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Mary, Queen of Hungary

Mary as depicted in the Chronica Hungarorum by Johannes de Thurocz
Queen of Hungary and Croatia
Reign 10 September 1382 – 31 December 1385
February 1386 - 17 May 1395
Coronation 17 September 1382
Spouse Sigismund of Luxembourg
House Capetian House of Anjou
Father Louis I of Hungary
Mother Elizabeth of Bosnia
Born 1371
Died 17 May 1395 (aged 24)
Buda, Hungary
Burial Várad (now Oradea)

Mary (1371 – 17 May 1395), the last member of the Capetian House of Anjou on the Hungarian throne, succeeded her father, Louis I, on 10 September 1382 with her mother, Elizabeth of Bosnia, as regent. Betrothed to Sigismund of Luxembourg in her father's lifetime, the queen married him in April 1385. She was deposed in December in favour of her agnate, King Charles II of Hungary, but his brief reign ended with his murder at Elizabeth's instigation in February 1386. In July, however, the newly restored queen and her mother were captured and imprisoned, and the latter was murdered in January next year. Released by her husband in June 1387, Mary reigned with him until her death.


  • Childhood 1
  • Accession 2
  • Neapolitan threat 3
  • Restoration and capture 4
  • Reigning with Sigismund 5
  • Ancestors 6
  • References 7
    • Footnotes 7.1
    • Bibliography 7.2


Mary was born in 1371 to King Louis the Great and his second wife, Elizabeth of Bosnia, and was the older of the two daughters of Louis and Elizabeth to survive childhood. Her older sister Catherine, born in 1370, was betrothed to Louis of France and expected to succeed their father on the thrones of Hungary and Poland, but died aged seven. Mary gained another sibling, Hedwig, in 1373 or 1374.[1][2]

As Louis intended to leave his crowns and claims to the Kingdom of Sicily and County of Provence to his daughters, securing marriage to one of them became the goal of European royal courts.[1] Mary was one year old when her father made a promise to Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV that she would marry his second son, Sigismund of Luxembourg.[3] As neither Mary nor Sigismund had attained the age of seven, it was not possible to celebrate a sponsalia de futuro immediately. A papal dispensation was also necessary for the marriage to take place, as the couple was closely related, and was issued by Pope Gregory XI on 6 December 1374.[4]

Louis had no problem in having his daughter's rights to the Holy Crown of Hungary recognized, but it took a set of concessions known as the Privilege of Koszyce to establish Catherine as heiress presumptive and further bargaining with the Estates on Mary's behalf after Catherine's death in 1378. The Polish nobles finally accepted Mary as their future sovereign and paid homage to her in 1379. In 1382, shortly before his death, Louis persuaded them to swear an oath of fealty to Sigismund as well.[3]


Elizabeth and Mary mourning at the tomb of Louis I, by Sándor Liezen-Mayer, 1864.

Mary's father died on 10 September 1382, and she succeeded to the throne of Hungary. Her coronation took place in Székesfehérvár on 17 September, the day after her father's burial,[5] and she was unprecedentedly crowned "king" rather than "queen", in order to emphasise her role as monarch and possibly to reduce that of her future husband.[6] Mary's mother assumed regency and Palatine Nicholas I Garay and Cardinal Demetrius took the reins of government. While the court was prepared to accept Mary's fiancé as king, the majority of the nobility was opposed to the idea of a female monarch and regarded her closest agnate, King Charles III of Naples, as the legitimate heir.[5]

Louis envisaged both his crowns passing to Mary,[7] but his Polish subjects assumed they would be ruled by Mary, while the Hungarian crown would devolve upon Hedwig. Wishing to preserve the personal union between Hungary and Poland, Louis named Mary his successor in both kingdoms.[3] Two months after his death, the Poles offered to do homage to either Mary or Hedwig, on condition that the queen and her husband agree to live in Poland. Some, however, were reluctant to break their oath to Sigismund, while others favoured a native prince, Duke Siemowit IV of Masovia.[8]

Mary's mother contemplated taking up arms, and civil war was avoided only when she agreed to absolve the nobles from their oaths to Mary and Sigismund. The nobles accepted the proposal that Hedwig should reign over them and Elizabeth contended herself with seeing her other daughter ascend to the Polish throne.[8][9] It was, however, agreed that if one of the sisters died childless, the other one would succeed and the kingdoms would be reunited.[10] The situation in Hungary itself was too difficult and the loss of Poland simply had to be accepted.[9]

Neapolitan threat

Elizabeth and Mary attending Charles' coronation, by József Molnár, 1880's.

Mary faced no problems early in her reign, however, as Charles was unable to pose threat to her, his own crown being claimed by Louis I, Duke of Anjou. It was nevertheless feared that Charles' arrival in Hungary might jeopardise Mary's reign, and he was an issue that had to be dealt with. Queen Elizabeth and the Palatine found that the most obvious solution would be to form an alliance with Charles' enemies, the House of Valois, and ask them to provide a suitable king. By the beginning of 1384, Mary was engaged to Louis of France, who had been destined to marry her older sister Catherine and whose uncle was the Duke of Anjou. In order to check opposition within the kingdom itself, a diet was convened for the first time since 1352. News of Mary's betrothal to Louis provoked open opposition from the House of Lacković, the master of the treasury Nicholas Zambo and the judge royal Nicholas Szécsi and continued to support Sigismund, now putting Hungary on the verge of civil war.[9]

