« PreviousContinue »
the misunderstandings, jealousies, and suspicions, of the Styrians, till the latter, encouraged by promises of his support, were emboldened to rise against the Hungarians. Within eleven days they had driven out of Styria every foreign garrison but that of Pettau, the residence of Duke István. At Christmas, Ottokar came to Grätz, and had himself proclaimed duke; but his triumph was of short duration. When the spring began, armies streamed towards the frontiers of Austria from both sides. In Béla's army were to be seen soldiers of various nations, even Tatars and Mongols, brought by his ally, Daniel of Galicia, who was a vassal of the Great Khan; Fessler even mentions Gypsies, but this must be a mistake, as they did not make their appearance in Europe till two hundred
The two armies were encamped for some time on either side the river March, not far from Pressburg, but they did not come to a general engagement. Ottokar's army was greatly disheartened by the defeat of some few hundred of their men, who had unwarily pursued a body of Kuman archers so far that they were surrounded and cut down by the Hungarians. Many of Ottokar's allies were disposed to desert him; and but for shame's sake, he himself would have retired without striking a blow. As usual, Béla failed to seize the opportunity. The Bohemian army recovered its spirits; but still neither side liked to be the first to venture across the river. Ottokar at length proposed a short truce, offering either to retire to a short distance so as to allow the Hungarians to cross the river; or, to cross the river himself, and decide the battle on the Hungarian side. With all their faults, the Hungarians seem ever to have been an unsuspicious people; and now, they not only accepted the truce, but, without reflecting that they were putting themselves entirely in the power of a cunning and unscrupulous enemy, they volunteered to cross the March. Ottokar withdrew his army apparently; but, before Béla and the greater part of his army had crossed the river, Prince István, with his division, suddenly and unexpectedly encountered the Bohemian centre. Thousands of the Hungarians perished in the river, their camp with all their matériel and provisions fell into the enemy's hands; Béla retired with the remains of his army; and Ottokar marched unopposed to Pressburg, where a peace was concluded, by which Béla and his son renounced all claims to Steyermark. To cement this
peace, two matrimonial alliances were contracted, one between Béla's younger son, Duke Béla, and Kunigunde, daughter of Otto von Brandenburg, and niece of Ottokar; the other between Ottokar himself, and a grand-daughter of Béla, whose name was also Kunigunde. *
Peace was concluded just in time, for in the summer of that same year the Mongolians seriously threatened Hungary. They broke into Poland, and were intent on proceeding further, when they were arrested by the news of Béla’s reconciliation with Ottokar. The great victory gained over them by Béla at the foot of the Carpathians, circumstantially related by many writers, appears on close examination to be a myth,
* Daughter of Rostislaw and Béla's daughter Anna.
fabricated by the imaginations of later ages, since there is no trace of it in the contemporary chronicles.
But no sooner was Béla at peace without, than he was assailed by troubles, partly of his own making, within the kingdom. His son István, on losing Steyermark, had been made ruler of Transylvania and Moravia, but he was not satisfied. It may be that the loss of Steyermark grieved him, or that he felt, yet more keenly, the preference shown by both his parents, especially his mother, for his younger brother. Perhaps Béla reproached him for the incapacity which had occasioned the loss of Steyermark ; and apparently he had quite forgotten the lessons of his own youth, when he not only had István crowned, but made him an almost independent king; for each king had his own archbishop, chancellor, chief justice, treasurer, &c., and a complete court. After various lesser skirmishes, the two armies of father and son met in open field, and a battle must have occurred, had not the clergy succeeded in effecting a reconciliation; which, however, was based on no very firm foundation. When this miserable strife was, for the time at least, healed, Duke Béla solemnized his marriage with Kunigunde von Brandenburg The details sound quaint to nineteenth century, above all to English, ears ; but the old chroniclers are rapturous in their descriptions of the magnificence displayed upon the occasion. The wedding took place, not in the capital, nor at any of the royal residences, but on the banks of the Danube near the confluence of the Fischa, on the 5th October, not in any palace or castle, but in gorgeously-decorated tents. Ottokar, who had undertaken to provide his niece's trousseau, played the part of host, gave away the bride, and invited the guests. King Béla and his wife, Maria, accompanied their favourite son; the guests and spectators were innumerable; and the kings and their respective trains of followers vied one with another in the splendour of their equipments. The Hungarians are said to have worn scarlet dresses, with trimmings of various-coloured fur; long heron and peacock feathers in their caps, and pearls and precious stones interwoven in their long beards. It is further related that the young bridegroom placed on his bride's head a golden crown, which one of the barons struck off with his naked sword—a ceremony which, if it was usual in Hungary, was apparently intended to show that, although the Princess was received into the royal house, and might eventually share the crown, she could never have any part in the royal prerogative. On the evening of the wedding-day the bridal pair set out for Croatia, and the kings took leave of one another, apparently on the best of terms.
