|Prince of Transylvania|
|Prince of Transylvania|
|Reign||1605 – 1606|
|Born||January 1, 1557
(now Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
|Died||December 29, 1606
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 was 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 hajdus, 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 was the sixth or seventh child of György Bocskai and Krisztina Sulyok. His father was a Hungarian nobleman whose inherited estates were located in Bihar and Zemplén Counties. Stephen's mother was related to the influential Török and Héderváry families. One of her two sisters was the wife of István Dobó. Ferdinand I, King of Hungary, made Dobó Voivode of Transylvania in 1553, shortly after Isabella Jagiellon (who had administered the eastern part of the Kingdom of Hungary on behalf of her son, John Sigismund Zápolya) was forced to leave her realm. György Bocskai accompanied Dobó to Transylvania and received new estates in the province from Ferdinand.
Stephen was born in Kolozsvár (now Cluj-Napoca in Romania) on 1 January 1557. At that time, his father was held in prison, because Isabella Jagiellon had returned in March 1556 and ordered the imprisonment of Dobó's supporters. A few months after his son's birth, György Bocskai was released. He and his family settled in Kismarja, which was the center of his estates in Bihar County. He supported Péter Melius Juhász and other promoters of the ideas of Reformation in the 1560s, showing that he had converted from Catholicism to Calvinism. He became an influential advisor of John Sigismund Zápolya who granted him new estates near Kolozsvár in 1569. György Bocskai died in 1570 or 1571.
Stephen Báthory, who succeeded Zápolya in 1571, protected the interests of György Bocskai's orphaned children. At Báthory's request, Ferdinand I's successor, Maximilian, granted them their father's former estates in Zemplén County which had been confiscated when György Bocskai was reconciled with Zápolya. The teenager Stephen Bocskai may have already moved to Maximilian's court, because a son of Krisztina Sulyok was living in Vienna in 1571. It is for sure that he stayed in the royal court when his elder brother, Jeromos, died in 1572, because he returned from Vienna to Kismarja for a while to console her mother. Initially, he served as a page in the royal court. He received a salary from 1574. He again came back to Kismarja in the summer of 1575 to meet his ailing mother and to administer his estates. About a year later, he returned to Vienna where he was made a steward.
After being elected King of Poland in late 1575, Stephen Báthory adopted the title of prince of Transylvania and charged his brother, Christopher Báthory, with the government of the principality. Christopher was the husband of Bocskai's sister, Elisabeth. Maximilian, who had a very tolerant attitude towards Lutheranism, died on 12 October 1576. His devout Catholic son, Rudolph, succeeded him. Before long, Bocskai left the royal court and settled in the Principality of Transylvania. He was not appointed to higher offices during Christopher's rule. He was only made the commander of a troop of 32 horsemen and 20 foot soldiers in Várad (now Oradea in Romania). He served in Várad until early 1581.
Bocskai's position strengthened when his dying brother-in-law appointed him to the council which was set up to administer Transylvania during the minority of Christopher Báthory and Elisabeth Bocskai's son, Sigismund, in the spring of 1581. Being the youngest member of the regency council, Bocskai had little chance to influence the government. The regency council was dominated by Sándor Kendi and Farkas Kovacsóczy. Bocskai and Dénes Csáky abandoned the council and decided to go to Kraków to convince Stephen Báthory to make their ally, János Ghyczy, the sole regent for Sigismund. However, before their departure for Poland, Stephen Báthory set up a new regency council, confirming Kendi and Kovacsóczy's position. Bocskai was made the head of Sigismund's court, but he renounced this office because his relationship with the regency council was tense. He only retained his membership in the royal council.
Bocskai married Margit Hagymássy in late 1583. She was the widow of the wealthy Tamás Warkócs, whose estates were located near Bocskai's domains in Bihar County. Her dowry included the fortress of Nagykereki and the nearby villages.
Stephen Báthory dissolved the regency council and appointed János Ghyczy to administer Transylvania on Sigismund's behalf in May 1585. Bocskai remained one of the twelfe members of the royal council. After Stephen Báthory died in December 1586, Bocskai went at least twice to Poland to negotiate about the implementation of Báthory's last will. During his visits, he realized that most Polish noblemen did not want to continue Báthory's policy and Transylvania could not expect support from Poland any more. Stephen Báthory's death also gave rise to political conflicts in Transylvania, especially after Ghyczy fell ill in early 1588. The 16-year-old Sigismund Báthory's cousins, Stephen and Balthasar Báthory, persuaded the Diet of Transylvania to declare the prince of age in December 1588.
