Béla I of Hungary

Béla I of Hungary

Béla I the Champion or the Bison (Hungarian: "I. (Bajnok/Bölény) Béla") (c. 1016 – 11 September 1063), King of Hungary (1060-1063). He descended from a younger branch of the Árpád dynasty and spent seventeen years in exile, probably in the court of the Kings of Poland. He came back to Hungary at the request of his brother, King Andrew I who assigned him the government of one third of the kingdom. However, Béla did not want to accept the hereditary rights of his brother's son, Solomon to the throne and he rebelled against his brother. Although, he managed to ascend to the throne after defeating King Andrew, he could not strengthen his reign and ensure his sons' succession.

Early years

Béla was the second [Wincenty Swoboda, "Bela I", In: Słownik Starożytności Słowiańskich, vol. 7.] son of Duke Vazul, a cousin of Stephan I, the first King of Hungary. His mother was probably the concubine (a daughter of a member of the Hungarian "gens" Tátony) of his father, who still followed pagan customs [Some modern sources claim that duke Vazul married Katun Anastazya of Bulgaria who bore Bela and his brothers, Levente and Andrew.] .

In exile

After their father's tragic death, the three brothers were obliged to leave the country. Fleeing first to Bohemia, they continued to Poland where Béla settled down, while his brothers, Levente and Andre continued on, settling in Kiev. In Poland, Béla served King Mieszko II Lambert of Poland and took part in the king's campaigns against the pagan Pomeran tribes. He became a successful military leader, and the king gave his daughter [Her name is unknown. Some authors, without sources, gave her name Rixa. Nowadays it is supposed that she was called Adelaide, see K. Jasiński, "Rodowód pierwszych Piastów", Wrocław - Warszawa (1992).] in marriage to him. He may have been baptized just before his marriage, and his Christian name was Adalbert. After his marriage, he probably lived in Poland even during the time of "interregnum" when his brother-in-law, King Casimir I of Poland was obliged to leave the country.

Some authors claim that during the "interregnum" in Poland, Béla fled to Bohemia and they identify Béla with "King Stephen's cousin", mentioned in medieval chronicles ["Annales Altahenses maiores"; "Annales Hildesheimenses maiores"; Hermann of Reichenau: "Chronicon de sex ætatibus mundi".] , whom the Emperor Henry III, in 1043, assigned to govern the parts of Hungary he had occupied from King Samuel Aba, when the Hungarians refused to accept King Peter's rule.

Duke of "Tercia pars Regni"

In the meantime, after a sanguine pagan revolt which ended the rule of King Peter, Béla's brother ascended the throne in Hungary as King Andrew I. However, his relations with the Holy Roman Empire remained tense, because King Peter had been not only a close ally of the Emperor Henry III, but he also had become a vassal of the Holy Roman Empire. King Andrew sent an embassy to the imperial court and offered to accept the Emperor's supremacy, but Henry III refused the peace; therefore the new King of Hungary had to make preparations for the approaching war. That was the reason he invited his younger brother, the successful military leader, Béla to his court, and Béla accepted his offer.

In 1048, Andrew conceded one third of Hungary (Tercia pars Regni) in appanage to Béla. [Some modern authors claim that Béla was Duke of the alleged Principality of Nitra, but contemporary sources only mentioned "Tercia pars Regni".] . The two brothers shared power without incident until 1053, when King Andrew fathered a son, Solomon. Thereafter, Andrew became determined to secure the throne for his son and to displace his brother. Andrew, therefore, had his son (Béla's nephew) crowned "junior king" "(rex iunior)" in 1057. Following the coronation, Béla left his brother's court.

In two years later, according to legend, King Andrew called back Béla to his court, and placed before him a crown and a sword, representing royal and ducal power, respectively, and asked Béla to take his choice. Knowing that choosing the crown would mean his life, Béla instead selected the sword. Shortly afterwards, Béla fled to Poland where he was received by King Bolesław II of Poland, nephew of his wife.

King of Hungary

In 1060, Béla returned to Hungary and defeated King Andrew I to become the new king. After his brother's death and Béla's victory at the Theben Pass, Béla was crowned king on December 6, 1060. During his brief reign he concerned himself with crushing pagan revolts in his kingdom.

Hungarian chroniclers praised Béla for introducing new currency, such as the silver denarius, and for his benevolence to the former followers of his nephew, Solomon.

Béla died in an accident when his throne's canopy collapsed. After Béla's death, King Henry IV of Germany installed Solomon as the new king and Béla's male progenies had to flee to Poland again.

Marriage and children

"# 1039-1043:" unknown [Kazimierz Jasiński, "Rodowód pierwszych Piastów", Wrocław - Warszawa 1992. ] (b. unknown, d. after 1052), daughter of King Mieszko II Lambert of Poland and his wife, Richeza of Lotharingia
* King Géza I of Hungary (c. 1044 [Włodzimierz Dworzaczek, "Genealogia", Warszawa 1959, tabl. 84.] – 25 April 1077)
* King Ladislaus I of Hungary (c. 1048 – 29 July 1095)
* Duke Lampert of Hungary (after 1050 – c. 1095)
* Sophia (after 1050 – 18 June 1095), wife firstly of Markgraf Ulrich I of Carniola, and secondly of Duke Magnus I of Saxony
* Euphemia (after 1050 – 2 April 1111), wife of Prince Otto I of Moravia
* Ilona (after 1050 – c. 1091), wife of King Dmitar Zvonimir of Croatia
* "Unnamed girl" (after 1050 – befor 1132), wife of "Comes" (count) Lampert "de genere" Hont-Pázmány


* Engel, Pat. "Realm of St. Stephen : A History of Medieval Hungary", 2001
* Kosztolnyik, Z.J., "Five Eleventh Century Hungarian Kings", 1981
* 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)
* "Magyarország Történeti Kronológiája I. – A kezdetektől 1526-ig", főszerkesztő: Benda, Kálmán (Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1981)


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