pdfRepresentatives in a Changing World: Characteristics of Urban Advocacy at the Turn of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries*

István H. Németh
National Archives of Hungary
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 10 Issue 1  (2021): 3-34 DOI 10.38145/2021.1.3

The Kingdom of Hungary had a strong system of estates within the Habsburg Monarchy, and this exerted a significant influence on the positions of free royal cities. The free royal cities enjoyed a large degree of internal autonomy until roughly the end of the seventeenth century, with little oversight or interference by the larger state. Since 1526, the cities had been members of the estates which had taken part in the Diets (the parliaments which could be regarded as the early modern form of the Hungarian), though they had played a minor role in comparison to the counties. In the last third of the seventeenth century, the system of estates underwent significant changes. The royal state came to exert more control, and in the free royal cities, the central administration began to play a stronger role as a force for oversight. The interests of the state administration now played an important role in the selection of the city’s leaders. The delegates who represented the cities in the Diets were also chosen according to these considerations. The local bodies of state administration were given major say in the selection of the representatives. As a consequence of this, delegates began to be chosen who were from different social backgrounds, including people who had different places within the system of the estates. While earlier, the individuals who had been sent to take part in the Diets had been members of the Lutheran bourgeois elite, from roughly the late seventeenth century onwards, members of the nobility living in the cities began to play an increasingly influential role. Many of the delegates from the city of Kassa (today Košice, Slovakia) who will be discussed in the analysis below came from families of non-noble origins which, however, had been granted nobility as a reward for the services they had performed in the chamber administration. The career paths for members of these families led either to administrative bodies in the city or back into state administration.

Keywords: Catholicization, confessionalism, urban elites, professionalism, state administration, Habsburg Monarchy

The Positions and Roles of the Free Royal Cities in the Hungarian Diets

Within the Habsburg Monarchy, the Kingdom of Hungary remained a province with a strong system of estates (or feudal order). The threat of the Ottoman Empire, which ultimately affected the other provinces of the Habsburg Monarchy, compelled the Habsburg rulers and the Hungarian estates to seek mutual compromise. The influence of the estates of the Kingdom of Hungary, which played a significant role in providing protection for the monarchy and also in its food supplies, became so strong in these areas (precisely because of the importance of these two considerations) that the central government and the estates were able to reconcile their apparently conflicting interests for a very long time. The central administration of the monarchy, which was undergoing dramatic development at the time, and the strong feudal order in Hungary were able to coexist, and the counties governing the internal life of Hungary remained in the hands of the Hungarian estates. Even after the proclamation of highly centralizing decrees at the end of the seventeenth century, the counties retained a strong domestic political role essentially until the formation of the modern nineteenth-century state. As a consequence of this, the estates in Hungary played a more prominent role in the domestic politics of the country than the estates in the other provinces of the monarchy. These differences became increasingly apparent, particularly from the first quarter of the seventeenth century. Assemblies of representatives of the estates became the main forums for the internal sovereignty of the country, and the participating estates took control of domestic feudal policy (i.e. in addition to the counties, they took control of the judiciary, the local military, tax collection, etc.). Thus, the Diets in feudal Hungary were considerably more important than the assemblies of the estates in other provinces of the Habsburg Monarchy. For the historian, then, both the Diets themselves and the domestic participants who appeared at the Diets (which were the most important forum of the feudal order) are significant subjects of study.1 In this complex feudal monarchy, since the fifteenth century, the free royal cities had had municipal rights independent of the royal court.2 The state order of the cities grew even more rigid compared to the late Middle Ages, and they maintained their right to self-government even if members of the nobility who moved into the burgs and, in the case of some cities, the military strained the medieval administrative framework.3 However, the cities did not have significant political influence in the Diets. From the perspective of the authorities, the monarch had more direct say in their lives. They had to pay an annual land tax (census) to the ruler as the landlord, and the extraordinary war tax (taxa) was set by the central organs of finance, not the estates. From the first third of the seventeenth century on, these taxes could even be collected several times, independently of the decisions reached at the Diets.4

Changes in the Hungarian Feudal Order in the Seventeenth Century

The changes which exerted a direct influence on Hungarian policy towards the cities from the end of the seventeenth century also influenced both the selection process of the individuals who served as envoys of the cities to the Diets in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the responsibilities and prerogatives of these individuals. The extension of the state administration to the free royal cities, the city leaders, and the denominational affiliations of the inhabitants of the cities determined, in the long run, the city administration and political representation. The era was not a period of calm construction. A decisive and irreversible turn came in the fates of the free royal cities in these decades of change, and this turn was further aggravated by numerous external factors. Between 1662 and 1681, a period spanning almost two decades, not a single Diet was held. The primary reasons for this were the responses which were caused by the differences concerning ideas of state administration, within the Habsburg Monarchy, between the Kingdom of Hungary and the elite which governed the monarchy. The county estates were resolved to maintain the domestic political relations which had developed in the sixteenth century and changed several times over the course of the seventeenth. Beginning with the period of the Wesselényi uprising (1670–1671), however, the political leadership at the head of the monarchy planned and implemented fundamental changes in these relations. The changes in public administration and domestic political life were hardly unique, however. On the contrary, they were part of a larger European trend. One of the fundamental shifts in the early modern era, a shift which came in parallel with the formation of the modern state, was the extension, simply, of the prerogatives of the state. This was accompanied by the introduction by the state, which was using centralizing and later absolutist measures, of central regulations concerning matters which earlier had been determined entirely by the estates and their representatives. In the areas which had become the responsibility of the state which had been built under the authority of the absolute ruler, the state administration, reinforced by the ruler’s legitimacy, became an unambiguously decisive factor.5 Economic history characterizes this transformation as the creation of the fiscal state (of the fiscal-military state), an expression which captures the purely economic, financial relationship between cause and solution.6

One immensely important area of centralization is confessionalization, or to put it more simply, the extension of the authority of the ruler over religion and the church (and this is one of the hallmarks of an absolutist or centralized state administration). The religious policy pursued by the Habsburg government in the Czech-Moravian and Austrian hereditary provinces was clearly part of an effort in this direction, and this was indeed part of larger political practice in the other states of Europe. The notion of “one state, one religion” had become a fairly uniformly espoused political stance in the seventeenth century in each of the states which sought to create a more or less centralized or absolutist administration.7 The issue of confessional belonging was of key importance in Hungarian domestic politics, as the events which took place in part as a result of the advance of state confessionalization clearly indicate. As the end of the Bocskai uprising (1604–1606), which broke out in no small part because of issues and conflicts of a strongly sectarian and confessional nature, the Peace of Vienna (1606) resolved (among other things) the sectarian dispute between the two parties, i.e. the Hungarian estates and the ruler. At the beginning of the reign of Ferdinand II, there was a strong demand for the establishment of a state with only one denomination, but this did not take place in the case of the Kingdom of Hungary. The reasons for this are related in part to the domestic political compromise which addressed, over the course of the whole period, the domestic political conflicts between the estates and the ruler/state.8 This compromise seemed precarious at the time precisely because of the issue of confessionalization. The attacks launched by the two Transylvanian princes (Gábor Bethlen and György I. Rákóczi) confirmed the previous place of the Hungarian estates. The Diet which was held in Sopron in 1622 and then the Peace of Linz (1645) restored the relationship between the estates and the ruler.9 In contrast, in the Austrian provinces (mainly Lower and Upper Austria and Styria), a strong counter-reformation had been underway since the first quarter of the century, which had included forced relocations and conversions.10 In contrast with the practices used to implement religious policy in the other parts of the Habsburg Monarchy, in the Kingdom of Hungary, attempts were made to effect change with peaceful means. Educational institutions run mainly by the Jesuits were established in the free royal cities and landlord market towns, and with them came the monasteries.11 The monasteries became the foundations for a slow process of conversion which enjoyed funding from the state. By the last third of the seventeenth century, the nobility had, for the most part, been converted,12 as had the middle-nobility stratum of trained professionals working in the state administrative bodies in Hungary.13 Debates and decisions reached in the Diets strengthened the results of the process of Catholic renewal, and the Hungarian Protestant political elite was increasingly pushed to the margins.14

While the parties managed to resolve the conflicts which had emerged earlier relatively quickly (1606–1608, 1622, 1645) and the domestic political balance between the estates and the ruler was, ultimately, restored, in the 1660s, the primary concern for the new political generation, which consisted of the people surrounding the new ruler, Leopold I, was simply the issue of the efficient operation of the state.15 The newly emerging political system of the Viennese government was now negotiating with a fundamentally changed Hungarian political elite, which was no longer the generation which had been born in the first quarter of the seventeenth century. For this new generation, the compromise and the rules of the political game which had emerged as a consequence or corollary of this compromise were self-evident and repeatable.16 The complete political turnaround and the reforms to public administration which were favored by the Vienna government were made possible by the period following the Wesselényi conspiracy (1664–1671). The series of armed uprisings and trials concerning accusations of treason in the wake of the conspiracy were unique in Hungarian politics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but they enabled the Vienna government to implement its plans for reform without constraints. Extremely high taxes were levied in the Kingdom of Hungary, and radical changes were implemented in the ways in which the taxes were levied. The tax based on providing for the military and the levy that was introduced as a sales tax were collected without the consent of the Diet.17 With the establishment of the Gubernium, an attempt was made to set up a new system with an office better connected to the central bodies that would govern instead of the estates. However, the Gubernium could not play a significant role due to the prevailing conditions in the country. One of the first tasks of the new administration was the recatholicization of the country. Protestant churches were confiscated and handed over to the Catholic Church.18 The measures adopted led to religious civil war,19 and the comparative stability of domestic life, which had been based until this point on compromises, was upset, as the old rules of the game no longer applied.

The measures introduced by the Habsburg government were very rapid and effective, especially when it came to restoring the institutions of the Catholic Church and taking control of the estates and buildings which had formed the basis of the institutional system. However, they had rapid repercussions for Hungarian politics due to the larger tax burdens and the radical changes to confessional life. The Thököly Uprising (1677–1685) and the Rákóczi War of Independence (1703–1711) were both consequences of the effects these measures had. At the time, during the period of the “religious civil war” of the late seventeenth century, people who belonged to different denominations were automatically regarded as enemies or, in situations of war, even as spies. The Rákóczi War of Independence was something of an exception to this, as the Lutherans again came to hold the advantage, but as a consequence of a balanced religious policy, the different denominations were still able to achieve of a certain degree of compromise and cooperation.20 The political circumstances of the Szatmár Peace Treaty (1711) helped ensure that the new administrative system that had emerged by the end of the seventeenth century could continue to develop relatively peacefully and essentially remain in place until 1848. In the first quarter of the eighteenth century, the entire Hungarian central administration underwent major reform, and the Hungarian Royal Lieutenancy Council (which replaced the Gubernium), the Hungarian Royal Chamber (which had been reorganized), and the Hungarian Court Chancellery formed the backbone of the Hungarian state administration. The Hungarian counties retained their prominence and influence in domestic politics, but in the free royal cities and the organs of the central government, the Catholic revival program was successful. Only Catholics could hold important positions in the administration, and the newly introduced administrative principles remained.

The Turning Point in Urban Policy

The new domestic policy affected the free royal cities of Hungary the most, where, beginning in the early 1670s, a significant political turn took place. The change served in part to further recatholicization and in part to secure the financial resources for increased spending by the state administration and, in particular, the army. Instead of having to rely on cities which had gone into debt and had to struggle to pay their tax burdens, the central government wanted to create a situation in which the cities would constitute a larger and more secure foundation for tax incomes. In order to address economic problems, the government wanted to introduce administrative tools similar to mechanisms and measures in other provinces of the monarchy. It sought to exert an influence on the internal composition of the city councils and to introduce state overview and reform of urban management. The central government’s primary goal was to reform urban management, and it approached this issue from several angles. First, it sought to make the city administration even more layered and more complex and also easier to keep under strict oversight and control. It also sought to determine the composition of the staff that led and operated the administration to ensure that it consisted of people who had the adequate training and expertise, who were loyal to the state administration, and who could be trusted to deal reliably with the incomes and properties of the cities and not to use them for their own purposes. The primary task of the initial period of intervention was to remove the (Lutheran) burghers in key positions and replace them with Catholics. The process of recatholicization served not only to implement increasingly the principle of one state, one religion. The selection of Catholics for positions of prominence and influence was, in the political context of the last third of the seventeenth century, a primary criterion of loyalty.21

In addition to ensuring the loyalty of its subjects, the state also needed to restore the cities economically. The factors which were taken into consideration when new members were chosen by the commissioners and delegated to the councils would have furthered the economic growth of the cities and the transparency of administration, as, alongside the criterion of belonging to the Catholic Church, knowledge of law and economics was also given considerable emphasis in the instructions.22 According to the chamber commissioners, the ability to elect the most important officers had to be taken away from the people and made subject to a decision by the ruler, since these figures allegedly “were the first leaders from the perspective of the ruin and retention of the city.” The cities would have been left only with the right to make nominations, and the commissioners would have selected the appropriate individuals from among the candidates, as was customary in Austria (sicuti moris est in Austria). Were a commissioner unable to choose a suitable candidate from the nominees, the Hungarian Chamber would have made the decision.23

In the end, the extreme means of nomination were never used. Rather, a policy was adopted according to which Catholics enjoyed strong support, but the city’s economy was also taken into consideration. The positions of key leaders in the city can be clearly discerned on the basis of the instructions given in the first few years. The city magistrate, the mayor (where there was one), and the notary had to be selected from among the candidates nominated by the central authorities.24 The commissioners not only determined the selection of the magistrate and, in some cases, the mayor, but also exerted an increasingly strong influence on the composition of the members of the internal council, then the elected council, and, where it existed, the external council. However, the election commissioners did not have an easy task, as very few of the individuals available met the ruler’s expectations, especially in the first period. The city official to be selected had to belong to the Catholic Church, but in addition to this, he also had to have an estate (benepossesionatus) and proper qualifications (qualificatus).25 In the last third of the seventeenth century, due to the haste with which changes were being introduced, individuals with inadequate qualifications and social status were often appointed to very significant city offices.26 However, it cannot be claimed that, contrary to the intent of the ruler, the changes made on the basis of denominational belonging led to a striking or irreversible drop in the qualifications of city leaders. Indeed, by the time people belonging to the second generation since the change began to take office, quite the contrary was true.

From the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Catholic city leaders almost without exception had training in law, and it was gradually inconceivable that someone without strong social ties would be elected. Alongside the converted city leaders, the urban nobility, which had important family and social-economic ties and therefore enjoyed considerable prestige and were among the former economic intellectuals, also played a major role in the leadership of the cities. Usually, the descendants of the people belonging to this circle remained in the city leadership or entered the service of the state (or married people who had entered the service of the state). In the first decades of the eighteenth century, there were some city leaders from burgher families who, as Catholics, were seen as having the necessary qualifications. They came to occupy important positions in the city leadership as burghers with suitable social recognition and prestige who, from the perspective of their family circles, had a kind of double identity. They were tied to the local burgher communities because of their occupations and family ties, but they were also tied to the public administration because of their roles as public officers and other familial ties with public officials.27

New Considerations on the Basis of which the City Delegates Were Chosen

The frameworks described above exerted a decisive influence on the ways in which the representatives who were sent to the Diets were selected and the question of who, ultimately, represented and was eligible to represent the interests of some of the free royal cities. The urban state policy which had begun to emerge in the second half of the fifteenth century was consolidated in the sixteenth century, as is indicated by the fact that (in contrast with earlier years) from the middle of the century on, the possibility that a city might not send a delegate to the Diet was not raised by a single urban council. The number of delegates that the city would send was not fixed in this period, but the cities usually sent two and sometimes three or four representatives to the Diet. The instructions for the representatives of the cities and their credentials were issued by the city’s internal councils, and the points contained in them focused essentially on the protection of the interests of the given city. The delegates were always members of the city council, but in many cases the city notary was included among them or the notary accompanied the two-person delegation.28 State oversight of seventeenth-century urban policy may have influenced the cities to support the aspirations of the ruler at the Diets as well (as they were in a more vulnerable position). By the end of the seventeenth century, the cities had managed to acquire considerable influence through the ruler and the government, and this influence was quite clear in the Diets from the eighteenth century onwards. One very clear consequence of this change was that, in the Diet held in 1687, a legal limitation was placed on the number of free royal cities, as there was legitimate fear that the number of cities would exceed the number of counties.29 As in the case of other city officials, the individuals who were selected to serve as delegates were chosen by the chamber bodies. This direct use of political control was clearly apparent in the fact that, in the 1681 Diet, at least one of the delegates sent from each of the free royal cities (which earlier had spoken out against the Counter Reformation) was Catholic, and sometimes both of the delegates were Catholic, even in cases of cities which still had clear Lutheran majorities. This shift in the denominational longing of the delegates was clearly a consequence of the instructions given by the chamber. In the first such Diet, 30 of the 49 envoys of the fourth order were Catholic, while only 16 were Lutherans and 3 were Calvinist. The cities of Kassa, Pozsony (today Bratislava, Slovakia), and Eperjes (today Prešov, Slovakia), for example, which had strong Lutheran elites, sent only Catholic ambassadors to the Diet. In the case of Lőcse (today Levoča, Slovakia), the sources clearly indicate that Johann Fabritius and Daniel Weber were nominated under pressure from the chamber administration of the Szepes (Spiš) region, while the selection of the famous Lutheran printer Johann Brewer reflected the views of the majority of the city. Credentials were issued and instructions given for three delegates, but only the two Catholics could officially appear at the meetings of the Sopron Diet.30

The frameworks presented above and the shift in the composition of the urban elite thus exerted a strong influence on the individuals who were chosen to serve as city leaders. Drawing on the example of the city of Kassa, I offer a sketch of their social backgrounds. The sources suggest that there were no significant differences among the delegates sent by the cities from the perspective of their social backgrounds. Where there were differences, these differences were due to distinctive circumstances (for instance, varying proportions of members of the nobility or the intelligentsia) within a particular city, such as Pozsony and the mining cities of what is today central Slovakia (and at the time was referred to as “Alsó-Magyarország,” or “Lower Hungary,”) to Nagybánya (today Baia Mare, Romania). In the discussion which follows, I will offer an overview of the careers of some of the delegates from Kassa whose professional trajectories can be considered typical as a means of offering insights into the socio-historical effects of these changes. While in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the city notaries had played prominent roles, from the end of the seventeenth century on their relevance diminished drastically. It suffices perhaps to consider the example of the most famous notary from Kassa, Johannes (Bock) Bocatius, who for a short time also held the office of magistrate. Bocatius took part in the 1601 Diet as a notary. Then, during István Bocskai’s military campaign in Upper Hungary (a term used to refer to a region which today, essentially, is Slovakia), he became one of the prince’s close intellectual advisers. As Bocskai’s foreign ambassador, he was taken prisoner by Rudolf I. Like many of his associates, as a dominant urban intellectual and one of the decisive figures who shaped the ideology of the uprising, Bocatius also played a prominent role in domestic political life.31 Daniel Türck, a notary from Lőcse, took part in seven parliaments. His diary, which fortunately survived the upheavals of history, has become one of the essential sources on the early sixteenth-century Diets.32 At the end of the seventeenth century, there was only one notary, András Kercho, among the delegates to the Diet, though we know of a total of 14 delegates sent from Kassa by 1741. It is worth noting that Kercho was a Catholic burgher when he acquired his position as notary, as this post was given high priority by the royal commissioners in the post-1670 period, and only Catholics could be appointed to hold it.33 Kercho was the child of a family from Turóc County, as the last will and testament which he drew up with his wife on December 30, 1709 indicates. When he arrived in Kassa, he did not have any inherited property. (One could suggest a parallel between his career and that of János Keviczky, a key figure in the seventeenth-century Kassa elite.34) Kercho married the widow of György Szentsimonyi. Between 1691 and 1697, he was active on the external committee that represented the burghers, and from 1699 until his death on August 14, 1710, he served as a member of the internal council. He had the typical career of a Kassa notary, broken only by the period during which the soldiers of Ferenc II Rákóczi occupied the city. Kercho did not hold any city office between 1705 and 1707. However, the land he acquired lay in the part of the outskirts of Kassa where the majority of the city leaders also acquired estates. His neighbors were the Demeczky family, Johann Grasz, and János Jászay. His connections thus tied him to the new elite of the city.35

There were many German burghers among the Kassa urban elite even in the seventeenth century, despite the fact that during this period, the German population was becoming less and less significant and a large number of Hungarians had moved into the city. Hungarians had begun to settle in Kassa in significant numbers in the middle of the sixteenth century, but it was really in the seventeenth century that they began to acquire a role and place in the city elite that was significant enough for them to replace the German elite. With the increase in the number and significance of the Hungarians in Kassa, not only was the ethnic and power map of the city redrawn, but the place of Lutheranism as the confession which had held sway since the Reformation was undermined, as the vast majority of the Hungarians were Calvinists. Initially, the Lutheran city leadership had not allowed the Calvinists into the city. The Calvinists were only allowed to have their own religious community in the city beginning in the first third of the seventeenth century, and only as a consequence of pressure put on the city by the Transylvanian prince. The tensions between the Lutherans and the Calvinists only further facilitated the flow of Catholics into the city, a process which already enjoyed the support of the Vienna government.36 At the end of the seventeenth century, Andreas Breiner and Michael Goldberger were the only two Kassa councilors to appear at the Pozsony Diets with credentials. This was tied both to the shifts which had taken place in the ethnic makeup of the city of Kassa and to the fact that the highest authorities considered the selection of the Catholic delegates a priority. The non-Catholic Hungarian population of Kassa was represented by Dávid Féja and András Vida. They were both representatives of the old Kassa bourgeoisie, as socially tied to the city as the seventeenth-century local urban elite.37 This trend continued in the Diets which met during the Rákóczi War of Independence, in which, thanks to Rákóczi’s confessional policy, Protestants and Catholics enjoyed relatively balanced representation.38

Urban Nobles as Representatives of Urban Interests

The most dramatic change to take place in the delegates who were sent by the city of Kassa to the Diets was the sudden leap in the number of Catholic Hungarians who belonged to the nobility. Kassa was predestined by its status as a regional center, its role as the administrative center for the military and the chamber of Upper Hungary, and its distinctive sociohistorical characteristics to become a local center for the urban nobility, which was clearly emerging as a new social stratum in Western Europe as well. This transformation of the social order of the city was also furthered by the fact that Kassa, as the seat of the region between the Transylvanian principality and the Hungarian Kingdom, often served as a kind of place or refuge for members of the Transylvanian nobility, who sought refuge at times of unrest or turmoil (which were relatively frequent) in the Principality of Transylvania.39 Almost all the individuals who appeared in the name of the city at the national Diets and smaller Diets held at the end of the seventeenth century fell into this category. Imre Szentmártony, a member of the legal intelligentsia of the time, was active in Kassa as a recognized lawyer.40 From 1703 until 1720, he served as a member of the internal council, and he served as magistrate for three years when the city was under occupation by Rákóczi, and he regularly took part in the Kuruc Diets. His wife, Katalin Marussy, widow of István Orbán, was related to the Lászay and Regéczi families, and his father was a so-called iudex nobilium (noble judge) in Abaúj County.41

Mihály Demeczky was the child of a noble family from Gyergyószék. He may have studied law at the Jesuit University of Nagyszombat (today Trnava, Slovakia) before settling in Abaúj County. At first, working in the service of Imre Thököly, he represented the prince as his ambassador. He became a city notary in Kassa and very quickly became a member of the internal council, director of the city’s estates, and a magistrate in 1686 and 1687,42 but he also held minor positions in the county as a juror and accountant.43 Demeczky was not chosen by the royal commissioners by chance. As a young nobleman who had spent time among the Jesuits of Nagyszombat, he was selected as the solution to a challenging problem, for he had to replace Mihály Udvarhelyi, who himself had been selected in 1674 with some difficulty and who, as the chapter notary, worked both for the city and for the chapter.44 The position of city clerk not only secured him a salary, it also gave him considerable influence. In order to maintain his position, he allegedly did not hesitate to lobby against a resolution passed by the Diet in 1687 on the election of officials in the free royal cities. However, after this came to light, he fell out with the city leadership and renounced his rights as a burgher. Indeed, before doing this, he was not even willing to go to the meetings of the city council. Rather, the internal opposition of the city leadership met in his home. Although this unhappy state of affairs was resolved in accordance with the strict instructions of Leopold I, Demeczky’s relationship with the council clearly remained troubled, for he never held office again.45

Like Demeczky and Szentmártony, László Jászay may have been an intellectual nobleman who had studied law, though the sources contain no clear indication that he had any degree at all. He served as a delegate to the Diet, and this and the services he performed in city affairs and the various occasions on which he served as a delegate suggest that, like Demeczky and Szentmártony, Jászay had also been a member of this stratum. This is also supported by the fact that in 1676, citing the services he had performed for the city and his poverty, he asked the council to refrain from compelling him to present a letter of confirmation (the document which attested to his noble birth) or from paying the tax levied on burghers. Six years later, he had become a member of the internal council, and there is no indication in the sources that he was among the community of the elected.46 He also served as the delegate sent by Kassa to the assembly of the representatives of the cities of Upper Hungary, and one year later, he was a delegate to the Diet. Alongside the magistrate and city prosecutor Balázs Váncsay, he was a member of the committee charged with the task of designating the site of a church for the Lutherans, in accordance with the decisions reached at the 1687 Diet.47 Balázs Váncsay was the father of István Váncsay, who would emerge as a prominent Kassa politician. His career illustrates the changes which were underway and the ways in which individuals were compelled to adapt to these changes. Balázs Váncsay is mentioned in the sources as a Hungarian cantor and, later, as the city prosecutor. He was one of the figures who helped the family acquire a noble title. Together with his brothers Mihály and Mátyás, he was given a title on May 4, 1665 by Leopold I.48 Váncsay may have served as a suitable link between Catholics and Lutherans, as he converted to the Catholic faith very early on. His son István was baptized on July 25, 1673 by a Lutheran pastor. His godparents, Márton Madarász, István Kassai, organist Sándor Pischel, Mrs. Zsófia Puttemberger Ádám Kiss, Mrs. Judit Liptai András Tornay, and Mrs. Judit Faigel Dávid Féja, were prominent members of the city’s Lutheran elite.49 His second child, Gábor, was baptized by the Catholic parish priest in 1681,50 so he clearly converted sometime between these two dates, but presumably sometime around the moment when he went from being the Hungarian cantor to serving as the city prosecutor, as it was customary to reward intellectuals who had converted with positions in the city or state administration and thus to ensure them a livelihood. This may have taken place sometime around 1676, or at least this is suggested by the fact that in 1676, András Újvári-Bodnár, a resident of Kassa, rebuked Váncsay precisely for this reason, and indeed he rebuked him so churlishly that he was sentenced to pay a fine of 100 thalers.51 The council, which was already mostly Catholic by that time, may have chosen Váncsay to negotiate with Thököly, who was marching against the city, precisely because he was a convert.52

Balázs Váncsay was also a link to the next generation of Kassa city leaders, to the members of the elite who represented the interests of the city of Kassa in the Diets which were being held at a time in which the political circumstances and issues had changed dramatically. Balázs Váncsay’s son István, who was born a Lutheran (or Calvinist), became both the most significant figure of the city government who wielded the greatest influence but also the person who caused the biggest scandal in the politics of the city at the time. From the perspective of his social connections, the young Váncsay was clearly among the city leaders who were proud of their noble rank and sought ties to the noble families of the county.53 Already as a young man, he may have been a divisive figure, for in 1692, he came into conflict with Mihály Tarnóczy. Váncsay had sought to cheat Tarnóczy, and Tarnóczy had become so enraged that he had chased Váncsay through the vineyards, but first he struck him in the head with a small hatchet. He threw a stone at Váncsay (who fled) which quite possibly would have killed him had Váncsay, who had only recently turned 20, not been quick on his feet.54 He began his career as an advocate in the city council, in the council that was newly elected by Ferenc II Rákóczi, but he was soon mentioned in the sources from subsequent years among the most prominent members of the internal council. During the War of Independence, he was one of the members of the Kassa council who was sent the most frequently to meet with Rákóczi or Rákóczi’s most important officers or to represent the city at the Kuruc Diets.55 István Váncsay was at the Diet held in 1712 (which brought the War of Independence to an end from the perspective of domestic politics) as the only city notary of the time, with András Hlavathy, the envoy sent by Kassa, at his side. During the Diet, the two delegates participated in the debate with the cities which again had been given the status of free royal cities over their rank, but they were dealing, in addition, with the issues concerning the tax agreement, which was deemed hopeless, and they also worked to facilitate the selection of the new parish priest of Kassa.56 Váncsay was a respected councilor at the time. He had served as deputy magistrate in 1709 and then had been elected to serve as magistrate in 1710 and 1711.57 Váncsay seems to have been someone who did not hesitate to come into conflict with others if he felt he had to protect his own interests or if he felt that a member of his family had been insulted.58 As noted above, he was baptized a Protestant, but by 1712, he had converted to Catholicism, for in this year he became the godfather of one of István Radikovicz’s twins.59 The fact that he was ranked second on the council which was elected in front of chamber councilor Franz Meixner on January 28, 1712 and which consisted exclusively of Catholics is again clear indication that he had converted. He was also elected to serve as a tax collector.60

Váncsay served on the council until 1714, and it is reasonable to suggest that he failed to hold his position because of events which had transpired during the Rákóczi War of Independence and suspicions concerning biased management of city funds. In 1717, Baron Johann Ignatz Viechter, a chamber councilor and delegated election commissioner, was given the task of putting the management of Kassa on stable footing. In order to do this, he had Bertalan Máray appointed mayor of the city, and he requested all the records of the city accounts and strove to determine who had been responsible for the earlier mismanagement of city finances. Váncsay was among the accused. According to the report, he was chosen to serve as a member of the council again on condition that he submit for examination the records of accounts from the period during which he had served as magistrate. It had then become clear that, during the upheavals caused by the War of Independence, Váncsay may have dealt in an underhanded manner with the wealth which had flown into the city, as it came to light, in the course of the investigation, that he had taken 13 last wills and testaments from the city archives which had never been found again. Each of these last wills and testaments had named the city as the heir.61 In spite of the suspicions which were cast on him, Váncsay was still nominated to serve as deputy magistrate62 that year and as advocate and magistrate the following year. Of the latter two positions, he secured the second with a majority of the votes, and he remained in office as magistrate until 1727, or in other words for nine years.63 Váncsay ruled with an iron fist during his time in office, as evidenced by the fact that he did not leave office voluntarily or simply as a result of a vote held by the council, but rather as the consequence of an extraordinary procedure, something that was used only as a rare exception at the time. In January 1726, the Szepesi chamber, which passed on the contents of the annual royal decrees, informed the city that they would not send an election commissioner. Rather, the election would be held without a commissioner. Their only stipulation was that Váncsay submit the records of accounts from the period between 1709 and 1712 to the chamber for examination.64 It referred, as an antecedent to this, to the fact that during the election of city officials held in 1724, the royal commissioner had objected to Váncsay’s management,65 but as Váncsay had failed to submit the records (which now were well over a decade old) even after having been called on to do so several times, royal commissioner Pál Lipót Mednyánszky was having him removed from office, and he would not be allowed anywhere near the highest circles of the city leadership until he had done as instructed and had submitted the records.66

The city of Kassa treated the case of its former magistrate as a matter of considerable importance and even urgency. One explanation for this may simply have been the prestige and authority which Váncsay enjoyed, but the city may also have resented the manner in which the royal commissioner and the ruler were infringing on the rights of the city council. The council turned to the Hungarian Court Chancellery and then the Court Chamber with its complaints, and it charged Adam Aloysius Talheim, who was a Vienna agent and who served on the chancellery, with the specific task of handling this matter. The council was perfectly willing to spend money and barter with the wines stored in the city cellars in order to ensure that Váncsay be restored to his position as magistrate as soon as possible. (They even turned to Mátyás Bél, a Pozsony pastor, for assistance, as indicated by the fact that two of the barrels of wine that were sent to the chancellor were stored in his cellar.67) Talheim earned his money, and the wine given to further Váncsay’s case also proved an effective bartering tool, for in February 1728, the chancellery recommended that the Royal Chamber support Váncsay’s reappointment as magistrate, as, in the end, he had submitted the records requested of him and had settled the issues concerning the city finances. The chancellery felt that Váncsay had already proven his capacity for the office and that he had done a great deal for Kassa as a royal estate (peculium regium).68 Kassa therefore quickly received permission from the ruler, and Váncsay regained power over the city, as he began serving as deputy magistrate that year and then regained his seat as magistrate the following year in the election that was held before the royal commissioner.69 True, the Szepes Chamber Administration was by no means satisfied with Váncsay’s work. Indeed, it had several specific complaints. It objected, for instance, to the various luxury expenditures he ordered, and records of accounts again were missing. The basic principles according to which the orphanage would be run had not been clearly specified, and the urbarium for the city estates still had not been prepared. The apothecary, which was worth more than 30,000 forints, had been leased for 3,000 forints, and worst of all, no records had been kept of the estates which had ended up in the hands of the city.70 Váncsay nonetheless triumphed over the other candidates in the 1729 and 1730 elections and again in 1733, and he sat in the most prominent places on the council until his death. Considering that, as the most prominent member of the council, he also held the position of mayor (as was established practice) and thus essentially had complete control over the management of the city, we can justifiably say that István Váncsay was the most significant magistrate of Kassa in the first half of the eighteenth century.

Social Ties and the Early Stages of Career Paths

Members of the Váncsay family were working in the service of the chambers by the middle of the eighteenth century, but like the children of many other individuals who held offices in Kassai, they saw greater assurance of good career prospects in the service of the state. János Nossiczi Thurzó, who worked as part of the office responsible for collecting the thirtieth (a tax),71 was a permanent member of the Catholic council created in 1712 until his death on August 12, 1732, and in the last two years of his life, he served as the city magistrate.72 In addition to serving on the city council, he was also given constant employment by the Szepes Chamber Administration.73 One sees evidence of the close relationship between the chamber and the city management in the fact that, among the children of the city councilors, members of the Almássy, Csomortányi, Demeczky, Ganóczy, and Berezik families became the chamber officials. Usually, the officers who had positions as clerks were sons of the mayors of Kassa, but some of them managed to make it to positions in the middle of the hierarchy of offices. György Thurzó, the son of the aforementioned János Thurzó, served as assistant accountant to the chamber administration.74

There were tendencies in the family and social ties of the Kassa delegates and, more generally, the new elite of the city which indicate the existence of various subgroups. The delegates tended to come from a social group which could perhaps most accurately be characterized as the intellectual, officeholding stratum of the nobility the families of which had gotten their noble titles one generation earlier (usually, in the middle of the second half of the seventeenth century). If one looks at the network of relationships involving the godparents of the Kassa delegates and their children, one notes one of the largest nodes of this network was formed by the relationships among the families which sought closer bonds (such as the bond between family and godparent) among people who belonged to the city elite. The few delegates who were Lutherans formed a distinct group, the most interesting of which was perhaps the subgroup formed by András Hlavathy and Gergely Lukácsik, who asked women who were married to leaders of the Szepes Chamber Administration to be godmothers to their children. This all clearly illustrates that the smaller groups which had already been identified in Sopron also existed in Kassa, and the model introduced there was also valid in the case of a city which was an administrative center in Upper Hungary.75 Indeed, as the seat of the Szepes Chamber Administration, Kassa perhaps bore a stronger affinity with Pozsony from the perspective of its ties to the local network of officeholders. The roles of the city, which served as a prominent site for domestic political affairs in the Kingdom of Hungary, as both a residence and an administrative center further strengthened these urban-political and social factors, which were also factors in the other free royal cities and which exerted a stronger or weaker influence on the lives of the city communities. Members of the new, well-educated, Catholic urban elite appeared very quickly among the city leaders in the first years of the turnaround in urban policy. Elected officials almost without exception had legal degrees, and they built strong social ties. It was also not at all uncommon for a Catholic intellectual to enter into a familial relationship not with someone who belonged to one of the families which was part of the city elite, but rather with one of the employees of the local chamber. In these cases, we can speak of people who had ties to the city and the burghers because of their occupations and lifestyles but who were also tied to the state administration because of their family connections to state offices and people who held positions in the state offices. Naturally, this put them in a very advantageous position. As burghers who were also intellectuals (for the most part, with training as physicians or apothecaries), they were recognized members of the given communities, and because of their good ties to local representatives of state power, they clearly enjoyed an array of other advantages.76 The close study of the Kassa delegates definitely indicates that the leaders of the burgher community of the city tended to develop close ties to the local nobility and the state administration, even more so than in the case of Sopron or Pozsony. This was true not simply in cases involving the official affairs of the city but also from the perspective of the personal relationships of the city leaders.

In Summary

This discussion of the careers of delegates from the city of Kassa to the Diets sheds light on fact that, from the perspective of its professional (administrative) training and qualifications, the new Catholic urban elite managed to catch up relatively quickly to the Lutheran burgher community. In contrast with the Lutherans, however, Catholics enjoyed significant advantages according to the new principles of urban policy. Thus, the two groups were never on an equal footing from the perspective of politics. This was especially true when, due to the administrative significance of the city (like Pozsony and Kassa), the government no longer sought to maintain the former confessional balance and instead wanted to create a city leadership consisting exclusively of Catholics. This new, professional, trained urban elite was no longer tied exclusively to the burgher class. Rather, it was closely linked to the local nobility and the noble-officeholding urban stratum, which it came to resemble more and more. For the sons of this new elite, the prospect of serving in state office seemed an increasingly normal, natural way to launch a career. It also became increasingly common for the leading urban elite to include many individuals who were members of the nobility who lived primarily off their incomes as officeholders or, in other words, who belonged to the abovementioned stratum of noblemen intellectuals. Thus, from the perspective of social history, a new class of officeholding intellectuals emerged from the very mixed stratum that consisted of both burghers and members of the nobility. This new class had strong ties to the burgher lifestyle, and it not only took the baton from the honorary urban leaders in city administration but also began to serve in ever larger numbers in state offices.

Archival Sources

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C 30 (Acta nob.) Helytartótanácsi Levéltár, Magyar Királyi Helytartótanács, Acta nobilium

E 156 (UetC) Kincstári Levéltárak, Magyar Kamara Archivuma, Urbaria et Conscriptiones

E 210 (Misc.) Kincstári Levéltárak, Magyar Kamara Archivuma, Miscellanea

E 23 (Litt. Cam. Scep.) Kincstári Levéltárak, Magyar Kamara regisztratúrája, Litterae camerae Scepusiensis

E 254 (Repr., inf. et inst.) Kincstári Levéltárak, Szepesi Kamara regisztratúrája, Repraesentationes. informationes et instantiae

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AHK HFU ung.MBW Alte Hofkammer, Hoffinanz Ungarn, Ungarisches

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1 Pálffy, The Kingdom of Hungary, 177–91.

2 Szűcs, “Das Städtewesen in Ungarn”; Kubinyi, “Der ungarische König und seine Städte.”

3 H. Németh, Várospolitika és gazdaságpolitika.

4 H. Németh, “Die finanziellen Auswirkungen.”

5 Vierhaus, Staaten und Stände; Heinrich, “Staatsaufsicht und Stadtfreiheit”; Henshall, The Myth of Absolutismus; Duchhardt, “Absolutismus”; Asch and Duchhardt, Der Absolutismus.

6 Brien and Hunt, “The Rise of a Fiscal State”; Hart, The Making of a Bourgeois State; Bonney, The Rise of the Fiscal State; Cavaciocchi, La Fiscalità Nell’economia Europea; Kenyeres, “A ‘Fiscal-Military State’ és a Habsburg Monarchia.”

7 Hinrichs, “Abschied vom Absolutismus”; Vierhaus, Staaten und Stände, 15–38. On the changes which took place in the lands of the Habsburg Monarchy, see Bahlcke, Konfessionalisierung in Ostmitteleuropa; Mikulec, Pobělohorská rekatolizace; Mikulec, “Praga w okresie kontrreformacji”; Sterneck, “Obnovování českobudějovické městské rady”; Hrdlička, “Die (Re-)Katholisierung lokaler Amtsträger,” 357–66; Mikulec, “Die staatlichen Behörden”; Fejtová, Rekatolizace na Novém Městě pražském.

8 Pálffy, The Kingdom of Hungary.

9 Péter, “The struggle for Protestant religious liberty”; Pálffy, “Ewige Verlierer”; Pálffy, “Ein vergessener Ausgleich”; Dominkovits and H. Németh, “Bethlen Gábor 1619–1621. évi hadjárata és Sopron.”

10 Herzig, Der Zwang zum wahren Glauben; Deventer, Gegenreformation in Schlesien; Kunisch, “Staatsräson und Konfessionaliserung”; Mikulec, 31.7.1627. Rekatolizace šlechty.

11 Molnár, Mezőváros és katolicizmus; Molnár, Lehetetlen küldetés; Kádár, “Jezsuita kollégium.”

12 Fraknói, Pázmány Péter, vol. 2, 40–55, 233–49, 372–79; Bitskey, “A reformáció kezdetei”; Bitskey, “Pázmány Péter felső-magyarországi missziója”; Tusor, “Nemesi és polgári érdekérvényesítési törekvések”; Tusor, “Problems and Possibilities”; Fazekas, A reform útján.

13 Signs of the initiative can be discerned under the reign of Rudolf: OeStA/FHKA AHK HFUung.MBW RN 8. 1602. fol. 172–189. On the preferences shown for mine officers who were Catholic, see: RN 10. 1618. fol. 52–65, 112–116, RN 11. 1623. fol. 271–273, RN 11. 1625. fol. 246–257, RN 11. 1626. fol. 138–141, 295., 615; OeStA/FHKA AHK HFU Akten RN 142. 1630. Juli fol. 144–157, RN 196. 1655. Juli fol. 44. See: Bahlcke, Konfessionalisierung; Hrdlička, “Die (Re-)Katholisierung lokaler Amtsträger.”

14 Szilágyi, A linzi béke; Fabó, Az 1662-diki országgyűlés; Zsilinszky, A magyar országgyűlések vallásügyi tárgyalásai, vol. 2, 186–267; Bessenyei, “A szabad királyi városok,” 255–63; Tusor, “Nemesi és polgári érdekérvényesítési törekvések.”

15 On the political circles and divisions that worked alongside Leopold I, see the monograph by Stefan Sienell: Sienell, Die Geheime Konferenz.

16 Tusor, “Problems and Possibilities.”

17 Nagy, “A Magyar Kamara.”

18 Benczédi, Rendiség, abszolutizmus, 53–57, 68–74; S. Varga, Az 1674-es gályarabper; Michels, “Az 1674. évi pozsonyi prédikátorper”; Mihalik,Papok, polgárok, konvertiták, 152–66, 183–97; Kónya, Prešov, Bardejov a Sabinov.Scheutz, “Compromise and Shake Hands.”

19 Mihalik.Papok, polgárok, konvertiták, 19, 93.

20 For a summary, see Misóczki, Vallás- és egyházügy.

21 H. Németh, “Állam és városok.”

22 See Rügge, Im Dienst von Stadt und Staat, 70–108. Regarding the Kingdom of Hungary, see Vári, Pál and Brakensiek, Herrschaft an der Grenze, 143–207.

23 MNL OLE 23 (Litt.Cam. Scep.) March 4, 1673.

24 Ibid. 1674. April. 22, MNL OL E 210 (Misc.) Civitatensia 20. t. 2, no. Vienna, December 22, 1677, AMK Schw. No. 9214. Vienna, December 6, 1673. The same in Lőcse: StALE MML X/36/2 and Besztercebánya (today Banská Bystrica, Slovakia): StABB MMBB Spisy Fasc. 286. No. 38.

25 “…necessarium valde et expediens iudicavimus, ut quandoquidem catholica ortodoxa per Dei gratium fides, magnum illic incrementum sumpsisse, frequentesque catholicae bene qualificatae, ad gerenda senatoria, et quaelibet alia inter vos consueta officia, idoneae personae inveniri comperiantur.” AMK Schw. No. 9277. Vienna, December 16, 1674. See No. 9332. Pozsony, June 19, 1675, No. 9405. Kassa, January 7, 1676, No. 9475. Vienna, December 24, 1677, No. 9476. Pozsony, January 2, 1677, No. 11008. Vienna, December 2, 1696.

26 Szűcs, “Das Städtewesen,” 156; Špiesz,Slobodné královské mestá, 29–46, 83–95; Špiesz, “Rekatolizácia na Slovensku”; Marečková, “Politická autonomie.”

27 Vörös, “A modern értelmiség”; Kosáry, “Értelmiség és kulturális elit”; Tóth, “Hivatali szakszerűsödés.”

28 Kassa, for instance, sent three delegates to Pozsony in 1609: AMK H I. 1609. November 16.

29 1687. 17. tc.; Szijártó, A diéta, 168–73.

30 MML XXI/10. 28–36; MNL OLE 254 (Repr., inf. et inst.) April 1681, No. 38, 46. Pavercsik, “A lőcsei Brewer-nyomda,” 385.

31 Teszelszky and Zászkaliczky, “A Bocskai-felkelés.”

32 Szabó, “Caspar Hain.”

33 Németh, “Állam és városok,” 790–94.

34 Wick, Kassa régi síremlékei, 101–10; J. Újváry, “Polgár vagy nemes?” 423–25.

35 AMK H III/2. re 9, Schw. No. 12869.

36 J. Újváry, “Kassa polgárságának etnikai-politikai változásai.” More recently on confessional relationships: H. Németh, “Kassa, egy többfelekezetű régióközpont.”

37 J. Újváry, “Kassa város polgársága”; J. Újváry, “Egy kereskedőcsalád metamorfózisa.”

38 H. Németh, “Otázky mestskej politiky.”

39 H. Németh, “Šľachta v mestách.” H. Németh, “Košice a drift in the European municipal politics”; H. Németh, “Városok, várospolitika.”