Bocskai kept his membership in the royal council. The council was controlled by the young prince's cousins, but Kovacsóczy and Kendi could retain their influence. Political rivalries gave rise to the spread of gossips about Balthasar Báthory's attempts to dethrone Sigismund. Some rumours also circulated about Bocskai, either describing him as Sigismund's most faithful councillor or accusing him of a conspiracy against the Báthory family. Actually, Bocskai established a strong relationship with the commanders of the army.
Captain of Várad
Influenced by his Jesuit confessor, Alfonso Carillo, Sigismund Báthory decided to turn against the Ottoman Empire. His cousins sharply opposed his plan, which outraged Sigismund. He replaced Stephen Báthory with Bocskai, making the latter captain of Várad and ispán (or head) of Bihar County in May 1592. Being the commanders of the strongest army in the principality, the captains of Várad had always been one of the most influential officials of the principality. Sigismund, who was a devout Catholic, ordered his Calvinist uncle to protect the Catholics in his new seat. Bocskai continued the reconstruction of the fortress, which protected the most important route between Transylvania and Royal Hungary.
The Ottoman Sultan, Murad III, ordered the Grand Vizier, Koca Sinan Pasha, to invade Royal Hungary in August 1593. In the same month, Ferenc Wathay (who was the cousin of Bocskai's wife) visited Bocskai in Várad. In his memoir, Wathay mentioned that his commander, Ferdinand Hardegg ("the king's representative"), had ordered him to meet Bocskai. Young Transylvanian noblemen hurried to Royal Hungary to fight against the Ottomans, but most Transylvanian politicians wanted to avoid a war against the Ottoman Empire as long as Poland remained neutral. Sigismond did not abandon his plan to fight against the Ottomans, but only Bocskai and Ferenc Geszthy, who was the captain of Déva (now Deva in Romania), stayed by him in the royal council.
Crimean Tatars stormed into Hungary and pillaged the Partium in June 1594, forcing Bocskai to stay in Várad. Sigismund Báthory convoked the Diet, but the delegates of the Three Nations of Transylvania refused to declare a war against the Ottoman Empire. Taking advantage of the prince's failure, Balthasar Báthory persuaded him to abdicate, but Ferenc Kendi and Kovacsóczy (who were influential members of the royal council) prevented Balthasar from securing the princely throne for himself. Sigismund went to Kővár (now Remetea Chioarului in Romania) where he announced that he want to move to Italy.
Bocskai and the other commanders of the army hurried to Kővár. They and Friar Carillo jointly convinced Sigismund to change his mind. Accompanied by Bocskai and his troops, Sigismund returned to Kolozsvár, forcing the delegates of the Three Nations to again pay homage to him on 27 August. A day later, 15 leaders of the opposition were arrested at the prince's order. In a few days, many of them (including Balthasar Báthory and Farkas Kovacsóczy) were executed or murdered. Years later, Sigismund Báthory told Ferenc Nádasdy that Bocskai had forced him to order their execution. Most historians also say, Bocskai was responsible for the purge, which made him his nephew's most influential supporter. Bocskai was soon made ispán of Belső-Szolnok and Kraszna Counties, and many estates confiscated from the executed noblemen were granted to Bocskai during the following years. For instance, he seized the fortresses at Marosvécs in Transylvania proper (now Brâncovenești in Romania), and Szentjobb and Sólyomkő in Partium (now Sâniob and Șinteu in Romania). Bocskai became the wealthiest landowners in the principality.
Bocskai left for Prague as Sigismund's plenipotentiary in November 1594 to start negotations with the representatives of the anti-Ottoman Holy League. He signed the treaty about the membership of Transylvania in the League on 28 January 1595. In the treaty, the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolph, acknowledged the independence of Transylvania and promised his niece, Maria Christina, to Sigismund Báthory. Bocskai went to Graz where he married Maria Christina as his nephew's proxy on 6 March. He returned to Transylvania in April. The Diet of Transylvania confirmed the treaty. Bocskai accompanied Maria Christina from Kassa (now Košice in Slovakia) to Gyulafehérvár (present-day Alba Iulia in Romania) in July.
