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The King of Hungary ( ) was the head of state of the Kingdom of Hungary from 1000 (or 1001) to 1918.After 1688, the principle of hereditary monarchy was enacted, and the son was typically crowned after his father's death.


Before the 11th century, the head of the federation of the Magyar tribes was the High Prince. The first King of Hungary, Stephen I was crowned on 25 December 1000 (or 1 January 1001) with the crown Pope Sylvester II had sent him with the consent of Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor.
The Crown, Sword and Globus Cruciger of Hungary
Following King Stephen I's coronation, all the monarchs of Hungary used the title of "King". Although Stephen Bocskai and Francis II Rákóczi were proclaimed Princes of Hungary, their legitimacy was not generally accepted, even in the Kingdom of Hungary.

International status

The Kings of Hungary were sovereign monarchs; i.e., they did not submit themselves to others. Although Emperors and Sultans of the Ottoman Empire sometimes claimed supremacy over them, in contrast only some of the kings, and only in specific historical situations, paid homage to foreign monarchs.

The Kings of Hungary, as heads of the Archiregnum Hungaricum ("High Kingdom of Hungary"), also tried to extend their supremacy over the rulers of the neighboring countries and provinces during the 13th-16th centuries. Although these claims were usually rejected, some foreign monarchs were obliged to swear fidelity to the King of Hungary. In any case, these rulers have to be differentiated from the dignitaries of the Kingdom of Hungary who governed provinces (e.g., Transylvania, Croatiamarker, Slavoniamarker and Dalmatia), since the latter were not vassals but high-officers of the kings.

During the rule of the Habsburgs, a real union developed step by step between the Lands of the Holy Crown and the other countries and provinces of the royal house, but it never became a political union.

Claims to supremacy over them

Holy Roman Emperors

In 1045, King Peter I paid homage to Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor, but the king was dethroned in 1046, and his successor, King Andrew I of Hungary refused the Emperor's supremacy. The Emperor's successor, Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor of Germanymarker, acknowledged the independence of the kingdom in the peace concluded with Andrew I in 1058.

King Solomon of Hungary also swore allegiance to Emperor Henry IV in 1074, but by that time, he had been ruling over only some counties of the kingdom, and he abdicated in 1081. King Solomon's opponent, King Ladislaus I of Hungary, never recognised the Emperor's claims.

During the Mongol invasion of Hungary ( ), in 1241, King Béla IV of Hungary accepted Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor's supremacy, hoping that the Emperor would provide him military assistance against the Mongols. However, Frederick II did not intervene in the struggle, and Béla IV was later absolved of his oath by Pope Innocent IV in 1245. Eventually, King Rudolf I of Germany referred to Béla IV's homage when he invested, in 1290, his son, Duke Albert I of Germany with the Kingdom of Hungary that he regarded as a derelict fiefdom after King Ladislaus IV of Hungary's death. Finally, Duke Albert I waived his claim, already in 1291, in the peace he concluded with King Andrew III of Hungary.

Afterwards, the Holy Roman Emperors never claimed the allegiance of the Kings of Hungary.

Byzantine Emperors

Byzantine Emperors, as heirs to the ancient Roman Emperors, tended to regard themselves as heads of the Christian Commonwealth (oikumené). However, they could rarely enforce their claims. Although, King Stephen IV of Hungary swore allegiance to Emperor Manuel I Komnenos in 1163, but only after he had been expelled from Hungary.

Sultans of the Ottoman Empire

In 1529, King János Szapolyai visited Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who had been supported him against his opponent, Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, and swore allegiance to him. Based on this oath, Sultan Suleiman I, having occupied the Central parts of the Kingdom of Hungary, invested, in 1541, King János Szapolyai's son King John II Sigismund Zápolya with the Eastern territories of the kingdom, and the young king governed his realm by the Sultan's grace. However, King János Szapolyai's and King John II Sigismund's rule extended only over parts of the kingdom, and their opponents from the House of Habsburg never accepted the Sultan's supremacy.

In 1605, Sultan Ahmed I sent a royal crown to Stephen Bocskai, who had been proclaimed Prince of Hungary by the Estates, but Stephen Bocskai never was proclaimed king and crowned.

