Mózes Székely

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Mózes Székely

Mózes Székely (15 April 1553 – 17 July 1603) was a Transylvanian nobleman of Székely descent and briefly ruled as Prince of Transylvania.

He was a military leader under Prince Sigismund Báthory. After the latter's third and final abdication in 1601, Transylvania was controlled by the mercenaries of Habsburg general Giorgio Basta. In April 1603, Székely instigated the native Transylvanian forces to rebel and, with the support of Turkish-Tartarian auxiliary forces, routed Basta's troops. On 8 May 1603, Székely claimed the title of a Prince of Transylvania, but his rule proved unstable, as his Tartarian mercenaries outdid Basta's troops in cruelty and Radu Şerban, the new Voivode of Wallachia attacked as an ally of the Habsburgs.

Mózes' own kinsmen, the Székely, joined forces with the invaders, who defeated and killed Mózes in the Battle of Braşov on 17 July 1603. Radu withdrew to Wallachia, making way for a return of Basta's mercenaries. Székely was the only Székely monarch of the Transylvanian Principality.


Mózes Székely was born in 1553 in the Transylvanian town of Udvarhely as a son of a primi pilus family. His father was a János Székely Literáti or János Literáti for short or "John the Scribe". When Mózes Székely was born the Hungarian Kingdom was not a European power; it was split into three parts. The central portion was occupied by the Ottoman Empire, whilst the House of Habsburg had divided the remainder of Hungary into two; the West Hungarian Kingdom and East Hungarian Kingdoms After the death of the Hungarian king John II (1571), the East Hungarian Kingdom was named the "Transylvanian Principality".

Mózes Székely was the only Székely monarch of Transylvania but for only for three months.

Mózes Székely in his younger years dealt in the salt trade. His father, János Székely Literáti was one of the first salt-headers or salt-chamberlain, when the Hungarian king John II, in 1562 after riots made the salt mines royal holdings. The Catholic István Báthory was elected for monarch by the mostly Protestant Transylvanian orders after the early death of king John II. In Transylvania — firstly in Europe — the equality of all churches, and religious freedom was declared by law in 1568. The Transylvanian Principality was still a significant and thriving state in Europe at the end of the 16th century. Its population mostly consisted of Hungarians and Székelys, but also Saxons, Rumanians and others who lived there in small numbers. This is known from 1574 in a passage wrirten by Pierre Lescalopier the ensue of the French king Charles IX.

A minor rebellion started after the election of the Transylvanian monarch István Báthory. The Habsburgs did not want the leader who was freely elected by the Transylvanian people. They wanted Gáspár Bekes for the monarch as he was faithful to the court of Vienna. Mozes Székely made his name in this rebellion as a guardsman of the monarch István Báthory. In the summer of 1575 in Radnót along the Maros he crossed the river with his sword in his mouth. The monarch nominated him as the captain of the guardsmen and resigned the governing of the brigade to him also. The Transylvanian monarch István Báthory was elected to the Polish king on 14 December 1575 by the Polish Szejm. Báthory requested many Transylvanian, Hungarian and Székely warriors to fight for him. We can find Mózes Székely among these Transylvanian warriors who took part in the liberating of Gdańsk. He also took part in the Polish – Russian war, when Ivan the Terrible, the Russian czar, captured important parts of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. István Báthory, the Polish king, forced the retreat of the Russians from the captured areas and imposed a peace settlement causing the Polish people to refer him as one of their greatest king. Mózes Székely fought in these campaigns with thousands of Hungarian and Transylvanian warriors of Báthory. He was created to a Holy Knight by Báthory because of his valour then after the war he was nominated to lieutenant or chamberlain salt mine of Sófalva in Székely Land in 1583 and important lands were given to him also. He was married this time but the name of his first wife is not known since she died very early. He married Anna Kornis, who gave him two sons named István Székely and Mózes Székely Jr. He is mentioned as the lieutenant of the salt mine of Sófalva in 1591.

