Doctors into Agents: The Technologies of Medical Knowledge and Social Control in State Socialist Hungary*

Viola Lászlófi
Eötvös Loránd University / École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 10 Issue 2  (2021): 328-356 DOI 10.38145/2021.2.328

In this paper, I analyze different situations in which the doctor-patient relationship, the knowledge/information produced within this framework, and the practices of medical questioning came to the fore in the work of the state security services, one of the typical institutions of social observation and surveillance of the Hungarian socialist state. I examine work and recruitment dossiers opened from 1956 to the 1980s which document either physicians’ uses in state security observation of information which they gained about their patients during their professional (medical) activities in or in which the physician-patient relationship appears as a context of the physician’s recruitment. I discuss how physicians constructed the patient when the gaze of the state security forces was also arguably part of their medical gaze. I contend that medical knowledge and, more generally, information revealed in the professional (medical) context and used in the framework of network surveillance, taken out of their strict medical context, constituted a gray zone of power. On the one hand, this information was a useful tool with which the regime could exert some measure of effective social and political control beyond the borders of healthcare, while on the other hand, it could help physicians develop a certain degree of social resistance.

Keywords: state socialism, history of medicine, state security, doctor–patient relationship, gray zone of power

From end of the 1940s, the developing state socialist system aimed to modernize several facets of social and political life in Hungary. Building on the social and ideological objectives of the new system and conforming to international tendencies, the state engaged in a comprehensive pursuit of modernization which encompassed the provision of welfare benefits, such as universal healthcare, the development, extension and structural reorganization of which began in the early years of the state socialist regime.1 As early as the 1940s, the directive of providing more citizens with health insurance and creating a state-funded universal basic healthcare system yielded the restructuring of healthcare in many countries. This process intensified significantly after World War II.2 By 1961, with the extension of universal health insurance, almost all citizens were eligible for healthcare in Hungary, and after 1975, it became accessible essentially for free to the whole population.3

The de-privatization of the existing healthcare institutions and the establishment of new hospitals, the extension of the network of general practitioners, and the development of outpatient care enabled access to healthcare for both urban and rural populations. Healthcare providers, who previously operated private medical practices, were now employed by the state.4 By introducing these measures, the reigning party’s aims were to advance the medicalization of society and to create an institutional framework which would symbolize the provision of a high level of public care for the workers, the group favored by the state socialist system but marginalized by previous regimes.5 Consequently, medical knowledge and the doctor–patient relationship as a form of social interaction came to play a decisive role in molding socialist welfare. This process and its implications have been addressed in sociological inquiries, but historians have not yet given them adequate study or interpretation.6 However, the cases have not been examined in which doctors, who by then had come to fulfil a fundamental role in welfare provision and thus had a higher number of social contacts than they earlier had had, became the agents of state power not only on account of their medical knowledge but also as the employees of the state security forces, which was one of the key institutions of political repression, responsible for monitoring and controlling individuals in society. In this study, I focus on these rare but all the more significant instances when the state security’s gaze exerted an influence on (and arguably was part of) the medical gaze. The cases under study constitute only a small proportion of the state security files reflecting on the performance of physicians, which means that the position physicians enjoyed in society (as figures in whom trust and confidence was placed), which was clearly considered beneficial for the intelligence network, was little exploited.

As a well-definable group of people possessing specialized knowledge and the related power, physicians have already been discussed in Michel Foucault’s works. Foucault perceived power as a set of techniques, maneuvers, and functions which are distributed based on the strategical positions occupied by individuals or groups within a society. Power, furthermore, is operational, and it thus applies in social contexts and systems of relations in which both bottom-up and top-down processes are observable, and both the dominant and the dominated groups participate in developing power relationships.7 In a medical context, this power could find expression in various phenomena, from medical consultation to health education, and due to the constant presence and operation of power, individuals learn and practice required behaviors, and these processes and rituals of adaptation play a fundamental role in maintaining social order. In short, people become medicalized.8 There are, however, two aspects which weaken the force of this argument in the context of socialist Hungary. Foucault’s observations apply primarily to a capitalist context. Furthermore, he presumes that, although medical and state power are closely related, they cannot be reduced each to each other. The relationship between them should be the subject of further analyses in different social and political contexts.

Taking these arguments as my point of departure, in this study I seek to outline the different aspects and functions of medical activity (institutional, social, responsibility for the production of knowledge) which made doctors and their knowledge of interest outside of healthcare contexts or, the other way round, which impeded the use of this knowledge in new contexts. I also seek to address how the methods used primarily in medical contexts by healthcare experts were used and interpreted during their work within the network of the state security forces. Based on the available evidence, I argue that the methods and practices of the production of knowledge used during medical fieldwork within an institutional context (the development of trust in the doctor–patient relationship, the making of diagnoses) and the social control obtained through such practices produced a certain gray zone of power9 when they were adopted in the framework of state security observation. On the one hand, doctors, due to their social-institutional power, could exert significant social control, but on the other hand, this very power could enable them to put up a certain amount of resistance.

In examining this phenomenon, I explore recruitment and work dossiers, altogether 10, which center on information obtained in a medical context by doctors who had already worked as agents or who were only being pursued by state security.10 All of them were written after the 1956 Revolution in the Kádár era, but their distribution within this period varies between diverse dates. The exact dates are always indicated in the footnotes. As for the content of the dossiers, however, there are no significant differences. Through the lens of the dossiers, we catch a glimpse into a rather heterogenous medical practice, as the doctors in question had a diverse array of expertise (psychiatry, neurology, family medicine, inner medicine), came from a geographically heterogeneous background, and worked in different institutional settings (hospital, local practice, psychiatric institution). Due to the lack of documentation, in several cases it is not known why or how they were recruited by the secret police. The recruited physicians were classified into several categories, such as agents, informants, and secret emissaries.11 As these nuances of classification are unimportant in interpreting the information the doctors obtained and thus in answering my research questions, for the sake of simplicity, I refer to them as informants and/or agents. Their exact functions are summarized in Table 1 (see below).

Social Control and the Production of Knowledge

To be able to grasp how the doctors’ opportunities to become useful informants, their work for the secret police, and the usefulness of their reports were evaluated and how this related to the distinguishing characteristics of their profession, in short, whether a gray zone was indeed supervened, first, it is worth giving a brief summary of earlier research on the “success” of state security observation and the agents whose role was indispensable to this success.

As has been pointed out by a number of studies focusing on the practices of the production and interpretation of state security reports, which are fundamental to any understanding of how the system itself worked, an analysis or discussion of the observational techniques used by the secret police forces, such as the Romanian Securitate, the East German Stasi, or the Hungarian State Protection Authority, may do little to further our knowledge of the actual social realities of the time.12 Secret polices forces were created to strengthen socialist systems and to prevent disruption within society. Thus, one of the tasks entrusted to these police forces was the creation in their reports of a discourse which buttressed both the terminology and the reasoning of the state ideology. The creation of this discourse allowed the regimes to label allegedly disruptive events using terms that reinforced the state narrative (for instance, espionage or sabotage) and to identify perpetrators as culprits from this narrative (for instance, the saboteur, the bourgeois, and the kulak). In course of time, the state security forces were given new missions, and their protective functions, which purportedly were intended to advance the building of socialism through the pursuit of complete control over society and the protection of the social order, were replaced with an all-encompassing ubiquity and the wish to know and monitor every minor secret of each and every citizen.13 According to János Rainer M., in the Hungarian case, this change had been implemented by the 1960s.14 This alteration of functions, however, left the linguistic construction of reports untouched: reports still had to be written in a language interpretable (and acceptable) to both the state security force and the party.

The informants’ ability to fulfil their mission (to observe and to meet the expectations placed on them with regards to their reports) was strongly influenced by their relationships with case officers. Katherine Verdery drew on the analogies between the system of state security and educational institutions, and Sándor Horváth has compared the connection between informants and their case officers to the teacher–pupil relationship.15 Horváth argues that the individuals’ first reports within the state security system and the case officers’ criticism of their form and content could be perceived as part of a process of socialization and learning during which the informants appropriated the fundamental methods of their new “work,” such as the logic and formal requirements of report writing, as well as the perception of their own social environment based on either opposition to or conformity with the system.16 This knowledge, at the same time, could prove flexible, and it could be used by the informants to pursue their own personal goals through the secret police. Moreover, the teacher-pupil concept reflects the (limited) flexibility of this relationship. The success of gathering information and the efficiency of the relationship were determined not only by the officer’s intentions to educate and socialize the informant/pupil, but also by how successfully the two actors asserted their own will in their collaboration.

The teacher–pupil relationship as a metaphor, however, is not only relevant from the perspective of learning and socialization. It is also a great signifier of another, psychologically more sensitive interpretive process, a core element of the paternalistic, almost controlling relationship between informants and their case officers. The primary focus of this is not the report written by the informant, but his behavior, personal dilemmas, and social status. As the textbooks on operative psychology (written particularly for case officers) reveal,17 the individual’s personality and his eligibility to work within the network of state security were considered as early as recruitment plans were written, and recruits were continuously assessed from the perspective of their psychology during their operation within the network, for example, in instances when the sincerity of their reports was evaluated.18 Qualities such as intelligence, good memory, learning ability, politeness, and attentiveness were highly desired, but it was also considered valuable if the individual was ideologically trustworthy and had a wide social network on which he could rely during his work within the network.19 Though timidity or nervousness, which were seen as weaknesses since they might lead to the unmasking of secret activities, were not considered so dire as to disqualify a potential recruit, case officers were trained thoroughly to be able to motivate their informants (who had different personal values and came from diverse social backgrounds) to work efficiently. Since the informants had no insights into the operation and aims of the state security forces beyond the immediate world of their specific tasks, the case officers, taking on the role of “psychologists” and “sociologists,” had to use different tactics to secure the success of the operation. They were responsible for noticing and addressing the mental problems that could arise from stressful situations, and they had to have an extensive knowledge of the informant’s social network and its usability. This knowledge was essential if the case officers were going to give their informants.

Doctor–Patient Relationship as the Situation of Observation

The value of informants in the eyes of the state security forces thus depended not only on the content and form of their reports, but also on their psychological characteristics and social embeddedness as the preconditions of a systematic acquisition of information. Following this line of thought, first I examine the aspects of medical practice that made doctors desirable as informants in the eyes of the state security forces.

The case of “Tarkői”20 sheds light on why and how medical activity could be either the reason, the aim, or the circumstance of recruitment. In October 1957, when the 32-year-old “Tarkői” was approached by the agents of the secret police, he was working as a general practitioner in Miskolc, though he had originally been trained as surgeon.21 He was recruited because of his participation as a physician in the 1956 Revolution: he organized first aid stations in the “counterrevolutionary centers” of Miskolc.22 It was not uncommon for agents of the state security forces to approach someone because of his or her participation in the events of the revolution. In many cases, a person who had participated in the revolution would be under pressure to cooperate with the authorities simply out of fear of the potential consequences of refusal were he or she to refuse. The state security forces, furthermore, were also motivated to approach such individuals in the hopes of uncovering other “counterrevolutionaries.” The case of “Tarkői,” however, is different. The professional and political norms in this case are in stark opposition: as far as the medical explanation goes, as “Tarkői” had taken the Hippocratic Oath, he was ethically obliged to provide each sick or injured person proper medical care during the revolution.23 Thus, he was only fulfilling his professional duty. In the eyes of the state security forces, however, his medical-professional activity was understood as advancing the success of the “counterrevolution.”

The first encounter between the case officer and “Tarkői” occurred in a medical context, when the officer visited him as a patient suffering from a contagious disease. The goal of his visit was to get to know the doctor and to assess his eligibility. The case officer’s two-page report portrays a professionally competent physician with a wide social network, or in other words, a suitable candidate for the role of informant. As the officer reports, “Tarkői” “received him with great politeness,” examined him thoroughly, wrote a prescription, and engaged in pleasant conversation about the local problems of healthcare and his own life and past. The “well-trained” doctor “had a good memory and good conversational skills.” He was not “verbose, but rather direct and friendly.”24 “Tarkői” was thus the ideal type of a socialist physician, and he met all the requirements that a medical professional had to meet to serve both individual patients and society properly. In the medicalization of society, the individual doctor–patient relationships were given great significance, and one of the most important components of these relationships was personal sympathy.25 Furthermore, as pinpointed by studies in the period, this confidential relationship had a substantial impact on the recovery of patients, so “Tarkői’s” behavior would have been a perfect foundation for an ideal doctor–patient relationship if he was visited by a real patient.26

This confidential conversation on “Tarkői’s” professional qualities also offered a good opportunity to evaluate his potential as a good informant: his caring and attentive nature and his proneness to “flattery” made him a trustworthy and ideal candidate in the eyes of agents of the secret police.27 Furthermore, “Tarkői’s” future case officer got a clearer idea of his social network. He concluded that “[‘Tarkői’] knows people from different [social] backgrounds well. Some of his patients have functions either in the party or the state bureaucracy.” Though the officer wished to point out “Tarkői’s” wide clientage and the value of his work for the community, the underlying logic shows the categorization of individuals according to their relationships with the state socialist system. This prefigures the potential aspects of observation.28 Consequently, the case officer’s report shows “Tarkői” as an ideal candidate due to his wide social network and trustworthy nature. His professional qualities could also easily be translated into the new context.

Confidence in the case of an ophthalmologist from Kalocsa in Southern Hungary, who worked under the code name “Siva,” and his case officer was built on an appealing doctor–patient relationship and an underlying existential vulnerability. “Siva” started working for the network in 1953, and by 1962, when his assignment was changed, he was already an experienced informant. From 1962 onwards, he was ordered to observe and report on the activities of W., one of his close acquaintances, who also happened to be his patient. The dossier reveals that W. turned to “Siva” for advice on numerous occasions and even recounted some aspects of his clerical activity that could have been seen by the authorities as seditious.29 This confidentiality in itself could have been exploited by the secret police, but the doctor–patient relationship, which was formed after they had already grown close owing to their common interest in music, added another layer to it. This new aspect made their relationship, which had been casual, in certain respects hierarchical and formal.30 The case officer, realizing this change in power relations, decided that from then on, observation should occur in a new, medical context: “The pretext of the invitation should be a follow-up examination after a previous illness. […] As his doctor, he should reassure him [W.] about his condition. He should point out that with occasional check-ups, he would recover completely. He should offer his services, help, and complete confidentiality. Thereafter, he could get to the point [investigating potential seditious activities].”31 Regular meetings necessitated by the condition of W.—[meetings] that allegedly served [W.’s] interests—secured the opportunity for further inquiries and for maintaining a confidential relationship. W. was thus observed in a delicate situation, in which the patient is both vulnerable and is expected to confide in his caretaker.32 Though vulnerability is not mentioned explicitly in the above passage, by instructing the informant to calm the patient, the case officer implicitly suggests that he expects the patient to be anxious in a situation in which the doctor’s diagnosis clearly would have consequences for his perception of his physical and mental wellbeing, short-term and long-term. And even though questioning about potential seditious activities followed the physical examination, the situation itself and the conscious reflection on the potential feelings it could induce all suggest that the doctor–patient relationship was viewed as more valuable from the point of view of observation than other, even closer relationships (close acquaintance, friendship), as it was founded on (physical) vulnerability.

“Siva’s” case officer considered the doctor–patient relationship useful because of its official, hierarchical nature and its confidentiality, which made it a rich source of information. The information obtained concerning the patients’ activities and social relations during examination and treatment, however, did not necessarily have to be used by the agents of the secret police: the protection of privacy and the prohibition of the use of information outside of the administrative context of healthcare were regulated, and under state socialism, all patients had the right to medical privacy.33 This regulation, which simultaneously served the doctors’ professional autonomy and the protection of patients, even if the extent of medical privacy was not generally agreed upon, encompassed all information (regardless of its nature) that came to light in medical contexts.34 Divergence from the principle of medical privacy because of loyalty to the system or fear of the state security forces will be discussed later. The question of whether the case officers reflected on the norm of medical privacy and its impact on the work of the secret police should be addressed here.

This phenomenon is discussed only once, in the case of a doctor who used the code name “Szentedrei,” though whatever qualms he may have had about protecting patient privacy, they do not seem to have hindered his activities as an agent. “Szentendrei” was a psychiatrist, and at the time in question, he worked as a primary physician at the Institute for Work Therapy in Pomáz. He had a rather wide social network. One of his close acquaintances was a man named György Krassó,35 who was a significant member of the opposition in the Kádár era. At Krassó’s request and with the case officer’s approval, “Szentendrei” examined Krassó’s French female friend. The woman “subjected herself to an almost one-and-a-half-hour medical examination,” the results of which were to be delivered to the French woman’s Hungarian friend, but “keeping medical privacy in mind.”36 In this case, medical privacy not only did not hinder the work of the secret police, but appears to have confirmed “Szentendrei’s” trustworthiness. “Szentendrei’s” willingness to ignore the patient’s right to privacy casts light on his work not only as a doctor, but also as an agent. He shared information with the state security forces that he did not necessarily share with someone who was close to the patient (Krassó).

In conclusion, medical activity and the doctors’ position within this context were associated in the eyes of the secret police’s agents with both social confidence and reliability, as well as exploitable vulnerability. Moreover, physicians, who conformed to the norms of modern medical practice had character traits that were perceived as desirable in their new “work environment” within the network of state security.

The Perception of Medical Knowledge within the Network

Medical diagnosis, social prognosis

So far, we have seen that doctors were considered ideal informants, but we have not touched on how the actual methods they used to diagnose and cure their patients were understood in this new context. How did the medical gaze construct its patient when the state security’s gaze was absorbed into it?37

An agent who worked under the code name “László Kaposvári” was a 45-year-old hospital physician in Sopron. In 1975, he shared the story of a young female neurology patient with his case officer. The composition of the report suggests formal and logical deliberateness. In the first part, relying on the information shared by the patient’s father, “Kaposvári” recounts the underlying reasons for hospitalization and the circumstances of the onset of her daughter’s illness: “According to the father, his daughter was hospitalized because she was recruited by two agents of the state security in Sopron. […] They even gave her money so that she could cover her expenses when she meets suspicious persons [who wish to flee the county].”38 The report then reflects on the need for hospitalization because of an “occupational disease.” Though the following sections of the anamnesis were mostly anonymized, the available details suggest that the condition of the patient was analyzed further.

If we interpret the report with the state security’s gaze in mind, the story of a de-conspired informant unfolds. However, if we consider that “Kaposvári” also used the specific methodology of medical knowledge production to construct the narrative, another possible interpretation is implied. Reliance on the father’s account could imply that the report was constructed similarly to a heteroanamnesis.39 In this, the patient’s condition is clearly interpreted as an “occupational disease.” This explanation is then mirrored in the doctor’s diagnosis. Therefore, the report highlighted the risks of the agents’ work to the individual’s health, even though the original aim of the report was to indicate possible threats to the state socialist system, for example, seditious behavior.40 This also meant that “Kaposvári” not only ignored the prescribed standards of report writing but also favored the individual’s interests as opposed to the society’s (or the regime’s). Bearing this in mind, it is rather striking that the case officer accepted his report without criticizing its form and content.

“Kaposvári” was not the only person who applied the same methodology used in medical diagnostics to interpret information reported to the secret police. A man who went by the name “Hegyi” also used this method on some occasions between the 1960s and 1970s. “Hegyi” was the primary physician41 of the Intapuszta Institute of Work Therapy, located close to the Austrian border. Owing to his position and wide social network,42 he was considered a potentially “useful” informant, and his recruitment was of great importance to the state security forces. His dossier contains two reports, the subjects of which had valuable relationships with people abroad. He characterized them as follows:

In my estimation, the onset of his lunacy was around ’54 or ’55, with the appearance of paranoid delusions. […] From a psychiatric point of view, his current condition could be evaluated as follows: he is in a balanced state, which means neither recovery nor health. Any unexpected event or trauma, in fact, any curious occurrence could induce remission. […] I do not think he could give any valuable information, as he has been hospitalized for approximately 15–16 years.43


He recounted that at work he had many conflicts because of his drinking, sometimes he showed up to work drunk. […] As we say, he suffers from chronic alcoholism. […] I would say that because of his obscure relations, he could be useful […] though not for obtaining information, rather for some other assignments, as he is an existentially unstable, unreliable person.44


The reports from which these rather expressive passages are quoted can be divided into three lengthy sections. In the first part, “Hegyi” discusses the individual’s past and his or her preceding medical conditions in detail. The wording and underlying logic of these narratives evoke the structure and content of anamneses: they detail the evolution of symptoms and the changes in the individuals’ behavior in a chronological order. The anamnesis in these cases, however, not only functions as a standard medical method of questioning, but is also fundamental to the “social prognosis” presented to the case officer. “Hegyi,” though he does not want to follow the logic of the state security forces in “reconstructing” his patients based what he was told, provides a thorough explanation for his medical observations in order to ensure that his case officer understands it properly. On the other hand, he characterizes the patients, who were potentially interesting for the secret police, in a narrative framework which was, owing to his professional, medical expertise, more “comfortable” for him than for the non-expert case officer. And although unusually an informant’s work was evaluated by his or her case officer, in these particular cases, no evaluations were made, which might suggest that this recurring method was accepted by “Hegyi’s” case officer.

