Count of the Székelys
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The Count of the Székelys (Hungarian: székelyispán, Latin: comes Sicolorum) was the leader of the Hungarian-speaking Székelys in Transylvania in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. The counts were high-ranking royal officials, directly subjected to the monarchs. The first counts were mentioned in the 13th century.
In addition to the seven Székely seats (or administrative units), the counts' jurisdiction included four Transylvanian Saxon districts from around 1320 to the second half of the 15th century. They also held important castles outside the territories under their administration, including their seat at Görgény (now Gurghiu in Romania). The counts were the supreme commanders of the Székely troops. Their military campaigns against Bulgaria and the Golden Horde were mentioned in royal charters and medieval chronicles. The counts headed the general assemblies of both the individual Székely seats and the entire Székely community. They also heared appeals against the decisions of the supreme court of Székely Land.
The monarchs appointed two or three noblemen to jointly hold the office from the late 14th century. At least one of the counts was also regularly made voivode of Transylvania from the 1440s, because frequent Ottoman raids against Transylvania required the centralization of the military command of the province. The offices of the count and the voivode were in practice united after 1467. From the late 16th century, the princes of Transylvania (as successors of the voivodes) also styled themselves as counts of the Székelys. After the integration of the principality to the Habsburg Empire in the early 18th century, the title was ignored until Maria Theresa revived it at the Székelys' request. She and her successors on the Hungarian throne used the title till 1918.
The origin of the office is obscure. The Hungarian-speaking Székelys were a "well organized community of warriors" in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. They originally lived in scattered groups along the frontiers of the kingdom. In Transylvania, they first settled along the rivers Kézd (Saschiz), Orbó (Gârbova), and Sebes (Sebeș). They started to move to the easternmost region of the province when the ancestors of the Transylvanian Saxons arrived around 1150.
Bishop Otto of Freising mentioned that "two counts" commanded the archers in the vanguard of the Hungarian army in the Battle of the Fischa in 1146. The Hungarian chronicles recorded that Székelys and Pechenegs formed the vanguards of the Hungarian army in the same battle, thus the bishop's report may have preserved the first reference to a count of the Székelys, according to Attila Zsoldos, Gyula Kristó and other historians. On the other hand, as historian Zoltán Kordé emphasizes it, 13th-century royal charters mentioned other royal officials who ruled Székely groups, suggesting that the office had not been established in the previous century. For instance, a royal charter wrote of an army of Saxon, Vlach, Székely and Pecheneg troops, fighting in Bulgaria under the command of Joachim, Count of Hermannstadt (now Sibiu in Romania), in the early 1210s.
The earliest royal charter mentioning a "count and commander of the Székelys" was issued in 1235. It refers to a military campaign launched against Bulgaria in 1228, thus the office must have existed in that year at the latest. The count was not the sole ruler of all Székelys for decades. For instance, a diploma of Béla IV of Hungary referred to the count of the Székelys of Nagyváty in Baranya County. Lack Hermán, who held the office from 1328 to 1343, was styled as "count of the three clans of the Székelys", but the exact meaning of the title is unknown.
The Székelys were organized into special administrative units (originally known as "lands", "districts", "communities" or "universities") in Transylvania. These units became known as "seats" from the second half of the 14th century. Székely Land was divided into seven seats. Udvarhelyszék, Marosszék, Csíkszék, Kézdiszék, Orbaiszék and Sepsiszék formed a coherent territory in south-eastern Transylvania; Aranyosszék, which was located in the central region, was separated from them.
The jurisdiction of the counts was not limited to Székely Land. The Saxon district of Mediasch (now Mediaș in Romania) was subjected to them until Sigismund of Luxemburg, King of Hungary, exempted the local inhabitants from the counts' authority in 1402. The counts were almost continuously also the rulers of the Saxons of Bistritz (present-day Bistrița in Romania) from 1320. This district was granted to John Hunyadi by Ladislaus V of Hungary in 1453. The Saxons of Kronstadt and Burzenland (now Brașov and Țara Bârsei in Romania) were also under the jurisdiction of the counts from 1344 until the mid-15th century.
The counts held one of the most important honors in the Kingdom of Hungary. The system of honors allowed a great officer of the realm to enjoy all royal revenues connected to his office. The fines imposed in the Székely seats were to be paid to the counts. Each seat was also required to give a horse to the new count at his installation. The counts also received the royal revenues from the Saxon territories under their jurisdiction.
