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Volume 2 Issue 4

Bethlen: The Prince of Transylvania

Teréz Oborni Special Editor of the Thematic Issue

Table of Contents

Articles

Ágnes R. Várkonyi

Gábor Bethlen and His European Presence

Abstract

Abstract

This paper studies the European presence of the most important ruler of the Principality of Transylvania, Gábor Bethlen (1580–1629) in the light of predominant developments of the Early Modern Age such as the general crisis of the seventeenth century, the Thirty Years’ War, the international networks of alliances, the absolutist governments, the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, the nation states, the modern expectations towards governments, the new science of political cultures, the explosion of information networks and the law of concluding peace. The study gives an overview on the extreme views on Gábor Bethlen in the early modern era as well as in posterity. This ruler of the Transylvanian state—a tributary of the Ottoman Empire, but also belonging to the power sphere of the Habsburgs—was on the one hand regarded as a creature of the Turks, on the other as a monarch who had profound influence upon the fate of Europe. The paper shows how Bethlen created tranquility, security and economic stability in the country which had been ruined, destroyed by Ottoman and imperial military interventions and on the verge of civil war. Having a wide range of political experience and a good knowledge of contemporary political theories, the prince managed to accommodate absolutist government and mercantilist economic policies to Transylvanian circumstances. He was nevertheless unable to compete with the propaganda campaign against him.
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Géza Pálffy

Crisis in the Habsburg Monarchy and Hungary, 1619–1622: The Hungarian Estates and Gábor Bethlen

Abstract

Abstract

The essay examines the network of relations between the estates of the Kingdom of Hungary and Gábor Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania (1613–1629) and elected King of Hungary (1620–1621), between 1619 and 1622. Because these years in the midst of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) represented a genuine crisis period for the Central European Habsburg Monarchy, the topic demands particular attention from an international perspective as well. Despite this, hitherto neither Hungarian nor international scholarship have examined this question. The study attempts to fill this gap on the basis of research conducted in archives in Austria, Hungary and Slovakia. First, it will demonstrate how many of the political elite in the Kingdom of Hungary supported the Transylvanian prince in 1619–1621 and in what way. Second, it will draw attention to an almost completely forgotten compromise between Emperor Ferdinand II (1619–1637) and the Hungarian estates reached at the Hungarian diet at Sopron (Ödenburg) in the summer of 1622. Finally, it will present the winners and losers of this new compromise, as well as how Emperor Ferdinand and the monarchy’s political leadership were able to cooperate with the Hungarian estates.
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Teréz Oborni

Gábor Bethlen and the Treaty of Nagyszombat (1615)

Abstract

Abstract

Gábor Bethlen made efforts at establishing a diplomatic relationship with the king of Hungary immediately after his accession, for he was as aware as his predecessors that, alongside the support of the Sultan, he should also gain recognition from the ruler of the other empire, the head of the Habsburg Monarchy. It was at the end of a difficult and conflict-ridden series of negotiations that the treaty of Nagyszombat was signed on May 6, 1615. This put an end to the military and political hostilities which had thus far torn the regions along the frontier and thereby averted the outbreak of a major armed conflict. On the other hand, it determined the legal relationship between Transylvania and the Kingdom of Hungary until the anti-Habsburg campaign of Bethlen in 1619. In the secret agreement attached to the treaty Bethlen accepted the legal arrangement, first set out in the Treaty of Speyer in 1570 and subsequently confirmed several times by Bethlen’s princely predecessors, according to which Transylvania was a member (membrum) of the Hungarian Crown, and her prince exerted his authority there with the approval of the Hungarian king.
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Gábor Kármán

Gábor Bethlen’s Diplomats at the Protestant Courts of Europe

Abstract

Abstract

This paper addresses the phenomenon that the contacts of Prince Gábor Bethlen with non-neighboring rulers were almost exclusively maintained through diplomats who came originally from a foreign country and had very little to do with the Principality of Transylvania. Through a reconstruction of ten diplomats’ biographies, I identify several categories. The Czech/Palatinate group consists of three people (Ehrenfried von Berbisdorf, Jan Adam Čejkovský z Víckova and Matthias Quadt), the Silesian group of two (Weikhard Schulitz and Heinrich Dreiling), and three of Bethlen’s envoys could be identified as “wandering diplomats,” displaying certain facets of an adventurer’s character (Jacques Roussel, Charles de Talleyrand and Lorenzo Agazza). The remaining two (Zygmunt Zaklika and Hermann Beckmann) seem to be a category unto themselves, one having a Polish background, the other coming with Catherine, the prince’s consort, from Berlin. The biographies of the diplomats show certain similarities, especially those within the Czech/Palatinate group, who had to leave their original country due to the collapse of the rule of Frederick of the Palatinate after the Battle of the White Mountain, and served several rulers in the years to come. Their loyalties lay primarily with the Protestant or the Palatinate cause and they served the rulers who seemed to be able to support this – sometimes even assuming tasks from several of them during one and the same journey. The custom to employ foreigners for the Transylvanian diplomacy with non-neighboring lands must have been motivated by the fact that they were expected not so much to negotiate specific issues as to map out possibilities for cooperation and give general information concerning the prince’s intentions. Although the system changed in the later decades of the seventeenth century, this may be the result of the fact that in this period far fewer politically engaged emigrants came to Transylvania than in the 1620s.
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Ildikó Horn

