The Age Of King Stephens

Of Stephens successors, László I (1077-1096) and Kálmán I (1096-1116) imposed stringent laws to ensure their subjects respected the authority of the State, ownership relations and Christian values.

By the end of the 11th century Hungary, which had risen to become a Central European power, acted as conqueror in the east and south. Campaigns launched into what is Galicia and Ukraine today were without success, but Croatia recognized the supremacy of the Árpád dynasty in 1091.

The age of weaker monarchs saw the giving away of crown properties, the basis of centralized royal power, which - and this also mirrored the West European pattern of progress - resulted in the development of an ever more structured, multi-layered feudal society. This soon necessitated the introduction of some constitutional structure, one of whose central basic documents was the Golden Bull (1222) issued by András (Andrew) II. Historians are justified in comparing it to the English Magna Carta drawn up in 1215. This deed determined the various noblemen - barons and gentry - as privileged members of the kingdom, who were entitled to resist the king and who, in keeping with his pledge, were convened by the king for annual feudal national assemblies.

The relatively steady progress was interrupted in 1240 and 1242 by the dramatic incursion and ruthless ransacking of the country by Tartar (Mongol) forces, who swept across the country scorching the land and forcing the king and his court to flee to the Adriatic. One third of the country's population was killed during the single year of the Tartar invasion. King Béla IV (1235-1270) was, with some justifications, dubbed the "second home founder" as he had to rebuild the scorched country practically from scratch. By establishing a series of stone castles he created a strong defensive system, he invited settlers to unsettled parts of the country, and reorganized life in the country by pursuing tolerant and persistent policies.

After his death the strengthened nobility exploited its new positions ever more successfully, and the aspirations of provincial lords for independence began to erode the unity of King Stephens state. The situation was further aggravated by a near two-decade struggle for the Hungarian crown following the demise of the Árpád dynasty.


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