The origin of this title dates from about A.D. 1000 when it was conferred by Pope Silvester II upon Saint Stephen I (975–1038), the first Christian king of Hungary, who is supposed to have received it in recognition of his promoting the introduction of Christianity into Hungary and his zeal in seeking the conversion of the heathen. According to tradition, Stephen also received the ecclesiastical title of Apostolic Legate.
Arduin or Hartvik (1097–1103), bishop of Raab (Györ), the biographer of St. Stephen, tells us that the pope hailed the king as a veritable "Apostle" of Christ, with reference to his holy labours in spreading the Catholic faith through Hungary. However the papal bull of Sylvester II, dated 27 March 1000, whereby the pope grants St. Stephen the crown and title of King, returns to him the kingdom he had offered to the Holy See and confers on him the right to have the cross carried before him, with an administrative authority over bishoprics and churches, affords no basis for the granting of this particular title.
This title was renewed by Pope Clement XIII in 1758 in favor of the Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresia, Queen of Hungary, and her descendants, the later Habsburg Emperors of Austria, bore the title of apostolic king of Hungary, used by the King himself, as also in the letters addressed to him by officials or private individuals.
Pope Leo X having conferred the title of Defensor Fidei on Henry VIII of England, in the year 1521, the nobles of Hungary, with Stephen Werboczi, the learned jurist and later Palatine of Hungary, at their head, opened negotiations with the Holy See to have the title of "Apostolic Majesty", said to have been granted by Pope Sylvester II to Stephen, conferred on King Louis II of Hungary. But these negotiations led to no result.
In 1627, Emperor Ferdinand III endeavoured to obtain the title for himself, but desisted from the attempt when he found the Primate of Hungary, Péter Pázmány, as well as the Holy See itself, unwilling to accede to his request. When, however, measures were taken, in the reign of Emperor Leopold I (1657–1705) to make the royal authority supreme in the domain of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and administration, the title "Apostolic Majesty" came into use.
Maria Theresia used (the female version of) the title, "Apostolic Queen", for the first time in the letters patent granted to the imperial plenipotentiary sent to the College of Cardinals after the death of Pope Benedict XIV. In the instructions imparted to this ambassador, the hope was expressed that the Holy See will not withhold this title in the future from the ruler of Hungary. Pope Clement XIII, on learning of this wish of Maria Theresa, granted this title motu proprio to the queen and her successors, by virtue of the Papal Brief "Carissima in Christo filia", of 19 August 1758. The title was thereupon associated with Hungary by an edict of Maria Theresa, which prescribed that the title "Apostolic King of Hungary" should be used for the future in all acts, records and writings.
Since then the King of Hungary bore this title, which, however, only accrued to him after his coronation, and did not belong to him before that ceremony, nor did it extend to the King's spouse (Empress-consort of Austria), nor any other member of the dynasty, not even the heir to the throne, the so-called rex junior, who was crowned in the life-time of the reigning monarch.
Franz Joseph I of Austria was titled "His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty" (Seine Kaiserliche und Königlich Apostolische Majestät) along with his consort Empress Elisabeth, who was styled "Her Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty" (Ihre Kaiserliche und Königlich Apostolische Majestät). The plural for the couple was also used as "Their Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesties" (Ihre Kaiserlichen und Königlich Apostolischen Majestäten).
The rights exercised by the crown in respect of the Catholic Church in Hungary were not connected with the title "Apostolic Majesty", but exercised in virtue of the supreme royal right of patronage.
The style has not been used since the abolition of the monarchy in 1918. It was abbreviated to HAM or HRAM; when used with the Austrian Imperial style, it was usually simplified to HI&RM or HIM.
Sources and references
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