Their vassals

Bans and Kings of Bosnia

From the 12th century onward, the Kings of Hungary were high-officers of the bans of Bosnia, but the bans were, in practice, elected by the local nobility. The first ban who swore allegiance to a king, (Emeric of Hungary) was Ban Kulin in 1203. However, during the 13th century, the supremacy of the Kings of Hungary over Bosnia was only theoretical.

Around 1323, Ban Stephen II of Bosnia paid homage to King Charles I of Hungary. His successor, Tvrtko I of Bosnia, separated from the Holy Crown of Hungary and even had himself crowned the King of Bosnia in 1377. In 1394, King Stjepan Dabiša swore allegiance to Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, but his successors (Tvrtko II, Stjepan Ostoja) and their powerful vassals (Dukes Hrvoje Vukčić and Sandalj Hranić) often turned against the supremacy of the King of Hungary.

Finally, in 1425, King Tvrtko II of Bosnia was reconciled with Sigismund, and from this reconciliation, the kings of Bosnia were faithful vassals of the Kings of Hungary until the occupation of their kingdom by the Ottoman Empire in 1463. King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary granted, in 1471, the empty title of "King of Bosnia" to one of the Hungarian magnates, Miklós Újlaki.

Despots and Tzars of Bulgaria

In 1266, King Stephen V of Hungary compelled Despot Jakov Svetoslav, who was ruling over Vidin, to swear allegiance to him, but after the king's death, the rulers of Bulgariamarker did not accept the supremacy of the Kings of Hungary.

In 1369, King Louis I of Hungary conquered the Tsardom of Vidin of Tsar Ivan Stratsimir of Bulgaria and forced him to become his vassal. However four year later, the Bulgarian Emperor Ivan Alexander took back his lands.

Chieftains of the Cumans

Bartz and Membrok, chieftains of the Cuman tribes, settled down in the territories west of the Dniestermarker River. They were baptized, and they acknowledged the overlordship of King Béla IV of Hungary around 1228. However, the Mongol invasion of Europe obliged the Cumans to take refuge in Hungary in 1241.

Despite a long series of conflicts with the Hungarians, the Cumans immigrated to Hungary, settling down in two regions, called Kiskunság and Nagykunság.

Voivodes and Princes of Moldavia

The territory of the future Principality of Moldavia was occupied by the troops of King Louis I of Hungary in 1345 after a victory over the Mongols. The territory was governed by hereditary Voivodes who were vassals of the King of Hungary.

After 1359, when Bogdan I of Moldavia seized power, Moldavia seceded from the Holy Crown of Hungary. In 1387, Voivode Petru I of Moldavia paid homage to King Jogaila of Poland, but Voivode Stephen I of Moldavia was obliged to acknowledge the overlordship of Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor although the Hungarian supremacy over Moldavia was only theoretical and the King of Hungary renounced it on behalf of King Jogaila in 1412.

In 1475, Prince Stephen V swore allegiance to King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, but he accepted again the supremacy of King Casimir IV of Poland in 1485.

Princes and Despots of Serbia

In 1201 King Emeric of Hungary intervened in the struggles between Duke Vukan Nemanjić of Raška and his brother Duke Stefan Nemanjić, for the throne of that country on behalf of the former. Vukan II, when he temporarily overcame his brother, acknowledged the overlordship of the King of Hungary, but finally Stefan II won over his brother, and he refused the supremacy of foreign monarchs.

In 1408, Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary, established the Order of the Dragon and Despot Stefan Lazarević of Serbia was one of its founders. Sigismund granted estates in Hungarymarker to Despot Stefan Lazarević who paid homage to him. Afterwards the rulers of Serbiamarker were wavering between the Kings of Hungary and the Ottoman Empire till their country was occupied by the latter in 1459.


Over the centuries, the Kings of Hungary acquired or claimed the crowns of several neighboring countries, and they began to use the royal titles connected to those countries. By the time of the last kings, their precise style was: "By the Grace of God, Apostolic King of Hungary, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Rama, Serbia, Galicia, Lodomeria, Cumania and Bulgaria, Grand Prince of Transylvania, Count of the Szeklers".

The title "Apostolic King" was confirmed by Pope Clement XIII in 1758 and used afterwards by all the Kings of Hungary.

