Elizabeth the Cuman

Elizabeth the Cuman

Elizabeth the Cuman was the Queen consort of Stephen V of Hungary.

Daughter of Kuthen

She was born c. 1239/40, a daughter of Kuthen, leader of the Kun (or Kuni) clan of Cumans and his Russian wife, Galicie of Halicz. The Cumans were the western tribes of the Kipchaks. The Kipchaks were a confederation of Turkic peoples who spoke the Kipchak language. Her people followed a Shamanist religion and were considered Pagans by their contemporary Christians of Europe.

In 1238, Kuthen led the Kuni and a number of other clans in invading the Kingdom of Hungary while fleeing from the advancing hordes of the Mongol Empire. In time, Béla IV of Hungary negotiated an alliance with Kuthen and his people, granting them asylum in exchange for their conversion to the Roman Catholic Church and loyalty to the King.

The agreement was eventually sealed with the betrothal of Elizabeth to Stephen, oldest son Béla IV. The agreement seems to have occurred while Stephen was an infant. Elizabeth is considered unlikely to have been older than her future husband. In 1241, the Mongol invasion of Europe under the leadership of Batu Khan and Subutai begun with Hungary among its primary targets. Kuthen was assassinated by Hungarian nobles fearing he could lead a defection to the other side.

Béla IV and the Hungarian forces suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Mohi (11 April, 1241). The King fled to the Duchy of Austria while Batu Khan and Subutai tried to set up the Mongol occupation of Hungary until the end of 1242. However news eventually reached them that their overlord Ögedei Khan, Khagan of the Mongol Empire, had died in 1241. His widow Töregene Khatun was serving as regent until a successor could be elected in a Kurultai. Batu decided to return to Karakorum for the Kurultai. He called off the invasion and Mongol troops were withdrawn from most of Europe, in the process evacuating Hungary.

Princess of Hungary

Béla IV returned from Austria following the Mongol evacuation. Upon his return to power, Béla began rebuilding his country, including a massive construction campaign which produced the system of castles as a defense against the threat of a Mongol return.

Kuthen was deceased but the betrothal was still in effect. Elizabeth was converted to Roman Catholicism in preparation of her marriage. The marriage of Stephen and Elizabeth occurred in 1253. The groom was twelve-years-old and the bride close in age to him.

In 1262, Stephen convinced his father to give him twenty-nine counties as a reward of assistance in the war against Ottokar II of Bohemia. He was crowned junior co-ruler and in practice ruled his regions as a separate kingdom, setting up his own capital and adopting foreign policies directly contrary to those of his father. Elizabeth was now his Queen.

Queen consort

Béla IV died on 3 May, 1270. Stephen succeeded him as senior King. Among his successes were the conclusion of the war against Ottokar II of Bohemia. According to the Peace of Pressburg (2 July, 1271, Stephen renounced his claims on parts of present-day Austria and Slovenia while Ottokar renounced his claims on territories of Hungary briefly conquered by him during the war.

Stephen died on 6 August, 1272. Elizabeth became Regent for their ten-year-old son Ladislaus IV of Hungary. Her regency lasted until 1277 and saw palace revolutions and civil wars.

Her upbringing of her son would cause further problems for his reign. Ladislaus favored the society of the "semi-pagan" Cumans, from whom he was descended through his mother. He wore Cuman dress as his court wear, surrounded himself with Cuman concubines and thus alienated the Hungarian nobility. His later attempts to regain Hungarian loyalty instead alienated parts of the Cumans. He was murdered in his tent by Cumans while camped in Bihar county on 10 July, 1290.

By that time Elizabeth herself seems to have also been deceased. There is no mention of her in the reign of his successor Andrew III of Hungary.There is a tradition that she died in the year 1290.


She and her husband Stephen V of Hungary were parents to six known children:

*Elizabeth of Hungary (c. 1255 - 1313). Married firstly Zavis Vítkovci, Lord of Rosenberg, Skalitz and Falkenstein. Married secondly Stefan Uroš II Milutin of Serbia.
*Catherine of Hungary (c. 1256 - after 1314). Married Stefan Dragutin of Serbia.
*Maria of Hungary (c. 1257 - 25 March, 1323). Married Charles II of Naples.
*Anna of Hungary (c. 1260 - 1281). Married Andronikos II Palaiologos.
*Ladislaus IV of Hungary (August, 1262 - 10 July, 1290).
*András, Duke of Slavonia (1268 - 1278).



*Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition

External links

* [http://genealogy.euweb.cz/arpad/arpad2.html A listing of descendants of Árpád dynasty, including her husband and children]
* [http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/TURKS.htm#dauKumanMIstvanVHungary Her listing in "Medieval lands" by Charles Cawley. The project "involves extracting and analysing detailed information from primary sources, including contemporary chronicles, cartularies, necrologies and testaments."]
* [http://www.thepeerage.com/p11415.htm#i114143 Her profile in Peerage.com]

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