Kingdom of Hungary – Clerical Retinues

The erosion of the royal fisc during the course of the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries made it Increasingly hard for the king to distribute honores to his principal lords. Accordingly, their retention of banderia had to be rewarded not through the gift of offices and lordships but, instead , through payments made from the royal treasury. The banderia belonging to the realms leading lords were thus sustained through disbursements similar to those which supported the foreign mercenaries serving in the royal host and the garrisons along the frontier. Money raised from taxation was either paid directly from the treasury to lords or else was retained at source by the lord’s own tax-collectors and diverted to support his personal retinue. Whereas, therefore , during the fourteenth century the banderia of the great lords had been sustained out of office-holding and honores, over the next century salaries and remittances from the treasury provided an increasingly important underpinning of the banderial system. At the same time, the right to command banderia became increasingly circumscribed. During Sigismund’s reign, lords with as few as 50 familiares and attendant peasants had attended the royal summons with their own banderia.  During the second half of the fifteenth century however, the size of banderia was fixed at a minimum of 400 troops and the right to deploy military units of this type was restricted. In 1498 Wladislas II laid down that banderia might be raised only by the leading bishops, abbots and chapter-houses, the voevode of Transylvania, the ispan of the Szekels, the ban of Croatia, the ispan of Temes county and a further 40 individually-named lords or barones, as they were now called. Nobles who were not the familiares of those listed in the decree were instructed to serve in the banderia established by the counties . Nevertheless , beside the 40 or so banderia of the arons , the county contingents retained only a minor significance . At most, the counties provided just one-third of the total number of troops in the kingdom, and the majority of these were ill-equipped Although of a higher quality, the military manpower of the prelates and ecclesiastical corporations amounted to only ten banderia and less than 3000 additional horsemen. The decree of 1498 thus effectively put the kingdom’s defence in the hands of the great lords. The monopolization of the right to field banderia contributed to the consolidation of the Hungarian baronage. Barones were first referred to in the early thirteenth century. At this time, however, the term lacked precision and could mean either a large landowner (being thus the equivalent of the original Hungarian meaning of nobilis) or else the holder of one of the principal royal offices and honores (quicumque et qualescunque comitatus, dignitates et honores regni tenentes 1270 ) ). The number of barons might also include the descendants of previously prominent royal officers. Like the prelates of the kingdom, the barons of the kingdom were commonly described as magnifici. Nevertheless until the last years of the fifteenth century, there was little real distinction between barons and nobles. Barons remained members of the nobility while common nobles might advance through the royal favour and offices, eventually acquiring baronial status for themselves.

Following the demise of the ‘Black Army’ the nobility forced the Diet to exert pressure on Vladislav so that their personal banderia [1] thenceforward received regular pay in much the same way as the mercenary army had. Indeed, the tax that had previously maintained the ‘Black Army’ was collected again in 1491 and then from 1493 on for this very purpose, the nobility usually collecting and retaining it for themselves. In 1498 the banderial armies were recorded as follows:

Royal banderium 1,000 cavalry

Despot of Serbia’s banderium 1,000 hussars

Banderia of prelates and the Church 6,750 cavalry

Banderia of bani and voivodes of vassal territories, paid by the king 1,600 cavalry

Banderia of 40 barons and 2 Croatian counts (?6,700-12,500) cavalry

By this time the militia portalis may have itself been comprised of mercenaries, emp[oyed on the basis of one per 20, 24 or 36 portae, and had anyway become hard to distinguish from banderial troops.

