Hunyadi family

The Hunyadi family was one of the most powerful noble families in the Kingdom of Hungary during the 15th century. A member of the family, Matthias Corvinus, was King of Hungary from 1458 until 1490, King of Bohemia (ruling in Moravia, Lower Lusatia, Upper Lusatia, and Silesia) from 1469 until 1490, and Duke of Austria from 1487 until 1490. His illegitimate son, John Corvinus, ruled the Duchy of Troppau from 1485 until 1501, and five further Silesian duchies, including Bytom, Głubczyce, Loslau, Racibórz, and Tost, from 1485 until 1490. The Hunyadi coat-of-arms depicted a raven with a golden ring in its beak.

Coa Hungary Family Hunyadi János (extended) v2.svg
John Hunyadi's extended coat-of-arms (granted to him in 1453 by King Ladislaus V of Hungary)
CountryKingdom of Hungary and Croatia
Certain Lands of the Bohemian Crown (Moravia, Lower Lusatia, Upper Lusatia, Silesia)
Duchy of Austria
Duchy of Styria
Final rulerChristopher Corvinus

The founder of the family, Voyk, received the eponymous Hunyad Castle (in present-day Hunedoara, Romania) from Sigismund, King of Hungary, in 1409. His ethnicity is the subject of scholarly debate. Some modern historians describe him as a Vlach, or Romanian, knez or boyar, from either Wallachia or Transylvania. Others describe him as a Cuman or Slav nobleman. According to the 15th-century historian, Johannes de Thurocz, Voyk moved from Wallachia to Transylvania. Voyk's oldest son, John Hunyadi, was often mentioned as a "Vlach" by his contemporaries.

John Hunyadi, a military commander, became the first member of the family to acquire the status of "true baron of the realm". He was appointed Ban of Severin in 1439, and Voivode of Transylvania in 1441. He was also granted the title Perpetual Count of Beszterce in 1452, thus receiving the first hereditary title created in the Kingdom of Hungary. At his death, John Hunyadi held many lands throughout the Kingdom. John Hunyadi's fame and fortune led the election of his son, Matthias Corvinus, as King of Hungary in 1458. He attempted to secure hereditary line of succession for his son, John Corvinus. This did not happen, however, and John was only able to retain the Duchy of Glogau, along with some other family domains in Hungary, after Matthias died in 1490. John's only son, Christopher Corvinus, was the last male member of the family. He died at the age of six in 1505. His sister Elisabeth died during childhood.


The family was given its land by Sigismund, King of Hungary, on 18 October 1409.[1][2] On that day, Sigismund granted Hunyad Castle and its demesne to Voyk and four of his kinsmen.[2][3][4][5] In addition to Voyk, the grant lists his two brothers, Magas and Radol, their cousin or uncle also named Radol, and Voyk's son, John, the future Regent of Hungary.[2][3] Magas means "tall", and is evidently a Hungarian name.[6] The grant mentioned that Voyk's father was named "Serbe", but did not say anything further about the origins of the family.[2][3] Turkologist László Rásonyi, in his analysis of the family names and heraldry, says that Serbe's name is of Cuman origin and is related to the Kyrgyz and Kazakh word for unlucky (šor). He adds that the Turkic origin of Serbe's name explains that Voyk's name also comes from the Turkic bay, meaning meaning "prince" or "lord".[6]

King Sigismund of Hungary's grant of Hunyad Castle to Voyk and his relatives

Voyk's son, John Hunyadi, bore the nickname "Olah", meaning "Vlach", in his youth, which implied that he was of Romanian stock.[2][3] The court historian of Voyk's grandson King Matthias Corvinus, Antonio Bonfini, explicitly stated that John had been "born to a Vlach father".[7][8] Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III likewise knew that King Matthias had been "born to a Vlach father", and a Venetian man, Sebastiano Baduario, referred to the Romanians as King Matthias's people.[9][10]

Historians of the 15th and 16th centuries, with perspectives that were either against or in favour of the family, wrote differing reports of the family's status before King Sigismund's grant.[11][12] Jan Długosz described John Hunyadi as "a man of unknown origin",[13] and he is likewise mentioned as "a Vlach by birth, not highly born"[14] by Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini.[11][12] On the other hand, Johannes de Thurocz said that John Hunyadi "was descended from a noble and renowned race of Wallachia".[11][15]

John Hunyadi's rapid advance, which astonished his contemporaries, and gave rise to legends about his origins.[16][17] According to one of these stories, recorded in detail by the 16th-century historian Gáspár Heltai, John Hunyadi was the illegitimate son of King Sigismund with a woman named Elizabeth, who was the daughter of a "rich boyar"[18] from Morzsina in Hunyad County.[16][17] Antonio Bonfini, on the other hand, wrote that John Hunyadi's mother was an unnamed Greek woman who was related to the Byzantine Emperors.[16]

The Gothic and Renaissance Hunyad Castle (in present-day Hunedoara, Romania), built on the demesne that the family was named after