Most revenues of the counts were collected from the estates attached to the royal castles that they held outside Székely Land. They could preserve these fortresses even after most high officers of the realm had lost the right to possess royal castles around 1402. The counts most frequently had their court in the castle of Görgény in Torda County (at present-day Gurghiu in Romania). The fortress was first mentioned in 1358 as the counts' possession. It was granted to Hunyadi in 1453. The castle of Höltövény in Alsó-Fehér County (now Hălchiu in Romania) was first mentioned in 1335 as the counts' honor. The counts also seized the fortresses of Törcsvár and Királykő in Felső-Fehér County (now Bran Castle and Oratea Fortress in Romania), but the latter was listed among the castles held by Hunyadi's sons in 1457.
The counts were the supreme commanders of the Székely troops. They were responsible for the regular supervision of the Székely warriors' military equipment. Bogomer, the first known count, was captured during a military campaign Bulgaria in 1228. Lack Hermán, who held the office from 1328 to 1343, also styled himself the commander of the royal army stationed between the rivers Rába and Rábca during a campaign against Austria in 1336. Andrew Lackfi and his Székely troops inflicted a crushing defeat on the Tatars of the Golden Horde in early February 1345.
The two counts, Michael Jakcs and Henry Tamási, helped the Hungarian noblemen against the rebellious Transylvanian peasants in 1437 and 1438. They commanded the Székely army in the first battle against the peasants at Bábolna (now Bobâlna in Romania) in the summer of 1437. They signed the agreement of the leaders of the noblemen, Saxons and Székelys about their "Brotherly Union" against their enemies on 16 September.
The counts had important judicial functions in Székely Land and the Saxon districts subjected to them. They headed the general assemblies of each seat and the entire Székely community. Such an assembly was first recorded in 1344. Thereafter the assemblies developed into important forums for the administration of justice. Lack Hermán was mentioned as the "judge of the Székelys" in the first half of the 14th century, evidencing that the counts had acquired significant judicial authority by that time.
The medieval judicial system of Székely Land is poorly documented. Available data suggests that the court of Udvarhelyszék was an appellate court, hearing appeals against the decisions of the courts of other seats. Appeals against the decisions of the court of Udvarhelyszék were heared by the count. The courts of justice in the seats were initially presided by elected officials, the seat judge and the captain. A new official, known as royal judge, appeared in the sources in the 1420s. Appointed by the count, royal judges supervised the activities of the elected officials.
The monarchs and the counts
The counts were the representatives of the kings of Hungary in the territories under their jurisdiction. They were directly subjected to the monarchs, without being dependend on the voivodes of Transylvania. The separation of the two offices contributed to the preservation of the Székelys' special legal status in Transylvania. However, the kings never appointed a Székely to the office and they tended to make a kinsman of the voivode in office the count of the Székelys. The counts were regarded as barons of the realm, although they were not listed among the great officers on royal charters.
Ladislaus Kán took control of whole Transylvania after the death of Andrew III of Hungary in 1301. During the ensuing interregnum, Kán also usurped the administration of Székely Land. Royal authority was restored only after his death in about 1315. In that year, Charles I of Hungary made the brothers Thomas and Stephen Losonci counts. Their successor, Simon Kacsics, was dismissed in 1327 or 1328, because he had committed "serious crimes", according to a contemporaneous royal charter. Thereafter the office was almost continuously held by the Lackfis for about 50 years.
The Lackfis and their immediate successors were the kings' loyal supporters. However, Sigismund of Luxemburg had to appoint the close allies of John Kanizsai, Archbishop of Esztergom, to the office, because they had helped him to seize the throne in 1387. Sigismund could only strengthen his position after he pushed a riot by Kanizsai and his allies in 1403. Thereafter he regularly appointed two noblemen to jointly hold the office. The 15th-century counts rarely visited Transylvania, thus primarily their deputies, the vice-counts, performed their tasks. Furthermore, the existence of new officials (known as "governors", "captains" or "supreme captains of the Székelys") among the Székelys in this period is also documented, but their tasks cannot be determined.
End of the office
The Ottomans made a series plundering raids against Transylvania in the 1420s and 1430s, which required the better coordination of the defense of the province. Wladislas I, who was elected king of Hungary against the minor Ladislaus the Posthumous in 1440, decided to centralize the command of the southern border of Hungary. After his two principal military commanders, John Hunyadi and Nicholas Újlaki, annihilated the army of Ladislaus's supporters in early 1441, Wladislas made them joint voivodes of Transylvania and counts of the Székelys. This was the first occasion that the offices of the voivode and the count were conferred upon the same persons.
