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King of Hungary

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Apostolic King of Hungary
Last to reign
Charles IV
StyleHis/Her Apostolic Majesty
First monarchStephen I
Last monarchCharles IV
Formation25 December 1000
Abolition16 November 1918
ResidenceBuda Castle
Pretender(s)Archduke Karl
Crown Jewels of Hungary

The King of Hungary (Hungarian: magyar király) was the ruling head of state of the Kingdom of Hungary from 1000 (or 1001) to 1918. The style of title "Apostolic King of Hungary" (apostoli magyar király) was endorsed by Pope Clement XIII in 1758 and used afterwards by all monarchs of Hungary.[1]

Establishment of the title[edit]

Before 1000 AD, Hungary was not yet recognized as a kingdom by the Pope and the ruler of Hungary was styled Grand Prince of the Hungarians. The first King of Hungary, Stephen I. was crowned on 25 December 1000 (or 1 January 1001) with the crown Pope Sylvester II had sent him and with the consent of Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor.

Following King Stephen I's coronation, all the monarchs of Hungary and the Árpád dynasty used the title "King". However, not all rulers of Hungary were kings—for example, Stephen Bocskai and Francis II Rákóczi were proclaimed rulers as "High Princes of Hungary", and there were also three Governors of Hungary who were sometimes styled "regents", János Hunyadi, Lajos Kossuth[2] and Miklós Horthy.

Legal requirements for a coronation to be legitimate[edit]

From the 13th century on, a process was established to confirm the legitimacy of the King. No person could become the legitimate King of Hungary without fulfilling the following criteria:

This meant a certain level of protection to the integrity of the Kingdom. For example, stealing the Holy Crown of Hungary was no longer enough to become legitimate King.

The first requirement (coronation by the Archbishop of Esztergom) was confirmed by Béla III, who had been crowned by Archbishop Berthold of Kalocsa, based on the special authorisation of Pope Alexander III. After his coronation he declared that this coronation would not affect the customary claim of the Archbishop of Esztergom to crown the king. In 1211, Pope Innocent III refused to confirm the agreement of Archbishop John of Esztergom and Archbishop Berthold of Kalocsa on the transfer of the claim, and he declared that only the Archbishop of Esztergom was entitled to crown the King of Hungary.

King Charles I of Hungary was crowned in May 1301 with a provisional crown in Esztergom by the Archbishop of that city; this led to his second coronation in June 1309. At that time the Holy Crown was not used, and he was crowned in Buda by the Archbishop of Esztergom. However, his final third coronation was in 1310, in Székesfehérvár, with the Holy Crown and by the Archbishop of Esztergom. Then the King's coronation was considered absolutely legitimate.

On the other hand, in 1439, the dowager queen Elizabeth of Luxemburg ordered one of her handmaidens to steal the Holy Crown from the palace of Visegrád, and then promoted the coronation of her newborn son Ladislaus V, which was carried out legitimately in Székesfehérvár by the Archbishop of Esztergom.

A similar situation occurred with Matthias Corvinus, when he negotiated for return of the Holy Crown, which was in the possession of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor. After it was returned, Matthias was legitimately crowned.

Inheriting the throne[edit]

The coronation of Leopold II at St. Martin's Cathedral in 1790, in Pozsony, site of Hungarian coronations between 1563 and 1830

As in all the traditional monarchies, the heir descended through the male line from a previous King of Hungary. In accordance with Hungarian tradition, this right usually passed to younger brothers, before passing to the son of the previous King, which caused family disputes on many occasions. The founder of the first Hungarian royal house was Árpád, who led his people into the Carpathian Basin in 895. His descendants, who ruled for more than 400 years, included Saint Stephen I, Saint Ladislaus I, Andrew II, and Béla IV. In 1301 the last member of the House of Árpád died, and Charles I was crowned, claiming the throne in the name of his paternal grandmother Mary, the daughter of Stephen V. With the death of Mary, the granddaughter of Charles I, in 1395, the direct line was interrupted again, and Mary's husband Sigismund continued reigning, after being elected by the nobility of the Kingdom in the name of the Holy Crown.

Later, Matthias Corvinus was elected by the nobles of the Kingdom, being the first Hungarian monarch who descended from an aristocratic family, and not from a royal family that inherited the title. The same happened decades later with John Zápolya, who was elected in 1526 after the death of Louis II in the battle of Mohács.

After this, the House of Habsburg inherited the throne, and ruled Hungary from Austria for almost 400 years until 1918. Admiral Horthy was appointed regent in 1920, but Charles IV of Hungary's attempts to retake the throne were unsuccessful. The monarchy of Hungary was formally abolished on 1 February 1946 on the establishment of the Second Hungarian Republic.