It is rather difficult to determine, however, whether what these methods were part of a general tendency or were simply individual approaches to the composition of these specific narratives. Could medical knowledge play a part in procuring a more advantageous position in a situation when an informant was both an observer and someone under observation? Or did physicians who were also serving as informants simply use the routinized techniques of producing medical knowledge in another context? The doctors, logically, do not reflect on their choices of register in their reports, so a deeper analysis of the problem would require situations in which a possible change or break is detectable which then leads to the conscious use of medical knowledge tailored to new circumstances. I have only found one such case, that of “Orvos.”45

“Orvos” was a radiologist in Budapest and also an emblematic figure of the neo-avantgarde underground musical scene of the capital from the end of the 1950s. In 1960, he wrote a report on the potential spying activities of a clerical figure and employee of Orion, which was a state-owned company manufacturing telecommunications equipment. “Orvos” and the worker were introduced to each other by a friend on account of their common interest in speakers. In his report, “Orvos” described the worker as a well-prepared person in telecommunication. Born in Transylvania, he had a widespread network of friends and acquaintances abroad, and he traveled frequently to repair and sell radios. And even though his activities were suspicious in and of themselves, “Orvos” also added that his new acquaintance had several names, and his ID, which contained false information, was not valid. This report had significant relevance for the authorities, but the structure of the report was so chaotic that “Orvos,” though he had already been working as an agent for nine years, was asked to revise it. Thereafter, “Orvos” made some changes to the report and amended it with a medical evaluation missing from the previous version: “Medical opinion. […] I consider unverifiable and exclude personality change due to trauma or family and genetic inheritance. Though his interests are not monomaniac, his judgements are partly compulsive. Based on this, I consider his stories credible and true.”46 This addition suggests that after his earlier unsuccessful attempt, “Orvos” intended to use his medical knowledge to underline his opinion, assuming that medical knowledge is a socially accepted area of expertise of which he was in possession. His report suggests that the observed spy was, in fact, of sound mind and that his activities could indeed undermine the system. In this light, the value of “Orvos’s” activity as an informant was significantly more valuable. The report was eventually accepted by the case officer and assessed as operationally valuable. Although “Orvos” was a radiologist and his medical description was based on psychiatric knowledge, his report could be considered acceptable and interpretable for two main reasons. First, as I mentioned at the beginning of my article, reflecting on mental problems and the nonconformist behavior of the target person or the informant was one of the recommended methods during state security observation. Second, the information given by “Orvos” may have been acceptable to the officer because, despite the officer’s operational training, the officer presumably saw “Orvos” as having a more profound knowledge of psychology than he, the case officer, had.

Until now, I have focused on procedures and methods which are not strongly linked to the different fields of medicine but are generally true for physicians who work in an institutional context. The last three examples, however, show the significance of psychiatric and neurological expertise, since psychiatric and neurological expertise serve as the technology with which the patients are “reconstructed” in this new narrative context, outside of the medical field. This might be linked to the development of psychiatry as a discipline. Though psychiatry, especially with the broadening of neurological knowledge, was given a strongly biomedical character in the period, diagnosing “madness” required different “tests” that were meant to determine the normalcy or abnormality of the individual’s behavior from the perspective of society at large. The social character of these tests does not mean, however, that they were not medically verifiable methods. They were created precisely to attest to the medical validity of the different technologies of mental normalization.47 From among the three doctors, only “Hegyi” had a confirmed background as a psychiatrist. Still, one does not necessarily have to be a specialist in psychiatry to give an account of the social and political implications of a patients’ psychological functions, as physicians had all been required to appropriate the basics of psychiatry and neurology during their studies. Psychiatric knowledge, however, was one of the rare forms of medical expertise which was seen as enabling a physician to interpret patients’ attitudes towards the norms of socialist society. This knowledge also made these reports valuable for the authorities, but at the same time, it did not expose the patients or the doctors to the discursive and hierarchic logic characteristic of the state security.


Differences in knowledge, social prestige, and hierarchy

As we have seen, the doctors examined so far did not use the expected discursive and logical patterns, but rather recreated the techniques of medical knowledge production in a new context. This seems to have been an accepted, even recurring method, as in most cases, the doctors were not ordered to revise and resubmit their reports, and sometimes the information obtained this way had considerable operational value. But what could explain the approval of these methods? It seems plausible that regardless of the applied discursive techniques, the reports were comprehensible for the case officers. In case of “Hegyi” and “Kaposvári,” this interpretation could suffice. However, “Orvos’s” case does not seem to fit into this logic: he first provided the information, which had considerable operational value, and then he amended his report with a medical explanation, and this explanation led to the acceptance of his report. Furthermore, the content-centric explanation is weakened if we consider that expecting the informants to conform to the discursive logic prescribed by the state security also had a disciplinary aspect: the practice of ordering the informants to revise their reports was important in sustaining a hierarchical relationship. If the relationship between the case officer and the informant is understood more flexibly, taking other factors, for example, social prestige into consideration, we can find further explanations as to why medical knowledge was accepted by the officers as a methodology with which to interpret operationally valuable information.

One possible explanation is the high social prestige of doctors and medical knowledge. Doctors in state socialist societies, owing to their expertise in maintaining and restoring the health of workers, who were seen as the pillars of society, were of fundamental importance, and their positions were linked in both medical and sociological discourses to considerable social prestige.48 The first prestige analyses were carried out, however, only in the 1980s, in 1983 and 1988. The analyses underpinned the high social prestige of doctors: from among the 156 occupations under study, hospital physicians were ranked first and general practitioners fourth.49 As for the amount of expertise required to hold a certain position, hospital physicians were ranked first and general practitioners second, above all other occupations. Therefore, based on a representative sample, medical knowledge was considered the most valuable knowledge.50

A second explanation is grounded on the quality and unapproachability of medical knowledge. Due to the gradual professionalization and specialization of the different fields of medicine and the proliferation of technologies, the production of medical knowledge became more specific and impenetrable for non-experts.51 Thus, the agent-doctors based their work within the network of state security on a form of knowledge and its methods of evaluation that were largely incomprehensible for outsiders. And even though public health policy strove to incorporate some elements of the “socialist self-consciousness” into the discourse and urged the members of society (the patients) to turn to medical ethics committees,52 the task and prerogative of evaluating the complaints and possibly issuing sanctions were still in the hands of medical experts, not laymen. If we accept this explanation, it is likely that even the possibility of criticizing medical knowledge was dismissed by laymen, who, in this case, were the officers of the state security forces.

Opposition in the Wards

The adaptability of medical knowledge and the doctors’ positions, which rested on the solid foundation of the social value of their knowledge, presented something of a conundrum from the perspective of the state security forces. While their position in society was advantageous, as they could operate easily as observers in a wide social network, their expert knowledge made them unreliable, as they could manipulate the obtained information and mask potential seditious activities effortlessly. Consequently, the specific features of diagnostic and therapeutic practice and their social perceptions could enable doctors to elude the interpretive (and at the same time, disciplinary) methods dictated by the logic of the state security forces. What complicates this scheme is that applying the techniques of medical knowledge production in this new context implied the violation of professional norms and disregard for medical privacy. These explanations, however, are still insufficient to give a reassuring answer to my original research questions, because the above conclusions focus exclusively on the possibilities of obtaining information in a medical context. So far, I have not explored the phenomena strongly linked to medical activities that made the presence of doctors as the agents of state security services indispensable. Or to medicalize my inquiry: where did the blind spot of the secret police lie, a blind spot to which only doctors had access?

The secret police, as one of the fundamental networks of surveillance in the Kádár era, strove to uncover the secrets of individuals or certain groups and their attitudes towards social norms and to interpret the implications of their potentially threatening activities. Consequently, the secret police tried to infiltrate alternative spaces in society, for example, meetings among people belonging to intellectual circles or private art events that were for some reason hidden from the public eye.53 As for hospitals, the secret police was supposed to have easy access to any information, considering the public funding and extensive administrative practices of these institutions. Yet this was not always the case. Fortunately, some of the dossiers reveal exactly how permeable the walls of hospitals were and who had access to information produced within these spaces.

“Viola” worked as a physician at the First Department of Neurology of the hospital on Róbert Károly Boulevard. She was recruited because, in the hospital and especially at the neurology clinic, more people who had actively participated in the events of the 1956 Revolution were hidden. By the time “Viola” was recruited, the agents of the state security forces, who played a leading role in identifying and tracking “counterrevolutionaries” until 1963 (when a general amnesty was proclaimed), had already identified three such individuals. This could be seen as a success. However, by this time, already more than a year had passed since the revolution. Also, this particular institution played a particularly prominent role in serving the medical needs of the state socialist elite, especially the Hungarian army and the Soviet troops stationed in the country. These two facts may have cast a shadow on the efficiency of the agents’ work in identifying the potential enemies of the system. Therefore, a doctor was needed to provide an inner perspective and assist the police forces in their efforts to detect those hiding from retribution. That their reasoning in the assignment plan was sound was proven by “Viola” during their first meeting: she immediately named an individual who had successfully eluded the gaze of state security. The further analysis of the assignment plan also reveals that hospitals could serve as “asylums” for those who wanted to escape retribution.54 And as this example testifies, they sometimes hid in plain sight, but owing to the (partial) impermeability of the hospital’s walls, doctors were indispensable in assisting the agents of the state security in exposing potential enemies.

The recruitment of “Viola” in 1958 could be explained either as a consequence of the relative closeness of the revolution in time or the efforts of the authorities to expose the enemies of the system. However, even when these circumstances did not hold, hospitals remained places of interest for the agents of the secret police, as the cases of “Kaposvári” and “Marossi Pál,” a physician at the Second Department of Internal Medicine of the Medical University of Pécs, show.

“Marossi” was first asked to report on a patient in 1960. The patient, K. L., who had been at the clinic for months, was a religious person and had numerous visitors. Though “he was not visited by the priests of the Church of the Order of Mercy, he often called priests for fellow patients and strove to persuade others to follow his example. The directors of the clinic, however, prohibited him from continuing with such activities.”55 K. L.’s religiosity is emphasized throughout the report, and this explains why he was under surveillance. However, “Marossi” tried to divert the attention of the case officer from K. L.’s religiosity by making it seem as if it remained merely a private matter and did not influence the other patients.

Like “Marossi,” “Kaposvári” also gave an account of his patients’ behavior in the wards. He reported that “Mrs. H. A., a teacher from Sopron, listens to Radio Free Europe daily, though she does not share what she has heard with the others.” Upon evaluation, “Kaposvári” added the following: “Mrs. H. A. listens to Radio Free Europe again. However, her roommate is hard of hearing, and thus she does not know which frequency her roommate listens to.”56 According to a 1953 court decision, listening to RFE was not prohibited as long as it was not done in public. “Kaposvári,” who presumably was familiar with the court decision, by referring to the hearing loss of Mrs. H. A.’s roommate, tailored his report to the norms and expectations of socialism, and he used a medical explanation to minimize the possibility of any drastic measures being taken by the police. Although the informants never knew what the State Security Service would do with the information obtained through them and or what consequences their contributions to the system would have for the individuals “denounced,” according to the report issued by “Kaposvári,” the patient had not violated any rules, so the report qualified as operationally valuable, and the agents of the state security remained alert.

The cases of “Kaposvári” and “Marossi” reveal that the individuals under surveillance were already known by the secret police, and their stay in the hospital was seen as a period that could be instrumental in uncovering their potential seditious activities. It was therefore particularly important, from the perspective of the authorities, to keep them under observation on account of their potentially threatening activities and the ideological influence they could exert on other patients. As both cases illustrate, the social space of hospitals was seen as a milieu in which listening to the RFE or engaging in religious activities that were tolerated if done in private could become subversive because of the impact they could have on other individuals. This is something that authorities could not turn a blind eye to. Furthermore, reports on the visitors who came to see these patients could shed light on the patients’ social networks, which in turn could assist the authorities in tracking other potentially dangerous individuals.

Observing the behavior of patients was only one possible reason for the active presence of the secret police in medical institutions. As the cases of “Lénárd Pál” and “Angyalföldi” illustrate, other, more complex problems of socialist healthcare could come to the surface, which, in addition, could shed light on the common violation of norms by either doctors or their patients.57 While “Angyalföldi” reported on the practice of prioritizing Yugoslavian patients, who paid in foreign currency for medical services, to the detriment of insured Hungarian patients, “Lénárd Pál,” a neurologist at the Székesfehérvár hospital, wanted to declare a patient who had already suffered of ill health an invalid. However, in doing so, encouraged by his case officer, “Lénárd” did not follow the usual, official route, but rather bribed other physicians, a seemingly common method for declaring healthy individuals invalids. Though the two situations differ, the aim in both cases was to uncover activities that had already been known broadly, but the authorities were in need of more information (names, venues, dates) to move forward. These were significant details that non-medical personae would not have been able to unearth. The above situations also demonstrate that hospitals, even though they were intended, in principle, to serve the wellbeing of society, could function as institutions in which the evasion of norms was rather frequent.

The last five cases prove that hospitals and wards enabled subversion and could serve as hiding places for enemies of the state and at the same time could effectively conceal these activities. The impermeability of the hospital’s walls is due to its function as a total institution. As Erving Goffman points out, hospitals and similar institutions, such as prisons, monasteries, and schools, have a special, socializing function either to habituate individuals to follow norms or to correct their behavior. If these institutions are going to perform this function successfully, any passage between the inner world of the institutions and the “real” world outside must be severely restricted. The physical and mental separation of the two spaces could mean reformulating the rules and norms of the outside world, all the while creating a new order within the walls of the institutions.58 The agent-doctors, therefore, could offer a glimpse into a segment of social space that would have been impenetrable without their cooperation. At the same time, this impermeability meant that they had some autonomy in selecting the information to be shared or concealed.59


In this study, I have offered several concrete cases illustrating ways in which doctors maneuvered within the network of the state security forces, one of the most significant institutions of state socialist societies responsible for the surveillance and control of individuals. A physician’s adherence to professional norms, expertise, and institutional position made him or her a potentially valuable asset in the eyes of the authorities. It was not as simple to exploit this potential, however, as it may have seemed initially. Though on many occasions, the doctors’ performance as agents was assessed positively by their case officers, the doctors often failed to follow the prescribed norms of construing the enemy. The gray zone between the standard practices of the state security forces and medical activities denotes social spaces which the authorities would have been unable to permeate without the assistance of medical practitioners. At the same time, this points at a specific quality of medical knowledge that made these spaces inaccessible for outsiders, thus facilitating social resistance, at least to some extent.

I have also attempted to underline that, following Foucault’s argument, the affiliation between doctors and their case officers exerted an influence through relationships and institutions. In the framework of the strongly hierarchical operations of the state security forces, the social position of physicians also came into prominence, and in this context, this social position gave physicians a certain amount of autonomy. In the future, this aspect should be explored in further detail, using a wider array of sources which could shed light on the extent to which the publicly funded healthcare system and its publicly financed employees could realize their autonomy from the state in other respects, such as medical education and primary care.



Table 1.



Place of operation

Year of birth

Role in the network











“Marossi Pál”














Agent (until 1958)

Thereafter: informant











“Kaposvári László”




Secret emissary





Secret emissary

“Lénárd Pál”




Secret emissary


Archival Sources

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

2.8.1. BM Vas Megyei RFK személyi gyűjtők [Ministry of the Interior, Vas County Police Headquarters, Personal dossiers]

3.1.1. B-84186 “Viola”

3.1.1. B-92993 “Tarkői”

3.1.2 M-17361 “Marossi Pál”

3.1.2. M-17764/1 “Orvos”

3.1.2. M-18864/1 “Siva”

3.1.2. M-31222 “Szentendrei”

3.1.2. M-33556 “Hegyi”

3.1.2. M-37256 “Kaposvári László”

3.1.2. M-39489 “Angyalföldi”

3.1.2. M-39640 “Lénárd Pál”

4.1 A-3120. Ivanin, G. I. Az operatív pszichológia néhány kérdése [Some questions of operative psychology]. Moscow, 1973.

4.1. A-3121. Láng György. Operatív pszichológia III. A hírszerzés hálózata vezetésének és nevelésének szociálpszichológiai kérdései [Operative psychology III. Some questions of social psychology on leading and training the members of intelligence services].

4.1 A-4510. Horváth István. A pszichológia és szociálpszichológia felhasználása hálózati munkában [Using psychology and social psychology in the work of intelligence services]. Thesis.

Decree No. 8. Medical Regulation, 1959.

11/1972. (30. VI.), Regulation of medical workers, issued by the Ministry of Health.


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1* My research enjoyed the support of the ÚNKP-20-3 New National Excellence Program of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology from the Source of National Research, Development and Innovation Fund.
On the history of the Hungarian state socialist regime’s political and social changes, see Borhi, Hungary in the Cold War; Gyarmati and Valuch, Hungary under Soviet Domination.

2 In England, following the National Service Act in 1946, most healthcare institutions were de-privatized, providing health insurance for 96 percent of the population, whereas in Sweden, the whole population was allowed access to insurance and universal healthcare from 1955. For more on this see Fülöp, Néhány tőkés ország, 3–43; Light, “Universal Health Care.”

3 In Hungary, before the end of 1950s, a significant number of peasants kept their land ownership and thus remained independent farmers without insurance. It was only the third attempt of agricultural collectivization from 1958 to 1961 which was successful; thus, the majority of agricultural workers were insured only from the 1960s.

4 On these changes see Szalai, Az egészségügy betegségei, 53–75; Hahn, A magyar egészségügy története, 144–87.

5 The concept of medicalization has several definitions in the social sciences (see van Dijk et al. “Medicalization Defined in Empirical Context.”) In this study, this term refers to the processes by which the human body and behavior as well as different activities and characteristics became the subject of medical activity and discourse in modern societies. Aside from accepting the fact that the more extensive use of medical knowledge serves the wellbeing of individuals, the concept of medicalization provides an opportunity to analyze these changes as the manifestations of growing social control. However, if we consider the Hungarian case, even though the social history of state socialist healthcare has hardly been studied and it is thus hard to tell how political intentions were realized on a micro-level, the problems emphasized by the different state regulations and the extension of medical care to prioritized groups provide some insight into how the party state might have imagined the project of medicalization. Which social groups were to be medialized, and how? According to the ideological, social, and economic goals of the state, the development of hospitals and outpatient care and the organization of a system of GPs and factory doctors (both in the cities and the countryside) shed light on and helped provide a solution mainly to the physical problems of industrial and agricultural workers. In addition, the emphasis on well-organized health education programs and prophylaxis suggests that ideal individuals in a state socialist society were not just able to think about their existing problems in a medical framework but were also aware of different ways of maintaining their health and preventing illnesses.

6 The research of Ágnes Losonczi and Júlia Szalai merits particular mention. The studies published in the 1970s and 1980s discuss the anomalies of healthcare, such as the vulnerability of both patients and physicians within the system or the difficulties of accessing quality care. Losonczi and Szalai identify the peculiarities of the development of socialist healthcare as an underlying reason to these tensions. In their works, the history of the transformation of healthcare is examined from the point of view of structural errors. See for example: Losonczi, A kiszolgáltatottság anatómiája; Szalai, Az egészségügy betegségei.

7 Foucault’s views on power were summarized more or less coherently in Discipline and Punish, later elaborated on in lectures and interviews: Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 135–309; Foucault, “The Eye of Power.” On the aspects discussed in this article see Deleuze, Foucault, 34–38.

8 On the application of Foucault’s perception of power to specifically medical contexts see Hancock, “Michel Foucault and the Problematics of Power”; Peerson, “Foucault and the Modern Medicine.”

