|Prince of Transylvania|
|Reign||1605 – 1606|
(now Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
Kassa, Royal Hungary
(now Košice, Slovakia)
Stephen Bocskai or István Bocskai (or Bocskay, Hungarian: Bocskai István (1 January 1557 – 29 December 1606) was a Hungarian Calvinist nobleman, and Prince of Transylvania (1605–06), who as an eager advocate of the Hungarian interests and became the leader of a revolt against the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor's effort to impose Roman Catholicism on the Kingdom of Hungary, when it was partitioned between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Monarchy. He established an alliance with the Ottoman Empire and, supported by the hajduks, compelled archduke Matthias to reaffirm and guarantee religious freedom for both Royal Hungary and Transylvania concluded by the Treaty of Vienna (1606). As a recognized patron of Protestant Reformation, his statue can be found on the Reformation Wall in Geneva, Switzerland.
Stephen Bocskay was born in Kolozsvár (today: Cluj-Napoca) to the Bocskay family as the son of György Bocskay and Krisztina Sulyok, and spent most of his childhood in Prague and Vienna where he served as an apprentice in the Habsburg chancellery. He returned to Transylvania in 1576, this time Stephen Báthory was elected to be king of Poland who left governing Transylvania to Christopher Báthory whose wife was his sister, Erzsébet Bocskai. At first the powerful Báthory family kept him out of the politics. Later, however, he was very much in the ascendant in the court of his brother-in-law. In 1581, both Erzsébet Bocskai and Christopher Báthory deceased and their 9 year old son Sigismund Báthory was elected to be prince of Transylvania; but being quite young at his father's death, the government was entrusted to a regency, one of whose members was Stephen Bocskay.
Bocskay married Kata Hagymássy, the relict of Miklós Varkocs, in 1583 by which he significantly increased the areas of his tenures. Stephen Báthory died in 1586 and then in 1588, it was officially conferred upon Sigismund Báthory that he passed the threshold of adulthood.
On following the advice of Stephen Bocskay, the young prince changed sides and joined the alliance of anti-Ottoman Christian forces including the Holy Roman Emperor. In 1595, Sigismund Báthory married archduchess Maria Christina for his own benefit, using her influence to confirm the alliance concluded. Since none of the Báthory family but Stephen Bocskay endorsed his decision; eventually, Sigismund Báthory appointed him to be the captain of Várad, and thus Stephen Bocskay wielded power over entire Partium.
In 1595, the Transylvanian army under the command of Stephen Bocskay advanced into Wallachia and together with the Wallachian voivode Michael the Brave defeated the Ottoman army nearby Giurgiu. However, the prince of Transylvania counted on the aid of the Habsburg Monarchy in his efforts that failed to arrive and Transylvania could not withstand the power of Turkish army due to the lack of outside support that ended in the resignation of Sigismund Báthory.
After that there was political turmoil in Transylvania, which the government of general Giorgio Basta's rise to power followed up with the persecution of Protestantism. On representing the interests of the Habsburg chancellery, Basta's ruthless regime caused deprivation, death, and plague in the province. Bocskay protested against the tyranny, but in consequence of his failure to comply with the current regime, the chancellery intervened to commit him for trial and sent into exile to Prague, where he stayed for the next two years. Shortly after the exile, being disappointed in the Habsburgs, Bocskay went back to his tenures in Bihar County. While in retreat, he was approached by Gabriel Bethlen the Hungarian nobleman, who felt responsibility for the fate of Transylvania, about espousing an anti-Habsburg insurrection to which they realized it needed Ottoman support. Although Gabriel Bethlen's proposition met with his approval, however, their correspondence was detected by Giacomo Belgiojoso, the military commander of Kassa, who had long insisted on Bocskay being bereaved all of his wealth greedily and hence the insurrection was in danger of being defeated to begin with.
However, the circumstances demonstrated the increased fortune of Stephen Bocskay: besides that he managed to convince both the hajduks (emancipated peasant warriors) and the vast majority of the civilian inhabitants to join them thanks to their grievances caused by the changed political dispensation (e. g. counter-reformation), he also succeeded in gaining the support of the middle and partially the upper classes of the Hungarian nobility for his struggles. More and more flocked to his forces, and as a result of this, Bocskay's army could win two crucial battles against the Habsburg army at Álmosd and Bihardiószeg In 1605, István Bocskai was elected to be the ruling prince of Hungary and Transylvania in Diet of Szerencs and by the end of the year, Bocskay gained supremacy over Transylvania and the entire part of the Kingdom of Hungary of which was not under Ottoman control that eventually forced archduke Matthias to open negotiations with Bocskay on recognition. On 12 December 1605, Bocskay granted titles of nobility to 9254 hajduks, settled them on the northern part of Szabolcs County and allowed for tax benefits for their towns, providing them the economic ability to serve the militarily for which the hajduks had the personal obligation to defend the country thereby becoming the principality's favored social class. And yet at the same time, the Ottoman sultan Ahmed I sent a magnificent jeweled crown to Bocskay to make him his vassal for Transylvania. Bocskay refused the royal dignity, but made skillful use of the Turkish alliance.
To save the Hungarian provinces of the Habsburg Monarchy, Archduke Matthias, setting aside his unstable brother Rudolf II, entered into negotiations with Bocskay and concluded the Peace of Vienna on 23 June 1606. The peace guaranteed all the constitutional and religious rights and privileges of the Hungarians both in Transylvania and Royal Hungary. Bocskay was acknowledged as Prince of Transylvania by the Austrian court, and the right of the Transylvanians to elect their own independent princes in the future was officially recognized.
The fortress of Tokaj and the counties of Bereg, Szatmár and Ugocsa were at the same time ceded to Bocskay, with reversion to Austria if he should die childless. Simultaneously at the Žitava River, the Peace of Zsitvatorok (Hungarian: Zsitvatoroki-béke) was concluded with the Ottomans, which confirmed the Peace of Vienna. Bocskay survived this diplomatic triumph for only a few months- on 29 December 1606 he was allegedly poisoned in Kassa by his chancellor, Mihály Káthay, who was then hacked to bits by Bocskay's adherents in the town's marketplace.
Stephen Bocskai's princely seal. Text: STEPHANVS • DEI • GRATIA • HVNGARlE (e)t TRANSIL(vaniae) • PRINCEPS ET SICVL(orum) COM(es) (Stephen, prince of Hungary and Transylvania by the grace of God, count of the Szeklers)
Statue of Bocskai, Heroes' Square, Budapest, Hungary
The statue of Bocskai in Miercurea Nirajului, Romania
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Robert Nisbet Bain (1911). "Bocskay, Stephen". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- Earl Morse Wilbur, A History of Unitarianism: In Transylvania, England, and America
- André Corvisier, A Dictionary of Military History and the Art of War
- František Hejl, Josef Kolejka, Otázky dějin Střední a Východní Evropy
- Venice, Austria, and the Turks in the seventeenth century Volume 192 of Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society Author Kenneth Meyer Setton Publisher American Philosophical Society, 1991 ISBN 0-87169-192-2, ISBN 978-0-87169-192-7 Length 502 pages link 
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House of Bocskay
|Prince of Transylvania