Sigismund Báthory made György Borbély Ban of Karánsebes (now Caransebeș in Romania), ordering him to invade the nearby Ottoman territories. Bocskai dispatched his deputy in Várad, György Király, to support Borbély's campaign. The Transylvanian army forced the Ottomans to abandon the fortresses along the Maros (Mureș) River before the end of October. However, Koca Sinan Pasha had meanwhile invaded Wallachia and captured Bucharest and Târgoviște. The Wallachian ruler, Michael the Brave, who had acknowledged Sigismund Báthory's suzerainty in May, was forced to retreat towards Transylvania. The grand vizier decided to transform Wallachia into an Ottoman province and made one of his commanders, Hasan Pasha, beylerbey (or governor) of Wallachia before he started to retreat from the country in October.
To be able to provide military assistance to Michael the Brave, Sigismund Báthory promised the Székely commoners who had been reduced to serfdom to restore their liberties if they joined his campaign against the Ottomans. More than 20,000 Székelys took up arms, enabling the prince to muster an army of about 35,000 strong. Although the prince personally led the army to Wallachia, Bocskai was the actual commander of the campaign. After Michael the Brave and Sigismund's other vassal, Ștefan Răzvan of Moldavia, joined the campaign, their united troops laid siege to Târgoviște on 16 October. Two days later, Bocskai personally led the decisive attack against the fortress, forcing the Ottoman soldiers to abandon it and try to break through the besiegers. The Ottomans were either killed or captured. The Ottoman garrison abandoned Bucharest without resistance and the main Ottoman army retreated to Giurgiu on the Danube. By the time Sigismund's army reached the Danube, most Ottoman soldiers had crossed the river, but those who still stayed in Wallachia were massacred. The Ottoman fortress at Giurgiu was also occupied on 30 October.
In January 1596, Sigismund Báthory left for Prague to start negotiations about the continuation of the war against the Ottomans. He charged Bocskai with the administration of Transylvania. Bocskai soon had to face with the movement of the Székely commoners which had begun after Sigismund Báthory revoked his decision about their liberation. The leaders of the rioters threatened those who accepted the prince's decision with impalement. Bocskai sent troops to Székely Land, ordering the punishment of the ringleaders, but his lieutenants overrode his instructions and pushed the rebellion with extreme cruelty during the "Bloody Carnival" of 1596.
Bocskai remained the actual ruler of the principality after Sigismund Báthory returned from Prague, because the prince personally led his troops against the Crimean Tatars and Ottomans who broke into the Partium in the summer. After a series of Ottoman victories, Sigismund started negotiations about his abdication with the representatives of the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolph. The agreement was signed in December 1597, but Rudolph did not sent his representatives to took charge of the administration of Transylvania for months. During the transitory period, the Catholic Chancellor of Transylvania, István Jósika, accused Bocskai of hatching a plot to seize Transylvania for himself, but Friar Carillo stood by Bocskai. Bocskai persuaded Sigismund Báthory to order the imprisonment of Jósika. The prince also awarded him with the title of baron on 29 March 1598.
The Diet of Transylvania swore fealty to Emperor Rudolph on 8 April 1598. Rudolph appointed three commisioners (István Szuhay, Bartholomeus Pezzen and Miklós Istvánffy) to administer Transylvania until the arrival of Rudolph's brother, Maximilian. The commisioners did not trust Bocskai and deprived him of his offices. Bocskai who was in correspondence with his nephew knew that Sigismund Báthory had already regretted his abdication. Bocskai mustered his troops at Szászsebes (now Sebeș in Romania) to secure Báthory's return. After Báthory came to Transylvania, Bocskai convoked the Diet and persuaded the delegates to swear fealty to his nephew on 21 August. Jósika was executed and the commissioners were expelled, but Sigismund could not assert his authority in the Partium.
