Stephen III of Hungary

Stephen III of Hungary

Stephen III (Hungarian: "III. István", Croatian: "Stjepan IV", Slovak: "Štefan III"), (in the summer of 1147 – 4 March 1172), King of Hungary and Croatia (1162-1172). He ascended the throne as a child and he had to stand up against his uncles who usurped the crown supported by the Byzantine Empire. Stephen could win over his uncles, but he was obliged to cede Croatia and Dalmatia to the Byzantine Empire. During his reign, he tried to reoccupy the lost territories but he did not achieve his purpose.

Early years

Stephen was the eldest son of King Geza II of Hungary by his wife Euphrosyne of Kiev. His godfather was king Louis VII of France, who was passing through Hungary to the Holy Land when Stephen was born.

Although Stephen was named as his father's heir already in 1152, his succession could not be secured, because his uncles, Stephen and Ladislaus escaped to the court of the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel I Komnenos.

truggle for the throne

Some days after his father's death on 31 May 1162, Lukas, Archbishop of Esztergom crowned Stephen, but shortly afterwards he had to face the campaign of the Emperor Manuel I, who supported the claims of his uncles. The young Stephen was obliged to escape to Pozsony, while the Hungarian barons proclaimed his elder uncle, Ladislaus king.

Stephen could only count on the support of Archbishop Lukas, who denied to crown the pretender and was arrested. On 14 January 1163, King Ladislaus II died, but his followers proclaimed king his younger brother, Stephen IV. The new king 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 the usurper, but they were defeated.

In the meantime, the young Stephen sought assistance of Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, and leading the troops sent by the emperor, he defeated and arrested his uncle on 19 June 1163 at Székesfehérvár. Following the battle, the young king retrieved the throne, and following Archbishop Lukas' advice, he set his uncle free, but the dethroned usurper fled to the Byzantine Empire.

Wars with the Byzantine Empire

The Emperor Manuel I did not give up his plan to extend his influence over Hungary and lead his armies, on behalf of the pretender, to the Southern part of the kingdom. But Stephen could resist the Byzantine attack; therefore the parties concluded peace at the end of the year and under their agreement the Byzantine Emperor withdrew of his support for Stephen IV but the young Stephen agreed to sent his brother, Béla, whom their father had named as duke of Croatia and Dalmatia in his last will, to Constantinople.

In the second half of 1164, Manuel I made a new campaign against Hungary on the pretext of ensuring Duke Béla's paternal inheritance, "i.e.", he wanted to occupy Croatia and Dalmatia from the kingdom. King Vladislaus II of Bohemia, Duke Henry II of Austria and Prince Yaroslav I of Halicz came personally to Hungary with his armies to help Stephen against the Emperor's invasion. Finally, with the mediation of the King of Bohemia, Stephen made peace with the Emperor by transferring the Szerémség to the Byzantine Empire.

In the beginning of 1165, Stephen tried to reconquer the Szerémség, and occupied the fortress of Zimony, but the Emperor made a counter-attack, reoccupied the fortress and conquered Bosnia, Croatia and Dalmatia. In 1166, Stephen tried again to reoccupy the lost territories, but his troops were defeated soon.

In 1167 Stephen married a daughter of Yaroslav of Halicz, but in 1168 she was repudiated and sent back with her father. He married Agnes of Austria, a daughter of Duke Henry II of Austria shortly after and he made a campaign against the Byzantine Empire with the support of his father-in-law, but their troops were defeated near Zimony.

Last years

Stephen raised money to fund the expenses of his continuous wars with the Byzantine Empire by using the goods of the Church, which resulted in a conflict with Archbishop Lukas, who imposed ecclesiastical punishment on him. The conflict was solved by the Papal Legate Manfred, who persuaded Stephen to renounce of the right of investiture.

Stephen granted estates to the Knights Templar in Hungary, and he was the first king of Hungary who issued a charter for a town, "i.e." for the Walloon "hospes" of Székesfehérvár.

In 1172, he met his father-in-law, who was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but during the meeting he fell suddenly ill and died. He was buried in Esztergom.


"# 1167:" A daughter of Prince Yaroslav Osmomysl of Halicz. She was repudiated in 1168.

"# 1168:" Agnes of Austria (c. 1154 – 13 January, 1182), daughter of Henry II, Duke of Austria and his second wife, Theodora Comnena. This marriage produced two sons:
*Bela (b. and d. 1168)
*Son (1172) either stillborn or died shortly afte birth.


* 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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