The peace had lasted however only two years, when hostilities again broke out between István and his father. István's wife and children were seized in their castle and taken prisoners; but this circumstance excited so much sympathy that the number of István’s adherents greatly increased, and when he encountered his brother, Duke Béla, at the head of a large army, the latter was so thoroughly defeated he could barely
escape with his life. This defeat, and the voice of the people, obliged the King to make peace with his son. The effects of the civil war began to be severely felt in a general loosening of the bonds of society, and at the Diet of 1267 the States urgently demanded that something should be done. The three princes accordingly put their seals to a document, which confirmed many of the clauses in the Golden Bull, and added a few new laws, one of which, not a very wise one, provided that the nobles might transfer their allegiance from one to the other of the three rulers, without treason. Not long after this, an embassy arrived at the court of István from Charles of Anjou, King of the Two Sicilies, who was desirous of reckoning Hungary among his allies. István gladly accepted his overtures, for if Charles had reason to dread the vengeance of the friends of the house of Hohenstaufen, * he too had a formidable German foe, in Ottokar of Austria, who was daily extending his dominions, till they almost embraced Hungary, from the March to the Adriatic. István therefore gladly betrothed his eldest son and daughter, László and Maria, the former to Charles's daughter Isabella, the latter to his son Charles the Lame. The embassy had scarcely departed, taking with them the Princess Maria, when the court of King Béla was thrown into deep mourning by the death of the Duke of Sclavonia. The old King had borne valiantly up against the many troubles of his long life, but this last blow seemed quite to break down his brave spirit. He reproached himself for his undue partiality to Béla, his harshness to István, and above all for the civil wars; but it was too late now for aught save repentance.
Confidence in István, after his repeated rebellions, he could not feel; and so, overwhelmed with sorrow and remorse, the poor old man fell seriously ill. His daughter Auna f tended him in his illness, but used the occasion to foment his distrust of her brother István, and also to induce him to give her from the treasury various valuable state jewels, &c., which she coveted; such as a crown and sword, a cross set with pearls and precious stones, gold chains, and gold and silver plate. Shortly before his death, the King, still mistrusting his eldest son, wrote to Ottokar recommending his wife and daughter to his protection, together with those barons who had remained true to him; and then, worn out with the troubles of his turbulent life, he died. His wife never needed the protection of Ottokar, for she very soon followed her husband to the grave. They were both buried with their favourite son in the Church of the Minorites, built a few years before by King Béla at Grán.
* On the death of the Emperor, Konrad IV., the crown of the Two Sicilies had been assamed by his illegitimate brother Manfred. But the Popes, in their hatred of the House of Hohenstaufen, offered the throne to various princes, till it was cepted by Charles of Anjou, brother of S. Louis. Manfred was killed in battle ; and soon after, Konradin, the last of the Hohenstaufens, came to claim his inheritance, but was defeated, taken prisoner, and, by the Pope's desire, beheaded, with his friend Friedrich, son of Hermann v. Baden, and Gertrude v. Babenberg.
+ Widow of Rostislaw, and mother-in-law of Ottokar.
István V. was crowned (1270) for the second time, at Stuhlweissenburg; and whatever might have been his faults, it is certain that the nation loved him, and hoped great things of him, for his coronation was very numerously attended by the clergy and nobility.