Bocskai was again made the supreme commander of the Transylvanian army, but his former deputy, György Király, did not obey to him and allowed Rudolph's troops to take possession of Várad. An Ottoman army broke into the Partium, laid siege to Várad and pillaged Bocskai's nearby estates in October. Sigismund made contact with his cousin, Andrew Báthory, who lived in Poland, and offered Transylvania to him. He kept his negotiations with Andrew in secret, because Bocskai had always been a strong opponent of the pro-Ottoman policy represented by Andrew. To get rid of his uncle, Sigismund dispatched him to Prague to start new negotiations with the emperor in late 1598.
Bocskai was still in Prague when Sigismund again abdicated, now in favor of Andrew in March 1599. He returned to Transylvania as the emperor's envoy and refused to swear fealty to the new prince. He settled in his fortress at Szentjobb in August. Andrew Báthory summoned him to the Diet, accusing him of the murder of his brother, Balthasar Báthory. After Bocskai did not obey the prince's summons, his estates were confiscated in October, but this order could only be executed in Transylvania proper, because the Partium was controlled by the emperor's supporters. Bocskai was planning to invade Transylvania, but Michael the Brave (whom Andrew wanted to replace with one of his brothers) was quicker and broke into the principality. The Székelys joined Michael the Brave who routed Andrew Báthory in the Battle of Sellenberk on 28 October. Michael the Brave entered Gyulafehérvár and Székely peasants murdered Báthory.
After learning of Michael the Brave's victory, Bocskai hired hajdús (irregular soldiers, famed for their cruelty) and hurried to Kolozsvár. He thought that Michael the Brave was willing to withdraw from Transylvania and urged Giorgio Basta, the commander of the imperial army, to send the emperor's commisioners to Transylvania to put an end to the anarchy. Michael took possession of Transylvania proper and the Diet acknowledged him as the emperor's representative. Bocskai returned to the Partium, but on 26 November the emperor ordered him to join Michael in Gyulafehérvár. Michael tried to take advantage of Bocskai's presence to persuade the garrisons of the fortresses to swear fealty to him, but Bocskai did not want to be Michael's underling. After he realized that Michael did not want to restore his Transylvanian estates to him, he again left Transylvania proper and settled in Szentjobb in early 1600.
Bocskai sent a series of letters to the imperial court, describing Michael as an uneducated trickster and tyrant who wanted to establish an empire of his own. The new imperial commissioners, David Ungnad and Mihály Székely, did not trust Bocskai. Ungnad referred to him as "the Pestilence" in his secret correspondence. The Transylvanian noblemen delibaretaly hated him, because they held him responsible for Sigismund Báthory's decisions which contributed to the destruction of the principality. Instead of seeking Bocskai's assistance against Michael, they persuaded Basta to expel Michael from Transylvania in September. Sigismund Báthory tried to convince Bocskai to support him, but Bocskai gave his nephew's envoy over to Pál Nyáry, the castellan of Várad, but he could not earn the commissioners' trust. Basta was planning to kill him to prevent him from further actions. On 25 November, the Diet of Transylvania passed a decree, confiscating Bocskai's estates and banishing him from the principality.
Bocskai went to Prague to clear himself of the charges in January 1601, but Rudolph's advisors favored Michael the Brave who also came to the imperial capital. A few months later, Michael was allowed to return to Transylvania, while Bocskai was forbidden to leave Prague. Michael was murdered by Basta shortly after they jointly routed Sigismund Báthory on 3 August. Basta's rule was the reign of terror, because his mercenaries regularly pillaged the towns and the villages. Bocskai was permitted to return to his estates in the Partium before the end of the year, but he was again summoned to Prague in April 1602. He was made the emperor's counsillor. He could leave Prague only in late 1602. He again settled in Szentjobb and made several attempts to achieve the restoration of his confiscated Transylvanian estates, but Basta sharply opposed his plan.
Giacomo Barbiano di Belgiojoso, the captain of Kassa, wanted to borrow 20,000 florins from Bocskai in the spring of 1604. After Bocskai denied the loan, Belgioso ordered the collection of the tithe in Bocskai's estates, although his estates were exempted of the tax. Belgioso also imprisoned Bocskai's nephew, Dénes Bánffy, and only released him after Bocskai paid a ransom. Gabriel Bethlen, the leader of the Transylvanian noblemen who had fled to the Ottoman Empire, sent a letter to Bocskai, urging him to rise up against the emperor, but Bocskai refuted him. He received back almost all his former estates in Transylvania in the summer of 1604. He visited Transylvania and realized that the towns and villages had almost completely been destroyed during the previous years.