9 This expression was first used in a historical context by Primo Levi. This research, however, benefits more from two different takes on the concept. The sociologist Alan Blum, devoting particular attention to the contexts of healthcare and the approaches to health and sickness, explained “gray area” as the unsaid ambiguities that yield decisions from a certain individual and that are influenced by unsaid presumptions and interpretive processes. Sándor Horváth, working in different a field, but within the context of state socialism, described the type of historical knowledge production as a “gray zone” which occurs “in the shadow of the official propaganda” and is thus either weakly related or unrelated to it (Blum, The Grey Zone of Health and Illness, 1–17; Horváth, “A helytörténetírás mint szürkezóna,” 89). In creating my concept, I build on Blum’s approach by considering the professional and social autonomy of physicians in decision-making. As for Horváth’s understanding of the concept, I find the examination of relations between “official” and “non-official” knowledge in a certain area especially useful.

10 In addition to the instances examined in this study, doctors helped the work of the secret police on numerous occasions. A typical case was participation in research trips, in, for example, factories or conferences, which often benefitted the development of scientific relations and at the same time offered an opportunity to write lengthy reports on individuals.

11 Classification depended on the role the recruited individual held within state security forces. While the agents’ task encompassed both the acquisition of information and the prevention of seditious activities against the state, the latter was not expected of informants. The function of “secret emissary” was created during the restructuring of state security in 1972–1973, and their role was similar to the roles of the informants. See Rainer, Jelentések hálójában, 70–75.

12 See for example Verdery, Secrets and Truth; Vatulescu, Police Aesthetics; Bolgár, “A hatalom mindennapjai.”

13 The transformation of the state security force’s function was related to the consolidation of the Kádár regime. Since the 1960s, the legitimacy of Hungarian state socialism was based on the acceptance of the state party’s will in economic and social questions and on the success of welfare reforms (for example, rising living standards and the relative freedom of individuals as compared to the Stalinist era), rather than on the different forms of terror and fear. Mary Fulbrook described a very similar process in the case of the GDR in the 1960s and 1970s, to which she refers as the period of “returning to normal.” (Fulbrook, “The Concept of ‘Normalization’.”)

14 Rainer M., Jelentések hálójában, 262. According to Verdery, a similar change took place in Romania in the 1970s. Verdery, Secrets and Truth, 17.

15 Verdery, Secrets and Truth, 170–73; Horváth, “Life of an Agent.”

16 Horváth, “Life of an Agent.” The “gaze of the state security” is explored by Éva Argejó through textbooks and educational films made specifically for case officers. Her article depicts how this gaze is created through the visual perception and interpretation of the people observed and their surroundings. Argejó, “Az állambiztonsági tekintet.”

17 Operative psychology served the purposes of securing cohesion within the network of state security, obfuscating, disorganizing groups built on solidarity, and confusing individuals in order to undermine social confidence. Betts, Within Walls, 41.

18 These textbooks were used in the training of case officers, and they were secret or top secret and intended for internal use only. A strong psychological aspect was included after 1972, following an order from the Ministry of Interior. The subsequent issues followed the current psychological trends of the second half of the twentieth centuries, incorporating both the basics of physiology and the theories of Edward Lee Thorndike, Erich Fromm, and Albert Bandura.

19 ÁBTL 4.1A-3120. Ivan in, Az operatív pszichológia néhány kérdése, 49–85; ÁBTL 4.1. A-31.21. Láng, Operatív pszichológia III. 11–24; ÁBTL 4.1. A-4510; Horváth, A pszichológia és szociálpszichológia felhasználása.

20 For the sake of anonymity, in the case of officers and informants, their code names are used and in the case of patients their initials are used.

21 The dossiers do not reflect on the reasons behind this change of medical specialties.

22 ÁBTL 3.1. B-92993 “Tarkői”, 5–10. It was very common, especially in the early years of Kádár era, for individuals to be blackmailed by the state security forces to join the network because of their (real or supposed) participation in the 1956 Revolution or their other politically intolerable activities. In the context of the GDR, Francesca Weil’s research has shown that for doctors who provided information for the Stasi, in addition to fostering their institution and their own personal interests and fear, blackmailing those who had previously attempted to leave the country provided an important means of recruitment. (Weil, Zielgruppe Ärzteschaft, 281–91.) As far as I know, a comprehensive study has not been done concerning the different reasons for recruitment in the Hungarian context. Thus, the proportion of cases in which blackmail was used is unknown. However, in the late 1950s, the indication of the “social category” of the recruited individual was one of the most important detail in the register file. According to these categories, one could have been a kulak, a member of the former ruling classes, a member of former fascist and bourgeois organizations, a counterrevolutionary, a Zionist, or a rightwing smallholder. (See Takács, “Az ügynökhálózat társadalomtörténeti kutatása,” 118–19.) Using this part of the documents, it was easy to determine whether an individual was a friend or foe of socialism. This information could also be used to recruit individuals.

23 Since the Hippocratic Oath encompassed the obligations of doctors to their patients, in, for example, the Soviet Union, certain elements of the original version were eliminated that did not conform to the official ideology, among them the requirement of medical privacy. Bernstein, “Behind the Closed Doors,” 106–7.

24 ÁBTL 3.1. B-92993 “Tarkői”, 19–20.

25 Farádi, “Dialektikus materializmus a gyakorlati,” 819–20.

26 Balint, “The Doctor, his Patient and the Illness.” The relationship between practitioner and his patient, especially the confidential communication required in this context and its therapeutical benefits, were fundamental principles of the humanistic medical movements of the second half of the twentieth century. See for example Bates, “Yesterday’s Doctors.”

27 ÁBTL 3.1.1. B-92993 “Tarkői”, 20.

28 The monitoring of party members, the elite group of state socialism, was not among the tasks of the state security forces. These individuals were held to account, rather, in the context of party disciplinary procedures. See Koltai, Akik a “Párt” ellen vétkeztek, 83–115.

29 ÁBTL 3.1.2. M-18864/1 “Siva.” Assignment plan, Cegléd, January 2, 1962. 84.

30 There were voices on both sides of the Iron Curtain speaking out against the hierarchical nature of the doctor–patient relationship, however. In a reconsidered framework, as propagated, for example, by Michael Balint, patients could play an active role in their recovery. In the state socialist context, conforming to the ideological expectations, this could mean an equal relationship between two workers. In the Hungarian case, this initiative was unsuccessful, and the hierarchical doctor–patient relationship remained dominant. Losonczi, A kiszolgáltatottság anatómiája, 15–22.

31 ÁBTL 3.1.2. M-18864/1. “Siva.” Assignment plan, January 2, 1962. Cegléd, 1962, 84–85.

32 Losonczi, A kiszolgáltatottság anatómiája, 9–15. A similar case to “Siva’s,” founded on the patient’s vulnerability, is found in the dossier of the agent who worked under the code name “Orvos.” He was also ordered to summon his patient for a visit and to inquire about potential seditious activities. As the two situations show striking similarities, I will not analyze this case in more detail here. ÁBTL 3.1.2. M-17764/1. “Orvos,” 340–41. Report, Budapest, January 12, 1961.

33 1959, Decree No. 8. Medical Regulation. 10.§; 11/1972. (30. VI.), Regulation of medical workers issued by the Ministry of Health. §. 22. The introduction of medical privacy was far from self-evident in the Eastern Bloc. In the Soviet Union, a doctor’s obligation to keep delicate information private was not regulated legally and was not discussed in professional circles. Furthermore, the passage referring to medical privacy was eliminated from the original text of the Hippocratic Oath (Bernstein, “Behind the Closed Doors”).

34 In state socialist countries, even in the authoritarian and repressive context of the political-social system, there remained circles of trust that did not allow individuals to atomize completely. On this, see for example Hosking, “Trust and Distrust,” 17–25; Betts, Within Walls. There were several factors, however, that could affect this confidentiality within the doctor–patient relationship (for example, society’s attitudes towards alternative medicine were replaced entirely by Western medicine in the period or the attitudes towards doctors seen as “bureaucrats”). This will be discussed in my PhD dissertation in more detail.

35 György Krassó (1932–1991) participated in the events of 1956 and was later sentenced to 10 years in prison. He left prison in 1963 after János Kádár issued a general amnesty. In the 1970s, he became an active member of the opposition, and in 1982 he established the Magyar Október [Hungarian October] press, which published several samizdats. He was under constant surveillance and was arrested several times.

36 ÁBTL 3.1.2. M-31222 “Szentendrei,” 43–45. Report, Pomáz, January 26, 1968.

37 On the origins of the medical gaze, its transformation, and role in medicine in more detail see Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic.

38 ÁBTL 3.1.2. M-37256. “Kaposvári László.” Report, Győr, January 30, 1975. 24–25.

39 Heteroanamnesis means that it is not the patient who gives an account of his or her own medical history, complaints, or the circumstances of, for example, an accident, but others, such as family members or an eyewitness.

40 The social tendencies in state socialist systems and their possible links to psychiatric conditions have already been discussed in detail. In the case of Hungary, see for example Kovai, “Számtalan forró csókkal”; Csikós, “Countryside Modernized or Traumatized?” On the GDR, see: Bonhomme, “Le Mur lui.”

41 The everyday life of this institution prior to “Hegyi’s” directorship was depicted by István Benedek (Benedek, The Gilded Cage.) After “Hegyi” left the institution, “Szentendrei” was appointed as primary physician.

42 One of these acquaintances was the psychologist Ferenc Mérei, who was under surveillance and attacks by the authorities for both his professional and personal activities.

43 ÁBTL 3.1.2. M-33556 “Hegyi.” Report, Szombathely, October 1, 1970, 258–61.

44 ÁBTL 3.1.2. M-33556 “Hegyi.” Report, Szombathely, November 12, 1970, 270–76.

45 “Orvos” (whose code name means doctor in Hungarian) is examined in a different role as one of the significant members of the underground musical scene of the Kádár era by Kürti, Glissando és húrtépés.

46 ÁBTL 3.1.2. M-17764/1 “Orvos.” Report, Budapest, December 3, 1960, 328–31.

47 One of the techniques focusing on the individual’s social existence is questioning, which might be oriented around previous moments in one’s family and medical history to uncover the signs of madness. Foucault, Le pouvoir psychiatrique, 267–76.

48 Though these publications are far from proper prestige analyses, they pinpoint the rapidly transforming social perception of doctors, which had wide social implications. See for example: Harmat, “Az orvosi tekintély,” Lukáts, “Strukturális vizsgálódások,” 73–75.

49 Though these analyses were done in the last decade of state socialism, its results could be relevant retrospectively. As the principal investigator pointed out, the social prestige of an occupation is a social value that is prone to change only slowly, and the 1983 and 1988, sociological investigations proved that the social and scientific value of doctors was gradually increasing. See Kulcsár, Foglalkozások presztízse, 5–20, 27.

50 The prestige of medical knowledge could be valorized because of the differences in the levels of (expert) knowledge between the doctor and his case officer. This aspect, however, can only be examined in the case of “Hegyi,” as only his case officer’s personal dossiers were kept in the archives. According to this, the officer, after having finished primary school, studied for two months in the party’s school and the officer’s training school in the 1950s. In 1965, he graduated from the Police College of the Ministry of Interior. These brief trainings offered ideological and technical knowledge, but they were not sufficient to convey extensive knowledge. (ÁBTL 2.8.1. BM Vas Megyei RKF, Personal Dossiers. 773.)

51 Horváth, “Orvosok – pedagógusok,” 59–61.

52 On the principles of the committees and some sample cases see Szabó, Orvosetikai kérdésekről.

53 This is exemplified by the dossiers of “Hegyi” and “Szentendrei,” who had to provide information about Ferenc Mérei’s activities, for example the professional events he organized.

54 Among health care institutions, psychiatric wards were particularly well suited to this asylum function. Comparing the methods of making a psychiatric diagnosis with the methods used in other medical disciplines, psychiatric diagnoses could be perceived as more subjective and blurred because they were first and foremost based on observations of individual behavior and decisions that were made according to social norms instead of physiological symptoms. Thus, it could be easier to fake a psychiatric diagnosis than any other medical diagnosis. This social aspect of psychiatry was exploited in cases concerning politically threatening individuals in Hungary and also in the Soviet Union, if we consider the well-known practice of political psychiatry. In the case of Soviet political psychiatry and its most common diagnosis (sluggish schizophrenia, a disease that could be hardly verified by solid evidence), the state confined individuals to concealed wards. As the sources under study testify, the Hungarian case was the other way around. The individuals and their doctors took advantage of this aspect of psychiatry.

55 ÁBTL 3.1.2. M-17361. “Marossi Pál” Report, Pécs, August 16, 1960, 326.

56 ÁBTL 3.1.2. M-37256. “Kaposvári László” Report, Győr, January 30, 1975, 23–24.

57 These were recurring topics in both of their reports. See for example: ÁBTL 3.1.2. M-39640 “Lénárd Pál” Report, Székesfehérvár, December 29, 1979, 12–20; ÁBTL 3.1.2. M-39489 “Angyalföldi” Report, Békéscsaba, October 17, 1979, 23–29.

58 Goffman, Asylums, 1–125.

59 In the course of my research, I have not come across any instances in which case officers double-checked the operationally valuable details provided by doctors, even though this kind of double-checking was a commonly used method of confirming information. Moreover, based on these results, it would be interesting to examine how the aforementioned “impermeability” of hospital walls and the autonomy of physicians was extended and also to consider the roles played by the location of institutions (rural, urban, or metropolitan institutions) and their specialization in this relative independence.


Reproduction between Health and Sickness: Doctors’ Attitudes to Reproductive Issues in Interwar Czechoslovakia*

Veronika Lacinová Najmanová
University of Pardubice
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 10 Issue 2  (2021): 301-327 DOI 10.38145/2021.2.301

The study examines how doctors in interwar Czechoslovakia intervened in reproductive issues and related areas of life in an attempt to combat the declining birthrate, a trend that was considered a threat to society. Inspired by Foucault’s concept of medicalization and biopower, through the analysis of medical literature and articles from the press in the interwar period, I will demonstrate how Czechoslovak doctors, not only but especially under the influence of eugenics, foregrounded the categories of health and sickness in order to assert definitions of “correct” forms of reproduction while attempting to stigmatize and discourage forms of reproduction that they considered detrimental to the health of society or the nation. The aim of the study is not only to expand the body of knowledge about the activities and attitudes of Czechoslovak doctors in the interwar period but also to call attention to the still current topic of the political background of reproductive policy.

Keywords: reproduction, medicalization, doctors, eugenics, birth control, interwar Czechoslovakia

“Reproduction cannot be left to mere urges; here too, rational considerations should play a decisive role. Reproduction is no longer merely a private matter. On the contrary—it is a matter of vital interest to society and the state.”1

These words were written in 1931 by the Czech doctor and biologist Vladislav Růžička2 in his book Eugenická profylaxa (Eugenic prophylaxis).3 Although reproduction may seem an intensely intimate matter, in the first half of the twentieth century (and indeed even today) it was not a purely private concern; human reproduction was subject to oversight and monitoring by various experts who, to a substantial extent, defined how people could and should reproduce without (allegedly) endangering the interests of society. Chief among these experts were doctors, who attempted to influence reproductive behavior, shape reproductive policy, and determine who should or should not have children and under what circumstances. In most cases, these doctors had the purest motives. They were striving to promote a healthy society and nation, and they considered themselves in possession of an authority emanating from science, which appeared to offer unlimited possibilities.

In this article, I will show that in the background of the attitude of Czechoslovak doctors to reproductive issues, especially abortion and contraception, we can find more a reflection of the political, social, and national problems of the interwar period and the efforts to face them, than a reflection of the state of scientific knowledge at the time. My theoretical and methodological approach draws on Foucault’s concept of power, especially the relationship between power and knowledge, and on the critical approach of feminist and gender studies, which were among the first to question the objectivity of the sciences, including medical science. Both approaches have made it possible in the past for historiography and branches of the social sciences to redefine or completely reject the earlier idea of the development of medical knowledge as a process moving from backwardness or ignorance to general wellbeing and progress. I consider the approach to history based on the deconstruction of power relations and including the perspective of not only privileged but also marginal social groups highly inspiring even today. In this article, therefore, I offer a critical analysis of the medical discourse on the issue of reproduction in an effort to reveal often less clear political (as well as religious, nationality, etc.) motives, which, as shown below, played a crucial role in doctors’ approaches to questions associated with reproduction. The sources on which my analysis is based capture both the professional medical (and eugenic) discourse and the efforts that were made to acquaint the general public with some of these ideas and their implications. The first group consists of articles published in professional medical journals, professional medical books, and textbooks and the second of materials which were essentially intended to serve as informational guides on sexual health, e.g., manuals for individuals or spouses, in which doctors shed light on various topics related to sexual life and reproduction.

The Role of the Doctor in the Medicalized World

The roots of doctors’ influence over reproductive issues and reproductive policy can be traced back to the Enlightenment, which saw the origin of processes that boosted the scientific prestige of medicine and enhanced the importance of the medical profession. It was also during the Enlightenment era that states began to strengthen their influence over medicine. Faced with a range of social changes, absolutist states realized the importance of their populations, and they began to implement new forms of control. States were keen to ensure that their populations were healthy and physically fit, and they also strove to maintain high population levels. Social control (including control of health-related issues) was substantially strengthened, and human reproduction ceased to be perceived as a merely a private matter. Instead, it became the concern of the state or society as a whole. States sought to ensure that their populations were large enough to provide a substantial labor force, produce an adequate supply of military recruits, and ensure sufficient economic demand. This led to the emergence of a doctrine known as populationism, which viewed the population and demographic behavior as central concerns of the state. The aim was not merely to maximize the size of the population, but also to ensure its “quality.” This approach made doctors increasingly important; in many countries (including the Czech-speaking provinces of the Habsburg Monarchy), the populationist doctrine was incorporated into the concept of state health policy.4

People and their bodies were newly subjected to systematic examination and supervision by the medical profession, which to a large extent became a tool for the implementation of state policy. The state was now responsible for the health of its population, and doctors were called on not merely to treat the individual bodies of their patients, but also to contribute to the wellbeing of society, which was viewed as a living organism. This set of changes, which accompanied the transition from a traditional society to a modern society, has been analyzed in detail by Michel Foucault5 from the perspectives of the concepts of medicalization and biopower.6 Thanks to the gradual medicalization of the community, a process in which medicine began to intervene in areas that had previously been felt to lie outside its domain,7 there was a significant change in the status of doctors, whose social prestige and influence increased significantly, but there was also a redefinition of the concept of health and disease. The health of society, analogous to the health of the individual, has become an ideal, and the notion of disease gradually evolved into a metaphor for everything that was deemed unnatural and therefore had to be fought against.8 Thanks to “the connection of the modern biopolitical disciplinary apparatus with the idea of defending society against ‘risk factors’,” a notion was created of a struggle against enemies that disrupt the health of society.9 These metaphors of sickness became increasingly aggressive, and the enemies they were used to construct also changed.10 What remained consistent, on the other hand, was the idea of medical science as a protector against them. Medicine integrated several socially undesirable phenomena, through their connections to the concepts of health and disease, into the sphere of its competence, which enabled it to exert its influence on them under the pretext of treatment. Doctors themselves often helped to construct these dangers and the associated enemies, fueling the fears thus evoked.11 These consequences of the medicalization of society can be deconstructed in relation to the declining birthrate and the associated fear of depopulation, a process resulting from the reproductive change that had affected many European countries, including Czechoslovakia.

