet. The country became divided due to rival rulers. John I and Habsburg Ferdinand were supported by different factions of the nobility in the Hungarian kingdom. While John was the former voivode of Transylvania and the wealthiest and the most powerful landlord after Mohács, Ferdinand had the support of his brother the Emperor Charles. To counter this, John sought an alliance with the Ottomans and in 1528 the Ottoman sultan assented to an alliance with John I and gave written assurance of his support. He swore fealty to the sultan in 1529.

In 1538, the two sides officialized the temporary division of the kingdom in accordance with Treaty of Nagyvárad,[5] which was meant to last until the death of John Zápolya.[6] The Habsburgs received a foothold in the north and west, Royal Hungary, with the new capital Pressburg.

John II Sigismund's reign

In 1540, when Zápolya died, his son, the infant John II Sigismund Zápolya was crowned by the Hungarian estates,[5] and the kingdom remained divided. From 1541 or 1542, the house of Zápolya also controlled the region that after 1571 became known as Partium.

For much of John II's reign the country was governed by his mother, Isabella, with the help of the regent, the Catholic cleric George Martinuzzi and with the support of the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. In 1541 the divided country fell apart into three parts because of the Turk occupation: a central portion controlled by the Ottoman Empire as Budin Province, a western part, called Royal Hungary, whose nobles elected Ferdinand as the king, in hope he would help expelling the Turks, and the Eastern Hungarian Kingdom, out of which later the Principality of Transylvania emerged.

During the decade of 1540s, the Eastern Hungarian Kingdom included the counties of Máramaros, Szabolcs, Szatmár, Közép-Szolnok, Bihar, Külső-Szolnok, Békés, Csongrád, Arad, Csanád and the Temesköz.[7] The bigger towns as Várad or Lippa were significant centres of state power, warranting predominance over the region's magnates. The one of the wealthiest noble Péter Petrovics was the absolute ruler of the Temesköz, however he was loyal to the Zápolya family. It followed that he cooperated with György Fráter (George Martinuzzi) the guardian of the infant John Sigismund. The regions from county of Máramaros to Kraszna river was ruled by the Drágffy-Perényi family, Ecsed and Somlyó by the Báthory family, Békés county by the Patócsy, the Maros river's valley by the Jaksics family and town of Debrecen by the Török family of Enying. The Zemplén, Borsod, and Abaúj counties with their undefined borders were ruled by the Balassa, Losonci, Bebek and the Drugeths families however they possessed considerable autonomy.[7]

The army campaigns of 1543–44 left only one secure road link to Royal Hungary, along the Vág valley, and this momentum further decreased the numbers of Habsburg supporters in the kingdom.[7] In August 1544, commissioners from the central parts of the medieval Hungarian kingdom as counties along the Tisza river participated as equals in the Transylvanian diet at Torda. The Transylvanian diet became the legal successor of the Hungarian diets due to this practise.[7]

The chancellery and the high court at Buda disappeared during the political chaos of 1540-41 and Transylvania could not be administered by the central organs of the Hungarian Kingdom anymore. The apparatus of Transylvania's voivode was inadequate to provide the task of administering a state.[7] György Fráter formed new administrative structure and he established the court at Gyulafehérvár.[7]

The feudal estates lost their leverage over the cases of state.[7] The Saxons were still pro-Habsburg supporters and adopted a passive stance. Péter Haller, the royal magistrate at Szeben, was the only Saxon at the court of Gyulafehérvár. The Székelys had only few advocates in the circles around the regent and the queen.[7] King John's supporters usually had no roots within the new confines of the country, however their relatives were found amongst the senior officials and courtiers in large numbers.[7] The ruling class still trusted to the reunification of the country, and György Fráter always encountered the pressure of this wish and expectation.[7]

Habsburg rule and war

In 1549, according to treaty of Nyírbátor, the legates of King Ferdinand I and of Isabella Jagiellon agreed to return Transylvania to the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary.[5] The treaty was Martinuzzi's work.[5] Isabella, John Sigismund's mother, did not want to accept the dispossession of her son's crown and informed the Sultan immediately.[5] Armed confrontations occurred between Isabella's forces and Martinuzzi's pro-Habsburg troops.[5] Martinuzzi's army besieged the royal residence Gyulafehérvár two times in 1550 and 1551.[5] The agreement was signed by Isabella in 1551. After the murder of György Fráter (Martinuzzi) by the Habsburgs in 1551, Giovanni Battista Castaldo reoccupied Transylvania and the Tisza region for Habsburg Hungary.[7] John Sigismund abdicated as King and, together with Isabella left for Poland.[8]