40 He took the attorney’s oath on January 2, 1702 before the Eger chapter. AMK Schw. 11831.

41 AMK H III/2. re 9, Schw. No. 10517, 12018, 13383, 13603. As the delegate for the city: Schw. No. 12185, 12228, 12355, 12782.

42 OeStA/FHKA AHK HFU Akten RN 280. fol. 284–286, AMK Schw. No.9777, 10699; H. Németh, Kassa szabad királyi város archontológiája, 257.

43 Gyergyószék’s testimony on the family’s noble title: http://demeczky.hu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=369 (Accessed on September 16, 2020). On his years at university, see Zsoldos, Matricula, 183, 190, 196. As Thököly’s delegate: Gergely, “Thököly Imre,” vol. 11, 493.

44 H. Németh, “Állam és városok,” 793.

45 AMK H III/2. mac. 86. fol. 1, 114, 121–122, Schw. No. 10564.

46 AMK H II. 1676., and H. Németh, Kassa szabad királyi város archontológiája, 269.

47 AMK H III/2. pur. 30. fol. 106. July 29, 1686. fol. 110. August 5, 1686. mac. 85. fol. 98. January 3, 1687. mac. 86. fol. 66. September 6, 1687. fol. 92. September 30, 1687.

48 MNL OL C 30 (Acata nob.) Pozsony vm., Documenta No. 22., and uitt Pozsony vm., Protocollum investigationis nobilium, 471., Pozsony vm., Investigatio nobilium, A füzet 8.

49 StAKE Zb. cirk. matr. Evanjelícká cirkev,1673. 626.

50 ŠtAKE, Zb. cirk. matr. Rímsko-katolícká cirkev, 1681. 373.

51 AMK Schw. No. 9442.

52 AMK Schw. No. 9830.

53 His wives were members of the Kiséry and Pálfalvay families. AMK Schw. No. 13390, 13675, 13961, 14117, Schr. No. 19712.

54 AMK Schw. No. 10517. November 1, 1692.

55 AMK H I. 12541/2. Miskolc, January 24, 1706. 12541/3. Miskolc, February 14, 1706. 12541/4. Miskolc, January 31, 1706. 12726/14. Késmárk, January 10, 1707. 12726/30. Köröm, June 16, 1707. H III/2. mac. 103. fol. 29. March 21, 1707. fol. 37–38. April 15, 1707. Schw. Nr. 12516.

56 The reversalises of the two delegates: Schw. No. 13201. Their reports: AMK H I. 13310/2, 7–9, Schw. No. 13182.

57 Schw. No. 12871. Kassa, August 9, 1709. Schw. No. 13010. August 18, 1710. Schw. No. 12984. August 21, 1710. H III/2. re 9. fol. 144, 149.

58 In defense of his sister-in-law, István Váncsay came to blows with Mihály Czirjáki, for instance, at the marriage feast of council member István Surányi. AMK Schw. No. 13151, 13168. He was embroiled in trials with the Pálfalvay family for a long time over his wife Julianna Pálfalvy’s bequest: ibid. No. 14117.

59 ŠtAKE, Zb. cirk. matr. Rímsko-katolícká cirkev, 1712. 393.

60 AMK H III/2. re 9. fol. 159–160.

61 MNL OL A 20 (Litt. Cam. Hung.)1717. No. 34.

62 AMK Schw. No. 13964. November 10, 1717.

63 AMK III/2. re 9.

64 AMK Schw. No. 15181. Kassa, January 1, 1726.

65 MNL OL E 23 (Litt ad Cam. Scep.) October 27, 1724.

66 AMK Schw. No. 15498. August 2, 1727.

67 AMK Schw. No. 15590. Vienna, December 3, 1727. Schw. No. 15691. Kassa, February 7, 1728. Schw. No. 15724. February 7, 1728.

68 AMK Schw. No. 15779. Vienna, February 24, 1728.

69 AMK Schw. No. 15592. Vienna, February 24, 1728. No. 15625.

70 MNL OL E 23 (Litt ad Cam. Scep.) October 1, 1728. August 16, 1730.

71 MNL OL Magyar Kamara Archivuma, Urbaria et Conscriptiones (E 156), Regestrata Fasc. 35. No. 56.

72 AMK H III/2. re 9.

73 MNL OL E 156 (UetC) Regestrata, Fasc. 55. No. 51. (1715), Fasc. 84. No. 58. (1715), Fasc. 24. No. 58. (1723)

74 Fallenbüchl, “A Szepesi Kamara tisztviselői,” 214–215, 226.

75 H. Németh, “Venerable Senators,” H. Németh, “Állam és városok.”

76 H. Németh, “Pozsony centrális szerepköreinek hatásai.”

* The essay was made possible with the support of an NKFI K 116166 grant and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Momentum “Family History Research Group.”



Legitimating Power? Inaugural Ceremonies of Charles VI

Stefan Seitschek
Institute of Austrian Historical Research /Austrian State Archives
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 10 Issue 1  (2021): 35-72 DOI 10.38145/2021.1.35

The paper focus on the inauguration ceremonies of Charles VI in the Austrian lands. The time span of these inaugurations from 1711 to 1732 and the fact that Charles received the tribute in person is of interest to describe the relationship between the ruler and the estates and the significance of these ceremonies as a whole. The paper will focus especially on the formal oath taking, the confirmation of privileges by the sovereign and where and when these ceremonies took place. For example, were the privileges confirmed in advance of the inauguration ceremony? Were oaths or other forms of affirming the good will of the sovereign like traditional ceremonies (Carinthia) required by the estates? Were there any differences? Who was involved and why were these expansive journeys and ceremonies staged almost two decades after assuming power?

Keywords: Charles VI, Inaugural ceremonies, Homage, Erbhuldigung, estates, Viennese court

This paper deals with inaugural ceremonies,1 more precisely, hereditary homages (in German Erb-Huldigung) in the Habsburg territories during the rule of
Charles VI (1711–1740). It does not deal with coronations in the Holy Roman Empire (Frankfurt), Hungary, or Bohemia.2 In a discussion of such ceremonies or rites, one has to consider their effects on the participants. These events were chances for elites to communicate with the sovereign and illustrate their own roles within the ruling groups. Every act of demonstrating their own status was, at the same time, a chance, as one ran the risk of losing one’s place in society. That is why the rank of the individual members of the estates was discussed at length in the runup to these ceremonies, including conflicts which couldn’t be solved at all. Such (inaugural) ceremonies were not only important as a means of making the rule and the assumption of power by the sovereign visible. They also represented the early modern hierarchical society as a whole (see below). “Bei symbolischen Kommunikationsakten stand daher stets die ganze soziale Existenz der Personen und das gesamte Ordnungsgefüge auf dem Spiel.”3 Of course, these conclusions, which have been reached over the course of the past several years of research, focus not only on the ruler and the administration but also on the role of the estates.4 As Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger puts it, “Aus der Reziprozität, Kollektivität und Performativität von Kommunikation folgt, daß Kommunikationsakte immer auch Akte der Konstituierung und Selbstverständigung einer Gruppe sind.”5 As will be discussed, the confirmation of the privileges of each province was an important element of the inaugural ceremonies. “It was precisely the existence of these estates and their vital role in the state apparatus that necessitated special rites of investiture establishing mutual rights and duties between the estates and the prince and warranting the continuation of their collaboration.”6

Charles VI was the last sovereign to attend a significant number of inaugural ceremonies in the Austrian lands in person. He attended ten inaugurations (excluding the Spanish inaugurations and those in the Inner Austrian cities) in person, making him one of few members of his family to reach this number.7 Homage was paid to Charles in Innsbruck in 1711, and he was crowned Hungarian king in Pozsony (today Bratislava, Slovakia) in 1712. After these ceremonies, in Vienna towards the end of 1712, almost two decades passed before the coronation in Bohemia (1723) and the inaugural ceremonies in Inner (1728) and Upper Austria (1732). The costly journeys involved complex travel arrangements.8 This is remarkable, because Charles’ brother Joseph I avoided such ceremonies after his coronation in Hungary (1687) and in Frankfurt (1690) as young boy.9 There are numerous sources concerning the inaugurations of Charles VI in the Austrian hereditary lands. In addition to the sources created by the central administrative bodies (Obersthofmeisteramt, Hofkammer), there is also an array of materials in the archives of the estates. Elaborately printed volumes complete with symbolically important engravings by the estates offer impressions of these ceremonies from the perspectives of the local representatives and exemplify the interest these representatives had in promoting their participation in these events.10 Several accounts were written by the court chamber’s councilor Johann Adam Heintz, including a detailed description of the coronation in Bohemia in 1723.11 Of course, newspapers at the time, such as the Wienerisches Diarium12 and the other organs of the media which offered historical overviews, provide additional information and sometimes depictions of the ceremonies.13 The significance of Huldigungen, furthermore, was already noted by scholars at the time.14

This paper focuses on three main goals with regard to these inaugural ceremonies. It begins with a description of the “typical” steps of such homages to the ruler according to the events in the early eighteenth-century Habsburg monarchy. The second part focuses on the ceremonies themselves, providing an examination of the ceremonies with which the estates paid homage and took oaths and, similarly, the ceremonies and procedures according to which the ruler granted privileges. In other words, I seek to explore the ways in which the mutual dependency of the two groups was expressed symbolically. The third and final part deals with the time and place where the ceremonies were held in the different Habsburg territories, which was important in no small part because these ceremonies also helped establish an order of succession. It is not a coincidence that the engraving of the welcome given by the estates to the imperial couple under a tent near Graz shows the young Archduchess Maria Theresia too.15

Győry von Nádudvar made the following contention concerning the declining demands of the estates and the enforcement of the Habsburg rule by Ferdinand II and Ferdinand III in the Austrian provinces: “Die Forderungen derselben vor den Erbhuldigungen verblassen zu einfachen Vorstellungen und die Erbhuldigung selbst wird zu einer jener glänzenden Ceremonie.” (Their demands in the runup to the inauguration faded and the ritual expression of homage itself became a splendid ceremony.) Thus, the question arises: were those inaugurations “mere spectacles?”16

Preparing an Inauguration

To what extent were these ceremonies set up by the court, and how could the estates influence the course of events? Apart from the travel arrangements, including arrangements for the staff or the necessary supplies, above all the details of the ceremony and the exact course of the procedure had to be determined. The process was based on the previous events. On the occasion of the voyage in 1728 to Inner Austria, the journey taken by his father Emperor Leopold I in 1660 functioned as a model, and for the inauguration in Linz, the ceremony which was held in 1658 was used as a point of reference. The court asked the estates involved to send appropriate documents concerning the previous inaugurations and the current situation in advance of the journey.17 One reason for this was that the court was given all relevant information in the runup to the inaugurations. Of course, there were reports about the past ceremonies in Vienna, but the court officials seem to have wanted to avoid surprises during the negotiations with the estates in the day(s) before the ceremony. In addition, the names and families of the hereditary office holders could change quickly because of the death of a family member. Already in 1712, the emperor required information regarding the inauguration in Lower Austria from the estates in Vienna. On June 27, 1728, Charles VI required again that the Carinthian estates notify the court of the arguments concerning the proposition and possible problems which might arise in advance of the inauguration, as there would be little time in Klagenfurt itself for negotiations and the preparatory meeting would take place only one day before the ceremony.18 The extensive correspondence between the court offices and the representatives of the estates during journey to Inner Austria cannot be presented in detail at this point. In the runup to the journeys to the provinces of the Habsburg monarchy, roads were renovated and new roads were constructed along the travel route. In 1728, Montesquieu described the improvements which were made to the road to the south. He enthusiastically wrote about the landscape of Styria and the improved road from Vienna to Graz, including the newly built Semmering route. According to his account, the construction of this road was relatively inexpensive (43,000 golden coins). He mentioned, for the sake of comparison, the Via Carolina between Karlstadt and Bakar (Buccari), which previously took five to six days to complete on horseback, with difficulty. Now, the trip could be made in one day by carriage.19

It is worth taking a closer look at some of the negotiations which were held between the imperial representatives and the estates before the inaugurations in the Austrian provinces. The ceremony held by the Lower Austrian estates constitutes a special case.20 Due to the lack of spatial distance between the court and the estates in Vienna, the estates were directly involved in preliminary negotiations. After deciding to accept the inauguration in Lower Austria in 1712, the emperor ordered the high steward Anton Florian of Liechtenstein (1656–1721) and the Court Chancellor Johann Friedrich Freiherr von Seilern (1646–1715) to serve as imperial commissioners and conduct the negotiations with the estates. The last inauguration in Vienna had happened only a few years earlier, in 1705. Liechtenstein and Seilern conferred with the Lower Austrian Marshal Otto Ehrenreich Graf von Abensberg und Traun and a committee of the estates in the room of the high steward on October 2 and 3. The committee consisted of two deputies of the prelates, two of the lords, and two of the knights, together with the Landschaftssyndicus. They discussed the course of the inauguration in detail, which they agreed would be based on the Anteactis. The day of the ceremony would be determined by the emperor on November 8. The Chancellery would inform the hereditary officeholders (Erbamtsinhaber) of their duties. In addition, the high steward would take the appropriate precautions. The emperor approved the proposals. The invitations are dated October 12.21 A summary of past inaugurations was written by the chancellery and the high steward’s office, and it was read and accepted by the imperial commissioners, the land-marshal (the head of the estates), and the deputies of the estates during a meeting.22 On October 18, the estates notified the court of their complaints. They demanded the abolition of unfair taxes, the expulsion of Jews from the lands of Lower Austria, the expulsion of not resident people or decrease of dear regarding damages caused. In particular, they asked the court to confirm the Lower Austrian immunities and liberties. The emperor replied to this letter on November 4 and offered a guarantee of the privileges of the estates, but not a proper confirmation in advance, there were no traces in the existing documents from previous inaugurations of any such confirmation having been given in the past. All fourteen objections raised by the estates could not have been addressed in the short time remaining before the inauguration ceremony anyway. However, the emperor insisted on being provided information on the ceremony and the hereditary offices from the archives of the estates.23

In 1728, the journey through the Inner Austrian lands was coordinated by a conferential assembly (Konferenzialversammlung) of the Inner Austrian privy department (Geheime Stelle). Court Vice Chancellor Johann Friedrich (II.) Graf von Seilern wrote to the burgrave in Carinthia and shared with him the latest information on the Kurialien (framework of the solemnity) and the ceremony (Graz, July 29 and August 7, 1728). In the Inner Austrian provinces, conferences were set up in advance to arrange the necessary measures (road repairs, food supplies, wood supplies, etc.). In addition, the estates tried to circumvent the Konferenzialversammlung in Graz to protect their own rights. The estates of Carinthia, Carniolia, and Gorizia refused the proposal to send a deputation to Graz for the scheduled arrival of the emperor on June 23 to coordinate with the inaugurations in the other Inner Austrian lands. They explained their refusal with reference to their ancient rights, the little time left, and the organization of the inaugurations in 1660 as a precedent.24

The sovereign usually convoked a Diet which would pay homage to him by means of a general patent.25 As in the other Inner Austrian provinces, the estates complained about the declaration of the sovereign’s intention through general patent. According to their point of view and tradition, a particular Land-Tags-Deliberation was necessary to hold an inaugural ceremony. In addition, all members of the estates had to be invited particulariter. It was even pointed out that the emperor had already been reminded of this fact on November 14, 1726. Still, the ceremonies through which homage was paid to Ferdinand IV and Leopold I had been implemented accordingly, though both rulers guaranteed the privileges of the provinces by a revers or, more precisely, indemnification (“that the ignoring of the estates should be of no disadvantage and mischief to them/besides should not have no effects in future/but should be carried out in the traditional way by announcement of a Diet”).26 The patent of announcement of the inauguration (March 20) contained a reference to the assurance of “alt-hergebrachten Freyheiten.” In addition, the patent stipulated that the general invitation should not be prejudicial. The reason given was the necessary extent of letters which couldn’t be realized at the time.27 The already promised reverse was demanded in an announcement issued by the Diet on April 2,28 and the emperor followed the example which had been set by his father and issued it.29 The letter included information about the departure (June 20). The dates of the ceremonies in the provinces were to be communicated later. For example, the Carinthian and Carniolian estates received instruction to pay homage at the end of June in 1728.30 After receiving information, the Carinthian estates informed their members about the time of the inauguration and invited them to come to Klagenfurt.31

How was the procedure of the inaugural ceremonies in the Inner Austrian provinces established? In 1728 in Graz, two imperial commissioners negotiated with deputies of the estates. With the arrival of the court in Graz, direct contact was established with the other countries. Therefore, the presence of the emperor made Graz an important point of information for the Inner Austrian countries. The estates were informed about the travel routes, and information about the inaugurations, such as the identities of the people who held the hereditary offices, was required.32

In Klagenfurt, the inaugural ceremony was debated the day before the event. The sources33 provide an overview of these (August 21). In the morning, the Huldigungsproposition was discussed by the estates and two imperial commissioners who were invited by deputies of the estates in the Landhaus (local parliament). In the Landhaus, two chairs on a stage under a canopy were prepared for the imperial representatives. At the beginning, the sovereign’s proposition for the Diet and the imperial credentials of the commissioners were read aloud. The first representative referred to the merits of Charles VI in his speech and informed the estates of the intention of the emperor to confirm the country’s privileges. In his response, the burgrave mentioned the hope of confirming these rights too and the issuing of a corresponding drafted instrument in time. The commissioners then left the Landhaus. The estates deliberated on the documents which had been submitted. In the end, they declared their intention to hold the inaugural ceremony, but they again insisted on having the old customs and privileges confirmed. For this reason, they complained about the convocation by means of a general patent and expressed the desire for a corresponding Schadlosverschreibung (indemnification; sub aurea bulla). The estates insisted on the traditional inaugural ceremonies at the Karnburg and the Herzogsstuhl on the Zollfeld, including a physical Jurament and the awarding of fiefs afterwards.

Figure 1. Detail from map of Carinthia by Johann Baptist Homann (around 1720)


Were the emperor to request exemption from these ceremonies, the estates were prepared to grant Charles VI a dispensation out of respect for his imperial dignity. As in 1660 in the case of Charles VI’s father Leopold, the estates asked for an affirmation that this consent would have no impact on future ceremonies. In addition, the emperor was to confirm the privileges of the estates verbally, and the estates asked for an appropriate instrument on this matter, as noted above. They also demanded that Carinthia should always be referred to as an archduchy in spoken or written declarations. In the afternoon, a deputation of the estates went to the conference led by the court chancellor Philipp Ludwig Graf von Sinzendorf (1671–1742). They were led by the burgrave. According to the session, the actus was to be set ad normam of the Styrian estates, and the general directory (Generaldirectorium) for the ceremony was to be done accordingly. The Generaldirektorium was then read, and it was met with criticism regarding matters of rank. As a consequence, it was rewritten with respect to the procession order to the churches and of the admittance order to the hand kiss, but unfortunately further information is missing. Nevertheless, the sources indicate that there were certain differences compared to the ceremony in Graz. For instance, the idea of welcoming the emperor under a tent before the city (was cancelled as in Graz).

In comparison, in Ljubljana the Landtagsproposition took place two days before the inauguration. The estates of Carniola requested the holding of the ceremonies as before and the confirmation of the country’s rights and liberties, but they retracted the stipulation that the emperor take an oath. In Gorizia, the proposition was declared by imperial commissioners just two days before the inauguration.

Even for the organization of the inauguration ceremonies in Linz in 1732 several conferences were held to make the necessary travel arrangements and plan the event.34 The second conference took place in Carlsbad, where the date of the trip from Prague to Linz was fixed. The emperor and his retinue was to arrive in Linz on July 23. After some hunting trips and other diversions in the area around Linz, Charles VI would return to Linz on September 6. September 10 was proposed as a date for the inauguration in order to leave sufficient time for the necessary preparations by the conference. Charles VI approved in his decision September 10 or 11 as possible days of the inauguration. The last conference took place in Linz on August 28. The main topic was the inauguration ceremony including details such as the procession order. Concerning the Toisonisten (members of the Order of the Golden Fleece) and their role with respect to the hereditary officers, Charles VI referred to the past inaugurations in Vienna, Graz, and Klagenfurt, where they had awaited him at the church. He requested similar arrangements for the ceremony in Linz. The exact ceremony for the inauguration would be compiled by the Councilor Johann Georg of Mannagetta (1666–1751), the Landsyndicus Maderer, and a court secretary. It would be submitted to the conference with the estates afterwards. The composition of the group is of particular interest because it illustrates the important role of the court. Only the Landsyndicus represented the point of view of the estates. Finally, the production of commemorative coins was discussed at this last conference. The casting and presenting of coins on such occasions was rather common.35 In addition to these preparatory conferences in Vienna, Carlsbad, and Linz, deputies of the estates also discussed the course of the inauguration. The High Steward Sigmund Rudolph Graf von Sinzendorf (1670–1747) and the Court Chancellor Philipp Ludwig Graf von Sinzendorf served as imperial commissioners.

To summarize, the court required information from the estates in the runup to the inaugural ceremonies. The ceremonies were based on the model of the preceding inaugurations in the different countries. In Inner Austria, the welcome ceremony held in Graz functioned as the model (ad normam). Although negotiations were held between the estates and the sovereign’s representatives, the ceremonies were outlined by the court authorities (as shown in Vienna, Linz, and Klagenfurt) and negotiated by experienced commissioners.36 The estates could request minor changes and indemnifications, but the scenery of the different celebrations was pretty similar. It is worth mentioning that not all problems could be solved. Conflicts arose due to overlapping spheres of power of the ruler or the countrie´s representatives.37 As shown, switching role during the ceremony was one way to overcome such inconsistencies by the hereditary officeholders, not taking part another. Decisions were made and the estates received letters of indemnity for untraditional proceedings. Of course, symbolic communication was an essential element which made it possible to organize such complicated ceremonies, but this kind of communication is not always clear but rather leaves some room for interpretation (for both sides).38

Schemes of Inaugural Ceremonies

The inaugural ceremonies in the Austrian lands were quite similar under the reign of Charles VI. 39 The sovereign was welcomed at the border of his land by a delegation of the estates, and there were additional “entry” ceremonies at the bigger cities (a welcoming ceremony, the handing over of city keys, etc.). Finally, the emperor (and his family) reached the site of the inauguration. At a distance of roughly half an hour from the town, the emperor was usually welcomed by a delegation of the estates, again under a tent. At the gate to the city, the magistrate greeted him by handing over the keys to the city. A procession moved to the main church, where the emperor was welcomed by the clergy. There, a mass was celebrated. Finally, Charles VI and his accompanying family members moved into their quarters.

Godsey speaks of a Trias involved in the inauguration: the sovereign, his councilors and the estates. During the ceremonies, the role of the councilors was assumed by the hereditary officeholders, who were grouped around their ruler.40 The estates gathered in their official meeting place (usually the Landhaus) in the morning (usually about 7 o’clock) on inauguration day. They then moved, led by the head (capo) of the estates, to the sovereign’s quarters. Costly regalia, such as scepters, were produced for the hereditary offices to be worn during the ceremony and presents were given to the officeholders. Indeed, the insignia were only presented during the ceremony, but they were not used as they usually were in coronations. The hereditary office holders were given their insignia by the court dignitaries taking up their offices.41 The estates awaited the emperor in front of his private apartments according to their rank, and they accompanied him to the main church of the town. Considering the fixed procession orders in the ceremonies which have been made the subject of research, the top of the column was usually formed by a group of servants of members of the court and/or the estates, trumpeters and drummers of the estates, Läufer, and so on. In 1728, the “imperial Livereè” and squires (Edelknaben) were at the head of the procession. This group was followed by the deputies of the cities, imperial court officials, councilors and the members of the estates. Hereditary offices (Erbamtsinhaber) without insignia joined the latter group. Then followed the hereditary officers with insignia. After them came the governor (Landeshauptmann). Then came the herald and, directly in front of the emperor on horseback, the land-marshal carrying the sword. Charles VI was regularly accompanied by the guard captains. After the sovereign came the hereditary chamberlain and chamberlains in service, followed by the remaining court servants. The train then was brought to a close by military units.42 The clergy walked with the other estates to the imperial quarters but left from there before the departure of the emperor. The right moment to leave the scene was indicated by a court official (Hoffourier). The clergy awaited the sovereign at the church, accompanied by the Toisonisten. They accompanied Charles into the church to his seat near the altar in the choir area. If it rained, the conference recommended that the Toisonisten accompany Charles VI on his way to the church on foot via a covered walkway in Graz in 1728.

Looking at the seating arrangements in the church during the “Hl. Geistamt” (Veni Sancte Spiritus) in 1712 (Vienna), 1728 (Graz, Klagenfurt) and Linz (1732), one notes that Charles VI sat on the left (Gospel side). The hereditary office holders and the captains of the guards (Trabants and Hartschiers) were placed around him. The officeholder of the hereditary land-marshal’s office stood to the right, near the emperor on the third tier, and other office-holders stood on the other tiers (only the third step on the left was empty). The division was slightly different in Lower Austria. For example, the marshal was standing to the left of the emperor, but still on the scales. The remaining hereditary officeholders were arranged on the left and right sides of the throne, between the Gospel und Epistle side. Usually, the herald was standing to the right of this group near the center of the church (in Klagenfurt, he was positioned on the left side). It is worth noting that the clergy was usually seated opposite the emperor. On the left (Gospel) side of the church, the benches of the Toison knights were usually arranged next to the emperor. Right after the knights sat the privy councilors, chamberlains, and the other members of the estates, usually separated by barriers. The court protocol of the ceremonies (Zeremonialprotokoll) of 1728 mentions that the seating arrangements would be modified to fit “today’s style” compared to 1660.

After the “Hl. Geistamt,” the procession returned in the same order to the imperial quarters. The clergy remained at the portal of the church, took off their ecclesiastical robes, and returned to court by themselves. The emperor was accompanied by the members of the estates and the holders of the hereditary offices until he reached his private quarters. In the retirade,43 he was then asked by a committee to accept the welcome shown by his subjects.

At this point, the imperial representatives (primarily the court vice chancellor or court chancellor) gave oral confirmation of the rights and liberties of the estates. The speech was answered by the head of the estates, e.g. the land-marshal, the most senior of the lords, or the burgrave in Carinthia, who again referred to the confirmation of the rights and liberties. The emperor then assured the estates of their rights and liberties himself. As in Graz, the emperor had to take an oath in front of a few members of the estates to respect the country’s rights and liberties.44 This had also been part of the procedure in 1660 (see the chapter below).

Charles VI then moved from the retirade into the inauguration room, where a throne had been prepared for him under a baldachin. Like the church, the hereditary land-marshal stood to the right of the emperor at the third level (Fig 2). On the left, the top stage remained empty (as in the cathedral in Graz). A similar division of the office holders can be observed in Linz, but the empty space to the left of the emperor was filled with the hereditary land-bannerholder. In Linz and Klagenfurt, the remaining hereditary office holders stood around the throne to the right and left of Charles VI, whereas in Graz, the governor (Landeshauptmann), the bishop of Seckau, or the prelates were positioned to the right. At the end of this group, to the right of the emperor towards the center of the room the Austrian herald usually stood. The remaining estates, which were led by the hereditary land-marshal in person in Graz, the burgrave in Carinthia, or the most senior lord in Linz, were facing the throne.

To the left of the emperor, facing the estates, the court chancellor or vice chancellor gave a speech to the estates and thanked them for their willingness to pay homage to their sovereign. This speech was usually answered by the capo of the estates. This was followed by the oath of allegiance and the ceremonial act of kissing the hand of the emperor in a specified order. After the ceremony, the court chancellor then submitted the signed confirmation of the country’s rights and liberties to the estates, which was initially confirmed by the sovereign (see the chapter below).

After the inauguration, the emperor was accompanied by the estates and the court members into the chapel of the Imperial quarters, where a Te Deum was celebrated. The procedure in 1712 resembled the procedure in 1732. The emperor again took his seat on the Gospel side. To his left stood the hereditary land-marshal. The other hereditary officeholders sat on the left and right sides of the chapel. The herald stood near the center of the room. This church office and the associated blessing were intended to strengthen the bond between sovereign and his subjects after the inaugurations.

After the Te Deum, Charles VI returned to his private quarters. He and the members of the imperial family who were present left the retirade for the table where a banquet was held. They were served by the holders of the hereditary offices. At this point, in Graz and Linz the emperor was presented with the commemorative coins by the hereditary land-mint-master. After the emperor had finished eating and returned to his chambers, the hereditary officeholders went to their own tables which were provided by the court with food. The officeholders were usually allowed to invite eleven people. In addition to these tables, there was a Freitafel (free table), in Carinthia an additional table for the family of the so-called ducal peasant (Herzogsbauern), and in Tirol for the representatives of the peasantry. The inaugural ceremonies came to an end with these meals.45

The inauguration ceremonies also included what could be described as sound effects. The town cannons and the arms used by military or civil units were fired on three occasions during the inaugurations: the welcoming show of homage and the act of kissing the emperor’s hand, the Te Deum, and the first drink taken by the emperor, who had just been confirmed as ruler, at the table. This could then be accompanied by a ringing of all the bells of the town. The bell ringing was carried out even during the processions to the church, as in Vienna or Klagenfurt. The exuberant atmosphere was described in Tyrol (“sich mit Schreyen und Juchzen lustig gemacht”).46 The day after the inauguration or coronation, Charles VI mostly promoted a group of members of the estates and declared them councilors or chamberlains.47

However, there were other forms of inaugurations. In some of his territories, Charles VI did not take part in the ceremonies in person.48 Usually the governors-general were delegated to appear at the inaugurations in Milan, Mantua, Brussels, and Ghent.49 Most important were the Duchy of Brabant and the County of Flanders in the Austrian Netherlands, where the governor-general usually took part in the inaugural ceremonies, including reciprocal oath-swearing. In the case of Governor Prince Eugene, his minister Marquis de Prié (1658–1726) undertook this task. Still, the sovereign was present. A portrait was displayed on a throne under a baldachin.50 The Wienerisches Diarium describes the entry and homage ceremony in Ypres, which was accepted by the general and councilor of state prince of Ligne. There, the magistrates and deputies of the country towns took their oaths separately.51 In 1728, the substitute Count Strasoldo accepted the show of homage in the palace. There, he addressed the estates with his hat on, only taking it off and bowing (Knie-biegende Reverenz) when mentioning the emperor’s name. His speech was answered by the vice-land-marshal. The oath was read aloud in German and Italian (Welscher Sprache) by a privy councilor standing to the left of the count. The estates replied with their hands raised and fingers extended.52

In Milan, Prince Eugene was welcomed by the Marquis of Castiglione and was presented with the keys to the city on April 16, 1707. In return, Eugene distributed jars with water and soil as a symbolic gesture with which he expressed that he had taken over the territory in the name of Charles (III).53 In the recently occupied territory of Banat, local notables and officeholders (Senior, Oberknese, Provisor) paid homage to representatives of the sovereign, as is mentioned in the so-called Einrichtungsprojekt of the Banat (1717/1718). This project paper dealt with the establishment of an administration in the new province. A second oath would be inappropriate according to this draft.54

I want to stress several aspects of the ceremonies. First, the ceremonies of welcome and homage were structured by speeches and replies,55 but the presence of the sovereign provided opportunities for the estates and office-holders to request audiences and submit gravamina.56 Already in 1725, the Styrian officeholder Herberstein spoke with Charles VI and complained of the country’s difficult situation, and Charles even made a note of this in his diaries.57 Usually, the central ceremonies of the inauguration ceremonies took place indoors.58 In 1711, the ceremony took place in the Burgsaal in Innsbruck. In Vienna, the ceremony was held in the Ritterstube of the residence. In his journeys, this ritual took always place in the imperial quarters. The Carinthian estates even dispensed with the traditional places of an inauguration at the Karnburg or Herzogsstuhl. In short, this important moment of paying homage took place in the sovereign’s rooms. In Gradisca, the sovereign’s representative accepted the homage in the Kaiserl. Pallast.59 During the reception and inaugural ceremonies for the sovereign, he was confronted with delegations of the estates (for instance as part of the welcome ceremonies at the borders of the provinces, at the moment of entry into a town, etc.) and the corporative body as a whole (during the masses and the ceremonies surrounding the taking of the oath). We can trace a reciprocal relationship. The shows of welcome and homage were answered with the confirmation by the emperor of local rights and liberties.

Confirming Rights and Liberties, Taking Oaths

In Klagenfurt (Carinthia), in 1728 the ducal peasant (Herzogsbauern) almost missed the emperor when he moved to his private quarters according to the description provided by Linsee. The Cabinet Secretary Johann Theodor Freiherr von Imbsen informed the Herzogsbauern that Charles VI was already leaving for the retirade. The Herzogsbauern ran to the ruler and touched his coat. When Charles turned around, the Herzogsbauern kneeled to present the document concerning his rights and liberties, but at that moment, he dropped the document accidentally. Charles laughed and promised to confirm the rights and liberties.60 This may be little more than an apocryphal anecdote, but the scene described is rather interesting. A representative of the province begged the sovereign to confirm his rights and liberties in the runup to the inauguration. Such attempts and assurances were also part of the inaugural ceremonies described above.

“Far from being acts of unilateral submission, they served the purpose of mutual recognition and obligation through reciprocal oath taking. The estates acknowledged their ruler and promised loyalty, and in return, the ruler confirmed the estates’ rights and liberties.”61 Speeches and symbolic gestures were essential parts of an oath. Klaas Van Gelder points out that some Diets were able to intertwine the question of inauguration and taxes, and this gave them a stronger position in the negotiations.62 This is all the more interesting from the perspective of the relationship between Gottesgnadentum and emerging ideas of a social contract. “At the same time, supported by cameralist and Enlightenment thinkers, the concepts of the social contract and popular sovereignty gained increasing influence, and the notion of ‘the state’ or even ‘the nation’ came to replace ‘the prince’ as the sole source of law and legitimate power.”63 Rohr focuses extensively on the oaths and confirmation of rights and liberties before, during, and after the inaugural ceremonies. Rohr refers to the assurance of the confirmation of the privileges by the emperor or his chancellor when the request was made by a committee of the estates for the emperor to accept their show of homage in the emperor’s private quarters and at the beginning of the ceremony in the room in which proceedings were held. The representative of the estates then replied and asked the emperor of his representative to confirm the privileges of the local bodies.64 The scribes of the estates who described the inaugurations and, in particular, these elements of the ceremonies (such as Peritzhoff or Deyerlsberg) offered similar accounts. This is not a coincidence. Rather, it illustrates the importance of these events for the estates. As a consequence, the moment was the privileges of the estates were assured is of particular interest, because it reflects the relationship between the sovereign and the estates. Usually, it took place immediately before the show of homage. Why? When were these documents actually issued? It is worth mentioning that the members of the estates serving the emperor were relieved of their offices during the inauguration. Of course, this demonstration of independence was only theoretical, and it shows how the interests of the sovereign and his subjects were intertwined.65

It is worth taking a closer look to the situation in Lower Austria in 1712, which can be understood as having served as a model. After returning to his private quarters, the hereditary high chamberlain asked Charles VI in the name of the most senior lord to give him and a committee an audience. They were invited to the council chamber (Ratsstube), where they were awaited by Charles, who was standing under a baldachin. To his left stood the court chancellor. The senior lord asked the emperor to accept their show of homage and to confirm the provinces’ rights and liberties. The court chancellor answered in the name of Charles, thanking them for the invitation and announcing the ceremony in the Ritterstube. In the Ritterstube, Court Chancellor Seilern thanked them for the numerous demonstrations by the estates of their will to pay homage to their new ruler. In return, Charles VI was prepared to confirm common customs and the rights and liberties of the estates.66 As described above, the land-marshal answered on behalf of the estates and confirmed their willingness to pay homage. Still, he required a verbal confirmation of the provinces’ rights and liberties. Indeed, Charles stood up and promised such a confirmation. Afterwards, the court chancellor announced that the oath would be read aloud, and the members of the estates were to repeat it.67 While the estates took this oath, Charles VI took off his hat. After the oath had been taken, the court chancellor handed over the sealed confirmation of the rights and liberties of the Lower Austrian estates to the land-marshal.68

The inauguration ceremonies in Tyrol (1711),69 the Inner Austrian provinces (1728), and Upper Austria (1732) were rather similar, but there were slight differences in the stages identified above. After the mass, Charles VI retired to his quarters. There, in his retirade, he was usually invited by a delegation of the estates to receive their show of homage, and they reminded him to confirm their rights and liberties in return.70 At this point, the court chancellor answered instead of the emperor and confirmed his will to do so.71 Although the inaugural ceremony in Graz served as the model for the 1728 ceremony, this ceremony was unique at this juncture. A committee from the estates was given an audience in the Wohn-zimmer of the sovereign. They underlined their will to show a show of homage on behalf of the estates, but they themselves required an oath (Juramentum) taken by the sovereign. Charles replied that he would do so according to the example set by his ancestors72 and the alten Modum in the runup to the Homagio, including a confirmation of the provinces’ rights and liberties. This oath was taken privatim by the emperor in the presence of a small committee of the estates before the inauguration in the retirade. Charles VI removed his right glove, raised his hand with three fingers extended, and took the oath. The beginning of the text of the Juramentum was read aloud by the governor, who referred to the confirmation. The court vice chancellor, who was present as was the High chamberlain, held another written example of the sovereign’s Juramentum. Charles replied, “As was read to us, we swear with this oath to all local people of the principality of Styria to preserve everything so help me God, Maria, and all Saints.” It is not surprising that the estates paid for a costly print of the inaugural ceremony that included a detailed engraving of this scene. Petr Maťa has pointed out that the depiction of the emperor taking an oath in front of members of the estates in Graz is unique.73 The commission informed the estates in writing that the emperor had taken the oath. Looking at the text of the oath, Charles VI bound himself, and he referred, in the text of this pledge, to God, the Virgin Mary, and all saints.74 As in Carinthia (see above), the estates showed respect for the sovereign’s imperial dignity when receiving his oath in private.75

The ruler then moved to the prepared room, where the show of homage was held.76 The emperor was located under a baldachin surrounded by the hereditary office holders according to their ranks and duties. These schemes were documented in the written reports of the ceremonies by the court and the estates.

A representative of the ruler, usually the court chancellor,77 gave a speech referring to reasons for the delay of the inauguration and mentioning the confirmation of the rights and liberties of the estates.78 Only in Tyrol did Charles address the estates at this point himself.79 The representative of the estates then answered, usually referring again to the confirmation.80 In Görz, there was a conflict about the person who held the office of the hereditary land-marshal, who assumed an important task during the inaugural ceremony in close proximity to the sovereign. It is not surprising that this office was then assumed by the senior of the college of Deputies (Verordnete). This situation was even described by Charles in his diary: “estates in the city prior to 9, not by foot but riding due to the long hill, mass as usual very hot […] senior function, here 10 ½, afterwards homage, as usual me speaking, Te De(um) in castle chapel.”81

Charles refers not only to the senior but to his speech “as usual” during the inaugural ceremonies in this entry. Indeed, in most cases Charles now answered the estates himself, reaffirming his commitment to confirm the liberties of the provinces.82 In Klagenfurt, Charles gave thanks for being exempted from the act of taking an oath. Although the traditional elements of the Carinthian inauguration (Herzogsstuhl, Karnburg) were left out, the court protocol referred to inaugural ceremonies in the usual manner there (more consueto).83 As in Klagenfurt, the estates in Carniolia dispensed with the oath before the show of homage, which Peritzhoff describes in detail. The sovereign had to issue a revers for this concession (August 30). Peritzhoff explains, referring to Charles V, that delegates accepting a show of homage should not be included in such a dispensation.84

The oath taken by the estates was then read aloud and repeated by their members, who raised their hands with three finger extended.85 For instance, in Linz Charles lifted his hat during the reading of the oath as a reference to the presence of God. Of course, there were slight differences. In Trieste, the nobles, patricians and members of the city council represented the city. The vice court chancellor held a speech in German, which was answered by a representative of the city in Italian. The oath was read aloud by a Referendar (‘senior councilor’), and it was repeated by the representatives in Italian with their hands raised and fingers extended. Heintz stresses that Charles did not speak on this occasion in Trieste.86

In some case, such as in Lower (1712) and Upper Austria (1732), the estates were then given the written confirmation of their rights and liberties. In Tyrol, it took time for the document to be presented due to the coronation of Charles in Frankfurt, but in a rescript (issued in Innsbruck on December 27), he assured the estates again that he would confirm their rights and liberties as soon as possible.87 The Carinthian estates had to demand their confirmation after the departure of the emperor, and they had to wait for it for several years. It was then backdated.88 It is remarkable that Starhemberg already received the written confirmation of the rights and liberties in Linz (as had happened in the case of Lower Austria).89

It is worth comparing the situation with circumstances in other territories. In Milan (1707), Mantua (1708), and Parma/Piacenza unilateral oaths were taken.90 As in the other provinces, oaths were taken in the Austrian principalities of the Netherlands, as already noted. The prince confirmed the privileges of the territories, and the estates swore their loyalty. The small district of the Retroceded Lands was gained in 1719 from France and had lost its assemblies. As a consequence, only the representatives of the territory swore an oath to the prince, and taxes could be imposed without their consent.91 Maťa refers to an episode in Moravia which illustrates that there were talks about an inauguration there (1726). The estates were asked by a staff member of the Bohemian Chancellery if they required the emperor’s presence, because if not, a commissioner would be sent.92 The Silesian territories represented another special case. In these territories, which were a conglomerate of principalities or lordships, some (Habsburg) rulers accepted ceremonial shows of homage in Breslau (including Frederik II of Prussia),93 which consisted of oaths by particular subjects and corporations. Some estates of the Silesian hereditary principalities demanded to take oaths within their borders. Sometimes Habsburgs accepted recognitions in person if possible. Otherwise, commissioners were sent.94 To hasten Charles’ return, Count Leopold Adam Strasoldo was delegated to accept the show of homage in the county of Gradisca in 1728.95

Finally, shows of homage also played a part in the inaugurations of kings. In Bohemia, a show of homage was introduced after the transformations caused by the Verneuerte Landesordnung (1627). This ceremony took place one day before the coronation. Indeed, the ceremony was quite similar to other ceremonial shows of homage, except that it was not as splendid as the ceremonies in other provinces. The obvious reason for this was that the ceremony took place in the runup to the coronation. The ceremony was held in the Landstube. The estates were addressed by the hereditary high steward (the Obristerblandhofmeister, not the court chancellor), the Oberstburgraf answered. Afterwards, the court chancellor kneeled in front of the sovereign and listened to his answer, which he then repeated to the estates, including the sovereign’s proposition, which was read aloud in Czech and German. Afterwards, the sovereign addressed the estates himself and assured them that he would confirm their rights and liberties. The burgrave thanked the ruler and declared the will of the estates to take the oath. The oath was then read aloud in German and Czech and repeated by the estates. The show of homage was noted in Charles’ diaries: “nacher in landt stuben, landtt(a)g, huld(igung), ich r(e)dt, nach 11 nach haus.”

To summarize, the ceremonies involved in the inaugurations and the shows of homage to the ruler had numerous common (repeated) elements, such as the speeches held by the capo of the estates, the gesture made by the emperor when he lifted his hat on certain occasions, and oaths taken in spoken languages (German, Italian, Czech). Speeches and gestures were elementary parts of the ceremony of taking an oath. The sovereign assured his audiences that he would confirm their rights and liberties verbally and in written form after the inauguration. It is noteworthy that the inaugurations were held indoors. Charles dispensed of the traditional ceremonies at the Herzogsstuhl and Karnburg in Carinthia outdoors because he felt that they were unnecessary given his imperial dignity. Looking at the sites, it can be noted that the homages took place in the imperial quarters, usually the imperial residence or the bishop’s palace. The ruler usually replied verbally to the claims made by the estates at some point during the inauguration. In most cases, this happened after the speeches held by the estates just before they took their oath. Only in Graz was Charles forced to take an oath at the beginning of the ceremonies. In Tyrol, this happened after the speech held by the chancellor and before the answer given by the governor, which was even noteworthy in the descriptions.96 Of course, Charles was prepared to accept the gravamina of the estates too on the occasions of his stay. The ceremonies described illustrate the (at least theoretically) contractual character of the relationship between the sovereign and the estates. In particular, the personal oath taken by Charles VI in Graz stresses this fact.97 The ceremonies are of interest because we can determine that both sides entered into a commitment by verbal oaths and by written confirmations of these oaths.98

Timing of the Inaugural Ceremonies

With regards to the inauguration ceremonies of the first half of the eighteenth century, it must be pointed out that emperor Joseph I only was given a show of homage in Lower Austria (1705). Maťa points out that Joseph already started avoiding inaugurations during the reign of his father by not assuming the Bohemian crown. In addition, Maťa stresses that the Austrian estates remained rather reserved in insisting on an inauguration, and they held their Diets. Only the Carinthian estates received a letter of indemnity, and the Silesian “princes and estates” asked that a delegate be sent due to the difficult times.99 Of course, Joseph’s rule lasted only six years during the War of Spanish Succession. Money and time for such costly ceremonies and travel were consequently scarce goods during his reign. The emperor may have felt that the Lower Austrian case should be adequate to demonstrate the assumption of power in the Austrian provinces as a whole. William Godsey traces a supra-regional reference to the Lower Austrian inaugural ceremony.100 “What began as an exception in Moravia with Leopold I developed into standard practice, although it remains difficult to determine whether the abandonment of investiture rites was a dynastic program at this stage or merely the result of contingencies and financial shortcomings.”101

The inaugurations of Charles in Tyrol in 1711 and in Lower Austria in 1712 took place in a transit station or directly in the town of the imperial residence and therefore the court. In any case, they were both demonstrations of the rule of the Spanish King and Emperor Charles VI (III of Spain) and his ascent to power in his new capital. In the same year in which he was crowned in Hungary, Elisabeth Christine was promptly crowned upon their arrival from Barcelona in Pressburg, in 1714. After these two inaugurations, the next inaugural ceremony took place more than a decade later (the coronation in Bohemia in 1723). The next show of homage in the Austrian provinces only happened 16 years later, in 1728. Returning from the health resort of Carlsbad and Prague in 1732, Charles was given a show of homage by the Upper Austrian estates in Linz. In particular, the journeys of 1723, 1728, and 1732 were expensive. It is hardly surprising that, in their speeches, the court officials usually referred to the difficult times and wars as explanations for the late inaugurations.102 It is surprising, however, that Court Chancellor Sinzendorf already mentioned this reason in his speech to the estates of Tyrol in 1711. Charles had just arrived from Spain,103 and his brother had died only months before. This can perhaps be interpreted as a late excuse for the failure of the deceased Joseph to hold the ceremonies. In any case, we can trace this topos in the speeches to the estates during the reign of Charles VI.