A new dimension to the process of medicine’s entry into more and more social spheres came with the emergence of nation states and the related idea of so-called national health. Metaphors of health and disease blended with the concept of nation and national identity. Health concerns and eugenically motivated concerns about the “quality” of future generations penetrated the ethical and moral foundations of the whole project of nation building.12 The emerging states also sought to protect their national identities through public health and medical science, which was seen as having a dual role. First, it helped define the nation and national identity on a biological basis, and second, it oversaw a large area of public health. According to Promitzer, Trubeta, and Turda “one of the most important corollaries to this development was the physician’s extensive social and national involvement: a physician was now more than just a medical doctor caring for patients. He (and increasingly she) gradually became an instrument of state politics while medicine became a medium for addressing moral and ethical questions pertaining to the health of the nation and society.”13

Eugenics, Depopulation, and Degeneration

The growing influence of doctors not only on reproduction but on many other areas of human life was based not only on their role as protectors of national health, but also on the authority that science enjoyed in society. According to Robert Proctor,14 science represented a haven of certainty and stability in the turbulent, uncertain times around the turn of the twentieth century, when society and politics were gripped by chaos, and doubt was increasingly being cast on old certainties. The development of statistics and the increasing importance of classification as a method, which had become widespread in the sciences under the influence of Charles Darwin’s publications, made it possible “better” to measure, evaluate, and subsequently hierarchize people and social phenomena.15 The principles of statistics, genetics, and natural selection were also used to construct a (pseudo)science which came to play an important role in reproductive issues and reproductive politics: eugenics. Eugenics was a form of thinking which set out to combat unfavorable demographic trends and improve both the quantity and quality of the population by applying knowledge from genetics. It was developed during the final third of the nineteenth century by the English scientist Francis Galton; in simple terms, its aim was to breed people based on the principles of heredity and natural selection.16

Eugenic ideas spread throughout the world in the first half of the twentieth century, and although eugenics had its own specifics in different countries, we can indeed speak of a movement of ideas that affected a large part of the world in some form.17 Alongside England, the USA and Germany are considered to be the most important centers of eugenic thinking, but eugenic ideas held significant sway in Scandinavia and South America. Eugenics has also been echoed in Central and Eastern European countries, although, as Paul Weindling points out, eugenic ideas were largely influenced by national contexts, leading to great differences in the social and medical measures taken by eugenics. In the Czech-speaking provinces of the Habsburg Monarchy, eugenics began to take root at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the doctor and university professor Ladislav Haškovec18 started to organize various activities aiming to raise awareness of eugenics among both experts and non-experts. He canvassed doctors in an attempt to gain support for his proposal to introduce legislation requiring compulsory medical examinations prior to marriage.19 Česká eugenická společnost (Czech Eugenic Society) was founded in 1915. It cannot be said that all doctors in the interwar period were followers of eugenic ideas, nor is it true that all members of the Czech eugenic society were doctors,20 but eugenic discourse was widespread in the medical profession in the interwar period, and doctors formed a substantial part of the Czech eugenic movement.21 The close connection between medicine and eugenics applies not only to the Czech space. In the context of eugenics and racial science in Central and Southeastern Europe, there were mainly doctors who, according to Marius Turda and Weidling, helped to establish these ideological trends as modern scientific disciplines.22

Eugenicists also tried to establish themselves as a national movement in this area. Unlike the USA or Germany, where eugenics was strongly intertwined with racial theories and the central element of its discourse was the concept of race or ethnicity, in Czechoslovakia and Central and Southeastern Europe, the concept of the nation strengthened and was strengthened by the eugenics discourse.23 Eugenics became an integral part of the process of building a modern nation state.24 In Czechoslovakia, the protection of and support for the nation’s alleged biological quality was a central concern for the eugenic movement throughout the 1920s, and notions of national wellbeing underlay all eugenically motivated debates on reproduction and demographic issues in general.25 The motif of an impending threat to a small nation which is in danger of being absorbed by larger (and more fertile) nations is common in the context of eugenic discourse, as shown by this statement: “For small nations, it is particularly essential to ensure that the population remains at a certain level. A sharp drop in the population of any nation represents a threat to the very foundations of its existence, and all the more so if the nation is a small one.”26 This motif appears repeatedly the in medical literature and is one of the proofs of the influence of eugenic ideas on medical discourse. This idea appeared repeatedly in the medical literature of the period.

The statement cited above offers an example of the nationalist subtext of eugenic thinking in Czechoslovakia and a reference to one of the biggest problems with which eugenicists dealt, and not only in Czechoslovakia: the decline in birth rates and the related fear of depopulation. In the nineteenth century, most European countries (except for France, where this process began as early as the late eighteenth century) began to show signs of changing demographic behavior and a gradual decline in birth rates. The decline continued in the first half of the twentieth century, and fears of depopulation were exacerbated by the losses suffered during World War I. The low birthrate led to fears that there would be a shortage of men fit to serve in the military, and these fears were further stoked by the aforementioned nationalist or racialist concerns that the nation would die out or the quality of the race would suffer. As a consequence, concerns over the declining birthrate, the reduction of the population’s biological quality, and the waning desire to have children were leitmotifs running through most of the medical literature on this subject in the interwar years.

These anxieties concerning depopulation were not unfounded. Czechoslovakia had experienced one of the sharpest drops in the birthrate of any European country. Before World War I, the Czechs had the second lowest birthrate in the Austro–Hungarian Monarchy (after the Germans). In the interwar period, Czechoslovakia’s birthrate was somewhat boosted by the incorporation of Slovakia and the eastern province of Subcarpathian Ruthenia (now in Ukraine), where it was traditionally higher, yet the rate was still just 14.9 newborns per 1,000 people, an even lower proportion than in France, which was considered to be a cautionary example of depopulation because it was the first country where the birthrate had begun to decline.27 Despite this situation, Czechoslovakia’s interwar governments, although they repeatedly discussed the problem, did not adopt a comprehensive population policy and did not take comprehensive steps to encourage a higher birthrate; they merely introduced small-scale measures offering support to families in general, such as various financial benefits or the expansion of health insurance coverage.28 The worrying demographic trend during the interwar years thus offered fertile ground for various proposals seeking to increase the birthrate, criticisms of deliberate birth control, and the stigmatization of those who were thought to be contributing to the declining birthrate.29

Although the declining birthrate was a reality, doctors often played a key role in constructing it as an undesirable or even catastrophic phenomenon. According to Cornelie Usborn,30 who has studied reproductive policy in the Weimar Republic, doctors began to raise the alarm around the turn of the twentieth century, when the first major drop in the birthrate was recorded. They constructed a narrative of national crisis, ranking the declining birthrate among “illnesses” such as tuberculosis, alcoholism, and venereal diseases, i.e., illnesses which had to be treated before their impact on the organism of the nation became fatal. This was all taking place at a time when the declining birthrate was still being balanced out by the decline in mortality and thus was not yet causing the overall population to stagnate or fall.31 Miloslav Szabó, in his study of abortions in the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia, reached similar conclusions on the role of doctors in presenting the declining birthrate as a threat to society. In his opinion, the process of building the Czechoslovak state after the World War I was strongly affected by fears of a declining population, and texts by Slovak doctors, especially those intended for the general public, depicted an almost apocalyptic vision of the collapse of society, partly as a consequence of abortions.32

In addition to the fear of population decline, eugenic discourse was also based on the fear of an alleged decline in the quality of the population, which was reflected in the concept of degeneration and the problem of differential fertility.33 It is worth emphasizing, in this context, that convictions concerning the superiority of some people (or “peoples”) over others thus lay at the heart of eugenics from the outset. Eugenics followed an interpretation Darwin’s idea of natural selection according to which only the strongest survive in the struggle for life. The result was that at the very core of eugenics was the idea of biologically (genetically) determined inequalities among humans. The classification of people into groups which allegedly represented a healthy gene pool and groups which were allegedly genetically pathological and thus inferior was also reflected in attitudes towards reproduction, where the goal of so-called positive eugenics was to motivate “quality” individuals to give birth to more children, while the goal of negative eugenics was to reduce or prevent reproduction of allegedly inferior individuals. Differential fertility, it was believed, would lead to a reduction in the quality of the population, which could lead to degeneration and the extinction of the population.

Alongside anxieties concerning depopulation, the notion of degeneration became another element of the eugenic discourse, and it appears in the medical literature, in not as saliently. The most common definition of this fundamental concept in eugenicist discourse drew on the principles of Darwinism. According to these ideas, degeneration meant a descent to the lowest level of social development (in other words, the opposite of evolution), and in more general terms, it referred to the threat of physiological, psychological, and social decline. With regard to reproductive issues, degeneration was felt to be closely associated with a declining birthrate, and individuals or entire societies suffering from degeneration were felt to be characterized by a decreased ability to conceive, bear, and adequately provide for children. This process was seen as being manifested in the inability of men and (mainly) women to carry out their reproductive “duties” or, even worse, in their unwillingness to do so. Degeneration was presented as a form of societal decline, as something undesirable which had to be prevented, and also as a deviation of social progress from its correct path, a path that was frequently viewed as the only natural path. In this context, eugenicists created the notion that healthy people who for whatever reason refused to perform their reproductive role were in fact contributing to the decline of society and had to be corrected. It is worth emphasizing that this category of internal enemies consisted mainly of women,34 especially women who deviated from the traditional image of femininity, in other words emancipated women who were students or professionals, as well as women who deliberately restricted their fertility.35 This gender-conditioned denigration of a certain group of women who were viewed as disruptive to the social order due to their refusal to perform their reproductive role also appeared in the medical literature and was undoubtedly related not only to eugenics but, more generally, to the rigid approach of the medical profession to the social role of women.

Healthy Breeding to Save the Nation

Let us now turn to the Czechoslovak doctors’ attitudes to selected reproductive issues in the interwar period and how these attitudes were influenced by fears of the declining birthrate and other threats outlined above. The medicalization of reproduction and concerns about the future of the nation made it possible in the interwar period to create and maintain the idea that doctors were the most competent people to decide who should and should not have children. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the establishment of obstetrics as a new medical discipline offers one important example of doctors’ involvement and intervention in reproductive issues, and in the first half of the twentieth century, the medicalization of reproduction was reflected in issues of fertility control, in particular in the question of the permissibility of abortions and contraception.

In Czechoslovakia as in other European countries, the first half of the twentieth century was a time when legislation on abortion was a major subject of debate. There were various attempts to decriminalize abortion or to expand the range of circumstances under which an abortion could be carried out legally. The main reason why abortion became a focal issue for politicians and activists was the high number of illegally performed abortions and the complications that arose because of this practice, particularly the supposed negative effects on women’s health and the risk of damage to the fetus if the abortion was unsuccessful. It was later estimated that between 70,000 and 100,000 illegal abortions were performed annually in Czechoslovakia in the interwar period,36 only a very small percentage of which were discovered, mainly those that led to complications, forcing women to seek medical help or, in the worst cases, causing their deaths. The high number of clandestine abortions was due to the fact that they were illegal. It was a criminal offence both to undergo an abortion and to perform one. In 1918, the newly formed Czechoslovak state adopted the Austrian Criminal Code of 1852, Section 144 of which defined abortion as a crime and stipulated a prison sentence of between five and ten years. The only exception when an abortion could be performed legally was the existence of medical grounds in cases in which the mother’s life would be at risk if an abortion were not performed. However, the number of prison sentences imposed was far lower than the number of abortions actually carried out, and this helped motivate efforts towards decriminalization.37

In interwar Czechoslovakia, six amendments to the Criminal Code were proposed which would have decriminalized abortion, mainly by social democratic members of parliament (both of Czech and German nationality). The greatest support was enjoyed by a 1931 proposal submitted by the social democratic Minister of Justice Alfréd Meissner, which defined abortions as mere misdemeanors (i.e., not criminal offences) and specified circumstances under which they would be entirely legal. These circumstances included not only medical considerations but also social and eugenic concerns.38 The proposed amendment sparked widespread debate not only among experts (demographers, economists, and lawyers), but also among the members of the general public. Doctors played a key role in this debate, though the greatest point of contention between the proponents and opponents of decriminalization was not the definition of medical circumstances, but the social circumstances under which abortion was to be deemed legal. Most doctors did not dispute that in some cases it was necessary to perform an abortion on medical grounds. Devoutly Catholic doctors were an exception to this, as they considered any abortion whatsoever to represent the murder of an unborn child. If failure to perform an abortion endangered the mother’s life, they argued, her death in such a case would be worthy of admiration. The Slovak doctor Emanuel Filo,39 in his inaugural address after he was appointed to serve as the Rector of Comenius University in Bratislava, addressed the need to protect motherhood, quoting from Pope Pius XI’s 1930 encyclical Casti connubii (Of Chaste Wedlock), in which the Pope “expressed sympathy with those heroic mothers whose performance of their maternal duties threatened their health and lives.”40 Filo also rejected the notion that in cases in which the mother was seriously ill (e.g. with eclampsia) it was necessary to terminate her pregnancy. The difference in opinion between Slovak and Czech doctors, which was based primarily on a different degree of Christian conservatism,41 illustrates the fact that abortion was not viewed solely as a medical issue, even though doctors attempted to present it as such. Doctors were invited to participate in debates on abortion because they were seen as being able to contribute scientific expertise, conclusions, and recommendations to political representatives, but they were still frequently motivated by religious, nationalist, or entirely personal considerations. The economic aspects of abortion should also not be overlooked. In debates on the issue, the advocates of decriminalization sometimes criticized doctors for opposing the expansion of the range of circumstances that would allow abortions to be performed legally, accusing doctors of being motivated solely by a desire for personal enrichment, as clandestine abortions represented a source of income for them. Illegal abortions were not only performed by midwives, medical students, and unqualified quacks, but also by doctors, mainly for wealthy clients who could afford to pay substantial sums for their professional services and their discretion.

In general, in the interwar period, Czechoslovak doctors took a rather conservative approach to the issue of abortion.42 A large majority of them opposed any expansion of the range of circumstances under which abortions could be performed legally, insisting that the only permissible circumstances should be those involving a threat to the mother’s life or health. Medical associations were asked to issue statements of opinion on the various proposals for decriminalization, and they always opposed the proposals.43 The arguments against decriminalization mainly emphasized the health risks of abortions, even when the procedure was performed by a qualified professional in a proper health care facility. Doctors argued that their mission was to cure people, not to destroy life in its early phase, especially when doing so represented a substantial risk to the woman’s life or health. The socioeconomic reasons that were emphasized by the supporters of decriminalization, i.e., the argument that a woman should not be forced to bear a child for which she would be unable to provide care, thus bringing poverty and other difficulties upon her family, were rejected by doctors, who stated that it was not their role to assess their patients’ social situation. However, behind this stance one discerns the doctors’ fear that the acceptance of social or eugenic circumstances as valid reasons for performing abortions would lead to a dramatic increase in the number of abortions, accompanied by a further decline in the birthrate. The fear of depopulation was presented both explicitly and implicitly in debates on the legalization of abortions, and appeals to doctors not to force women to rely on the services of unqualified quacks were ignored. None of the proposals for decriminalization was approved, and it can be assumed that this was partly due to the stance taken by doctors (who were viewed as experts on reproduction and national health) combined with the emphasis on the health risks to the mother even in cases of abortions that were performed by professionals.

Contraception for the (Non)Wealthy Only

While Czech doctors’ stance on abortion remained relatively consistent throughout most of the first half of the twentieth century, their stance on contraception shifted substantially. In the first decades of the century, contraception remained something of a taboo subject, and it did not receive much attention from the medical profession. However, in the 1930s it moved increasingly to the forefront of the debate. This was probably partly due to the increasing sophistication of contraceptive methods, and it also reflected the widely discussed issue of abortions, as contraception was presented as a more desirable alternative to abortion. In the early years of the twentieth century, doctors generally opposed the use of contraception, taking the stance that the only acceptable form of birth control was sexual abstinence.44 Medical handbooks aimed at the members of the general public often contained passages on the irrevocable damage to health caused by the artificial restriction of fertility, and their authors also emphasized the risks that contraception posed to the morality of society. Bohuslav Horák,45 the author of the book Pohlavní zdravověda pro muže i ženy v manželství (Sexual health for men and women in marriage), which was issued in five editions within a period of thirteen years, made the following contentions:

The consequences of unnatural sexual intercourse, when care is taken to avoid impregnation, are very numerous, and often very sad too. Sicknesses of the body and nerves result, especially disorders of the sexual organs. Mental emptiness, an unwillingness to engage in normal sexual intercourse, which does not bring a pleasant sensation, leading to nervous disorders, especially hysteria in women.46

However, the situation changed in the 1930s, and doctors increasingly rejected sexual abstinence as a way of avoiding conception. It is telling that Bohuslav Horák used the word “unnatural” to describe sexual intercourse in which contraception is used, yet just a few years later, one of his colleagues, the renowned Czech gynecologist Antonín Ostrčil,47 used the same word to describe sexual abstinence. In a gynecology textbook for doctors and medical students, Ostrčil noted: “Sexual abstinence is often recommended for purposes of contraception […] That advice has absolutely no practical value, and is offered by people who either have not the slightest idea about human life or who are sexually abnormal […] so I consider it unnecessary even to consider this completely unnatural advice.”48 This shift, which reflects a shift in sexual morality, the gradual secularization of society, and the development of sexology again demonstrates that doctors’ opinions on what behavior was natural or unnatural (pathological and undesirable) were based not only on objective scientific knowledge but also on different motivations, which were cloaked in the terminology of health and sickness in order to lend them greater legitimacy and urgency.

This shift in doctors’ stance towards the notion of sexual abstinence as the only acceptable way to prevent unwanted pregnancy heralded the Czech gynecological community’s acceptance of contraception as a subject for discussion, and it is also reflected in the marked rise in the frequency with which contraception was mentioned in Czech medical literature. Nevertheless, it is not tenable to state that doctors became defenders or proponents of birth control during the 1930s. In fact, their stance was highly ambivalent, and they also took a selective approach both to the means of contraception and to the people who should use those means. Condoms were the first contraceptive device to be accepted by doctors; they were considered an important weapon in the struggle against venereal diseases. Alongside cervical caps, condoms were viewed by Czechoslovak gynecologists as the most effective ways of preventing unwanted pregnancies. At the lowest end of the scale in doctors’ preferences was the withdrawal method (coitus interruptus). This was undoubtedly the most widespread method of birth control (if we disregard abortion), mainly because it required no equipment and cost nothing. Despite this, or perhaps for this very reason, doctors considered it not only highly ineffective, but above all damaging to health. Without exception, all medical publications about contraception rejected coitus interruptus as an entirely inappropriate and harmful method of birth control. Of course, the question is whether doctors’ aversion to this method was based on genuine knowledge about its supposed negative effects on health or whether it was in fact motivated by an attempt to discredit the most widespread contraceptive method. If doctors were battling against depopulation while at the same time seeking to retain their influence over the domain of contraception, then they may have viewed coitus interruptus as a method that caused great demographic damage while also, by its very nature, lying beyond their influence.

