6. Anjous (14th c)

Sigismund, a younger son, had initially been but the consort of the teenage Queen Regnant Mary (1382-95), who had succeeded her father Louis I (1342-82) since had had no sons. The only Hungarian King to acquire the epithet the Great, it is a measure of his standing - even from beyond the grave - that his daughter, then aged only twelve, was crowned.

Master of the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic to Spalato (Split) and beyond, the King of Poland his father-in-law from whom he eventually inherited its Crown, his intended son-in-law the younger son of his Luxembourg neighbour in Bohemia, the Emperor Charles IV, with whom he was on excellent terms - during his reign Hungary, the dominant power of Central Europe, faced no external threat. At the time, 1375, no great importance was attached to a first brush, south of the Carpathians, with raiding Ottoman Turks.

At home the country thrived. The peasants, provided only they paid their tithes to the Church, rent-dues to the landowner, and taxes to the Crown - altogether between one quarter to one third of their produce - were free to move house from place to place, to sell their surplus produce at markets, to engage in craft manufacture, to trade in livestock, and to keep all income earned from these sources.

Trade, especially with Italy - both through the ports on the Adriatic and along the land routes via Carinthia to Lombardy - but also with Bohemia and Poland thrived, and the cities prospered. They could use reliable Hungarian silver and gold coinage, of which the gold florin (forint), patterned on the Florentine gold fiorino, continued to be minted to the same weight and purity from the 1330s into the 19th century.

The first Royal Palace on the present site at Buda was raised (to be thoroughly rebuilt and altered four times: by Sigismund, Matthias, Maria Theresia and, finally, Francis Joseph, although the last two never lived in it). The barons, far from giving trouble, competed for offices and sought to shine at Court and in tourneys. The principle of regular Diets - bishops and barons in person, the lesser nobility represented by elected Members from the Counties - had become accepted, although Diets were not yet always called with consistent regularity.

In the first years of his reign Louis led a couple of campaigns down the length of Italy, to dispossess his cousin Queen Joanna of Naples and Sicily, who had instigated the assassination of her husband, his brother Andrew. He occupied Naples and its lands twice, but never managed to hold it for long from afar.

The political and economic foundations for his reign had been laid by his father Charles I (1301-42) - also known as Charles Robert or Carobert - of the Sicilian-Neapolitan House of Anjou, a cadet branch of the Royal House of France. By the 1330s his standing in Central Europe was such that he was called upon to arbitrate between several Habsburg brothers who were in armed dispute over their Austrian heritage. And he took the initiative in mediating a rapprochement between Poland and Bohemia, on the verge of war over Silesia.

But it had taken him twenty years to get there: he spent the 1310s subduing baronial oligarchs - the most resistant of them Matthew Csák, who controlled most of the western Highlands - and during the decade before that he had to contend with two other claimants for the throne, Venceslas of Bohemia followed by Otto of Bavaria, both of whom also had Árpád blood in their veins.

Indeed, it was only after these claimants had been eliminated that was he was finally confirmed as King by the Diet too in 1310 (and crowned again, but he always dated his reign from 1301). Initially he had been placed on the throne by a baronial faction, on extinction of the Árpád dynasty, from which he descended by his paternal grandmother.

Continue with 7. First Parliaments, last Árpáds (13th c) or go back to the Contents or the Hungary page.