Other titles used by the King of Hungary[edit]

Over the centuries, the Kings of Hungary acquired or claimed the crowns of several neighboring countries, and they began to use the royal titles connected to those countries. By the time of the last kings, their precise style was: "By the Grace of God, Apostolic King of Hungary, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Rama, Serbia, Galicia, Lodomeria, Cumania and Bulgaria, Grand Prince of Transylvania, Count of the Székelys".

The title "Apostolic King" was confirmed by Pope Clement XIII in 1758 and used thereafter by all the Kings of Hungary.

The title of "King of Slavonia" referred to the territories between the Drava and the Sava Rivers. That title was first used by Ladislaus I. It was also Ladislaus I who adopted the title "King of Croatia" in 1091. Coloman added the phrase "King of Dalmatia" to the royal style in 1105.

The title "King of Rama", referring to the claim to Bosnia, was first used by Béla II in 1136. It was Emeric who adopted the title "King of Serbia". The phrase "King of Galicia" was used to indicate the supremacy over Halych, while the title "King of Lodomeria" referred to Volhynia; both titles were adopted by Andrew II in 1205. In 1233, Béla IV began to use the title "King of Cumania" which expressed the rule over the territories settled by the Cumans (i.e., Wallachia and Moldavia) at that time. The phrase "King of Bulgaria" was added to the royal style by Stephen V.

Transylvania was originally a part of the Kingdom of Hungary ruled by a voivode, but after 1526 became a semi-independent principality vassal to the Ottoman Empire, and later to the Habsburg monarchy. In 1696, after dethroning Prince Michael II Apafi, Leopold I took the title "Prince of Transylvania". In 1765, Maria Theresa elevated Transylvania to the status of Grand Principality.

The "Count of the Székelys" was originally a dignitary of the Kingdom of Hungary, but the title was later used by the Princes of Transylvania. The title was revived during the reign of Maria Theresa who adopted it at the request of the Székelys.

Length of reign[edit]

Longest-reigning Hungarian monarchs[edit]

# Name Reign Duration
from to days years/days
1 Francis Joseph I 2 December 1848 21 November 1916 24,825 67 years, 355 days
2 Sigismund 31 March 1387 9 December 1437 18,515 50 years, 253 days
3 Leopold I 2 April 1657 5 May 1705 17,564 48 years, 33 days
4 Francis 1 March 1792 2 March 1835 15,705 43 years, 1 day
5 Louis I 21 July 1342 10 September 1382 14,661 40 years, 51 days
6 Maria Theresa 20 October 1740 29 November 1780 14,650 40 years, 40 days
7 Stephen I 25 December 1000 15 August 1038 13,747 37 years, 233 days
8 Ferdinand I 17 December 1526 25 July 1564 13,735 37 years, 221 days
9 Béla IV 14 October 1235 3 May 1270 12,620 34 years, 201 days
10 Charles I 17 November 1308 16 July 1342 12,294 33 years, 241 days

Shortest-reigning Hungarian monarchs[edit]

# Name Reign Duration
from to days
1 Charles II 31 December 1385 24 February 1386 55
2 Ladislaus III 30 November 1204 7 May 1205 158
3 Otto 9 October 1305 May 1307 c. 599
4 Albert 18 December 1437 27 October 1439 678
5 Charles IV 21 November 1916 16 November 1918 725
6 Leopold II 20 February 1790 1 March 1792 740
7 Stephen V May 1270 6 August 1272 c. 814
8 Béla I 6 December 1060 11 September 1063 1,009
9 Samuel Aba September 1041 5 July 1044 c. 1,029
10 Géza I 14 March 1074 25 April 1077 1,138

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The term "King of Hungary" is typically capitalized only as a title applied to a specific person; however, within this article, the terms "Kings of Hungary" or "Junior Kings" (etc.) are also shown in capital letters, as in the manner of philosophical writing which capitalizes concepts such as Truth, Kindness and Beauty.
  2. ^ Kossuth's status was ambiguous because the question about the form of government (republic or monarchy) was not yet decided


  • Korai Magyar Történeti Lexikon (9–14. század), főszerkesztő: Kristó, Gyula, szerkesztők: Engel, Pál és Makk, Ferenc (Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1994).
  • Magyarország Történeti Kronológiája I-III. – A kezdetektől 1526-ig; 1526–1848, 1848–1944, főszerkesztő: Benda, Kálmán (Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1981, 1982, 1993).
  • Magyar Történelmi Fogalomtár I-II. – A-K; L-ZS, főszerkesztő: Bán, Péter (Gondolat, Budapest, 1989).

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