Imre Thököly

The native form of this personal name is Thököly Imre. This article uses the Western name order.
Imre Thököly (Tököly)
Prince of Transylvania
Reign 22 September 1690 - 25 October 1690
Predecessor Michael I Apafi
Successor Francis II Rákóczi
Prince of Upper Hungary
Reign 16821685
Born 25 September 1657
Késmárk/Käsmark, Kingdom of Hungary, Habsburg Monarchy (now Kežmarok, Slovakia)
Died 13 September 1705 (aged 47)
İzmit, Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey)
Burial İzmit (1705)
Kežmarok since 1906
Spouse Ilona Zrínyi
Issue Erzsébet Thököly
House Thököly
Father István Thököly
Mother Mária Gyulaffy
Religion Lutheran Protestant
Principality of Imre Thököly (Principality of Upper Hungary) in 1683.

Count Imre Thököly de Késmárk (Thököly/Tököly/Tökölli Imre in Hungarian, Mirko (Emerik) Thököly in Croatian, Tökeli Emre in Turkish,Tekeli or Tekelija in Serbian; Imrich Tököli in Slovak, Emmerich Thököly in German; 25 September 1657 13 September 1705) was a Hungarian noble, leader of an anti-Habsburg uprising, Prince of Transylvania, and (briefly) vassal king of Upper Hungary.

Early life

Imre Thököly was born at Késmárk, Royal Hungary (today Kežmarok in Slovakia) in September 1657. He lost both parents while still a child. He studied at the Lutheran college in Eperjes (today Prešov, Slovakia) at a time when anti-Habsburg rebels and Protestants were constantly in arms against imperial troops in Upper Hungary (present-day eastern Slovakia).

In December 1670, when his father István Thököly--a participant of the anti-Habsburg Wesselényi conspiracy--was killed by imperial troops when protecting his Árva castle (Slovak: Orava, now in northern Slovakia), he fled from the castle to Transylvania, where he took refuge with his kinsman Mihály Teleki, chief minister of Michael Apafi, prince of Transylvania. Here Thököly came into contact with refugees from Royal Hungary, who had great hopes of the high-born, highly gifted youth who was also a fellow sufferer, a large portion of his immense estates having been confiscated by the Emperor. The discontent reached its height when Emperor Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor (27 February 1673) suspended the Hungarian constitution, appointed Johan Caspar Ampringen dictator, deprived 450 Protestant clergy of their living and condemned 67 more to the galleys.

Anti-Habsburg rebellion

Encouraged by promises of help from Louis XIV of France, the anti-Habsburg rebels now rose "pro libertate et justitia", and chose the youthful Thököly as their leader. The war began in 1678. Eastern Hungarian Kingdom and central Hungarian mining towns were soon in Thököly's possession. In 1681, reinforced by 10,000 Transylvanians and a Turkish army under the Pasha of Nagyvárad (today Oradea, Romania), he compelled the Emperor to grant an armistice. In June 1682 he married Croatian countess Jelena Zrinska (in Hungarian: Zrínyi Ilona), the widow of Prince Francis I Rákóczi.

Thököly's distrust of the Emperor now induced him to turn for help to Sultan Mehmed IV, who recognized him as King of Upper Hungary (Turkish: Muin-i Ali Osman'a itaat üzereyim emre, Kral-ı Orta Macar'ım ki namım Tökeli İmre) partly coinciding with present-day Slovakia on condition that he pay an annual tribute of 40,000 tallers. In the course of the same year Thököly captured fortress after fortress from the Emperor and extended his dominions to the Vág (Slovak: Váh) river. At the two Diets held by him, at Kassa (today Košice, Slovakia) and Tállya, in 1683, the estates, though not uninfluenced by his personal charm, showed some want of confidence in him, fearing he might sacrifice national independence to the Turkish alliance. They refused therefore to grant him either subsidies or a levy en masse, and he had to take what he wanted by force.

Alliance with the Ottoman Empire

Thököly materially assisted the Turks in the Battle of Vienna in 1683, and shared the fate of the gigantic Turkish army. The Turkish Grand Vizier nevertheless laid the blame for the Turkish defeat in Vienna on Thököly, who thereupon hastened to Edirne to defend himself before the Turkish Sultan. Shortly afterwards, perceiving that the Turkish cause was now lost, he sought the mediation of Polish king John III Sobieski to reconcile him with the Emperor, offering to lay down his arms if the Emperor would confirm the religious rights of the Protestants in Hungary and grant him, Thököly, Upper Hungary (more exactly, 13 northeastern counties of Royal Hungary) with the title of prince. Leopold refused these terms and demanded an unconditional surrender. Thököly then renewed the war. However, the campaign of 1685 was a series of disasters, he was defeated at Prešov (Eperjes) and when he sought help from the Turks at Nagyvárad they seized him and sent him in chains to Edirne (possibly because of his previous negotiations with Leopold), whereupon most of his followers made their peace with the Emperor.

In 1686 Thököly was released from his dungeon and sent with a small army into Transylvania, but both this expedition and a similar one in 1688 ended in failure. The Turks then again grew suspicious of him and imprisoned him a second time. In 1690, however, they dispatched him into Transylvania a third time with 16,000 men, and in September he routed the united forces of Gen. Donat Heissler and Count Mihály Teleki at Zărneşti. After this great victory Thököly was elected prince of Transylvania by the Kereszténysziget (probably Oprişani now) Diet, but could not maintain his position for long against the imperial armies. In 1691 he quit Transylvania altogether. He led the Turkish cavalry at the Battle of Slankamen and served valiantly but vainly against Austria during the remainder of the war, especially distinguishing himself at the Battle of Zenta (1697).

He was excluded by name from the amnesty promised to the Hungarian rebels by the Treaty of Karlowitz (26 January 1699). After one more unsuccessful attempt, in 1700, to recover the principality, he settled down at Galata with his wife. From Sultan Mustafa II he received large estates and the title of count of Widdin. He died in 1705 in İzmit. He is buried in Kežmarok in the mausoleum of the so-called new church.

His statue is part of Heroes' Square in Budapest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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