I will now explore how medical discourse in the interwar period approached the issue of who should use contraception and under what circumstances. Doctors were relatively united in their support for the use of contraception in cases in which pregnancy would cause substantial health risks for the woman or could result in damage to the fetus or the birth of a child with a hereditary disease or disorder. In such cases, most doctors agreed, as in the case of abortions: the life of the mother took priority over the potential life of a child. The use of contraception was also viewed as appropriate on eugenic grounds if a child was likely to be born with a mental or physical handicap, generally for hereditary reasons. From a eugenic point of view, however, contraception was an ambivalent matter. Its uncontrolled spread could mean a sharp decline in birth rates and thus have a dysgenic effect. However, its appropriate use, especially by individuals seen as unfit for reproduction, could, on the contrary, lead to a reduction in the number of inferior children. Thus, the question of who should use contraception and under what circumstances was crucial. The abovementioned Vladislav Růžička, in his book Péče o zdatnost potomstva (Caring for the fitness of our progeny), notes that “those who artificially prevent pregnancy are acting incorrectly and harming society as a whole. The artificial restriction of fertility damages the nation more severely than hereditary diseases.”49 However, in a different publication, he recommends the use of contraceptive devices for preventing pregnancy even mentioning specific types of contraception.50 Here too, it is evident that support for or rejection of contraception was not primarily rooted in medical considerations, but in the purpose and manner of its use. It was acceptable and desirable to use contraception to limit the reproductive potential of individuals who, in the eyes of members of the medical profession, were medically unfit or inferior (see below).51 By contrast, (many) doctors opposed the use of contraception by people who were considered the most suitable breeders. In such cases, contraception was viewed as an evil which would lead to what was seen as the decline of the human race or the extinction of the nation.52

Doctors also exercised their influence over reproductive issues by defining the types of women who should not use it. However, this process of definition was not rooted exclusively in medical considerations, as might be expected; rather it took a class-based or eugenic approach, and again it, was shaped by the desire to combat the low birthrate and fear of differential fertility. Contraception was viewed as a logical way for women from the lowest echelons of society to prevent the birth of children who would merely place a further economic burden on the family (and who might also have led to hereditary problems in future generations), but contraception was viewed as entirely unsuitable for middle-class women. Doctors not only refused to accept the use of contraception by middle-class women, they also repeatedly denigrated, in their publications, middle-class women who expressed an interest in contraception. For poor women, they argued, a reduction in the number of offspring was understandable and forgivable, but for women from more prosperous backgrounds it was merely a form of selfishness that could not be tolerated. Women were accused of desiring luxury at the expense of fulfilling their parental duties. They were condemned for their alleged vanity, which caused them to fear the impact of pregnancy on their looks; they were criticized for wanting an easy life, which in the worst case scenario would lead to childlessness, a state which was presented (especially in nationalist contexts) as a form of “heresy.” František Lašek,53 for instance, wrote the following:

In our country too, the declining birthrate is becoming a pressing national problem. In our society too, there is a desire for a comfortable life. Out of selfishness, spouses avoid having children, and they view those with several children as unwise and careless, robbing their children of their inheritance, lacking in restraint. We should consider that no political crisis or economic slump—both always merely temporary situations—can threaten our nation as much as inactivity by parents, and especially mothers. Let us learn from the history of now-extinct nations, including those Slavic peoples who are close to us!54


The final part of Lašek’s admonition clearly illustrates that this condemnation of women who used contraception despite not suffering from any health issues should again be viewed in the context of a concern for the quality and quantity of the population. Lašek’s statements, which were not unusual at the time, represent a response to the fact that contraception was substantially more common among the middle and upper classes, as well as a reflection of the already mentioned fear of degeneration, which might ensue if the lower classes (whom eugenicists considered inferior) were to have markedly higher birthrates than the middle and upper classes (considered superior). It is also certain that the fear of the declining birthrate was influenced by anxiety over the fact that contraception enabled sexual intercourse to be separated from the act of procreation (conception). In the interwar period, this separation was still considered the beginning of a process of moral decay that would ultimately engulf the nation. In 1932, František Pachner55 wrote a textbook for trainee midwives in which he warned them only to give contraceptives to a woman who is “sick or exhausted by childbearing, or who already has so many children that she could not support another, etc. They [i.e., the midwives] should not give advice which promotes an impure life or wantonness.”56

It is thus evident that doctors based their decisions on distinct categories which they themselves fashioned. They differentiated between women for whom contraceptives could be prescribed and recommended and women for whom it was not only unacceptable to prescribe contraceptives, but whose efforts to prevent pregnancy were viewed as contemptible and immoral. This second category comprised healthy women living under prosperous circumstances, as well as women who had not yet had (what was seen as) enough children. In publications about sexuality and marriage dating from the 1950s and 1960s, we can often observe the argument that young spouses are not yet in a position to afford to have a first child, or that they are not yet sufficiently mature to do so, and as a consequence, they may want to use contraceptives. However, during the interwar period, doctors took no account whatsoever of the possibility that a healthy, married, and childless woman may want to avoid pregnancy; such a situation is simply not mentioned in the interwar literature on sexual health. The view taken by the authors of these publications was that if a childless woman does indeed seek to avoid becoming pregnant, this indicates that she is immoral, and her behavior should be viewed as unhealthy or pathological. Women who deliberately remained childless were held up as an example of one of the worst disasters that could befall a nation and as a demonstration of the extremes to which unlimited access to contraceptives could potentially lead.

Birth Control under the Control of Doctors

During the first half of the twentieth century, a movement promoting contraception emerged, partly reflecting the attempt to offer members of the general public as much access as possible to contraceptives and also arising from the notion that contraception was an effective means of preventing abortions or poverty. If we view the so-called birth control movement57 in a global context, we see that many doctors (some male, though female doctors58 were perhaps even more involved) played an active role and were leading figures in this movement, yet some doctors were also prominent critics of it. In Czechoslovakia as in other countries, doctors (and medical concerns in general) played a key role in the contraceptive movement, not as leading figures in it, but because the (female) activists who led the Czech contraceptive movement defined their efforts with reference to the health benefits of contraception and cited medical authorities in order to emphasize that what they promoted was in no way controversial, unnatural, or amoral.

Unlike several other European countries, Czechoslovakia did not have a mass contraceptive movement in the first half of the 1920s, but the idea of raising public awareness of contraception did have some proponents. The first positive responses to neo-Malthusianism can be traced to the years before World War I, but interest in educating the general public about contraception did not become widespread until the 1930s, when it arose as a reaction to the very high numbers of illegal abortions and the government’s inability to tackle this problem. In 1932, a society named Zdravotní ochrana ženy (Protecting Women’s Health) was established in Brno. It aimed to reduce the number of illegal abortions being performed, and it helped set up Czechoslovakia’s first contraception advice center. Two years later, in 1934, the Svaz pro kontrolu porodů (Birth Control Association) was established in Prague, proclaiming that its activities would involve representatives of political parties, women’s organizations, and churches. According to its statute, Protecting Women’s Health was to be run by medical professionals with the intention of disseminating information about contraception, teaching women how to use contraceptives, and providing funds to help them purchase contraceptives. The association also set up an advice center for this purpose.59

The influence of doctors on reproductive issues is evident from the way in which both these organizations presented their purpose and activities. Although they were both run by women and offered help primarily to women, the emancipatory aspects of their activities were strongly downplayed, and the medical benefits were foregrounded instead. Both organizations emphasized the positive impacts of contraception on health and presented medical expertise as an integral and essential part of their activities. The society Protecting Women’s Health explicitly declared its goal of striving to make contraception part of public health care, incorporating it into medical research and carrying out scientific studies on it. Several documents connected with the establishment of the society have survived (including correspondence between the society’s secretary Karla Popprová Molínková and several representatives of other women’s associations), as have several versions of the documentation submitted by the society in its application to be listed on the official register of public associations. These documents enable us to trace the shift that occurred between the original ideas of the founders and the final version which eventually gained official approval. The medical aspects of the society’s activities play a key role here. Karla Popprová Molínková originally wanted to establish a society to fight for the decriminalization of abortion, but she failed to win sufficient support for this idea, and so she decided instead to set up a society modeled on similar organizations abroad (mainly in Germany) the primary aim of which would be to inform women about the contraceptive options available to them. Popprová Molínková’s main aim was thus to enable women to decide freely in matters of motherhood and sexuality, but probably for strategic reasons (and influenced by criticism from other female activists), the society gradually shifted its declared focus more towards the domain of public health education, the battle against abortions and medically harmful forms of contraception, and improvements in the quality and accessibility of obstetric care. The shift in focus towards medical aspects of birth control is very clear from the society’s statute. One of the first versions of this document stated that the society would seek to achieve its goal by “disseminating knowledge concerning feminine hygiene and sexual life, with a particular emphasis on the importance of self-discipline and moral responsibility.”60 However, the final draft of the statute (the one eventually accepted by the authorities) replaced this wording with the following: “disseminating knowledge about sexual life by means of medically informed lectures, leaflets, brochures and printed materials.”61 Unfortunately, we lack sources that would cast light on the motives underlying this shift, but it can be assumed that the original wording, which emphasized that the society’s activities would not be detrimental to morality (reflecting the founders’ fears that the society would face stiff opposition in clerical circles), was eventually omitted for strategic reasons, to be replaced by an emphasis on public educational activities (whose quality and importance were guaranteed, as they were supervised by medical experts) and health benefits.

The influence of doctors is likewise clearly visible in the case of the second organization, the Birth Control Association. Here, it is evident that doctors attempted to retain a degree of control over the association’s promotion of contraception. The Birth Control Association managed to recruit the renowned gynecologist Antonín Ostrčil as a collaborator. Ostrčil was, in the 1920s and 1930s, the head physician at the Second Gynecological Clinic in Prague’s Podolí district. An advice center was established at the clinic in 1935, an event reported in the press as follows:

The aim of the center is to give basic advice to women on sexual matters from a gynecological perspective: i.e., in cases of irregular awakening of sexual desire, difficulty caused by a lack of sexual harmony in marital relations, infertility, in cases when it is appropriate to prevent pregnancy, or in cases of various illnesses affecting women, whose treatment could prevent large numbers of abortions with a negative impact on health. The advice center will be run by the head physician of the clinic and his assistants. The association will be governed by the principles laid down by Dr. Ostrčil.62

As is evident from this extract, the activities of the Birth Control Association and specifically the advice center set up by it were clearly framed in terms of protecting health. In this case, the “sickness” that needed to be “treated” consisted of abortions and their detrimental effects on health. The last sentence is particularly significant, as it explicitly positions the association as being subordinate to medical authority, represented by Antonín Ostrčil. It is interesting that, although I have only found very scanty information on the Birth Control Association’s activities, there is not even the slightest attempt to present contraception as a tool enabling women to take control over their own reproductive potential or as a way of experiencing female sexuality without the anxiety of unwanted pregnancy.63 Although these motifs were typical of the contraceptive movement that developed especially in Western Europe and the USA in the second half of the twentieth century, embryonic traces of them can be observed in the contraceptive movements of other countries in the prewar era.64 The absence of these motifs in interwar Czechoslovakia is particularly striking when we take into account that the Birth Control Association was chaired by Betty Karpíšková, a Czech social democratic senator who ranked among the most vocal supporters of the decriminalization of abortion in the interwar period and, above all, one of the few public figures who very explicitly emphasized women’s right to decide in matters of motherhood and to be in control of their own bodies.65 It appears that Karpíšková downplayed these aspects in order to increase the association’s chances of success, deciding instead to emphasize only the medical benefits of birth control. This enabled the association to win more widespread support from doctors (support that was essential in order to create the advice center) and also from members of the general public.


In the interwar period, Czechoslovak doctors attempted to play the role of protectors of society by battling against one of the major perceived threats to the nation, the declining birthrate. They considered it important to retain their influence over reproductive matters, and to do so, while also gaining public support, they framed their discussions of depopulation, abortion, and contraception in terms of the concepts of health and sickness. The debate on abortion in Czechoslovakia, which laid the foundations for the debate on contraception and the emergence of the contraceptive movement, focused mainly on socioeconomic issues, yet it was doctors who played the most influential role in this debate. Arguing from a position of professional authority, they rejected all attempts to expand the range of circumstances under which abortions could be legally permitted, mainly by stating that abortion always represented a risk to health. In discussions on methods of contraception, doctors constructed a category of women who under certain circumstances were justified in practicing birth control and they denigrated a different category of women, who they alleged should not use contraception under any circumstances in order to avoid population decline. The medical perspective was also incorporated into the social movement that promoted contraception. The original effort of emancipating women and giving them the opportunity to make decisions about their own bodies gave way (in the interest of greater conformity and support) to an effort to control women’s reproductive potential and steer it in a direction that was considered exclusively correct by (primarily male) doctors.

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1* This study was funded by the Czech Science Foundation: Project GA ČR 20-17978Y “The Making of the Doctor and the Patient: The Doctor–Patient Relationship in the History of Bohemian Lands, 1769–1992.”
“Nelze rozmnožování ponechati pouhému pudu, nýbrž že má rozhodovati i zde rozumová úvaha. Neníť rozmnožování již pouhou záležitostí soukromou. Je naopak záležitostí, na které má životní zájem společnost a stát.” Růžička, Eugenická profylaxa, 3.

2 Vladislav Růžička (1870–1934) was the first professor of general biology and experimental morphology at the medical faculty of the Charles University of Prague. He was also the founder and director of the Biological Institute, as well as the vice-chairman of the Czech Eugenic Society.

3 The name Vladmimír (Růžička) is given incorrectly on the cover of the book.

4 While e.g., in England and France in the eighteenth century this development was reflected in the introduction of statistics and the monitoring of mortality and birth rates without efforts of significant state intervention, in the German lands efforts were made to reorganize medical practice to improve public health. See more in Tinková, Tělo, věda, stat, 31–35, 526,

5 Foucault, Discipline and Punish; The Birth of Biopolitics; Histoire de la sexualité I.

6 The term medicalization refers to the process in which, since the eighteenth century, human existence, action, behavior, and the body have been integrated into an increasingly dense medical network, thus giving this medical network not only formidable power over the bodies of individuals, but also the opportunity to control society as a whole. Foucault uses the term biopower to denote one of the technologies of power which became dominant in the eighteenth century (alongside sovereign power and discipline) and was rooted in the notion of the body. Biopower works on the principle of managing the population and individuals through subtle mechanisms of regulation and manipulation, distributed through the administrative apparatus of the modern state. An important property of biopower is its normalizing nature, as its aim is to protect and strengthen the social system against “abnormal” or potentially dangerous individuals.

7 Jordanova, “The Social Construction.”

8 Šlesingerová, Imaginace národních genů, 72.

9 Ibid., 76.

10 If we apply this concept to reproductive issues, then the “enemy” in the interwar period could equally be a man infected with tuberculosis (who could pass the disease on to his offspring) or a university-educated woman who postponed motherhood or even refused to play the role of mother.

11 We can witness this effect in the case of prostitution, which was the subject of much public debate during the first half of the twentieth century. For example, the Czech gynecologist Otokar Rožánek described it as a modern-day plague, a sore that had to be excised. In his book entitled Pud pohlavní a prostituce (The sexual urge and prostitution), he offered a range of ways to treat this “illness.”

12 Shmidt, Pančocha, “Building the Czechoslovak Nation,” 2,

13 Promitzer, Trubeta, and Turda, “Introduction,” 15.

14 Proctor, Racial Hygiene, 18.

15 See more Gould, The Mismeasure of Man.

16 Gillham, Life of Sir Francis Galton.

17 This is evidenced by the number of works which were written on the topic of eugenics in a national and international context. E.g., Adams, The Wellborn Science; Stepan, The Hour of Eugenics; Bucur, Eugenics and Modernization, Turda, The History of East-Central European Eugenics; Broberg and Roll-Hansen, Eugenics and the Welfare State.

18 Ladislav Haškovec (1866–1944) was a doctor, professor of neuropathology, and a leading figure in Czechoslovak neurology. He instigated the establishment of a clinic for nervous disorders at the medical faculty of Charles University. He was also the chairman of the Czech Eugenic Society and the main driving force behind its creation.

19 Haškovec, Snahy eugenické, 1.

20 The focus of this article is on two medical and eugenic discourses and their representatives. While the term doctor is essentially unambiguous, referring to the medical profession, the term eugenicist requires a brief explanation. I consider a eugenicist to be a person who was either a direct member of the eugenic society of a given country (in Czechoslovakia, the Czech Eugenic Society) or who supported eugenic ideology or its elements in his work or public appearances. Doctors and eugenicists were not two separate groups in practice, although I refer to them as two “groups.” In the same way, however, it is not possible to identify both groups, although I point out a significant interaction here. A particular person could always belong to the representatives of one of the aforementioned discourses or to both at the same time.

21 Teachers also comprised a significant part of the Czech eugenic movement, see. Schmidt, Race Science.

22 Turda and Weindling, Blood and Homeland, 9.

23 Of course, this does not mean that the issue of race was irrelevant to Czech eugenics. Victoria Schmidt focuses on the functioning of racial science in Czechoslovakia. She also deals with the eugenic subtexts of the state’s approach to the Roma minority in the first and second half of the twentieth century. See Schmidt, Race science in Czechoslovakia; Schmidt, The Politics of Disability.

24 Turda and Weindling, Blood and Homeland, 7–8.

25 Šimůnek, Eugenics, 151.

26 “Pro malé národy je zvláště nutno, aby zachovaly svoji populaci na určité výši. Rychlé klesání populace kteréhokoliv národa značí jeho ohrožení v samých základech jeho bytí, tím více národa malého.” Moudrý, Populační otázky, 6.

27 Gruber, Populační otázka, 56.

28 Rákosník and Šustrová, Rodina v zájmu státu.

29 Šubrtová, Dějiny populačního myšlení, 175.

30 Usborn, Politics of the Body, 1.

31 A similar account of the situation in Germany is given by Grossmann, Reforming sex, 4.

32 Szabo, Potraty, 33.

33 The term refers to the different fertility value of different social groups. Within the eugenic discourse, these groups were mainly so-called quality individuals on the one hand and inferior individuals on the other. However, the question of which of these two groups one belonged to was determined not only by the genetic equipment of the individual, i.e., his health and disposition to diseases, but also by his social status, education, ethnicity, etc.

34 For more on the relationship between gender and eugenics, see Richardson, Love and Eugenics; Kline, Building a Better Race.

35 For more on the gender analysis of Czech eugenic discourse, see Najmanová, Genderové aspekty.

36 Rákosník and Šustrová, Rodina v zájmu státu, 170.

37 Karpíšková, Novelisace zákona.

38 Ibid.

39 Emanuel Filo (1901–1973) was a Slovak internist and university teacher. Between 1942 and 1944, he was the rector of Comenius University in Bratislava.

40 “Projevil soucit s oněmi matkami-hrdinkami, jimž při plnění jejich mateřských povinností hrozí nebezpečenství zdraví a života.” “Referáty,” 416–17.

41 In his work, the abovementioned historian Miloslav Szabó puts the question of the approach of Slovak society, and therefore of some Slovak doctors to abortion in the context of the so-called cultural wars (Kulturkampf) between the socialist left-wing and the conservative right-wing. According to Szabó, the nationalistically motivated effort of the conservative and strongly Catholic part of Slovak society to define itself against the more liberal part, symbolized first by the Hungarians and, after the establishment of Czechoslovakia, also by the Czechs, led to a gradual inclination towards clerical fascism which contributed to the rise of the First Slovak Republic (1939–1945). According to Szabó, the important topics around these cultural wars in Slovakia were the legalization of civil marriage and, after World War I, the discussion about the decriminalization of abortion. Szabó, Potraty, 17–21.

42 This was not a unique position in Europe. The only state that decriminalized abortions in the first half of the twentieth century was Russia in 1920. Even there, however, the legislation was subsequently amended, and, in the end, the abortion ban was reintroduced.

43 In the journal Praktický lékař (Practical Doctor), Hynek Pelcl summarized his colleagues’ stance as follows: “With regard to the opinions of doctors, most of them are opposed to any relaxation of the legal stipulations preventing the performance of abortions.” (“Pokud běží o mínění lékařů, můžeme zjistiti u většiny z nich stanovisko odmítavé k jakémukoliv uvolňování zákonitých ustanovení bránících umělému přerušení těhotenství.”) Pelcl, “Stanovisko lékařské,” 288.

44 “Sexual congress is only natural if it enables breeding. Congress not undertaken for this purpose is as unnatural as masturbation, and soon produces similar symptoms […] The simplest way of restricting the number of children would be to keep a tight rein on sexual urges, so that sexual intercourse would only be sought out if conception is intended. Few people can do this! Yet it is still necessary strongly to recommend all kinds of restraint, for reasons of health and morality.” (“Pohlavní obcování jest jen tehdy přirozené, umožňuje-li plození. Vyhýbavé obcování jest tedy nepřirozené jako onanie a má také podobné příznaky v zápětí […] Nejjednodušším prostředkem, omeziti počet dětí, bylo by, držeti pohlavní pud tak na uzdě, aby pohlavní styk byl jen tehdy vyhledáván, je-li oplodnění zamýšleno. Málokdo to dokáže! A přeci třeba všemožnou zdrženlivost ze zdravotních a mravních ohledů co nejsnažněji doporučiti.”) Schonenberger and Siegert, Život pohlavní, 85, 94.

45 I have found no biographical data on Horák.

46 “Následky nepřirozené soulože, kdy dbá se o zamezení obtěžkání, jsou velice četné a mnohdy také nejvýš smutné. Povstávají choroby těla i nervů, zvláště pak neduhy ústrojů pohlavních. Prázdnota duševní, nechuť k normální souloži, která nepůsobí blahého pocitu, což vede k nervovým chorobám, zvláště k hysterii u ženy.” Horák, Pohlavní zdravověda, 125.

47 Antonín Ostrčil (1874–1941) was a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and founder of the Obstetrics and Gynecology clinic at Medical Faculty of Masaryk University in Brno. In 1920s and 1930s, he worked as the head of Second Obstetrics and Gynecology clinic in Prague.

48 “Často se doporučuje za účelem kontracepce sexuální abstinence […] To jest rada, která nemá vůbec žádnou praktickou cenu a která je podávána lidmi, jež buď o životě lidském nemají nejmenšího ponětí, nebo jsou sexuálně abnormálně založeni […] takže považuji za zbytečné o této úplně nepřirozené radě vůbec uvažovati.” Ostrčil, Klinická gynekologie, 474.

