Matthias Corvinus

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Matthias Corvinus
Matthias Corvinus.jpg
King of Hungary and Croatia
Reign 1458–1490
Coronation 29 April 1464
Predecessor Ladislaus V
Successor Vladislaus II
Regent Michael Szilágyi (1458)
King of Bohemia
contested till 1471 by George of Poděbrady, from 1471 by Vladislaus II
Reign 1469–1490
Predecessor George of Poděbrady
Successor Vladislaus II
Duke of Austria
contested by Frederick V
Reign 1487–1490
Predecessor Frederick V
Successor Frederick V
Spouse Elizabeth of Celje
Catherine of Poděbrady
Beatrice of Naples
Issue John Corvinus (illegitimate)
House House of Hunyadi
Father John Hunyadi
Mother Elisabeth Szilágyi
Born 23 February 1443
Kolozsvár, Kingdom of Hungary (now Cluj-Napoca in Romania)
Died 6 April 1490 (aged 47)
Vienna, Holy Roman Empire
Burial Székesfehérvár
Religion Roman Catholic

Matthias Corvinus, also called Matthias I (Hungarian: Hunyadi Mátyás, Romanian: Matia Corvin; 23 February 1443 – 6 April 1490), was King of Hungary and Croatia from 1458. After conducting several military campaigns, he was elected King of Bohemia in 1469 and adopted the title Duke of Austria in 1487. He was the son of John Hunyadi, Regent of Hungary, who died in 1456. In 1457, Matthias was imprisoned along with his older brother, Ladislaus Hunyadi on the orders of King Ladislaus V of Hungary. Ladislaus Hunyadi was executed, causing a rebellion that forced King Ladislaus to flee Hungary. After the King died unexpectedly, Matthias’s uncle Michael Szilágyi persuaded the Estates to unanimously proclaim Matthias king on 24 January 1458. He began his rule under his uncle’s guardianship, but he took control of government within two weeks.

As king, Matthias waged wars against the Czech mercenaries who dominated Upper Hungary (today parts of Slovakia and Northern Hungary) and against Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, who claimed Hungary for himself. In this period, the Ottoman Empire conquered Serbia and Bosnia, terminating the zone of buffer states along the southern frontiers of the Kingdom of Hungary. Matthias signed a peace treaty with Frederick III in 1463, acknowledging the Emperor’s right to style himself King of Hungary. The Emperor returned the Holy Crown of Hungary with which Matthias was crowned on 29 April 1464. In this year, Matthias invaded the territories that had recently been occupied by the Ottomans and seized fortresses in Bosnia. He soon realized he could expect no substantial aid from the Christian powers and gave up his anti-Ottoman policy.

Childhood (1443–1457)

The house where Matthias Corvinus was born

The house where Matthias Corvinus was born in Kolozsvár (present-day Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
John Hunyadi

 Matthias’ father, John Hunyadi

Matthias was born in Kolozsvár (now Cluj-Napoca in Romania) on 23 February 1443.[1] He was the second son of John Hunyadi and his wife, Elisabeth Szilágyi.[1][2] John Hunyadi was a pre-eminent military commander and political leader of the Kingdom of Hungary, who spent most of his life away from the family estates. Because of his father’s absence, Matthias’s education was tasked to his mother.[1] Many of the most learned men of Central Europe—including Gregory of Sanok and John Vitéz—frequented John Hunyadi’s court when Matthias was a child.[3] Gregory of Sanok, a former tutor of King Vladislaus III of Poland, was Matthias’s only teacher whose name is known.[4] Under these scholars’ influences, Matthias became an enthusiastic supporter of Renaissance humanism.[5][6]

As a child, Matthias learnt many languages and read classical literature, especially military treatises.[4] According to Antonio Bonfini, Matthias “was well versed in all the tongues of Europe”, with the exceptions of Turkish and Greek.[7] Although this was an exaggeration, it is without doubt that Matthias spoke Hungarian, Latin, Italian, Polish, Czech, and German.[4][7]

Ladislaus V


According to a treaty between John Hunyadi and Đorđe Branković, Despot of Serbia, Matthias and the Despot’s granddaughter Elizabeth of Celje were engaged on 7 August 1451.[8][9] Elizabeth was the daughter of Ulrich II, Count of Celje, who was related to King Ladislaus V of Hungary and an opponent of Matthias’s father.[10][11] Because of new conflicts between Hunyadi and Ulrich of Celje, the marriage of their children only took place in 1455.[12] Elizabeth settled in the Hunyadis‘ estates but Matthias was soon sent to the royal court, implying that their marriage was a hidden change of hostages between their families.[10] Elizabeth died before the end of 1455.[10]

John Hunyadi died on 11 August 1456, less than three weeks after his greatest victory over the Ottomans in Belgrade.[13] John’s elder son—Matthias’s brother—Ladislaus became the head of the family.[10][14] John’s conflict with Ulrich of Celje ended with Ulrich’s capture and assassination on 9 November.[15][16][17] Under duress, the King promised he would never take his revenge against the Hunyadis for Ulrich’s killing.[18] However, the murder turned most barons—including Palatine Ladislaus Garai, Judge royal Ladislaus Pálóci, and Nicholas Újlaki, Voivode of Transylvania—against Ladislaus Hunyadi.[18] Taking advantage of their resentment, the King had the Hunyadi brothers imprisoned in Buda on 14 March 1457.[16][19] The royal council condemned them to death for high treason and Ladislaus Hunyadi was beheaded on 16 March.[20]

Matthias was held in captivity in a small house in Buda.[18][21] His mother and her brother Michael Szilágyi staged a rebellion against the King and occupied large territories in the regions to the east of the river Tisza.[18][19] King Ladislaus fled to Vienna in mid-1457, and from Vienna to Prague in September, taking Matthias with him.[16][22][23] The civil war between the rebels and the barons loyal to the monarch continued until the sudden death of the young King on 23 November 1457.[18] Hereafter the Hussite Regent of Bohemia—George of Poděbrady—held Matthias captive.[24]

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