George Rákóczi I

George Rákóczi I (1593-1648) by Rembrandt van Rijn & Jan Gillisz van Vliet
The native form of this personal name is I. György Rákóczi. This article uses the Western name order.

George Rákóczi I (8 June 1593, in Szerencs – 11 October 1648, in Gyulafehérvár) was an important Hungarian nobleman who was Prince of Transylvania from 1630 until his death in 1648. During his influence Transylvania grew politically and economically stronger.


He was a son of Prince Sigismund Rákóczi and his second wife Anna Gerendi. In 1605 he was placed in the service of then-Prince Stephen Bocskay. After Bockskay's death in 1606, he rejoined his father, Sigismund Rákóczi. Sigismund was elected Prince of Transylvania in 1607, but resigned a year later.

In 1619, George joined then-Prince Gabriel Bethlen's invasion of Royal Hungary, ruled by Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor as King. George commanded a wing of Bethlen's army, which was sent to oppose a Polish army of Lisowczycy coming to the aid of Ferdinand. The Polish force defeated George's force at the Battle of Humenné on 23 November. Bethlen had to give up his attack on Vienna and make peace.

George remained in Bethlen's service till Bethlen died in 1629. Bethlen was briefly succeeded by his widow Catherine, and then his brother Istvan. But the Transylvanian Estates soon turned to George instead. On 1 December 1630, at Sighisoara, the Estates elected Rákóczi as Prince; he ruled until his death in 1648.

In 1644, he intervened in the Thirty Years War, declaring war against Emperor Ferdinand III. He took the whole of Upper Hungary and joined the Swedish army besieging Brno for a projected march against Vienna. However, his nominal overlord, the Ottoman Sultan, ordered him to end the campaign. In the Treaty of Linz (1645), Ferdinand recognized George's rule over the seven counties of the Partium and reaffirmed the religious liberties of Transylvania.


György was married to Zsuzsanna Lorántffy. They had four sons:


    Preceded by
    Catherine of Brandenburg
    Prince of Transylvania
    Succeeded by
    George II Rákóczi

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