The title of "King of Slavoniamarker" referred to the territories between the Drava and the Sava Rivers. That title was first used by Ladislaus I of Hungary. It was also Ladislaus I who adopted the title "King of Croatia" in 1091. Coloman of Hungary added the phrase "King of Dalmatia" to the royal style in 1105.

The title "King of Rama", referring to the claim to Bosnia, was first used by Béla II of Hungary in 1136. It was Emeric of Hungary who adopted the title "King of Serbiamarker". The phrase "King of Galicia" was used to indicate the supremacy over Halychmarker, while the title "King of Lodomeria" referred to Volhynia; both titles were adopted by Andrew II of Hungary in 1205. In 1233, Béla IV of Hungary began to use the title "King of Cumania" which expressed the rule over the territories settled by the Cumans (i.e., Wallachia and Moldavia) at that time. The phrase "King of Bulgariamarker" was added to the royal style by Stephen V of Hungary.

Transylvania was originally a province of the Kingdom of Hungary ruled by a voivode, but after 1526 became a semi-independent principality subordinated to the Ottoman Empire, and later to the Habsburg Empire. In 1696, after dethroning Prince Michael II Apafi, Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor took the title "Prince of Transylvania". In 1765, Maria Theresa of Austria elevated Transylvania to Grand Principality. The Count of the Szeklers ( ) was originally a dignitary of the Kingdom of Hungary, but the title was later used by the Princes of Transylvania.

Ascending the throne

Seniority or primogeniture—The Árpáds

Hungary was originally a hereditary kingship, but the order of succession was not clearly defined. The Hungarian tradition preferred agnatic seniority (senioratus), which gave preference to the oldest patrilineal member of the royal family. Meanwhile, the Christian tradition supported the principle of primogeniture, pursuant to which, the eldest son of the deceased king inherited the throne. The two principles caused several civil wars during the 11th-12th centuries. Béla I, Ladislaus I, Ladislaus II and Stephen IV ascended the throne based on the principle of agnatic seniority, while other members of the Árpád dynasty inherited the throne from their fathers.

The cases of Peter Urseolo and Samuel Aba of Hungary were exceptional; the former (son of Stephen of Hungary's sister) was appointed to inherit the throne by Stephen I, while the latter (Stephen I's brother-in-law) was elected after Peter I's dethronement.

Succession or election—The 14th-16th centuries

When the male line of the Árpád dynasty extinguished in 1301, all the claimants to the throne were matrilineal descendants of the dynasty. The struggle among the pretenders was taking place until 1310 when Charles I of Hungary, the great-grandson of Stephen V of Hungary, having been elected by the prelates, barons and nobles, was crowned with the Holy Crown of Hungary ( ).

During the reign of the Capetian House of Anjou the principle of succession was strengthening, and the Estates of the realm followed the principle even in the case of Louis I of Hungary's daughter Mary of Hungary who ascended the throne after her father's death without any resistance in 1382. However, the transient success of Charles III of Naples in 1385, who claimed the throne as the last male descendant of the Angevin dynasty, proved that public opinion was not in favor of women's succession.

In 1387, Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor himself also a (multiple) matrilineal descendant of the Árpád dynasty, was proclaimed king by the Estates of the realm by the right of his wife, Queen Mary of Hungary, who had been arrested by the partisans of her opponent Charles III. However, whenQueen Mary I died in 1395, the Estates refused the claims to the throne of her sister, Queen Jadwiga of Poland, and they confirmed the widowed Sigismund's reign. By this action, the principle of election overcame for the following three centuries.

Although, during the period, the Estates usually preferred the deceased king's son or other claimants connected to the royal family (i.e., sons-in-law or matrilineal descendants of previous kings) when deciding on the throne, but it was not a law. Władysław III of Poland, for example, was proclaimed king against the deceased king's son, Ladislaus the Posthumous in 1440. He was, at least, a distant matrilineal descendant of the Árpád dynasty, but in the case of Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, in 1458, the Estates preferred a person without any royal ancestry to the claimants descending from King Sigismund.

In 1505, the Diet passed a bill which prohibited the election of foreigners to the throne, but it would never received the Royal Assent. In practice, the bill was aimed at the exclusion of the members of the House of Habsburg from the succession, but finally the Estates had to be reconciled to the reign of the foreign dynasty.

