John Hunyadi - Rise of A General

Rise of A General

While still a young enterprising man, Hunyadi entered the retinue of Sigismund, who appreciated his qualities but was also the King's creditor on several occasions. A document describing a loan agreement of 1.200 gold florins, dated from 1434 refers to him "Johannes dictus Olah". He accompanied the monarch to Frankfurt in Sigismund's quest for the Imperial crown in 1410, took an active part in the Hussite Wars in 1420, and in 1437 was sent south to successfully raise the Turkish siege of Semendria. The young knight served many powerful magnates and strategists of Sigismund, including Stefan Lazarević and Philippo Scolari. Between 1431 and 1433 he made the acquaintance of the condottiere (mercenary captain) Francesco Sforza at the court of prince Filippo Maria Visconti. In Milan Hunyadi studied the new military art of Italy. Later he received numerous landed estates and a privileged position in the royal council of Hungary. His star was soon in the ascendant and in 1438 King Albert found Hunyadi promoted to Ban of Severin that lay south of the defensible southern frontiers of Hungary; the Carpathians and the Drava/Sava/Danube complex, a province subject to constant Ottoman harassment.

On the untimely death of Albert in 1439, Hunyadi was of the volition that Hungary was best served by a warrior king and lent his support to the candidature of young King of Poland Władysław III of Varna in 1440, and thus came into collision with the powerful magnate Ulrich II of Celje, the chief proponent of Albert's widow Elisabeth of Bohemia (1409–1442) and her infant son, Ladislaus Posthumus of Bohemia and Hungary. Featuring prominently in the brief ensuing civil war, Władysław III's side was thus reinforced by Hunyadi's noticeable military abilities, and was rewarded by Władysław with the captaincy of the fortress of Belgrade, a latter dignity that he shared with Mihály Újlaki.

He became the king's trusted adviser and most highly-regarded soldier, and was put in charge of military operations against the Ottomans. The king recognized Hunyadi's merits by granting him estates in Eastern Hungary. Hunyadi became the greatest landowner in Hungarian history. At the peak of his career he could call himself master of 2.3 million hectares of land, 28 castles, 57 towns and about 1,000 villages. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Hunyadi did not use his great revenues or the military and political weight of his thousands of retainers simply for his personal aggrandizement; for many years, he bore a large share of the cost of fighting the Ottomans.

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