In the meantime, events in Naples took an unexpected turn when the Duke of Anjou died in 1384, leaving King Charles III able to lay claim to Hungary. His supporters in Hungary, led by John Horvat and his brother Paul, Bishop of Zagreb, seized the opportunity and secretly invited him to assume the throne. When Charles landed in Dalmatia in September 1385, Mary's kingdom was already at war with both Sigismund's brother Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia and Germany, and the queen mother's cousin, King Tvrtko I of Bosnia. Charles' arrival forced Mary's mother to abandon the planned French marriage and make peace with her enemies. Mary's marriage to Sigismund was celebrated in October, but it was too late. It was impossible to prevent Charles from summoning a diet attended by a huge number of barons, and he was able to secure their support. Sigismund fled to his brother's court in Prague and, following Mary's abdication, Charles was crowned on 31 December,[11] with Mary and her mother forced to attend his coronation.[12]

Restoration and capture

Nicholas I Garay defending his sovereign Mary and her mother Elizabeth from the Croatians. By Mihály Kovács

Charles' reign was not to be long; after his partisans left the court, Elizabeth invited him to visit Mary at one of her palaces, and had him stabbed in her apartments on 7 February 1386. He was taken to Visegrád, where died on 24 February.[12][13] Mary was restored to the throne, with Elizabeth ruling in her name. In April, Sigismund was brought to Hungary by his brother Wenceslaus and the queens were compelled to accept him as Mary's future co-ruler by a treaty signed in Győr. The Neapolitan party, however, declared Charles' underage son Ladislaus the rightful heir.[14]

War soon broke out in Slavonia, and Elizabeth, believing that Mary's mere presence would end the conflict,[13] set out for Đakovo,[14] accompanied by Garay and a modest following.[13] However, the situation was seriously misestimated. On 25 July, the queens and their retinue were ambushed en route and attacked by John Horvat in Gorjani.[13][14] Their small entourage fought the attackers, but were all killed, while Mary and her mother were imprisoned in the Bishop of Zagreb's castle of Gomnec.[12] Elizabeth took all blame for the rebellion and begged the attackers to spare her daughter's life.[15]

For the first time in the century, the kingdom was left without a ruler and barons took over the government. They convoked a diet at Székesfehérvár and, reserving Mary's rights, offered a compromise with her captors. In her name, they promised a general pardon, but the Horvats refused to submit.[13] The queens were soon moved to Novigrad Castle.[14] Sigismund marched into Slavonia in January 1387, unsuccessfully attempting to release Mary and Elizabeth, who was strangled in front of her daughter[16] on the orders of their jailer, John of Palisna.[14] As the kingdom could no longer be without an effective ruler, Sigismund was crowned on 31 March.[16]

Reigning with Sigismund

Sigismund liberated Mary with the help of Venetian fleet on 4 June.[17][18] Her status was then somewhat uncertain; she was supposed to reign along with her husband, and did formally exercise royal prerogatives. Mary, who had her own great seal, granted estates until 1393, but merely confirmed Sigismund's acts. She refrained from actively taking part in government.[18] When King Sigismund took Dobor in Bosnia in July 1394, Queen Mary ordered the captured John Horvat to be tortured to death.[19]

Mary was heavily pregnant when she decided to venture out alone on a hunt in a Buda forest on 17 May 1395. Her horse tripped, threw her and landed on top of her. The trauma induced labor and she gave birth prematurely to a son. The injuries the queen sustained were fatal; being far from any kind of assistance, her son died as well. The two were found together in the woods.[20] Mary's sister claimed the crown, but Sigismund retained it without much difficulty.[18][21]




  1. ^ a b Engel, Ayton, Pálosfalvi, 169.
  2. ^ Goodman, 208.
  3. ^ a b c Engel, Ayton, Pálosfalvi, 170.
  4. ^ Sigismund's matrilineal great-grandfather, King Casimir III the Great of Poland, was the brother of Mary's paternal grandmother, Elizabeth. Gromada & Halecki, 55.
  5. ^ a b Engel, Ayton, Pálosfalvi, 195.
  6. ^ Gromada & Halecki, 98.
  7. ^ Jones, 742.
  8. ^ a b Goodman, 221.
  9. ^ a b c Engel, Ayton, Pálosfalvi, 196.
  10. ^ Gromada & Halecki, 107.
  11. ^ Engel, Ayton, Pálosfalvi, 197.
  12. ^ a b c Grierson, 236.
  13. ^ a b c d e Engel, Ayton, Pálosfalvi, 198.
  14. ^ a b c d e Fine, 396–397.
  15. ^ Duggan, 231.
  16. ^ a b Engel, Ayton, Pálosfalvi, 199.
  17. ^ Gromada & Halecki, 164.
  18. ^ a b c Engel, Ayton, Pálosfalvi, 201.
  19. ^ Engel, Ayton, Pálosfalvi, 202.
  20. ^ Márki, 148.
  21. ^ Gromada & Halecki, 220.


  • Duggan, Anne J. (2002). Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe: Proceedings of a Conference Held at King's College London, April 1995. Boydell Press.  
  • Goodman, Anthony; Gillespie, James (2003). Richard II: The Art of Kingship. Oxford University Press.  
  • Grierson, Philip; Travaini, Lucia (1998). Medieval European coinage: with a catalogue of the coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Volume 14. Cambridge University Press.  
  • Gromada, Tadeusz; Halecki, Oskar (1991). Jadwiga of Anjou and the rise of East Central Europe. Social Science Monographs.  
  • Jones, Michael; McKitterick, Rosamond (2000). The New Cambridge Medieval History: c. 1300-c. 1415. Cambridge University Press.  
  • Márki, Sándor (1885). Mária Magyarország királynéja 1370-1395. Magyar Tört. Társulat. 
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 1371 Died: 17 May 1395
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Louis I
Queen of Hungary and Croatia
1382 – 1385
Succeeded by
Charles II
Preceded by
Charles II
Queen of Hungary and Croatia
1386 – 1395
with Sigismund
Succeeded by
as sole king
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