49 “Nesprávně jednají a celek poškozují i ti, kdož uměle zabraňují otěhotnění. Umělé omezování plodnosti poškozuje národ hlouběji než nemoci dědičné […]” Růžička, Péče o zdatnost potomstva, 23.

50 “Modern eugenicists agree that the most appropriate means of rationalizing breeding is preventive sexual congress […] yet not in the form of the Biblical coitus interruptus, but rather by using suitable condoms and cervical caps, and furthermore not on the basis of arbitrary decisions, but according to rules governed by the principles of eugenics.” (“Moderní eugenikové shodují se v tom, že k rationalisaci plození nejvhodnějším prostředkem je preventivní obcování … ovšem nikoli ve formě biblického coitus interruptus, nýbrž za použití vhodných kondomů a pesarů, dále nikoli podle libovolného uznání, nýbrž podle pravidel řízených zásadami eugeniky.”) Růžička, Eugenická profylaxa, 3.

51 Indeed, in such cases, some eugenicists had no objection to the use of sterilization (despite such a procedure representing a major intervention into the individual’s body). For example, Vladislav Růžička considered sterilization in some cases to be a better option for preventing conception than subsequent abortion. However, in general, sterilization within the eugenic movement in Czechoslovakia did not have substantial support, and doctors recommended it only in serious medical cases, not for preventive eugenic motives.

52 Lašek, Zušlechtění lidstva, 9.

53 František Lašek (1872–1947) was a doctor, surgeon, and head of the hospital in Litomyšl.

54 “I u nás stává se úbytek porodů palčivou otázkou národní. I v naší společnosti dostavuje se touha po pohodlí. Manželé ze sobectví chrání se dětí, na člověka s několika dětmi hledí se jako na nemoudrého a neopatrného, děti o jmění olupujícího, nezdrženlivého. Než jest uvážiti, že žádná politická tíseň ani hospodářský úpadek – oboje vždy jen věci dočasné – nemohly by nás národně tak ohroziti jako stávka rodičů a zvláště matek. Budiž nám tu učitelkou historie zašlých již národů, i blízkých nám kmenů slovanských!” Lašek, Zušlechtění lidstva, 31.

55 František Pachner (1882–1964) was a doctor specializing in gynecology and obstetrics. Before World War I, he worked in the Silesian city of Ostrava, where he obtained the position of head of the gynecological department. He was engaged in the training of midwives.

56 “Churava nebo vyčerpána porody, nebo má už tolik dětí, že by nemohla další uživiti, apod. Nesmí se propůjčiti k tomu, aby svými radami podporovala nečistý život a prostopášnost.” Pachner and Běbr, Učebnice pro porodní asistentky, 467–68.

57 The term birth control was invented by Margaret Sanger, who is considered a pioneer in fertility control in the United States and around the world. See Engelman, A History of the Birth Control Movement.

58 On the crucial role of women doctors in the dissemination of information about contraception, see for example Rusterholz, English Women Doctors, 153–72.

59 Moravský zemský archiv (Moravian Provincial Archive), reference no. 44268; “Hlídka žen,” 7.

60 “Šíření znalostí týkající se hygieny ženy a vědomostí o sexuálním životě, se zvláštním zdůrazňováním významu sebekázně a mravní zodpovědnosti.” Moravský zemský archiv (Moravian Provincial Archive), reference no. 44268.

61 “Šíření vědomostí o sexuálním životě pomocí lékařsky uznaných přednášek, letáčků, brožurek a tisku.” Ibid.

62 “Poslání poradny je udíleti orientační pokyny ženám ve věcech sexuálních s hlediska ženského lékaře: tedy v nepravidelných stavech probouzejíc se sexuality, v rozpacích, které nastávají v manželství při nesouzvuku pohlavního života, při neplodnosti, při žádoucím zamezení vzniku těhotenství, při různých chorobách, které by se jim pohoršily, čímž by bylo možno předejíti velikému počtu umělých a zdraví ženy škodlivých potratů. Poradnu povede přednosta kliniky se svými asistenty. Spolek pak se bude říditi zásadami, které určí prof. Dr. Ostrčil.” MUDr. M. N., “Omezení porodnosti,” 15.

63 This corresponds to the conclusions of Melissa Feinberg, who came to a similar conclusion in relation to the discussion on the decriminalization of abortion in interwar Czechoslovakia. According to Feinberg, the feminist element in the debates concerning the decriminalization of abortion was completely marginal, and even the proponents of decriminalization used social or health arguments to promote their views, not feminist ones. Feinberg, Elusive Equality.

64 Attina Grossmann, for example, points out that the campaign to promote abortion and contraception in Germany was led mainly by feminists and socialists, and their arguments were followed by fighters for the legalization of abortion after 1968. She also mentions that these campaigns in the 1930s included, in addition to themes of class struggle, sexual reform, or eugenics, the slogan “Your body belongs to you” (Dein Körper Gehört Dir), referring to a woman’s right to maintain control over her own body and life. Grossmann, Reforming Sex, 92.

65 Karpíšková, Novelisace zákona.


TEKA: A Transnational Network of Esperanto-Speaking Physicians

Marcel Koschek
University of St Andrews
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hungarian Historical Review Volume 10 Issue 2  (2021): 243-266 DOI 10.38145/2021.2.243

The Tutmonda Esperanta Kuracista Asocio (Worldwide Esperanto Medical Association, TEKA) was founded in 1908 at the Fourth International Esperanto Congress in Dresden and was the international medical association of the Esperanto movement. The aim was to “facilitate practical relations between Esperanto-speaking doctors of all countries.” The interest within the Esperanto movement was immense: after one year, TEKA had more than 400 members all over the world with a focus on Europe; one year later, there were more than 600 members with official representatives in about 100 cities. In Europe, a medical press in Esperanto had already been established. The approach of these journals was both simple and brilliant: the doctors presented the latest medical findings from their home countries in a peer review system and critically examined the articles in their vernacular. This made each issue a compendium of the most important and pioneering findings of national research. The numerous experts also had many other connections with, for example, the Red Cross and similar organizations. Thus, after a short period of time, TEKA brought together the expertise of countless physicians. This paper examines TEKA as a transnational network of experts before World War I. The history of the association and the role of Medicine within the Esperanto movement are briefly discussed. The focus is then on the various association journals and the circulation of knowledge. Finally, the essay offers a look at TEKA’s cooperative endeavors with the Red Cross. It works from a transnational perspective and takes a close view of the actors and their personal backgrounds at appropriate points. Furthermore, lists of members and journal subscribers are provided in map form to make the global spread of the movement within medicine visible.

Keywords: Esperanto, transnationalism, internationalism, network of physicians


The end of the long nineteenth century was a dynamic time during which groundbreaking changes were taking place in all areas of life. The decades before World War I were characterized by networking and internationalization as well as inventions and technical progress.1 Even in medicine, the peak of internationalism did not pass without leaving its mark. In 1863, the Red Cross was founded, and in 1881, medical assembly began with the first International Medical Congress in London. At the time, Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, an ophthalmologist in Warsaw, also had thoughts on medicine, internationalization, and networking. In 1887, he published a brochure entitled International Language.2 This booklet, which he published under the pseudonym Dr. Esperanto (literally meaning, “the one who hopes”), joined the list of numerous inventive and stirring writings of this period. With his idea of devising a simplified language, Zamenhof presented a solution to the problem of communication; his pseudonym quickly became the name for the language itself. Esperanto harmonized with the prevailing zeitgeist among educated elites, who soon began to gather internationally and develop platforms for exchange. The language quickly gained a foothold in medicine, as outbreaks of cholera and typhus and new fields such as bacteriology led to a strong need for exchange in the medical community.3

The majority of Esperantists in the early period before World War I came from urban middle classes, which “had the money and leisure to look beyond their own communities.”4 The exact proportion of physicians among the club members is very difficult to determine. For example, the address book of Polish Esperantists from 1909 provides lists of members but only incomplete professional information. Large university cities such as Lviv (15.6 percent), Warsaw (11.4 percent) and Krakow (6.3 percent) had the highest proportions of physicians among their members. In contrast, rural Esperanto societies only rarely had doctors among their members.5 Nevertheless, the Esperanto doctors hoped that international cooperation with foreign colleagues would foster valuable exchange and progress. One of the arguments for learning Esperanto was the simplicity of the language and the claim that the vocabulary was “three-quarters known to anyone halfway educated.”6 The 1933 Encyclopaedia of Esperanto lists early mentions of the language in medical journals. These mentions include a series of articles in the Russian journal Vrach in 1899 and, from 1900, primarily mentions in French journals. There were also discussions concerning Esperanto at two medical meetings in Russia in 1898 in Borisoglebsk and Voronezh.7

As the language spread internationally and was propagated by and among physicians, there were both positive and negative reactions. The example of The British Medical Journal can even be used to show a shift. In 1904, the language was described as a “body without a soul,”8 and in 1906, it was characterized as useless, since “when learnt nothing has been acquired but a mixed ‘pigeon’ jargon.”9 In later years, the journal devoted more lines to the Esperanto movement. The report on the International Medical Congress in Budapest in 1909 contains a separate paragraph on the attempt to introduce the language. Although the author of the report writes with praise on the number of participants at the meeting of Esperantists, he notes that the group did not arouse any further interest among other participants. Furthermore, he also states that the need for a new language was not felt at the congress.10 The journal also gave space to the following International Medical Congress in London in 1913. The dates of the meetings were announced before the congress, and a report on the meeting was published afterwards.11 In contrast to Budapest, the London Esperanto Club held a reception which was not only attended by Esperantists but also attracted other congress participants.12 Other large, internationally prominent medical journals such as The Lancet also printed submissions on the subject of Esperanto from 1905 onwards and abstained from making any critical remarks concerning the language that might have resembled the remarks found in The British Medical Journal.13

The Esperanto movement took a big step towards international cooperation in 1905 when it held its first World Congress in Boulogne-sur-Mer. After principles of the language and the movement were discussed in Boulogne, expert meetings were held at the congresses from 1906 onwards. At the second World Congress, Henri Dor, who later served as TEKA president, chaired the joint session of physicians and pharmacists. The discussion centered on an anatomical dictionary compiled by a group of French Esperantists.14 In 1907, during the congress in Cambridge, the doctors were already meeting separately. There, the assembled doctors decided to join the Internacia Scienca Asocio (International Science Association), an Esperanto science society founded the previous year, as a specialist section. A proposal was made to contact an existing multilingual medical journal and request that it publish an Esperanto supplement.15 The following congress in Dresden in 1908 led to the founding of TEKA.

The Creation and Development of TEKA

The institutionalization and organized unification of Esperanto physicians were achieved with the founding of TEKA. In TEKA’s self-portrayal, the Polish doctor Wilhelm Róbin16 is often listed as the initiator and founding father.17 The reason for this was his article published in Voĉo de Kuracistoj18 (Voice of Physicians, henceforth VdK) calling for the foundation of an Esperanto Medical Society before the World Congress in Dresden.19 However, Róbin was not present at the congress and Leon Zamenhof took over the presentation of the project there.20 The fact that the idea came from Róbin is not mentioned in the minutes of the Dresden congress. Furthermore, it must also be pointed out that Róbin was not the first Esperantist with the idea of founding an Esperanto Medical Society. This idea had already been advocated by Bronisław Skałkowski, Szczepan Mikołajski, and Izrael Fels in an appeal in the Polish Medical journal Głos Lekarzy (Voice of Physicians, henceforth GL) in November 1907.21 Whether Róbin was aware of this appeal is not known. This is also contradicted by the fact that his name is not found among the subscribers to GL in 1907. Although the first appeal in GL did not lead to the founding of TEKA, the goals were consistent. The authors identified the first and most important task as the foundation of an association of Esperanto physicians in all countries. This association should represent the interests of their members at international medical congresses and advocate the introduction of Esperanto as a congress language. The creation of an international organ for the worldwide members was also planned. At the end of the appeal, it was noted that it should be sent to all the doctors listed in the Tutmonda Jarlibro Esperantista 1907 (Worldwide Esperantist Yearbook). Furthermore, everyone should forward this appeal and publish it in their native languages in national journals.22 We do not actually know the extent to which this suggestion was actually implemented or the idea was circulated in other national medical journals.

Due to the rapid increase in the circulation of VdK in the summer of 1908, an increasing number of physicians formed an alliance in favor of Esperanto. Mikołajski presumably remembered his proposal from the previous year and again suggested the creation of an official association in July.23 In the following issue, which appeared only a few weeks before the upcoming congress in Dresden, Mikolajski’s idea was elaborated by Róbin and presented to the subscribers.24 As the official representative of the Universal Esperanto Association in Warsaw, he approached the headquarters and suggested the creation of the federation. At the second meeting of the Medical group at the Dresden Congress, an association was founded with the name Tutmonda Esperanta Kuracista Asocio on August 21, 1908. From the report in the official congress records25 and a more detailed version of this report in VdK,26 the founding of TEKA appears to have been a mere formality. Only the discussion about the future of VdK as an organ of the association was extensive, and the association to be founded was mentioned in the course of the discussion as a guarantee for the journal.

TEKA, as formulated in point 1 of its regulations, strived to promote “practical relations between Esperanto physicians of all countries.”27 The reports of the president, Prof. Henri Dor from Lyon, and the secretary, Dr. Wilhelm Róbin from Warsaw, in the first official yearbook of 1909 explained further goals and working methods. Dor reported the hope that all larger cities and health resorts would have at least one TEKA contact person who would supply the local physicians with information.28 Róbin added contacts in university towns to the list.29 He also mentioned the goal of propagating the language at the International Medical Congress in Budapest in 1909. For this purpose, an independent congress commission was formed, which had to demonstrate at the meetings in Budapest that it was possible “to hold a scientific speech and free discussions in Esperanto.”30 As a final goal, Róbin added medical excursions to various health resorts, which were to take place before the Esperanto World Congress in Barcelona or the International Medical Congress in Budapest in 1909.31 The positions already mentioned were supplemented with the addition of two vice presidents and a treasurer. These individuals formed the Central Committee. Ludwik Zamenhof also belonged to the Committee as Honorary President, as did his brother Leon Zamenhof as Honorary Consul.32 Furthermore, TEKA had seven honorary members at the beginning.33 At the national level, TEKA had consuls for 19 countries, including representatives for non-sovereign states such as Algeria and Poland. As further contacts, official representatives in 38 cities are listed in the yearbook.34

The Central Committee and the other members developed their own organizational structure of consuls and representatives. In 1910, the year in which membership was at its largest, TEKA had consuls in 29 countries, including non-sovereign territories, such as Bohemia, Galicia, and the Polish part of Russia.35 Representatives were found in 115 different cities.36 The representatives and consuls had the task of collecting membership fees from the physicians in their regions and sending them to the treasurer. The representatives in health resorts were later highlighted separately, with the indication that doctors could send their patients there. In 1911, 18 representatives from health resorts were listed, most of which were located in German-speaking countries.37

Due to the financial hardships TEKA incurred in order to publish its own journal, membership classes were introduced in 1912. The TEKA membership fee in 1912 was 2 Spesmilo;38 an Esperanto currency where 1 Spesmilo was the equivalent of half a dollar, 2.50 Swiss francs, or one ruble. First, the category of so-called protectors was created, who paid 10 Spesmilo a year.39 By the end of 1912, 28 members of the TEKA had earned the title of protector through their fees.40 In 1913, 21 members received the rank.41 Despite the additional financial support from the protectors, the expenses in 1913 could only be covered with reserves from the previous year. The difference was around 600 Spesmilo, which was equivalent to 300 more membership fees. As the Executive Committee was aware that a doubling of membership was not feasible, further membership classes were introduced. In the form of a “grant fund,” two further categories were introduced in addition to the protectors. The highest level became the patron, with an annual contribution of 30 Spesmilo, and the second highest level was the subventionist, with a contribution of 20 Spesmilo. In return, three issues of Kuracisto (Physician) were sent to the protectors, six to the subventionists, and 10 to the patrons for propaganda purposes. Furthermore, the groups of subventionists and patrons were given the right to elect their own TEKA vice president, who defended the interests of the journal in the Central Committee and cooperated with the editor-in-chief of Kuracisto.42 The last issue of Kuracisto before the war lists five patrons, two subventionists, and 22 protectors as of June 1914, which amounts to a further 410 Spesmilo in income and could have ensured Kuracisto’s continued existence.43

From the outset, the geographical distribution of TEKA members had its main concentration in East Central Europe.44 One of the reasons for this was the fact that the first official TEKA journal, VdK, was based in Lviv and had reached both Polish and Russian Esperantists even before TEKA was founded. As an early Esperanto stronghold with many academic Esperantists, France was the second hotspot. From these centers, a strong propagation of the language took place after the foundation, which is reflected above all in the far reaches of Russia and North America. The subsequent period led to the opening up of new cities and their medical communities and also in increase in the number of TEKA members on the ground. Depending on the activity of the local group and the commitment of the members, the dissemination of TEKA varied. From Warsaw, the method of Wilhelm Róbin is known, who contacted all the Esperanto doctors he knew with the simple sentence: “If you want to subscribe to the newspaper, please sign your name on the list and pay one ruble.”45 Almost all his colleagues signed, and this method was presented as an effective example at the TEKA meeting in Dresden.46

The membership development of TEKA can be traced through the official publications of the association. After the foundation in Dresden in August 1908, the first yearbook with an extensive list of members was published in spring 1909. Another yearbook was published for the year 1910, showing an increase of about 200 new members. A new yearbook with the membership list for 1911 was announced but never published.47 Therefore, for the following years, the list of paid members in the treasurer’s reports is used to trace membership development. What is particularly striking about the overview is the rise towards 1910 and the drastic fall in the following year, which was caused by the discontinuation of VdK as the official journal. The 1909 yearbook presented the membership figures shortly after the foundation of TEKA. In 1909, information about the existence of the association spread worldwide. A decisive factor was the official organ of the association, VdK, which had been in existence since the spring of 1908 and had almost 800 subscribers in 1909. At the end of 1910, however, cooperation between TEKA and VdK came to an end. At the beginning of 1911, the association had a new organ, but it was suspended after two issues. It was not until August 1911 that a new members’ magazine was published. The Oficiala Bulteno de TEKA (Official Bulletin of TEKA) contains a critical report on membership development by Wilhelm Róbin, who was secretary at the time:

The activities of the TEKA Committee were paralyzed48 in 1911 in the full sense of the word. We did not propagate the Association because we could not do so due to the known major obstacles that occurred on the part of Dr. Th[alwitzer] (regarding the Oficiala Bulteno). We did not dare recruit new members and promise them regular delivery of the official organ... We experienced a terrible period. From all sides, complaints, protests, and just demands! […]

The number of TEKA members is constantly growing, but unfortunately, this year we have lost many members who have been offended by the inaccuracy of our Internacia Medicino organ and by the stubborn silence of its publisher, who did not even respond to letters and prepaid telegrams.49

The publication of Internacia Medicino (International Medicine) under Adolf Thalwitzer as editor led to various problems. The first edition was published without proofreading and without TEKA’s consent, resulting in several errors in quotations and mention of authors. Before the second issue, Thalwitzer had already received money in the amount of 186 membership fees for further publication, but he then no longer replied to letters from the committee, so cooperation between Thalwitzer and the TEKA was discontinued.50 Compensation for this long period of declining membership could only be made through the constant publication of the journal Kuracisto from 1912 onwards. For the year 1914, Kuracisto contains evidence of 215 membership subscriptions received; however, the journal ceased to exist in June 1914, so the complete membership figures for the year are not known.

The further general development of TEKA remained unchanged. In 1910, a separate TEKA Congress was held at the UEA Congress in Augsburg.51 The official Esperanto World Congress took place in Washington. It was attended by only a few Europeans because of the long distance. In the period just before the outbreak of the war, TEKA congresses were held during the World Congresses, with frequent visits to local institutions and clinics. Two lines of development were of particular importance: first, the TEKA medical newsletter as a link among the members, and second, cooperation with the International Red Cross.