So why were these costly ceremonies even held after 1720 and until 1732? Klaas van Geldern underlines that some of the estates of the Austrian Netherlands were able to postpone shows of homage and were even able to force Charles VI to accept their demands in return for their consent to taxes. That is why most of the shows of homage in the Austrian Netherlands were carried out only in 1717.104 Although the subsequent years were filled with numerous conflicts and negotiations with European powers, the inauguration in Bohemia (1723) or in the Inner Austrian lands in 1728 seems to have taken place relatively late. Of course, finances in the Habsburg Monarchy were always strained, but this was true in later years as well, when the court decided to travel. The question of costs and the sequestering of the necessary funds in advance of travel were topics of extensive discussion (for example in 1723 and 1728). The conference justified the journey in 1728 with reference to the long period of time since the last show of homage had been made in 1660. The court officials feared disadvantages in fief affairs due to this long term if the inauguration were not accepted by the emperor in person or by a representative of Charles VI in the same year. Consequently, taking part in the inaugural ceremony in Styria meant that Charles would have to do the same in the other provinces.105 In addition, it should be considered that Archduke Charles was feoffed with the Austrian (Habsburg) fiefs only in 1728.106 So there may have been a strategy concerning the Austrian inaugural ceremonies and plans to revive them to secure succession.

“The death of a prince and the subsequent assumption of power by his or her successor remained critical moments.”107 In connection with the long period of time between the inaugurations, one should note the importance of the issue of succession in these years as a reason for these journeys.108 On the one hand, there was the legend according to which only a crowned Bohemian king would be born heir. The announcement of another pregnancy of Elisabeth Christine in Prague in 1723 seemed to confirm this. On the other hand, it was a reply to Bavarian and Saxon claims to parts of Charles’ rule.109 Both trips gave the opportunity to present the emperor’s oldest daughter Maria Theresia to the estates, though she remained in Graz in 1728.110 The Pragmatic sanction had been approved by the estates of the Habsburg Monarchy at the beginning of the 1720s, which is why these trips and the personal presence of Charles VI perhaps can be understood as a sign of appreciation and ultimately strengthened the acceptance of him as ruler by the estates. Rohr refers to the fact that at such inaugurations possible successors sent their delegates to demonstrate their titles.111 Of course, any inauguration of Maria Theresia was impossible due to the fact that there were still hopes for a male heir.112 Still, Charles tried to secure the succession of his son-in-law in the Holy Roman Empire.113


Prima facie, it is important to stress that the (personal) inaugurations described above maintained their importance and were not just mere spectacles, as William Godsey has already shown in his study of the Lower Austrian case:

“Im Übergang von der ständischen Herrschaft zum Frühparlamentarismus in Österreich büßten die tief in der ständischen Tradition verwurzelten Krönungen bzw. Erbhuldigungen weder für den konsti-
tutionellen Staat noch für die politische Öffentlichkeit ihre staats­rechtliche Bedeutung ein.”114

Inaugurations afforded an opportunity to demonstrate baroque splendor,115 but it is worth mentioning that the imperial authorities and Charles himself advised the estates not to waste too much money. Of course, the estates organized costly ceremonies, but ideas of economic efficiency or just necessity were already present. Holenstein describes the shows of homage as phenomena of a “longue durée.”116

At the end of their existence in some countries, such as Styria and Carinthia, the inaugural ceremonies began to show a certain degree of uniformity. The Lower Austrian inauguration served as a model or at least an important point of reference. Even in 1732, in addition to the documents about the shows of homage to Leopold I in Linz in 1658, the documents concerning the Lower Austrian example pro aliquali norma were also consulted.117 Due to the organizational framework, it is no surprise that the Kurialien (ceremonial framework) for the inauguration in Graz served as a model for the other ceremonies held in Inner Austria. It seems that the inaugurations of Leopold I after the Thirty Years War were an important milestone in this development. In spite of the affirmations or indemnifications of Leopold, the changes became a very important reference point for the ceremonies which were held for his son.

The inaugural ceremonies were embedded into local Diets to which the members of the estates were invited. Convoking the estates by means of a general patent could give rise to complaints, as has been shown in the case of Inner Austria. It is of interest that Charles’ father Leopold did the same in 1660. A great deal of the implementation of the shows of homage in the Austrian provinces in 1728 and 1732 was determined in the preparatory conferences in Vienna.118 The court corresponded with the estates and asked for the submission of information on the previous ceremonies, but the estates had little scope for raising objections. This was all the more true because the court required all the relevant information of the estates in the runup to the journeys too. The marginal resolutions of the emperor concerning the proposals of the conferences offer insights into the ruler’s decision making process. Of course, the estates had the chance to negotiate shortly before the inaugurations, but the scope for negotiation was limited due to the little time left before the date of the inauguration. Basically, however, it should be noted that the Viennese court had to respect the setting of the past inaugural ceremonies. The course of the day on which the ceremonies were held was organized according to these examples from the past.119 If information was lacking due to missing references in the records (Vorakten), records of inaugurations which had already been held in the other countries were consulted. In the case of the inaugurations in 1728, there was no reference to the movement of the clergy from the court to the church. The course was set according to the example of the ceremony which was held in 1712 in Lower Austria. Even the emperor referred to the previous inaugurations as models when it came to the participation of the Toisonisten in 1732. Concerning traditional elements of the inaugurations, certain ceremonies were still of relevance, but few of these ceremonies were actively practiced during the reign of Charles VI. In Carinthia, Charles was exempted from the traditional ceremonies at the Karnburg and the Herzogstuhl.

So why were these costly ceremonies still held? Of course, they had to be in the interests of both the sovereign and his subjects (“as stakeholders in the monarchical enterprise”).120 However, it is difficult to determine what reasons the sovereign may have had, or more precisely, the reasons for which the sovereign chose at times to take part in person in such inaugurations or to avoid them are best explained by the existing circumstances.121 Certain inaugurations usually happened at the beginning of the rule of the sovereign.122 In his first years, the proclaimed Spanish King Charles, who was then crowned emperor, was crowned in Hungary and then treated to a show of homage in Lower Austria (1712) and Tyrol (1711). His father had used his journey to Frankfurt to be inaugurated in Linz by the Upper Austrian estates in 1658 too (as Charles did on his return from Prague in 1732). So these inaugurations sometimes formed part of a greater journey. Of course, the ceremonies were held before audience sometimes large, sometimes comparatively small, and they were then made part of public discussion through newspaper articles, engravings, medals, etc.123

Inaugurations had two important functions: the establishment and consolidation or, more precisely, perpetuation of power relations.124 One interest of Charles in his late years was to secure his succession by legitimating his own rule. A suggested reason for his decision to undertake the journey to Inner Austria was the long-term enfeoffments in the provinces. Were the emperor to refuse the journey, his councilors advised him to send a delegate in his stead to Inner Austria in order to avoid legal disadvantages (see above).125 The most important issue was the confirmation of the country’s rights and liberties by the prince and the timing of this confirmation. Mentions of these affirmations in the correspondence before the inauguration and the multiple mentions in the speeches of the representatives and the ruler himself illustrate their importance. Usually, there was a verbal assurance before the show of homage, and a written copy was delivered immediately or within a certain period of time after this. Only in Graz did the emperor have to take a personal oath before a small group of representatives of the estates, as had been done in 1660. In Carinthia, the traditional form of the oath on the Herzogstuhl had already been abandoned because of the imperial dignity of Charles VI (as in 1660).

Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger describes rites suitably as ceremonies with which past acts are remembered and commitments are made to fulfill specific acts in the future.126 As shown in this discussion, both elements were of importance for the people involved. They mattered for the emperor because of his succession order, and they were important to the estates because of their need to maintain old customs and reassert their rights and liberties.

Archival Sources

Bayrisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Munich

Ministerium des Äußeren, 39392

Kärntner Landesarchiv, Ständisches Archiv (StA Ktn.)

Österreichisches Staatsarchiv (ÖStA)

Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv (AVA)

Adelsarchiv (Adel)

Reichsadelsakten (RAA)

Finanz- und Hofkammerarchiv (FHKA)

Alte Hofkammer (AHK)

Hoffinanz Innerösterreich (HFIÖ)

Sonderbestände, Sammlungen und Selekte, Sammlungen und Selekte (SUS)

Handschriftensammlung (HS)

Varia des Hofkammerarchivs (Varia)

Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (HHStA)

Hofarchive, Privat- und Familienfonde (HA)

Obersthofmeisteramt (OMeA)

Zeremonialprotokolle (ZA-Prot.)

Handschriftensammlungen (HS)


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Georg J. Edler of Deyerlsberg. Erbhuldigung, welche dem allerdurchleuchtigist-großmächtigisten und unüberwindlichsten Römischen Kayser, Carolo dem Sechsten, zu Hispanien, Hungarn und Boheim König, etc. etc. als Hertzogen in Steyer, von denen gesamten steyrischen Landständen den sechsten Juli 1728 [...] abgelegt. Vollständige originalgetreue Wiedergabe des kaiserlichen Prunkexemplars aus dem Besitz der Steiermärkischen Landesbibliothek am Joanneum mit einem Kommentarband. Edited by Ulrike Müller. Adeva: Graz, 1980.

Mair of Maiersfeld, Johann Baptist. Beschreibung was auf Ableben Weyland Ihrer Keyser. Majestät Josephi, Biß nach vorgegangener Erb-Huldigung, welche dem Allerdurchleuchtigst-, Großmächtigst- und Unüberwindlichsten Römischen Kayser Carolo [...] Als Erz-Herzogen zu Oesterreich die gesamte Nider-Oeserreichische Stände [...] abgelegt. Vienna, 1712.

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1 Petr Maťa uses the term “inaugural rite” to include coronations and shows of hereditary homage. See Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 30; Van Gelder, “Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Coronations and Inaugurations,” 4. Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger defines a rite as a normed, many-faceted, and symbolic sequence of actions with a specific effectiveness. Stollberg-Rilinger, “Symbolische Kommunikation,” 503.

2 On the Hungarian coronations, see Forgó, “Zu den Möglichkeiten und Grenzen”; Soltész et al., Coronatio Hungarica. On the situation in Bohemia, see Berning, “Nach alltem löblichen Gebrauch”; Vácha et al., Karel VI. & Alžběta Kristýna; Vokáčová, “The Bohemian Coronation.” On the coronation in Frankfurt, see for instance Wanger, Kaiserwahl und Krönung. Several medals were coined commemorating the coronation in Frankfurt: Förschner, Frankfurter Krönungsmedaillen.

3 Stollberg-Rilinger, “Symbolische Kommunikation,” 522.

4 On ceremonies and rites of passage as symbolic acts, forms of political communication, and their performative character in the early modern period, see for instance Gestrich, Absolutismus; Muir, Ritual in Early Modern Europe; Stollberg-Rilinger, “Zeremoniell, Ritual, Symbol”; Stollberg-Rilinger, “Symbolische Kommunikation”; Stollberg-Rilinger, “Herstellung und Darstellung”; Stollberg-Rilinger, Rituale; Van Gelder, “Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Coronations and Inaugurations,” 1–4, 11–13. On inaugurations in general, see Holenstein, Die Huldigung der Untertanen. For the court of Charles VI, see Pečar, Die Ökonomie der Ehre. This research field has been worked on intensively in recent years. In addition, considering the role of the estates within the composite Habsburg Monarchy, it is relevant to refer to the role of the monarchy itself as fiscal-military state, as shown for instance in the research of William Godsey: Godsey, The Sinews of Habsburg Power. On the estates in the Habsburg Monarchy, see for instance Ammerer, Bündnispartner und Konkurrenten.

5 Stollberg-Rilinger, “Symbolische Kommunikation,” 496.

6 Van Gelder, “Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Coronations and Inaugurations,” 3. Andreas Gestrich classifies them as “reziproker kommunikativer Akt” (Gestrich, Absolutismus, 118–20; Van Gelder, “Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Coronations and Inaugurations,” 11: “reciprocal communicative acts”). Or “Dem Huldigungsakt unterlag die Struktur der Mutualität und Reziprozität,” Holenstein, Huldigung, 507. On the role of the traditional laws as commemorative constitution in short, see Gmoser, “Die steirischen Erbhuldigungen,” 265–67. In general, Holenstein, Huldigung.

7 See Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 33–34, 46–47. He refers to the Spanish inaugurations in Catalonia (1705), Valencia (1706), Trieste, and Fiume (both in 1728, see below) as not included in this number. In addition, in Parma/Piacenza a unilateral oath was taken (1738).

8 In general Rausch, “Die Hofreisen Kaiser Karls VI”; Mikoletzky, “Hofreisen unter Kaiser Karl VI.” On the journeys taken in 1728 and 1732, see Seitschek, “Die Erbhuldigung 1728 in Kärnten”; Seitschek, “Verhandlungssache?”

9 See Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 43–45.

10 On 1728, see Maťa, “Der steirische Landtag.” Some sources: [Anonym], Libell, Und Außführliche Beschreibung / Was nach erfolgtem betaurlichisten Todtfall Weylande Ihro Röm. Kayserl. Majestät Josephi I. Gewesten Lands-Fürsten zu Tyrol, Biß zu der Von dessen Herrn Brudern, Carolo Dem Sechsten diß Namens [...] angetrettener Regierung vorgegangen [...] zu Ablegung der allgemeinen Lands-Huldigung Auf 20. Monaths Novembris 1711. nacher Ynsprugg. Innsbruck: Jacob Christoph Wagner Hofbuchdrucker, 1711; Georg J. Edler of Deyerlsberg, Erbhuldigung, welche dem allerdurchleuchtigist-großmächtigisten und unüberwindlichsten Römischen Kayser, Carolo dem Sechsten, zu Hispanien, Hungarn und Boheim König, etc. etc. als Hertzogen in Steyer, von denen gesamten steyrischen Landständen den sechsten Juli 1728 [...] abgelegt. Vollständige originalgetreue Wiedergabe des kaiserlichen Prunkexemplars aus dem Besitz der Steiermärkischen Landesbibliothek am Joanneum mit einem Kommentarband, ed. Ulrike Müller (Adeva: Graz, 1980) Johann Adam Heintz, Erb-Huldigungs-Actus in Inner-Öster-Reich idem Steüer, Cärnthen, Crain, Grötz [!], Triest und Fiume. Wie solcher Anno 1728 etc. (ÖStA FHKA, SUS HS 101); Johann Adam Heintz, Relation und Beschreibung der Von Dem Allerdurchläuchtig-. Großmächtig- und Unüberwindlichsten Römischen May. Carolo Sexto […] Anno 1732 Von Wienn über Prag nacher Carlsbaad in Bohaimb zur bedienung der dasigen Baad Cur nach dessen beglikhter beendung aber zurück nacher Prag in Österreich ob der Enns nacher Lüntz zum Empfang der Daselbstigen Erbhuldigung (ÖStA FHKA SUS Varia 40/1 [alt 22a/1], fol. 1–209); Johann Joseph Linsee, Gründtlicher Endtwurff der dem allerdurchleuchtigsten, großmächtigst- und unüberwindlichsten Römischen Kayser Carolo VI […] von Denen gesamten Geist- und Weltlichen Ständen gemeiner Landtschafft des Erzherzogthums Cärnthen Im Jahr 1728 den 22ten Monathstag August allerunterthänigst geleisteten Erb-Huldigung etc. (Kärntner Landesarchiv, Ständisches Archiv Ktn. 458 Nr. 1, fol.1–330); Johann Baptist Mair of Maiersfeld, Beschreibung was auf Ableben Weyland Ihrer Keyser. Majestät Josephi, Biß nach vorgegangener Erb-Huldigung, welche dem Allerdurchleuchtigst-, Großmächtigst- und Unüberwindlichsten Römischen Kayser Carolo [...] Als Erz-Herzogen zu Oesterreich die gesamte Nider-Oeserreichische Stände [...] abgelegt (Wien 1712); Carl Seyfrid of Peritzhoff, Erb-Huldigungs Actus im Hertzogthum Crain etc. Adam Friderich Reichhardt Landschaftdrucker: Laibach, 1739. It is important to keep in mind, when analyzing these sources, who wrote the descriptions and who commissioned the composition and illustration of the source. See for other printed descriptions Gugler, “Feste des Wiener Hofs.”

11 Johann Adam Heintz, Ausführliche Beschreibung der Anno 1723 von Sr. Kayserlich- und Catholischen Mayestatt Carl dem Sechsten Mit Ihro Mayestätt der Regirenden Kayserin Elisabeth Christina auch Durchleuchtigsten Jungen Herrschafft von Wienn Nacher Prag in Böhaim verrichteten Reis Daselbst abgenohmenen Erb-Huldigung. etc. ÖStA HHStA, HS Weiß 525; other versions are preserved in the Austrian National Library: Cod. 2706, 2707.

12 On the Inner Austrian journey the Styrian newspaper Posttäglich-Grätzerisch-Außfliegenden Mercurius is of importance and shows similarities to the news in the Wienerischen Diairum. See Golob, “Mediale Reflexionen,” 11–17.

13 See the volumes Deß Neu-eröffneten Historischen Bilder-Saals by Andreas Lazarus of Imhof or the Theatrum Europaeum.

14 Rohr, Einleitung zur Ceremoniel-Wissenschaft, 657–81.

15 Deyerlsberg, Erbhuldigung, engrav. Nr. 2.

16 On inauguration ceremonies in the Habsburg Monarchy see, Van Gelder, More than Mere Spectacle.

17 For the Inner Austrian provinces Charles issued a rescript on February 28 that was forwarded from Graz to the other provinces at the beginning of March. In it, information concerning the ceremonies was requested, and the estates were invited not to spend too much money on the preparations. See Deyerlsberg, Erbhuldigung, 3–4; Linsee, Gründtlicher Endtwurff, fol. 11v–13v; Peritzhoff, Erb-Huldigung, 79–81. Even in 1806, the Bavarian authorities consulted information concerning the previous shows of homages in the preparatory work for a possible inauguration in Tyrol (Munich, Bayrisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Ministerium des Äußeren, 39392; thanks to Ellinor Forster for calling my attention to this source).

18 StA Ktn. 458/1, 1, fol. 147v–148v: “Alwo [148r] wür dann in jeden Land gleich am folgenden tag unserer dahinkunfft vormittag den landtag halten, nachmittag aber respectu deren ceremonialien zur abhandlung schritten lassen und den tag darauf den actum homagii gnädigst vornehmen warden.” (Where a meeting will be held the day after our arrival in the morning. In the afternoon, the ceremonies should be discussed and the show of homage should take place on the next day.) See Seitschek, Erbhuldigung, 135.

19 Montesquieu, Meine Reisen in Deutschland, 58–59. Even in Vienna, the city municipal authorities ordered that the area around the St. Stephan cathedral and the residential area be cleaned and the streets of the area be repaired. ÖStA HHStA, HA OMeA ZA-Prot. 7 (1710 bis 1712), fol. 181r–v. “Der Stadtmagistrat ließ in den Tagen vor der Huldigung den Burgplatz, den Kohlmarkt und den Graben bis nach St. Stephan säubern, soweit notwendig pflastern, mit Brettern belegen und Sand bestreuen.”

20 On the Lower Austrian case in general, see Godsey, “Herrschaft und politische Kultur.”

21 Nádudvar, “Kaiser Karl VI.,” 86.

22 On the preliminary sessions, see ÖStA HHStA, HA OMeA ZA-Prot. 7 (1710 to 1712), fol. 176r–v.

23 Nádudvar, “Kaiser Karl VI.,” 87f.

24 On these preparations in 1728, see Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 130–38, 245–48; Seitschek, “Erbhuldigungsreise,” 50–68. For 1660 in Graz, Gmoser, “Die steirischen Erbhuldigungen,” 272–78.

25 In 1711, he addressed letters to the prince-bishoprics of Brixen, Trient, and the governor (Landeshauptmann) of Tyrol. The other estates were convoked by a printed order (Milan, October 31) which was sent to them according to [Anonym], Libell, 24–26. The proposition ibid., 31–33 (Innsbruck, November 21).

26 Deyerlsberg, Erbhuldigung, 6–8 (“daß sogeschehene Ubergehung der Landschaft an ihrem alten Herbringen / und Gewohnheit ohne Nachtheil und Schaden seye / auch kuenftig in keine Consequenz gezogen / sondern disfalls in ein- und anderem der alte Modus und Stylus mittels Ausschreibung eines Land-tags gehalten”). The estates already complained about this procedure in the sixteenth century; see Gmoser, “Die steirischen Erbhuldigungen,” 270. For 1660 ibid., 274–75. The Carinthian and Carniolan estates demanded such indemnifications too (Linsee, Gründtlicher Endtwurff, fol. 93v–98r; Peritzhoff, Erb-Huldigung, 176–77; Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 147, 168–69). This claim was denied in case of the Carniolian estates referring to the traditional forms (Peritzhoff, Erb-Huldigung, 41; Rausch, “Hofreisen,” 130).

27 Deyerlsberg, Erbhuldigung, 10. The announcement was forwarded from Graz to the other provinces, for instance Carinthia and Carniola, on March 22. Deyerlsberg, Erbhuldigung, 8–10; Linsee, Gründtlicher Endtwurff, fol. 29v–32r; Peritzhoff, Erb-Huldigung, 86–87. For similar critical observations concerning the invitation in Carinthia, see Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 137, 147, 168–69.

28 Deyerlsberg, Erbhuldigung, 10–11.

29 Ibid., 11–12.

30 Peritzhoff, Erb-Huldigung, 167–71; Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 168–69.

31 StA Ktn., box 458/1, 1, fol. 180r–182r. See Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 137. Compare Rohr, Einleitung, 660–61.

32 Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 130–17 (for Carinthia); Seitschek, “Erbhuldigungsreise,” 50–68, 77–79. It is worth mentioning that the sovereigns tried to place confidants within these groups, for instance the intimate of Charles count Althann (including his family) was declared hereditary cupbearer in the Empire (since 1714; Pečar, “Favorit ohne Geschäftsbereich,” 342–43. For Lower Austria, see Godsey, “Herrschaft,” 175–77.

33 Johann Adam Heintz, Erb-Huldigungs-Actus; Linsee, Gründtlicher Endtwurff. See Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 145–49.

34 Rausch, “Hofreisen,” 143–46; Seitschek, “Verhandlungssache.”

35 For instance, Soltész et al., Coronatio; Förschner, Krönungsmedaillen.

36 On Lower Austria, see Godsey, “Herrschaft,” 167–68.

37 This conflict between hierarchies of different systems (military, court, church) is rather typical. Stollberg-Rilinger, “Symbolische Kommunikation,” 522–24.

38 Stollberg-Rilinger, “Symbolische Kommunikation,” 499–502, 506, 514, 522. (”Gerade die Unschärfe symbolischer Botschaften, hinter der unterschiedliche Situationsdeutungen zum Verschwinden gebracht wurden, ermöglichte vielfach erst kollektives Handeln.”)

39 On inaugural ceremonies in the Habsburg Monarchy, see Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 30–33; Van Gelder, “Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Coronations and Inaugurations,” 1–28. The following description is based on the afore mentioned sources on the inaugural ceremonies and the accounts in the court protocol of ceremonies. In general, see Rohr, Einleitung, 660–77.

40 Godsey, “Herrschaft,” 143, 173.

41 Maťa points out that there were (even specially produced) insignia, but these insignia weren’t used to inaugurate the sovereign such as by putting a crown on his head. Even the archducal hat that was brought from the monastery Klosterneubrug just was presented during the Lower Austrian inaugural ceremony. Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 30–32. These insignia were presented to and by the hereditary office holder during the ceremonies.

42 Of course, there are several differences. For instance, the chamberlain walked within the hereditary officeholders or certain other officeholders assumed a special role.

43 These were the private rooms of the imperial couple (literally the ‘retreat’).

44 On the oath in Styria, see Gmoser, “Die steirischen Erbhuldigungen,” 267–72. Generally, this was not a unique situation. Rohr describes the situation in Portugal and Aragon, where the king had to swear to observe the laws and privileges as printed in Saragossa. Only then came the show of homage. Rohr, Einleitung, 667–68. The Carinthian and Carniolian estates exempted the emperor as a show of respect for his imperial dignity (see below).

45 See Haslinger, “Der Kaiser speist en public.”

46 WD 869 (December 1, 1711). These high spirits are described at the table of the ducal peasant in Carinthia too. This may be another topos.

47 In 1711, Charles appointed 46 privy councilors, including cavaliers from Milan and Napoli (WD 869, December 1, 1711). The same thing happened for instance in Carniola (promotions to the positions of secret councilors and chamberlains: Peritzhoff, Erb-Huldigung, 62).

48 Rohr referred to the reason for the state to decide whether the sovereign should take part in these ceremonies in person or be represented by a delegate (Rohr, Einleitung, 658).

49 Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 46.

50 Van Gelder, “Inaugurations,” 171, 182. On the inaugurations during the reign of Charles VI, see 182, table 6.1. Van Gelder explains the greater interest in these principalities not only as a consequence of their populations but also as an indication of their fiscal importance. This was a rather common means with which to make the sovereign present, see Rohr, Einleitung, 663.

51 WD 1733 (March 9, 1720). During the banquet, a painting of the emperor to the right and another one of the Governor Prince Eugen to the left were presented. This event was recognized by the court. For instance, these inaugural ceremonies in 1720 were mentioned by Sigmund Graf von Khevenhüller in his diaries. On these diaries, see Breunlich-Pawlik, “Die Aufzeichnungen.”

52 WD 75 (September 18, 1728).

53 Rohr, Einleitung, 662–63 (referring to Europäische Fama 66, 413).

54 Roos, Providentia Augustorum, 99–100.

55 On the importance and topoi of such speeches at Diets in general, see Braungart, Hofberedsamkeit. 124–36; Helmrath and Feuchter, “Einleitung.”

56 Indeed, gravamina played an important role in negotiations before the inaugurations. On Lower Austria, see Godsey, “Herrschaft,” 169–73.

57 Charles was staying in Mariazell (August 19, 1725): “aud(ienz), Steyer landshaubtm(ann), Herberst(ein) stadhalter, ein redt, er widter aud(ienz), er nb landt ubel, infomiren, ich stark zu redt.”

58 Only in the Austrian Netherlands were costly stages built outdoors. Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 32; Van Gelder, “Inaugurations,” 170–71.

59 WD 75, September 18, 1728.

60 Heintz, Erb-Huldigungs-Actus, fol. 59–60.

61 Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 36. Compare Godsey, “Herrschaft,” 153–54; Brunner, Land und Herrschaft, 423–25.

62 Van Gelder, “Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Coronations and Inaugurations,” 11.

63 Ibid., 14. On the social contract with further literature, see Klippel, “Staatsvertrag.”

64 Rohr, Einleitung, 667–76. He refers to another custom in certain Catholic territories where the sovereign’s delegate had to swear to preserve the privileges of the churches too. Ibid., 671.

65 See Braungart, “Hofberedsamkeit,” 126 (referring to Zedlers’s Universal-Lexicon 16, 1737, Sp. 578). Imperial ministers and councilors were relieved of their duties during the inauguration to take part “libere.” ÖStA FHKA AHK HFIÖ Akten June 26, 1728. On 1660, see Gmoser, “Die steirischen Erbhuldigungen,” 274. A request from the Carinthian estates (June 2) was renounced because of missing examples in the documents of previous acts. Linsee, Gründtlicher Endtwurff, fol. 141v–43r.

66 Charles VI had already confirmed his intention in a letter from November 4 (see above, Godsey, “Herrschaft,” 155).

67 According to the description, the members of the Fourth Estate were expected to raise three fingers during the oath.

68 A written confirmation before the homage was denied due to the lack of previous similar cases. See Nádudvar, “Kaiser Karl VI.,” 88, 93–94. In general, see Godsey, “Herrschaft,” 153–56.

69 The first steps in announcing the arrival of Charles VI were taken by his mother and regent Eleonora Magdalena. See [Anonym], Libell, 1–23.

70 Delegations for instance in Ljubljana, Peritzhoff, Erb-Huldigung, 51. In 1732 in Linz, the deputation was led by the most senior of the lords, Count Gundacker Thomas Starhemberg in the council room. ÖStA HHStA, HA OMeA ZA-Prot. 15 (1732 to 1734), fol. 109r.

71 This happened in Vienna (Lower Austria) and Linz (Upper Austria) in 1712 and 1732.

72 Leitner, “Die Erbhuldigung,” 127–29. The estates demanded that the indemnification should include a reference to the abandonment of the sovereign’s confirmation of the provinces’ privileges in public out of respect for the sovereign’s imperial dignity. On Styria in general with further literature, see Gmoser, “Die steirischen Erbhuldigungen.”

73 In detail, see Maťa, “Landtag,” 178–80; Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 47–48. On the Jurament, see Deyerlsberg, Erbhuldigung, 79–81 (“Als Uns jetzt vorgelesen ist / schwören Wir mit Unserem Eyd / allen Land-Leuten des Fürstenthums Steyer alles stät / vest / und unzerbrochen zu halten / treulich ohne alles Gefährde / als Uns Gott helffe / und die gebenedeyteste Mutter Gottes Maria / und alle Liebe Heilige”). The oath in the presence of five to six members of the estates was already determined in the ceremonial outlines (Kurialien) before the inauguration. It is interesting that Deyerlsberg’s description mentioned that the emperor took the oath with his hat on (“bedecktem Haupt”) but the print offers a different image. There, the hat is on a table to the right of the emperor.

74 Deyerlsberg, Erbhuldigung, 80. This including of the confessional element was a common part of the texts of oaths. See Holenstein, “Seelenheil und Untertantenpflicht.” Rohr, Einleitung, 672–74. In general for instance Luminati, “Eid,” 90–93; Prodi, “Der Eid in der europäischen Verfassungsgeschichte.”

75 Leitner, “Erbhuldigung,” 127–29.

76 For instance, Vienna (1712): Imperial Palace, Ritterstube; Innsbruck (1711): Imperial Palace, Riesensaal; Graz (1728): Imperial residence, Ritterstube; Klagenfurt (1728): Rosenberg palace; Ljubljana (1728): bishop’s palace; Trieste (1728): bishop’s palace.

77 During the Inner Austrian journey and the inaugurations that were held as part of the journey, the court vice chancellor assumed this role.

78 On Tyrol: WD 871 (December 8, 1711). Charles had already promised to confirm the estates’ rights and liberties in the proposition ([Anonym], Libell, 33). See [Anonym], Libell, 41–43. After the speech, the proposition was read aloud by Johann Georg of Buol (1655–1727). On Styria, Deyerlsberg, Erbhuldigung, 83–84; Carinthia: Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 152; Carniolia: Peritzhoff, Erb-Huldigung, 53.

79 For the speech [Anonym], Libell, 44–46 (“mittels einer sonders lang-zartmütig und recht vätterlichen Red/ darauff sich bezogen; welche Rede/ da sie nicht allein von Ihro Kaiserl. und Catholische Majestät/ als Kaisern/ König/ und Landesfürsten/ sondern als einem wahren und rechten Lands-Vatter beschehen/ all Anwesende mit Verwunderung und Erstaunung angehöret”). Not quite comparable, but at this juncture a speech was held in Bohemia; see below.

80 Tyrol: governor/Landeshauptmann, [Anonym], Libell, 46–48. In Graz, the hereditary land-marshal handed over the sword, moved from the right side of the emperor to the side of the estates, and replied to the speech of the vice chancellor, referring to the assurance of the confirmation of the provinces’ rights and liberties. Afterwards, he moved back to the emperor’s side, taking up his hereditary office again (Deyerlsberg, Erbhuldigung, 84f.). In Klagenfurt, the burgrave replied the speech of the vice court chancellor (Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 152–55). In Ljubljana, the hereditary land-marshal answered in the name of the estates, who switched roles for this act (Peritzhoff, Erb-Huldigung, 53). It is interesting that in Linz the officeholder of the hereditary land-marshal-office Count Starhemberg entrusted this office to his son during the ceremony and didn’t switch between the role of the most senior lord and his hereditary office. On the show of homage in Linz see ÖStA HHStA, HA OMeA ZA-Prot. 15 (1732 to 1734), fol. 108v–122r.

81 Entry September 5 (“stendt hirauf, vor 9 in die statt, all nit fus wie, sondern geriten weyl weit berg; ambt wie sonst; sehr warmb, […] alt verord(neter) funct(ion) ma(c)ht, herüben 10 1/2 na(c)her huldigung wie sonst ich r(e)dt, te De(um) in schlos capl(en)”); about the diary in general, see Redlich, “Die Tagebücher Kaiser Karls VI.”; Stefan Seitschek, Die Tagebücher Kaiser Karls VI. See Heintz, Erb-Huldigungs-Actus, fol. 80v–81r.

82 For Klagenfurt: Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 155f.; Ljubljana: Peritzhoff, Erb-Huldigung, 53f.

83 See Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 148–58.

84 Peritzhoff, Erb-Huldigung, 53–55, 205–7; In addition, for the ceremonies in Ljubljana WD 74 (September 15, 1728 appendix). The schedule of the show of homage and especially the revers for dispensing with the oath were already set in the preparatory conferences. Ibid, 41.

85 Tyrol: [Anonym], Libell, 48–49. The lords and knights raised their hands, the delegates of the towns raised their fingers too. It is astonishing that the newspaper referred to the notable situation in Tyrol, where the peasantry formed part of the estates. In Graz, the vice court chancellor held the text of the Iurament. See Deyerlsberg, Erbhuldigung, 85–86. This raising of the hand was rather common (Rohr, Einleitung, 675). For Klagenfurt Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 155; Ljubljana: Peritzhoff, Erb-Huldigung, 55, 207f.

86 For Trieste Hahn, “Zwei Besuche im österreichischen Litorale, 76–77. Heintz, Erb-Huldigungs-Actus, fol. 92r. In Fiume, the representatives of the city were received in the city castle by Charles. Again, the court vice-chancellor started the ceremony with his speech, which was answered by the city judge. Heintz, Erb-Huldigungs-Actus, fol. 101r. Heintz stresses that the show of homage was held according to the ceremony in Trieste.

87 [Anonym], Libell, 58–59.

88 Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 168–69. This seems to have been a common case. The Styrian estates already had to wait in 1631. Gmoser, “Die steirischen Erbhuldigungen,” 271–72.

89 In the files of the imperial chamber we can determine the process according to which the documents were produced. The revers for the estates written on parchment with the seal in a capsule made of silver on a golden string cost 66 gulden (ÖStA FHKA HFÖ Akten, box 2.452, September 11 and 12, 1732). The document is dated September 10 (for instance ÖStA FHKA SUS Varia box 40/1 (1732), fol. 177v–178r).

90 Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 49.

91 Van Gelder, “Inaugurations,” 169–70.

92 Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 47. These negotiations are important because even Charles’ father Leopold left out the Moravian inaugural ceremonies. Ibid., 42–43.

93 Frederik took part in several inaugural ceremonies from 1741 to 1743. Van Gelder, “Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Coronations and Inaugurations,” 8.

94 Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 37–38.

95 WD 75 (September 18, 1728); Heintz, Erb-Huldigungs-Actus, fol. 80r. The inaugural ceremonies were performed accordingly.

96 Charles again promised to confirm the provinces’ rights and liberties at the end of his speech. For the speech [Anonym], Libell, 44–46.

97 Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 47.

98 Stollberg-Rilinger describes the significance of symbolic communication compared to the growing importance of written contracts with their exact but less flexible interpretations. Stollberg-Rilinger, “Symbolische Kommunikation,” 515–17.

99 See Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 43–45. Compare Godsey, “Herrschaft,” 145.

100 Godsey refers to the participating noble families representing other Habsburg provinces too. Godsey, “Herrschaft,” 150–52.

101 Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 45.

102 E.g. in Graz Deyerlsberg, Erbhuldigung, 83–84.

103 Sinzendorf refers to the aid given to his Spanish supporters, the long Spanish War, and the inclination to these territories of the new ruler. WD 871 (December 8, 1711); [Anonym], Libell, 42–43.

104 Van Gelder, “Inaugurations.”

105 Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 130.

106 ÖStA, AVA, Adel RAA Österreich, Karl Erzherzog zu Österreich, April 9, 1728. Compare Mikoletzky, “Hofreisen,” 267–68. The Austrian enfeoffment is mentioned by Heintz, which refers extensively to antecedents (1530, 1572, 1597, 1613, 1620, 1652, 1663) in his description of the inauguration in Linz (1732). ÖStA FHKA SUS Varia, box 40/1 (1732), fol. 3r–5v.

107 Van Gelder, “Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Coronations and Inaugurations,” 9.

108 For instance, Godsey, “Herrschaft,” 149; Seitschek, “Verhandlungssache,” 199–200.

109 Van Gelder, “Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Coronations and Inaugurations,” 9. In the preparatory conferences the participation of Maria Theresia on the journey to Prague as possible future ruler was suggested (December 16, 1722). See Rausch, “Hofreisen,” 59–60.

110 Montesquieu mentioned that the empress was so bored in Graz that she planned to move back to Vienna. Montesquieu, Reisen, 53.

111 Rohr, Einleitung, 670–71.

112 Maťa, “The Care of Thrones,” 45–47; Seitschek, Tagebücher, 126; Seitschek, “Verhandlungssache,” 199–200. Even diplomats thought about the possibility of a new marriage of the emperor after the death of Elisabeth Christine (Backerra, Wien, 319f.; Göse, “Es wird die Freundschafft,”103, note 70). In this context it is worth mentioning that Maria Theresia and Franz Stephan had to renounce in favor of a possible male heir before her marriage with Franz Stephan, which the emperor even noted in his diaries (February 1 1736: “ganz vomit(tag) 10 ¾ func(tion) in gehaim rath, renunci(ation) Teres, herzog, Ter(es)l nb gut gem(ac)ht”). See ÖStA HHStA, HA OMeA ZA-Prot. (1735–1738), fol. 118r–119v.

113 Neuhaus, “Die Römische Königswahl,” 43–44.

114 Godsey, “Herrschaft,” 143.

115 Holenstein, Huldigung, 511: “aus einer Feier mit politisch-rechtlichem Charakter entwickelte sich ein barockes Fest.” Rohr explained that the more splendid the festivities organized by the subjects were, the more this was understood as an expression of their devotion to their new sovereign. Rohr, Einleitung, 658.

116 Holenstein, Huldigung, 507.

117 ÖStA FHKA SUS Varia box 40/1 (1732), fol. 21r.

118 On this conferences in detail, see Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 130–38, 145–48; Seitschek, “Verhandlungssache,” 200–8.

119 Such a framework respecting tradition was rather common, see Rohr, Einleitung, 659–60.

120 Van Gelder, “Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Coronations and Inaugurations,” 10.

121 See the papers in the volume Van Gelder, More than mere spectacle, and summarizing Van Gelder, “Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Coronations and Inaugurations.”

122 The early date of the Lower Austrian homage is significant, as Godsey demonstrates: Godsey, “Herrschaft,” 141–77, 147–48. In the case of Charles VI, the Lower Austrian inaugural ceremony was exceptionally not the first because it was preceded by the show of homage in Tyrol in 1711 and the coronation in Hungary (ibid.). See Van Gelder, “Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Coronations and Inaugurations,” 5–6. Some coronations, such as the coronation in Frankfurt and even the coronation in Hungary and Bohemia, were even held during the lifetime of the ruling king, thus securing succession.

123 In general: Gestrich, Absolutismus. On the inaugural ceremonies in short, see Van Gelder, “Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Coronations and Inaugurations,” 13–14.

124 Holenstein, Huldigung, 508.

125 Seitschek, “Erbhuldigung,” 130. Rohr refers to enfeoffments as a possible part of such inaugural ceremonies. Rohr, Einleitung, 658–59.

126 Stollberg-Rilinger, “Symbolische Kommunikation,” 504.


Figure 2. Homage in Graz
(Austrian State Archvies, Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv, Bibliothek C-320, Deyerlsberg)




Rebellious Priests? The Catholic Clergy and the Diet, 1764–1765*

András Forgó
University of Pécs
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 10 Issue 1  (2021): 73-95 DOI 10.38145/2021.1.73

The study of the eighteenth-century parliament has intensified in Hungary over the past decade and a half. This tendency is part of a larger European historiographical trend which has revalued the role of the Diets in the study of eighteenth-century political decision-making and political culture. The Hungarian Diet of 1764–1765 is traditionally seen as an outstanding political event in the century, and at the same time as a turning point of the reign of Maria Theresa. After the bitter experiences gained here, she did not convene the estates of Hungary during the remaining fifteen years of her reign, she rather ruled the country by decrees with the help of the institutions of the estates in Hungary. This study is looking for the answer to the question of how the clergy’s opposition to the politics of the court is represented in the sources and how the “change of sides” by the chapter representatives can be grasped in the parliamentary debates.

Keywords: Hungarian Diet, Catholic clergy, political culture, lower house, Corpus Juris Hungarici, Tripartitum, pasquillus, constitution, estates, eighteenth century

The study of the political activity of the ecclesiastical order in the eighteenth century is not a recent trend in Hungarian historiography. It has long been known in the secondary literature that the advancement of Catholic confessionalization, or in other words the massive support of Catholicism in the era, was accompanied by an increase in the role of the clergy in public life. This public role can be examined mainly through an analysis of the clergy’s activity in the parliaments. The study of the activities, composition, and decision-making mechanisms of the eighteenth-century parliament has intensified in Hungary over the past decade and a half. This tendency is part of a larger European historiographical trend which has revalued the role of the Diets in the study of eighteenth-century political decision-making and political culture.1

The Diet of 1608 passed an article which specified who would be entitled to participate in the work of the parliament, a matter previously regulated exclusively by customary law. Article I included the groups of the prelates (praelati), barons or magnates (barones/magnates), the nobles (nobiles), and the free royal cities (liberae regiae civitates) among the estates (status et ordines). It then specified the composition of the upper house (tabula superior) and the lower house (tabula inferior). As for the members of the clergy, the diocesan bishops were given the right to sit and vote in the upper house, while the representatives of the cathedral and collegiate chapters could vote in the lower house. The abbots and provosts infulati and possessionati were guaranteed a personal appearance in the Diet, but among the ordinary inhabitants of the country (inter regnicolas), i.e. in the lower house.2 As a consequence, the clergy enjoyed substantial representation in the parliament, and if they coordinated their activities, they could influence decision-making in both the lower and the upper houses. For precisely this reason, it is important to consider how members of the ecclesiastical order behaved during the parliamentary debates.