The primary importance of the civil and the Turkish wars in the history of religion in Hungary is that they were a catastrophe for the Hungarian hierarchy. Of the sixteen prelates of the kingdom, seven were killed at Mohacs: the two archbishops, Laszlo Szalkai of Esztergom and Pal Tomori of Kalocsa, and the bishops of Gyor (Raab), Pecs (Fiinfkirchen), Csanad, Nagyvarad (Grosswardein) and the titular bishop of Bosnia. The church in Hungary never recovered throughout the sixteenth century. There were long vacancies in many of the sees, partly because the popes were unwilling to alienate the rival kings by confirming the nominations of either of them. There was no archbishop of Esztergom at all from 1573 to 1596, and even before that the primate usually had to reside at Trnava (Nagyszombat) in western Slovakia, because Esztergom was for long periods in the hands of the Turks. The other archbishopric, that of Kalocsa, was almost perpetually in Turkish hands and there was no archbishop confirmed to it between 1528 and 1572. The sees of Csanad, Gyulafehervar (Karlsburg), and Szerem (Sirmium) were left pastorless for long periods while they suffered occupation by the Infidels. No Catholic bishops resided in the pashalik of Buda, where Protestant preachers, tolerated by the Turks as fellow iconoclasts, met with little Catholic opposition. If sees were not left vacant they often suffered from the almost equally debilitating evil of having two rival claimants appointed by the rival kings, each seeking to attract the revenues while they absented themselves at one or other of the rival courts. Some bishops apostatised to Lutheranism, like Ferenc Thurzo, bishop of Nitra, who in 1534 became a Lutheran and twice married, and Andras Sbardellati, bishop of Pecs, who in 1568 married a wife and was deprived of his see; Marton Kecseti, nephew of the primate and bishop of Veszprem, and Simon of Erdod, titular bishop of Zagreb, also became Protestants. Other bishoprics were sometimes made impotent by the conversion of their revenues to help pay for the expense of the holy war, or even completely secularised. In 1528 Ferdinand I pawned the revenues of the see of Gyor for 15,000 florins to his treasurer, Johann Hoffmann, from whom they passed into the hands of the lay lord, Pal Bakics, a great sequestrator of church lands though he was totally indifferent in matters of religion. In 1534 King John Zapolyai sought to retain the support of the rich (Lutheran) magnate, Peter Perenyi, by giving him the episcopal revenues of Eger (Erlau). This did not prevent him from going over to Ferdinand five years later.

[1] [Italian bandiera, ‘banner, flag’] Private armies of the rulers, lords, and prelates in medieval Hungary. The noble levy was increasingly replaced or augmented (from the late 13th century) with troops …

The Army of King Matthias 1458-1526 by Győző Somogyi (Author)

The Hungarian state, founded in 896 A.D. and becoming the Christian Kingdom of Hungary from 1000 A.D. covered the entire area of the Carpathian basin until 1920, including Croatia being united with it in personal union under the holy crown. The series “A millennium in the military” presents the military culture, weaponry and the peculiar warfare made famous by the hussars spanning various historical periods. The books include reconstructive colour illustrations with captions in Hungarian and English.

Warriors of the Hungarian Frontier 1526 – 1686 – Végvári vitézek 1526 – 1686

About The Author:
Historian and graphic artist Győző Somogyi (1942) has spent decades researching Hungarian military history and painting accurate illustrations. He is an experimental archaeologist and an active hussar re-enactor so he has personally tested many of the clothing and equipment presented in the series. More than a dozen of his full color albums have already been published in Hungarian and German.

English Summary:
In 1526 the Hungarian armies were defeated in the battle of Mohács by the Ottomans. King Louis II drowned fleeing the battlefield and the country got linked to the Holy Roman Empire through the Habsburg monarchs. In 1541, Emperor Suleiman I. seized Buda and annexed the central part of Hungary to the Ottoman Empire while in the eastern part of the country he established the Principality of Transylvania, which was dependent on him. Along the frontier between the constantly expanding Ottoman-held lands and the Kingdom of Hungary the next 150 years saw continuous warfare, consisting of sieges and devastating raids, interrupted with several Ottoman attempts to seize Vienna and with Hungarian retaliation. The fight on the frontier was over when in 1686 a pan-European Christian counteroffensive started resulting in the liberation of Hungary by the end of the 17th century.