Esperanto Medical Journals

The Esperanto-speaking medical community urged for correspondence journals early on in order to present their national findings to an international audience through the multitude of different nations. The first medical articles were published in Internacia Scienca Revuo (International Science Review), a generic scientific journal in Esperanto which was published in Paris from 1904. The Parisian Esperantists noticed the lack of a medical journal and began to publish Internacia Revuo Medicina (International Medical Review, IRM) in 1906.52 This journal presented original articles in German, English, or French in one column and the respective translation in Esperanto in another column. Four issues of this journal were published that year before it ceased to exist. The editors’ reports mentioned complaints about high subscription prices. Furthermore, it seemed that the desired number of subscribers and the general scope of the journal had not been achieved, as most of the articles were from French medical publications and thus French subscribers had little reason to subscribe.53 The IRM is mentioned in the dissertation by Pierre Corret about the adoption of an international auxiliary language in medicine. According to Corret, it failed due to the lack of an interested audience.54

Voĉo de Kuracistoj,55 on the other hand, was more successful and long-lived. This journal emerged from an existing Polish medical journal, Głos Lekarzy, which had already been successfully published in Lviv for several years. The editor, Dr Szczepan Mikołajski,56 initially planned only the introduction of an Esperanto section in his journal, but he was then encouraged by the high number of favorable responses to publish an independent journal. Two issues appeared in 1908 as free supplements, and from May 1908, the journal existed until its last issue in November 1911. Mikołajski also made use of the contributions from VdK for his newspaper GL and published Polish translations. He thus enriched his journal with many international contributions. The first issue of VdK from April 1908 was primarily aimed at Polish-speaking doctors, who had already been subscribers to GL. In an appeal to his fellow physicians, Mikołajski therefore formulated the aim of the journal to give Polish medicine and its achievements a proper forum, as it had hitherto been internationally underrepresented.57 Although the journal remained in publication for only about four years, it was one of the longest-lived Esperanto journals before World War I. Between 1908 and 1910, VdK was the official organ of TEKA. However, as there were financial discrepancies in the forwarding of membership fees to VdK editorial office throughout this period and TEKA refused to accept Mikołajski’s new conditions, he resigned from publishing it as the official organ.

Mikołajski distinguished himself as an experienced publicist who had been publishing his Głos Lekarzy in parallel since 1903. The journals provided clear structures and, by listing the coauthors and subscribers, they allowed for a variety of investigations. The year 1909 is suitable as a focus of inquiry since it was the year in which the first complete volume was published and VdK was the organ of TEKA for the entire year. The three areas that will be examined in more detail are: 1. the subscribers to the journal, 2. the authors, and 3. the reviewed journals.




The distribution of subscribers can be visualized with the use of a map.58 In 1909, the magazine listed its subscribers. A total of 1,005 entries can be found, but there are repeated entries and orders for multiple journals to the addresses of Esperanto clubs. Adjusted for these factors, the number of subscribers was 770. The subscribers were be found in 367 different locations. The main focus was clearly in Europe and a broad strip in the north of the USA. When looking at the individual cities, Warsaw leads with a figure of 64 subscribers.


Table 2. Amount of VdK subscribers in 1909 per city (more than 10) compared to TEKA members in 1909 and 1910


Number of subscribers

Number of TEKA members 19091

Number of TEKA members 19102





Rio de Janeiro




















St Petersburg









1 T.E.K.A.-Jarlibro 1909.

2 T.E.K.A.-Jarlibro 1910.

VdK already benefitted from its function as an official TEKA organ in 1909. The 1909 TEKA Yearbook lists 428 members, which means that about 300 non-TEKA members belonged to the circle of subscribers. The comparison of subscribers and TEKA members shows that, in the cases of Rio de Janeiro, Dublin, and Budapest, many subscribers joined TEKA in 1909. However, it is not yet possible to explain how the high number of 46 subscribers in Rio de Janeiro was achieved. The high number of subscribers in Lviv probably correlates with the place of publication as well as the connection to Głos Lekarzy as the predecessor journal. In Europe, there were many places where only one or a smaller group of subscribers was located. Larger accumulations were found in capitals such as Paris, Stockholm, Budapest, and Bucharest. Furthermore, no coherent clusters can be identified. The subscribers in the German Empire were relatively widely distributed. High subscriber numbers in Warsaw, Lviv, and Lodz provided a high absolute number of subscribers in Polish-speaking lands.

A cluster already noticeable in other visualizations, such as the World Congress participants, TEKA members, or publication sites of other Esperanto journals, can be identified north and along the 50th latitude. This connectivity belt 59 stretched from Dublin via London, Belgium, northern France, and central Germany through Bohemia and the Polish-speaking lands into the Russian countryside and ended around Moscow, at a similar latitude to Dublin.




The following table shows the most active collaborators of VdK sorted by the number of their contributions in 1909. The high number of contributions is mainly due to scientific reviews of national novelties. The internist Izrael Fels, who, like Mikołajski, was based in Lviv and was already actively involved in Głos Lekarzy, ranks first. Fels frequently reviewed articles from Polish and German medical journals, but he also wrote reviews of English, Italian, French, and Russian publications in all disciplines; 97 of his articles were reviews and a correspondence. The large gap between Fels and L. Jenny is striking. With half as many contributions, the military physician Jenny submitted the second most articles. Jenny’s contributions are exclusively reviews. He covered solely French medical journals but he dealt with all areas. In third place is the Russian physician V. Sobolev from Poltava, who contributed 36 reviews and one correspondence. Sobolev mainly covered Russian medical journals, and he also wrote on all fields. The places of residence of the authors listed here also correspond to the general distribution of the other contributors. Although there were also submissions from Australia, the Philippines, Japan, and the USA, the focus was clearly on East Central Europe and France.


Table 3. Contributors with more than 10 articles in 1909



Contributions in 1909

Izrael Fels

Lviv, Habsburg Empire


L. Jenny

Châlons-sur-Marne, France


V. Sobolev

Poltava, Russian Empire


René Badert

Tours, France


Edmund Sós

Vienna, Habsburg Empire


Wilhelm Róbin

Warsaw, Russian Empire


S. Kanner

Galaţi, Romania



However, no first publications of medical findings took place in VdK. In addition to a review section, the journal mainly collected international submissions to surveys initiated by the editor Mikołajski. The surveys were about more general medical matters, such as medical secrecy or the right to Sunday rest. On the one hand, these surveys were passed on to national medical journals,60 but Mikołajski also used the submissions to enrich his Polish journal Głos Lekarzy with international submissions.


Reviewed journals


The last unit of investigation to be considered is that of the reviewed journals. From Mikołajski’s goals for VdK, it is clear that he wanted to give the internationally underrepresented Polish science a larger potential audience through his journal. It would therefore had been reasonable to assume that, alongside Polish medical journals, journals from other smaller countries would also be represented. However, the following overview shows that mainly Russian and German journals were used as sources for the reviews.




Table 4. Overview of reviewed journals with more than 10 articles



Number of articles reviewed

Vrachebnaya Gazeta (Saint Petersburg)



Deutsche medizinische Wochenzeitschrift (Berlin)



Khirurgiya (Moscow)



Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift (Vienna)



Medicinische Klinik (Berlin)



Przegląd lekarski (Krakow)



Russkiy vrach (Saint Petersburg)




Both the overview of the reviewed journals and the following overview of the source languages show that Mikołajski’s goal was only partially achieved. German, French, and also Russian journal articles reflected the leading nations in medicine at the time, and they also corresponded to the backgrounds of the subscribers and contributors to the journal. However, the fact that Polish articles, of which there were 31, are ahead of English articles, of which there were 17, shows an increase in publication, which can, admittedly, be explained by the small number of English-speaking contributors.

These three examples show the reach and influence of a small and young periodical from the province of Galicia. After one year, VdK was able to build a functioning and coordinated editorial team. The two most important units, subscribers and contributors, were mainly based in East Central Europe, and their involvement with VdK ensured the transfer of medical knowledge and the supply of national findings to a worldwide subscriber base. The analysis of VdK exemplifies a platform for international medical cooperation. Although no medical discoveries were first published in VdK, the strength of the journal lay in the reviews of national findings. The coverage of German, French, and Russian articles made medical news from the countries which were leaders in medical research available to an international audience. The circulation of knowledge was successfully pursued in the medical journals of the Esperanto movement. However, it was mainly smaller nations that benefited from the reproduction of medical research in Esperanto. Since medicine, at least in Central Europe, was often dominated by English, French, and German before World War I, the journals served those who did not speak these languages themselves.

After VdK ceased to be the official organ of TEKA at the end of 1910, it was not until 1912 that a new medical journal in Esperanto was published. Internacia Medicino published two issues in 1911, followed by the Oficiala Bulteno de TEKA from 1911 to 1912, which served more as a newsletter of the association than as a medical journal. The journal Kuracisto, which was published in Warsaw from 1912 onwards, was the last prewar journal until the outbreak of war in 1914 and, like VdK, it was in the hands of Polish Esperanto doctors. After World War I, Internacia Medicina Revuo was published from 1923 onwards, and its successor, Medicina Internacia Revuo, is today the official organ of the Universala Medicina Esperanto Asocio, TEKA’s official successor organization.

Esperanto and the Red Cross

While the Polish Esperanto doctors were primarily involved in the work of the journal, cooperation with the Red Cross was largely in the hands of French Esperantists.61 The French Lieutenant Georges Bayol published a booklet in French on Esperanto and the Red Cross in 1906. In this book, Bayol described the necessity of an international language for the Red Cross. The book also contains basic information on the language and its structure, as well as vocabulary lists and possible conversations in French and Esperanto.62 Records of a gathering of Red Cross members at the international Esperanto congress in Geneva also exist for the same year.63 Bayol spoke at the opening session of the Geneva congress on the introduction of the language within Red Cross societies, pointing out the great benefits of language in the societies.64 At the third working session, he addressed the issue again and proposed that Esperanto should be spoken by Red Cross members who were providing or receiving care. Furthermore, he appealed to the English Esperantists to put the Esperanto question on the agenda at the next International Red Cross Conference in London in 1907.65 The congress supported Bayol’s proposal and published the following resolutions supporting the introduction of Esperanto within the Red Cross:

Considering that because of the variety of languages spoken by the wounded, sick, and nurses in war, the use of Esperanto would facilitate the care of the sick, The Congress expresses the wish that the subject of “The language Esperanto applied for Red Cross Services” be included in the program of the next International Conference of the Red Cross to be held in London in 1907 that one or more Esperantists discuss this subject at the London Conference; that very active propaganda be made for Esperanto in all societies helping those wounded in war.66


A discussion of this request at the London Red Cross Conference in 1907 did not take place, as the request was submitted too late.67 Nevertheless, the efforts of individual Red Cross societies to bring Esperanto into their associations did not stop. In 1908, the Société Française Espéranto-Croix-Rouge (French Esperanto-Red Cross Society, SFECR) was founded concurrently with TEKA.68 Starting with the 1908 World Congress in Dresden, maneuvers were carried out in cooperation with the local Red Cross as part of the congress program to demonstrate that basic medical care was possible in Esperanto. Among the participants were local volunteers, who had had to familiarize themselves with the language in the previous months, as well as congress participants and delegates of the Red Cross. The first of these maneuvers took place in Dresden and was continued in Barcelona and Antwerp in subsequent years. Representing the Red Cross at the Dresden Congress was Adolphe Moynier, son of Red Cross cofounder Gustave Moynier, who acknowledged the serious progress of the language and its uses in various fields. Furthermore, he was positively surprised that, in preparing a Red Cross maneuver, the organizers managed to teach the nurses enough Esperanto in ten lessons to enable them to follow instructions and answer questions.69

The procedure of such an Esperanto Red Cross maneuver is described in detail for the year 1909. During the Barcelona Congress, the participants in this maneuver consisted of members of the Spanish Red Cross and the international congress participants. After being transported to the casualty station, the wounded were questioned and examined by doctors and nurses. The diagnoses and personal data were noted on special cards in Esperanto. The next step involved transport to the field hospital, where the wounded were classified according to their diagnosis cards. The last step was the removal of the wounded. As a result, the exercise was perceived as positive by the whole group. According to the report, there were no difficulties in communication among the different nationalities. Due to the events of the Tragic Week70 in Barcelona in the forefront of the Congress, the language training of the Red Cross participants could only take place to a limited extent, but this was not noticed negatively during the exercise. At the Red Cross specialist meeting held during the Congress, the aspiration to introduce Esperanto to the organization was further discussed. The participants were convinced that the success of the exercise should be communicated. The report also indicated that some Red Cross groups had already offered Esperanto courses to their members. In addition, the Russian Red Cross had advised local committees to introduce courses on Esperanto. The US Secretary of War was also reported to have brought Esperanto to the attention of the National Red Cross.71

At the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross in Washington in 1912, the Esperanto issue was successfully presented. Madame Lardin de Musset from the SFECR presented the advantages of using the language in the Red Cross and reported on successful applications in maneuvers during Esperanto congresses. The speech was supported by an Esperantist from Cuba, who reported on the success of Esperanto in his home country. As the proposal to introduce Esperanto in the Red Cross again had not been registered on the agenda, the conference leader announced that it would be forwarded to the Central Committee of the Red Cross.72 An official endorsement of the language was not offered by the Red Cross until a few years after the war. At the 10th International Conference of the Red Cross in 1921, a resolution was adopted that the national societies should encourage their members to learn Esperanto.73 The cooperation of the Esperanto movement with the Red Cross was welcomed by TEKA and mentioned in many places in its publications. However, it is noticeable that most of the supporters came directly from the French Red Cross and had mainly humanitarian backgrounds. As inventions of the same period, the Red Cross and Esperanto are among many other “idealistic internationalisms” the members of which have often been active in several movements, and their networks overlap in many places.74


TEKA was a typical internationally oriented association of its era. In a globalizing world, Esperanto-minded physicians from Europe were looking for an organization for international exchange. By founding an association, TEKA was able to extend its scope to various continents, especially with the help of medical journals in Esperanto, and it benefited from international meetings through the annual Esperanto World Congresses. TEKA also found its way into international medicine outside the Esperanto world and was presented in medical journals or at medical congresses as a solution to the language problem. Due to horrifying experiences of the war, the introduction of Esperanto into the Red Cross was an important concern. A few years before the outbreak of World War I, several initiatives to establish Esperanto officially as a language within the Red Cross failed. It was not until the tragic events of the war that the delegates voted in favor of the dissemination of Esperanto in the Red Cross in 1921. Though TEKA gave stimuli to the medical world in a few instances, it failed in its attempts to introduce Esperanto as a congress language at the International Medical Congresses in Budapest and London and as a language in the Red Cross. The strength was in providing medical information in Esperanto. This was reflected in the success of the journals and the resulting high number of subscribers during VdK period. The attempt to continue the old heyday with and to compensate for the loss of many members was interrupted by the war.


Printed sources

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Anonymous. “An International Language of Medicine.” The British Medical Journal 1, no. 2249 (1904): 320–21.

Anonymous. “Cirkulero al T.E.K.A.-anoj” [Circular letter to TEKA members]. Oficiala Bulteno de T.E.K.A. 1, no. 1 (1911): 1–3.

Anonymous. “Do Kolegów Esperantystów” [To fellow Esperantist]. Głos Lekarzy 6, no. 8 (1908): 6.

Anonymous. “Esperanto.” The British Medical Journal 2, no. 2746 (1913): 427.

Anonymous. “Seventeenth International Medical Congress.” The British Medical Journal 2, no. 2744 (1913): 262–64.

Anonymous. “T.E.K.A.-Anaro” [TEKA Membership]. Internacia Medicino 1, no.1 (1911): 29.

Anonymous. “The International Medical Congress.” The British Medical Journal 1, no. 2349 (1906): 33–35.

Anonymous. “The Sixteenth International Congress of Medicine.” The British Medical Journal 2, no. 2543 (1909): 887–90.

Alexander, Robert. “Kasa Raporto, Por Aprilo 1914-a” [Cash report for April 1914]. Kuracisto 3, no. 6 (1914): 92–93.

Bayol, Georges. Espéranto et Croix-Rouge. Paris: Hachette, 1906.

Brzostowski, Aleksander Bolesław. Adresaro de Polaj Esperantistoj por 1909 [Addressbook of Polish Esperantists for 1909]. Warsaw: Jan Günther, 1909.

Dor, Henri. “Al Sinjoro D-ro Thalwitzer” [To Dr Thalwitzer]. In T.E.K.A.-Jarlibro 1909, edited by Tutmonda Esperanta Kuracista Asocio, 9–11. Kötzschenbroda–Dresden: H. F. Adolf Thalwitzer, 1909.

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Jameson Johnston, George, Konstantin Ŝidlovskij, and Karl Weiss. “La centra komitato de T.E.K.A. adresas al ĉiuj asocianoj sekvantan gravan sciigon” [The Central Committee of TEKA addresses to all associates following important notification]. Kuracisto 2, no. 10 (1913): 203–4.

Johnston, George. “Kasa Raporto por Aŭgusto, Septembro kaj Oktobro 1913” [Cash report for August, September, and October 1913]. Kuracisto 2, no. 10 (1913): 204.

Johnston, George. “Kasa Raporto por Septembro kaj Oktobro 1912” [Cash report for September and October 1912]. Kuracisto 1, no. 3 (1912): 47–48.

Krukovski, Samuel. “IV. Kongreso Esperantista en Dresdeno” [IV. Esperantist Congress in Dresden]. Vocho de Kuracistoj 1, no. 8 (1908): 82–86.

Mikołajski, Szczepan. “Organizo de la kuracistoj-esperantistoj” [Organisation of Esperantist physicians]. Vocho de Kuracistoj 1, no. 5 (1908): 45–47.

Moynier, Adolphe. “Raporto de la Internacia Komitato de la Ruĝa Kruco pri la 4-a Kongreso de Esperanto” [Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross at the 4th Esperanto Congress]. In T.E.K.A.-Jarlibro 1909, edited by Tutmonda Esperanta Kuracista Asocio, 43–48. Kötzschenbroda–Dresden: H. F. Adolf Thalwitzer, 1909.

Neuvième Conférence Internationale de la Croix-Rouge. Edited by The American Red Cross. Washington: Judd & Detweiler Inc., 1912.

Róbin, Wilhelm. “Kelkaj vortoj pri T.E.K.A” [Few words about TEKA]. Oficiala Bulteno de T.E.K.A. 1, no. 3 (1911): 53–58.

Róbin, Wilhelm. “Kion ni faris?” [What did we do?]. In T.E.K.A.-Jarlibro 1909, edited by Tutmonda Esperanta Kuracista Asocio, 12–16. Kötzschenbroda–Dresden: H. F. Adolf Thalwitzer, 1909.

Róbin, Wilhelm. “Organizo de kuracistoj-esperantistoj” [Organisation of Esperantist physicians]. Vocho de Kuracistoj 1, no. 6 (1908): 63–64.

Róbin, Wilhelm. “Raporto de la Sekretario” [Report of the Secretary]. Oficiala Bulteno de T.E.K.A. 1, no. 2 (1911): 26.

Rosenberg, Artur H. “Der Internationalismus in der Medizin und Esperanto.” Medizinische Reform 18, no. 19 (1910): 202–4.

Sebert, Hippolyte. “L’esperanto et les Sociétés de la Croix-Rouge.” Revue Internationale de la Croix-Rouge 3, no. 32 (1921): 803–14.

Ŝirjaev, Ivan. “Medicino” [Medicine]. In Enciklopedio de Esperanto [Encyclopedia of Esperanto], edited by Lajos Kökény, and Vilmos Bleier, 364–65. Budapest: Literatura Mondo, 1933.

Skałkowski, Bronisław, Izrael Fels, and Szczepan Mikołajski. “Odezwa do Lekarzy Esperantystów we wszystkich krajach” [Appeal to Esperantist physicians in all countries]. Głos Lekarzy 21, no. 5 (1907): 4–5.

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Secondary literature

Corret, Pierre. “Utilité et possibilité de l’adoption d’une langue internationale auxiliaire en medicine.” PhD diss., University of Paris, 1908.

Garvía, Roberto. Esperanto and Its Rivals: The Struggle for an International Language. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 2015.

Geyer, Martin H., and Johannes Paulmann, eds., The Mechanics of Internationalism: Culture, Society, and Politics from the 1840s to the First World War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Guerrero, Javier. “Voĉoj de kuracistoj” [Voices of physicians]. Esperantaj Bitoj (blog) November 19, 2020, https://bibliotekoj.org/esperantajbitoj/vocoj-de-kuracistoj.html.

Golec, Józef. Słownik biograficzny esperantystów polskich [Biographical dictionary of Polish Esperantists]. Cieszyn: Józef Golec, 2010.