István Szijártó has placed eighteenth-century Hungarian estate politics in a new context when he applied the theorems of “confessional corporatism” and “constitutional corporatism” to the political life of the period. The first parliaments of the eighteenth century were dominated by religious debates. The Catholic majority and the followers of the legally authorized Protestant confessions, the Lutherans and the Calvinists, were in irreconcilable conflict. Taking advantage of the new situation after the expulsion of the Ottomans, the Catholics, led by the clergy, demanded the complete suppression of Protestantism, while the Protestants demanded free religious practice based on the 1606 Treaty of Vienna.3 These debates often paralyzed the work of the parliament for months. As it became almost impossible to make the decisions that were important to the court, beginning in 1715, Vienna sought to exclude the religious issue from parliamentary discussions. Eventually, this led to the regulation of religious affairs in 1731 and 1734 and the issuing of the two Carolina resolutio.4 Although this was not a reassuring solution for either party, the fact that the confessional issue was no longer a subject of debate in the Diets opened up the possibility not only for the negotiation of the reforms, but also for the defense of the constitutional order. As a consequence, an alliance of the estates across confessions could be established, which began an era that Szijártó has labelled the period of “constitutional corporatism,” when the parliament could deal more and more with the protection of the rights guaranteed by the Treaty of Szatmár (1711). This process culminated in the resistance movement of the estates at the Diet of 1764–1765. The next parliament, however, which met in 1790–1791 (after the death of Joseph II and following a 25-year pause), stirred up confessional tempers again. At this point, the Hungarian estates had to take a position on whether to codify Joseph’s policy of tolerance or to return to the religious conditions of Maria Theresa’s reign. The parliament eventually passed a law with the same meaning as the Edict of Tolerance, so religion once again could be removed from the agenda and the estates could continue to focus on the protection of the constitution.5

In his work on the eighteenth-century history of the Hungarian episcopate, Joachim Bahlcke formulated a definitive thesis about the relationship of the prelates to the court and thus, indirectly, about their role in public life. The central idea of the monograph is that, in the first half of the century, the prelates worked closely with the court on building the Catholic institutional system and at the same time resolutely supported the policy of the rulers in Hungary. In the middle of the century, however, there was a sharp turn: cooperation turned into opposition. Maria Theresa’s measures to reform the Catholic Church and to reduce the influence of the ecclesiastical order in Hungary provoked fierce resistance from the prelates. According to Bahlcke, the change in the relationship was first made noticeable by the Viennese reception of the famous Enchiridion de fide by Bishop Márton Padányi Biró of Veszprém.6 The document, which was extremely anti-Protestant, was banned by Maria Theresa, mainly due to its turbulent reception abroad. However, the real clash, according to Bahlcke, took place in the Diet of 1764–1765, when the clergy joined the clerical resistance generated by the writing of Adam František Kollár, director of the Vienna Library, which is to be discussed in more detail later. Unsurprisingly, the conflict only became really aggravated during the reign of Joseph II. When Pius VI visited Vienna, the Hungarian prelates took joint action against the ruler’s measures affecting the Catholic Church. Thus, in Bahlcke’s wording, cooperation became confrontation. In other words, by the end of the century, the Hungarian prelates turned against the politics of the court. 7

Bahlcke’s thesis has previously been criticized by many in Hungarian historiography,8 but it is noteworthy in his argumentation that, like István Szijártó, he considers the parliament of 1764–1765 an important stage of open confrontation. The work of Mihály Horváth discussing the same parliament refines the picture outlined by Bahlcke on the clergy’s role. According to Horváth, the clergy was united in the support of the opposition put up by the estates in the Kollár case, and the lower house clergy backed the opposition even at the beginning of the debate on the tax increase. At one point, however, they shifted to the side of the court, and that changed the balance of power in favor of the “ruling party.”9 Thus, in the following, I am looking for the answer to the question of how the clergy’s opposition to the politics of the court is represented in the sources and how the “change of sides” by the chapter representatives can be grasped in the tax debates.10

Political Debates of the Parliament of 1764–1765

In accordance with old traditions, Maria Theresa summoned the parliament on June 17, 1764 to Pozsony (today Bratislava, Slovakia). The laws set a four-day deadline for the estates to assemble. As the celebration of Corpus Christi fell on June 21 of that year, the first day of the meeting was held on June 22, with the presidency of Personalis Ferenc Koller in the lower house and Palatine Lajos Batthyány in the upper house. As usual, the estates invited the ruler to the parliament through an elected delegation, which marched into the city on July 3. Already the queen’s itinerary and her entrance to Pozsony signaled that a new era of governance had begun: while the ceremonies before the opening of the coronation parliament in 1741 took place with the usual solemnity, in 1751 and 1764 the members of the dynasty travelled to Pozsony without the usual night stop at Petronell, and the ceremonial elements of the entry into the city were also dramatically shortened.11 After receiving the propositions, the estates met again on July 5 in a so-called mixed session (sessio mixta) where they were all present to acquainted themselves with the text of the proposal. According to the plans, the lower house would have begun the detailed discussion on July 9. At this moment, however, the biggest scandal in the history of this parliament broke out, the outrage over the aforementioned work by Adam František Kollár.12

Maria Theresa wanted to use the Diet of 1764–1765 to implement reforms in Hungary that had already been introduced in the Czech and Austrian provinces. These reforms were primarily aimed at the transformation of taxation. Although the queen had managed to achieve a tax increase in the past,13 the estates did not want to consent to the voluntary waiver of their declared tax exemption. On the one hand, reference was made to István Werbőczy’s legal book, the Tripartitum (1514), which, although not officially part of the Hungarian Corpus Juris, was still highly esteemed among the nobility, mainly for the description it contained of the privileges of the estates. The Tripartitum stated that one of the fundamental privileges of the estates was that they were exempt from the payment of all gifts, taxes, and duties, and in return, they were obligated to provide military protection for the country.14

In defense of their tax exemption, they could also rely on Article VIII of Act 1741, in which Maria Theresa, in exchange for their financial and armed assistance in the Austrian War of Succession, reaffirmed the privileges of the Hungarian estates, first openly declaring their exemption from taxes by stating that property could not be a basis for taxation (ne onus fundo quoquo modo inhaereat). Thus, at the beginning of Maria Theresa’s reign, the court failed to switch to land-based taxation in Hungary, as it had already done successfully in Austria. After that, Vienna had no choice but to increase the amount of the war tax (contributio) from parliament to parliament, and these costs were passed on to the serfs by the nobility.15

The tax reform emerged in 1764 in connection with the question of military supply: Maria Theresa considered it necessary to put an end to the obsolete noble uprising (insurrectio) and to establish a permanent army maintained by the nobility instead. This was contained in the royal proposals. Moreover, the settlement of the serf-landlord issue was also put on the agenda in Vienna. For tactical reasons, however, it was not included in the royal proposal, but was intended to be submitted to the parliament when, in accordance with the traditions, the estates would come forward to lament the burdens of the poor taxpaying people (misera plebs contribuens), that is, the peasantry. As the estates invoked historical reasons to preserve their tax exemption, the court also needed such arguments to introduce reforms. These arguments were provided by Kollár’s work, which was written in Latin.16

The main purpose of the work, which stirred up a great storm, was to show that the rulers could exercise their legislative power without the consent of the estates and also that their power over the church extended to ecclesiastical property and possessions. In support of his propositions, Kollár analyzed the decrees of the Hungarian rulers from the Árpád era onwards, thus illustrating that the estates had only been able to intervene in government during the period of late medieval anarchy, and that the kings exercised power over the church without restriction. The Tripartitum, to which the nobility had since referred as the primary source of law, had been written during a period of anarchy, and it had never been accepted by a parliament and had even been revised by the estates themselves a few decades after its publication. The tax exemption for the nobility was rejected by Kollár on the grounds that the nobility had already been called the protector of the realm by Saint Stephen, and in the decree of Andrew II, it was stated that the nobles owed loyalty and service to the ruler in exchange for their privileges. Here Kollár refers to Article XXXI of 1222, which states that, in order to preserve their liberties, the estates owed obedience to the crown. The piquancy of this argument is that the next paragraph of the Article is the famous resistance clause, which the estates, on the basis of the Tripartitum, considered the legal guarantee of any legitimate action against the ruler.

The estates understood the message of Kollár’s work very clearly: the Habsburg government wanted to put an end to the uniquely strong rights of the Hungarian estates and intended to launch reforms which threatened to undermine the noble privileges in this hereditary province, too. As Kollár attacked the prerogatives of both the first and the second estates, both the ecclesiastical and the secular nobility rejected the conclusions of the work. Thus, the alliance of interests already discussed in the introduction of this paper was formed. The lower house began open resistance on July 9: it refused to discuss the royal proposals until its grievances had been remedied, which included the public burning of Kollár’s work and even the punishment of the Kollár himself to set an example. Although the intervention of the upper house poured oil on troubled waters, Vienna eventually had to back down: the distribution of Kollár’s work was banned, copies already sent to Hungary were confiscated, and Maria Theresa ordered an investigation on August 16 to clarify the matter. Although the lower house was still busy compiling the grievances, the work of Adam Franz Kollár was eventually taken off the agenda.17

Tempers, however, continued to flare: even though the queen was eagerly awaiting the estates’ response to the propositions, the estates were now busy collecting their grievances. This was followed by the tractatus diaetalis on the issue of taxation. As we have seen, it was not possible to raise the idea of a formal tax reform because of Article VIII of 1741. One of the queen’s confidants, Miklós Pálffy, the later Judge Royal, also warned the queen before convening the parliament against attacking this noble privilege, though he himself considered it harmful.18 There is no doubt that in rejecting land-based taxation, the nobility was clearly confronted with a European practice that increasingly involved privileged social groups in bearing the burden of the state, and thus for a long time prevented the reduction of the financial burdens of the common people.19 Therefore, it is no wonder that the Viennese government circles also condemned the privileges of the Hungarian estates. Wenzel Anton Kaunitz had a particularly negative opinion of the freestanding of Hungary, and he likened Hungarians to ticks.20 However, the court had no choice but to continue to focus only on raising the tax rate instead of on implementing comprehensive reforms.

However, in the tense atmosphere caused by Kollár’s work, the estates even refrained from raising taxes, and some county deputies even wanted to reduce taxes by the same amount as had been suggested by the previous parliament in 1751. Maria Theresa, on the other hand, stood her ground: in her response to the grievances of September 19, she insisted on the need for a tax increase. The upper house also sided with the queen this time, giving up the earlier anti-government position it had adopted during the tug-of-war around Kollár’s book. As a consequence, only the lower house needed to be softened and persuaded to give up its oppositional stance. This work was carried out, as usual, by the Personalis Ferenc Koller and the Royal Court of Justice. The main argument in favor of abandoning the position of the lower house was that the estates could only expect a positive assessment of their grievances if they, too, made concessions from their position on taxes. Persistent work was ultimately crowned with success: the lower house first withdrew its insistence on the restoration the level of taxation before 1751, and it eventually consented to an increase in taxes. Moreover, Maria Theresa even managed to extort support from the estates for the Royal Hungarian Noble Bodyguard. However, the court could not by any means record the outcome of the tractatus diaetalis in 1764–1765 as a success, as no results had been achieved with the estates on either the issue of the insurrection or the issue of feudal duties. 21 It is well-known that the latter was regulated by decree by the queen, but the former had not been satisfactorily settled for the court for a long time.22

The Role of the Clergy in the Parliamentary Debates

The ceremonial events surrounding the opening of the parliament were not a harbinger of the subsequent behavior of the clergy: according to a report by one of the county deputies, the prelates, together with the secular dignitaries, received Maria Theresa at the border with “great honor.” The head of the Hungarian prelates, Prince-Archbishop Ferenc Barkóczy of Esztergom (1761–1765), gave a nearly half-hour-long, “unspeakably beautiful” speech in Latin to the queen.23 A note from one of the court officials, which has survived in the official documents of the parliament, also highlights the primate’s ornate speech, interspersed with expressions appropriate to the solemnity of the event.24 In this speech, he contended that the country was lucky threefold, because Maria Theresa had visited Pozsony for the third time, after her coronation in 1741 and the parliament in 1751. Barkóczy emphasized that this time the husband of Maria Theresa, the co-ruler Francis of Lorraine, the Holy Roman emperor, and the heir to the throne, Archduke Joseph, had also come to Hungary. The primate also repeated the offering of vitam et sanguinem, which became famous in 1741.25 At that time, thus, there was no indication of a conflict.

However, on July 10, an unknown source had already notified Kollár that a discussion of his book had begun in the upper house. Primate Barkóczy now personally accused him of trying to question the privileges and rights of the nobility and of wanting to stir up a conflict between Maria Theresa and the estates. 26 In the Kollár case, Barkóczy remained an advocate of the clergy, whose positions were closely followed in the court. In addition to Barkóczy, Bishop János Gusztinyi of Nyitra (1764–1777) was active in the fight against Kollár’s work. He was elected to the twelve-member committee which had the task of investigating the so-called illegal allegations.

It was Gusztinyi who presented the results of the investigation to the estates, in which he made serious accusations against Kollár. According to Gusztinyi, Kollár had moved away from the faith by attacking the divine origin of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. He had also supported a misguided view of ecclesiastical property, according to Gusztinyi, as this property was not owned by the ruler, who was only a guardian and protector of it. The report also refutes Kollár’s attacks on the Tripartitum, which are seen as a defamation of the Hungarian nation, and it states that Kollár was deceived by “a-Catholic authors.” Finally, Gusztinyi contends that Kollár had disregarded the laws, the liberties of the estates, and the principles of canon law, and thus he had significant threatened to infringe on the public good and the “res publica.”27

However, not all of the prelates lined up behind the opposition. Archbishop József Batthyány of Kalocsa, the second dignitary of the episcopate, played a mediating role in the conflict from the outset, thus trying to address the tense situation. As soon as the conflict broke out, Kollár turned to the archbishop, asking him to represent his interests in the parliament. In his reply, Batthyány did not deceive Kollár: he explained that it would be difficult to pacify the offended Hungarians, and he also drew Kollár’s attention to the statements from his work directed against the papal power, the church, and the nobility. He encouraged Kollár to try to clarify his position and reconcile with the participants of the parliament by writing a letter in his own defense, and he promised to do everything to help him.28 Batthyány also contacted Corneille de Nény (Cornelius Franz von Neny), the cabinet secretary of Maria Theresa (1763–1776).29 Nény seems to have played a significant connecting role between the Hungarian parliament and the court, because in addition to the archbishop of Kalocsa, letters in his estate survived from Palatine Lajos Batthyány, Ferenc Balassa, count of Szerém county, Pál Festetich, councilor of the chancellery, and József Demkovich, deputy of Szerém county.30 Archbishop Batthyány wrote his reports to the cabinet secretary between October 3, 1764 and January 4, 1765. He wrote most of them in October and November, when, as we have seen, the debate on taxation was becoming increasingly intense. The archbishop tried to strike a balance between the estates and the court so that the queen’s intention could prevail. He sought to gain the support of the estates both in the cases of the amount of taxes which Maria Theresa sought to levy and the noble uprising. He also mentioned the contentions made by Barkóczy in opposition to the court on several occasions, but overall, he was optimistic about the clergy’s supportive attitude.31 Incidentally, the resistance of Archbishop Ferenc Barkóczy of Esztergom and Palatine Lajos Batthyány to the wishes and will of the court was an extraordinary shock, even for the contemporary public. Their deaths in 1765 were attributed to them having fallen into disfavor with Maria Theresa as a result of the events in the parliament.32

The next question is when and under what circumstances the opposition attitude changed in the parliament and what role the members of the clergy played in this. Following Mihály Horváth, the scholarly literature tends to concur that the lower house gave up the rejection of the tax increase at the 41st session of the parliament on October 10, 1764. József Bajzáth, canon of Esztergom, gave a long speech in which he said that the members of the upper house had already agreed to the tax increase, so if the estates were to insist on their negative position, they would anger the queen, thus completely turning her heart against the nation. However, if they were to agree to some tax increase, she would also respond to the grievances of the estates. After this, the representatives of the clergy also espoused Bajzát’s views, and seeing this, the other members of the lower house withdrew their insistence on a reduction in taxes, and the majority accepted the tax increase.33 Therefore, according to Horváth, the clergy in the lower house changed their mind during the debate and switched from the oppositional view of the lower house to the view of the court and the upper house, thus reversing the position of the whole lower house. Now, I will turn to sources which offer some insights into the ways in which the figures of the clergy who were involved in these shifts experienced the events.

János Szily, canon of Győr and the first bishop of the newly established diocese of Szombathely from 1777, represented his chapter in the parliament of 1764–1765 with his fellow canon György Herman. He regularly informed the members of his chapter about the events between July 6, 1764 and March 21, 1765, or in other words for almost the entire duration of the Diet, thus forming a picture of the whole course of the parliament. His fellow deputy is also relevant to this discussion because he is commemorated in several parliamentary satires, as we shall see, not in a particularly flattering way. According to Szily’s report, the clergy, as had been the case in previous years, held special meetings during the parliament, partly with the involvement of monks.34 Kollár’s work is mentioned in the first letters, which also confirm that the discussion about of his work erupted in the Diet on July 9. It is also clear from Szily’s letters that, in accordance with existing practice, the palatine, the personalis, and the protonotaries sought to expedite the work of the parliament, especially in compiling grievances, and that they urged the estates to discuss royal propositions.35 The two envoys also wanted to address the grievances of their chapter in the parliament, and to achieve this, they negotiated with Archbishop Ferenc Barkóczy as well. However, Barkóczy asked them not to submit their grievances to the joint committee responsible for compiling grievances or to the parliament at the time, because, as the archbishop argued, internal conflicts should be set aside due to the fact that Kollár’s book now threatened the whole ecclesiastical order. Thus, the two canons of Győr did not raise the grievances of the chapter for months.36

Szily had also following the tax debates since the beginning of September. Since the lower house initially demanded a reduction in the tax amount, on September 5, the 28th session, according to Szily’s report, after the departure of the upper house delegation, Personalis Koller asked the clergy’s opinion on the matter of the tax. Pál Kiss, the deputy of the cathedral chapter of Veszprém, replied with a long speech in which he indicated that the clergy agreed with the estates on everything. On the question of the noble uprising at the meeting the next day, however, the lower house clergy was no longer so united. Szily’s fellow deputy, canon Herman, represented the position of the estates, while Gábor Gloser (Gloszer), who spoke on behalf of the canons of the cathedral chapter of Kalocsa, was in favor of the ruler’s proposal.37 The latter should not surprise us. Gloser’s letter of commission explicitly stated that the chapter of Kalocsa would support the ruler’s propositions.38 The next day, on September 7, canon Herman again spoke in agreement with the county deputies about the noble uprising. This concord was also demonstrated at the next sitting, which was held on September 10. Canon Szily pointed out that the estates had every reason to be satisfied with the clergy, since the clergy did not oppose them, but, as they had promised at the previous parliament, the clergy had joined them on every issue.39

At the 39th session, which was held on October 1, the upper house again proposed raising the tax through the usual delegation, after which the personalis turned to the cities and the clergy for their opinion. At the time, János Szily himself spoke, arguing that since the estates knew the misery of the taxpaying ordinary people, they would join them with their vote. In contrast with Szily, György Malenich, canon of Zagreb, argued in his long speech in favor of the tax increase. This was also supported by István Bartha, canon of Eger, which is not surprising, because the abovementioned delegation of the upper house was led by Bishop Károly Eszterházy of Eger.40 The canon József Bajzáth from Esztergom proposed to offer the sum which had been paid in 1751, but in the end, the majority wanted to vote for the amount reduced by the surplus from 1751, and so this position was communicated to the upper house.41 In the days that followed, according to Szily’s report, there was no parliamentary session, but the deputies discussed the tax issue with the palatine and the personalis in private talks. Chancellor Ferenc Esterházy then arrived in Pozsony with three of his officers,42 which indicated that the pressure to accept the tax increase had grown. In the end, this increased pressure prevailed: at the meeting on October 17, which Szily apparently mistakenly calls the 54th day of the meeting, the lower house offered the abovementioned 100,000 forints for the costs of the Royal Bodyguard. At that point, even the deputies of the cathedral chapter of Várad supported raising the amount.43 From then on, the issue of the tax was touched upon only sporadically in Szily’s accounts, which is a clear sign of the victory of the court. On the other hand, though he was young, the canon of Győr suffered from a serious illness during this period, and although he tried to inform his chapter about the events which were taking place in parliament, he was repeatedly forced to apologize for his less and less frequent letters.44

Thus, unlike Mihály Horváth, Szily mentions neither the session of October 10 nor the speech given by József Bajzáth. However, according to the official diary of the parliament, which was certainly Horváth’s main source, Bajzáth surely gave a speech.45 This is confirmed by the note to the court cited above, which reports not only on the speech but also on its effect on the lower house.46 Compared to the scenario drawn by Mihály Horváth, Szily presents the position of the chapter deputies on the tax increase in a more nuanced way. According to him, there were canons who represented the position of the court from the outset. However, Szily’s records also indicate that the majority of the clergy, together with the majority of the lower house, changed their previous opposition position mid-October and accepted the tax increase.

We get a similar picture from the diary of Károly Fejérváry, deputy of Sáros County, about the events which took place in parliament. He also dated the outbreak of the Kollár case to July 9, and he even states that it was canon Szily who suggested to the estates that the two houses set up a joint commission of inquiry into the matter and recommended that Kollár be punished and that copies of his book be burned. Pál Kiss, provost of Veszprém, the canons József Bajzáth from Esztergom, József Herman from Győr, and István Bartha from Eger were also elected to the committee. Fejérváry also mentions the speech held by Gloser on September 6, in which he supported the reform of the noble uprising advocated by the court. However, according to him, at the time, Szily behaved in a manner that suggested that he was opposed to the reforms recommended by Gloser, much as he also did at the meeting on September 28, when he interrupted Gloser’s speech, and the two canons debated the issue of reforms before the lower house. Fejérváry also confirmed that Malenich’s speech, which he dated to October 2, called for the adoption of the tax increase. According to Malenich, on October 10, even canon Pál Kiss of Veszprém urged a compromise with the upper house, although he had previously spoken out several times in defense of the “poor taxpaying people.” The phrase, which, as we have seen, is typical of the era, was used to encourage rejection of the tax increase. Fejérváry claims that canon Bajzáth also joined him. Pál Festetich also reported in his letters to cabinet secretary Nény on the division of the canons, although his account differs somewhat from the two cited above. He mentioned István Bartha, canon of Eger, as the leader of the “opposition” canons, alongside Pál Kiss.47

After the Christmas break, the work of the parliament continued in January 1765. The drafting of the articles had begun, but other domestic issues had also come to the fore. From the point of view of our topic, it is worth mentioning the tensions around the anonymous pamphlet written by György Richwaldszky, canon of Esztergom, entitled Vexatio dat intellectum. The work was met with great resentment in court circles because it drew attention to the attack on the liberties of the estates and the dangers of the introduction of foreign legal practices. Richwaldszky called on the estates not to give up any of their rights, and he called on the Locumtenential Council to ensure that the ruler’s instructions did not violate the laws of the country or the prerogatives of the church. He also suggested that those who violate the “sovereignty” of the estates should be prosecuted for crimes of high treason. Railing against the spread of the teaching of natural law, which in his assessment threatened both the church and the old state system, he also emphasized that the interests of the nobility were the same as the interests of the clergy. All in all, he summarized the opposition of the estates to the issues raised by Kollár. It is a telling fact that the pamphlet still spread in manuscript form during the 1764–1765 parliament, but in 1785 it was printed in a Latin-German bilingual edition, so its points also served as weapons against the politics of Joseph II.48

Because of the pamphlet, which was publicly burned in Pozsony in 1765 at the order of the ruler, military forces were ordered to come to the town in which the Diet was held, and several members of the ecclesiastical and secular communities were interrogated. A sum of 2,000 gold was offered to anyone who could provide information about Richwaldszky’s whereabouts. In his report, however, Szily did not consider it probable that the investigation would produce results.49 And indeed, although Richwaldszky was suspected of having been the author of the pamphlet, the authorities failed to prove that he had written it. Nor did he lose the favor of the court, as proven by the fact that he was later involved in the preparation of the diocesan reform in the 1770s.50 This case is interesting from the perspective of the discussion here because in the person of Richwaldszky we find a canon who rebelled against the royal politics as early as 1765, albeit not during the lower house meetings, but in the form of an anonymous pamphlet.

Opposition to the policies of the court among members of the clergy was seen as exceptional even by contemporaries. According to general opinion, they were supporters of the “ruling party.” This view is reflected in particular in the pasquilli, that is, in the pamphlets which attacked the individual participants of the Diets. The Parliament of 1764–1765 abounds in pasquilli of this kind, which attacked the chapter deputies mainly in their person. Of these, the satire written against the aforementioned canon György Herman of Győr stands out. In addition to his allegedly immoral way of life (he was brought into disrepute because of a claim according to which he had had affairs with several girls and women from Győr), he was accused of supporting the issue of a tax increase in the parliament from the outset. According to one of the pasquilli, he agreed with Adam František Kollár that the priesthood should pay taxes, and allegedly, he could not even speak Latin properly.51 As we have seen, the records of canon Szily do not substantiate these accusations either, and it is particularly difficult to believe that the deputy, who had been elected to serve as the orator of the lower house delegation in August 1764,52 could not word his sentences precisely. On the contrary, Herman was known as a distinguished speaker,53 many of whose speeches survived. It was he who spoke at the funeral of Archbishop Barkóczy in 1765 in Pozsony.54 It is easy to imagine that Szily blunted the edge of his fellow deputy’s speeches in his accounts, but we can still assume that the author of the (anonymous) pasquillus exaggerated the weight of Herman’s pro-court manifestations.

The most fervent opposition among the canons was undoubtedly shown by József Bajzáth, the deputy of the Esztergom chapter. In most cases, he led the lower house delegation and, according to Szily’s accounts, he expressed his views innumerable times, or more narrowly, his rejection of the court’s demands. It is no coincidence that he, too, was suspected of having authored the Vexatio.55 Among the opposition, however, he was particularly popular. According to one of the verses celebrating him, he deserved the bishop’s mitre because he spoke with the voice of the people and even of God in his speeches.56 His oppositional conduct, however, did not jeopardize his political or ecclesiastical career, as a few months after the closure of the parliament, he became court councilor and officer of the Hungarian Court Chancellery, while at the same time he was also granted the title of bishop of Ansaria. By 1773, he had already been vice-chancellor and secret councilor, and in 1777, he was appointed bishop of Veszprém by the queen.57 Similarly, canon Pál Kiss of Veszprém was an oppositional voice in September 1764, when, according to Szily, his aforementioned speech was made, and Mihály Horváth has confirmed this in his research as well.58 Yet one of the pasquilli condemns him along with Herman and says he is of humble descent, though he most probably was the descendent of a noble family.59 These two cases remind us that the anonymous pamphlets can only be use with caution as expressions of “public opinion,” and we cannot always decide with certainty how far the accusations against the people ridiculed reflect the real facts and how many of these accusations were just clichés attributed to the social group to which the people targeted belonged. According to Festetich’s report, canon István Bartha of Eger, in agreement with several other county deputies, suggested keeping the Kollár issue on the agenda on August 7,60 and he even led the delegation of the lower house in September,61 but as we have seen, at the October 2 meeting, in agreement with his bishop, he opposed the tax reduction.62 On October 12, he was one of the deputies who called for a tax increase.63

Szily himself can also be classified as one of the canons who initially supported the opposition, and this did not ruin his career either, as his aforementioned appointment to the seat of Szombathely clearly testifies. These nuances are interesting because, according to contemporary opinion, the deputies of the cathedral chapters, in the hope of an episcopal mitre, supported the ruler’s politics.64 These examples, however, show that espousing a position in opposition to the wishes of the court did not necessarily lead to one being ignored when appointments were later made.

Among the consistently royalist canons, the aforementioned Gábor Gloser from Kalocsa and György Malenich from Zagreb stand out. Gloser was also targeted by one of the pasquilli, in which he was rebuked for his allegedly common origin.65 It is no coincidence that ignoble origin was an rebuke made in many pasquilli: historical research has also confirmed that the number of canons of humble origin in the chapters increased greatly in the eighteenth century.66 Gloser, whose pro-court behavior, as we have seen, was in accordance with his letter of commission, later held minor ecclesiastical and secular offices: in 1775 he was appointed to serve as provost of Felsőörs and, in 1777, as a prelate of the royal court.67 Canon György Malenich of Zagreb won the provostship of Buda from Maria Theresa in 1754 and the title of abbot of Zselicszentjakab in 1760, but later he did not advance in the hierarchy of the church.68 It is noteworthy, then, that a show of support for the court by the canons was not an absolute guarantee for later career advancement either.

Returning to our question, we can state that the sources only partially confirm the general conclusions in the secondary literature in connection with the parliament of 1764–1765. On the one hand, the unified opposition of the prelates in connection with the Kollár affair seems exaggerated. It is quite clear that the clergy acted in an organized manner against Kollár’s work, which, quite unsurprisingly, was coordinated by Archbishop Barkóczy himself. The claim, however, that all prelates adopted an oppositional stance cannot be substantiated. This conclusion seems to be refuted by the activity of József Batthyány and the role of Bishop Károly Eszterházy of Eger: canon Szily mentions the upper house delegation led by Eszterházy eight times, and in each case this delegation represented the position of the court. As usual, these delegations were led by clerics, and according to Szily’s accounts in 1764–1765, Eszterházy was the most active among the bishops.69 This is reinforced by an anonymous source from the royal court.70 Thus, even if Maria Theresa was disappointed with Archbishop Barkóczy, the second and third dignities of the Hungarian Catholic Church remained loyal to Vienna. It also seems an oversimplification to claim that the canons initially took a completely united position in opposition to court in the lower house tax disputes and then unexpectedly switched as a group. In fact, there were lower house clerics who supported the position of the court from the outset, while the majority of those who were against the proposal made by the court changed their minds gradually before supporting the court’s aims, along with the other lower house representatives.

Concerning the political affiliation of the county deputies, István Szijártó has convincingly refuted the popular opinion that the counties with Protestant majorities beyond the Tisza River were the leaders of the opposition in the eighteenth century parliaments, while the counties with Catholic majorities were supporters of the court. Much as in the whole course of the second half of the century, in 1764–1765 most of the deputies of in the counties which were in opposition to the court were Catholics.71 Similarly, it is not clear that in 1764–1765, at the initial phase of the discussion of the Kollár affair and the tax issue, the clergy as a whole belonged to the opposition. Like the county deputies, the clergy was also divided and represented different political positions. The parliament of 1764–1765 differs from the previous ones in that we find among them speakers who (temporarily) spoke openly against the aspirations of the court. More precisely, this phenomenon is not new either, since earlier (and later, in 1790–1791), part of the clergy opposed the ruler’s position several times, but only on matters of religion.72 In 1764–1765, however, several of them also became political supporters of the oppositional positions represented by the estates.

Archival Sources

Győri Egyházmegyei Levéltár [Diocesan Archives Győr] (GyEL)

II. Káptalani Levéltár [Chapter Archives]

1. Theca XLII

Kalocsai Főegyházmegyei Levéltár [Archdiocesan Archives Kalocsa] (KFL)

II. Kalocsai Főszékeskáptalani Levéltár [Arch-Chapter Archives Kalocsa]

1a) Főkáptalani magániratok, Jegyzőkönyvek [Private documents, protocols]

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár [Hungarian National Archives] (MNL)

Heves Megyei Levéltár [Heves County Archives] (HML)

XII. Egyházi szervezetek és intézmények [Ecclesiastical organizations and


2. Az egri káptalan magánlevéltára [Private Archives of the Chapter of


Országos Levéltár [National Archives of Hungary] (OL)

A) Magyar Kancelláriai Levéltár [Hungarian Chancellery Archives]

57. Libri regii

Országgyűlési Könyvtár [Library of the Hungarian Parliament] (OGyK)

Magyar Parlamenti Gyűjtemény [Hungarian Parliament Collection] (MPGy)

Österreichisches Staatsarchiv (ÖStA)

Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (HHStA)



Nachlass Nenny


Ungarische Akten



Ältere Zeremonialakten


Printed sources

Bezerédj, István. “Rosti Ferenc levelei az 1764–65. évi pozsonyi országgyűlésről” [Letters of Ferenc Rosti from the Diet of 1764–65 in Pozsony]. Dunántúli Szemle 10 (1943): 4–21.

Enchiridion Martini Bironii Padáni episcopi Weszprimiensis, de fide, haeresiarchis, ac eorum asseclis, ... deque constitutionibus, atque decretis imperatorum & regum, contra dissipatores catholicae ecclesiae editis: diotrephi seu Acatholicis in Hungaria commorantibus, ad ... Mariam Theresiam, ... exhibitum, Jaurini 1750.

Kollar, Adam Franciscus. De originibus et usu perpetuo potestatis legislatoriae circa sacra Apostolicorum Regum Ungariae. Vindobonae, 1764.

Kollár Ádám Ferenc levelezése [Correspondence of Ádám Ferenc Kollár]. Edited by István Soós. Commercia litteraria eruditorum Hungariae 4. Budapest: Universitas, 2000.

Vexatio dat intellectum. Manuscriptum sub diaeta Regni Hungariae anno MDCCLXIV, vulgatum, et mox XII. Kal. Mart. an. MDCCLXV. Posonii in foro publico per manus carnificis combustum, cum omnia illa, quae nunc regno huic accidunt, in eodem praedicta habeantur, una cum facta super eodem scripto Apologia ad perpetuam rei memoriam nunc primum typis excusum. S. l. 1785

Werbőczy, István. Tripartitum. A dicsőséges Magyar Királyság szokásjogának Hármaskönyve. Latin-magyar kétnyelvű kiadás [Customary law of the Renowned Kingdom of Hungary in Three Parts] Budapest: Téka, 1990.


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Bánk, József. Egyházi jog [Canon law]. Budapest: Szent István Társulat, 1958.

Csizmadia, Andor. Adam Franz Kollar und die ungarische rechtshistorische Forschung. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Klasse, Sitzungsberichte 398. Vienna: VÖAW, 1982.

Bedy, Vince. A győri székeskáptalan története [History of the Cathedral Chapter of Győr]. Győr, 1938.

Eckhart, Ferenc. “A praecedentia kérdése a magyar rendi országgyűléseken” [The question of praecedentia in the Hungarian Diets]. In Notter Antal Emlékkönyv. Dolgozatok az egyházi jogból és a vele kapcsolatos jogterületekről, edited by Pál Angyal, Jusztin Baranyai, and Mihály Móra, 172–80. Budapest: Szent István Társulat, 1941.

Erdő, Péter. Egyházjog [Canon law]. Budapest: Szent István Társulat, 2005.

Fazekas, István. A Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv magyar vonatkozású iratai [Documents of the Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv related to Hungary]. Budapest: Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár, 2015.

Forgó, András. “Der ungarische Klerus des 18. Jahrhunderts im Spannungsfeld zwischen konfessionellem und konstitutionellem Ständewesen.” In: Frühneuzeitforschung in der Habsburgermonarchie: Adel und Wiener Hof – Konfessionalisierung – Siebenbürgen, edited by István Fazekas, Martin Scheutz, Csaba Szabó, und Thomas Winkelbauer, 273–89. Publikationen der Ungarischen Geschichtsforschung in Wien 7. Vienna: Collegium Hungaricum, 2013.

Forgó, András. “Formen der Spätkonfessionalisierung im Ungarn des 18. Jahrhunderts.” In Adel und Religion in der frühneuzeitlichen Habsburgermonarchie. Annäherung an ein gesamtösterreichisches Thema, edited by Katrin Keller, Petr Maťa, and Martin Scheutz, 273–87. Vienna–Cologne–Weimar: Böhlau, 2017.

Forgó, András. Egyház – Rendiség – Politikai kultúra. Papok és szerzetesek a 18. század országgyűlésein [Church – Estates –Political culture: Priests and monks at the 18th-century Diets]. Budapest: Szent István Társulat, 2017.

Gonsa, Gerhard. “Das kaiserliche Kabinett.” In Verwaltungsgeschichte der Habsburgermonarchie in der Frühen Neuzeit, edited by Michael Hochedlinger, Petr Mat’a, and Thomas Winkelbauer, 541–50. Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung, Ergänzungsband 62/1. Vienna: Böhlau, 2019.

Gőzsy, Zoltán, Szabolcs Varga. “Bahlcke, Joachim: Ungarischer Episkopat und Österreichische Monarchie.” In Egyháztörténeti Szemle 9, no. 1 (2008): 70–75.

H. Balázs, Éva. Bécs és Pest-Buda a régi századvégen, 1765–1800 [Vienna and Pest-Buda at the end of the past century]. Budapest: Magvető, 1987.

Hende, Fanni. “Politikai reprezentáció a magyar országgyűléseken 1687 és 1765 között” [Political representation at the Hungarian Diets from 1687 to 1765]. PhD thesis, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, 2017.

Horváth, Mihály. “Az 1764-ki országgyűlés története” [History of the Diet of 1764]. In Horváth Mihály kisebb történelmi munkái, vol. 1, 375–422. Pest, 1868.

Kollányi, Ferenc. Esztergomi kanonokok, 1100–1900 [Canons of Esztergom, 1100–1900]. Esztergom, 1900.

Lakatos, Andor, ed. A kalocsa-bácsi főegyházmegye történeti sematizmusa 1777–1923. Schematismus historicus cleri archidioecesis Colocensis et Bacsiensis 1777–1923. Kalocsa: Kalocsai Főegyházmegyei Levéltár, 2002.

Marczali, Henrik. Magyarország története III. Károlytól a Bécsi congressusig, 1711–1815 [History of Hungary from Charles III to the Congress of Vienna, 1711–1815]. Vol. 8 of A magyar nemzet története, Budapest: Athenaeum, 1898.

Nagy, János “‘Ha nézem a Papokat, mind ellenünk vannak.’ A káptalani követek ábrázolása a XVIII. századi országgyűlési pasquillusokban” [“As I look at the priests, they are all against us.” Chapter deputies in 18th-century Parliament pasquilli]. In Doromb: Közköltészeti tanulmányok 3, edited by István Csörsz Rumen, 237–48. Budapest: Reciti, 2014.

Nagy, János. “A káptalani követek hangadói az 1751. és 1764–1765. évi országgyűlésen” [Opinion leaders of the chapter representatives on the Diets 1751 and 1764–1765]. In Katolikus egyházi társadalom Magyarországon a 18. században, edited by András Forgó, and Zoltán Gőzsy, 171–96. Pécsi Egyháztörténeti Műhely 11. Pécs: META, 2019.

Poór, János. Adók, katonák, országgyűlések, 1796–1811/1812 [Taxes, soldiers, Diets, 1796–1811/1812]. Budapest: Universitas, 2003.

Stefancsik, Benedek Konrád. Az 1764/65-i országgyűlés [The Diet of 1764–1765]. Kassa [1942].

Szabo, Franz J. Kaunitz and Enlightened Absolutism, 1753–1780. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Szijártó M. István. “The unexpected survival of the dualism of king and estates: The case of the Kingdom of Hungary, 17th–18th centuries.” In Three Dates of the Tragic Fifty Years of Europe (1598–1618–1648): Russia and the West During the Time of Troubles, Religious Conflicts, and the Thirty Years’ War, edited by Vladislav Nazarov, and Pavel Uvarov, 27–39. Moscow: IVI RAN, 2018.

Szijártó M. István. A diéta. A magyar rendek és az országgyűlés, 1708–1792 [The Diet. Hungarian estates and the parliament, 1708–1792]. Budapest: Osiris, 2005.

Szijártó, M. István. Estates and constitution: The parliament in eighteenth-century Hungary. New York–Oxford: Berghahn, 2020.

Szijártó, M. István. “A ‘konfesszionális rendiségtől az alkotmányos rendiségig’: Lehetőségek és feladatok a 18. századi magyar rendiség kutatásában” [From confessional corporatism” to “constitutional corporatism”: Opportunities and tasks in the research of the estates in 18th-century Hungary]. Történelmi Szemle 54, no. 1 (2012): 37–62.

Szijártó, M. István. “A kora újkori magyar rendiség az újabb szakirodalomban 1–2” [The estates of early modern Hungary in the recent literature]. Aetas 24, no. 3 (2009): 83–111; Aetas 24, no. 4 (2009): 111–38.

Szijártó, M., István. A 18. századi Magyarország rendi országgyűlése [The eighteenth-century Diet of Hungary]. Budapest: Országház Könyvkiadó, 2016.

Téglás J., Béla. A történeti pasquillus a magyar irodalomban [The historical pasquillus in the Hungarian literature]. Szeged: Magyar Irodalomtörténeti Intézet, 1928.

Tusor, Péter. “Die päpstliche potestas indirecta und die habsburgische Religionspolitik am Anfang des 17. Jahrhunderts.” In Das Trienter Konzil und seine Rezeption im Ungarn des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts, edited by Márta Fata, András Forgó, Gabriele Haug-Moritz, and Anton Schindling, 79–93. Reformationsgeschichtliche Studien und Texte 171. Münster: Aschendorff, 2019.

1* This research on which this paper is based enjoyed the support of the János Bolyai Research Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and project NKFI K 116166.

Szijártó, “The unexpected survival,” 27–39.

2 It should be noted that this regulation was not entirely in line with the approach of the ecclesiastical order: the article of the law classified only the bishops in the order of the prelates and granted the right to appear during the sessions of the upper house only to them. Contemporary canon law however, also considered abbots and provosts infulati to be prelates (lesser prelates, praelati minores). The current canon law knows only territorial prelates (praelati territoriales), but according to Hungarian law, they were entitled to appear only in the lower house. This gave rise to much controversy throughout the era. Bánk, Egyházi jog, 94–100; Erdő, Egyházjog, 308; Eckhart, “A praecedentia kérdése,” 172–80.

3 The first point of the Peace in Vienna, which ended the armed uprising led by István Bocskai (1604–1606), allowed free religious practice for the Lutheran and Reformed confessions in Hungary. Although it was later included in the laws of the country (Act I of 1608), it was never complied with in practice. This is partly explained by the fact that the Holy See considered the law invalid because of its detrimental effect on the Catholic Church, and the Holy See even held out the prospect of the public excommunication of Matthias Habsburg (Matthias II as king of Hungary), who sanctioned it. Tusor, “Die päpstliche potestas indirecta,” 79–93.

4 The decree issued by Charles VI (Charles III as king of Hungary) in 1731 and confirmed and supplemented in 1734 regulated the living conditions of the Lutheran and Reformed confessions in Hungary until the famous decree of Joseph II in 1781. Although within a very strict framework, the regulation allowed them to practice their religion in a limited way and operate their institutional system, unlike the Protestants in Austria. Forgó, “Formen der Spätkonfessionalisierung,” 273–87.

5 Szijártó, “A konfesszionális rendiségtől az alkotmányos rendiségig,” 37–62.

6 Enchiridion Martini Bironii Padáni episcopi Weszprimiensis.

7 Bahlcke, Ungarischer Episkopat.

8 First, we can find one prelate who faced the court before the middle of the century in the person of Bishop Michael Friedrich Althann of Vác (1718–1734), who came into conflict with Charles VI due to the Carolina resolutio. Second, the Theresian reform program from the 1750s was supported by many prelates. Third, the Josephinist church policy tended to divide the Hungarian clergy rather than create a “united front” against the court. Forgó, “Der ungarische Klerus”; see: Gőzsy and Varga, “Bahlcke, Joachim: Ungarischer Episkopat,” 70–75; Szijártó, “A kora újkori magyar rendiség,” 105–11.

9 Horváth, “Az 1764-ki országgyűlés.”

10 I have dealt in detail with the eighteenth century political activity of the lower house clergy: Forgó, Egyház – Rendiség – Politikai kultúra. In the followings, I supplement these results with new sources for the parliament of 1764–1765 and with the latest findings in the secondary literature.

11 ÖStA, HHStA, Obesrsthofmeisteramt, Ältere Zeremonialakten Kart. 63. ff. 1r–378v. Ungarischer Landtag in Pressburg, Reise und Zeremoniell, 1764. V. 4 – XI. 24.

12 Stefancsik, Az 1764/65-i országgyűlés, 8–15.

13 Horváth, “Az 1764-ki országgyűlés,” 382–83.

14 Werbőczy, Tripartitum, I/ 9, § 5.

15 Szijártó, A diéta, 242.

16 Kollar, De originibus et usu perpetuo potestatis.

17 Csizmadia, Adam Franz Kollar.

18 Szijártó, A diéta, 248.

19 See Poór, Adók, katonák, országgyűlések, 254–55.

20 Szabo, Kaunitz and Enlightened Absolutism, 313–14; H. Balázs, Bécs és Pest-Buda, 68.

21 Horváth, “Az 1764-ki országgyűlés,” 390–410, Stefancsik, Az 1764/65-i országgyűlés, 34–46; Szijártó, A diéta, 248–55.

22 Poór, Adók, katonák, országgyűlések, 162–94.

23 Letter from Ferenc Rosty, Vice Comes of Vas County, to his wife on July 4, 1764. Bezerédj, Rosti Ferenc levelei, 9.

24 “Endlich trate obbemelter Primatis Regni Fürstlichen Gnaden gegen den thron etwas nähender, und machten im nahmen des ganzen Landes eine sehr zierliche Anrede, welche wegen ihren so gemässigten, als beträchtlichen Ausdruckungen halben vollständig in das haupt Diaetal Diarium eingebracht worden ist.” ÖStA HHStA Länderabteilungen, Ungarische Akten, Comitialia, Fasc. 408, konv. B, fol. 3r.- 103v. Unterthänigster Bericht über den Verlauf des auf den siebzehenden Monat Junii des 1764. Jahres allergnädigst ausgeschriebenen und in der königl(ichen) Frey-stadt Preßburg gehaltenen Landtages. 7v.

25 Hende, “Politikai reprezentáció,” 42.

26 “In hesterno statuum congressu princeps praesul Strigoniensis contra opusculum Tuum longam orationem habuit, applaudentibus fere omnibus, dum pro arbitratu privilegia et jura nationis in dubium revocares, et praesenti tempore inter augustam et status turbarum semina inseminares.” Unknown writer to Kollár, Pozsony, July 10, For its edition, see: Kollár Ádám Ferenc levelezése, 156.

27 Bahlcke, Ungarischer Episkopat, 275–76.

28 Kollár to Batthány, Vienna, after July 16, 1764. Batthány to Kollár, Pozsony, July 24, 1764. Kollár Ádám Ferenc levelezése, 157, 160–61.

29 Gonsa, “Das kaiserliche Kabinett,” 541–50.

30 On the documents which survived in Nény’s estate, see: Fazekas, A Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv, 411.

31 ÖstA HHStA, Kabinettsarchiv, Kabinettskanzlei, Nachlass Nenny, Geheime Berichte des Erzbischoffen von Colocza über den ungarischen Landtag, anni 1764/5, an den geheimen Kabinets Sekretär Hofrath Baron Nenny, Pressbourg (in French).

32 Marczali, Magyarország története, 296.

33 Horváth, “Az 1764-ki országgyűlés,” 405–8.

34 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5420. (July 6, 1764).

35 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5422 (June 17, 1764) and passim.

36 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5423 (June 24, 1764).

37 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5437 (September 10, 1764).

38 KFL II/1. a), vol. 1a, Protocollum capitulare actorum privatum, pag. 144–152 (the session on 25 April 1764).

39Cum venerabile clero pariter status et ordines sunt contenti, quod non solum nihil contrarii statibus opposuerint (uti elapsa diaeta primi promittendo fecerunt), verum etiam eos secundaverint. Nos ultronee declaravimus semprer statibus adhaesuros, dummodo et ii nobis adhaereant, quod et liberaliter promiserunt.” GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5437 (September 10, 1764).

40 Unfortunately, Bartha’s letter of commission has not been preserved by the protocollum of the chapter. MNL HML XII. 2/a, Acta conferentiarum capitularium annorum 1754 usque 1782.

41 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5430 (October 3, 1764).

42 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5431 (October 15, 1764).

43 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5432 (October 17, 1764).

44 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5432A–5438 (October 20, 1764–December 12, 1764).

45 OGyK 700.465, Acta et diarium Diaetae anni 1764–1765, pag. 138–140.

46 “Auf diesen gleich erwähnten vortrag haben sich endlich die gesamten H[erren] Stände einhällig entschlossen, das abbemelte anno 1751 erhobene Quantum neüerdings zu bestättigen...” ÖStA HHStA Länderabteilungen, Ungarische Akten, Comitialia Fasc. 408, konv. B, fol. 3r- 103v. Unterthänigster Bericht… fol. 97v.

