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Matthias Corvinus

King of Hungary, Feb. 23, 1440; d. April 6, 1490

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, son of Janos Hunyady (see Janos Hunyady) and Elizabeth Szilagyi of Horogssey, was born at Kolozsvar, February 23, 1440; d. at Vienna, April 6, 1490. In the house of his father he received along with his brother Ladislaus, a careful education under the supervision of Gregor Sanocki, who taught him the humanities. Johann Vitez, Bishop of Grosswardein from 1445, the friend of Matthias's father when a boy, and himself an enthusiastic patron and promoter of classical studies, had a decided influence on his education. The chequered career of his father likewise left its imprint on the life of Matthias. On political grounds he was betrothed in 1455 to Elizabeth, the daughter of Count Ulric Czilley, his father's deadly enemy, with the aim of effecting the reconciliation of the two families. The early death of Elizabeth interfered with this plan, and after the death of Janos Hunyady, Czilley's emnity was directed against the sons. At the instigation of Czilley and his accomplices, who accused Ladislaus and Matthias Hunyady of a conspiracy against King Ladislaus V, both were arrested, Ladislaus being executed, and Matthias being taken to Vienna to the court of the king. Later he followed the king to Prague. After the death of King Ladislaus at Prague, Matthias settled down at the court of the Bohemian king, George Podiebrad, who betrothed him to his daughter Catharine. On January 23, 1458, Matthias was proclaimed King of Hungary at Buda, his uncle Michael Szilagyi at the same time being appointed governor for five years. Matthias soon freed himself, however, from the regency of Szilagyi, and took the reins of government into his own hands. At the very beginning of his reign he had to contend with a movement among discontented Hungarians, who offered the crown to the Emperor Frederick III, who had assumed the title of King of Hungary. The quarrel with Frederick lasted till 1462, when an agreement was made by which, among other things, it was settled that if Matthias should die without leaving an heir, Frederick would be authorized to bear the title of King of Hungary as long as he lived. At the same time Frederick adopted Matthias as his son, and pledged himself to deliver up the Hungarian crown which he had in his possession. The treaty was confirmed by the Hungarian Reichstag and Matthias was crowned king in 1463. Not long before he had married Catharine, the daughter of the Bohemian king Podiebrad, who, however, died at the beginning of 1464. Relations with the Emperor Frederick again became strained; political conditions and, in particular, the question of the Bohemian crown, affected them considerably. The friction between the Holy See and King Podiebrad led to the deposition of the latter, and Matthias was now called upon by the pope to take up arms against the deposed king. In 1468 came the Bohemian expedition of Matthias, elected king by the Catholics of Bohemia. The war continued till the death of Podiebrad in 1471, when the Bohemians, defeating Matthias, chose Wladislaw, son of Casimir, King of Poland, as king. The years up to 1474 were marked by indecisive battles with the Bohemian king and with the Emperor Frederick. An armistice caused a brief cessation of hostilities, but from 1476 relations with the Emperor Frederick grew continually more strained. In 1477 Matthias, invading Austria, besieged Vienna. Peace was effected between Matthias and Frederick by the intervention of the papal legate in 1477, but war soon broke out again, and in 1485 Matthias took Vienna. In the war with the Emperor Frederick, Matthias had in view the Roman crown. In this connection he was led not merely by the aim of securing for Hungary a leading position in the West of Europe, but also by the design to unite the powers of Europe in a crusade against the Turks. He was obliged, however, to abandon this scheme. Equally fruitless was the plan of a crusade against the Turks; nevertheless he managed to fix a limit to the advance of the Turks, and to strengthen the supremacy of Hungary over Bosnia. In 1463 Bosnia fell again into the hands of the Turks. The victory of Matthias over the Turks in Servia, Bosnia, and Transylvania resulted in 1483 in a truce with the Sultan Bajazet. Matthias's relations with the Catholic Church were good till the year 1471; but the second part of his reign was marked by a series of most serious blunders and acts of violence. In spite of legal enactments, he gave bishoprics to foreigners, and rewarded political services with gifts of church property, which he dealt with as though it were the property of the state. His relations with the Holy See were at first decidedly cordial, but later there was danger of a rupture, which was happily avoided. Under Matthias the humanities made their entry into Hungary. His library in Buda, the Bibliotheca Corviniana, wins just admiration even today by virtue of the remnants of it scattered over Europe. During his reign the first printing press in Hungary was established, that at Buda, the first known production of which is the "Chronicle of Buda", printed in 1473. The arts, too, found in Matthias a generous Maecenas. Matthias introduced reforms in the army, in finance, and in the administration of the courts and the law. The reorganization of military affairs was based on the principle of a standing army. With this body, the so-called black troops, he defeated the Turks and the Hussite troops of Giskra, which were laying waste Upper Hungary. In financial affairs, a reform in the mode of taxation was introduced, while his enactments in judicial affairs earned for him among the people the title of "The Just". In 1476 he married Beatrice, the daughter of the King of Naples, but the union was childless. His exertions to secure the throne for his illegitimate son, Johann Corvinus, were rendered futile by the opposition of Hungary and the plotting of Beatrice. Matthias was buried at Szekes-Fehervar (Stuhlweissenburg).

A. ALDASY


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