The Princely Council in the Age of Gábor Bethlen

Abstract

Abstract

The princely council of Transylvania was an advisory body of twelve members with no authority to decide. After the accession of Gábor Bethlen (1613–1629) with Ottoman support, the Transylvanian estates tried to limit his authority by enlarging the powers enjoyed by the council: in matters of great political and diplomatic importance, of appointment to the chief offices, and the granting of major estates the prince could only decide in cooperation with the council. The first part of the present study analyzes the methods by which the prince gradually altered the council in accordance with his own interests, mainly by increasing and changing its personnel. The second part examines the characteristics of the council in terms of the origins, social position, religion, age, qualifications and functions of its members. The Transylvanian political elite was fairly open throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and especially so during the reign of Bethlen, mainly because of the loss in human lives caused by the wars and internal conflicts between 1598 and 1612. Thanks to the princely religious policies pursued in the past forty years, the council was confessionally mixed, with a Catholic dominance and a strong Unitarian presence.
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Péter Erdősi

The Theme of Youth and Court Life in Historical Literature Regarding Gábor Bethlen and Zsigmond Báthory

Abstract

Abstract

This study explores the causes of the sharp disparity that emerged in assessments of two rulers of the early modern Transylvanian state, Zsigmond Báthory and Gábor Bethlen, in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Hungarian historiography. The author compares two aspects of the images of the princes—their childhood and youth and their courts. Bethlen, born in 1580, grew up in Báthory’s princely court and stood in his service between the years 1593 and 1602. The life paths of the princes of Transylvania were thus interconnected, though biographical constructions originating over subsequent generations symbolically separated them. These constructions highlighted the malleable character and weakness of the disdained Báthory in connection with his youth and court. The fiction-laced development history of the venerated Bethlen, contrarily, depicts the antecedents of exemplary rule, while illustrations of his princely court also serve to emphasize the prince’s virtues. The examined contrasts in the established images of Báthory and Bethlen are a product of a polarizing approach to history by which the tarnishing of Báthory has enhanced the brilliance of Bethlen.
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András Kovács

Gábor Bethlen and the Construction of the New Seat of the Transylvanian Princedom

Abstract

Abstract

The development of the town of Gyulafehérvár into a town of central importance in the middle of the sixteenth century took place at the same time as the formation of the Transylvanian principality. The town became increasingly important as the princes of Transylvania consolidated power, first in the time of the rule of the Báthory family and then under the rule of the Bethlen and Rákóczi families. This essay presents the measures that were implemented by Gábor Bethlen, his predecessors, and his successors in the interests of developing and fortifying the town and transforming it into a fitting site for the court of the prince.
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Zsuzsanna Cziráki

Prince Gábor Bethlen’s Visits to Brassó as Reflected in the Town Account Books

Abstract

Abstract

This study deals with one of the most remarkable periods in the history of the Principality of Transylvania, the reign of Gábor Bethlen. At the center of the study is an occurrence during Bethlen’s reign that might be described as ordinary: the reception of the Transylvanian prince in Brassó, one of the most important towns of his land and of the territorially autonomous Saxon Universitas (Saxon Land). As an organic part of the princely services encumbering the Saxon towns, hosting the prince was a basic component of the relationship between the Saxon communities and the prince. Accordingly, a more thorough understanding of these events also sheds light on the prevailing relationship between princely power and the Saxon communities. The basis for the analysis is provided by a distinctive group of sources, the account books of the chief economic official of Brassó, the Stadthann (also villicus, quaestor). The entries and comments contained in the account books help to familiarize us with the ceremonial framework for the distinguished guest’s stay in Brassó, the organizational tasks performed by the town as well as the mechanisms of town administration behind them. At the same time, they also offer a glimpse into the eating habits of contemporary Brassó and the lifestyle of the locals, thereby bringing into proximity the everyday life of a seventeenth-century East Central European urban community.
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Book Reviews

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Erdélyi külpolitika a vesztfáliai béke után [Transylvania’s Foreign Policy Following the Peace of Westphalia].
By Gábor Kármán. Reviewed by András Péter Szabó

A rohonci kód [The Rohonc Code].
By Benedek Láng. Reviewed by Dóra Bobory

Határok, vándorok, kémek. A magyarokról és a románokról alkotott kép Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli írásaiban [Frontiers, Wayfarers, Spies. The Image
of Hungarians and Romanians in the Writings of Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli].
By Levente Nagy. Reviewed by Mónika F. Molnár

Studies in the History of Early Modern Transylvania.
Edited by Gyöngy Kovács Kiss. Reviewed by Angelika T. Orgona

A városi élet keretei a feudális kori Magyarországon. Kassa társadalma a 16. század derekán [The Settings of Urban Life in Feudal Hungary. Kassa (Košice) Society in the Mid-Sixteenth Century].
By György Granasztói. Reviewed by András Vadas
Note on Nomenclature

Notes on Contributors

 

  

 

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