47 Nagy, “A káptalani követek hangadói,” 179–83.

48 Vexatio dat intellectum. Bahlcke, Ungarischer Episkopat, 281–87.

49 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5451 (Mach 5, 1765).

50 Bahlcke, Ungarischer Episkopat, 283.

51 Nem eszemhez való publica szóllani / Mert én nem tanultam nyelvet mértékelni. / Ország dolgát azok tudják megfontolni / Kiknek nyelvek nem nagy, eszek nem parányi. / Én nagy tudományom kevélységben vagyon, / Eszem is, iszom is, amit tetszik nagyon, / Hogy ahová járok, erőm ott ne fogyjon. Téglás, A történeti pasquillus, 101–3.

52 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5424 (August 13, 1764).

53 Bedy, A győri székeskáptalan, 466.

54 Nagy “Ha nézem a Papokat.”

55 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5451 (March 5, 1765).

56 “Orator Patriae, mytram tibi Patria vovet, / Vox tua, vox populi, vox sacra, vox Dei est.” Stefancsik, Az 1764/65-i országgyűlés, 40.

57 Kollányi, Esztergomi kanonokok, 367–69.

58 Horváth, “Az 1764-ki országgyűlés,” 393.

59 Nagy, “Ha nézem a Papokat,” 244.

60 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5424 (August 13, 1764).

61 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5437 (September 10, 1764).

62 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5430 (October 3, 1764).

63 GyEL II/1. Theca XLII, Nr. 5432 (October 17, 1764).

64 Szijártó, A diéta, 167.

65 Téglás, A történeti pasquillus, 103.

66 Nagy, “Ha nézem a Papokat,” 247.

67 Lakatos, A kalocsa-bácsi főegyházmegye, 24.

68 MNL OL A 57, vol. 43, 351–53; vol. 45, 425–26.

69 Regardless, Archbishop Batthyány did not have a very good opinion of him, because he thought Eszterházy was overly stubborn in his approach to politics. See: Bahlcke, Ungarischer Episkopat, 279.

70 ÖStA HHStA Länderabteilungen, Ungarische Akten, Comitialia Fasc. 408, konv. B, fol. 3r–103v. Unterthänigster Bericht, passim.

71 Szijártó, A 18. századi Magyarország, 167; see: Szijártó, Estates and Constitutions, 150–53.

72 Forgó, Egyház – Rendiség – Politikai kultúra, 72–87, 198–209.


With or without Estates? Governorship in Hungary in the Eighteenth Century

Krisztina Kulcsár
National Archives of Hungary
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 10 Issue 1  (2021): 96-128 DOI 10.38145/2021.1.96

In the eighteenth century, the Hungarian estates had the greatest influence among the estates of the provinces of the Habsburg Monarchy. The main representative of the estates was the palatine, appointed by the monarch but elected by the estates at the Diet. He performed substantial judicial, administrative, financial, and military tasks in the Kingdom of Hungary. After 1526, the Habsburg sovereigns opted to rule the country on several occasions through governors who were appointed precisely because of the broad influence of the palatine. In this essay, I examine the reasons why the politically strong Hungarian estates in the eighteenth century accepted the appointment of governors instead of a palatine. I also consider what the rights and duties of these governors were, the extent to which these rights and duties differed from those of the palatine, and what changes they went through in the early modern period. I show how the idea and practice of appointing archdukes as governors or palatines was conceived and evolved at the end of the eighteenth century. The circumstances of these appointments of Francis Stephen of Lorraine, future son-in-law of Charles VI, Prince Albert of Saxony(-Teschen), future son-in-law of Maria Theresa and Archduke Joseph, shed light on considerations and interests which lay in the background of the compromises and political bargains made between the Habsburg(-Lorraine) rulers and the Hungarian estates.

Keywords: Hungarian estates, governor, palatine, Francis Stephen of Lorraine, Prince Albert of Saxony(-Teschen)


In the Kingdom of Hungary in the early modern period, the privileges, rights, and obligations of the monarch and the estates were determined partly by customary law and partly by having been codified at the Diet over the centuries. As a result, the Hungarian estates were by far the strongest in the Habsburg Monarchy, and they enjoyed extensive rights.1 Their main representative was the palatine, appointed by the monarch but elected by the estates at the Diet. In the Middle Ages, the palatine’s term of office lasted for a specific period of time, until replacement, resignation or death.2 From 1526 onwards, the post was given for life by law (Act XXII of 1526).3 The palatine played a mediatory role between the estates and the king and swore his oath of office after his election at the Diet in front of the monarch and the estates.4

As opposed to the palatine, the governor (locumtenens) received his post without the involvement of the estates. His mandate was usually temporary, and his tasks were defined by the ruler.5 The job of the governor was to execute the ruler’s decrees and in the early modern period the office holder operated outside Hungarian constitutional law. His task was thus not the representation of the estates or mediation between the monarch and the estates. This is well illustrated by the fact that he swore his oath in front of the monarch alone, and the representatives of the Hungarian estates were not present at those occasions. The only Hungarians attending were royal office holders or church dignitaries.6

This paper focuses on the how the influence of the estates was reduced in the eighteenth century: the Habsburg practice of side-lining the Hungarian estates and appointing governors. The purpose of this contribution is to consider the people who filled the office of the governor with the aim of exploring what their rights and duties were, the extent to which these rights and duties differed from those of the palatine, and what changes they went through in the early modern period. I seek, furthermore, to examine the arguments the Viennese Court made when appointing governors, and why the Hungarian estates in the eighteenth century might have accepted these Habsburg appointees.

Palatine and Governor: Compromises prior to the Eighteenth Century

In the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, the palatine (comes palatinus, comes palatinus regis) was the highest-ranking secular official after the king. Initially, he was an official of the royal household (comes palatii)7 with important judicial powers. The governor was always appointed (and discharged) by the king, but according to the most recent research, from as early as the middle of the fourteenth century, this office was elective by the Hungarian estates at the Diet.8 At this time, the name (regni Hungariae palatinus) and tasks also changed.

The title of palatine was not the same as the title of the deputy to the monarch, as the king endowed the latter with various powers. Until 1490, the king appointed a deputy (vicarius) for the period of his absence or when he was abroad, and this deputy could take steps on behalf of the king and could use his seal. After 1490, the monarch appointed governors (locumtenens), who could operate under their own name and seal.9 One must also distinguish between the case when the country had no monarch and when the legal heir was underage. In such cases, the estates themselves elected a deputy (gubernator) and invested him with royal prerogatives (e.g. János Hunyadi in 1446, who was the first person to hold this role in Hungary).10 This post, however, was different from that of both the palatine and the governor.

After their accession to the throne of Hungary in 1526, Habsburg rulers always resided outside the kingdom, so deputizing for them was of paramount importance. Initially, they governed through a governor (locumtenens, lieutenant-general), who stood in for the king not when the ruler was “temporarily” outside the country but when he was permanently residing elsewhere (even if permanent residence in Vienna was not considered by public law as a real absence from 1573 on11). Until 1530, the monarch appointed the palatine as governor, thus fulfilling the wishes of the estates. In return, he could count on their military help. However, this powerful dignitary often proved too difficult to handle politically. The only way the king could counter the growing influence and power of the estates was by leaving the position of palatine unoccupied. Consequently, until 1554, the monarch relied on the governor he appointed as his deputy.12

As a compromise to resolve the conflict between the ruler and the estates, Tamás Nádasdy was appointed palatine (1554–1562). It would be logical to assume that the reason for this was pure military consideration in the context of the Ottoman threat and the military situation in Transylvania. However, King Ferdinand I gave way also for another important reason. Given that until 1678 the Hungarian throne was not hereditary, the estates insisted on the free election of a king. In contrast, the king intended to crown his son Maximilian, so as a compromise, he agreed on the election of a palatine. The new palatine, Nádasdy obtained the medieval rights attributed to palatines, which were then codified for the first time.13 Nádasdy also received the title of Captain general (generalis et supremus capitaneus), since the monarch needed the estates to finance the defense of the borders. Eventually, in 1556 the palatine’s excessive military power was curtailed: from that point on, military affairs were controlled by the Aulic War Council, and the palatine’s military right was revoked.14

After the death of Nádasdy in 1562, successive Habsburg rulers appointed governors. These loyal officials were usually Catholic clergymen who were in need of support from the state against the Protestant Hungarian estates or were appointed because they were the monarch’s siblings. This situation persisted until the early seventeenth century, which indicated the tense relationship between the monarch and the estates.15 Only loyal subjects of the dynasty could be appointed governors. As the estates of the Kingdom of Hungary converted to Protestantism, the governor, chosen from among Catholic prelates, could counterbalance the power of the Protestant estates. From the second half of the sixteenth century on, the governor still had several spheres of authority as “the deputy to the king”: he could exercise his power to pardon (except those who wronged the king), donate land up to a certain size, issue decrees, summon assemblies, and had broad judicial discretion.16

Eventually, with the Treaty of Vienna of 1606, which put an end to the Bocskai uprising, the Hungarian estates achieved their aim: the ruler agreed to elect a palatine at the next Diet. At the Diet two years later, referring back to this promise, the election took place as a result of another compromise which was in place until Matthias II’s coronation: the estates could again elect a palatine, who could protect the Hungarian constitution and the privileges of the estates.17 Act III of 1608 determined the details of how to elect palatines, which were thus posited for centuries to come. The monarch designated the candidates, first three and, after 1608, four candidates. Two of them had to be Catholic, the other two Protestant. The fact that the act ordained that the position of the palatine be filled within a year in the event of vacancy clearly indicated the growing power of the estates. The act also gave the right to other dignitaries to summon a Diet for the sake of electing a new palatine when the position was vacant, in case the monarch was not willing to do it himself. To our knowledge, this never happened18 but the act itself signals how crucial the post of the palatine was for the estates. From that point on, the position of the palatine intertwines with the post of the governor, as both titles were held by the palatine parallelly, and it also well-exemplifies the essence of the agreement between the Viennese Court and the estates.19 In the seventeenth century, however, the monarchs gradually deprived the palatine of his power to deputize for the king and his other political rights, leaving primarily his judicial role.20

Nevertheless, following the conspiracy of the Hungarian noblemen of 1670, in which the palatine himself was involved, Leopold I yet again worked through a governor (who was the Archbishop of Esztergom) until 1681. In that year the Hungarian aristocrat Pál Esterházy was elected palatine by the Hungarian estates.21 Hence, his appointment was the result of a political compromise at the end of a domestic crisis in the Kingdom.22 As palatine, Esterházy represented the interests of both the king and the estates, and had a mediating role, but despite his loyalty to the monarch, he primarily protected the privileges of the Hungarian estates.

Appointment of Governors in the Eighteenth Century

After the insurgencies of the seventeenth century and the Rákóczi rebellion (1703–1711), at the beginning of the eighteenth century the ruler and the Hungarian estates came to an accommodation. Although the Rákóczi rebellion was suppressed, due to the external situation the Habsburg monarch was forced to make a compromise with the Hungarian estates. From 1705, Leopold I’s son, Joseph I reigned over the Austro-Bohemian hereditary provinces and the Kingdom of Hungary. Yet, in 1711, before the end of the rebellion and the peace treaty, the king unexpectedly died. His successor was his brother, Charles VI, who proclaimed to be king of Spain in 1703 but did not actually succeed in getting the Spanish throne. After his brother’s death, Charles quickly made a compromise with the Hungarian estates so that he could focus on the War of the Spanish Succession. Thus, the Hungarians could make a favorable agreement with the king, who did not impede the election of the palatine after Esterházy’s death in 1714.

The post of palatine was considered of crucial importance after the Rákóczi rebellion, for both the estates and the Viennese Court. Nevertheless, the court was not dependent on the influence of the estates: with clever politics, it could successfully influence the election even in the seventeenth century, to make sure that the palatine’s position (sometimes even that of the palatine and the governor at the same time) was held by a person suitable for the court. All the court had to do was to compile a list for the assembled estates, which included the person it wished to see in the position and three others that had no chance and no repute in the eyes of the estates. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, electing a Protestant palatine was highly unlikely. Still, the monarchs could not be sure about the outcome of the election, as exemplified by the battle between the two aristocrats nominated, Count György Erdődy and Count Lajos Batthyány (the court’s favorite), at the Diet of 1751.23

However, the estates retained their extensive rights and hence formed an obstacle for the Habsburgs when it came to tapping into the kingdom’s resources. Therefore, the monarchs used various tools to restrict the estates so that they could not interfere in the public affairs of the country much. First, they establish new administrative institutions, which were independent of the estates. In addition, successive rulers managed this situation by summoning the Diet less and less often and leaving important posts vacant. This is what happened with the office of the palatine. During the eighteenth century, it occurred three times that after the death of a palatine, the Habsburg ruler decided to appoint a governor.

The first of these governors was Prince Francis Stephen of Lorraine (the future son-in-law of Charles VI and the fiancé of Maria Theresa), who got the position of governor after Palatine Miklós Pálffy’s death in 1732 and held it until 1741, when he became co-ruler.24 Between 1765 and 1780, Prince Albert of Saxony, the future son-in-law of Queen Maria Theresa held the post of the governor.25 In 1795, following the untimely death of Palatine Archduke Alexander Leopold, his brother, Archduke Joseph was appointed governor by Francis I.26

Due to protests by the estates in the seventeenth century, it was important what grounds and arguments the Viennese court had when defeating the (potential) opposition of the estates concerning the appointment of governors. There were two notions the court emphatically applied in the documents. One was used to express that the situation was not permanent. In all three cases, partly in keeping with the letter of the law, they were in post only temporarily, provisoriter or provisorio modo. This way, in contrast with the appointment of governors in medieval times, they did not determine the duration of the assignment. In theory, their assignment lasted only until the next Diet would elect a palatine. Legally, as mentioned above, a Diet had to be convoked within a year upon the death of a palatine, as stated by Act III of 1608. Since the Diet was summoned by the ruler, he or she could sustain this temporary situation as long as they liked. The estates’ response to this came in 1741, when, as a compensation for the coronation of Maria Theresa, the military support provided in the War of the Austrian succession, and the appointment of Prince Francis Stephen of Lorraine as co-ruler, the estates demanded all sorts of concessions. In 1741, for example, they had the obligatory election of the palatine reinforced (Act IX of 1741). This condition was included in the law because prior to that, in both cases, the country was administered only by a governor and the estates could not elect a palatine. Still, both Charles VI and Maria Theresa disregarded the law. Thus, the monarchs tried to avert the estates’ opposition partly by employing the term provisorio modo.

Besides temporariness, the governor’s kinship was also emphasized as a political tool in the hands of the Habsburgs. It served the purpose of preventing the estates from publicly protesting against the appointment of the governor and insisting on summoning a Diet to elect a palatine. Consequently, this element was stressed in the diplomas of appointment: Francis Stephen of Lorraine was called a ‘blood relative’,27 and Maria Theresa also referred to her own future son-in-law as such.28 Prince Albert was actually the son of her cousin, Archduchess Maria Josepha, Electress of Saxony, that is, really a descendant of the House of Habsburg. This practice was not unprecedented: in the Austrian Netherlands and the Austrian Hereditary Provinces, the practice was to select governors from among the closest relatives of the Habsburg ruler.29 In the Kingdom of Hungary, it was only King Rudolf II in the seventeenth century, who, because he resided in Prague, appointed governors from among his brothers. Archduke Ernest of Austria held the post of the (military) governor between 1577 and 1594, and was followed by his brother, Archduke Matthias.30 As mentioned above, in the early seventeenth century the estates publicly opposed this and demanded the election of a palatine. In the eighteenth century, however, neither the appointment of Prince Francis Stephen of Lorraine nor that of Prince Albert provoked public opposition. Instead, all counties sent their congratulations to the new governor upon his appointment, even if for some of them it took five months to do so.31 In the late eighteenth century and in the nineteenth century, Habsburg-Lorraine archdukes filled the office of the palatine. This reason and reasoning thus proved to be a useful tool against the Hungarian estates, and the governors were viewed as guarantees for the monarch.

Reasons for the Appointment

After this historical overview, let us examine the reasons of the appointment of eighteenth-century governors. The most important reason was personal motivation. The cases of the two princes were similar: they did not have significant landed property or great incomes, yet they were the fiancé of a (rich) Habsburg(-Lorraine) archduchess. Furthermore, Francis Stephen, for instance, was to marry the heiress to the throne in 1732, but he did not have any considerable properties. A year after his appointment, when military troops marched into Lorraine, he really became dispossessed, because he had to give up his lands (the principality of Bar on September 14, 1736 and the principality of Lorraine in February 173732) to Stanisław Leszczyński, the father-in-law of the French King Louis XV, who was compensated for the Polish throne lost in the War of the Polish Succession. However, in Tuscany, which was promised to Francis Stephen in return, the House of Medici ruled until mid-1737, so for a while, his only “real” dignity was as governor of the Kingdom of Hungary, one of the most significant countries of the Habsburg Monarchy. Albert of Saxony (1738–1822) was in an even more difficult situation: as the fourth son of August II, Elector of Saxony, he had no properties of his own, nor a real rank, and his allowance was extremely small.

It was therefore important in both cases that the landless, poor prince should be granted an office that brought with it dignity and rank as well as some political power. The position of the governor of Hungary seemed suitable for this purpose. It offered, although temporarily, a title, a position and of course, income. It should be stressed that the mentioned provisorio modo also mattered to the estates. Francis Stephen of Lorraine was on course to be elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Albert of Saxony and Archduchess Maria Christina were in line for the governorship of the Austrian Netherlands after the death of the incumbent officeholder, Maria Theresa’s brother-in-law, Charles of Lorraine.

The specific political reasons for the appointments of the two princes differed slightly. In 1732 Charles VI had grave reservations about the post of the palatine (as indicated by the fact that the new government office of internal politics established in 1723 received the modifier ‘Lieutenancy’ and not ‘Palatinal’33). He heartily disliked the office of the palatine, especially because Palatine Miklós Pálffy (1714–1732) was very popular in Hungary and managed to widen the authority of his office. When Pálffy died in 1732, Charles VI himself said that one of the main defects of the country is the exaggerated authority and influence of the palatine, owing to the estates. This was what he intended to decrease by appointing a governor and thus increase royal power and authority.34 For Maria Theresa, the main consideration was to provide his son-in-law with an appropriate position. There was, however, another political reason, namely that negotiations at the Diet of 1764–1765 were unsuccessful and the planned reforms (such as the regulation of the relationship between landlords and peasants, and the provisioning of standing army35) fell through. Nonetheless, with the help of decrees, the monarch had the power to introduce reforms even in opposition to the estates. This policy was better served by a loyal governor than a palatine protecting the estates’ interests.

It may seem that Prince Albert’s appointment came ad hoc and was motivated only by personal considerations, as a result of the marriage between Albert and the monarch’s daughter, and indeed, the thought of appointing a loyal blood relative was not alien in Vienna. In 1765, Maria Theresa said in a compilation about her children’s future that instead of the palatine, another person should lead the kingdom, possibly an archduke, preferably one of her sons. The proposal was not new, as the idea had already come up at the court. At the meetings of the State Council, operating since 1761, the idea of giving an archduke-palatine to the Kingdom of Hungary was already brought up in the early 1760s.36 The fundamental idea probably came from Pál Festetics, vice president of the Hungarian Royal Chamber, who was one of the queen’s trusted advisors in Hungarian matters.37

When Palatine Count Lajos Batthyány died on October 26, 1765, the issue of whether there should be an election for palatine and who should receive the post was on the agenda. However, by then, Maria Theresa’s elder sons had each been given a province of the Habsburg Monarchy to lead: the crown prince, Joseph was Holy Roman emperor and co-regent, while Leopold was grand duke of Tuscany. Archduke Charles died in 1761, and Ferdinand was intended to become governor general of Lombardy. The only possible candidate, Archduke Maximilian, was too young, only nine years old. In lack of reliable and competent Hungarian noblemen, Maria Theresa did not even consider the possibility of making her young son lead the kingdom. According to her own admission, she was unable to find suitably talented and loyal Hungarians to help him in the governance of the kingdom.38 The landless Saxon prince marrying into the family came just at the right time. He was a relative with unquestionable loyalty, as he was indebted to the queen for his marriage, and his appointment helped solve the issue of governing the country.

In the case of Archduke Joseph in 1795, there were no such problems of livelihood and rank, but the fundamental effort to decrease or suppress the influence of the Hungarian estates is clearly noticeable. With the help of appointing a governor, Francis I wished to fill the post left vacant after the death of their brother, Palatine Archduke Alexander Leopold, and decided to appoint a governor mainly due to political reasons. The French revolution created a new political situation throughout Europe. Members of the reigning houses were even more afraid of their subjects’ plotting. The members of a secret Hungarian plot of 1794, called Jacobins, were arrested and executed, but it seemed wiser to entrust the country to a governor who was a blood relation and loyal to the court than to let the seething estates elect a palatine and give them the opportunity to put a politically powerful Hungarian noblemen at the forefront of the estates.

The governors appointed in the eighteenth century were unique not only due to their person and their closeness to the dynasty. There were several differences in their tasks and scopes of authority, as compared to those of the palatines and previous governors.

Formal and Informal Tasks of the Governors of the Eighteenth Century

Formal tasks

The duties and tasks of the eighteenth-century governors were the same as those of the palatines of the eighteenth century, but they certainly differed from those of the governors of the previous centuries. This was largely linked to changes in authority and responsibilities, as well as to certain historical events.

In the eighteenth century, the palatine kept his rights, which authorized him to represent the estates in the early modern period. These rights included presiding over the Diet and, more specifically, from 1608 onwards, over the sessions of the Upper House composed of members of high clergy and aristocracy.39 At the Diet, the palatine was a mediator between the estates and the monarch, that is, his role was not limited to representation only. His tasks included appointing the members of the delegation of the Upper House, participating in joint meetings with the Lower House. The palatines (and palatine-governors) of the early modern period fulfilled all these duties related to the Diet. Nonetheless, as governors, neither Francis Stephen of Lorraine, nor Prince Albert had to act at the Diet, since during their years as governors the monarch never summoned one.40 At the end of 1795 the situation was completely different. Archduke Joseph was expected to preside over the sessions in the Upper House as governor (before his election as palatine). This unusual situation generated tension and was opposed particularly by members of the Upper House.41 Although the Hungarian State Councilor József Izdenczy argued that there had been thirty Diets between 1553 and 1606, when, for lack of an elected palatine, the appointed governor became the president over the sessions of the Upper House, so only because of the Diet there would not have been any need for a palatine and thus for an election of a palatine, either.42 Opposition at any rate only lasted until the Diet began, when the archduke took his place as president, jointly with the Archbishop of Esztergom.43 This time, beyond the urgent political need, being the ruler’s relative again helped solve the conflict between the estates and the monarch.

Additionally, however, the governor acquired new responsibilities connected to the Habsburg administration in Hungary in the eighteenth century: most of all palatines and governors had to preside over the sessions of the already mentioned Hungarian Royal Lieutenancy Council.44 The governor chaired the meetings and signed the orders sent to the kingdom’s local institutions, counties, and cities. This was definitely a new responsibility, as seventeenth-century officials had no such administrative tasks.

Administration of justice was another important responsibility for the pal­atine and the governor, a task they had been carrying out since medieval times. In the eighteenth century, as the Chief Justice of the country, twice a year, they presided over the meetings of the Court of Appeal, a court that took the place of the court of the palatine and that of the royal governor. Here, lawsuits were only reheard in case of complaints or “appeal.”45 This responsibility remained unchanged; the appointed governors continued to participate in the meetings. In terms of the law (Act LXXVI of 1659), the palatine was lord lieutenant of Pest-Pilis-Solt county. This title was also given to the governors, but due to their absence, they governed the county via an administrator. In the case of Prince Albert, for example, the substitute was ordered to be appointed by the queen instead of him.46 When it came to border disputes between counties, the palatine (or the governor) gave orders for an investigation and had the right to make the decision.47 In the Middle Ages, the palatine was chief justice of the Jasz and Cuman privileged groups and, after the their territory was purchased in 1745, the responsibility was exercised by the incumbent palatine or the governor.48 They received renumeration for the post and for presiding over the Hungarian Royal Lieutenancy Council,49 and these incomes partly ensured livelihood according to their rank.

For long, the title of captain general was regarded as one of the most important responsibilities of the palatine. It was believed to originate from the Middle Ages, but recent research has revealed that it was only added to the palatine’s responsibilities as a result of the election of a palatine in 1554, claiming it was an old, medieval tradition. Back in the Middle Ages, palatines did not possess this title but charged the royal governor with the responsibility. When the Aulic War Council was established in 1556, the palatine, with his autonomous and wide military power, was deemed to be a hazard, and so the responsibility was withdrawn from him. Therefore, with the exception of Archduke Ernest, governors in the early modern times had no specific military responsibilities in Hungary, up until Prince Albert.


Informal tasks

Due to their closeness to the monarch, however, much more was expected from the governors. These were their “informal” tasks. They were to execute the ruler’s decrees with precision, serve as a source of reliable information and lend their support to certain causes. This can be illustrated by the secret instructions which were given by Charles VI to his future son-in-law Francis Stephen. In the context of Habsburg re-catholisation efforts of the 1730s, the instructions emphasized that the governors’ duties were to be fulfilled in defense of the Roman Catholic religion. He was also to reduce the number of noblemen with the dual aim of weakening noble influence and increasing tax intake.50

There were specific instructions made for Prince Albert’s new post, which differed considerably from the usual instructions for the palatine.51 His task was not to solve general or on-off problems, as customarily stated in the documents prepared for the appointment of Hungarian noblemen. Instead, the surviving addendum regulated the handling of issues in the Hungarian Royal Lieutenancy Council and the governor being treated according to his rank.52 Concerning his judicial duties, however, he was not given any additional instructions.53 The sources reveal that there were also secret instructions included for Prince Albert himself,54 but the document has not survived.55 Consequently, it cannot be ascertained what special tasks he was ordered to carry out, or whether there were any delicate matters to which he had to pay special attention, as there are no special provisions in the documents.

In 1795, two different governor’s instructions were made for Archduke Joseph as well. The “official” order was rather personal in tone, and served more as moral guidelines, including advice on how the young, inexperienced archduke should behave.56 In this document dated August 8, 1795, Francis I did not put emphasis on policies and tasks as his great grandfather Charles VI did, nor did he specify the administrative responsibilities as it was the case with Prince Albert in 1765. On the same day, Archduke Joseph received additional secret instructions, the content of which was connected to the political situation caused by the French Revolution and particularly with the monarch’s loss of trust due to the Jacobin movement in Hungary. The text reveals that these were not new instructions. Apparently, Francis I endorsed the late Palatine Archduke Alexander Leopold’s proposition dated April 16, 1795, which had a considerable political bias against the Hungarian estates. On the basis of this, it can be clearly stated that as governor, Archduke Joseph was ordered to act as counterbalance and take action against the Hungarian estates.57

Political Latitude

However, the sources indicate that the governor within the Kingdom of Hungary had only limited powers. He was not allowed to make decisions autonomously but was reliant, rather, on the ruler’s decrees from Vienna which he was to put into practice. Although Charles VI was allegedly tempted to grant rights to Francis Stephen of Lorraine that would have exceeded those of the palatine, as a precaution for future monarchs he decided against doing so.58 Nonetheless, the sources discussed so far also indicate that eighteenth-century rulers intended to give governors a certain political importance beyond mere representation. By keeping the monarch’s authority in view, they could limit the power of the Hungarian estates. For example, Charles VI promised Francis Stephen of Lorraine in his secret instructions that he would listen to his private opinion and support him, and he would decide in accordance with it, even against the opinion of the Hungarian Royal Lieutenancy Council. The ruler also gave him advice on how to treat the members of the council and suggested that he have preliminary discussion of the matters to be brought up in the council with a trusted advisor appointed to help him.59

In the case of Prince Albert, the queen’s wish was even more straightforward: she wanted her son-in-law to play an active role in the life of the kingdom. In his memoires, the prince recalled this as follows: “Since merely playing a symbolic role in this position was against my beliefs, and since the queen herself expected me to exercise my responsibilities with the utmost zeal, through hard work and practice I acquired all the necessary knowledge. I never neglected my duty of presiding over the meetings of the Lieutenancy Council, I carefully read every letter and every report, I read through and signed all the documents. To put it simply, albeit somewhat reluctantly at the beginning, I conscientiously carried out all the tasks that my new post required.”60 The prince’s work was aided by noble officials loyal to the court, whose opinions and beliefs the state counselors in Vienna did not doubt.61

As governor and president of the Lieutenancy Council, the princes dealt with the most crucial matters concerning the kingdom. Official records testify that the princes were regularly asked for their opinions; what is more, when Francis Stephen of Lorraine was absent, copies of the minutes of the Lieutenancy Council meeting were sent after him, either to Vienna or, in wartime, to the theater of operations in the south.62 A more detailed future research on certain cases shall help us ascertain how much the stance the princes took determined the ruler’s decision and whether there were any issues of greater or lesson concern to them.

It should be noted, however, that in certain cases the princes themselves drew up drafts to improve the handling of the kingdom’s matters. This clearly shows how much they identified with their post, particularly in military issues. Both princes had experience in the theater of war: Francis Stephen of Lorraine gained this experience in the war against the Ottoman Empire (although he was not a very successful commander), while Prince Albert fought against the Prussians, first as a volunteer, then, from 1760, as lieutenant general in the Habsburg army. Later he became Captain General of the Kingdom of Hungary. Understandably, due to this, both princes expressed their opinion on military issues. On the basis of the personal experiences gained throughout his travels in the kingdom,63 and with the help of some members of the Lieutenancy Council, in the early 1770s Albert proposed a new, fairer distribution and billeting of the troops stationed in the country. In 1772, a draft of a new system of tax assessment was drawn up by him and his counselors. Likewise, this did not happen as a result of an official request but was an individual initiative made with the approval and support of the prince.64

It can also be shown that sometimes the elaborated reform plans of the governor were somewhat modified. For example, the 55-page draft he submitted about reforming the administration of the Lieutenancy Council was not fully accepted.65 The draft, however, was made upon an official request to find mistakes and elaborate a new method of administration. The monarch’s final decision indicates that only certain parts of Albert’s proposal were used, while several elements (such as the reform he proposed concerning the work of the commissions of the council) were entirely neglected. In this case, the prince governor’s task (despite his title) was to express his opinion and make a suggestion, but the draft was not accepted unconditionally, as it was stated in the secret instructions by Charles VI in the case of Francis Stephen of Lorraine. During Maria Theresa’s reign the aim was different: they wished to prepare a comprehensive, well-substantiated regulation this way. Despite not always acting on his recommendations, the prince’s intention was never doubted, and his work was always appreciated.

The governors’ ill-defined sphere of authority occasionally led to problems. In 1766, for instance, Prince Albert arbitrarily sent back the nomination of Ferenc Subich, an official to Vienna, and transferred him to another position in his own governor’s office, instead of giving him the post of secretary of the Lieutenancy Council.66 By doing so, he overruled the queen’s decision, a step the Hungarian Royal Chancellery called unprecedented and highly hazardous, as it was an insult on the monarch’s authority and the chain of command. The queen, however, did not question the loyalty of the prince, who was grateful and indebted to her.67 Thanks to his close relationship with Maria Theresa, Prince Albert was not punished for this unthoughtful and careless action. The queen unconditionally trusted the prince and knew that he did not act out of disrespect. However, in the following 15 years Prince Albert carefully limited himself to making proposals for nominations and awards, such as in the case of officials to be transferred from the Hungarian Royal Chamber to the Lieutenancy Council,68 but their appointment remained to be the responsibility of the queen.


Changed Spheres of Authority and Roles

Firth of land donation

Besides excessive political influence, there was another economic reason for governors being deemed more suitable by the monarch in the eighteenth century. This was closely linked to a sphere of authority that had changed considerably from the late seventeenth century on. In the eyes of the court, the palatine’s most contested sphere of authority was the so-called palatine’s firth of land donation, which meant that the palatine could grant landed properties smaller than 32 serf’s plots to any nobleman without the preliminary consent of the ruler. This right was believed to have originated in the Middle Ages, though there is no basis for this conclusion. In fact, the firth of land donation was a royal prerogative, exercised by the monarch or, in case he or she was underaged, by the gubernator acting on his or her behalf.69 The first example recorded was in 1509, when governor Imre Perényi donated some part of a land that fell to the monarch.70 Later, too, the right could only be exercised by governors, not palatines. Act XXVI of 1567 mentioned the right as the governor’s firth of donation. Still, during the seventeenth century, the right became increasingly linked to the post of palatine, presumably due to the two positions being filled by the same person.71

Eighteenth-century sources make clearly mention of the palatine’s firth of land donation, on the basis of Act LXVI of 1609. The attitude to the palatine’s exercising of the right had fundamentally changed: it was believed that the governor could not enjoy this royal prerogative. This restriction is also detectable in the appointment documents of the governors: despite their close relationship to the monarch, the princes were not to impinge on the ruler’s power.72 The reason for revoking this sphere of authority may be economic. Apparently, these donations posed a great disadvantage for the Royal Chamber. In the mid-1750s, Pál Festetics was commissioned to investigate in what ways this sphere of authority of the palatines could be limited, if not terminated. In a lengthy report written in Latin and German, Festetics examined the history of the palatine’s firth of land donation. Citing the law, he argued that the idea of the firth of land donation originating from medieval times was incorrect, since it was first mentioned in Act LXVI of 1609 (then confirmed in Act XXX of 1659 and Act I of 1681). Until then, as recent research also reveals, only the gubernators as deputies of the monarch could enjoy this right, and it was not linked to the post of palatine in any way.73 By the eighteenth century, the law had changed and Palatine Pál Esterházy’s practice became the dominant one for the donation of lands. This, however, often put the Royal Aulic Chamber at a disadvantage, since land donations frequently exceeded the designated size or, at times, those receiving the donations managed to get a royal donation as well, and thus could take the income of more properties away from the Chamber. To solve this problem, Festetics proposed that in case of vacancy for the palatine’s position, an archduke should be appointed governor (whose sphere of authority could be restricted as needed). Moreover, the councilor also suggested that somehow the estates themselves be made to initiate the appointment. Another proposal of his which was later implemented by the queen was that in case there was no archduke in the dynasty to appoint as governor, the firth of land donation should be withdrawn from the appointee so that the number of noblemen exempt from paying taxes would not increase. The kingdom could have considerable economic benefits if smaller landowner noblemen moved to the cities, where they were obliged to pay taxes and could even be of use to the state by doing some trade or official activities.74

Based on Festetics’s reasoning, the issue of land donation must have been a rather difficult one in the eighteenth century. To eliminate the disadvantages, from that century on, the right was revoked from the appointed governors: neither Francis Stephen of Lorraine, nor Prince Albert could exercise it.75 As testified by the records on lands donated by the palatine, there were no new donations introduced between 1732 and 1740, and 1766 and 1780.76 It may be ascertained, then, that by the eighteenth century this had become the greatest difference between the sphere of authority of the palatine and the governor: the firth of land donation was exercised only by the palatine, a right he practically obtained from the governors of the early modern times. This right was withheld from the governors of the eighteenth century.

Another example of change in the sphere of authority and political thinking was the debates concerning Archduke Joseph’s appointment as governor in 1795. In fact, by that time, even the Hungarian advisors loyal to the dynasty believed that, as opposed to the palatine, the governor should not have the firth of land donation. Thus, when in the summer of 1795 Archduke Joseph’s appointment was discussed, in light of the previous examples, it was not considered to be a good idea to give him this sphere of authority. In the end, as proposed by State Councilor József Izdenczy, the archduke received the same rights as his late brother, Archduke Palatine Alexander Leopold, including the firth of land donation. However, this was not only the result of deepening trust but also had a political goal. The councilor believed that this was a way of preventing the estates from pushing for the election of a palatine.77


The role of the palatine at the coronation

The other sphere of authority of the palatine that had considerably changed from the late seventeenth to the late eighteenth century was his role at the coronation. According to the general view of (eighteenth-century) contemporaries and theoretical literature, the role of the palatine was indispensable at the ceremony. This argument, however, is not supported by the sources: this function of the palatine did not exist in the Middle Ages,78 and there is mention of only one such case in the course of the following centuries. In 1527 the palatine was present at the coronation of Ferdinand I as king of Hungary, and, despite the medieval tradition, managed to get the opportunity to place the crown on Ferdinand’s head together with the bishop of Nitra.79 Nevertheless, it did not become an established practice, mostly because the country did not have a palatine for decades to come. As a secular dignitary, the palatine first received a role at the coronation of Queen Eleonor Magdalene of Neuburg 1681, when Palatine Pál Esterházy helped out the elderly and sickly archbishop by jointly touching the queen’s shoulder with the crown.80 In 1687 the palatine received an even more prominent role at the coronation of the child Joseph I. Although by this time the Lord Steward’s Office in Vienna had already demonstrated on the basis of old documents that the palatine had traditionally no active role at coronations, he only asked the estates three times whether they intended to crown the future king. Still, the influential Palatine Pál Esterházy made an agreement with the archbishop and could eventually place the Hungarian crown on the king’s head together with the archbishop.81 From that point on, the palatine became an active participant in the coronation of Hungarian rulers and in the course of the following centuries he became an indispensable figure at the ceremony. The Hungarian estates themselves insisted on this “established right” and, in tense political situations, such as prior to the coronation in 1741, they required the election of a palatine as a precondition to crowing Maria Theresa. At the end of the eighteenth century, State Councilor József Izdenczy claimed that it was wrong to believe that the palatine’s presence and active participation was required at the ceremony and brought up the coronation of Maximilian II as a counterexample.82 Still, it must be noted that the Hungarian estates used this tool rather cleverly in the seventeenth century, and often required the election of a palatine as a precondition of coronation, thereby symbolizing their power.83


The sphere of authority of captain general

According to the widespread notion, one of the major roles of the palatine was his sphere of authority as captain general of the country (Capitaneus generalis), as originating from the Middle Ages. Investigating the medieval example, however, proved that the title of captain general could only be received by appointment and not as part of the post of palatine, and persons other than the incumbent palatine could also receive the title.84 The title of captain general was not mentioned with regards to governors either. Although in 1554 Palatine Tamás Nádasdy received the title of captain general but he only managed to do so with the false claim that his predecessors had also had it. The document put in writing then and later called the Palatines’ Act of 1486 came to existence at that time, and they tried to prove its authenticity with the made-up medieval origin.85 This was, then, the result of the negotiations between Ferdinand I and the Hungarian dignitaries.86 In the sixteenth and seventeenth century, however, the sphere of authority was fully withdrawn from the governors and from the palatines as well. It only made back into the law in 1681, when Pál Esterházy was appointed, on the basis of what was thought to be the Act of 1486. Later Diets repeatedly reinforced this law.87 Eighteenth-century governors were not given this sphere of authority; Francis Stephen of Lorraine, for instance, had no control over the Hungarian army. Yet, in the case of Prince Albert, a considerable change took place when Maria Theresa appointed him captain general (Capitaine général), commander-in-chief of the foot soldiers, cavalry units, garrisons, fortresses, as well as each unit belonging to the Habsburg army stationed in Hungary.88 In terms of title and authority, the new rank seemed to be the same as that of the palatine, but the sphere was rather limited owing to the Habsburg military leadership, and in fact Prince Albert had no real military authority. The new military rank was established on the basis of practice in the Austrian Netherlands and Italian territories (Tuscany and Lombardy). In 1773 the same instructions were given to the captain generals of the three provinces or countries, including Hungary, regulating the title and post of governors or governor generals.89 Further research is needed to determine how much this post was linked to and differed from the Hungarian example attributed to the palatine. The end of the century witnessed a rearrangement: the palatine’s post fulfilled by archdukes was again joined with the medieval rank of captain general (or, at least, with how it was posited in 1715), and it was even codified.90

Despite having had his authority concerning the military withdrawn, the palatine retained one military role: were there a general noble military mobilization (insurrectio), if the monarch was not in the position to attend to his duties, the palatine became commander of the troops.91 In the period examined by the present paper, the only case when the nobility could have been mobilized without the palatine was during the War of the Prussian Succession in 1778. Advisors at the Viennese Court faced the problem of having to find reasons with which they could convince the nobility to mobilize without a palatine in position, but they decided to do so by referring again to the Diets between 1563 and 1608. As for the estates, they rightfully inquired who the commander of the troops would be, since the position of palatine was vacant.92 Eventually, the dilemma of public law did not have to be solved, as the planned Diet was not summoned.

A Special Situation: Archduke-Governors and Archduke-Palatines

Changes in the palatines’ sphere of authority and the polices of the Viennese Court manifested themselves even more in the late eighteenth century. In 1790, after Joseph II’s death, Leopold II had to make a choice, because, as already mentioned, since 1687 the palatine’s presence was necessary for the coronation ceremony. Without a palatine, he could not be crowned; however, if he permitted the estates to elect a palatine, it would increase the influence of the estates, who probably felt after Joseph II’ anti-constitutional reign that they would finally have the opportunity to protect their rights and privileges. In 1790, given the French revolution and the general crisis of the Habsburg Monarchy, this idea seemed dangerous. As a compromise, Leopold II resurrected an earlier plan from the time of his mother, Maria Theresa, in a somewhat changed form.

As shown earlier, in the 1750s Pál Festetics and, then, in the 1760s the State Council of Vienna made the suggestion that someone from the Habsburg-Lorraine family could be nominated to the position of the palatine and elected with the estates’ support. Even the name archduke-palatine was coined at this time. (Nevertheless, Maria Theresa probably would have preferred an archduke-governor rather than an archduke-palatine.) In 1790 the Viennese Court also wanted to postpone the election of a palatine. Initially there were discussions of appointing a governor instead. Later, during the selection of the candidates, they clearly tried not to let the estates have much influence over the matter: the advisors recommended an elderly nobleman or a completely loyal dignitary for the list, and the other candidates stood no chance whatsoever. This way, if the palatine died or resigned by mutual agreement, the monarch would have had the opportunity again to appoint a governor. However, as a gesture towards the Hungarian estates, Leopold II agreed to the appointment of a palatine. His willingness to reconcile is well-illustrated by the fact that he had the names of acceptable noblemen written on the list and agreed to his fourth son being recommended for the post without nomination, even if it meant that the archduke’s name would not even come up or the Diet would elect someone else. Indeed, the election did not go very smoothly, as 25 counties insisted on electing a Hungarian nobleman for the post. The recalcitrant counties were eventually either intimidated or made to agree by the delegates loyal to the monarch. The method of the “election” signals how limited the estates’ former right to elect a palatine now was: in the course of this well-prepared theatrical performance, Archduke Alexander Leopold became palatine by acclamation, that is, he was elected before the envelope containing the names of the four Hungarian noblemen recommended by the monarch was even opened.93

When Alexander Leopold died five years later, the new Habsburg ruler, Francis I (II) did not summon a Diet but once again nominated a governor from the House of Habsburg-Lorraine only a few days after his brother’s death.94 He appointed another brother of his, Archduke Joseph.95 The uncertainty of the court is clear to see when the arguments for and against the election-appointment is examined. Advisors fighting against the influence of the Hungarian estates went as far as suggesting that Francis I should appoint his brother Joseph not as governor but as palatine, thereby neglecting the estates’ right to choose, which would have gone completely against the statute law as well as customary law.96 Eventually, the archduke was appointed as temporary governor of the kingdom. A year later, in 1796, when planning the next Diet, the Viennese Court again seemed reluctant to have an election for a palatine. On the one hand, it would have been offensive towards the ruling house if, discarding the model of the 1790 Diet, the Hungarian estates would have not elected the archduke by acclamation. Due to his rank, Archduke Joseph’s name could not be listed among the king’s four candidates. On the other hand, (similarly to the events of 1790), the court was afraid that election by acclamation would set a precedent and thus in the future persons not from the reigning house could be elected simply by acclamation and not in the traditional way.97 In the end, owing to the threatening external situation, Francis I agreed to summoning a Diet to vote on the issues of military recruitment and war tax and to elect a palatine. During the ceremony, they kept to the formal process: even before the monarch’s envelope was opened, the estates elected Archduke Joseph by acclamation.98

The archdukes of Habsburg-Lorraine who were appointed as governors (or palatines) thus found themselves in completely new circumstances, which differed greatly from those of the other two eighteenth-century governors and of palatines in the early modern period. The novelty of the situation lay not only in their person and actual membership of the ruling family. The circumstances of their election to palatine was also unique: without the announcement of the list of candidates, by acclamation, the estates had decided to elect the archdukes. The way they took the oath changed too: both the palatine and the governor took an oath to the monarch.99 The dispute concerning the content of the oath offers clear evidence of the gradually decreasing power of the estates: they did not manage to include the stipulation that the archduke-palatine was responsible for protecting the rights of the estates and the country. All the archduke-palatine swore to do was to fulfil his duties to the monarch.100

The spheres of authority bestowed on the archdukes were also transformed to a great extent: the tasks of presiding over the Diet and their role at the coronation ceremony have already been discussed. Beyond these, the monarchs were willing to make other concessions, owing their being close relatives. The ruler’s confidence in his brother is shown by the fact that in 1795 Archduke Joseph was granted a much wider sphere of authority than his predecessors. Still, the Hungarian officials originally prepared the documents of appointment on the basis of the precedence of eighteenth-century prince-governors, and Prince Albert’s instructions were attached as an example. When formulating the text for the appointment of the archduke, they relied not on the prince’s document granting a more narrow scope of authority but on the certificate of the late Palatine Alexander Leopold.101 The sphere of authority of Archduke Joseph was exactly the same as that of his deceased brother who bore the dignity of the palatine, in terms of the firth to donate land, discussed in detail above, which was a privilege of Archduke Joseph.102 The ceremonial welcome and inauguration of the archduke, however, followed the tradition of the 1766 ceremony in Pozsony (today Bratislava), and the one in Buda in 1791. This symbolized continuity and aimed at following the previous patterns of representation. In fact, what may come as a surprise is that in 1791, they followed the example of the governor’s march in for the archduke coming as palatine, instead of creating a unique, more solemn welcoming ceremony.103

Archduke Joseph was thus the third governor in the eighteenth century who was close links to or directly descended from the reigning house. The Hungarian estates made no objections against his appointment either. Those who were dissatisfied or prone to revolt were won over by the argument of family relationship, others considered the archduke’s appointment to be an honor. Archduke Joseph only held the post for a short time: his spheres of authority as governor were terminated in 1796 when, following the example which had been set in 1790, the estates elected him palatine at the Diet. In the end, the archduke held this position until his death more than fifty years later.