On his way back to the Partium, on 20 September he learnt that hajdús had seized a letter about his alleged correspondence with the Ottoman grand vizier, Lala Mehmed Pasha, from Gábriel Bethlen. Fearing of reprisals, Bocskai hurried to the fortress of Sólyomkő and pretended that he was unable to move because of gout. Actually, he ordered his castellans to make preparations for resistance, but one of them revealed Bocskai's plans to Cipriano Concini, the deputy captain of Várad.
Concini led his 600 soldiers to Szentjobb and captured the fortress on 2 October. A day later, Concini laid siege to Nagykereki, but the defenders (including 300 hajdús, hired by the castellan after the fall of Szentjobb) forced him to lift the siege on 5 October. Belgioso sent an army against Bocskai, but Bocskai convinced the hajdús in Belgioso's army to join him on 14 October 1604. On the following day, the hajdús deserted Belgioso, enabling Bocskai to defeat Belgioso's army near Álmosd. Belgioso withdrew from the Partium. Having been stirred up by his violent anti-Protestant actions, the burghers of Kassa did not allow him to enter the town. Instead, the mayor of Kassa, Johann Bocatius, persuaded the townspeople to let Bocskai's hajdús to come to the town on 30 October.
Bocskai issued a proclamation to the Hungarian noblemen from Kassa, reminding them the tyrannical acts of Rudolph and his officials. More and more nobles joined him. He made the young Calvinist lords, Bálint Drugeth and Ferenc Mágocsy, commanders of his army, and the Catholic nobleman, Mihály Káthay, his chancellor. The emperor dispatched Giorgio Basta at the head of an army of 10,000 mercenaries against the rebels. Basta disciplined army defeated a troop of hajdús near Osgyán (now Ožďany in Slovakia) on 17 November. Gabriel Bethlen came to Kassa on 20 November, accompanied by Lala Mehmed Pasha's envoy who handed the sultan's ahidnâme (or charter) to Bocskai, which styled him prince of Transylvania. The grand vizier also sent reinforcements to Bocskai.
Basta defeated Bocskai near Edelény on 27 November. Six days later, he laid siege to Kassa, but the cold weather forced him to lift the siege and withdraw to Eperjes (now Prešov in Slovakia). On 12 December, Bocskai urged the Three Nations of Transylvania to support his uprising. The Unitarian Székely nobleman, János Petky, was the first to join him. A captain of the hajdús, Balázs Lippai, who had occasionally questioned Bocskai's leadership, entered into correspondence with Basta. Bocskai had him captured and executed on 6 January 1605.
However, the circumstances demonstrated the increased fortune of Stephen Bocskay: besides that he managed to convince both the hajdus (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 hajdus, 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 hajdus 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
|Ancestors of Stephen Bocskai|
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- 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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- Benda, Kálmán (1993). Bocskai István [Stephen Bocskai] (in Hungarian). Századvég. ISBN 963-8384-40-9.
- G. Etényi, Nóra; Horn, Ildikó; Szabó, Péter (2006). Koronás fejedelem: Bocskai István és kora [A Crowned Prince: Stephen Bocskai and his Time] (in Hungarian). General Press Kiadó. ISBN 963-9648-27-2.
- Kontler, László (1999). Millennium in Central Europe: A History of Hungary. Atlantisz Publishing House. ISBN 963-9165-37-9.
- Pop, Ioan-Aurel (2005). "The Romanians in the 14th–16th centuries from the "Christian Republic" to the "Restoration of Dacia"". In Pop, Ioan-Aurel; Bolovan, Ioan. History of Romania: Compendium. Romanian Cultural Institute (Center for Transylvanian Studies). pp. 209–314. ISBN 978-973-7784-12-4.
- Szabó, András (2010). "Téged Isten dicsérünk": Bocskai István, Erdély és Magyarország fejedelme ["Thee, O God, we praise": Stephen Bocskai, Prince of Transylvania and Hungary] (in Hungarian). Magyarországi Református Egyház Kálvin János Kiadója. ISBN 978-963-558-164-1.
- 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.
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