The process of the unification of the two offices lasted for decades. Between 1446 and 1467, two or three noblemen were jointly made voivodes and counts, and some of them occasionally held both offices. The two offices were in practice united after the death of John Daróci in 1467. Thereafter the same person was made voivode and count until 1504, furthermore the offices of vice-voivode and vice-count were also united. A decree of 1498 still separately obliged the voivode and the count to muster troops, but after 1507 no separate counts were appointed.
The title was continuously used by the voivodes, and later by the princes of Transylvania for almost two centuries. After the integration of the Principality of Transylvania into the Habsburg Empire in the late 17th century, the Habsburg monarchs did not style themselves counts of the Székelys. The title was revived at the Székelys' request by Maria Theresa. Thereafter all kings of Hungary used the title.
List of counts
|1228||Bogomer, son of Szoboszló||Andrew II||"count and commander of the Székelys"; first known holder of the dignity|||
|1291||Mojs Ákos||Andrew III|||
|1294–1299||Peter Bő the Toothed||Andrew III||according to a non-authentic charter also in 1300|||
|1315–1320||Thomas Losonci||Charles I|||
|1315||Stephen Losonci||Charles I|||
|1320–1327||Simon Kacsics||Charles I||also ispán of Krassó County, and of Somlyó (now Șemlacu Mare in Romania), Mediasch and Bistritz|||
|1328–1343||Lack Hermán||Charles I||"count of the three clans of the Székelys"; also ispán of Mediasch and Bistritz, and of Csanád County|||
|1343–1350||Andrew Lackfi||Charles I, Louis I||also ispán of Mediasch, Bistritz and Kronstadt, and of Szatmár and Máramaros Counties; the counts administered Mediasch, without styling themselves its ispán from 1350 to 1402|||
|1352–1356||Lökös Raholcai the Tót||Louis I||also ispán of Kronstadt, and Master of the cupbearers and of the stewards; the counts administered Kronstadt, without styling themselves its ispán from 1355|||
|1356–1360||John Zsámboki, Jr.||Louis I|||
|1363–1367||Nicholas Lackfi, Jr.||Louis I||also ispán of Szatmár, Máramaros, Ugocsa and Kraszna Counties|||
|1367–1371||Stephen Lackfi of Csáktornya||Louis I|||
|1373–1376||Ladislaus Losonci, Sr.||Louis I|||
|1377–1380||Nicholas Derencsényi||Louis I|||
|1380–1382||Nicholas Perényi||Louis I|||
|1382–1385||Nicholas Losonci||Louis I, Mary|||
|1387–1390||Balc Béltelki||Sigismund||brothers; also ispáns of Szatmár and Máramaros Counties|||
|1390||John Bélteki the Vlach||Sigismund|||
|1397–1401||Peter Perényi||Sigismund||together with John Maróti (1397–1398); also ispán of Szatmár and Ugocsa Counties, and (from 1398) of Ung County|||
|1397–1398||John Maróti||Sigismund||together with Peter Perényi (1397–1398)|||
|1402–1403||George Csáki||Sigismund||also ispáns of Szatmár and Ugocsa Counties|||
|1427–1431||John Jakcs||Sigismund||together with Michael Jakcs (1427–1431)|||
|1427–1438||Michael Jakcs||Sigismund||together with John Jakcs (1427–1431) and Henry Tamási (1437)|||
|1437||Henry Tamási||Sigismund||together with Michael Jakcs (1437)|||
|1438–1441||Emeric Bebek||Albert||together with Francis Csáki (1439)|||
|1439||Francis Csáki||Albert||first rule; George Csáki's son; together with Emeric Bebek (1439)|||
|1440–1441||Stephen Bánfi||Albert||Elizabeth of Luxembourg (regent for Ladislaus V)|||
|1440||Francis Csáki||second rule|||
|1441–1446||John Hunyadi||Wladislas I||also voivode of Transylvania, ban of Macsó, commander of Nándorfehérvár (Beograd, Serbia), and ispán of Arad, Csanád, Csongrád, Keve, Közép-Szolnok, Krassó, Temes (1441–1446), ispán of Máramaros County (1443–1445), ispán of Bihar County (1443–1446), ispán of Szabolcs and Ugocsa Counties (1444–1446), ispán of Kraszna County (1445), ispán of Szatmár County (1445–1446)|||