The role of archduke-governor and archduke-palatine became important once more in 1847, at the eve of the revolution. The sources provide evidence of the fact that by then the Viennese Court was already accustomed to having an Austrian archduke as the Hungarian palatine. The government tried to achieve the goal of having an archduke appointed as palatine, so they returned to the practice of 1790: instead of reading out the names of the candidates, they unequivocally elected the palatine by acclamation. The acceptance of this unwritten law is well-illustrated by the fact that the Hungarian Royal Chancellery itself made the proposition of electing Archduke Joseph’s son, Archduke Stephen as palatine when the post would be vacant. One important reason for this decision was that the other archdukes did not have an adequate knowledge of the country, nor a close relationship with it.104 By this time, the eighteenth-century practice had become so accepted that the nomination of candidates only served to keep up the appearance of lawfulness, since the court was certain about the outcome of the election. Thus, the right of the free election of a palatine was not even an issue. Nevertheless, until the Diet was summoned, the king only appointed his cousin as governor in 1847, but his extended sphere of authority was maintained, as Archduke Stephen, too, could have all the rights and responsibilities of his predecessors before the Diet.105

The appointment of archdukes as palatines clearly indicates the end of an era. The former practice of having governors in Hungary for years was now unnecessary. By filling the office of the palatine with a family member, the Habsburg ruler gained a reliable and constitutionally rooted representative in the county. The manner of their appointment gradually decreased the estates’ freedom of choice, while Archduke Stephen’s nomination signaled a completely new practice. Although in 1790 the question arose whether the post of the palatine could become hereditary by repeatedly being filled by archdukes from the ruling family,106 the estates were no longer worried. Due to the events of the Revolution of 1848–1849, the system of estates ceased to exist, and positions of dignity also disappeared, a change that cannot be examined in this paper. The political role of archduke-governors and archduke-palatines, as well as their relationship with the Hungarian estates requires further research to reveal the extent to which they held a position in the estates as palatines and were loyal to the court.


In the early modern period, the relationship between the Hungarian king, from 1527 a Habsburg, and the Hungarian estates were often characterized by conflicting interests. The degree to which the relationship was, at times, tense and, at other times, peaceful is illustrated in part by how much room the monarchs gave to the Hungarian estates, which were trying to protect their rights and privileges. In order to preserve their power within the country, and to ensure the financial and personal conditions necessary in warfare against the Ottoman Empire, the estates and the monarchs alike were forced to make compromises or concessions. The main platform for demands in the early modern period was the Diet. If, however, the monarch did not summon the Diet, he or she could limit the influence and power of the estates and govern without them. The power of the estates could also be decreased by leaving high positions vacant or by appointing the monarch’s own loyal subjects to fill these posts. As shown above, by neglecting the post of palatine, that is, the highest position for the estates, and appointing a governor, the ruler had more political room to manoeuvre. Therefore, the ruler did not have to make any political compromises. Royal decrees issued from Vienna were executed by institutions, for example from 1723 by the Hungarian Royal Lieutenancy Council (headed by the palatine or the governor). There was no doubt about these governors’ loyalty, since they were dependent on the ruler. Hence, the governor’s role was independent of the estates. Such concentration of the ruler’s power made it possible to introduce reforms in Hungary.

The side-lining of the estates in this period is most visible in the way they failed to present their complaints and demands at the Diet. Between 1732 and 1741, as well as 1765 and 1790, no Diets were convoked, so the estates could not bring forward their need for an election of a palatine, mandatory since the early seventeenth century. When in 1778 the possibility of summoning a Diet came up, the Viennese Court firmly insisted that only the issue of military recruitment be discussed. Any other political proposal would have been rejected.107 Eventually, the Diet was not convoked, so the estates could not demand the election of a palatine. In other words, the appointed governor, Prince Albert, did not have to be replaced. Over the course of the eighteenth century, the influence of the estates gradually decreased, and the power of the monarch increased. One sign of this change was the gradual limitation of estates’ right to elect a palatine. By the nineteenth century, the method of election developed in the early seventeenth century had become a mere theatrical performance, when the preliminary designated member of the ruling family was elected palatine by acclamation. In the eighteenth century the post of palatine was not filled three times. Instead, the country was administrated by a governor, which meant that governing increasingly took place without the estates. The case of the governors also exemplified the new strategy of the Viennese Court: they were not Hungarians but relations to and close relatives of the monarch, first the future husbands of archduchesses, then archdukes of Habsburg-Lorraine. This way, the proposal made in the mid-eighteenth century, was finally realized: instead of a Hungarian palatine, the Kingdom of Hungary was administrated by an archduke-governor (or archduke-palatine) so that the monarch could reign without interference by the estates.

Archival Sources

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára [National Archives of Hungary] (MNL OL)

Magyar kancelláriai levéltár [Archives of Hungarian Chancellery]

A 1 Magyar Királyi Kancellária regisztratúrája [Hungarian Royal Chancellery], Originales referadae

A 35 Magyar Királyi Kancellária regisztratúrája [Hungarian Royal Chancellery], Conceptus expeditionum

A 39 Magyar Királyi Kancellária regisztratúrája [Hungarian Royal Chancellery], Acta generalia

A 57 Magyar Királyi Kancellária regisztratúrája [Hungarian Royal Chancellery], Libri regii

A 119 Donationales palatinales

Helytartótanácsi levéltár [Archives of the Lieutenancy Council], Magyar Királyi Helytartótanács [Hungarian Royal Lieutenancy Council], Protocolla sessionalia (C 1)

Bécsi levéltárakból kiszolgáltatott iratok [Records given out of Viennese Archives], Kabinettsarchiv. Hungaricana aus der Privatbibliothek S. M. Franz I. (I 50)

Regnicolaris levéltár [Regnicolaris Archives], Archivum palatinale

Archivum locumtenentiale Alberti Ducis Saxoniae (N 13)

Archivum palatinale archiducis Josephi, Archivum palatinale secretum

archiducis Josephi, Miscellanea officiosa (N 22)

István főherceg nádori levéltára (N 31)

Festetics család keszthelyi levéltára, Festetics Pál (P 245)

A Habsburg család magyaróvári levéltára, Albert herceg iratai (P 298)

Ember Győző hagyatéka (P 2093)

Österreichisches Staatsarchiv

Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (ÖStA HHStA)

Habsburgisch-Lothringische Hausarchive, Hausarchiv, Hofkommission in Familienangelegenheiten

Habsburgisch-Lothringische Hausarchive, Hausarchiv, Handarchiv Kaiser Franz

Habsburg-Lothringische Hausarchive, Lothringisches Hausarchiv

Kabinettsarchiv (KA), Staatsrat (StR), Staatsratsprotokolle (Prot.)

Kriegsarchiv (ÖStA KA)

Zentralstellen (ZSt), Hofkriegsrat (HKR), Akten


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1 H. Balázs, Hungary and the Habsburgs, esp. 58–62; Beales, Joseph II, 477–84; Evans, Das Werden, 177–87, 191–93, Pálffy, The Kingdom, 157–68, 186, 240–41; Szijártó M., A diéta, 32–35; Szijártó, The Diet, 137.

2 C. Tóth, A Magyar Királyság nádora, 37, 130–34, 334–35.

3 Ibid., 156–58; CJH I. Act XXII of 1526.

4 C. Tóth, “Az ország nádora,” 444–45, 447; C. Tóth, A Magyar Királyság nádora, 344; Szőcs, A nádori, 241–46; CJH I. Act XXXIII of 1492.

5 Pálffy, A Magyar Királyság, 280–89; C. Tóth, “A nádori cikkelyek,” 38.

6 Cf. for example MNL OL, A 57 (Libri regii), vol. 5, p. 228–29, MNL OL, A 57 (Libri regii), vol. 47, p. 365–67, and MNL OL, A 1 (Orig. ref.), 1765/458.

7 Szőcs, A nádori, 25–49; C. Tóth, A Magyar Királyság nádora, 32–33.

8 For a time, the consensus in the secondary literature was that, since Act II of 1439, it was the custom for the Diet to select the palatine. This conclusion was reached on the basis of the fact that the practice was put into law in this act. However, recent research suggests that even a century earlier the palatine was chosen in this manner. C Tóth, A Magyar Királyság nádora, 11, 18–21, 35–36, 157–62.

9 C. Tóth, A Magyar Királyság nádora, 11, 244.

10 Gábor, A kormányzói, 48–60; C. Tóth, A Magyar Királyság nádora, 198–99.

11 Gábor, A kormányzói, 121.

12 Pálffy, The Kingdom, 172–73.

13 C. Tóth, “A nádori cikkelyek,” 41–42, and C. Tóth, “Az ország nádora,” 225.

14 Pálffy, The Kingdom, 95, 97–98.

15 Ibid., 173.

16 Ember, Az újkori, 101.

17 Pálffy, The Kingdom, 224–25; CJH III. Act III of 1608.

18 Though the suggestion was allegedly raised in 1795 by Count Károly Zichy, the Lord Chief Justice, just before he was deprived of his office. Domanovszky, József nádor, vol. I/1, 186, 205.

19 Ember, Az újkori, 103, 112; Pálffy, The Kingdom, 225–29.

20 Ember, Az újkori, 107.

21 CJH IV. Act I of 1681.

22 Iványi, Esterházy, 43–56, 244.

23 See Nagy, Rendi ellenzék, 71–80; Szijártó, A diéta, 300.

24 MNL OL, A 57 (Libri regii), vol. 36. p. 709–710; see Bakács, Franz Stephan.

25 MNL OL, A 57 (Libri regii), vol. 47. p. 363–64; see Kulcsár, A helytartói státus.

26 MNL OL, A 57 (Libri regii), vol. 36. p. 709–10.

27 MNL OL, A 1 (Orig. ref.), 1732/33. It is important to note this in part because it is indicated in the sources: the Hungarian estates considered Francis Stephen a foreigner and “extraneus.” Kulcsár, Der Kaiser-Mitregent, 70.

28 MNL OL, A 57 (Libri regii), vol. 47. p. 363–64. A document issued for the prince: MNL OL, N 13 (Arch. loc. Alberti Ducis Saxoniae), Lad. 67. Fasc. 1. No. 3.

29 Hertel, Maria Elisabeth, passim.

30 Pálffy, The Kingdom, 69.

31 For exampe: MNL OL, N 13 (Arch. loc. Alberti Ducis Saxoniae), Lad. 62. Fasc. 1. No. 11; No. 23 and No. 16.

32 Zedinger, Franz Stephan, 66.

33 MNL OL, P 245 (Festetics Pál), IV. 15. Pál Festetics’s proposal on the authorities and prerogatives of the palatine.

34 ÖStA HHStA Habsburg-Lothringische Hausarchive, Lothringisches Hausarchiv 39-5. fol. 9v, fol. 10v–11r. “Instruktion und Anweisung...” Laxenburg, May 17, 1732.

35 Cf. Szijártó, The Diet, 133.

36 Ember, “Der österreichische Staatsrat,” 349, 1763: 2874.

37 MNL OL, P 245 (Festetics Pál), IV. 15. Pál Festetics’s proposal on the authorities and prerogatives of the palatine.

38 ÖStA HHStA Habsburgisch-Lothringische Hausarchive, Hausarchiv, Hofkommission in Familienangelegenheiten 1-1. Verhandlungsakten. fol. 166v. The situation might have been different if Archduke Charles, the second-born son (1745–1761), had not died in 1761, who would have turned 20 in 1765, but so far, no traces of this possibility have been found in the sources.

39 Szijártó M., A diéta, 108–11.

40 The role Francis Stephen played as a governor in the concursus of the 1730s (an assembly of the estates which proposed an extraordinary war tax) need further clarification. Szijártó M., A diéta, 235–42. Especially 238.

41 Domanovszky, József nádor, vol. II/1, 124; Domanovszky, József nádor, vol. I/1, 214.

42 MNL OL, I 50 (Privatbibl.), Fasc. 39. 1796. Landtag. Extractus diarii… Bemerkungen des Staatsrates Izdenczy. October 31, 1796.

43 Domanovszky, József nádor, vol. I/1, 184–216.

44 MNL OL, A 1 (Orig. ref.), 1765/448.

45 Varga, A Királyi Curia, 17–18; CJH IV. Act XXV of 1722–1723.

46 ÖStA HHStA KA StR Prot. 1765. Nr. 2656.

47 MNL OL, A 1 (Orig. ref.) 1765/448. Proposal by the Hungarian Royal Chancellery, November 11, 1765.

48 Ibid.

49 Iványi, Esterházy, 279.

50 ÖStA HHStA Habsburg-Lothringische Hausarchive, Lothringisches Hausarchiv 39-5. fol. 13r. fol. 17r–20v.

51 Cf. Kulcsár, “Nádorság,” 53.

52 MNL OL, A 1 (Orig. ref.), 1766/2. and MNL OL, A 35 (Con. exp.), 1766. I. No. 6.

53 MNL OL, A 1 (Orig ref.), 1766/299; ÖStA HHStA KA StR Prot. 1766. Nr. 14. Proposal by the Hungarian Royal Chancellery, January 3, 1766.

54 Ibid. 1765. Nr. 2997.

55 There is no sign of the draft in the State Chancellery in Vienna, and the copy which was held in the documents of the State Council was burned. No other information about the secret instructions which were given to Albert can be found on the notecards of the State Council in Győző Ember’s bequest. MNL OL, P 2093 (Ember Győző hagyatéka), Staatsrat protocollumok, Gépelt kivonatok, 1765:2849.

56 ÖStA HHStA Habsburg-Lothringische Hausarchive, Hausarchiv, Handarchiv Kaiser Franz 12-4-6. Instruktion von Kaiser Franz II. für Erzherzog Joseph, seinen Bruder als Locumtenens (Statthalter) in Ungarn, 1795. fol. 131–150. The printed version: Domanovszky, József nádor, vol. II/1, 18–28.

57 The original copy of the secret instruction was burned in the archives of the archduke. One copy can be found in Vienna, ÖStA HHStA Habsburg-Lothringische Hausarchive, Hausarchiv, Handarchiv Kaiser Franz 12-4-6. Instruktion von Kaiser Franz II. für Erzherzog Joseph, seinen Bruder als Locumtenens (Statthalter) in Ungarn, 1795. fol. 169–227. Alexander Leopold’s version was published in: Mályusz, Sándor Lipót, 808–51. (1795. No. 181.) Palatine Joseph’s version begins on p. 815. See Domanovszky, József nádor, vol. II/I, 29. I would like to thank András Oross of the Hungarian archival delegation in Vienna for his help.

58 ÖStA HHStA Habsburg-Lothringische Hausarchive, Lothringisches Hausarchiv 39-5. fol. 11r–v.

59 ÖStA HHStA Habsburg-Lothringische Hausarchive, Lothringisches Hausarchiv 39-5. fol. 11v, fol. 12r–v.

60 MNL OL, P 298 (Albert hg. iratai), Nr. 2. A. II. 12/2. fol. 3r-v.

61 Kulcsár, A 18. századi helytartó, 1087–88.

62 MNL OL, C 1 (Prot. sess.), Duplicated minutes.

63 Cf. Kulcsár, II. József, passim.

64 MNL OL, A 39 (Acta gen.), 1771/5806, and 1772/2869.

65 MNL OL, A 1 (Orig. ref.) 1769/33. November 17, 1768.

66 MNL OL, N 13 (Arch. loc. Alberti Ducis Saxonie), Lad. 67. Fasc. 1. No. 4. December 29. 1765.

67 MNL OL, A 1 (Orig. ref.), 1766/253.

68 MNL OL, A 39 (Acta gen.), 1772/5440.

69 C. Tóth, “Az ország nádora,” 199.

70 Ibid., 216.

71 Iványi, Esterházy, 76; C. Tóth, “Az ország nádora,” 252.

72 Cf. MNL OL, A 1 (Orig. ref.), 1732/33. Point 5. and ibid., 1766/448.

73 C. Tóth, “Az ország nádora,” 216, 228–29, 238, 241, 248–53.

74 Cf. H. Németh, Polgár vagy nemes, 81, 84–85, 95–96.

75 ÖStA HHStA KA StR Prot. 1765. Nr. 2656.

76 MNL OL, Donationales palatinales (A 119).

77 Domanovszky, József nádor, I/1, 205; Domanovszky, József nádor, vol. II/1, 18.

78 Holub, “A nádor,” 89.

79 Pálffy, “Küzdelem,” 302.

80 This custom began to spread in 1681. Bartoniek, A magyar királykoronázások, 150. and Pálffy, “Küzdelem,” 300–1; Bak and Pálffy, Crown, 97.

81 Pálffy, “Küzdelem,” 307–8.

82 MNL OL, I 50 (Privatbibl.), Fasc. 39. 1796. Landtag. Extractus diarii… Bemerkungen des Staatsrates Izdenczy. October 31, 1796.

83 Pálffy, The Kingdom, 201.

84 C. Tóth, A Magyar Királyság nádora, 306–15, especially 310–11.

85 C. Tóth, “A nádori cikkelyek,” 42.

86 Ibid., and C. Tóth, A Magyar Királyság nádora, 315–16, 332–33.

87 CJH IV. Act I of 1681, Act XXI of 1715.

88 MNL OL, A 57 (Libri regii), vol. 47, p. 368, 379. On the comparative irrelevance of the appointment, see Kulcsár, A helytartói státus, 59.

89 ÖStA KA ZSt HKR Akten 1773–37–60.

90 CJH IV. Act V of 1790.

91 C. Tóth, A Magyar Királyság nádora, 38.

92 MNL OL, A 45 (Acta praes.), P. 1778/11. “Daß in Königreich Hungarn 46 Jahr hindurch….” Kulcsár, Der Kaiser-Mitregent, 76–77.

93 Mályusz, Sándor Lipót, 38–45.

94 MNL OL, A 39 (Acta gen.), 1795/8425.

95 MNL OL, N 22 (Misc. off.), 1795. No. 1. Francis I to his brother Joseph, Schönbrunn, July 20, 1795. and MNL OL, A 39 (Acta gen.), 1795/8166.

96 Domanovszky, József nádor, vol. II/1, 122, no. 44.

97 Ibid., 122–24; Mályusz, Sándor Lipót, 43.

98 One finds a clear indication that the initial uncertainty had come to an end in the fact that, although a list of candidates was made, Francis I placed a blank sheet of paper in the sealed envelope instead of the names of the candidates. MNL OL, I 50 (Privatbibl.), Fasc. 39. The annexes to Izdenczy’s letter, November 12, 1796.

99 MNL OL, A 39 (Acta gen.), 1791/209; MNL OL, N 22 (Misc. off.), 1795. No. 2. MNL OL, N 31 (István főh.), 1847/149.

100 MNL OL, A 39 (Acta gen.), 1790/16917.

101 MNL OL, A 39 (Acta gen.), 1795/8425.

102 Domanovszky, József nádor, vol. II/1, 18. Instruktion. and cf. ÖStA HHStA KA StR Prot. 1796. No. 646.

103 MNL OL, A 39 (Acta gen.), 1791/9255.

104 MNL OL, A 39 (Acta gen.), 1847/917. draft; 1847/1365. Proposed on January 14, 1847.

105 MNL OL, A 39 (Acta gen.), 1847/1362.

106 Mályusz, Sándor Lipót, 42.

107 Kulcsár, Der Kaiser-Mitregent, 76–78.


The Influence of the Estate System and Power Relations in the Late Feudal Parliament Seating Plan

Tamás Dobszay
Eötvös Loránd University
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 10 Issue 1  (2021): 129-154 DOI 10.38145/2021.1.129

“We shape our buildings and then they shape us,” Winston Churchill said when the question of rebuilding Westminster and modifying the interior of the House of Commons came up and he expressed his support for preserving the former system.1 Thus, according to the prime minister, a seating plan both expresses and determines the character and operation of parliamentarism. In light of this interconnection, in this essay I examine the formal characteristics of the late feudal Diet in Hungary between 1790 and 1848, as well as the power relations of the estates and strivings as they found expression within this system.

Keywords: 19th century, Hungarian Diet, late feudal parliamentarism, Estate system, use of space, seating arrangement of chambers

The Use of Space in Nineteenth-Century Modern Parliaments

The most striking difference in the seating plan in the Hungarian Diet before 1848 and that of representative parliamentary systems is the lack of both the horseshoe-shaped, that is, central pattern and the Westminster-style arrangement in Britain, with its benches which are facing one another. It is no coincidence that in the nineteenth-century continental parliaments, members of parliament sat on benches in closed, often ascending rows, reminiscent of ancient Greek theaters. The central arrangement of space (in the case of almost entirely closed circles, semicircles, and horseshoe shapes) helped ensure that each member of the assembly could sit at a nearly equal distance from the others, speak up, and see and hear one another, and it was the best way for the presidium, with which the semicircle came to a close, to chair the meeting, monitor developments, and notice if there were any need to intervene. Although the present paper does not lend itself to a comprehensive discussion of the use of space by representative institutions in the nineteenth century, a considerable amount of data indicates that this was the prevalent arrangement in most of the chambers designed for the assemblies established as a result of the revitalization of parliamentarism after the period of absolutism, and Hungarian contemporaries were well aware of this fact.

In many respects, the French parliament, which by 1830 had consolidated after the whirlwind changes brought about by the revolutions, served as a role model. As Transylvanian Farkas Sándor Bölöni pointed out when recording his travels in Europe in 1830,

“the chamber of deputies […] has public meetings […] The chamber has the shape of an amphitheater, and the deputies sit on the right or the left, according to their views. The audience sits in the balcony. Opposite the praeses, the journalists jot down the discussions. The Moniteur, as the official paper, sits near the seat of the praeses.”

Bölöni also noted that the speakers stood on a pulpit erected in front of the presidium. “If someone wishes to speak on a subject, he gets on the grandstand to give his speech, mostly reading from his papers.”2 A few years later, a similar description was provided by the young Bertalan Szemere (who was a member of the Diet a decade later and served as secretary of the interior in 1848), who did a lot to introduce the customs of parliamentarism in Hungary.

“The chamber is shaped like an amphitheater, with twenty white Ionian marble columns on each side, carved from a block, and a gallery of two rows behind them. There are ten rows of benches running parallel with the semicircle, and the windows on the vault, like the chamber itself, line up in a semicircle. The president’s seat and the marble pulpit are situated in the middle of the diameter.”3

Szemere ascertained the effects of arrangement and use of space on the members’ behavior and manner of speaking when he was learning about the British parliament and the discursive registers used there, as compared to French tradition. He suggested that the solemn tone of French speeches derives from the use of the pulpit: “In the [British] House of Commons, one does not hear the eulogizing pathos that pervades the French legislative chamber and which […] may also be attributed to the grandstand, because standing on it compels one to speak solemnly, so to speak,” a behavior uncharacteristic of the speakers in the House of Commons.4

The newly established Belgian National Assembly also followed the example of Paris. As Szemere pointed out, “the chamber of delegates is the exact replica of the Parisian chamber.” Bölöni made the same observation, but he described it in more detail and included mention of minor differences as well: “The chamber of the congress is indeed fine. The seats of praeses and members are arranged the same way as in Paris […] with the only difference being that the members can speak from their own place and sitting in the benches. Pro et contra oppositio members have the same arrangements.”5 It is a well-known fact that the central, almost entirely closed seating plan of the 1848 Frankfurt National Parliament is determined greatly by the oval floorplan of St. Paul’s Church, which hosts the assembly.6 The chamber of the Italian National Assembly, which became stable in 1861 after the events of 1848, was set up in Palazzo Carignano in Turin, with a floorplan similar to that of the Parliament in Frankfurt: in both chambers the seats were arranged in ascending rows in a semicircle.7 These assembles, however, all showcased the situation after revolution so, to varying degrees, they all broke from the former feudal systems. The Parliament of Württemberg,8 for instance, was established as part of the modern constitution that the monarch forced against the estates, which were demanding the reinstatement of the “ancient” constitution.

The British seating plan, with its facing rows of benches, is undoubtedly the result of the arrangement of the canon choir of St. Stephen’s Chapel in the Palace of Westminster: members of the House of Commons simply sat in the stalls of the former choir when they took possession of the building. The customary arrangement, which expresses the two-party system and the division between government and opposition, remained unchanged during reconstruction in the early modern period and in the chamber newly built after the fire of 1834. In Szemere’s words, the chamber of the House of Commons

“has a door-shaped pulpit in the middle of one end, where the speaker […] sits. In front of him, a desk covered in books and documents, next to which work three clerks wearing grey wigs. Along the longer walls, there are four ascending rows to the right and four to the left, with benches very close to one another and no desks in front of them […] by the way, the audience is allowed into the chamber if there is enough room, unlike in the French Parliament, where this is forbidden […] On the speaker’s right sit the ministers and their supporters […] on his left sits the opposition […] like two enemy camps.”9

A few years earlier, Bölöni provided a similar description, adding that
“[t]he members speak from their place […] The speech is always directed to the speaker.”10 This arrangement has persisted in its entirety and was later adopted by the Parliaments of other Commonwealth countries (e.g. Canada, Jamaica, Australia).

These seating plans conform to the particularities of modern parliamentarism. They express the duality of government and the assembly representing the nation, as well as the equality of the members within the parliament. As a remnant of the feudal system, the House of Lords, with its limited power, is located in a separate chamber. Considering the two models, it is the British parliamentary seating plan that emphasizes the two-party division of government and opposition. Churchill, too, argued in favor of keeping this arrangement by claiming that if British politics insisted on a two-party system, then the confrontational benches would clearly indicate the status of the MPs in the parliament: if one member sits on the other side, it will visually represent the change in his party affiliation, whereas the central arrangement with its contiguous rows meshes differences in party affiliation and enables the expression of transition, overlapping, and minor political differences.11

In contrast, from the perspective of the focus of this essay, the Hungarian Diet before 1848 can be linked to previous customs maintained with certain degrees of continuity with feudal systems.

Assemblies which Preserved Feudal Characteristics

Some European assemblies of the era passed on their feudal characteristics, customs, and concomitant uses of space to nineteenth-century legislation. In these institutions, the seating arrangement was determined by estates, rank, and, among those of the same rank, the principle of seniority.12 The latter was in fact transmitted to the more conservative upper houses of modern parliaments as well. In the nineteenth century French senate, for instance, “princes of royal blood, pairs by birth, sit right behind the chairman.”13

The plenaries of the Swedish Riksdag were rather unusual, as they placed the monarch and the assembly opposite each other, and the representatives of the four estates in two columns, sitting in benches reminiscent of desks in classrooms or church buildings. This seating plan persisted after 1789 and 1810, too: most of the members sat on benches lined up opposite the presidium. Although the four estates had their consultations and votes separately, the noble curia, for example, still used the same arrangement in its legislative chamber at the end of the century.14

From a Hungarian point of view, the Reichstag of the Holy Roman Empire is of particular importance, because also due to their shared monarch, it could influence the order of the Hungarian Diet developing in the seventeenth century. The historical assembly, which existed until 1806, was in fact not an elected representative body but a board of rulers of the provinces and cities with sovereign rights in the empire. The members and their delegates participating in the meetings surrounded the chamber, sitting parallel with the four walls. The seating arrangements conformed to the division into estates: the estates, forming three separate curiae within the assembly, had their own session halls, too, and during plenary meetings, they also sat separately, at a distance from one another. In the case of the latter, the speaker was the high commissioner of the emperor, the electors of the Holy Roman emperor sat on either side of him, and, perpendicular to them, down the long sides of the chamber sat the 120–150 sovereigns of the provinces. Members of the third curia, free imperial cities, sat in the back, opposite the emperor and the electorate. As for the first two curiae, ecclesiastical members were seated on the right and secular members on the left. Among the princes, with an individual vote of 96–98, those in lower ranks were grouped into an additional two ecclesiastical and four secular curiae, thus casting one individual vote each, that is, six more curial votes altogether. The seats closest to the emperor (or his delegate) and the speaker, as well as the ones on the right of the speaker were always considered more prestigious.15 On the other hand, the seating arrangement corresponding to status and rank in the estates determined the figure of the speaker, as well as the order of speech and voting in each board and the entire assembly alike.16 The different curiae, however, had varying seating plans. There was enough room for the seven-nine prince-electors at one table in their chamber, while the princes sat in two times four rows opposite the presidium in their own session hall (much like in the Swedish assembly), and delegates of the cities were sitting by the walls.17

Apparently, the seating arrangement of the plenary meetings of the Imperial Diet was not unique among old Diets of the estates. When the French États généraux assembled again in 1789 after a hiatus of more than 150 years, the plenary meeting had the same seating arrangement despite the high number of representatives. A huge session hall was erected on Versailles Avenue. The throne and the seats of the royal family were placed on a platform at one end of the hall, with the tables and the chairs of the ministers and the chancellor right in front of them; the clergy sat on the right along the wall, opposite the nobility on the left, and representatives of the third estate sat in the middle, opposite the throne.18 However, this arrangement could only be implemented at plenary meetings held with the permission of the king, while the estates were expected to have their sessions separately when holding serious discussions; thus, the revolution began with the three estates demanding to become a homogenous national assembly.

The Diets of Austrian hereditary provinces are not uninteresting to this discussion either, although due to their smaller size and limited roles they may only be partly compared to the Hungarian Diet. It is a well-known fact that the parliament of the Austrian Empire, established in 1804, only came to existence in 1861, after the prior events of 1848, but the individual meetings of its provinces formally persisted from the early modern period of the estates, though they had limited authority and not much weight. The assembly of Tirol prepared issues on the agenda by dividing into “quarters,” but the members of these quarters came from different estates and the decision was made collectively. The Landtags (Provincial Diets) of all the other provinces had three or four curiae (Vorarlberg had two), which held their discussions not separately but as groups in the chamber of the Landtag. The curiae were physically separated from one another in the benches of the chamber. They voted individually—in order by estates or by taking turns—in a way that the votes of cities were always cast at the end.19 The hall of the Styrian provincial meeting was arranged diagonally: the speaker’s table, where the minutes were kept, too, stood in the corner, the clergy’s benches by the wall on the right, and the benches of the other estates surrounded the middle part of the hall in a quadrangle shape.20

General Characteristics of the Use of Space by the Hungarian Diet

For members in the Hungarian Diet, the elongated shape of the chamber used did not lend itself to a horseshoe-shaped arrangement. The shape would not have ruled out the possibility of using the British Westminster style seating arrangement either, but it could not really prevail here. The arrangement conforming to the two-party alternating governments system, as well as to the parliamentary role of the king and the nation was considered so specific in Europe and suited the Hungarian public law system, still in a feudal state and not acknowledging the parties officially, so little, that its introduction was not even an issue back then.21

The Hungarian Parliament used three buildings between 1790 and 1848. The building in Buda shaped for this purpose only hosted two and a half Diets (1790, 1792, 1807) of the fourteen held. On the first occasion, the second half of the meeting took place in the old Landhaus in Lange Strasse in Pozsony (Pressburg, today Bratislava, Slovakia), the venue for the 1796 Diet for the entire duration of the assembly. From 1802 to 1848, the Diet used the parliament converted from the financial management building in Michaelstrasse in Pressburg. In all three buildings, the chamber of the Lower House had an elongated, irregular rectangular shape. The halls designated for the Upper House could have been more suitable for meetings, but few of the authorized participants actually attended the sessions.22

Between 1790 and 1848, the Hungarian Diet maintained the previously designed seating plan. Besides division by estates, discussed below, this traditional arrangement also reflected the mindset of the political dualism of the king and the estates.23 The chambers of the Diet were given a linear arrangement: in both houses the speaker representing the king sat at the short end, while along the entire length of the hall there sat the subjects, the estates constituting the political community, on both sides of a long line of tables, one line in the Upper House and three in the Lower House. From the speaker’s seat, as if he were sitting at the head of the table, one could see the entire chamber without having to turn one’s head. This solution was in accordance with the idea of head and body, and may also seem, at first glance, to be a practical one, corresponding to the shape of the hall. Of course, this meant that some members sat very far from the presidium and those sitting at the opposite ends of the table could barely hear one another. It is no wonder, then, that having a strong voice was a vital prerequisite for attending these meetings, and soft-spoken, gentle souls like Kölcsey had but the weight of their personal reputations to ensure them the attention of the gathering.

Another distinctive feature of the arrangement, in contrast with the European customs emerging at the time, was that deputies were seated by large tables on comfortable portable chairs, instead of closed rows of benches. In the early twentieth century, journalist Károly Eötvös, drawing on the memoires of contemporaries, highlighted that more than any modern seating plan, this arrangement better suited the convenient, patriarchal circumstances of reputed noble members, who would have objected to being forced to sit at “school desks.”24 Indeed, portable chairs facilitated freer movement; Kossuth, for example, regularly gave his speeches at the last Diet by turning towards the presidium while standing behind his chair and holding its backrest.25 This had a special significance because, as opposed to the clergy who spoke while sitting, members of both the Upper and the Lower House indicated their request to speak by standing up and staying upright.26

In both houses, the place of the members was clearly determined by the authority of the estates, grouping by status within the estate, and, in the Lower House, customs defined by geographical distribution as well. Similarly to the universal historical particularities mentioned above, the seats considered most prestigious were the ones on the right of and closest to the chairperson.27 In this case, too, the seating plan indicated the rank of the estates and the prestige of members. There was another difference deriving from these arrangements, though, as compared to the later parliamentary period: both in the Lower House and partly in the Upper House as well, members were sat next to one other not on the basis of their political or party affiliation, but according to their place in the status hierarchy.

The Seating Arrangement in the Upper House

In the House of Lords, the palatine (always a prince of the dynasty from 1790 on) sat at the head of the table, which was placed in the middle of the chamber and ran its entire length. To his right, the whole right side was reserved for the first estate, the prelates; right next to the palatine there sat the most prestigious high priest, the prince primate of Esztergom; then the archbishops of Kalocsa and Eger, and then all the bishops. Among them, the exact place of the diocesan bishops was determined by the date of their consecration, as part of the principle of authority. Titular bishops, who were elected but not yet consecrated or had no operating diocese, sat farther down. Superiors of the ecclesiastical convents in bishops’ ranks, abbots with mitre, the arch abbot of Pannonhalma, the grand provost of Zagreb (at the same time, the prior of Vrana), and the grand provost of the Premonstratensians of Várad sat at the far end of the table.28

The left side of the table was reserved for the barons holding high offices. Their first group was divided according to the rank of their office: the lord chief justice (judex curiae) was followed by the ban of Croatia, the master of the treasury (magister tavernicorum), and then, the court officials, in accordance with the date of their appointment (magister janitorum, mg. pincernarum, mg. dapiferorum, mg. agazonum, mg. curiae regiae). Further down there sat the county governors: supreme comites (lord leutenants or county high sheriffs), first hereditary and sempiternal, then the other in the order of their inauguration, and finally the governor of Fiume, and the deputy of Croatia in the Upper House. Until 1840, orthodox archbishops and bishops, who were granted participation in the Diet only in the late eighteenth century, also sat at this section of the table. The row of the high priests turned back to the side of the secular members of the Upper House at the end of the table.29 It must be noted, though, that many of the bishops and the office-holders did not stay continually at the venue of the Diet, and this was even more so the case with those lords who did not hold any offices but had titles by birth, such as dukes, counts, and barons.30 For this reason, discussions were sometimes held in smaller rooms, in a more informal way even. In January 1826, for instance, due to the low number of participants and the cold, the palatine held the meeting in his own chamber; and there is also some evidence of chairing from one’s sickbed.31 Titular (non office-holder) lords only had some single chairs without tables with no precise arrangement on both sides of the chamber, right in front of the rail dividing the assembly and the audience.32 There were, however, some signs of seating arrangement according to agreement in opinions among titular peers: those of the same view often favored sitting close to one another, and those remaining for a longer time customarily preferred using the same seat. But the somewhat stubborn lords were not really willing give up some of their independence and function in a more disciplined manner, like a party, or were only willing to do so towards the end of the era, so their seating arrangement, or the lack thereof, may be considered a tendency prevailing only to a degree and not a rule per se.

Not only did the seating plan have a symbolic meaning but it also determined the degree of influence on decisions; the palatine could best hear the speech of prestigious members among all the speeches considered from the perspective of rank, so the voices of those sitting in the far end of the chamber did not count much as compared to those of regni barones and officeholders. Men of the court and the royal government thus had an opportunity to monopolize discussions and decisions. Partly due to the principle of authority and the court policies, and partly because of most lords being loyal to the court, it was rather surprising when a member of the Upper House, especially one without an office, acted individually and expressed his opinion.33 The Transylvanian Bölöni, too, described the members of the Upper House as obedient to the royal authority:

“The palatine comes out of the adjoining room, followed by the primate, and all the lords, frightened like pupils, run to the table and sit down in silence. The host of bishops settle on one side of the long table, the dignitarians on the other side, the ‘regalists’ at the back […] The subject is finally discussed, if we may refer to the speaker’s will and the bishop’s approving bow as a discussion, and soon […] the submissive bill concerning the serves is ready.”34

The seating plan in the Upper House, imposed strictly at the table but less formal in the back, was eventually modified. Rearrangement took place in 1843; the main aim was to isolate the audience from the decision makers and drive them out of the chamber, although they were later allowed to take the empty seats.35 A considerable transformation was made at the end of the era, but several customs connected the seating plan persisted. According to the magazine reporting on the Diet of 1847–1848, the long table in the middle was kept (b) but, running parallel with it along the chamber, three rows of six long tables were placed on each side, gradually ascending and having a gap in the middle (c and d), to be used by the supreme comites and high priests who could not get any seats at the middle table. The rest of the seats were given to lords without an office. A bit farther back from the presidential seat (a) there were two smaller tables perpendicular to the others: orthodox bishops were seated at the table on the right (e) and the archivist at the one on the left (f). Right behind the palatine’s chair in the middle, by the wall, sat his officials (E) and, on their two sides, the shorthand writers (g and h). Four out of five window niches were given to newspaper reporters (k). Along the long side of the chamber overlooking the courtyard, members of the Lower House could be present as audience on a stand behind a rail (l), while by the wall opposite the presidency, likewise separated by a railing, the audience could sit in ascending rows (m).

Figure 2. The seating plan of the Upper House after rearrangement in 1843 (1847–1848) (“Országgyülési rajzok 1,” Ábrázolt Folyóirat January 8, 1848, 12.)

The Seating Arrangement in the Lower House

In the Lower House, the duality of the monarch and the estates, status within the estate, and geographical considerations likewise determined the distribution of seats. The seat of the chairing personalis (chief justice of Royal Court of Appael) was positioned on a wide podium, a few steps above the floor, at the corner-stoved end of the rectangular chamber. Right behind it, members of the Royal Court of Appeal, formulating the documents of the Diet, had a table, standing on its own before 1832. Perpendicular to the speaker’s table, three rows of tables reserved for the delegates were lined up along the entire length of the chamber.36 As seen elsewhere, the “upper seats,” i.e. the ones closest to the speaker on his right were reserved for the clergy, the representatives of chapters. At the middle and left-side tables, close to the speaker, there sat the delegates of the nobility, elected by the general assemblies of the noble counties, two from each county. The upper seats of the middle table were taken by delegates from counties situated along the Danube River in the western part of the country, while delegates from the eastern region, from counties by the Tisza River, sat at the table on the speaker’s left. The two delegates of each Danubian county customarily sat next to each other, while the ones from the Tisza region always sat opposite each other. However, this had no political significance whatsoever.37 In the previous century this was the usual seating arrangement for chapters and counties, so the only divergent seating plan, which was used at the 1741 Diet, is considered to have been an exception, perhaps a mistake made by the source recording the meeting.38

Groups that had a collective privilege but no individual noble titles were placed farther from the speaker, in accordance with their lower rank.39 This way, the secondary status of cities was indicated by the fact that their delegates sat at the far end of the counties’ tables. The only exception was the two delegates of each privileged free district incorporated in 1791 (Jászkunság and Hajdúság), who sat right after the chapters’ delegates, at the farther end of the right-side table.40 The few empty seats at this table were given to delegates of absent members of the Upper House; this, however, did not indicate their rank but the roles customarily attributed to them. As a matter of fact, although under the law these delegates also had a voice in the Lower House, in the nineteenth century, the delegates of the counties did not even let them speak, let alone vote. The noble deputies of the counties looked at the latter with jealousy and disdain, considered them “servants” of the lords, and contested their legitimacy as participants. The most these delegates could do was inform the lords they substituted, who had the right to vote in the Upper House anyway, and so the lower nobility tried to neutralize the influence their lords had through them.

A change in the situation of delegates sent by absent members of the high nobility is likewise interesting: while in the first half of the eighteenth century they were seated closer to the speaker, between the counties-chapels and the cities, i.e. they were higher in rank than the latter, after 1790 they were pushed to the far end of the chamber. Opposite the speaker’s podium, in the other end of the long chamber by the angled short wall, there was another part separated by a railing. From there, a staircase led up to the gallery reserved for the audience, below which the rest of the audience and the delegates of the high nobility with no room at the table were crowded together.

The Impracticability and Rearrangement of the Seating Plan

As noted earlier, this arrangement, which conformed to the shape of the chamber and to power relations among the estates, was not without problems. For those seated far from the speaker, the unfavorable position hindered their effective participation in the discussion; furthermore, since decisions were often made not by counting the votes but by the speaker listening to the participants’ opinion and considering it on the basis of their rank, the influence of those sitting in the back was limited during decision-making as well.

Partly due to the objection of those in a favorable position, their contemporaries recognized the impracticability of the seating arrangement. Sometime between 1820 and 1833 Palatine Archduke Joseph as the President of the whole Diet had a floorplan made to rearrange the two chambers in Buda41 but as the king chose Pressburg, the estates eventually stuck to the traditions because of the temporary circumstances. Thus, however, repeated complaints were made about the seating arrangements. On November 27, 1830 delegates of Temes and Torontál (characteristically two counties that were liberated from Ottoman rule late and reincorporated even later, so their delegates were seated at the far end), asked the president to “do something about the placement of the delegates seated far, as because of the distance they could not always hear the speech of those sitting in the front, and thus could not effectively participate in the discussions of the Diet. A host of similar complaints were made by the other delegates who were seated far from the speaker owing to customary laws,”42 but eventually rearrangement was postponed to the next Diet.

These complaints may have been the reason for the palatine’s aforementioned attempt to rearrange the chamber in Buda, but the issue came up at the beginning of the 1832 Diet in Pressburg as well. The palatine suggested that the impracticable seating plan of the chambers be transformed based on the experience of the previous Diet.43 Presumably, the estates felt it was necessary to protect and express their autonomy from members of the Upper House, which would also indicate the significance of the differences between the estates, and they did so by rejecting the palatine’s initiative: they “sent back” the palatine to the members of the Upper House, saying that they had the right to sit wherever they wanted to. This was obviously an exaggeration, as customs strictly limited them in this respect as well, so in the end they implemented the changes by mutual agreement.44

In the new seating arrangement (1833), delegates of the clergy were placed on the speaker’s platform, at separate tables on the two sides of the Royal Court of Appeal.45 The reason for this was partly because the palatine and the president intended to help them out in their difficult situation in the increasing debates on ecclesiastical policy, and separate them from the delegates of counties, who often attacked them.46 As for the three long tables, the one on the speaker’s right was still reserved for the free districts and delegates of those absent, the now free seats of the clergy were given to some deputies of the Danubian counties, and those representing the counties by the Tisza were sat at the inner side of the table.

Figure 3. The chamber of the Lower House after 1833. Groitsch, A. J.
(Hungarian National Gallery)


Farther away from the presidium, the counties were given the seats of the chapters at the right-side table and were seated as follows: the Danubian counties of Sopron, Nógrád, Komárom, Hont, Baranya, Esztergom, Tolna, and Turóc on the outer side; Sáros, Szabolcs, Borsod, Torna, Máramaros, Csanád, Torontál from the region of the Tisza and the Slavonian Verőce (Virovitica) county on the inner side. On the left, the rest of the counties from the Tisza sat opposite each other, as usual. This was important because the delegates first in rank sat on the right, and those elected at second place were placed on the left. Also, back then the records of the Diet did not specify the name of the delegates, but only a number and the name of the county they represented. It was only after 1839 that the two delegates of a county were regarded as equal.47 The delegates sat at this table in the following order: Abaúj, Zemplén, Ung, Szatmár, Szepes, Gömör, Heves, Bereg, Ugocsa, Bihar, Csongrád, Békés, Arad, Temes, and Krassó, Pozsega (Požega) County in Slavonia and the district of Turpolje. By the table in the middle, delegates of some Danubian counties followed the old traditions and sat (in contrast with delegates from the Tisza region) next to one another: close to the speaker on his right sat the delegates of Pozsony county, then of Vas, Zala, Somogy, Győr, Fehér, Moson (all Danubians), followed by the two delegates of Bács, originally seated on the other side due to having been organized belatedly and thus having to make do with the seats they received here. On the left side of the middle table, the seats were given to the rest of the counties by the Danube: Nyitra, Trencsén, Liptó, Bars, Veszprém, Zólyom, Pest, and Árva. At the end of the table, facing the delegates of Bács, there sat the two delegates of Szerém county, similarly demilitarized and established late from its earlier position as a frontier region.48 The rearrangement did not help two complaining counties much, as Temes and Krassó could only come two seats closer to the speaker. The new seating plan gained significance also due to the fact that the order of chairing at the non-official “circular” meetings of the Lower House, which were always led simultaneously by one Danubian delegate and one from the Tisza instead of the personalis, was determined by the seating arrangement. From 1833, these preparatory meetings, which were reminiscent of the Committee of the Whole House in Britain, were relocated to the plenary chamber due to the stuffy air at its previous location, and from that date on they were held in the same order as the official plenary except the presidency.49 What did not change at all, however, was the situation of cities, free districts, and the delegates of absent members of Upper House.

