Béla I of Hungary
|Bust of Béla at the National Historical Memorial Park in Ópusztaszer|
|Spouse||Adelaide of Poland|
|Géza I of Hungary
Ladislaus I of Hungary
|Died||11 September 1063 (aged 46–47)|
Béla I the Champion or the Bison (//; Hungarian: I. (Bajnok/Bölény) Béla; Slovak: Belo I., c. 1016–1063) was King of Hungary from 1060 until his death. He descended from a younger branch of the Árpád dynasty and spent seventeen years in exile, probably in the court of the Kings of Poland. He came back to Hungary, in 1043, at the request of his brother, King Andrew I who assigned him the government of one third of the kingdom and proclaimed Béla his heir. When Solomon was born in 1053, his father Andrew designated him heir to the throne; Béla refused to accept this and rebelled against his brother. Although he managed to ascend to the throne after defeating King Andrew, he could not subdue Andrew's sons' opposition and immediately ensure his sons' succession. This was achieved only in 1074.
Early years 
Béla was the second son of Duke Vazul, a cousin of Stephen I, the first King of Hungary. His mother was probably the concubine (a daughter of a member of the Hungarian gens Tátony) of his father, who still followed pagan customs.
In exile 
After their father's death, the three brothers were obliged to leave the country. Fleeing first to Bohemia, they continued to Poland where Béla settled down, while his brothers, Levente and Andre continued on, settling in Kiev. In Poland, Béla served King Mieszko II Lambert of Poland and took part in the king's campaigns against the pagan Pomeran tribes. He gained the epithet "the Champion" in these campaigns. Some chronicles even claim that when a Pomeranian chief challenged Mieszko to single combat, Béla took up the challenge in the king's name. He became a successful military leader, and the king gave his daughter in marriage to him. He may have been baptized just before his marriage, and his Christian name was Adalbert. After his marriage, he probably lived in Poland during the time of the interregnum when his brother-in-law, King Casimir I of Poland was obliged to leave the country.
Some authors claim that during the interregnum in Poland, Béla fled to Bohemia and they identify Béla with "King Stephen's cousin", mentioned in medieval chronicles, whom the Emperor Henry III, in 1043, assigned to govern the parts of Hungary he had occupied from King Samuel Aba, when the Hungarians refused to accept King Peter's rule.
Duke of Tercia pars Regni 
In the meantime, after a bloody pagan revolt which ended the rule of King Peter, Béla's brother ascended the throne in Hungary as King Andrew I. However, his relations with the Holy Roman Empire remained tense, because King Peter had been not only a close ally of the Emperor Henry III, but he also had become a vassal of the Holy Roman Empire. Andrew refused to accept the suzerainty of the Emperor, ruled Hungary independently and prepared for the approaching war. For this reason he invited his younger brother, the successful military leader, Béla to his court, and Béla accepted his offer.
In 1048, Andrew conceded one third of Hungary (Tercia pars regni) in appanage to Béla. The two brothers shared power without incident until 1053, when King Andrew fathered a son, Solomon. Thereafter, Andrew became determined to secure the throne for his son and to displace his brother. Andrew, therefore, had his son (Béla's nephew) crowned "junior king" (rex iunior) in 1057, despite an earlier agreement between the brothers according to which Béla was the heir to Andrew. Hungarian custom would also dictate that the senior male member of the family inherit the kingdom. Following the coronation, Béla left his brother's court.
Two years later, according to legend, King Andrew called Béla back to his court, and placed before him a crown and a sword, representing royal and ducal power, respectively, and asked Béla to take his choice. Having been forewarned by a court official that choosing the crown would mean his death, Béla instead selected the sword. Shortly afterwards, Béla fled to Poland where he was received by King Bolesław II the Generous, nephew of his wife.
King of Hungary 
In 1060, Béla returned to Hungary and defeated King Andrew I to become the new king. After his brother's death and Béla's victory at the Theben Pass, Béla was crowned king on 6 December 1060. During his brief reign he concerned himself with crushing pagan revolts in his kingdom.
Hungarian chroniclers praised Béla for introducing new currency, such as the silver denarius, and for his benevolence to the former followers of his nephew, Solomon. The terms Nobilissimus (most noble) and nobilissima familia (most noble family) have been used since the 11th century for the King of Hungary and his family, but at that time only a few, among them Béla I, which were mentioned in official documents as such.
Marriage and children 
- King Géza I of Hungary (c. 1044 – 25 April 1077)
- King Ladislaus I of Hungary (c. 1048 – 29 July 1095)
- Duke Lampert of Hungary (after 1050 – c. 1095)
- Sophia (after 1050 – 18 June 1095), wife firstly of Markgraf Ulrich I of Carniola, and secondly of Duke Magnus I of Saxony
- Euphemia (after 1050 – 2 April 1111), wife of Prince Otto I of Moravia
- Ilona (after 1050 – c. 1091), wife of King Demetrius Zvonimir of Croatia
- Anna Lanke (? – 1095), wife of Rostislav of Tmutarakan
Béla I probably had a daughter by a mistress whose name is unknown:
- Sophia (after 1050 – after 1116), wife of Comes (count) Lampert de genere Hont-Pázmány 
- Wincenty Swoboda, Bela I, In: Słownik Starożytności Słowiańskich, vol. 7.
- Some modern sources claim that duke Vazul married Katun Anastazya of Bulgaria who bore Béla and his brothers, Levente and Andrew.
- Her name is unknown. Some authors, without sources, gave her name as Rixa. Nowadays it is supposed that she was called Adelaide, see K. Jasiński, Rodowód pierwszych Piastów, Wrocław - Warszawa (1992).
- Annales Altahenses maiores; Annales Hildesheimenses maiores; Hermann of Reichenau: Chronicon de sex ætatibus mundi.
- Some modern authors claim that Béla was Duke of the alleged Principality of Nitra, but contemporary sources only mentioned "Tercia pars Regni".
- "Bela I". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
- Kazimierz Jasiński, Rodowód pierwszych Piastów, Wrocław - Warszawa 1992.
- Włodzimierz Dworzaczek, Genealogia, Warszawa 1959, tabl. 84.
- Rostislav of Tmutarakan at hrono.ru (Russian)
- Cawley, Charles, HUNGARY, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, retrieved August 2012,[better source needed]
- Engel, Pat. Realm of St. Stephen : A History of Medieval Hungary, 2001
- Kosztolnyik, Z.J., Five Eleventh Century Hungarian Kings, 1981
- Kristó, Gyula - Makk, Ferenc: Az Árpád-ház uralkodói (IPC Könyvek, 1996)
- Korai Magyar Történeti Lexikon (9-14. század), főszerkesztő: Kristó, Gyula, szerkesztők: Engel, Pál és Makk, Ferenc (Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1994)
- Magyarország Történeti Kronológiája I. – A kezdetektől 1526-ig, főszerkesztő: Benda, Kálmán (Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1981)
Béla I of HungaryBorn: c. 1016 Died: 11 September 1063
|King of Hungary