|Nicholas Újlaki||also voivode of Transylvania, ban of Szörény, commander of Nándorfehérvár, and ispán of Arad, Bács, Baranya, Bodrog, Csongrád, Keve, Máramaros, Szerém, Temes, Tolna and Valkó Counties (1441–1446), ispán of Fejér County (1441–1443), and ispán of Torontál County (1444–1446), ispán of Somogy County (1444–1446)|||
|1446–1448||Francis Csáki||third rule|||
|1449–1453||Raynald Rozgonyi||first rule; together with John Rozgonyi (1449)|||
|1449||John Rozgonyi||first rule; together with Raynald and Oswald Rozgonyi|||
|1454–1457||John Ország||Ladislaus V||together with Emeric Hédervári (1454), with Oswald Rozgonyi (1454–1457), with Raynald Rozgonyi (1455), and with John Rozgonyi (1457)|||
|1454||Emeric Hédervári||Ladislaus V||together with John Ország (1454)|||
|1454–1458||Oswald Rozgonyi||Ladislaus V||second rule; together with John Ország (1454–1457), with Raynald Rozgonyi (1455), and with John Rozgonyi (1457)|||
|1455||Raynald Rozgonyi||Ladislaus V||second rule; together with John Ország and Oswald Rozgonyi (1455)|||
|1457||John Rozgonyi||Ladislaus V||second rule; together with John Ország and Oswald Rozgonyi (1457); also voivode of Transylvania|||
|1458–1460||John Lábatlan||Matthias I||also ispán of Temes County (1459–1460); together with Ladislaus Paksi (1458–1459)|||
|1458–1459||Ladislaus Paksi||Matthias I||together with John Lábatlan (1458–1459)|||
|1460–1461||Oswald Rozgonyi||Matthias I||third rule; together with Ladislaus Losonci (1460–1461), and with Sebastian and Raynald Rozgonyi (1461); also ispán of Abaúj County (1460–1461)|||
|1460–1461||Ladislaus Losonci||Matthias I||together with Oswald Rozgonyi (1460–1461)|||
|1461||Sebastian Rozgonyi||Matthias I||together with Oswald and Raynald Rozgonyi (1461); also voivode of Transylvania and ispán of Temes County|||
|1461–1463||Raynald Rozgonyi||Matthias I||together with Oswald and Sebastian Rozgonyi (1461); also ispán of Abaúj and Zemplén Counties|||
|1462–1465||John Pongrác of Dengeleg||Matthias I||first rule; also voivode of Transylvania, ban of Szörény, and ispán of Közép-Szolnok County|||
|1465–1467||Count Sigismund Szentgyörgyi||Matthias I||also voivode of Transylvania|||
|Count John Szentgyörgyi|
|Bertold Ellerbach of Monyorókerék|
|1467||John Daróci||Matthias I|||
|1467–1472||John Pongrác of Dengeleg||Matthias I||second rule; together with Nicholas Csupor of Monoszló (1468–1472); also voivode of Transylvania, ispán of Közép-Szolnok County, and ispán of Temes County (1470–1472)|||
|1468–1472||Nicholas Csupor of Monoszló||Matthias I||together with John Pongrác of Dengeleg (1468–1472); also voivode of Transylvania and ispán of Verőce County|||
|1472–1475||Blaise Magyar||Matthias I||also voivode of Transylvania, , ispán of Közép-Szolnok County, and ispán of Temes County (1473–1475)|||
|1475–1476||John Pongrác of Dengeleg||Matthias I||third rule; also voivode of Transylvania|||
|1477–1479||Peter Geréb of Vingárt||Matthias I||also voivode of Transylvania|||
|1479–1493||Stephen (V) Báthory of Ecsed||Matthias I, Wladislas II||also judge royal, voivode of Transylvania, and ispán of Somogy, Zala and Zaránd Counties|||
|1493–1498||Bartholomew Drágfi||Wladislas II||together with Ladislaus Losonci, Jr. (1493–1494); also voivode of Transylvania, ispán of Közép-Szolnok, Kraszna, Szabolcs, Szatmár and Ugocsa Counties|||
|1493–1495||Ladislaus Losonci, Jr.||Wladislas II||together with Bartholomew Drágfi of Béltek (1493–1495); also voivode of Transylvania and master of the treasury|||
|1498–1504||Count Peter Szentgyörgyi||Wladislas II||first rule; also judge royal and voivode of Transylvania|||
|1504–1507||John Tárcai||Wladislas II|||
|1507–1510||Count Peter Szentgyörgyi||Wladislas II||second rule; also judge royal and voivode of Transylvania|||
|1510–1526||Count John Zápolya||Wladislas II, Louis II||also voivode of Transylvania, ispán of Liptó, Sáros, Sopron, Torna and Trencsén Counties, and ban of Szörény (1513–1516)|||
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