The next rearrangement in 1843 was a big step towards a more practical central arrangement, although it was not fully implemented.50 The conditions of the meeting were considerably improved but the custom of seating by the principle of estates and regions still prevailed. The presidium, the Royal Court of Appeal, and the clergy were moved to a long narrow platform with rails, erected by the longer wall of the chamber overlooking the courtyard. In the corner on the right, the gallery was reserved for the ladies, while the other galleries could be reached through a door in the corner of the other shorter end of the chamber. Next to the stove standing in the corner to the speaker’s left, a staircase led up to the lords’ gallery. On the lower level, at both ends of the chamber, there were two large podiums with rails taking up almost one-third of the area which were also set aside for the audience. The first two rows on the left were given to the delegates of absent members of the Upper House, who were now distinctly separated from the inner section of the chamber where the discussions took place to indicate their roles as observers, not decision-makers. The window niches provided room for the desks of reporters, as well as of the palatine’s and the chancellor’s commissioners. Finally, the speaker and members with the right to speak and take part in decision making in the middle two-thirds of the chamber could hear one another much better.

On the platform running the length of the chamber, the two rows of seats on the right of the presidium were reserved for the members of the Royal Court of Appeal, while the other two on the left were given to the delegates of Croatia and then the chapters. At the table behind the Croatian delegates and by the side of the second row of chapters, the secretary of the president prepared the minutes during official and circular meetings too. Those with important roles, i.e. the delegates of counties, cities, and free districts, sat at thirteen tables positioned crosswise in the long chamber, perpendicular to the president’s table. Two of them, somewhat wider than the others, stood in the middle with seats on both sides; while the other, more narrow tables (six on the right and five on the left) only had seats on one side so that the delegates would face the middle of the chamber.

The arrangement by estates and geographical regions, on the other hand, was left unchanged. In a random order, the Danubian counties were seated at the inner tables on the speaker’s right side of the chamber, and the counties from the two regions by the Tisza had seats at the inner three tables on the left. Behind the Danubians sat the delegates of the three Slavonian counties, as well as of Fiume and Buccari, while the free seats at this table and at three others behind them were given mainly to delegates of the free royal cities from the Danubian regions. Behind the counties by the Tisza and next to the delegates of Jászkun and Hajdú free districts, some seats were left empty for the counties and regions reannexed from Transylvania. These, however, could not be taken by those authorized, due to being hindered in their activities as delegates by the government. Most of the seats here and at the other two tables behind them could be taken by cities situated in precincts by the Tisza. Delegates of Croatian-Slavonian cities were placed in the railed area at two tables on each side, far from one another, probably on the only seats left.

From several perspectives, the new arrangement followed traditions and customs, but could still modernize the seating plan: separating the audience more strictly and pushing the deputies of the Upper House to the galleries made the process of negotiating clearer and posited the circle of the actual decision-makers spatially. Delegates with a more significant and populous background of voters were seated in the inner two-thirds of the chamber, so they could hear the speaker and one another much better and discuss issues more effectively. Still, even in this tight circle, prestige ranks persisted among the estates: in the middle there were the counties, then the districts, and then the cities at the peripheries. This arrangement reflected the weight of the actors, which derived from their position in the estate system.

The weak status of the cities found expression not only in their unfavorable placement at the peripheries but also in the fact that, corresponding to their geographical position, they were seated in two times two and a half rows far from one another. Thus, their delegates could hardly hear the colleagues speaking in the other end of the chamber, and the two groups could not communicate and negotiate with each other during the meetings. In the case when united action was discussed at preliminary private meetings, separateness was not a problem, but if something unexpected happened during the plenary it was considerably more difficult to react consistently. Earlier they were placed at the end of two long tables but at least close to one another, but now they were seated far from one another, so the rearrangement, which indeed had a positive effect on the whole of the assembly, in their case led to disadvantages from the perspective of representing the interests of the estate.

In the rearrangement of the seating plan, certain elements of the practices used in Western-European parliaments were slowly introduced: separating the audience, combining central and linear arrangement, and creating ascending rows facilitated discussion in the Upper House as well. Nevertheless, despite overall beneficial modifications resulting in a more practical arrangement of seats, the seating plan, still greatly influenced by traditions, showed no signs of modern political dividedness following the new trends. Although all those recollecting the period mention the presence of party-like formations and groups in the body of delegates, it was not manifested in the seating arrangement. The delegates believing in the same notions or making the same efforts did not yet sit close to one another. The traditional expectation of consensus among the estates, denouncing “division” and “discord” were not yet overridden by the beginning of the development of a modern party system made visible in the seating arrangement.

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Ruszoly, József. “A német tartományi rendi képviselet történetéből” [On the history of German provincial feudal representation]. Acta Universitatis Szegediensis – Acta Juridica et Politica 39 (1990): 207–24.

Schulze, Winfried. Reich und Türkengefahr im späten 16. Jahrhundert: Studien zu den politischen und gesellschaftlichen Auswirkungen einer auseren Bedrohung. Munich: Duncker & Humblot, 1978.

Siklóssy, László. “Országházak” [Parliament buildings]. Tükör 7, no. 9 (1939): 689–96.

Mat’a, Petr. “Der steirische Landtag in Raum und Bild um 1730: Symbolische Ordnung und visuelle Darstellung.” Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereines für Steiermark 104 (2013): 163–218.

Szente, Zoltán. “A korai rendi gyűlések fő jellemzői és intézményei” [The main features and institutions of the early feudal assemblies]. Parlamenti Szemle 2, no. 1 (2017): 5–25. doi: 10.1556/0406.18.2017.013.

Szijártó, M. István. A Diéta: A magyar rendek és az országgyűlés 1708–1792 [The Diet: The Hungarian estates and the parliament, 1708–1792]. Keszthely: Balaton Akadémia Kiadó, 2010.

Vajnági, Márta. “A Reichstag és a diéta” [The Reichstag and the Diet]. In Rendiség és parlamentarizmus Magyarországon a kezdetektől 1918-ig [Feudal order and parliamentarism in Hungary from the beginnings until 1918], edited by Tamás Dobszay, András Forgó et al., 187–99. Budapest: Argumentum, 2013.

1 Speech by Winston Churchill in the House of Commons. The meeting was held on October 28, 1943 in the House of Lords instead of the building of the House of Commons, which had been bombed. Accessed on March 24, 2021, https://winstonchurchill.org/resources.

2 Bölöni, Napnyugati utazás, 114–15.

3 Szemere, Utazás külföldön, 127.

4 Ibid., 267.

5 Ibid., 388; Bölöni, Napnyugati utazás, 181.

6 Grund-Plan vom Innern der Pauls-Kirche, Deutsches Historisches Museum. Do 95/55; Wolff, Paulskirche, Obergeschoß, Grundriß, Museumslandschaft Hessen-Kassel, Inventar nr.: L GS 12545; Das erste deutsche Parlament, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, Gr 2004/85.

7 “Opening of the Italian parliament.” Vasárnapi Újság, April 7, 1861.

8 Brandt, “Die deutschen Staaten,” 859.

9 Szemere, Utazás külföldön, 266.

10 Bölöni, Napnyugati utazás, 251–53.

11 See the speech cited in the first footnote.

12 Szente, “A korai rendi gyűlések,” 22 and 25.

13 Bölöni’s outline of 26 points to the rules of the French Parliament, Napnyugati utazás, 136–37.

14 Képes, “Az 1809. évi svéd alaptörvény,” 196, 203; Janet, “Konungens sista afsked af Rikets.” The chamber for the nobility was arranged in this way even in 1900: Första kammarens plenisal i Gamla riksdagshuset, Stockholms Stadsmuseum. Riksdagen i Gamla Riksdagshuset på Riddarholmen. Interiör av plenisal med ledamöter. 1890–1905 Fotograf: Wiklunds, Ateljé. Wiklunds Ateljé BILDNUMMER: C 3236 Stadsmuseet i Stockholm.

15 Vajnági, “A Reichstag és a diéta,” 189–91.

16 Stollberg-Rilinger, Des Kaisers alte Kleider. For an analysis of the order for the Worms period, see the chapter entitled “Ordnung der Personen in Text und Raum,” 32–46. For the exact allocation of seats in the Regensburg mixed meetings, see the figure on page 197. On the expression of rank and authority in the last stage of the history of the assembly see 300–5; Schulze, Reich und Türkengefahr, 337, 348.

17 On the chambers of the individual curia and the joint sitting: Becker, Der Reichstag.

18 Madame de Staël’s description of the opening of the assembly, supported by contemporary depictions: Considérations, 100. l.

19 Ruszoly,A német tartományi rendi képviselet,” 219.

20 Mat’a, “Der steirische Landtag,” 163–218.

21 In contrast, in 1865, the newly built Hall of Representatives was designed in the English style, but due to its poor acoustic conditions, it was soon converted to a horseshoe layout. “Az uj képviselőház gyülés-terme,” Vasárnapi Újság, November 9, 1865.

22 Borsos, “A régi budai Országháza,” 55–93; Kelényi, “A budai országház,” 36–42; Paulinyi, “A m. kir. belügyminisztérium,” 16–38; Kumlik, Adalékok, 4–5; Horler, Budapest műemlékei, vol. 1, 413–15; Siklóssy, “Országházak.” 689–96.

23 Gergely, “Ungarn,” 1050–51. On the Diet in general, see Pajkossy, “Ungarn,” 947–51.

24 Eötvös, “Hogy üljenek a követek?” Pesti Hírlap, May 16, 1906.

25 Eötvös, “Hogy üljenek a követek?” Pesti Hírlap, May 19, 1906.

26 Pardoe, The City of the Magyar, vol. 3, 227–28.

27 Szijártó, A Diéta, 101–4.

28 Pardoe, The City of the Magyar, vol. 3, 218–19; Paget, Hungary and Transylvania, vol. 1, 174–75; Kovács, 1843–44-ik évi alsó tábla kerületi napló, vol. 1, 55; Lupkovics, A magyar rendi országgyűlések, 36–37; Pálmány, A reformkori országgyűlések, vol. 1, 14–15, 23.

29 Pulszky, Mein Zeit, mein Leben, vol. 1, 220–21; Vaszary, Adatok, 8; Pardoe, The City of the Magyar, vol. 3, 239–40.

30 Paget, Hungary and Transylvania, vol. 1, 178. On the frequent absence of more famous personalities, see Pulszky, Mein Zeit, mein Leben, vol. 1, 240.

31 Széchenyi, Napló, 449; Szijártó, A Diéta, 141.

32 Kovács, 1843–44-ik évi kerületi napló, vol. 1, 56.

33 The boring meetings of the upper table were only enlivened by speeches made by the opposition: Pulszky, Mein Zeit, mein Leben, vol. 1, 221.

34 Bölöni, Napnyugati utazás, 99. On the solemn and ceremonial atmosphere, see Paget, Hungary and Transylvania, vol. 1, 177.

35 Molnár, Batthyány, 76; Révész, Die Anfänge, 39; X. [orsz.] ülés a Fő RR-nél június 24-én 1843. A főrendeknél tartott országos ülések naplója, 5–6.

36 Pardoe, The City of the Magyar, vol. 3, 220. Paget, Hungary and Transylvania, vol. 1, 28.

37 Lupkovics, A magyar rendi országgyűlések, 37–38.

38 Szijártó, A diéta, 570–73. The exception: 472.

39 Pardoe, The City of the Magyar, vol. 3, 221.

40 Kossuth, Országgyűlési Tudósítások, vol. 1, 23.

41 Borsos, “A régi budai Országháza, 90; Trentsensky. Projectum Conclavium Tabularum. Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Budapest Főváros Levéltára. BMT. 89.

42 Bertha, Országgyűlési tárcza, 196–97.

43 Plan for the repair of the gallery of the “Hall of the Lords” in Pressburg (early 1830s). MNL OL Plan Library, plans excepted from fonds of the government authorities. No. Ministry of Commerce Plans (T 14) No.2/Sz/39/1–4.

A méltóságos főrendek termének belső elrendezése iránt készített tervek. MNL OL Plan Library, Various blueprints (T 15) No. 42/1–4.

Planum exhibens modernam et projectatam mensarum-tabularum-sessionalium dislocatione in sala incly. statuum et ordinum, una et projectum calefactionis. MNL OL Plan Library, Various blueprints (T 15) No. 42/5.

A tekéntetes karok és rendek szálájábann a táblák helheztetése terve Pozsony, a Magyar Királyi Kamara épülete, országgyűlés színhelye 1832 Erdélyi Josef alaprajz. MNL OL Plan Library, Various blueprints (T 15) No. 42/6.

Pozsony, a Magyar Királyi Kamara épülete, országgyűlés színhelye, ülésterem [1830] alaprajz. MNL OL Plan Library, Various blueprints (T 15) No. 42/7–10.

Erklärung der Numern in dem beiliegenden Plan Pozsony, a Magyar Királyi Kamara épülete, országgyűlés színhelye, ülésterem [1830]. MNL OL Plan Library, Various blueprints (T 15) No. 42/11.

44 Eötvös, “Hogy üljenek a követek?” May 17, 1906. Kossuth and Kölcsey both mention the reorganization of the sitting order, but neither mentions the conflict with the palatine. Kossuth, Országgyűlési Tudósítások, vol. 1, 14. (Sitting of December 19, 1832); Kölcsey, Országgyűlési napló, 15–16, 21.

45 Pardoe, The City of the Magyar, 220.

46 Eötvös: “Hogy üljenek a követek?” May 17, 1906.

47 Révész, Die Anfänge, 101.

48 On the allocation of seats for the three tables, see Pulszky, Mein Zeit, mein Leben, vol. 1, 221–22. On the different seating arrangements for the delegates from the Tisza and Danube, see Révész, Die Anfänge, Ibid., Kossuth, Országgyűlési Tudósítások, vol. 1, 24.

49 Pálmány, A reformkori országgyűlések, 26–27. Gergely, “Ungarn,” 1048; Ferenc Kölcsey’s letter to Zsigmond Kende, Pozsony, May 17, 1833. In Kölcsey Ferenc levelezése Kende Zsigmonddal, 99; Kossuth, Országgyűlési Tudósítások, vol. 1, 391; Paget, Hungary and Transylvania, vol. 1, 164–65; Pulszky, Mein Zeit, mein Leben, vol. 1, 223. On the British parallel to the district meeting, see Dobszay, “Az országgyűlés bizottsági,” 201–2.

50 The most detailed description of the layout was given by Ferenc Kovács, who indicated the exact location of each stone. Kovács, 1843–44-ik évi kerületi napló, vol. 1, 109–18. “Határozat az üléseknek a karok és rendek teremébeni elrendelése iránt” és annak módosítása. MNL OL, Regnicolaris Levéltár. Archivum Regni. Diaeta anni 1843–44. (N 68) Fasc. L. No. 22. l) (fol. 28.) and m) (fol. 39.)



Figure 1. Groitsch, A. J. The chamber of the Upper House in Pressburg, 1836.

(Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest)


Figure 4. The seating plan of the Lower House after the rearrangement of 1843 (1847–1848) (“Országgyűlési rajzok 2,” Ábrázolt Folyóirat, January 15, 1848, 20.)



Bor Forced Labor Service as Reflected in Diaries

Tamás Csapody
Semmelweis University
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 9 Issue 3  (2020): 391-407 DOI: 10.38145/2020.3.391

Military forced labor service was introduced in Hungary during World War II. Men who were unreliable from the aspects of origin, religion, nationality or politics were conscripted for forced labor. Initially, forced laborers constructed primarily military objects on the home front, while later they were also dispatched to the battlefield. They had no weapons or uniforms, their provisions were poor and often they had to do building or mine clearing in the most dangerous areas. Hungary sent a total of approximately 6,000 forced laborers to work in the southern operational territories in 1943 and 1944. They had to undertake forced labor in the mining district of Bor in Yugoslavia, which was under German occupation. The majority were Jews, but there were also Jehovah’s Witnesses, Reform Adventists and Nazarenes. They lived under Hungarian military supervision and worked under German management. The locations of forced labor, the durations of time spent in the mining district, the experienced sufferings, etc. were very different. The forced laborers themselves were also different, for example with regard to their origins, occupations, and age. Several Jewish forced laborers wrote diaries and some of them managed to take those home. Later diaries written in Bor had a particular fate. Some were lost for a time or have remained in fragments, while others with important additions were deposited in archives or taken abroad by the diarists. All the diaries analyzed in the study testify to the survival of their writers. However, they mostly bear witness to the everyday life of forced labor service in Bor (otherwise difficult to learn about) and the behavior of those who held them, as well as the forced laborers’ sufferings, faith and hope. At the same time, they speak about the entirety of forced labor in Bor alongside its personal stories. The diaries are ego-documents, yet also historical sources. Their factual descriptions and subjective approaches augment our knowledge gained in the past. The six diaries written in Bor and analyzed in this study are personal confessions with significant source value.

Keywords: World War II, forced labor, Jews, diaries, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bor, Holocaust, ego-documents

Diaries written in Bor occupy a special place in the history of the Bor forced labor service. They were written during World War II, but they cannot be classified as typical war diaries. True, they were not written in the hell of war, during a retreat or on the home front. Yet they were still penned under conditions of war, confined between fronts, in theaters of military operations, far from the Hungarian border, in a foreign land, and often also under infernal circumstances. Although those who wrote the Bor diaries in forced labor service were subordinated to the Hungarian and German military, their diaries cannot be regarded as soldiers’ diaries or work diaries, even though they contain descriptions of places of work.

It was not prisoners treated as prisoners of war but forced laborers in captivity who wrote the diaries in secret. Although most of the diaries contain descriptions of journeys and the texts also record forced and frequent changes of place, they naturally cannot be called travel diaries. Though the fear of destruction appears repeatedly in the descriptions, since the shadow of death was present in the diarists’ lives due to accidents at work, illnesses, beatings, murders, and executions, they cannot be regarded as camp diaries written in concentration or extermination camps. In truth, we can say that they were written by victims of the Holocaust in forced labor camps.1 They simultaneously represent letter, camp, prisoner, and travel diaries. The Bor diaries found during my research are ego-documents written by Jewish forced laborers, more or less regularly and chronologically recorded, which are fragmented and which contain personal notes.2

The Known Bor Diaries

At present, we have knowledge of six diaries that were written at least partly in Bor.3 Of the six, only four can be appropriately described, since two have survived only in fragments. Those two have more content missing than what exists (László Faludi) or what can be accessed at present (György Szöllösi). The content that is known of them deserves far more than just a mention, yet it is clearly insufficient to allow a comparison with the four that can be read in their entirety (the diaries of György Laufer, Imre Pártos, Béla Somló, and Lajos György).

The diaries cover durations of varying lengths. Information about the call-up for forced labor service in Bor is the earliest initial point of time (May 31, 1943), while arrival at the authors’ place of birth in Hungary and accounts of subsequent experiences mark the latest (April 3, 1945). However, the diaries were written over very different time spans between the two time limits. Time frames are defined essentially by “external” circumstances, such as who was called up for forced labor service in Bor, when (1943 or 1944), and which group (the first or second “stage”) the person left Bor as part of. “Internal,” subjective differences also played a role in terms of from when and until when the diaries were written. Differences defined as “internal” and “external” were naturally closely connected, since, for example, the forced marches and mass murders which were common during the first stage made it impossible to record the events. This was very different from the situation of those who were dispatched from Bor in the second stage and had plenty of opportunity to write diaries in the period following liberation after they arrived in Temesvár (Timişoara) or Szeged, which both represented freedom and calm for them.

Three of the Bor diaries are held in public collections, while I was able to study or was informed about the other three from contacts of former Bor forced laborers or their descendants. All of the diaries, except for one, are unpublished.

László Faludi’s Diary

One of the two diaries that cannot be studied in full was written by László Faludi.4 His hand-written diary is of unknown length.5 However, the existing numbered eight pages suggest that its length must have been some 100 pages. His notes written in a grey pen on lined pages are clearly legible.

László Faludi, whose permanent residence was in Budapest, was a forced laborer in Páhi. From there, his unit was ordered to Szeged and then to Bor. According to his diary, the steamer which transported them to Serbia was sailing between Titel and Belgrade along the Danube on July 14, 1943.6 They reached Belgrade at night, after having experienced a huge storm lasting an hour. The following day, they reached their destination, the port of Prahovo on the Serbian side of the Serbian-Romanian border along the Danube. The journey by rail to Zaječar and then to Bor took two days. The 3,000 forced laborers arrived in Bor on July 17. He was held captive in Bor in the camp called Berlin for exactly 14 months to the day, until September 17, 1944.

The accessible (presumably) one tenth of the diary suggests that he wrote about three major themes: the forced labor in Bor, the past labor movement and the communist future, and his personal life. Employing the diary genre, Faludi wrote an autobiographical memoir, which is not at all unusual in such literature. He used his diary as a memoir and as a result it has a retrospective character.

His diary is explicitly for posterity. It is addressed not only to those who might find his notes, but to “the future generation who will appreciate”7 his writing. Thus, for Faludi, writing a diary was an activity intended for a larger, anonymous readership rather than any specific individual or, at least according to the text, the author himself. It is a message for the youth of the future, written amidst the suffering of forced labor service. It is full of pathos and is ideological, almost with an overtone of propaganda.

Considering the proportions of the fragmented diary, the largest section is a description of the past labor movement. The text clearly shows that Faludi came from the organized labor movement, in which he was socialized, started to read literature, and found his best friend. He defined himself as a skilled worker in a cotton mill and a proletarian who “struggled against the infringements of capitalism” and engaged in anti-war propaganda both inside and outside the mill. He believed in “the matter of liberty, equality, brotherhood, peace, work, and bread,” and his soul “was united with the souls of other proletarians.” “Socialist poets” became his “soul mates” in the movement, and he mentions Endre Ady, Attila József, and Sándor Petőfi by name. Influenced by their writings, he himself began writing poems and short stories. His younger brother became his colleague in the movement, and Faludi refers to him as always being the “best comrade and brother.”8 Faludi also recounted two experiences of key importance connected to the labor movement: reading something9 and May 1, 1938.

Faludi was sent back from Bor in the first group, and he must have escaped somewhere on the way while still in the Serbian mountains. He joined Tito’s partisans.10

Nothing more could be found about László Faludi in Hungarian archives, and only tiny bits of information were accessible in online data bases. His brief letters were usually published in the letters section of dailies and weeklies. They suggest that he remained on the left and maintained his critical attitude and sensitivities in terms of public life and his positive vision of the future.11

György Szöllösi’s Diary

The author of the other Bor diary that cannot be read in full is György Szöllösi.12 His hand-written diary exists in full, yet it cannot be accessed at present. Neither the few pages at my disposal nor the diary extract sent by György Szöllösi’s son13 provide sufficient information to analyze the diary.14 However, Szöllösi’s life and, within it, the period of forced labor service in Bor can be reconstructed on the basis of a video interview recorded by the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History15 and his testimony in one of the trials held by the people’s tribunal.16 Although it is impossible to get closer to the notes in the Bor diary, we still learn that Szöllösi was taken to the Bregenz subcamp in the spring of 1944. In the one and a half months he spent there, he experienced instances of “tying” (being hung from his hands after they had been tied together behind his back) ordered by the military detachment, and he witnessed the mutilation of two of his fellow laborers following their unsuccessful attempt to escape. Later, Szöllösi was ordered to work in the mines from a railway construction, and thus he ended up in the Straflager (punishment camp) in Bor. Here, he did not live under the supervision of the Hungarian military but rather of German soldiers. Since he did not get there as a form of punishment, he was far better off than he had been in the Bregenz subcamp. In the end, he was sent home as part of the second group.

Tito’s partisans liberated him on September 30, 1944. Like many of his fellow forced laborers, he first went to Temesvár and then to Budapest, which had been liberated in the meantime. (Subsequently, he probably wrote his diary from spring 1943 to the beginning of 1945.) Following his return home, he became an assistant police inspector in Sopron in the summer of 1945. After spending a short time in Germany and France, he left for the United States in May 1947. He settled in Chicago, changed his name to George Brent, and became a businessman.

György Laufer’s Diary17

At present there are four Bor diaries which can be accessed in full. The first note in György Laufer’s18 36-page hand-written diary, which is now part of a public collection,19 was written more than two and a half months after his arrival in Bor on October 5, 1943. His last note was recorded ten days before the first group left Bor on September 7, 1944. So the diary starts “too late” and finishes “too early,” including a duration of almost 11 months to the day: a large proportion of the nearly 14 months he spent as a forced laborer in Bor. With regard to its total length and the number of entries, the diary can be described as “brief.” Laufer wrote his diary continuously, but not daily. The longest gap, which lasted nearly two months, occurred between January and March, 1944. It was presumably cause by an illness which lasted for five weeks. Like László Faludi, Laufer was in the Berlin camp, and he also worked in the limestone quarry in the village of Krivelj to the north, as well as in Bor, but in Bor, he worked as a photographer.

His diary touches on the series of changes which occurred in the life of the Berlin camp beginning in early 1944. When the new chief commander of the camp, lieutenant colonel Ede Marányi,20 arrived in this period, the life of forced laborers changed dramatically. As Laufer noted in his diary, prisoners were treated more and more strictly. Individual and group “tying” took place regularly and frequently, and as a result, more and more people tried to escape. From his notes, it is possible to reconstruct precisely to the day the time when 15 “lads” fled on March 27, 1944. More people were able to flee within a few days. Of those who tried to escape, 10 were captured the same week. Ede Marányi had two of them executed on Sunday, April 2, 1944. In his diary, Laufer reported the death of a “Jehovah’s Witness” escapee (April 11, 1944). Although he does not mention names, the dates of the deaths agree with the data in the official records of military graves.21 However, the attempts to escape were motivated not only by the increasingly common practice of “tying,” but also by other forms of abuse. Laufer noted that from the beginning of April 1944, prisoners were only allowed to receive letters from their parents or wives, but not from girlfriends.

György Laufer identifies August 29, 1944 as “the most exciting and eventful” day of the time he spent in Bor. This was because, as he writes, “we were called upon to be ready to march because we could expect the order to set off at any moment.”22 The following days were spent waiting, although Laufer had only recently ended up in Bor as a photographer. A one-line note in his diary was made at 4:50 a.m. on September 7, 1944 saying, “Alert! My God be with me.”23 However, the alert was not followed by marching orders at that time. He had to wait another ten days, though there is no record of this in his diary.

The diary comes to an end here, but Laufer’s story in Bor, of course, continued. He was dispatched from Bor in the first phase. He did not write his diary during the marches. He was shot in the head in Cservenka (Crvenka/Tscherwenka) in western Bačka or its vicinity, but shockingly, he survived, and after he had recovered, he returned to Budapest in April 1945.24 The effects of György Laufer’s severe head injury inflicted in the vicinity of Cservenka accompanied him throughout his life.

Little is known of the photographer György Laufer who finally settled down in Budapest and started a family after his years in Szeged. Taking the circumstances of the period into account, the fact that his name is included in the list of profiteers published in the Bulletin of the People’s Tribunals in its issue of March 1946 does not tell us anything about him.25 He became an active member of the Bor group, and his name appeared in the documents of secret investigations in connection with the death of Miklós Radnóti (1967–1975).26

Imre Pártos’s Diary27

Law graduate Imre Pártos and economist Béla Somló belonged to the older generation among the Bor forced laborers. Pártos was 42 years old and Somló was 41 when they reached Bor in 1943. They were taken to Bor in the same group as the much younger György Szöllösi and Lajos György, who also wrote diaries. Pártos and Szöllösi presumably knew each other, since they were taken to the same subcamp.

From the day of joining his unit (June 5, 1944), Imre Pártos recorded something in his diary every day up to the last day of the year. He wrote entries in his diary for a total of 210 days, regardless of which Bor camp he was in or which way he had to take after liberation. He spent four months in Bor camps and two months wandering, marching, and fleeing between Bor and Szeged. He then spent two months in the liberated city of Szeged.

He generally summed up the events of a given day in three concise sentences. An obvious reason for being concise was that he wrote his diary in a small notebook (the only one among the Bor diaries) which offered him only a limited amount of space. Unlike the other diarists, he did not have to do physical work. From the very beginning to the very end, he was a clerk, and he was aware that this was a privilege. He was not held in contempt for being a legally qualified clerk, and if he had anything to fear, it was only the members of the detachment outside his unit. Enjoying the trust of both the detachment and his fellow forced laborers, he became president of the “welfare committee.”28 His estate29 includes an original document that indicates an income of 10,092 pengős and expenditures of 4,469 pengős. This suggests that a self-help social support system was organized with the approval of the camp commander in the Bregenz subcamp. However, Imre Pártos was able to take home both this unique document and a possibly complete list of names (497 in all) of those in the subcamp.

Pártos and the other forced laborers alongside him were liberated by the partisans from the second group setting off from Bor. This meant that he was finally freed from Bor, yet neither had the war come to an end nor was he no longer in danger. The story of his march with the partisans and his escape from the Germans is unusual but, thanks to his diary, we know it. Pártos did not advance in the direction of Arad or Temesvár, as one would have expected, but traveled instead to Szeged via Nagybecskerek (Zrenjanin). He arrived barely two weeks after Szeged was liberated. One day, he was still threatened by the horror of public work and “malenkij robot,” while the next day he was already working as a detective with the Szeged police. Although the diary provides information about the increasing workload at the police, it does not reveal details. It is also known only from a note which was written after he had stopped regularly writing in his diary that he was appointed as Szeged tribunal prosecutor on June 6, 1945. Pártos worked in both job in which he had both political and professional competencies for 16 months, until October 31, 1946, when he was relocated to Budapest.

The files of the people’s tribunal and the local press provide a fragmented picture of Imre Pártos’s work as a prosecutor. Newspapers in Szeged and its vicinity reported on some 35 people’s tribunals for which Pártos served as prosecutor.30 During the trials, he acted as prosecutor in cases in which charges were brought against particularly important war criminals and “anti-people” criminals, such as the commander of the former ghetto of Szeged, the former chief of police, the former Lord Lieutenant, the former deputy mayor, and the former guard commander of the Csillag Prison. In several cases, Pártos was the people’s prosecutor in the trials of military superiors of Jewish forced laborers. As a tribunal prosecutor he participated in at least two cases when the people’s tribunal passed sentence on former detachment members in Bor.31

After almost exactly two years spent in Szeged, he was appointed to the position of people’s prosecutor in Budapest (October 31, 1946) and deputy chief people’s prosecutor eight months later (June 6, 1947). This took place at a time when the Communist Party was seizing power. The people’s tribunals often played a role in this. Pártos represented the prosecution during certain phases of the trials of the Arrow Cross chief of press Mihály Kolosváry-Borcsa,32 minister from the Smallholders’ Party Endre Mistéth,33 and social democratic leader Károly Peyer.34

After the people’s tribunals ceased to function, the government appointed Pártos deputy chief state prosecutor (January 27, 1950).35 About five years later, the Presidential Council of the Hungarian People’s Republic awarded him the “Order of Merit for Socialist Labor” in “recognition of his excellent work in the Chief Prosecution Office.” At the time, Pártos was the prosecutor of the main department of the Chief Prosecution Office (December 24, 1954).36 Following the suppression of the 1956 revolution, he did not participate in the show trials.37 Pártos began his career as a solicitor before the war and retired as a legal counsel from the Budapest Contractors’ Company on December 31, 1966.

Béla Somló’s Diary

The author of the longest diary known among this admittedly small group was Dr. Béla Somló.38 The text, which exists in a typed transcript in a public collection, is several times longer than any other Bor diary.39 The manuscript is a typical example a work with a retrospective character which is not “intact,”40 since in the absence of the original hand-written diary, it cannot be established whether subsequent changes were made and what expectations the author wanted to comply with in relation to any potential changes. Béla Somló passed on to succeeding generations all of his diaries about marches into the regions of the southern borders of Hungary and to Ukraine in the same way.41 At that time, the anti-Jewish laws had not yet affected Somló, and he participated in the reinforcement of the occupying troops as a soldier of the Pécs mechanized division.

Somló’s diary written in Bor is a source of abundant information about the lives of forced laborers who were taken to the Rhön subcamp in the second group. After his fortunate liberation, he provides a uniquely rich description of the colorful life in Temesvár, a city which survived the war with relatively little damage and had already been liberated. It was an urban center in which Jews, Hungarians, Romanians, and Russians lived together.

The bulky file of surveillance documents kept by the State Security Authority reveals more about Béla Somló’s post-1945 life than any other source. Somló, who was not a party member, spoke several languages and liked music. He was kept under surveillance on suspicion of spying for six years between 1950 and 1956. The suspicion was unfounded, and his case was closed.42

Lajos György’s Diary43

The author of the sixth Bor diary which has survived in full44 is Lajos György. While I had to make inquiries about László Faludi and Béla Somló and about György Laufer’s authorship, the opposite was true in the case of György. Also, he was the only person among the Bor diarists with whom I was able to meet in person.45 His son, aesthetician Péter György, first mentioned the existence of the diary in a biographical essay published in the literary journal Alföld in 2010.46 A year later, in his essay-novel Apám helyett47 (Instead of my father), which met with considerable interest, the story of his father’s forced labor service in Bor and his Bor diary played essential roles in the first seven chapters.

Lajos György’s Bor diary can be divided into three distinct sections based on chronological and topographical aspects: Bor, liberation and wandering, and finally, being home in Budapest. Regarding its themes, it is a historical and a personal diary. The personal thread is intense in the sections written during his time in Bor and during the period he spent wandering and also in the notes made after he had returned home, although in the latter, the proportions are naturally turned around completely. The narrative changes from a war-time forced labor camp diary into a “travel diary” and a personal one. It is the diary of a year in the life of a young man who was 18 and then 19 years of age and who was taken to a forced labor service, compelling him to cross international borders, pass through theatres of military operations, and learn about the old and new systems from close-up, and yet György was barely able to separate from his parents. In addition, he was in love. So the text is also a diary documenting his turbulent emotional life over the course of a single year of his first love. Moreover, the diary has another important layer. The text is a document which sheds light on the ways in which his attitude towards the communist idea developed via practical trials. Thus, Lajos György’s diary can clearly be regarded as a diary of transformation, mobility, and the process of becoming an adult.

Lajos György wrote his diary between May 31, 1944 and April 3, 1945. The section on Bor embraces a shorter period, and it also contains entries written during and about the liberation and the events of the months after György had returned home. It begins when he was drafted to work as part of the forced labor service, and the diary contains entries kept over the course of a year, almost to the day. Over the course of this period of time, according to his entries, György slept in a total of 58 places, starting with Jászberény, the location specified in the summons he received, followed by the locations in Bor, and on the way home following liberation as far as to his residence in Budapest.

György’s diary contains drawings, which is not unusual in diary literature, though his is the only one among the Bor diaries that contains drawings. Tiny sketches in red ink are found in the margins and, in some instances, at the top of the pages. They are connected to the texts. György drew a castle, rails, mine carts, piles of bricks, a red star (with “Long Live Tito” underneath in Serbian), a hammer and sickle, a red cross, tanks, books, a watch (with the word “watch” in Russian underneath), a Christmas tree, and a traditional Hungarian Christmas cake.48 In the same red ink, he underlined titles, sub-titles, some dates, and words or names which he regarded as important, presumably when he reread the diary later.

Lajos György was placed in the Laznica camp, which was, relatively speaking, the best in Bor. It was the only subcamp of Bor that was situated inside a village and was not surrounded by a fence due to its location. It was the furthest Hungarian subcamp from Bor and it was not along the busier north-south main road. Last but not least, the commander of the camp, ensign Jenő Halász, had a comparatively humane attitude.49 Yet later, Lajos György encountered a member of the detachment named János Császár in the Berlin camp.50 The cruelty of this sergeant major had the same negative effect on him as it did on the other diarists. Later, like László Faludi, György Laufer, and György Szöllösi, Lajos György also participated in the people’s tribunal trial of János Császár.51


On the basis of the number of diaries which have survived, even if in some cases only in fragments, one has the impression that very few of the forced labor service men in Bor wrote diaries. Two of the authors of the surviving six diaries were taken to the Berlin camp with the 1943 group and spent 14 months in Bor. The others arrived a year later and were held captive in different subcamps in the mountains. The diaries clearly show how differently the diarists experienced their forced labor service, depending on their ages, qualifications, assignments, and the conditions in the camps. Nothing was previously known about how a forced laborer lived and thought during his time in Bor if he worked inside the camp, for instance in the kitchen, or he was a photographer or a clerk or if he had been in the organized labor movement. The Bor diaries provide us with a few impressions of the experiences of forced labor in theaters of military operations or under Hungarian and German control. Notes made in the present tense at the locations and the later transcripts make it possible to draw a more nuanced picture.

Another perspective from which the diaries may offer a more nuanced understanding of the experiences of people assigned to forced labor camp service involves the so-called “Jewish question” in the camp. As György Laufer writes in his diary (which is the only source known so far which touches on this), the Jewish forced laborers were marked with “the Mogen Dovid,” which was daubed in “oil paint” on their chests and their backs (Laufer writes about this in the entry from March 30, 1944).52 So from then on, the Hungarian Jewish forced laborers held as prisoners in the Berlin camp were compelled to wear the Star of David on their clothing until the liberation. Béla Somló dealt most with the situation of the Jews in the camp. He was preoccupied with the difference between the position of “whites” and “yellows” (the term “white” referred to people who were born Jewish but converted to the Christian faith. They were officially considered Jews). He often wrote about the distinction between “white” Jews and non-baptized “yellow” Jews. Thus the anti-Jewish laws carried weight in acts of discrimination even in Bor. Those with yellow armbands could not be cooks, nor could they work in the kitchen. Moreover, they could not be workers within the camp or be present in the office. They had to turn in their boots and wear the Star of David. Béla Somló, Imre Pártos, and Lajos György had white arm bands, as did the poet Miklós Radnóti and the philosopher Sándor Szalai, who were also taken to Bor.

With one exception, the Bor diaries did not end in Bor. They record the liberation and the experience of encountering the partisans and Russian soldiers. They also describe what the forced laborers experienced during their escape, on the way home, and at the locations where they stayed. After having survived Hungarian and German captivity, they were still exposed to threats from the partisans and the looming danger of falling into Russian captivity. The diaries show precisely how the war, its consequences, and the temporary situations affected them. Arrival home also presented them with losses, since they learned that many of their relatives had perished in the Holocaust. They had to rethink their lives, including their personal lives. In different ways, they participated in the emergence of a new world, including the rise of a different dictatorship, the complex circumstances of which they themselves struggled with later.53


Primary sources

Állambiztonsági Szolgálatok Történeti Levéltára [Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security] (ÁBTL)

Béla, Somló. 3.1.5. O–9054.

Budapest Főváros Levéltára [Budapest City Archives] (BFL)

Nb.206/1945. 160–161. Lajos György

Nb.3281/1945.80. András Tálas

XXV.1.a. 3757–1947, Károly Peyer

XXV.2.b. 13981–1945, Mihály Kolosváry-Borcsa

Holocaust Emlékközpont [Holocaust Memorial Center]

Károly, Koltai. 2011.360.1.

Honvédelmi Minisztérium Hadtörténeti Intézet és Múzezum [Ministry of Defence Military History Institute and Museum Military History Archives] (HM HIM HL)

PGy 2826. Béla, Somló. Diary. The participation of the Pécs motorised heavy vehicle division IV/2 in entering the region to the south of Hungary’s border in 1941 (1980)

PgyM/368 and M/368. Béla, Somló. Diary (Bor, 1 June 1944–Temesvár, 19 October 1944). Diary (Temesvár, 19 October 1944–Budapest, 27 February 1945).

TGy 2811. Béla, Somló. Diary. The participation of the column of the Pécs motorised vehicle division IV/2 in the rapid deployment force of the military campaign in Russia (1941).

Hadisír Nyilvántartó [Records of Military Graves], http://www.hadisir.hu/hadisir-nyilvantarto

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Csongrád-Csanád Megyei Levéltára [National Archives of Hungary Csongrád and Csanád County Archives] (MNL CSML)

Szeged Nb.206/1945. Trial of cadet sergeant János Császár

Szeged, Nb.1106/1945. Lance corporal Mihály Palócz’s war crime

Szeged, Nb.1200/1945. Captain István Vida’s anti-people crime.

Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum [Hungarian National Museum] (MNM)

Legújabb Kori Iratgyűjtemény [Collection of Contemporary Documents]

83.242.1. Faludi, László. Diary of a Bor forced laborer

Történeti Fényképtár [Department of Historical Photographs]

78.386. Faludi, László. Three camp postcards

Magyar Zsidó Múzeum és Levéltár [Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives]

B/327 L2_E4_75. Laufer, György. Diary written during Bor forced labor service

Visual History Archive (VHA)

USC, Shoah Foundation, George Brent, interview 19753, 1996.

György, Lajos. Diary. 31 May 1944–1 April 1945. The original copy of the diary is with Lajos György’s widow, Otília Vass (Budapest), while the copy seen by me is in Péter György’s ownership.

Magyar Közlöny [Hungarian Official Gazette], 124.12.1954, no. 106, 754.

Magyar Közlöny [Hungarian Official Gazette], 16.02.1950, no. 28, 1.

Nemzeti Emlékezet Bizottsága [Committee of National Remembrance] (NEB)

Datebase. https://perek56.hu/ords/f?p=1051:1

Pártos, Imre. Diary. The original diary and Imre Pártos’s documents connected to his forced labor service in Bor are in the ownership of his daughter-in-law and granddaughter (Budapest).

Somló, Béla. Diary (Bor, 1 June 1944–Temesvár, 19 October 1944). Diary (Temesvár, 19 October 1944–Budapest, 27 February 1945). The originals are owned by Márta Koczka Sántháné (Debrecen).

Szöllösi, György. Diary. The original copy of the diary is owned by Dennis Brent (Dallas).


Secondary literature

Anonymous. “Itt a feketézők, valutázók, árdrágítók második hivatalos listája” [The second official list of black marketeers, illegal dealers in foreign currencies, and profiteers]. Világosság, March 3, 1946.

Csapody, Tamás. “Laufer György naplója” [György Laufer’s diary]. Múltunk 64, no. 1 (2019): 184–224.

Csapody, Tamás. “A naplóíró Somló Béla” [The diary writer is Béla Somló]. FONS 24, no. 3 (2019): 339–402.

Gyáni, Gábor. “A napló mint társadalomtörténeti forrás: A közhivatalnok identitása” [The diary as a social history source: The identity of a public servant]. In Gyáni, Gábor, Emlékezés, emlékezet és a történelem elbeszélése [Remembrance, memory and the narration of history], 145–60. Budapest: Napvilág Press, 2000.

György, Péter. “Az amnézia-terápia: A Kádár-korszak fausti egyezsége” [Therapy of amnesia: The Faustian pact of the Kádár era]. Alföld 61, no. 1 (2010): 64–69.

György, Péter. Apám helyett [Instead of my father]. Budapest: Magvető Press, 2011.

Kunt, Gergely. Kamasztükör: A hosszú negyvenes évek társadalmi képzetei fiatalok naplóiban [Reflections of adolescents: Social ideas of the long 1940s in diaries of young people]. Budapest: Korall Press, 2017.

Sinclair Jr., Upton Beall. Kutató Sámuel [Samuel the Seeker]. Translated by Dezső Schöner. Budapest: Népszava, 1913.

1 The roughly 6,000 Hungarian forced laborers in total taken to Bor in Serbia in 1943 and 1944 included 161 Jehovah’s Witnesses, 19 Reform Adventists, and 9 Nazarenes. We do not know if any member of the minor congregations kept a diary.

2 On the diary as a historical source, see Gyáni, “A napló mint társadalomtörténeti forrás: A közhivatalnok identitása,” 145–60.

3 The chronological framework of the study extends from the draft for forced labor service to the individual’s return to his permanent residence. There are several memoirs which are regarded as Bor diaries by posterity. See, for example, Károly Koltai’s memoir, which according to the official records of the Holocaust Memorial Centre is a “hand-written diary and memoir.” Holocaust Memorial Centre 2011.360.1.

4 László Faludi (mother’s name: Sarolta Fingerhút; Budapest, December 19, 1920–Budapest, after 1980). Unit V/4. Special labor unit V. supplementary battalion; identification number: 3006.20.3432. Skilled textile mill worker in Budapest.

5 Diary of a Bor forced laborer. MNM, Collection of Contemporary Documents 83.242.1. Pages 29–32 and 81–84 of the diary survived. Parts of the diary were displayed at the exhibition held in the Hungarian pavilion of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in 1979. Three camp postcards written from Bor, which László Faludi wrote to his parents and siblings in Budapest, and one sent to Bor, which he received from his mother, also exist. MNM, Department of Historical Photographs, 78.386.1–4.

6 The steamer transporting László Faludi and its towboat departed from Szeged towards the south on the River Tisza and reached the Danube at Titel.

7 Faludi, Diary of a Bor forced labourer, 32.

8 Ibid., 83.

9 He was reading Upton Beall’s Kutató Sámuel.

10 László Faludi handed over two certificates made out in the Serbian and Croatian language by the Yugoslav partisans to the Museum of the Hungarian Labor Movement (MMM), a legal predecessor to MNM. Acknowledgement of receipt: none. Budapest, October 4, 1978. The certificates cannot be found at present.

