Gabriel Bethlen

The native form of this personal name is Bethlen Gábor. This article uses the Western name order.
Gabriel Bethlen

Gabriel Bethlen.
King of Hungary
Reign 25 August 1620  31 December 1621
Coronation Never crowned
Predecessor Matthias II
Successor Ferdinand II
Prince of Transylvania
Reign October 1613  15 November 1629
Predecessor Gabriel I
Successor Catherine I
Duke of Opole
Reign 1622  1625
Predecessor Sigismund Báthory
Successor Władysław Vasa
Born 1580[1]
Marosillye, Principality of Transylvania, (now Ilia, Hunedoara, Romania)[1]
Died 15 November 1629[1]
Gyulafehérvár, Principality of Transylvania (now Alba Iulia, Romania)[1]
Spouse Catherine of Brandenburg
Full name
Gabriel Bethlen de Iktár
Family Bethlen
Religion Calvinism

Gabriel Bethlen (de Iktár) (Hungarian: Bethlen Gábor, Romanian: Gabriel Bethlen, German: Gabriel Bethlen von Iktár; 1580 – 15 November 1629)[1] was a Protestant uncrowned King of Hungary[2] (1620–21), Prince of Transylvania (1613–29) and Duke of Opole (1622–25) who led an insurrection against the House of Habsburg in Royal Hungary.


Gabriel Bethlen was a member of the Iktári branch of the Hungarian Bethlen family. He was born at Marosillye, Principality of Transylvania (now Ilia in Romania) and educated at Lázár Castle, Szárhegy (Lăzarea) in the care of his uncle, András Lázár. Bethlen was then sent to the court of Sigismund Báthory, a Transylvanian prince, and accompanied him to Wallachia.

Bethlen was a Calvinist. He helped György Káldy, a Jesuit, translate and print the Bible. He composed hymns and from 1625, employed Johannes Thesselius as kapellmeister.

Prince of Transylvania

1616 ten-ducat gold coin depicting Gabriel Bethlen as Prince of Transylvania

1616 ten-ducat gold coin depicting Gabriel Bethlen as Prince of Transylvania

In 1605, Bethlen supported Stephen Bocskay and his successor Gabriel Báthory (1608–1613). Bethlen later fell out with Báthory and fled to the Ottoman Empire.

In 1613, after Báthory was murdered, the Ottomans installed Bethlen as Prince of Transylvania and this was endorsed on 13 October 1613 by the Transylvanian Diet at Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca). In 1615, after the Peace of Tyrnau, Bethlen was recognised by Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor.[3]

Bethlen's rule was one of patriarchal enlightened absolutism. He developed mines and industry and nationalised many branches of Transylvania's foreign trade. His agents bought goods at fixed prices and sold them abroad at profit. In his capital, in Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), Bethlen built a grand new palace. Bethlen was a patron of the arts and the Calvinist church, giving hereditary nobility to Protestant priests. Bethlen also encouraged learning by founding the Bethlen Gabor College, encouraging the enrolment of Hungarian academics and teachers and sending Transylvanian students to the Protestant universities of England, the Low Countries, and the Protestant principalities of Germany. He also ensured the right of serf's children to be educated.

Anti-Habsburg insurrection

Statue of Gábor Bethlen, Heroes' Square, Budapest, Hungary
Bethlen on horseback (print)

Bethlen maintained an efficient standing army of mercenaries. While keeping relations with Sublime Porte, he sought to gain lands to the north and west. During the Thirty Years' War, he attacked the Habsburgs of Royal Hungary (1619–1626). Bethlen opposed the autocracy of the Habsburgs; persecution of Protestants in Royal Hungary; the violation of the Peace of Vienna of 1606; and Habsburg alliances with the Ottomans and George Druget, the captain of Upper Hungary.

In August 1619, Bethlen invaded Royal Hungary. In September, he took Kassa (Košice) where Protestant supporters declared him the leader of Hungary and protector of Protestants. He gained control of Upper Hungary (present-day Slovakia). In September 1619, after refusing to convert to Calvinism, the Jesuits, Marko Križevcanin, Stefan Pongrac and Melchior Grodeczki were martyred under Bethlen's authority."[4] The three were later canonized by the Catholic Church.

In October 1619, Bethlen took Bratislava, where the Palatine of Hungary ceded the Holy Crown of Hungary. However, Bethlen, together with Jindřich Matyáš Thurn, count of Moravian and Czech estates, did not take Vienna and, in November, the forces of George Druget and Polish mercenaries (lisowczycy) won the Battle of Humenné and forced Bethlen to leave Austria and Upper Hungary.

Bethlen negotiated for peace at Bratislava, Košice and Banská Bystrica. In January 1620, without the Czechs, Bethlen received 13 counties in the east of Royal Hungary. On 20 August 1620, he was elected King of Hungary at the Diet of Banská Bystrica and in September 1620, war with the Habsburgs resumed.

After defeating the Czech on 8 November 1620 at the Battle of White Mountain, Ferdinand II persecuted the Protestant nobility of Bohemia. Between May and June 1621, he regained Bratislava and the central mining towns. Bethlen again sued for peace and on 31 December 1621, the Peace of Nikolsburg was made. Bethlen renounced his royal title on the condition that Hungarian Protestants were given religious freedoms and were included in a general diet within six months. Bethlen was given the title of Imperial Prince (of Hungarian Transylvania), seven counties around the Upper Tisza River and the fortresses of Tokaj, Mukacheve, and Ecsed (Nagyecsed), and a duchy in Silesia.

In 1623 - 1624 and 1626, Bethlen, allied with the anti-Habsburg Protestants, made campaigns against Ferdinand in Upper Hungary. The first campaign ended with the Peace of Vienna (1624), the second by the Peace of Pressburg (1626). After the second campaign, Bethlen offered as rapprochement to the court of Vienna an alliance against the Ottomans and his marriage to an archduchess of Austria, but Ferdinand rejected his overtures. On his return from Vienna, Bethlen wed Catherine of Brandenburg, the daughter of John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg. His brother-in-law was Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden.

Principality of Gabriel Bethlen


Seal of Bethlen

Bethlen died on 15 November 1629. Catherine became Princess. (His first wife, Zsuzsanna Károlyi, had died in 1622). Bethlen's state correspondence survives as an historical document.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Protestáns Honlap" The Protestant webpage. 2003. Accessed 17 December 2009. In Hungarian.
  2. Sturdy 2002, p. 45.
  3. Varkonyi A. Az Europai jelenlet alternativai, Bethlen Gabor fejedelemme valasztasanak evfordulojara." Magyar Tudomány October 2013. Accessed 15 October 2013. In Hungarian.
  4. Barti J. "Slovak History: Chronology & Lexicon." Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, p66, 2002. ISBN 0865164444, 9780865164444.


Gabriel Bethlen
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Gabriel Báthory
Prince of Transylvania
Succeeded by
Catherine of Brandenburg
Preceded by
Ferdinand II
King of Hungary
contested by Ferdinand II

Succeeded by
Ferdinand II
Preceded by
Sigismund Báthory
Duke of Opole
Succeeded by
Wladislaus IV of Poland
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/29/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.