Miklós Zrínyi

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For the member of the Zrinski family who lived in the 16th century, see Nikola Šubić Zrinski.
Miklós Zrínyi
Nikola Zrinski
Ban (viceroy) of Croatia
Nicholas Zrinski crop.jpg
Nicholas Zrinski (1620–1664), Croatian and Hungarian military leader, statesman and poet
Ban of Croatia
Reign 1647–1664
Predecessor Ivan III Drašković
Successor Petar Zrinski
Spouse(s) Marija Euzebija Drašković
Marija Sofija Löbl
Father Juraj V Zrinski
Mother Magdolna Zrinski (born Széchy)
Born 5 January 1620
Csáktornya (Čakovec), Kingdom of Hungary, Habsburg Empire (today's Croatia)
Died 18 November 1664
Zrínyifalva (Gornji Kuršanec, near Čakovec), Kingdom of Hungary, Habsburg Empire
(today's Croatia)

Miklós Zrínyi or Nikola Zrinski (Hungarian: Zrínyi Miklós, Croatian: Nikola Zrinski; 5 January 1620 – 18 November 1664) was a Croatian and Hungarian military leader, statesman and poet. He was a member of the House of Zrinski (or Zrínyi), a Croatian-Hungarian[1][2][3] noble family. He is the author of the first epic poem in Hungarian literature.[4]

Biography[edit]

Miklós was born in Čakovec (Hungarian: Csáktornya), Kingdom of Hungary to the Croatian Juraj V Zrinski and the Hungarian Magdolna (Magdalena) Széchy. At the court of Péter Pázmány, he was an enthusiastic student of Hungarian language and literature, although he prioritized military training. From 1635 to 1637, he accompanied Szenkviczy, one of the canons of Esztergom, on a long educative tour through the Italian Peninsula.

Contemporary drawing showing Zrinski in battle against Ottomans.

Over the next few years, he learned the art of war in defending the Croatian frontier against the Ottoman Empire, and proved himself one of the most important commanders of the age. In 1645, during the closing stages of the Thirty Years' War, he acted against the Swedish troops in Moravia, equipping an army corps at his own expense. At Szkalec he scattered a Swedish division and took 2,000 prisoners. At Eger he saved the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III, who had been surprised at night in his camp by the offensive of Carl Gustaf Wrangel. Although not enthusiastic for having to fight against Hungarians of Transylvania, subsequently he routed the army of George I Rákóczi, prince of Transylvania, on the Upper Tisza. For his services, the emperor appointed him captain of Croatia. On his return from the war he married the wealthy Eusebia Drašković.

In 1646 he distinguished himself in the actions against Ottomans. At the coronation of Ferdinand IV of Austria, King of the Germans, King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, he carried the sword of state, and was made ban and captain-general of Croatia. In this double capacity he presided over many Croatian diets, becoming noted for his efforts to defend the political rights of the Croats and insisting that, as regarded Hungary, they were to be looked upon not as partes annexae but as a regnum.

During 1652–1653, Zrínyi was continually fighting against the Ottomans — nevertheless, from his castle at Čakovec he was in constant communication with the intellectual figures of his time; the Dutch scholar, Jacobus Tollius, even visited him, and has left in his Epistolae itinerariae a lively account of his experiences. Tollius was amazed at the linguistic resources of Zrínyi, who spoke Croatian, Hungarian, Italian, German, Ottoman Turkish and Latin with equal ease. Zrínyi's Latin letters (from which it was gathered that he was married a second time, to Sophia Löbl) are, according to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition of 1911, "fluent and agreeable, but largely interspersed with Croatian and Magyar expressions".