Junior Kings

Because of the above-mentioned uncertainties around the order of succession, the kings endeavored to strengthen their heir's position; therefore, they had their heir apparent crowned in their lifetime. The first example was Solomon of Hungary, the son of Andrew I of Hungary, who was crowned in 1057 when his father was still alive; however, this action could not rescue Solomon from the later dethronement.

A Junior King (rex iunior) usually did not exercise prerogative powers, with the exception of Stephen V of Hungary, but in the 13th century, he was entrusted with the government of certain provinces of the kingdom. The first example was Emeric of Hungary who was governing Croatiamarker and Dalmatia when he was rex iunior. The Junior Kings of the Árpád dynasty were to be crowned again when ascending the throne after their father's death.

During the 14th to 15th centuries, the heirs apparent were never crowned while their predecessor was still alive. The custom revived only in 1508, when Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia was crowned during his father's lifetime to ensure, despite the strengthening of the principle of election, his succession. He and the later Junior Kings did not exercise prerogative powers before the death of their father, and they were not crowned again.

After 1688, when the principle of hereditary monarchy was enacted, the institution became unnecessary and disappeared. However, the last of the Junior Kings was Ferdinand I of Austria, crowned in 1830; he had been considered incapable of ruling, consequently confirmation of his succession rights by the ceremony enhanced his position.

Victory of the hereditary monarchy—The Habsburgs

Although the Habsburgs deemed themselves as hereditary rulers of Hungary, the Estates of the realm insisted on the principle of election. As a first step towards the revival of the hereditary monarchy, already in 1547, the Diet declared that the Estates had submitted themselves not only to Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor but also to his heirs.

However, the liberation of the Central and Eastern parts of the Kingdom of Hungary from the rule of the Ottoman Empire changed radically the Estates' attitude towards the hereditary monarchy, and they declared the hereditary claims of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor and his legitimate male descendants to the throne. The hereditary claims were extended also to King Charles II of Spain and his legitimate male descendants, but the Estates of the realm reserved the right to elect a new king in case the male line both of Leopold I and King Charles II extinguished.

Moreover, in 1722, when it had become obvious that Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor would not father male descendants, the hereditary claims of the female descendants of Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I and Joseph I were also confirmed by the Diet.

Legal requirements of reigning

By the end of the 13th century, the customs of the Kingdom of Hungary prescribed that all the following (three requirements) shall be fulfilled when a new king ascended the throne:

List of the Kings of Hungary

See also


  1. The term "King of Hungary" is typically capitalized only as a title applied to a specific person; however, within this article, the terms "Kings of Hungary" or "Junior Kings" (etc.) are also shown in capital letters, as in the manner of philosophical writing which capitalizes concepts such as Truth, Kindness and Beauty.
  2. "(...) the countries and provinces which are under the rule of one common monarch, pursuant to the established order of succession, are to be held together indivisibly and inseparably. Based on this principle declared definitely, the future defence and maintenance of the common security by making joint efforts is a common and mutual obligation (...). However, besides this established obligation, the pragmatica sanctio also reserved, definitely, that Hungary's constitutional independence, under the public law and also relating to the internal affairs, is to be maintained without injury." (Sections 2 and 3 of Article XII of 1867).
  3. Obolensky, Dimitri: The Byzantine Commonwealth.
  4. "(...) the Estates of the realm have submitted themselves not only to His Majesty's, but also his heirs' power and rule for ever (...)" (Section 5 of Article V of 1547).
  5. "(...) all the Estates of this Hungary and its connected parts reveal that they would accept, from now and for ever, nobody else than the first born among of the male heirs descending from the groins of the above-mentioned Imperial and Royal Majesty (...)" (Section 1 of Article II of 1687).
  6. Article III of 1687.
  7. Article II of 1723.


  • Korai Magyar Történeti Lexikon (9-14. század), főszerkesztő: Kristó, Gyula, szerkesztők: Engel, Pál és Makk, Ferenc (Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1994).
  • Magyarország Történeti Kronológiája I-III. – A kezdetektől 1526-ig; 1526-1848, 1848-1944, főszerkesztő: Benda, Kálmán (Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1981, 1982, 1993).
  • Magyar Történelmi Fogalomtár I-II. – A-K; L-ZS, főszerkesztő: Bán, Péter (Gondolat, Budapest, 1989).

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