Elizabeth the Cuman

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Elizabeth the Cuman
AlzbetaKumanska kralovna.jpg
Queen consort of Hungary
Tenure 1270–1272
Born 1239/1240
Died 1290
Spouse Stephen V of Hungary
Issue Elizabeth, Queen of Serbia
Catherine, Queen of Serbia
Mary, Queen of Naples
Anne, Byzantine Empress
Ladislaus IV of Hungary
Andrew, Duke of Slavonia
House Árpád dynasty
Father Seyhan (Cuman chieftain)

Elizabeth the Cuman was the Queen consort of Stephen V of Hungary. She was regent of Hungary during the minority of her son in 1272-1277.

Birth and family[edit]

Historians point out that a charter of her father-in-law, Béla IV refers to a Cuman chieftain Seyhan as his kinsman, implying that Seyhan was Elizabeth's father[1][2] The Cumans were the western tribes of the Cuman-Kipchak confederation. Her people followed a shamanist religion and were considered pagans by their contemporary Christians of Europe.

In 1238, Khan Köten, her father according to other Historians, led the Cumans (Kuns, as called by the Hungarians) and a number of other clans in invading the Kingdom of Hungary while fleeing from the advancing hordes of the Mongol Empire. In time, Béla IV of Hungary negotiated an alliance with Koten and his people, granting them asylum in exchange for their conversion to Roman Catholicism and loyalty to the King.

The agreement was sealed with the betrothal of Elizabeth to Stephen, eldest son of Béla IV. The agreement seems to have occurred while Stephen was an infant. Elizabeth was unlikely to have been older than her future husband. In 1241, the Mongol invasion of Europe under the leadership of Batu Khan and Subutai began, with Hungary among its primary targets. Koten was assassinated by Hungarian nobles fearing he would lead a defection to the other side.

Béla IV and the Hungarian forces suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Mohi (11 April 1241). The King fled to the Duchy of Austria while Batu Khan and Subutai tried to set up the Mongol occupation of Hungary until the end of 1242. However news eventually reached them that their overlord Ögedei Khan, Khagan of the Mongol Empire, had died in 1241. His widow Töregene Khatun was serving as regent until a successor could be elected in a Kurultai. Batu decided to return to Karakorum for the Kurultai. He called off the invasion, and Mongol troops were withdrawn from most of Europe, thus evacuating Hungary.

Princess of Hungary[edit]

Béla IV returned from Austria following the Mongol evacuation. Upon his return to power, Béla began rebuilding his country, including a massive construction campaign which produced the system of castles as a defense against the threat of a Mongol return.

Koten was deceased but the betrothal was still in effect. Elizabeth was converted to Roman Catholicism in preparation for her marriage. The marriage of Stephen and Elizabeth occurred in 1253. The groom was twelve-years-old and the bride close in age to him.

In 1262, Stephen convinced his father to give him twenty-nine counties as a reward of assistance in the war against Ottokar II of Bohemia. He was crowned junior co-ruler and in practice ruled his regions as a separate kingdom, setting up his own capital and adopting foreign policies directly contrary to those of his father. Elizabeth was now his Queen.

Queen consort[edit]

Béla IV died on 3 May 1270. Stephen succeeded him as senior King. Among his successes were the conclusion of the war against Ottokar II of Bohemia. According to the Peace of Pressburg (2 July 1271, Stephen renounced his claims on parts of present-day Austria and Slovenia while Ottokar renounced his claims on territories of Hungary briefly conquered by him during the war.

Stephen died on 6 August 1272. Elizabeth became Regent for their ten-year-old son Ladislaus IV of Hungary. Her regency lasted until 1277 and saw palace revolutions and civil wars.

Her upbringing of her son would cause further problems for his reign. Ladislaus favored the society of the "semi-pagan" Cumans, from whom he was descended through his mother. He wore Cuman dress as his court wear, surrounded himself with Cuman concubines and thus alienated the Hungarian nobility. His later attempts to regain Hungarian loyalty instead alienated parts of the Cumans. He was murdered in his tent by Cumans while camped in Bihar county on 10 July 1290.

By that time Elizabeth herself seems to have also been deceased. There is no mention of her in the reign of his successor Andrew III of Hungary. There is a tradition that she died in the year 1290.


She and her husband Stephen V of Hungary were parents to six known children:


  1. ^ [(Hungarian) Kristó, Gyula; Makk, Ferenc (1996). Az Árpád-ház uralkodói [Rulers of the House of Árpád]. I.P.C. Könyvek. ISBN 963-7930-97-3], p.268.
  2. ^ Klaniczay, Gábor (2002). Holy Rulers and Blessed Princes: Dynastic Cults in Medieval Central Europe. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-42018-0.], p.439.


External links[edit]

Royal titles
Preceded by
Maria Laskarina
Queen consort of Hungary
Succeeded by
Elizabeth of Sicily
Preceded by
Ugrin Csák
Ban of Macsó
Duchess of Macsó and Bosnia
Succeeded by
Stephen Dragutin
King of Syrmia