In 1655, he made an attempt to be elected Palatine of Hungary (nádor); in spite of support by the petty nobility, his efforts were frustrated by failure as the king, because of Zrínyi's good connections to Protestants and the Hungarians of Transylvania, nominated Ferenc Wesselényi instead.[5]

Activities in 1664[edit]

The last year of his life was also a culmination of his efforts and prestige. In 1663, the Turkish army, led by Grand Vizier Köprülü Ahmed, launched an overwhelming offensive against Royal Hungary, ultimately aiming at the siege and occupation of Vienna. The imperial army failed to put up any notable resistance; the Turkish army was eventually stopped by adverse weather conditions. As a preparation for the new Turkish onslaught due next year, German troops were recruited from the Holy Roman Empire and aid was called from France, and Zrínyi, under the overall command of the Italian Raimondo Montecuccoli, leader of the Imperial army, was named commander-in-chief of the Hungarian army.

As a preparation for campaigns planned for 1664, Zrínyi set out to destroy the strongly fortified Suleiman Bridge (the Osijek (Hungarian: Eszék) bridge) which, since 1566, had linked Darda to Osijek (across the Drava and the marshes of Baranya).[6] Destruction of the bridge would cut off the retreat of the Ottoman Army and make any Turkish reinforcement impossible for several months. Re-capturing strong fortresses (Berzence, Babócsa, the town of Pécs, etc.) on his way, Zrínyi advanced 240 kilometers on enemy territory and destroyed the bridge on 1 February 1664. However, the further pursuance of the campaign was frustrated by the refusal of the Imperial generals to co-operate. The court remained suspicious of Zrínyi all the way, regarding him as a promoter of Hungarian secessionist ideas and accusing him of having disturbed the peace by building his castle, Novi Zrin (Hungarian: Új-Zrínyivár or Zrínyi-Újvár, English: New Zrin or Zrin-Newcastle), erected in 1661 at his own expense, in the theoretically de-militarised zone between the two empires. Zrínyi's siege of Kanizsa, the most important Turkish fortress in Southern Hungary, failed, as the beginning of the siege was seriously delayed by machinations of the overly jealous Montecuccoli, and later the Emperor's military commanders (apart from Hungarian and Croatian leaders), unwilling to combat the Grand Vizier's army hastily coming to the aid of Kanizsa, retreated.[7]

Despite the failed siege, the expedition made his name notorious and praised throughout Europe. According to the 1911 Britannica, "it was said that only the Zrínyis had the secret of conquering the Turks". Emperor Leopold offered him the title of prince, while Pope Alexander VII struck a commemorative medal with the effigy of Zrínyi as a field marshal, the Spanish King Philip IV sent him the Order of the Golden Fleece, and France's King Louis XIV created him a Peer.

Contemporary drawing showing the death of on 18 November 1664.

After relieving Kanizsa, the Grand Vizier turned against Novi Zrin. The Imperial troops under Raimondo Montecuccoli remained inactive while Zrínyi hastened to relieve the castle, refusing all assistance, with the result that the fortress fell. The Viennese court concentrated all its troops on the Hungarian-Austrian border, sacrificing Novi Zrin to hold back the Turkish army. The Turkish army, ultimately, was stopped in the Battle of Saint Gotthard (1664). The Turkish defeat could have offered an opportunity for Hungary to be liberated from the Turkish yoke. However, the Habsburg court chose not to push its advantage in order to save its strength for the brewing conflict that would come to be known as the War of the Spanish Succession. The infamous Peace of Vasvár was negotiated by Zrínyi's adversary, Montecuccoli. The peace treaty laid down unfavourable terms, not only giving up recent conquests, but also offering a tribute to the Sublime Porte (which would never be paid) against a few presents from the Ottomans - all despite the fact that Austrian-Hungarian troops maintained the upper hand. [8]

Zrínyi rushed to Vienna to protest against the treaty, but his view was ignored; he left the city in disgust, after assuring the Venetian minister, Sagridino, that he was willing at any moment to assist the Republic against the Ottoman Empire with 6,000 men. Zrínyi then returned to Čakovec. It is widely accepted that he, despite being a loyal supporter of the court before, participated in launching the conspiracy which later became to be known as the Wesselényi conspiracy, aimed at the restoration of the independent Kingdom of Croatia and Kingdom of Hungary.[9] However, on November 18, he was killed in a hunting accident in a place called Kuršanec Grove, present-day Gornji Kuršanec near Čakovec, (Hungarian: Zrínyifalva) by a wounded wild boar. (Until this day, legend maintains that he was killed at the order of the Habsburg Court. No conclusive evidence has ever been found to support this claim; however, it remains true that the Habsburgs lost their mightiest adversary with his death.)

