Stephen IV of Hungary

Stephen IV of Hungary

Stephen IV (Hungarian: "IV. István", Croatian: "Stjepan V.", Slovak: "Štefan IV."), (c. 1133 – 11 April 1165, Zimony), King of Hungary and Croatia (1163-1165). In his youth, he rebelled against his brother, King Géza II of Hungary and had to fleed to the Court of the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel I Komnenos. Following his brother's death, the Hungarian barons, under the menaces of the Byzantine Emperor, accepted his younger brother, Ladislaus II king against their nephew, King Stephen III. When Ladislaus II died shortly afterwards, Stephen was proclaimed king, but the young King Stephen III managed to win over him. Stephen died in exile fighting against Hungary on behalf of the Byzantine Empire.

Early years

Stephen was the third son of King Béla II of Hungary and his wife, Helena of Raška. When King Béla II died on 13 February 1141, his brother Géza II ascended the throne. In 1152, the king organised a separated ducal household for Stephen and his brother, Ladislaus.

However, the two younger brothers' relationship with the king worsened, because Géza II wanted to ensure the succession of his son, Stephen. In 1157, Stephen lead a conspiracy against his brother, supported by their maternal uncle, Beloš. Although Géza II could overcome their conspiracy, Stephen managed to flee to the court of Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor.

Géza II sent his envoys to the emperor and promised to assist him with troops against Milan; therefore Frederick I denied any support from Stephen who fled to Constantinople. Stephen was wellcomed by Emperor Manuel I Komnenos who arranged Stephen's marriage with his niece Maria Comnene.

Stephen was followed to Constantinople, in 1159, by his brother, Ladislaus, who also had conspired against Géza II.

truggle for the throne

When the Emperor Manuel I was informed that King Géza II had died on 31 May 1162 and his son Stephen III had been crowned, he decided to make a campaign against Hungary in order to have the exiled Stephen ascend the throne. On hearing the Emperor's demand, the Hungarian barons sent an embassy to his camp and offered to accept, instead of Stephen, the rule of his brother, Ladislaus, pursuant to the Hungarian customs which gave precedence to the eldest member of the royal family over a deceased king's son. The Emperor accepted the barons' offer and sent Ladislaus and Stephen to Hungary.

By the time they arrived to Székesfehérvár, their nephew, the young King Stephen III had escaped to Pozsony, and Ladislaus was proclaimed king. Following his coronation, Ladislaus II granted "Tercia pars Regni" ("i.e." one third of the Kingdom of Hungary) to Stephen.

On 14 January 1163, Ladislaus died and Stephen was proclaimed king. However, Lukas, Archbishop of Esztergom, who had been remaining loyal to Stephen III and had been arrested by Ladislaus II, denied his coronation; therefore Stephen was crowned by Mikó, Archbishop of Kalocsa. Archbishop Lukas did not want to accept Stephen's reign and excommunicated him; therefore Stephen prohibited any correspondence between the Hungarian bishops and the Holy See and he was accused of aspiring the Hungarian Church to be separated from Rome.

Stephen supported the claims of the Byzantine Empire without compromise, which resulted in growing indignation among the Hungarian barons. In the beginning of 1163, the members of the "gens" (clan) Csák rebelled against him, but they were defeated. In the meantime, the young Stephen III sought assistance of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick I, and, leading the troops sent to him by the emperor, he defeated his uncle on 19 June 1163 at Székesfehérvár. During the battle, Stephen caught captivity, but the young king, following Archbishop Lukas' advice, set him free. After his release, Stephen fled again to the Byzantine Empire.

Last years

The dethroned Stephen had a meeting with Emperor Manuel I in Sofia, where he promised to accept the supremacy of the Byzantine Empire in case he were restored. The Emperor made a campaign against Hungary, but at the end of the year concluded peace with King Stephen III, and under the agreement the Emperor promised that he would not support Stephen's claim.

Disappointed by the Byzantine Emperor, Stephen sent his envoys to the Emperor Frederick I] , but the Western Emperor also acknowledged the rule of King Stephen III.

Manuel I Komnenos appointed Stephen Governor of the Fortress of Zimony and Stephen invaded the neighbouring territories of Hungary several times. However, in the end, the troops of King Stephen III laid siege to Zimony, and the defenders of the fortress poisoned Stephen before surrender.

He was buried in a church of Zimony, but later his body was transferred to Székesfehérvár.


"# c. 1157:" Maria Comnene (c. 1144 – 1190), daughter of Isakios Comnenos and his first wife, Theodora.(Stephen did not father any children.)


* Engel, Pat. "Realm of St. Stephen : A History of Medieval Hungary", 2001
* Kristó Gyula - Makk Ferenc: "Az Árpád-ház uralkodói" (IPC Könyvek, 1996)
* "Korai Magyar Történeti Lexikon (9-14. század)", főszerkesztő: Kristó Gyula, szerkesztők: Engel Pál és Makk Ferenc (Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1994)
* G. Vég, "Magyarország királyai és királynői", Maecenas, 1990.
* "Magyarország Történeti Kronológiája I. – A kezdetektől 1526-ig", főszerkesztő: Benda Kálmán (Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1981)
* (primary source) "The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle", A. West, trans., Corvina, 1969.
* (primary source) John Kinnamos, "Deeds of John and Manuel Comnenus", C.M. Brand, trans., Columbia University Press, 1976.

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