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Hernández, José María Rodríguez. “The Esperantist Movement’s humanitarian activities in the two World Wars and its relationship with the International Red Cross.” International Review of the Red Cross 36, no. 312 (1996): 315–22.

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Huber, Valeska. “Pandemics and the politics of difference: rewriting the history of internationalism through nineteenth-century cholera.” Journal of Global History 15, no. 3 (2020): 394–407. doi: 10.1017/S1740022820000236.

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Saunier, Pierre-Yves. Transnational History. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013.

Tonkin, Humphrey. “Invented cities, invented languages: Esperanto and urban textuality, 1888–1914.” Language Problems & Language Planning 40, no. 1 (2016): 85–99. doi: 10.1075/lplp.40.1.06ton.

Pilch, Andrzej. “Mikołajski.” In Polski Słownik Biograficzny [Polish biographical dictionary], vol. 21, edited by Sobiesław Mieroszewski, and Władysław Morsztyn, 156–57. Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 1976.

Wincewicz, Andrzej, et al. “Language and medicine in the Zamenhof family.” Acta Medico-Historica Adriatica 8, no. 2 (2010): 287–92.

1 The following volume can serve as an introduction and overview of the internationalization of many areas of the time: Geyer and Paulmann, The Mechanics of Internationalism. The idea of an international

2 language also emerged at the time, in particular Volapük from 1880 and the Esperanto descendant Ido from 1907. On science and language around 1900, see: Gordin, Scientific Babel. On the competing artificial languages: Garvía, Esperanto and Its Rivals.

Zamenhof, International Language.

3 Medical internationalism developed particularly in connection with the pandemics of the nineteenth century. This movement of sorts initially urged the fight against the new diseases at international sanitary congresses and led to the institutionalization of the Medical Society. Huber, “Pandemics,” 394–407.

4 Tonkin, “Invented cities,” 92.

5 Brzostowski, Adresaro.

6 Rosenberg, “Internationalismus,” 203. All translations are made by the author.

7 Ŝirjaev, “Medicino,” 364–65.

8 “An International Language,” 321.

9 “The International Medical Congress,” 34.

10 “The Sixteenth International Congress of Medicine,” 888.

11 “Seventeenth International Medical Congress,” 263.

12 “Esperanto,” 427.

13 Whitaker, “An Esperanto Society for Men,” 1292.

14 Dua Universala Kongreso de Esperanto, 111–12.

15 Tria Universala Kongreso de Esperanto, 125–26.

16 Wilhelm Róbin was a committed Esperantist since the establishment of the first Esperanto circle in Warsaw in 1893. There, he was engaged as secretary of the Polish Esperanto Association and official delegate of the Universal Esperanto Association (UEA) for Warsaw. At the international level, he participated in the World Congresses in Cambridge (1907) and Krakow (1912), as well as the International Medical Congress in Budapest 1909 and the UEA Congress in Augsburg in 1910. In addition to his TEKA involvement as secretary, he wrote other articles for VdK and later became editor of the periodical Kuracisto. Like many other Warsaw TEKA members, Róbin worked in the Jewish Hospital in Czyste as a gastrologist. During the interwar period, he was the first president of the Polish physicians association and vice president of Polish gastrologist association. Golec, Słownik, 185–87.

17 Dor, “Al Sinjoro,” 10.

18 For technical reasons of the printing house, the first volume was published without a circumflex under the name “Vocho de Kuracistoj.”

19 Róbin, “Organizo de kuracistoj-esperantistoj,” 63–64.

20 Zamenhof, “Kuracistoj,” 145–48.

21 Skałkowski, Fels, Mikołajski, “Odezwa do Lekarzy Esperantystów,” 4–5.

22 Ibid.

23 Mikołajski, “Organizo de la kuracistoj-esperantistoj,” 45–47.

24 Róbin, “Organizo de kuracistoj-esperantistoj,” 63–64.

25 Zamenhof, “Kuracistoj,” 145–48.

26 Krukovski, “IV. Kongreso Esperantista,” 82–86.

27 Zamenhof, “Kuracistoj,” 146.

28 Dor, “Al Sinjoro,” 10.

29 Róbin, “Kion ni faris?” 15.

30 Ibid.

31 Ibid., 16.

32 In addition to Ludwik and Leon Zamenhof, their brothers Aleksander and Henryk were also active as doctors and members of TEKA. The brothers’ involvement in TEKA differed in manner and scope: Ludwik attended meetings during the Esperanto Congresses as honorary president, but he did not hold executive positions. Leon was honorary consul of TEKA and wrote for VdK. Aleksander contributed to the journal Kuracisto in 1913. No particular involvement can be ascertained on the part of Henryk, nor can it be proven whether he was still a member of TEKA after 1910. T.E.K.A.-Jarlibro 1909, 41. See also: Wincewicz et al., “Language and medicine,” 287–92.

33 T.E.K.A.-Jarlibro 1909, 19.

34 Ibid., 19–23.

35 T.E.K.A.-Jarlibro 1910, 13–15.

36 Ibid., 15–21.

37 “Alvokoj de la Komitato,” 17.

38 The Spesmilo was an Esperanto currency where 1 Spesmilo was the equivalent of 0.5 US Dollar, 2.50 Swiss Francs, or 1 Russian Rouble. Within the Esperanto movement, international payments often took place via the Ĉekbanko Esperantista (Esperantist Cheque Bank), which undertook banking transactions with the Spesmilo in London from 1907 to 1917.

39 Róbin, “Kelkaj vortoj,” 58.

40 Johnston, “Kasa Raporto,” 48.

41 Ibid., 204.

42 Jameson Johnston, Ŝidlovskij and Weiss, “La centra komitato de T.E.K.A.,” 203–4.

43 Alexander, “Kasa Raporto,” 93.

44 The map shown here is based on TEKA yearbooks from 1909 and 1910. The membership lists were converted into a database on the basis of which this map was made using Geographic Information Systems. I conducted my research at the Institute for Transnational and Spatial History at the University of St Andrews. Many scholars argue for the analysis of spaces and the use of transnational history as a point of view, and they support the use of maps and other visualizations. My broader project links these strands and applies them to technical methods in practice. By creating different maps, this work combines the concept of space with the perspective of transnational history. This is a novel blend of approaches and goes beyond previous methodical work and closes an existing gap in historical research. Based on membership lists, it is possible to link individuals with their places of residence and thereby represent the distribution within a town, a region, or globally. Despite the recent rise of interest in transnational spaces and networks, visualizations on this basis have never been done in this way for a historical movement. In a heuristic manner, the sparse information concerning names, addresses, and professions can result in extensive networks. Pierre-Yves Saunier also confirms this benefit, pointing out the importance of maps as historical tools. He argues that maps would help further understandings of the topographical dimension of flows in the world and that they unravel the intra-national process of centralization. Furthermore, maps can frame the analytical and narrative process and serve as an effective means of understanding and narration. See: Saunier, Transnational History, 126–27.

45 Krukovski, “IV. Kongreso Esperantista,” 84.

46 Ibid.

47 “T.E.K.A.-Anaro,” 29.

48 Italicized in the original.

49 Róbin, “Raporto, 26.

50 “Cirkulero al T.E.K.A.-anoj,” 1–3.

51 Ibid.

52 Vallienne, Verax, “Nia programo,” 1.

53 Corret, “Utilité et possibilité,” 71.

54 Ibid.

55 All issues of VdK have now been digitalized. The first volume is available in the online collection of the Austrian National Library. The other volumes can be found on the site of the Catalan Esperanto library Ramon Molera Pedrals.

56 Szczepan Mikołajski was a Polish physician from Krakow who was also active as a politician and journalist. Since 1902, he was working in Lviv, where he founded the journal Głos Lekarzy, which he published for twelve years. Furthermore, he worked as a journalist for different local and medical journals. It is not known when he became an Esperantist, but from 1907, he showed sympathy with the movement in his journal. From 1908 to 1911, he was a committee member of the Lviv Esperanto society and also their vice president. He served as a treasurer of TEKA in 1910 and was actively involved in the organizing committee of the Esperanto World Congress in Krakow in 1912. Pilch, “Mikołajski,” 156–57; Golec, Słownik, 145–46.

57 “Do Kolegów Esperantystów,” 6.

58 This map shows the subscribers to VdK in 1909. Over the course of the year, the journal published extracts from the list of subscribers in each issue. I incorporated these entries into a database on the basis of which this map was created.

59 This term was invented by Dr. Bernhard Struck at a joint presentation on Up and Down the Scales. Visualising the Esperanto Movement around 1900 at the Digital Humanities seminar at the University of Manchester on February 27, 2020.

60 In 1911, a Survey on the Participation of Doctors in Duels was published, which found its way into French, German, Bohemian, Polish, Russian, and Spanish medical journals. Javier Guerrero, “Voĉoj de kuracistoj,” Esperantaj Bitoj (blog) November 19, 2020, https://bibliotekoj.org/esperantajbitoj/vocoj-de-kuracistoj.html.

61 For overviews of Esperanto’s role in the Red Cross, see: Sebert, “L’esperanto”; Hernández, “The Esperantist Movement’s humanitarian activities”; Lavarenne, “Espéranto,” 684–839.

62 Bayol, Espéranto et Croix-Rouge. Alongside the original French edition, the brochure has been translated into seven other languages.

63 Dua Universala Kongreso de Esperanto, 115.

64 Ibid., 16.

65 Ibid., 22–23.

66 Ibid., 29.

67 Sebert, “L’esperanto,” 805. The draft proposal to the London Conference can be found ibid., 808–12.

68 Statuts et réglement intérieur.

69 Moynier, “Raporto de la Internacia Komitato,” 43–48.

70 The Tragic Week was a series of violent confrontations between the Spanish army and different groups, such as anarchists, socialists, and republicans from July 26 to August 2 in Barcelona.

71 Thalwitzer, “Esperanto kaj la Ruĝa Kruco,” 46–51.

72 Neuvième Conference internationale, 168–70.

73 Hernández, “The Esperantist Movement’s Humanitarian Activities,” 316.

74 John Hoberman describes these idealistic internationalisms in an article and refers especially to the personal overlap and participation in various international movements such as the Olympic Movement, Scouting, and Esperanto. Hoberman, “Toward a Theory.”


Map 1. TEKA members around the world in 1909 (black dots) and new members in 1910 (white dots).


Table 1. Development of TEKA membership 1909–1913


Map 2. Global distribution of VdK subscribers in 1909


Table 5. Original languages of articles reviewed



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.

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Zentralstellen (ZSt), Hofkriegsrat (HKR), Akten


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Domanovszky, Sándor. József nádor élete és iratai [The life and documents of Palatine Joseph]. Vol. II/1, József nádor iratai I, 1792–1804 [The documents of Palatine Joseph]. Magyarország újabbkori történetének forrásai [Sources on the modern history of Hungary]. Budapest: Magyar Történelmi Társulat, 1925.

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H. Németh, István. “Polgár vagy nemes? A városok nemesi rendű lakosainak problematikája a felső-magyarországi városszövetség tevékenysége tükrében” [Burgher or nobleman? The problematics of noble inhabitants of the cities in light of activities of the city alliance of Upper Hungary]. Korall 9 (2002): 79–106.

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Holub, József. “A nádor szerepe a koronázáson” [The role of the palatine in the coronation]. Századok 51, no. 1 (1917): 89–93.

Iványi, Emma. Esterházy Pál nádor közigazgatási tevékenysége, 1681–1713 [The administrative work of Palatine Pál Esterházy, 1681–1713]. A Magyar Országos Levéltár kiadványai III. Hatóság- és hivataltörténet 10. Budapest: Akadémiai kiadó, 1991.

Kulcsár, Krisztina. “A helytartói status. Albert szász herceg (1738–1822) kinevezése és évtizedei Magyarországon” [The governorship. Prince Albert of Saxony (1738–1822) – his appointment and activity in Hungary]. Aetas 17, no. 1 (2002): 51–66.

Kulcsár, Krisztina. II. József utazásai Magyarországon, Erdélyben, Szlavóniában és a Temesi Bánságban, 1768–1773 [The travels of Joseph II in Hungary, Transylvania, Slavonia, and the Bánát of Temes]. Budapest: Gondolat Kiadó–Magyar Országos Levéltár, 2004.

Kulcsár, Krisztina. “Nádorság és ami vele jár: A nádor hivatali feladatai a 18. században Batthyány Lajos példája alapján” [Palatine and what comes with it: The official duties of the palatine in the eighteenth century based on the example of Lajos Batthyány]. In Batthyány Lajos nádor [Palatine Lajos Batthyány], edited by Péter Móricz, 51–66. Körmend: Körmendi Kulturális Központ, Múzeum és Könyvtár, 2017.

Kulcsár, Krisztina. “Der Kaiser-Mitregent Joseph II. und sein Statthalter-Schwager Herzog Albert von Sachsen-Teschen im Königreich Ungarn.” In “Die habsburgische Variante des Aufgeklärten Absolutismus.” Beiträge zur Mitregentschaft Josephs II., 1765–1780. “A felvilágosult abszolutizmus Habsburg-variánsa.” Tanulmányok II. József társuralkodói időszakáról, 1765–1780, edited by András Forgó, and Krisztina Kulcsár, 65–91. Vienna: Institut für Ungarische Geschichtsforschung in Wien–Balassi Institut–Collegium Hungaricum Wien–Ungarisches Nationalarchiv–Ungarische Archivdelegation beim Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv, 2018.

Kulcsár, Krisztina. A 18. századi helytartó feladatai és politikai mozgástere Albert szász-tescheni herceg példája alapján [The duties and political scope of the eighteenth-century governor on the basis of the example of Prince Albert of Saxony-Teschen]. Századok 153, no. 6 (2019): 1081–1100.

Mályusz, Elemér. Sándor Lipót főherceg nádor iratai [The documents of Archduke Alexander Leopold]. Magyarország újabbkori történetének forrásai. Kormányzat- és közigazgatástörténeti iratok [Sources on the modern history of Hungary. Documents on government and administrative history]. Budapest: Magyar Történelmi Társulat, 1926.

Nagy, János. Rendi ellenzék és kormánypárt az 1751. évi országgyűlésen [The estate opposition and the government party in the 1751 Diet]. Dissertations from the Budapest Archives 7. Budapest: Budapest Főváros Levéltára Mika Sándor Egyesület, 2020.

Pálffy, Géza. A Magyar Királyság és a Habsburg Monarchia a 16. században [The Kingdom of Hungary and the Habsburg Monarchy in the sixteenth century]. Magyar Történelmi Emlékek. Értekezések. Budapest: MTA Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont Történettudományi Intézet, 2015.

Pálffy, Géza. “Küzdelem a király- és királyné-koronázás jogáért a kora újkori Magyarországon” [A struggle for the right to be crowned king and queen in early modern Hungary]. In Egyház és reprezentáció a régi Magyarországon [Church and ceremony in old Hungary]. Pázmány Irodalmi Műhely – Lelkiségtörténeti tanulmányok 12, edited by Orsolya Báthory, and Franciska Kónya, 299–314. Budapest: MTA–PPKE Barokk Irodalom és Lelkiség Kutatócsoport, 2016.

Pálffy, Géza. The Kingdom of Hungary and the Habsburg Monarchy in the Sixteenth Century. Hungarian studies series 18. Boulder: Social Science Monographs; New Jersey: Center for Hungarian Studies and Publications; New York: Columbia University press, 2009.

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Szijártó, István. “The Diet: The Estates and the Parliament of Hungary, 1708–1792.” In Bündnispartner und Konkurrenten des Landesfürsten? Die Stände in der Habsburgermonarchie. Die Stände in der Habsburgermonarchie. Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung Bd. 49, edited by Gerhard Ammerer, William D. Godsey jr., Martin Scheutz, Peter Urbanitsch, and Alfred Stefan Weiss, 119–39. Vienna–Munich: Böhlau, 2007.

Szőcs, Tibor. A nádori intézmény korai története, 1000–1342 [The early history of the institution of the palatine, 1000–1342]. Subsidia ad historiam medii aevi Hungariae inquirendam 5. Budapest: MTA Támogatott Kutatócsoportok Irodája, 2014.

Varga, Endre. A Királyi Curia, 1780–1850 [The Royal Curia, 1780–1850]. A Magyar Országos Levéltár kiadványai III. Hatóság- és hivataltörténet 4. Budapest: Akadémiai kiadó, 1974.

Zedinger, Renate. Franz Stephan von Lothringen (1708–1765): Monarch, Manger, Mäzen. Schriftenreihe der österreichischen Gesellschaft zur Erforschung des 18. Jahrhunderts Bd. 13. Vienna–Cologne–Weimar: Böhlau, 2008.

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.

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 Akten Alte Hofkammer, Hoffinanz Ungarn, Akten

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)




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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Stollberg-Rilinger, Barbara. Des Kaisers alte Kleide: Verfassungsgeschichte und Symbolsprache des Alten Reiches. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2013.

Széchenyi, István. Napló [Diary]. Selections by Ambrus Oltványi. Budapest: Gondolat, 1978.

Szemere, Bertalan. Utazás külföldön: Válogatás Szemere Bertalan nyugat-európai útinaplójából [Travel abroad: A selection from the Western European travel diary of Bertalan Szemere]. Edited by Ágota Steinert. Budapest: Helikon, 1983.

“Az uj képviselőház gyülés-terme” [The Hall of the New Parliament]. Vasárnapi Újság, November 19, 1865.

Vaszary, Kolos. Adatok az 1825. országgyűlés történetéhez [Data on the history of the 1825 parliament]. Győr, 1883.


Secondary literature

Borsos, László. “A régi budai Országháza” [The old Buda Parliament]. Építés –Építészettudomány. Az MTA Műszaki Tudományok Osztályának közleményei 5, nos. 1–2 (1974): 55–93.

Brandt, Hartwig. “Die deutschen Staaten der ersten Konstitutionalisierungswelle.” In Handbuch der europäischen Verfassungsgeschichte im 19. Jahrhundert: Institutionen und Rechtspraxis im gesellschaftlichen Wandel, vol. 2, 1815–1847, 823–78. Bonn: Dietz, 2012.

Dobszay, Tamás. “Az országgyűlés bizottsági rendszerének előzményei a reformkorban” [Antecedents to the parliamentary committee system in the Reform Era]. In Historia Critica: Tanulmányok az Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem Bölcsészettudományi Karának Történeti Intézetéből [History Critica: Studies from the Historical Institute of the Faculty of Arts of Eötvös Loránd University], edited by Orsolya Manhercz, 199–212. Budapest, 2014.

Gergely, András. “Ungarn.” In Handbuch der europäischen Verfassungsgeschichte im 19. Jahrhundert: Institutionen und Rechtspraxis im gesellschaftlichen Wandel, vol. 2, 1815–1847, edited by Werner Daum, Peter Brandt, Martin Kirsch, and Arthur Schlegelmilch,1041–76. Bonn: Dietz, 2012.

Horler, Miklós et al. Budapest műemlékei [Monuments of Budapest]. Vol. 1. Edited by Frigyes Pogány. Magyarország műemléki topográfiája, edited by Dezső Dercsényi. Budapest: Akadémiai, 1955.

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Molnár, András. Batthyány Lajos a reformkorban [Lajos Batthyány in the Reform Era]. Zalaegerszeg: Zala Megyei Levéltár, 1996.

Pajkossy, Gábor. “Ungarn.” In Handbuch der europäischen Verfassungsgeschichte im 19. Jahrhundert: Institutionen und Rechtspraxis im gesellschaftlichen Wandel, vol. 1, edited by Werner Daum, Peter Brandt, Martin Kirsch, and Arthur Schlegelmilch, 944–77. Berlin: Dietz, 2006.

Pálmány, Béla. A reformkori országgyűlések történeti almanachja, 1825–1848 [Historical almanac of reformdiets, 1825–1848]. Vols. 1–2. Budapest: Argumentum, 2011.

Paulinyi, Oszkár. “A m. kir. belügyminisztérium budai várbeli székházának története: Adalék Buda topográfiájához” [The history of the seat of the Hungarian Royal Ministry of Interior in Buda Castle: Data on the topography of Buda]. In Tanulmányok Budapest Múltjából 6 [Studies on the history of Budapest], edited by Károly Némethy, Jusztin Budó, 16–61. Budapest: Budapest Székesfőváros, 1938.

Révész, László. Die Anfänge des Ungarischen Parlamentarismus. Munich: Oldenbourg, 1968.

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.

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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. 

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.)