It was a very important revolution in his life — and in the life of the Transylvanian Hungarians too – when the prince of Transylvania, Sigismund Báthory, broke the peace with the Ottoman Empire in 1594 and made a commitment with the Habsburgs involving his country and people into the 15 years long long war against the Turks. Mózes Székely had many successful battles in the war against the Ottoman Empire, but he was wounded in the assault of Facsád. In this war, the Transylvanian army, of which the Székelys were a part, was over 50,000 strong, a large army for this time in Europe. Sigismund Báthory promised them that if they fought hard against the Turks they would get back their original possessions. After the victorious campaign, Sigismund Báthory reneged on his promise; the Székelys rioted and were punished. Báthory abdicated again in 1598, first in favor of the Habsburg emperor Rudolf II (April), only to change his mind, return and abdicate once more (October), this time in favor of his cousin, the Cardinal Andrew Báthory. The Diet elected him, but the Cardinal -prince was opposed by Michael the Brave, Voivode of Wallachia, who, with the support of Rudolf II, attacked him. The leadership of the Transylvanian army was given to Mózes Székely by Andrew Báthory, but the monarch started to organize his army very late, and some of the Székelys were on the side of Michael. Consequently, the Transylvanian army was defeated at Şelimbăr in 1599. Later, the Székelys of Csík killed the fleeing Cardinal András Báthory.

Mózes Székely took an oath of loyalty to Michael, who was appointed as governor of Transylvania by Rudolf. Michael nominated Mózes as captain of the Transylvanian army, but they soon turned on each other. Mózes Székely escaped to Poland intending to dislodge Michael and the Habsburg forces with the help and army of his old friend, the Polish Chancellor Jan Zamoysky.

Whilst Mózes Székely was in Poland, the Hungarians nobility in Transylvania revolted and, with the help of the imperial general Giorgio Basta, defeated Michael and his Székely allies at the battle of Mirăslău (September 18, 1600). Michael fled and the Transylvanians recalled Sigismund Báthory once again to the throne. But Michael returned with help from Emperor Rudolf, and, together with his former enemy, Giorgio Basta, defeated the Transylvanian army and it’s generals Mózes Székely and István Csákyon at the battle of Guruslău (August 3, 1601). Six days later, Basta ordered his mercenaries to kill Michael. It is an interesting point in Transylvanian history that Captain John Smith the famous English traveller along with other English mercenaries came over to the Transylvanians and fought against the Habsburgs with Mózes Székely in the spring of 1602.

The forces of Mózes Székely sustained a defeat in the fight against Basta near Tövis in July 1602, most Transylvanians escaping to Temesvár. Sigismund Báthory abdicated for the last time. Mózes Székely with Gábor Bethlen and other Transylvanian patriots organized the emancipation of Transylvania in winter of 1602–1603. He obtained the encouragement of Mohamed III, Sultan of Ottoman Empire, to become prince of Transylvania. Mózes Székely put his armies in action in March 1603. The Diet of Transylvania elected him on 15 April 1603. He was ceremoniously inducted after the liberation of the capital (Gyulafehérvár, Alba Iulia, Weisenburg) on May 9, 1603.

Mózes Székely successfully occupied the largest part of Transylvanian Principality — with the exception of various Saxon towns — in May and June 1603. He dislodged the mercenaries of Basta from Transylvania, but he could not continue his advance. The Habsburg government enlisted the help of Radu Şerban, the new ruler of Wallachia, who attacked Transylvania. Also, the Székelys of Csík and Háromszék were encouraged to attack Mózes Székely. Some joined with Radu, while others fought on the side of Mózes. The Transylvanian army was defeated in the Battle of Braşov, on July 17, 1603. In the gory bottle – called the Mohács of Erdély – near 4,000 Hungarians and Székelys died, including Mózes Székely.

Mózes Székely's fight for Transylvanian independence temporarily failed, but it was not pointless; in 1604, under István Bocskai, the Transylvanians took arms again. At the end of this fight, the Habsburgs had to sign peace and admitted Bocskai as the monarch of both Hungary and Transylvania.



Further reading[edit]

  • Magyarország története 1526-1686. Akadémiai, Bp. 1985.
  • Magyarország történeti kronológiája, II. kötet 1526-1848. Akadémiai, Bp. 1989.
  • Jerzy Topolski: Lengyelország története. Gondolat, Bp. 1989.
  • Szekeres Lukács Sándor: Székely Mózes Erdély székely fejedelme, Székelyudvarhely, 2007.
  • Markó László: A magyar állam főméltóságai Szent Istvántól napjainkig. 2., bőv., jav. kiadás. Bp. 2006.