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John Sigismund Zápolya

John II
King of Hungary
Reign 1540–1551, 1556(59)-1570
Coronation 1540
Predecessor John I
Ferdinand I
Successor Maximilian II
Prince of Transylvania
Reign 1556–1571
Successor Stephen Báthory
Born 7 July 1540
Buda, Kingdom of Hungary
Died 14 March 1571(1571-03-14) (aged 30)
Gyulafehérvár, Transylvania
Father John I
Mother Isabella Jagiellon
Religion Unitarian
Coat of arms of John II Sigismund.
John II Sigimund in around 1560.
King John Sigismund of Hungary with Suleiman the Magnificent in 1556.

John Sigismund Zápolya or John Sigismund Szapolyai (Hungarian: Zápolya/Szapolyai János Zsigmond, Croatian: Ivan Žigmund Zapolja) (7 July 1540 – 14 March 1571) was King of Hungary (as John II) from 1540 to 1551 and again from 1556 to 1570. He reigned over the "Eastern Hungarian Kingdom", as historians call the area which recognized as King his father and then him, instead of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, who ruled western Hungary.

John Sigismund was born in Buda, Hungary. He abdicated as King in 1551 but was re-elected by the Diet of Szászsebes in 1556.[1] In practice he ruled from 1559, after the regency of his mother Isabella Jagiellon.[2]

He became Prince of Transylvania and ruler of a part of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1570 after his second abdication as King of Hungary.[2] He was the first ruler of the Principality of Transylvania, the successor to the "Eastern Hungarian Kingdom".


  • Family 1
  • Reign 2
  • Abdication 3
  • Succession 4
  • Ancestors 5
  • References 6


John Sigismund was the son of John Zápolya (John I) and Isabella Jagiellon, daughter of King Sigismund I the Old of Poland. He was born only nine days before his father's death.


The Diet promptly elected him King as John II Sigismund, when he was only a few weeks old. For much of his reign the country was governed by his mother, Isabella, and the regent, Bishop of Varad, who had been the principal counselor of John I.

His election broke the Treaty of Nagyvárad (1538) in which John I had named Ferdinand as his successor.

Ferdinand invaded to enforce his claim in 1541. John I had pledged Hungary's allegiance to the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1528, so Martinuzzi called on Suleiman to support his vassal. Suleiman marched in and ejected Ferdinand - but he also seized Buda and made central Hungary an Ottoman province. To John II Sigismund, he allocated Transylvania and part of Royal Hungary, to be ruled for him by Isabella and Bishop Martinuzzi.

There was a strong personal conflict between Isabella and Martinuzzi. Isabella intrigued against Martinuzzi, who negotiated the balance between Austrian and Ottoman interests in Hungary. In 1549, Martinuzzi arranged for John II Sigismund to abdicate as King in favor of Ferdinand, while being recognized as vassal lord of east Hungary. The deal was executed in 1551. Austrian troops marched in, but when Ottoman troops responded, Martinuzzi was suspected of treason and killed by the Austrians.

After five years of war and continual Ottoman attack, the Diet restored John II Sigismund to the "East Hungarian" throne in 1556 with Isabella as regent. He assumed full powers when Isabella died in 1559, and reigned until 1570.

At this time Transylvania was religiously diverse, a condition which John II Sigismund not only tolerated but fostered. In 1568, John issued the Edict of Torda, the first broad decree of religious freedom in the modern history of Europe. He supported the establishment of the Unitarian Church of Transylvania. John encouraged respect for and open dialogue between all religious viewpoints; he sponsored a public debate between Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Unitarians.[3] Other religious groups, including Jews, Orthodox Christians, and Muslims, were granted tolerance but not legal guarantees of freedom.[4]


In 1570, John II Sigismund came to a new arrangement with Ferdinand's successor Emperor Maximilian II, which was expressed in the Treaty of Speyer. He abdicated as King of Hungary in Maximilian's favor, and was recognized by him as princeps Transsylvaniae et partium regni Hungariae dominus ("Prince of Transylvania and ruler of a part of the Kingdom of Hungary") - the first Prince of Transylvania, in vassalage to the Kingdom of Hungary.[2]


John II Sigismund died at Gyulafehérvár, Transylvania, in 1571. He had no children. His will left the throne of Transylvania to his treasurer, the pro-Habsburg Gáspár Bekes. But the Diet did not honor his wishes and elected Stephen Báthory as Prince. This led to a brief civil war, which ended in Báthory's victory.


8. László Zápolya
4. Stephen Zápolya
9. Dorothea
2. John Zápolya
20. Boleslaus I, Duke of Cieszyn
10. Przemyslaus II, Duke of Cieszyn
21. Euphemia of Masovia
5. Hedwig of Cieszyn
22. Bolesław IV of Warsaw
11. Anna of Warsaw
23. Barbara of Ruthenia
1. John II Sigismund Zápolya
24. Władysław II Jagiełło
12. Casimir IV Jagiellon
25. Sophia of Halshany
6. Sigismund I the Old
26. Albert II of Germany
13. Elisabeth of Austria
27. Elizabeth of Luxembourg
3. Isabella Jagiellon
28. Galeazzo Maria Sforza
14. Gian Galeazzo Sforza
29. Bona of Savoy
7. Bona Sforza
30. Alfonso II of Naples
15. Isabella of Naples
31. Ippolita Maria Sforza


  1. ^ LÁSZLÓ MAKKAI, ANDRÁS MÓCSY, BÉLA KÖPECZI, HISTORY OF TRANSYLVANIA Volume I. From the Beginnings to 1606, Columbia University Press, New York 2001 EAST EUROPEAN MONOGRAPHS, NO. DLXXXI
  2. ^ a b c Early modern religious communities in East-Central Europe: ethnic diversity, denominational plurality, and corporative politics in the principality of Transylvania (1526–1691) 2009, pp. 61-255István Keul,
  4. ^ Miklós Molnár, A Concise History of Hungary, Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 110.
János II Sigismund Zápolya
Born: 1540 18 July Died: 1571 14 March
Regnal titles
Preceded by
John I
King of Hungary
contested by Ferdinand I and Maximilian II
Relinquished title to
Emperor Maximilian II
New title Prince of Transylvania
Succeeded by
Stephen Báthory
Notes and references
1. Regnal Chronologies
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