11 His brief contributions were published in Népszabadság and Új Tükör between 1976 and 1980.

12 György Szöllösi (George Brent) (mother’s name Mária Weisz; Zilah, April 2, 1926–Dallas, January 24, 2001) was a violinist, assistant policeman, member of the French Foreign Legion, and businessman.

13 Dennis Brent (mother’s name Anita Myerson; Houston ?–December 1950) was a writer, retired editor, producer living in Dallas.

14 In addition to the cover, I was able to see only four poorly scanned pages of the diary. The school exercise book with a checkered cover and pages could be a total of approximately 30–40 pages. Dennis Brent’s email to Tamás Csapody. Dallas, August 24, 2006. (For years, I asked Dennis Brent to show me the full diary, but in vain.)

15 VHA USC, George Brent, interview 19753, 1996.

16 MNL CSML, Nb.206/1945, János Császár’s trial at the people’s tribunal. Record of testimony. Acknowledgement of receipt: none. Sopron, June 7, 1945. 36–38. Records. No. of acknowledgement of receipt: Nb.206/1945.17. July 30, 1945. 49–50.

17 The diary was published in full. Csapody, “Laufer György naplója,” 184–224.

18 Laufer, György (mother’s name Róza Somogyi; Budapest, August 9, 1920–Budapest, September 30, 1995). Unit V/4. Special labor unit V supplementary battalion. Identification No. 3009.20.2796. He was a photographer, press worker, motorcycle delivery man, leather goods artisan, and self-employed plastics craftsman.

19 Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives, B/327 L2_E4_75. Documents Collection connected to the Holocaust, Laufer György Diary written during Bor forced labor service.

20 Marányi, Ede (mother’s name Katalin Dörgő; Pétervárad, October 7, 1896–Markdorf, Germany, September 20, 1985). His fictitious data: Antal Fehér, Komárom, March 5, 1900 was a special corps lieutenant colonel, off-duty Arrow Cross Party colonel, and commander of the camp group in Bor.

21 The two executed forced laborers were Sándor Friedmann (Budapest, 1907–Bor, April 2, 1944), Special Labor Unit battalion V. Resident of Budapest, and Tibor Béla, about whom there is no data in the official records of military graves. The Jehovah’s Witness was István Besenyei [András Besenyei] (mother’s name Borbála Nagy; Kisléta, November 28, 1911–Bor, April 11, 1944), special labor unit 801. According to the file of official records of losses, he “died during a collapse of earth.” HM HIM Records of Military Graves, search by name: http://www.hadisir.hu/hadisir-nyilvantarto (last accessed September 21, 2018).

22 Laufer, Diary, August 29, 1944.

23 Laufer, Diary, July 9, 1944.

24 BFL, Nb.3281/1945.80. Trial of cadet sergeant András Tálas at the people’s tribunal. György Laufer’s testimony. Budapest, October 30, 1946. No. of acknowledgement of receipt: 619/1946.

25 Anonymous, “Itt a feketézők, valutázók, árdrágítók második hivatalos listája,” 5.

26 ÁBTL, 3.1.5.-16476. File codenamed Abda murderers. The appearance does not have any significance since György Laufer did not go with the marchers after Cservenka.

27 Dr. Imre Pártos (mother’s name Malvin Freidlander; Budapest, March 27, 1902–Budapest, September 30, 1973) was a solicitor, people’s prosecutor, deputy people’s prosecutor, deputy chief prosecutor, and legal counsellor.

28 Pártos, Diary, July 4, 1944.

29 The original diary and Imre Pártos’s documents connected to his forced labor service in Bor are in the ownership of his daughter-in-law and granddaughter, who reside in Budapest.

30 Primarily Szegedi Népszava and Délmagyarország, less frequently Szegedi Kis Újság, Makói Népújság and Szentesi Lap published some news in connection with Imre Pártos.

31 MNL CSML, Szeged. Nb. 1200/1945. Captain István Vida’s anti-people crime. Sentence: two years imprisonment. Also: MNL CSML, Szeged. Nb. 1106/1945. Lance corporal Mihály Palócz’s war crime. Sentence: ten years hard labor by the court of first instance, changed to three years by the court of second instance.

32 Dr. vitéz (“the Valliant”) Mihály Kolosváry-Borcsa (mother’s name Margit Kolosváry; Kolozsvár, June 27, 1896–Budapest, December 6, 1946) was a journalist, editor, titular state secretary, and member of parliament. BFL - XXV.2.b - 13981–1945.

33 BFL - XXV.1.a - 2815–1948, Dr. Endre Mistéth (mother’s name Emília Konstantinovics; Buziásfürdő, September 10, 1912–Budapest, July 12, 2006) was a bridge construction engineer, state secretary, and minister.

34 BFL - XXV.1.a - 3757–1947, Károly Peyer (mother’s name Katalin Frank; Városlőd, May 9, 1881–New York, October 25, 1956) was an ironworker and minister, member of parliament.

35 Magyar Közlöny, 1.

36 Magyar Közlöny, 754.

37 He is not included in the 1956 data base of the Committee of National Remembrance (NEB) in any form. https://perek56.hu/ords/f?p=1051:1. (Last accessed June 18, 2019.)

38 Dr. Béla Somló [Béla Schwartz] (mother’s name Körpel Ilona; Budapest, July 14, 1903–Budapest, April 2, 2000) was a chartered economist, agrarian economist, bank clerk, and photographer in Budapest.

39 HM HIM HL, PgyM/368 and M/368. His Bor diary consists of two large units. The section written in Bor consists of 49 pages. The other section, which was written in Temesvár, comes to 64 pages (Bor, June 1, 1944–Temesvár, October 19, 1944 and Temesvár, October 19, 1944–Budapest, February 27, 1945). The author later transcribed the texts for the Archives of Military History in 1979 and 1982.

40 Kunt, “Kamasztükör,” 15–20.

41 HM HIM HL, PGy 2826. The participation of the Pécs motorized heavy vehicle division IV/2 in entering the region to the south of Hungary’s border in 1941 (1980). Also: HM HIM HL, TGy 2811. The participation of the column of the Pécs motorized vehicle division IV/2 in the rapid deployment force of the military campaign in Russia.

42 ÁBTL, 3.1.5. O–9054. Béla, Somló.

43 Dr. Lajos György (mother’s name Emma Schwitzer; Budapest, April 16, 1926–Budapest, November 1, 2008) was a physician, editor, writer, environmentalist, ecologist, and doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

44 The original copy of the diary is with Lajos György’s widow, Otília Vass, who resides in Budapest, while the copy seen by me is in the possession of Péter György.

45 Email communication from Lajos György to Tamás Csapody. Budapest, September 13, 2005.

46 György, “Az amnézia-terápia,” 64–69.

47 György, Apám helyett, 2011.

48 A total of 13 drawings including signatures in two places. There are also three words and remarks written in the margins in the same red ink (“гладам сам” [I am hungry], “B.U.É.K.” (the Hungarian abbreviation for Happy New Year), and “Hungária”).

49 Reserve ensign Dr. Jenő Halász was a teacher in Újvidék (Novi Sad). Two pieces of news spread about him among the forced laborers (he fled and joined the partisans, and he did not return after his official time off). He was sentenced to five years of imprisonment in Yugoslavia after 1945. The second commander of the camp was lieutenant Béla Nagy from Szeged.

50 János Császár (mother’s name Judit Burkus; Medgyesegyháza, April 17, 1905–Szeged, August 3, 1945) was a sergeant major and a member of the detachment in the Bregenz and Rhön subcamps and then in the Berlin camp. The Szeged people’s tribunal sentenced Császár to death for war crimes in 1945 and he was executed.

51 BFL Nb.206/1945. 160–61. Lajos György’s handwritten, signed submission without any date. The registered date is June 19, 1945. János Császár’s trial at the people’s tribunal. No. of acknowledgment of receipt: 1542/1945.

52 Diary, March 30, 1944. Mogen Dovid: Star of David, in Hebrew Magen David.

53 I would like to thank everyone in the public collections and private archives who helped me in my work, as well as those who contributed to the process of creating accurate typewritten versions of the diaries.


The Corporeal Continuation of the Holocaust: A Look at Miscarriages

Alexandra M. Szabó
Brandeis University
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 9 Issue 3  (2020): 408-429 DOI:10.38145/2020.3.408

Scholarship on women’s experiences is recently surfacing to understand a broader and more nuanced picture of Holocaust history. This case study wishes to add to the currently emerging interpretations of gendered experiences through the events of miscarriages that persecuted women experienced before, during, and after the Shoah. While the topic of miscarriages is only a segment of the larger subject of pregnancy, this research aims to offer a methodological example of including corporeal experiences into the gender analysis of the examined time period. This case study thus presents its relevance in bearing the ability to alter previous scholarly understanding on the demographics of Jewish communities after 1945 by showing that women’s reproductive and fertility experiences have not been included in social scientific discussions.

Keywords: Women and the Holocaust, gendered experiences, gender analysis, pregnancy, miscarriages, Jewish women.

In this paper, I examine experiences of miscarriages caused by the Holocaust in order to present the idea that defined timelines of history and demographic indicators do not necessarily align to the social reality of corporeal and gendered experiences. Originally, the wider scope of my research was about returning Holocaust survivors who had been deported from Hungary,1 and the initial step was to review demographics concerning the Jewish population from the immediate postwar period in comparison to the past decades of the twentieth century, especially the interwar period. My examination of the demographic data led me to the discovery that Holocaust survivors are mainly treated as a homogenous group in Hungarian scholarly work, and this failure to draw distinctions among them has led to some unexplored ground in the history of survivors.2 The aim of this paper, therefore, is to look deeper into the social history of the Hungarian Jewish population in the so-called transitory period of the early postwar years in Hungary from liberation in 1945 to the beginning of Communist rule in 1949.3 The purpose of such a case study about a specific group of people within a specific timeframe is, ultimately, to provide a lens we can glean insights into societal changes from a wider but also from a closer perspective. Therefore, this paper is going to complement quantitative research with a qualitative approach. Through this examination, I seek further explanations and a more nuanced understanding of alternate realities that lay behind macrosociological knowledge with the help of a feminist approach.4

Such an approach provides further questions about the context and actors of a given societal reaction or change, especially about women and their role. Given the outstanding shifts in the demographics of the Jewish community in Hungary post-1945, sociological and historical analyses specifically highlight the low amount of live births, which becomes an even more so focused aspect when taken the contemporary general claim into consideration that it became the Jewish woman’s social duty to recuperate the lost souls of the Holocaust.5 Therefore, the aim of this paper is to turn towards the survivors with an inquiry that allows us to understand further possible reasons of the low statistics through a qualitative approach instead of a quantitive one, yet with the aim of integration. Consequently, my examination has led me to the understanding that women miscarrying in this era was just as significant, if not greater, as in other contexts. However, claiming definite causality is not the aim of this paper, in that the traumas of the Holocaust affected all of the women’s reproductive health and led to high rates of miscarriage; the intention is rather to present that such casualties did happen, as by nature, such explanations are omitted from the statistics.


Demographics after Survival

As Viktor Karády’s extensive work on the Hungarian Jewry after 19456 clearly shows, the main change in the social structure of survivors was the high demographic losses due to casualties (illnesses and the poor physical state of survivors, self-destruction, and even pogroms), conversion, emigration, and mixed marriages. Moreover, a significant upsurge can be observed in terms of Jewish marriages, and a change in family structures. Given the importance of the latter two shifts, I have chosen to consider the realities of starting a new family, as such decisions amount to and represent significant social changes.

The demographic boost in marriages within the surviving Jewish community in Hungary in the immediate post-war period becomes significant in comparison to before and during the active years of the Holocaust. This compensatory demographic process is noteworthy if we seek to understand familial choices, at least in part, as fundamental coping strategies of Holocaust survivors on a macrolevel. A prevalent response was to (re)marry, and this led to a surge of approximately 1,000–1,200 more Jewish marriages in 1946 than in 1943/5, and more than 2,200 Jewish marriages were held in Budapest in 1947.7 The demographic upswing is extraordinary if one considers the growth of the numbers of Jewish marriages to the stagnant number of marriages among people of other faiths in this time period in Budapest.8

The tremendous growth in the numbers of new marriages did not, however, mean a similar upward trend in birth rates. The demographic recuperative tendency of Jewish communities in Hungary, according to Karády, is not significant in other than getting (re)married; recuperative fertility is thought to have lessened or ceased due to several reasons, such as the destruction of households, losses of property and wealth, psychological effects of persecution, etc.9 The female experience of not being able to bear a child for psychological reasons, physiological reasons, or a complex combination of the two, and further realities, remains unexplored. Therefore, after carefully presenting the demographic data on the number of live births, I will turn my attention to those mothers who are not counted in the statistics due to unsuccessful pregnancies.

I find this dimension extremely important because it constitutes an essential, if not overlooked, component of the social history of Holocaust survivors; it shows that the trend of Jewish births after the Shoah, compared either to the number of Jewish marriages or the live birth rates among couples of other faiths, is not exclusively due to inherent structural differences in Jewish families. My discussion of some of the reasons behind the numbers will show that, at the time, this was a silenced social reality, and it remains a silenced part of the past to this day. This is true in part because women who lost pregnancies or were unable to conceive are not included as distinct categories in demographic data and in part because sociological inquiry on the Holocaust has, in general, failed to include gender as a perspective.

I will complement my discussion of the background of this social history with elements of oral history by concentrating on the voices of women about intimate topics related to the establishment of families. I thus focus on the unexplored and rather unarticulated topic of miscarriages as one of the many almost unmentioned events in the lives of women survivors and the several different responses with which miscarriages were met and the outcomes they had. My paper will show that miscarriages were (and are) a hidden yet significant topic and that pregnancy losses changed the responses and roles of women even after the Holocaust. My discussion thus also adds to the theoretical literature on how gender is a fluid social category and women do not have an “essential nature” under any circumstances.10

Women and the Holocaust

To begin an inquiry from the perspective that women survivors did not consistently respond in “typical” or expected ways to pregnancy or a miscarriage is to suggest that women should be studied independently in Holocaust history. The historiography on women in the Holocaust follows an evolution of thought, beginning with an insistence on distinguishing women from men, since history and the study of history have been largely influenced by men, yet men have had different sets of experiences than women. This starting point includes emphasis on allowing women to speak for themselves and also to be seen and heard.11 However, gender analysis in Holocaust scholarship has been a rarity, though a more recent trend of studying women separately in the Holocaust follows the same route as studying women in general history, and this has made women somewhat more visible in Holocaust studies.12

Feminist scholarship on war and women, moreover, has gone beyond conclusions based on simple gender dichotomies and has been able to shed light on new realities while deconstructing myths that limited further knowledge production.13 A crucial distinction which has been drawn is that war affects women, and it affects women in different ways than men in terms of torture and murder (for instance), an aspect which has been marginalized by the standard that war is “men’s business.”14 Yet, there are several experiences that easily debunk this standard. For instance, a specific form of psychological torture as a result of wartime rape affected only women, namely being made pregnant by one’s rapist, who was also the enemy in the larger conflict, and then being stigmatized within one’s own group. Moreover, women in the wars of the twentieth century constituted a significant share of direct casualties as civilians due to the strategy of so-called total war, which drew no distinction between combatants and civilians,15 while Jewish women, together with Jewish men, were “nonpersons” unworthy of life according to Nazi ideology.16

Nazi ideology was genocidal based on racial distinctions, thus it might seem as it took no consideration of gender, but it has already been established that Nazi practice was not gender neutral,17 so it is important to note that it was so because Nazi policy never neglected the aspect of gender, rather it added to the complexity of its power structures. The Holocaust was inherently a gendered process, wherein the forced changes of location, forms of forced labor, forms of treatment, etc. were all gender based and thus had formative effects on experiences, survival, and death.18 A significant example includes the initial selection upon arrival in the camps, which determined the fates of the persecuted based on gender. Visibly pregnant women and women with children were immediately sent to their deaths.19 Those who were not sent to the gas chambers after arrival were then segregated, also based on gender, which then marked the differences in how women and how men faced hardships and experienced the modes of survival.20

Moreover, specific strategies applied in genocidal practice are gender-focused, such as sexual assaults and other means of targeted attacks on reproductive abilities, which coheres to the main aim of annihilating an ethnicity and culture.21 Women’s bodies could function as a weapon of war, as raping women who were regarded as part of the “enemy” group had the effect of stripping their husbands and fathers of their masculinity and destroying their status as protectors within their communities.22 This practice was also part of the Holocaust, although the policy of Rassenschande under the Laws for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor might suggest otherwise, given that it prohibited sexual relations with anyone identified as Jewish.23 Whether the rapes which were committed during the Holocaust were part of a military strategy or acts prompted in part by the genocidal desire to dehumanize, historians agree that sexual violence against their did happen and is an important part of their experience.24

Survivor accounts also inform us that the fear of suffering any sort of sexual violence was constantly present, and sterilization is a central theme in many of the women’s memoirs.25 However, accounts in which experiences of sexual assaults, menstruation, pregnancy, etc. are elaborately discussed are rather scarce. Women did not talk about them in part, as Joan Ringelheim comments in her discussion of interviews with Holocaust survivors, because the assaults were seen as having “no significance within the larger picture of the Holocaust,” even by the victims themselves.26 Whether this is the result of a male-dominated memory of the Holocaust or of the stigmatization mentioned above, the silencing added to the exclusion of female experiences from the history of the Holocaust. And although not every woman may have suffered any or every form of sexual assault or gendered violation, the sources concerning practices of sexual assault in some camps suggest these experiences were more common than not. For example, in the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, the methodologically planned steps against menstruation were coffee-like drinks which contained bromide, and as in other camps, invasive sterilization methods were used to prevent pregnancy, while infants and children were sent to the gas chamber.27

A Feminist Framework

Study and discussions of exclusively female experiences are not intended to measure the sufferings of women and compare them to the sufferings of men, but rather to learn about fertility before, during, and after the Shoah in order to gain a better understanding of the success or failure of the coping strategies of survivors regarding family structures. Much as women’s responses to experiences are not universal, the timelines of physical and psychological recuperation were not either. Therefore, when discussing miscarriages specifically happening to survivor women, I refer to fetal loss as a possible corporeal continuation of the Holocaust to strengthen the need to include this aspect not only to sociological analyses but to an overall historical understanding. The basis of this approach is Lenore J. Weitzman’s and Dalia Ofer’s sequential framework, which offers a methodological scheme to understanding women’s responses to the Shoah in Holocaust historiography.28

The sequential framework complements the continuity and the disruptive frameworks by inviting Holocaust historians to broaden their view of women in a timely manner, which in my interpretation means looking at the “longue durée” of women’s lives, to follow the shifts in responses and behavior through the entire course of the Holocaust, and not statically.29 This framework is divided into three stages: 1) the general reaction of the continuity model at the beginning of the Nazi assault on Jews, 2) the in-between stage of coping strategies changing into disruptive patterns as Nazi measures intensified, and 3) the tipping point, when change came about in the women’s perspective, and the “new me” was born, usually due to a fatal trigger (e.g. a miscarriage, the death of a loved one, etc.).

I have chosen the sequential model to put survivors’ testimonials that mention instances of miscarriages into a framework because of the attention this model devotes to time. The other frameworks either consider the roles of women from the prewar period as mothers, wives, and homemakers as roles which were kept up or roles which retained their relevance30 or they focus on forms of female behavior that were or are considered discontinuous, i.e. the dramatic ways in which women abandoned their prewar roles and conventions eventually to engage in activities that would have been unthinkable prior to their experiences of the reality of the Holocaust.31 The main argument of this paper about miscarriages concentrates on the time aspect in a sequential sense, i.e. that it is not only characteristic of the female experience during the Holocaust statically, in singular point(s) of time ending 1945. According to this view, I find it important to reconsider the sociological findings on the population of Hungarian Holocaust survivors in the immediate postwar setting and, more specifically, to explore the underlying reasons for the low number of live births in a retrospective manner.

Demographics Revisited

As a demographic examination of the Jewish population shows, although there was a high compensatory upward trend in the immediate postwar years in Hungary, this was mainly visible in the number of marriages but less so in the number of births.32 In 1945, the number of Jewish births (529) was about half what it had been in 1944 (1,164). This figure rose significantly to approximately 1,500 births by 1946/7, but this meant only a return to the prewar figures (1,540 births in 1938).33 Moreover, the main argument of Karády’s chapter on reproduction and the family structures among Holocaust survivors is that after the compensatory upward trend of demographics, in the long run, the Hungarian Jewish population returned to its tendency towards decrease.34 This statement fits the overall thesis of Jewish social studies about a general trend of decline in terms of Jewish populations most commonly due to a low number of live births, conversion, and mixed marriages, etc., namely, that there is a threat of “Jewish disappearance.”35

However, conclusions concerning a “Jewish disappearance” as a general trend turn out to be too vague and lack a qualitative approach for more precise consideration, offering explanations borrowed from history through the lens of statistical data as decontextualized pieces of information.36 Even if changes in demographics concerning a decreasing Jewish population is worrisome at a given time, the interpretation of a “Jewish disappearance” does not work in all cases. In this respect, other, deeper analyses of given set of demographic data could show that the numbers have been decontextualized and this decontextualization explains why social histories fall victim to general conclusions concerning loss or “disappearance.” In a study on Breslau Jews, for instance, Till Van Rahden shows that the linear understanding of intermarriages leading to integration was not applicable to the Jews of the city. Rahden demonstrates how this understanding or assumption (that intermarriage leads to assimilation) does not do justice to the complex identities of the Jews of the city and that choosing a Gentile partner did not always represent a break with the Jewish tradition, since in many instances, the intermarried spouses continued to follow Jewish religious practice, and in several cases they did so with the children born to the mixed families.37 Similarly, the decreasing demography in Hungary after 1945 can hold further realities which offer other explanations for low birth rates.

When contextualizing the declining numbers of births, Karády elaborates on the possible reasons for this drop by reviewing the corporeal explanations. He reviews the statistics from a vast societal starting point on an annual basis, and he includes a list of the psychological effects of persecution alongside a more detailed explanation of the consequences of migration, political shifts (the increasingly powerful Communist Party, the rise to power of which caused a new wave of shock among Hungarian Jews), the disproportionately large number of women aged 0–20 in comparison to men, and the structural changes of families in terms of trends (having one or two children after the war instead of seven or eight, which had been typical before the war).38 However, Karády does not include, in his discussion, the possibility that some couples had other underlying reasons, or that women were not able to become or remain pregnant, though in some cases, this inability to bear a child would constitute a further effect of the Holocaust which did not cease with liberation.39

I contend that a woman’s inability to have a child after the Holocaust must be included among the possible reasons for low birth rates among Jews and must also be studied if we seek to arrive at a nuanced understanding of women’s sexual vulnerability and the potential consequences of the experiences of persecution that Jewish women suffered during (and in this case also after) the Holocaust. These are issues which remain largely unexplored in the secondary literature.40 In order to initiate such an understanding, I have conducted qualitative research based on oral history using the Visual History Archive of the USC Shoah Foundation. When I searched for survivor testimonies using the indexing term “miscarriages,” I found 16 accounts in English, which I have chosen to use as the basis for the present case study. A larger sampling could be achieved by adding further indexing terms and by including other resources and databases, which is an aim for further extended research on the topic, wherein I can go beyond identifying miscarriages as an additional explanatory point, and achieve a deeper understanding of the extent of miscarriages, its direct and indirect effects on the population, its scope in connection to the era’s politics of reproduction, and other related questions. Nonetheless, given the framework of the paper, I corroborate my argument about the urgency of identifying the survivor women’s reproductive issues by using the results found in the narrower search of the VHA testimonies.

It is important to note the time scope of the oral histories examined. The survivors’ accounts were videotaped in the 1990s and early 2000s, and a very small number at the end of the 1980s. This might, of course, mean that elements of memory and remembrance are problematic, since over 45 years had passed since the actual events had taken place, yet in the specific case of miscarriages, I believe that being embedded in the social matrix of the time of speaking is of greater impact. In case of the VHA Shoah Foundation interviews, women talking about pregnancies can be articulate, but surely not as emphatically as today, when there is a more assertive mindset and vocabulary with which to talk about sexuality (or the vulnerability of sexuality, for that matter). This might further explain the low number of testimonies in which women discuss their experiences of failed pregnancies. The majority of the searched testimonies, moreover, discuss the event of a miscarriage before or after the Holocaust, and there are less recollections of pregnancy losses during the murderous Nazi persecution when forcibly removed from home.

Instances of miscarriages during the Holocaust, either in ghettoes, camps, or in hiding, are more silenced due to the fact that the pregnancy itself had to be kept a secret for the woman in question could thus avoid being murdered immediately or, because of the lack of medical help, the mothers passed away after the miscarriage. Here, the risk of comparing experiences before, during, and after the Holocaust might arise. Any attempt to measure or quantify sufferings, in my assessment, would be misguided, as each of these three time periods was unique for its own reasons. Moreover, each experience is distinctive and unmeasurable since these events happened to individuals, much as, more generally, the pain and torments suffered by woman cannot be meaningfully compared to the pain suffered by men and children.

Qualitative Research: After the Holocaust

Of the 16 testimonies, one is a duplicate (possibly a system error of the search engine), so the actual number of interviews on which I based my case study is 15. Of the 15, two accounts were told by men about their wives and their lost children. Almost half of the people (seven) mention miscarriages that happened after liberation, while two mention miscarriages which took place before ghettoization in Poland and six speak of miscarriage which took place during the active years of the Holocaust, out of which four happened in Auschwitz and two in hiding. Although the quantity of the testimonies is too narrow to be of representative value of an entire society, it does include these different sets of experiences that allow the sampling to be an indicative case study, i.e. miscarriages occurred in this period and thus its examination needs to be elevated into the historical inquiry, however small a number of witnesses testify.

One of the male interviewees claims that he and his wife were constantly trying to get pregnant and his wife had several miscarriages for about twelve years after liberation, during which time they migrated to Israel, and they were only successful in their attempts at childbearing later, in Canada.41 This indicates the complex circumstances of the aftermath of the Holocaust in a survivor’s life, which might illustrate the different tolls this complex new reality might have had on restarting life. Another male Holocaust survivor speaks about his wife’s miscarriage after their marriage in 1956.42 Considering the over ten years that had passed since liberation, discussing this miscarriage in terms of Holocaust trauma might rather be of a speculative nature but especially because Charles does not elaborate further on the fatality. Nevertheless, this testimony is also of crucial importance in the discussion of miscarriages as it instigates the question how far can we think in terms the continuation of the Holocaust in women’s bodies if 1945 cannot be declared as an end point, and whether such a question could be sufficiently examined at all.

Similarly, the women who speak about miscarriages which took place after 1945 note that they lost several pregnancies, some at a late stage. Two female survivors mention multiple miscarriages which took place in 1947–1948. One of them gave birth in 1946, right before making Aliyah, but her baby died in infancy.43 Another mother, Tobi was seven months along when she had a miscarriage.44 Tobi got married to her husband in Canada in 1950, after which she had a miscarriage when she was in her seventh month (the child would have been their first born). When seeking medical attention in the local hospital, she was told by the doctor that she would have to start trying to have another baby immediately and not spend too much time grieving.

Seven months after the loss of her first pregnancy, Tobi gave birth to her son, who weighed five pounds. Similarly, her second child was born prematurely at six months and was kept in an incubator for seven weeks. The hospital required payment for the child to grow strong while in the incubator, which was a financial burden for Tobi who had her firstborn child at home while his husband earned $45 a week. As she had to pay rent and feed her family, Tobi offered the hospital a deal: “or you gonna take 15 dollars from me per month or you keep the baby. And when I’m gonna have money, I’m gonna come for the baby to take it home. And he was ‘Ok, ok, 15 dollars…’.” She thus managed to pay for the intensive care her baby needed in a year’s time, spending $1,000 to save her children.

Tobi’s recollections about the beginning of a new (family) life after having survived the unthinkable shows the politicized significance of a woman survivor from a social and biological viewpoint. She was to bear a child, not mourn the loss of a pregnancy, to fulfil her familial desires, and perhaps a social, and even a religious duty.45 The demographic indicators, as well as the interview questions (embedded in the framework of VHA’s interview methodology in 1996) do not allow us to extend this investigation further, and thus leaves room only for speculation. For the “business” of keeping her child alive, she was the primary caretaker and the primary executive power concerning the financial aspects of the necessary healthcare in an emergency situation, thus reversing the prewar gender differences of spatial orientation within the family structure. Her husband was earning the income for the household, but it was she who had to negotiate for the future life and health of their children, outside of the home.

However, the multiple and late miscarriages from the sampling of this case study show that stability was trembling in women’s bodies to the extent that even successful childbearing did not guarantee life for the newborn. One of the stories told symbolically invokes the sensation of trembling, possibly a result of a seemingly never-ending persecution: Lena,46 Jewish Holocaust survivor born in Thessaloniki, got pregnant again around 1947 after her husband arrived back from deportation, at a time when they were living in a small room in their previously confiscated apartment with several Greek strangers. Once, while she was having a shower, one of the men pushed the door in and entered the bathroom to which Lena’s sudden reaction resulted in her falling to the floor, and losing her child, a baby girl. “I fell down, and I had miscarriaged. And was a girl. A little girl. And I start to cry, all the time, I was crying because they took me in the hospital, to clean me, to do whatever it was, it was a miscarriage, it was not like normal. And I was all the time crying that it was a girl, it was a girl, a little girl, a little girl. That was the problem.”

Lena’s account shows that the underlying psychological effects are in a complex relationship with physical fear that could have resulted fetal loss in such a direct way because of falling, but presumably also in indirect ways. The underlying reasons of fear can be not only complex in its nature but caused by a number of causes, such as the stress of having to live in a previously confiscated apartment with others, the justifiable or unjustifiable threat of Gentiles in the early postwar period, or that of antisemitism that was prevalent in several countries even to the extent of newly occurring pogroms47, and possibly several other factors depending on the time and space (in Greece, for example, the overshadowing of the Holocaust and the survivors returning to Greece by the Greek Civil War48).

Pregnant women were also exposed to unsafe conditions since they were often on the move, as emigration was one of the most common coping strategies for previously deported Holocaust survivors, and this also constituted a risk to a healthy pregnancy. Maria W., for example, was on her way to make Aliyah when, in Marseille, she had a miscarriage. As she did not speak French, she felt even more vulnerable and was rather an observer of what was happening to her. After she had spent some days in the hospital, she was taken to a DP camp, where she was left lying on the floor for two weeks. Only later, after having arrived in Israel, was she given the professional medical attention that a miscarriage would necessitate.49 Maria never had a child after this experience. In her recollections, she does not elaborate on not having had children, i.e. she does not indicate whether this was for physiological or psychological reasons. However, it becomes clear that for all the women whose accounts I read, the circumstances of childbirth were rather difficult, often even harsh. Women had to deal with the continuation of the Holocaust in their bodies, both mentally and bodily, and they also had to address the circumstances and environments in which they found themselves at a moment of emergency.

Qualitative Research II: Before and During the Holocaust

The sources indicate different reactions to the growing tension and hostility during the period leading up to the Holocaust as well and to the changing structures of family lives. Some of the findings offer significant examples of the experience of unsuccessful pregnancies due to the growing tensions of Nazism in Poland in the 1930s. One account is about a neighbor who was pregnant, while another survivor talks about her own story. Chronologically, the first incident happened before ghettoization, but when German soldiers were already strolling in the streets of Kazimierz (a district of Kraków) in Poland. One day, soldiers entered a store-holders’ property and were greeted and served by the store-holder’s daughter, who had recently gotten married and was pregnant with their first child. For unknown reasons to the narrator, the pregnant daughter was kicked in the stomach by one of the Nazi soldiers, causing her to miscarry. After having lost her child, the mother also passed away. The acquaintance of the storyteller remembered this regrettable event specifically because the funeral which was held for both mother and child was the first funeral she had ever attended.50

Similarly, when more drastic measures of persecuting Jews were implemented in Poland, a woman named Fay lost her father to “some gangsters” in their town, and later her mother also died during the German invasion. Fay remembers the Germans entering Grodzisko Dolne, the small village in which they lived, with their huge motorbikes and cars. According to her account, the fear she experienced caused her to miscarry. “I was so scared,” she said, “I lost a baby.”51 Although Fey was not directly attacked by any of the Nazi invaders, the fear of the unknown preceded the actual events of aggressive persecution, and it may have been this fear (as she herself seems to have thought) that caused the death of her unborn child. This is the only information she provides in her testimony in 1988, without further comment. She does not talk about the emotional aspects of this experience or of her grief. Her articulate but hardly detailed account offers an example of one way in which a Jewish woman felt it acceptable or appropriate to speak about the loss of a pregnancy.

Of the fifteen testimonies, two tell vividly detailed stories of miscarriages which took place while the mothers were still in the camps. Marika, a Hungarian Jewish woman held in Ravensbrück, formed a close relationship with a woman named Elvira in the camp, and Elvira eventually told her story. 52 Marika had become pregnant in the previous concentration camp she had been taken to in Frankfurt am Main (Elvira hints that Marika may have been a victim of rape). Marika did not tell anyone anything of her pregnancy, but she started to become very sick, and eventually, she could not eat or stand anymore. Those in the same barrack with her realized that she was pregnant when the older women interpreted these signs as clear indications of pregnancy. The miscarriage happened when she was lying on the top bunk. Elvira and the other women saw blood flowing down onto the floor from the top bunk, so they took her down (“And we had to drag her down from the top”). They wrapped her in a blanket and took her to an isolated part of the camp where corpses were lying and they left her there, crying out in pain. According to her account, Elvira went back to where Marika lay several times, possibly tormented by the (a)moral decision they had made, against the other girls’ warnings not to return. Eventually, she left her there. Elvira said several times that there was nothing they could have done for her, but she also showed doubt as to whether the decision to abandon Marika, who was presumably in the midst of losing her baby, was the best choice.

The act of giving an account of this event, whether as an intentional compensatory act or not, seems to have been critically important for Elvira throughout her testimony. And her account is, indeed, an important part of Holocaust history, as it demonstrates the extent of secrecy that pregnancy called for in camps and how a pregnant woman would attempt to tackle such a situation in order to escape immediate murder at the cost of (unanticipated) pain (not to mention offering an example of one of the reactions of those in her immediate surroundings). Marika’s attempt to keep her pregnancy a secret as long as she could tragically suggests that similar events (pregnancies and miscarriages) during camp life remain not only untold but unexplored.53 Although I find the tendency towards reticence on this subject common among the different survivor groups for the abovementioned reasons, the secondary literature on the world of the concentration camps is again outstanding in this respect, i.e. in its failure to explore this subject, much as it has largely failed to explore the subject of rape as a sexual and not just violent act.54 It is crucially important, therefore, that Elvira told Marika’s story, as it now offers textual evidence of Marika’s tragedy (and thus makes her part of Holocaust memory), even if by telling it, Elvira risked moral judgement.

Another miscarriage that we know of happened in Auschwitz, where initial secrecy was just as much a factor, but here the mother’s life was saved by some medical attention. The story of the woman involved, Eszter, perfectly illustrates the lack of adequate medical treatment and hygiene. She managed to keep her pregnancy a secret until giving birth to her son on December 5, 1944, when she was taken for medical care to one of the healthcare facilities in Auschwitz. After the birth, her placenta did not come out, and a Polish woman attending to her (not a Jewish woman, yet it is not quite clear who the personnel were from the testimony) did not call the doctor for medical attention and help. Though she was bleeding continuously, the doctor arrived only two hours later and pulled the placenta out, when the bleeding finally stopped. Eszter recalls that the people treating her did not wash their hands, though she did not come down with an infection. The people who knew about her childbirth did not put her back in the barracks, because then she would have been sent to the gas chambers, so they gave her a job in the hospital.55

Although the medical staff saved Eszter’s life by keeping her pregnancy a secret, the mistreatment she had to undergo put the health of her reproductive system and indeed her very life at risk. Most definitely such events in the camps had an impact on the women’s future ability to bear children, but if one accepts the definition of health (including reproductive health) found in the preamble to the constitution of the World Health Organization, according to which health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,”56 the health of women who did not have miscarriages during the historically defined timeline of the Holocaust were also affected, not necessarily at a specific moment of the Shoah, but throughout it.


Overall, I find that though we have only a small number of sources which touch on miscarriages suffered by victims and survivors before, during, or after the Shoah, it is important to examine them closely in order to gain some insights into the personal stories which demographic statistics alone do not offer. After having reviewed the sociological findings with the inclusion of survivor testimonies, I found that sociological analyses do not suffice in achieving far-reaching conclusions. The damaged state of women’s reproductive systems could easily constitute as a significant reason for the lower rate of childbirths in Hungary in the period of 1945 to 1949.

This conclusion suggests that in order to add nuance to our understandings of societies which were strongly influenced by the Holocaust, we should expand the scope of our inquiry to include groups and forms of trauma which have been largely overlooked. This is not an easy task. The difficulty is caused by the intimate nature of women’s experiences and the fact that their experiences were not given voice or were actively silenced for so long. Therefore, unsurprisingly, sexuality, sexual vulnerability, or miscarriages specifically and the sufferings they caused were not easily brought up, nor were questions specifically concerning miscarriages asked by the interviewers. My findings, however, could be grounds or directives for further research on the allocation of resources for the study of testimonies and ego-documents as well, which could complement sociological findings and offer a wider perspective and more intimate knowledge of the continued traumas of the early postwar era. Such a wider scope of investigation could even result in a historiographical rebalance which would put more trust (back) into memoirs as primary historical sources, a concern which has been resurfacing in the works of other historians as well.57 Without meaning to overstate the potential implications, it is perhaps unsurprising that by including women’s voices through a feminist approach to a structural rethinking of history, one may draw more attention to and encourage more interest in survivor narratives.

Finally, after we have discussed these experiences and allowed gender analysis to inform “the memory of violence and the destinies and decisions made by those targeted for annihilation.”58 it would be important to analyze modes of expression. Further research could explore how the narratives were formed, what this entails, and how potential results could add to the conventional narratives of the Holocaust and of other genocides. Women’s narratives shed light on experiences which have been left untold, and they offer new perspectives even when describing the same events. A significant example could be emotion as a determinative factor59 due to the unique connection between gender and memory.60 This would represent just one of the additions further research could offer towards the general aim “to give women the voice long denied them and to offer a perspective long denied us.”61


Primary sources

Baruch K. Interview 54511. Segments 100–102. Visual History Archive. USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, University of Southern California, 1996.

Charles K. Interview 53904. Segment 130. Visual History Archive. USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, University of Southern California, 2003.

Elvira N. Interview 10705. Segment 20, Visual History Archive. USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, University of Southern California, 1996.

Eszter K. Interview 52181. Segments 9–10. Visual History Archive. USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, University of Southern California, 1990.

Ethel K. Interview 54163. Segment 12. Visual History Archive. USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, University of Southern California, 1989.

Fay W. Interview 54432. Segment 12. Visual History Archive. USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, University of Southern California, 1988.

Kertész, Imre. Kaddis a meg nem született gyermekért. Budapest: Magvető Kiadó, 2003.

Lena H. Interview 55046. Segments 93–107. Visual History Archive. USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, University of Southern California, 1991.

Maria W. Interview 55436. Segments 102–105. Visual History Archive. USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, University of Southern California, 1995.

Sonia H. Interview 54151. Segment 104. Visual History Archive. USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, University of Southern California, 1990.

Tobi B. Interview 54504. Segments 161–167. Visual History Archive. USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, University of Southern California, 1996.


Secondary literature

Alison, Miranda, Debra Bergoffen, Pascale Bos, Louise du Toit, Regina Mühlhäuser, and Gaby Zipfel. “ ‘My plight is not unique’: Sexual violence in conflict zones: a roundtable discussion.” Eurozine, 2009, 1–18. http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2009-09-02-zipfel-en.html

Apor, Péter. “The Lost Deportations and the Lost People of Kunmadaras: A Pogrom in Hungary, 1946.” The Hungarian Historical Review 2, no. 3 (2013): 566–604.

Baer, Elizabeth R., and Myrna Goldenberg. Experience and Expression: Women, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2003.

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1 For my thesis work at the Central European University, see: Szabó, The Return and New Beginning for Hungarian Holocaust Survivors, 1945–1949.

2 Several recent works examine different experiences among different groups of survivors, for example child survivors, see: Borggrafe et al., Freilegungen: Rebuilding Lives – Child Survivors and DP Children in the Aftermath of the Holocaust and Forced Labor; Ouzan, How Young Holocaust Survivors Rebuilt Their Lives; several biographies and testimonies of LGBT Holocaust survivors show differences in coping mechanisms and life after the war; marked differences among survivor groups can also be traced based on the places of resettling, see Pollin-Galay, Ecologies of Witnessing.

3 This investigation is mainly based on post-1945 Hungarian sociological works: Karády, Túlélők és újrakezdők; Stark, Zsidóság a vészkorszakban és a felszabadulás után 1939–1955; while political histories have already addressed the period of 1945–1949, see Novák, Átmenetben; Kovács “Hungarian Jewish Politics from the End of the Second World War until the Collapse of Communism”; Barna and Pető, Political Justice in Budapest after World War II; Horváth, A DEGOB Története.

4 The aim is to go beyond presenting gender dichotomies, yet with the approach of a gendered view, see: Ringelheim, “Women and the Holocaust”; Lorentzen and Turpin, The Women and War Reader; Kaplan, “Gender: A Crucial Tool in Holocaust Research”; and further feminist works cited in this paper.

5 Waxman, Women in the Holocaust, 115.

6 Karády, Túlélők és újrakezdők, 67–135.

7 Ibid.

8 The numbers, however, are rough estimates in the case of Budapest and unknown in the case of the rest of the country.

9 Karády, Túlélők és újrakezdők, 83–87.

10 Turpin, “Many Faces: Women Confronting War,” 13.

11 Waxman, Women in the Holocaust, 3–4.

12 Pető, “Writing Women’s History in Eastern Europe,” 173–83.

13 Lorentzen and Turpin, The Women and War Reader, xii.

14 Ibid., xi.

15 Turpin, “Many Faces: Women Confronting War,” 4.

16 Goldenberg, “From a World Beyond: Women in the Holocaust,” 669.

17 Ibid., Burleigh and Wippermann, The Racial State, 242–66.

18 Waxman, Women in the Holocaust, 114; Caplan, “Gender and Concentration Camps,” 82–107.

19 Ibid., 79.

20 Goldenberg, “From a World Beyond: Women in the Holocaust,” 671.

21 Bemporad and Warren, Women and Genocide, ix.

22 Alison et al., “My plight is not unique,” 4.

23 Sinnreich, “And it was something we didn’t talk about,” 2.

24 Sinnreich, “‘And it was something we didn’t talk about’”; Beck, “Rape”; Katz, “Thoughts on the Intersection of Rape”; Mühlhauser, “The Historicity of Denial”; Ephgrave, “On Women’s Bodies.”

25 Goldenberg, “From a World Beyond: Women in the Holocaust,” 672.

26 Ringelheim, “Women and the Holocaust,” 745.

27 Saidel, The Jewish Women of Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, 210–11.

28 Weitzman and Ofer, “The Sequential Development,” 27.

29 Ibid., 35–38.

30 Ibid., 28–32.

31 Ibid., 32–34.

32 Karády, Túlélők és újrakezdők, 83–92, and Stark, Zsidóság a vészkorszakban és a felszabadulás után 1939–1955, 77–90.

33 Karády, Túlélők és újrakezdők, 86.

34 Ibid., 83.

35 See Don and Magos, “The Demographic Development of Hungarian Jewry,” and for criticism on the topic see: Hart, Social Science and the Politics of Modern Jewish Identity.

36 Ibid., 2.

37 Rahden, “Intermarriage, the ‘New Woman’.”

38 Karády, Túlélők és újrakezdők, 85–87.

39 About the process of liberation simplified to “the happy end of the Shoah,” see Stone, The Liberation of the Camps: The End of the Holocaust and Its Aftermath.

40 A conclusion to which Zoe Waxman also arrived in 2017, see: Waxman, Women in the Holocaust, 126.

41 Baruch K., interview 54511, segments 100–102.

42 Charles K., interview 53904, segment 130.

43 Sonia H., interview 54151, segment 104.

44 Tobi B., interview 54504, segments 161–167.

45 Religious duty comes to mind as Tobi is registered to have practiced Orthodox Judaism before the war, but her postwar religious affiliation and practice remains unclear for that section of the biographical profile is empty.

46 Lena H., interview 55046, segments 93–107.

47 The most outstanding examples include that of Kielce in Poland (see Gross, Fear), but there were several cases of atrocities all over Europe. For pogroms in Hungary, see Barna et al., Társadalmi és etnikai konfliktusok a 19–20. században; Apor, “The Lost Deportations.”

48 See Králová, “The ‘Holocausts’ in Greece.”

49 Maria W., interview 55436, segments 102–105.

50 Ethel K., interview 54163, segment 12.

51 Fay W., interview 54432, segment 12.

52 Elvira N., interview 10705, segment 20.

53 For instance, obstetrician Gisella Perl’s case shows that intended abortions also happened in camps and were told, see: Goldenberg, “From a World Beyond: Women in the Holocaust,” 672.

54 See Sinnreich, “‘And it was something we didn’t talk about’”; Mühlhauser, “The Historicity of Denial.”

55 Eszter K., interview 52181, segments 9–10.

56 “Reproductive health.”

57 Laczó, Confronting Devastation, xviii.

58 Bemporad and Warren, Women and Genocide, 9.

59 Ibid., 1.

60 Kaplan, “Gender: A Crucial Tool in Holocaust Research,” 105; see further: Leydesdorff et al., Gender and Memory; Horowitz, Gender, Genocide, and Jewish Memory.

61 Kaplan, “Gender: A Crucial Tool in Holocaust Research,” 106.