Stephen III of Hungary

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Stephen III
III Istvan koronazasa KK.jpg
Stephen III from the Illuminated Chronicle
King of Hungary and Croatia
Reign 31 May 1162 – 4 March 1172
Coronation some days after 31 May 1162
Predecessor Géza II
Successor Béla III
Spouse Yaroslavna of Halych
Agnes of Austria
Dynasty Árpád dynasty
Father Géza II of Hungary
Mother Euphrosyne of Kiev
Born Summer of 1147
Died 4 March 1172 [aged 24]
Burial Esztergom

Stephen III (Hungarian: III. István, Croatian: Stjepan III, Slovak: Štefan III) (summer of 1147 – 4 March 1172), King of Hungary[1] King of Croatia and Dalmatia (1162–1172). He ascended the throne as a child and he had to stand up against his uncles who usurped the crown supported by the Byzantine Empire. Stephen would win over his uncles, but he was obliged to cede Croatia and Dalmatia to the Byzantine Empire. During his reign, he tried to reoccupy the lost territories but he did not achieve his purpose.

Early years[edit]

Stephen was the eldest son of King Géza II of Hungary by his wife Euphrosyne of Kiev. His godfather was king Louis VII of France, who was passing through Hungary to the Holy Land when Stephen was born.

Although Stephen was named as his father's heir already in 1152, his succession could not be secured, because his uncles, Stephen and Ladislaus escaped to the court of the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel I Komnenos.

Struggle for the throne[edit]

Some days after his father's death on 31 May 1162, Lukas, Archbishop of Esztergom crowned Stephen, but shortly afterwards he had to face the campaign of the Emperor Manuel I, who supported the claims of his uncles. The young Stephen was obliged to escape to Pozsony, while the Hungarian barons proclaimed his elder uncle, Ladislaus king.

Stephen could only count on the support of Archbishop Lukas, who denied to crown the pretender and was arrested. On 14 January 1163, King Ladislaus II died, but his followers proclaimed king his younger brother, Stephen IV. The new king supported the claims of the Byzantine Empire without compromise which resulted in growing indignation among the Hungarian barons. In the beginning of 1163, the members of the gens (clan) Csák rebelled against the usurper, but they were defeated.

In the meantime, the young Stephen sought the assistance of Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor and, leading the troops sent by the emperor, he defeated and arrested his uncle on 19 June 1163 at Székesfehérvár. Following the battle, the young king retrieved the throne and, following Archbishop Lukas' advice, he set his uncle free, but the dethroned usurper fled to the Byzantine Empire.

Wars with the Byzantine Empire[edit]

The Emperor Manuel I did not give up his plan to extend his influence over Hungary and lead his armies, on behalf of the pretender, to the southern part of the kingdom. But Stephen would resist the Byzantine attack; therefore the parties concluded peace at the end of the year and under their agreement the Byzantine Emperor withdrew his support of Stephen IV but the young Stephen agreed to send his brother Béla, whom their father had named as duke of Croatia and Dalmatia in his last will, to Constantinople.

In the second half of 1164, Manuel I launched a new campaign against Hungary on the pretext of ensuring Duke Béla's paternal inheritance, i.e., he wanted to take Croatia and Dalmatia from the kingdom. King Vladislaus II of Bohemia, Duke Henry II of Austria and Prince Yaroslav I of Halicz came personally to Hungary with their armies to help Stephen against the emperor's invasion. Finally, with the mediation of the King of Bohemia, Stephen made peace with the emperor by transferring the Szerémség to the Byzantine Empire.

In the beginning of 1165, Stephen tried to reconquer the Szerémség, and occupied the fortress of Zimony, but the emperor made a counter-attack, reoccupied the fortress and conquered Bosnia, Croatia and Dalmatia. In 1166, Stephen tried again to reoccupy the lost territories, but his troops were soon defeated at the Battle of Sirmium.

In 1167 Stephen married a daughter of Yaroslav of Halicz, but in 1168 she was repudiated and sent back to her father. He married Agnes of Austria, a daughter of Duke Henry II of Austria shortly after and launched a campaign against the Byzantine Empire with the support of his father-in-law, but their troops were defeated near Zimony.

Last years[edit]

Stephen raised money to fund the expenses of his continuous wars with the Byzantine Empire by using the goods of the Church, which resulted in a conflict with Archbishop Lukas, who imposed ecclesiastical punishment on him. The conflict was solved by the Papal Legate Manfred, who persuaded Stephen to renounce the right of investiture.

Stephen granted estates to the Knights Templar in Hungary, and he was the first king of Hungary to issue a charter for a town, i.e., for the Walloon hospes of Székesfehérvár.

In 1172, he met his father-in-law, who was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but during the meeting he suddenly fell ill and died. He was buried in Esztergom.



  • King of Hungary


  1. ^ Stephen III. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 9 August 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:


  • Engel, Pat. Realm of St. Stephen : A History of Medieval Hungary, 2001
  • Kristó GyulaMakk Ferenc: Az Árpád-ház uralkodói (IPC Könyvek, 1996)
  • Korai Magyar Történeti Lexikon (9–14. század), főszerkesztő: Kristó Gyula, szerkesztők: Engel Pál és Makk Ferenc (Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1994)
  • G. Vég, Magyarország királyai és királynői, Maecenas, 1990.
  • Magyarország Történeti Kronológiája I. – A kezdetektől 1526-ig, főszerkesztő: Benda Kálmán (Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1981)
  • (primary source) The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle, A. West, trans., Corvina, 1969.
  • (primary source) John Kinnamos, Deeds of John and Manuel Comnenus, C.M. Brand, trans., Columbia University Press, 1976.
Stephen III of Hungary
Born: 1147 Died: 4 March 1172
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Géza II
King of Hungary and Croatia
Succeeded by
Béla III