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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Ladislaus iv

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The Kumanian (1262-1290), king of Hungary, was the son of Stephen V., whom he succeeded in 1272. From his tenth year, when he was kidnapped from his father's court by the rebellious vassals, till his assassination eighteen years later, his whole life, with one bright interval of military glory, was unrelieved tragedy. His minority, 1272-1277, was an alternation of palace revolutions and civil wars, in the course of which his brave Kumanian mother Elizabeth barely contrived to keep the upper hand. In this terrible school Ladislaus matured precociously. At fifteen he was a man, resolute, spirited, enterprising, with the germs of many talents and virtues, but rough, reckless and very imperfectly educated. He was married betimes to Elizabeth of Anjou, who had been brought up at the Hungarian court. The marriage was a purely political one, arranged by his father and a section of the Hungarian magnates to counterpoise hostile German and Czech influences. During the earlier part of his reign, Ladislaus obsequiously followed the direction of the Neapolitan court in foreign affairs. In Hungary itself a large party was in favour of the Germans, but the civil wars which raged between the two factions from 1276 to 1278 did not prevent Ladislaus, at the head of 20,000 Magyars and Kumanians, from co-operating with Rudolph of Habsburg in the great battle of Durnkri t (August 26th, 1278), which destroyed, once for all, the empire of the Pfemyslidae. A month later a papal legate arrived in Hungary to inquire into the conduct of the king, who was accused by his neighbours, and many of his own subjects, of adopting the ways of his Kumanian kinsfolk and thereby undermining Christianity. Ladislaus was not really a pagan, or he would not have devoted his share of the spoil of Durnkriit to the building of the Franciscan church at Pressburg, nor would he have venerated as he did his aunt St Margaret. Political enmity was largely responsible for the movement against him, yet the result of a very careful investigation (1279-1281) by Philip, bishop of Fermo, more than justified many of the accusations brought against Ladislaus. He clearly preferred the society of the semi-heathen Kumanians to that of the Christians; wore, and made his court wear, Kumanian dress; surrounded himself with Kumanian concubines, and neglected and ill-used his ill-favoured Neapolitan consort. He was finally compelled to take up arms against his Kumanian friends, whom he routed at Hodmezd (May 1282) with fearful loss; but, previously to this, he had arrested the legate, whom he subsequently attempted to starve into submission, and his conduct generally was regarded as so unsatisfactory that, after repeated warnings, the Holy See resolved to supersede him by his Angevin kinsfolk, whom he had also alienated, and on the 8th of August 1288 Pope Nicholas IV. proclaimed a crusade against him. For the next two years all Hungary was convulsed by a horrible civil war, during which the unhappy young king, who fought for his heritage to the last with desperate valour, was driven from one end of his kingdom to the other like a hunted beast. On the 25th of December 1289 he issued a manifesto to the lesser gentry, a large portion of whom sided with him, urging them to continue the struggle against the magnates and their foreign supporters; but on the 10th of July 1290 he was murdered in his camp at Korosszeg by the Kumanians, who never forgave him for deserting them.

See Karoly Szabo, Ladislaus the Cumanian (Hung.), (Budapest, 1886); and Acsady, History of the Hungarian Realm, i. 2 (Budapest, 1903). The latter is, however, too favourable to Ladislaus.

(R. N. B.)

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Ladislaus iv'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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