The sultan, feeling betrayed, ordered his army against Hungary in 1552. Veszprém, Drégely, Szolnok, Lippa, Temesvár, Karánsebes and Lugos fell in the course of the campaign. Only Eger castle led by István Dobó could stand up to the Ottoman army. In 1553, Ferdinand withdrew Castaldo's soldiers from Transylvania, however in 1554 the Sultan launched another attack against Hungary, occupying Salgó and Fülek.[7]

The recreated Zápolya's realm

In 1556 the nobles called King John II back and they elected him as Prince of Transylvania by the Diet of Szaszsebes,[9] and Zápolya's realm was recreated.

"On this day we have by our common will elected the son of our late King John as our Prince and King, and we will loyally serve his majesty and master now and in times to come."[7]

In 1568, the freedom of religion was formally recognized and guarantied by John II Sigismund in the Edict of Torda. This religious tolerance and diversity had a lasting impact.[10]

The Principality of Transylvania, the successor of Eastern Hungarian Kingdom (1570). Partium is depicted in the darker colour

In 1570, John II Sigismund Zápolya, son of John I Zápolya renounced his claim as King of Hungary (1540–1570) in favour of Maximilian II of Habsburg, who also claimed the title since 1563. Instead John II Sigismund Zápolya became the first Prince of Transylvania (as princeps Transsylvaniae et partium regni Hungariae dominus - Prince of Transylvania and ruler of a part of the Kingdom of Hungary) from 1570 until his death (1571).[5]

Treaty of Speyer

In 1570 (ratified in 1571), by the Treaty of Speyer (Spires), John II Sigismund, John I's son, abdicated as king of Hungary, and a new dukedom was invented for him: "Joannes, serenissimi olim Joannis regis Hungariae, Dalmatiae, Croatiae etc. filius, Dei gratia princeps Transsylvaniae ac partium regni Hungariae" (imperial prince), from which derives the name Partium. This treaty, like the earlier Grosswardein (Nagyvárad) accord, endorsed the principle of a united Hungary. Partium and Transylvania were entrusted to John II Sigismund, but under the title of imperial prince. As mentioned above, the Zápolya held Partium before, but the treaty allowed them to do this without fear that the Habsburgs would contest the house of Zápolya's lordship. In a sense, Zápolya traded title for territory. Eastern Hungarian Kingdom became the predecessor to the Principality of Transylvania. The principality, where native princes, who paid the Turks tribute, ruled with considerable autonomy[11] and where Austrian and Turkish influences vied for supremacy for nearly two centuries. All rulings after 1570 as King of Hungary refer to the territory known as "Royal Hungary", and as Prince refer to the "Principality of Transylvania".

See also

  • Little War in Hungary
  • List of Hungarian rulers
  • Kingdom of Hungary in the Middle Ages
  • Ottoman Hungary
  • Ottomans
  • Habsburgs



  1. Béla Köpeczi, History of Transylvania, Volume 2, Social Science Monographs, 2001, p. 593
  2. Iván Boldizsár, NHQ; the new Hungarian quarterly, Volume 22, Issue 1, Lapkiadó Pub. House, 1981, p. 64
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Robert John Weston Evans, T. V. Thomas, Crown, Church and estates: Central European politics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Macmillan, 1991, p. 80-81
  4. Iván Boldizsár, NHQ; the new Hungarian quarterly, Volume 22, Issue 1, Lapkiadó Pub. House, 1981, p. 64
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 István Keul, Early modern religious communities in East-Central Europe: ethnic diversity, denominational plurality, and corporative politics in the principality of Transylvania (1526–1691), BRILL, 2009, pp. 40-61
  6. The Encyclopædia britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and ... - Google Cărţi. 2010-08-16. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 LÁSZLÓ MAKKAI, ANDRÁS MÓCSY, BÉLA KÖPECZI, HISTORY OF TRANSYLVANIA Volume I. From the Beginnings to 1606, Distributed by Columbia University Press, New York 2001 EAST EUROPEAN MONOGRAPHS, NO. DLXXXI
  8. A Concise History of Hungary - Miklós Molnár - Google Books. 2001-04-30. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  9. The Reformed church review - Reformed Church in the United States. Publication Board - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  10. Oksana Buranbaeva, Vanja Mladineo, Culture and Customs of Hungary, ABC-CLIO, 2011, p. 44
  11. A Country Study: Hungary. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. Retrieved 11 January 2009. 

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