The Ginger Fox's Two Crowns. Central Administration and Government in Sigismund of Luxembourg's Realms 1410-1419

Thesis author: 
Márta Kondor
Year of enrollment: 
Duration of thesis project: 
Sep, 2011 - May, 2017
Thesis supervisor: 
Katalin Szende
Thesis abstract: 

Sigismund of Luxemburg and the First Decade of the Hungarian-German “Personal Union” (1410–1419)

Five years after the death of his father-in-law, Louis of Anjou, Sigismund of Luxemburg (1368–1437) became king of Hungary in 1387. This was the beginning of the geographically largest political complex of the first half of the fifteenth century in Europe: until his death in 1437 in Znojmo Sigismund, the second son of Emperor Charles IV (1316–1378), was crowned four more times with three further royal and an imperial crown. For a long time he was considered “the black sheep” in the history of late medieval Europe, and only the most recent historiography took a step away from this standpoint.

In spite of the great deal of work which has been done on the rule of King and Emperor Sigismund so far, it must be noted that – except for a few rare examples – scholarship has been dealing with Sigismund’s reign predominantly on the level of national historiographies, and Hungarian, Czech and German medievalists generally fail(ed) to take a comparative approach or put their questions in an all-European context. With my dissertation I aim at contributing to the change of this approach: I intend to study the rule of Sigismund of Luxemburg as Hungarian and German king in its complexity and I would like to approach the topic not from the kingdoms’ – and even less from today’s national states’ –, but from the ruler’s perspective. Thus, I hope to analyze problems that have not or have only marginally – and as a result of that often mistakenly or incompletely – been dealt with by scholarship so far.

Due to the quantity of primary sources and relevant secondary literature, however, the time-frame to be covered by the research is going to comprise only the period between 1410 and 1419. The reason is twofold. Firstly, 1419 can be considered as a caesura: after having spent six years in Western Europe, Sigismund returned to Hungary in February 1419 and except for shorter, few-months-long campaigns in Bohemia in the 1420s, he resided there until August 1430. Secondly, this ten-year-period facilitates identifying long-term changes and describing large scale processes without being overwhelmed by (ten) thousands of charters.

My studies are going to focus on the problem how Sigismund’s lands were governed when he was in his realm and had the opportunity to rule “directly”, and what happened when he left for abroad. To this end, I intend to investigate particular problems closely related to the administration. The documents issued by the Hungarian royal chanceries are written evidences of the administrative and governmental changes made after the German crown had been given to Sigismund. It is worth studying how the chancery practice was modified after 1411, if new diplomatic elements were introduced, how the tasks were divided between the one imperial and two royal chanceries, and how Sigismund’s imperial chancery was set up. The contextual analysis of royal charters and documents will shed light on the question, which fields of administration were still considered as royal prerogatives by Sigismund while being absent from his realm and which were delegated to his “representatives”.

When he was elected King of the Germans, Sigismund became the secular head of Western Christendom. From then on he concentrated on issues which the Hungarian historian Elemér Mályusz characterized as “diplomatic actions without any relevance to Hungary”. Therefore – or in spite of that –, I plan to dedicate a chapter to those persons, who were travelling together with Sigismund or appeared at his court from time to time to present Hungarian matters, and to those diplomats, who came from Hungary, but who were entrusted with all-European issues after 1410.

Sigismund was a ruler “at the threshold of the early modern age” (Jörg K. Hoensch). A detailed study on the “personal union” makes it possible to answer the question, to which extent were his means and administrative decisions medieval or modern, and his diplomatic actions motivated by the universalist view of the Holy Roman Emperor or by Luxemburg dynastic interests. Finally, it is worth studying, how this composite state-complex created by the election of 1410/1411 fits into the model of the development of the modern state or if it was a unique and onetime phenomenon in the history of state formation – perhaps even a “dead end”, in a way a Pufendorfian monstrum.