Works[edit]

A bust of Zrínyi outside the Vígszínház in Budapest

Beside being a leading military figure of 17th-century Croatia and Hungary, Zrínyi is well known for his literary works, also reflected in his often-recited epithet Zrínyi Miklós, a költő hadvezér és politikus (Hungarian for Miklós Zrínyi, the poet the general and the politician). He is the author of the first epic poem in Hungarian literature.[4]

A statue of Miklós Zrínyi at the Hadtorteneti Muzeum (War History Museum) in Budapest

Zrínyi's most significant literary work, The Peril of Sziget (Szigeti veszedelem or Zrínyiász), an epic poem written in the Göcsej dialect of Hungarian, was written in the winter of 1648-1649, and was published, together with a few miscellaneous pieces of poetry, under the title of The Siren of the Adriatic Sea (Adriai tengernek Syrenája) in Vienna in 1651. The epic was composed in the manner of the classic epic poets, such as Virgil and their 16th century successor Torquato Tasso.

The subject is the heroic but unsuccessful defence of Szigetvár by the author's great-grandfather, Nikola Šubić Zrinski (Hungarian: Zrínyi Miklós (hadvezér)). Many criticized the indiscriminate use of foreign words and seemingly careless metres of the work; however, it was also much praised for its poetic strength, which made Zrínyi the most notable Hungarian poet of the 17th century. The work also earned him praise due to its fundamental idea (the strength of Hungarian/Croatian valour to overthrow Ottoman rule, with the help of God), and to its enthusiastic tone. The Peril of Sziget has drawn comparisons with the other Baroque epics of the period and despite its obsolete language being difficult to interpret to the average reader remains, to this day, one of the few pre-19th century Hungarian literary works still widely known to the public. The epic was translated to Croatian by Miklós's brother, Petar Zrinski (Hungarian: Zrínyi Péter) who, while Miklós was a master of Hungarian, excelled in the Croatian language.

Beside his poetic works, Zrínyi is also a forerunner of Croatian and Hungarian political thinking and military science. In his essays and manifestos, such as Ne bántsd a magyart – Az török áfium ellen való orvosság (Do not hurt the Hungarians - An antidote to the Turkish poison) or Mátyás király életéről való elmélkedések (Reflections on the life of King Matthias) he makes a case for a standing army, moral renewal of the nation, the re-establishment of the national kingdom, the unification of Royal Hungary with Transylvania, and, of course, the ousting of the Turkish occupants.[10]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Piotr Stefan Wandycz: The Price of Freedom: A History of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present, 2nd edition, Routledge, London, 1992 [1]
  2. ^ Dominic Baker-Smith, A. J. Hoenselaars, Arthur F. Kinney: Challenging Humanism: Essays in Honor of Dominic Baker-Smith, Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp., 2010 [2]
  3. ^ Marcel Cornis-Pope, John Neubauer (editors): History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe, Volume 1, John-Benjamin Publishing Company, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, 2004 [3]
  4. ^ a b Encyclopaedia Britannica Online: Miklós Zrínyi
  5. ^ Zrínyi Miklós, gróf, Magyar életrajzi lexikon
  6. ^ Yugoslav review (9th ed.). Jugoslovenska Revija. 1979. p. 41. 
  7. ^ Sándor Szilágyi: A magyar nemzet története
  8. ^ The enemy at the gate, Wheatcroft
  9. ^ Múlt-kor történelmi portál
  10. ^ István Sőtér ed., A magyar irodalom története 1600-tól 1772-ig - Prózai művei

References[edit]