Of course, it was not to be expected that he would remain long at peace with his great enemy and rival, Ottokar, more especially since the Princess Anna had fled to him after her father's death, taking with her the jewels. There was also another cause of offence in Ottokar's occupation of Krain, which had been left by Agnes von Andechs to Béla IV., but had not been claimed by him. Agnes' husband, Ulrich, Duke of Karinthia, having no children either by her or his second wife, had made Ottokar his heir; and the latter had soon made himself master not only of Karinthia, but also of Krain. The war lasted for nearly a year, with great bloodshed, but no decided victory on either side. At the end of that time, both parties were glad to make peace; but Istvár nd it necessary to content himself with leaving the boundaries of the kingdom such as they had been in the time of his father. He now gave himself
up with great zeal to the reformation of the abuses which had crept in during the long wars, and seemed sincerely anxious to do all in his power to promote the welfare of his people. His activity and their hopes were, however, suddenly cut short by a singular act of foolish thoughtlessness on the part of Joachim Pektari, Ban of Sclavonia, and a great favourite of Queen Erzsébet. The Ban was an ally of Count Rudolf of Habsburg, and was very anxious to gain for him also the alliance of Hungary. István was obliged to go to Servia to quell some disturbances there, and in his absence the Ban conceived the foolish plan of running away with the young Prince András, apparently for the sake of betrothing him to one of the Count's daughters. It is not clear whether Rudolf was in the plot or no, but it seems most probable that he was. Whether it was that István did not know the Ban's intention, or that he mistrusted him, certain it is that the news threw him into a state of violent excitement. He immediately left his camp and started in hot pursuit of his son; but the great heat, added to the hasty journey and great mental excitement, brought on an illness, of which he died in his thirty-third year, leaving a son ten years old, to succeed him as Laszló IV., or the Kuman, as he is frequently called.
Queen Erzsébet, with her favourite Pektari, who had meantime brought back Prince András, at once assumed the government, which did not promise well for the peace of Hungary, since Pektari began by getting himself appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. Egidius, who had been thus deprived of his office, and some other lords, who had been treated in the same way, were so indignant at the unworthiness and injustice of the proceeding, that they entered the Palace of Stuhlweissenburg by force, and made prisoners of the young King and his mother. They were, however, soon released; and the coronation took place, to be followed, as might be expected, by cabals and court
intrigues of all kinds. The ill-used lords, partly in anger, partly perhaps also in fear of the Queen's vengeance, turned traitors, fled to Ottokar, and put him in possession of Pressburg, which he was faithless enough to keep, in spite of the peace which he had but the year before so solemnly sworn to observe. He rewarded the traitors with lands and money, but soon had cause to regret what he had done; for Heinrich von Güssingen, * who had become by marriage a Bohemian land-owner, feeling envious at the favour shown to his old enemy Egidius, quitted Bohemia secretly, and appeared at the Hungarian court offering his services against Ottokar, with whose plans he was well acquainted. He was received with open arms, and restored to all his forfeited estates ; but he was a hot-headed man, and before long had a quarrel with Prince Béla, the Ban of Macsó, whom he killed in a duel. The Prince, being the son of Rostislaw and Béla's daughter Anna, was first cousin of the young King László, and brother-in-law of Ottokar. The Hungarian court apparently took his death but little to heart, since Heinrich was shortly after made Ban of Sclavonia ; but Ottokar was or pretended to be very indignant at his brother-in-law's death; and when it was announced to him by a Hungarian embassy, sent to ask him for an account of his occupation of Pressburg in defiance of the peace, his only answer was to demand that the murderer should be delivered up to him, adding that he should consider a refusal to be a breach of the peace, and tantamount to a declaration of war. Ottokar was always ready to do battle with Hungary, and knowing her at this time to be unprepared and weakly governed, he thought the opportunity a good one. Hungary did her best to keep the peace, and even begged Gregory X. to use his influence with Ottokar; but no persuasions were of any avail, and soon another circumstance occurred which added fuel to the flame. Love of his country and remorse had driven all anger from the heart of Egidius, and now, leaving Austria, he went to Pressburg, the garrison of which knowing him to be in Ottokar's confidence, readily obeyed him, even when he ordered them to surrender the town to the Hungarians. So much for the confidence to be reposed in traitors! Ottokar, naturally incensed at this conduct, at once prepared for war; but, after taking a few places in the west of Hungary, found himself obliged to return home in consequence of the events then taking place in Germany.
The Imperial throne had been vacant since 1254, for though Alphonso of Castille, and Richard of Cornwall, had both borne the title of King of Rome, neither of them had been crowned. The confusion in Germany had been growing worse and worse, for the nobles, with no one to restrain them, had become robbers, dwelling in strong castles, and living by war and plunder. They wished for no powerful emperor, strong enough to reform abuses and enforce obedience; and were therefore
* One of several nobles, who having been adherents of Béla IV., and enemies to István, had, on the death of the former, filed to Ottokar and placed their castles under his protection.