Order of Vitéz
Order of Vitéz (Vitézi Rend in Hungarian) (frequently spelled in English as 'Vitez') was a Hungarian order of merit which was founded in 1920. It was awarded as a state honour from 1920 to 1944. The Order of Vitéz survives today and is recognised as an "Institution of Chivalric Character" by the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry (ICOC).
The Hungarian word Vitéz is of medieval Slavic origins and means "valiant", "gallant soldier" or "knight". The "Vitézi Rend" (Order of Valiants) should not be confused with the 17th Century Vitézlő Rend (Fighting Estate), which refers to an estate of society which was formed from former peasants and craftsmen whose homes had been destroyed by the Turks. These men took up arms and formed an estate within society which had received charters, rights and privileges over the centuries, mainly from Princes of Transylvania, but which were eventually recognised by the Habsburg Kings of Hungary.
The Order of Vitéz as a State Order
Following the Peace Treaty of Trianon, which banished the ruling Habsburg house from Hungary, a Constitutional Assembly decided to return to the monarchical form of government and replace the current regent, Archuke Joseph August of Habsburg, with Vice-Admiral Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya. It was mainly his idea to help re-build the shattered country by giving land to soldiers who had proven themselves on the battlefield. This way, the poverty brought on by the war could begin to be alleviated and soldiers could be rewarded.
The Vitéz Order was created by Prime Ministerial Decree number 6650 of 1920 (6650/1920 M.E. in Hungarian usage) and was included as paragraph no 77 in the land reform act (Law XXXVI of 1920, the original l can be seen here). The legislation gave those qualifying as members of the Order in need a grant of land and/or a house.
The title of "vitéz" was to serve as an award in the Hungary. Despite the "vitéz" title being official, it was not a grant of nobility as that was outside the ambit of the Regent's authority, being only grantable by a reigning monarch.
Admittance into the Order was exclusively on military merit shown by medals won. It worked on a system depending on rank, where privates or junior NCOs had to prove lesser awards of bravery, while officers and generals had to prove more in World War I.
Members received a badge and were entitled to use the designation vitéz as a prefix to their names. Admission into the Order also carried with it a land grant of 40 cadastral holds to an officer, 8 cadastral holds to other ranks based on need (1 cadastral hold = c. 1.43 acres). The honour of Vitéz become hereditary, and the grants (title, badge and land grant) were to be passed on by the recipient to his eldest son. Miklós Horthy was the first to be admitted into the Order and was also the Order' Captain General (Főkapitány). In 1920 Archduke Joseph August of Austria became the first knight of the Order of Vitéz. New appointments to the Order ceased with the end of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1946.
The Order of Vitéz in modern era
After the end of World War II, veterans' groups including members of the Vitéz Order appointed by Horthy began work on re-establishing the Order in exile. By 1953 General vitéz Hugó Sónyi had begun to re-establish the Vitéz Order as an order of chivalry according to traditional statutes. Since 1983 the Vitéz Order has been awarded to individuals who have been defenders of Hungarian national interests and culture. The Captains General of the extant order have been:
- HRH Field Marshal Archduke vitéz József von Habsburg (1959–62)
- Colonel General vitéz Kisbarnaki Ferenc Farkas (resigning at age 85)
- HRH Archduke vitéz Joseph Árpád von Habsburg (appointed 1977)
- Rend, Vitezi. "SHORT HISTORY". Vitézi Rend. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
- Chivalry, International Commission on. "Other Institutions of Chivalric Character". Register of ICOC. ICOC. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
- Index, Oxford. "The Principality of Transylvania". Oxford Publishers. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
- Britannica, Encyclopaedia. "Treaty of Trianon". Britannica. Encylopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
- Törvények, Magyar. "1920 évi XXXVI tc". 1000 év törvényei (Laws through 1000 years). Complex Kiadó. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
- Naberhuis, Erik (2005). "The Hungarian Vitéz Order". Austro-Hungarian Land Forces 1848-1918. Glenn Jewison & Jörg C. Steiner. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- Macartney, C.A. October Fifteenth, a history of modern Hungary, Edinburgh University Press, (1956) vol.1, pp. 30-31
- Old film document of the Vitézi Rend with admission of new members by Miklós Horthy (youtube)
- A history of the Order of Vitéz during the Regency (1920–1946)
- site of a Habsburg Order of Vitéz (Hungarian)
- site of another Order of Vitéz (Hungarian)