Further legends emerged about the purported Roman origin of the family.[8] Antonio Bonfini wrote that John Hunyadi "traced his kin to the Roman family of the Corvini".[7][8][19] This story is connected to the Hunyadis' coat-of-arms, which depicts a raven, corvus in Latin, with a golden ring in its beak.[8] Coins minted for Prince Vladislav I of Wallachia in 1365 depict a raven-like bird.[20][21] Based on this similarity, Zsuzsa Teke and some other historians did not exclude the possibility that the Hunyadis were related to the Basarabs, the ruling dynasty of Wallachia.[8][22] Another historian, Péter E. Kovács, wrote that that theory needed further verification.[20]

Johannes de Thurocz also wrote that King Sigismund, fascinated by Voyk's fame, "took him away from Wallachia to his own realm and settled him there",[15] suggesting that Voyk moved from his Wallachian homeland to the Kingdom of Hungary.[8] The late 15th-century historian Philippe de Commines[23] referred to Voyk's son John as the "White Knight of Wallachia".[2] In accordance with these sources, Pál Engel, András Kubinyi, and other contemporary historians have written that the Hunyadi family descended from Wallachian boyars (noblemen).[1][5][8][24][25]

According to another view on the family's origins, which is championed by historians Camil Mureșanu and Ion-Aurel Pop, Voyk did not migrate from Wallachia, but was born in a family of Romanian noble knezes from the region of Hátszeg, or Hunyad.[3][26] They say that Voyk's grandfather could have been a man named "Costea", mentioned in a royal charter from 1360, and who fathered a son named Serbe (the name of Voyk's father). According to the charter, Costea and Serbe together established two villages in the region of Hátszeg.[3][27]

Historian Dezső Dümmerth offers a third view of the Hunyadis' ancestry. He said that Voyk was of Cuman stock, one of the Wallachian boyars.[28] Turkologist László Rásonyi concludes: "the names of János Hunyadi's father and grandfather and the use of raven in the coat-of-arms of the family clearly point to the Tatar-Cuman origin of the later Hunyadi family".[6]

Miklós Molnár, accepts the Wallachian origin of the family, but also represents a fourth perspective on the origins of the family. He said that they may well have been of Slavic descent.[29] Neither Paul Lendvai nor András Boros-Kazai excluded the possibility of the Hunyadis being of Slavic origin.[25][30]

Bone samples were collected in the Corvinus grave from the remains of John Corvinus and Christopher Corvinus in the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lepoglava by the Institute of Hungarian Research in 2021 to define their genetic composition. This information will be crucial for possible identification of the remains of King Matthias Corvinus from among the bones stored in the ossuary at Székesfehérvár. John and Christopher carried the Y-chromosome haplogroup is E1b1b1a1b1a6a1c ∼, which is widespread in Eurasia. The father-son relationship was also verified. Archaeogenomic analysis indicated that John and Christopher had an ancient European genome composition.[31]

Notable membersEdit

Voyk HunyadiEdit

Voyk was born in Wallachia, according to the nearly contemporaneous historians Johannes de Thurocz and Gáspár Heltai.[8] Voyk had been serving as a "court knight" in the royal court when he received the demesne of Hunyad from King Sigismund, suggesting that he was descended from a prominent Wallachian family.[8] Modern historian Kubinyi wrote that Voyk most probably joined Sigismund in 1395.[8] In this year, Sigismund invaded Wallachia and restored his vassal, Mircea the Elder, to the princely throne.[32]

He was last mentioned in a royal charter in 1414.[33] Voyk died before 12 February 1419.[16][34] On this day, a charter confirming the grant of 1409 was issued for Voyk's brother, Radol, and for Voyk's three sons: John the Elder, John the Younger, and Voyk.[16]

John Hunyadi, Sr.Edit

The cover of John Hunyadi's tomb in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Gyulafehérvár (present-day Alba Iulia, Romania)

Voyk's oldest son John Hunyadi was born between about 1405 and 1407.[5][35][36] In his youth, he served in the court of George Csáky, Filippo Scolari, and King Sigismund's other warlike barons.[5][35][37] He married Elizabeth Szilágyi around 1429.[38] Her father owned properties in Bodrog County.[38]

John Hunyadi developed his military skills during his journeys in Italy and Bohemia in Sigismund's entourage in the early 1430s.[30][37] He and his younger brother (who was his namesake) were jointly appointed Ban of Szörény (present-day Drobeta-Turnu Severin, Romania) in 1439 by Sigismund's successor, King Albert.[37] With this appointment, they acquired the status of "true barons".[39]

The senior John Hunyadi became Voivode of Transylvania and Count of the Székelys in 1441, with responsibility for the defense of the southern borders of Hungary against Ottoman raids.[5][40] He defeated the Ottomans in several battles during his "long campaign" in the Balkan Peninsula in 1443.[40][1] The Estates of the realm elected him governor for the period of King Ladislaus V of Hungary's minority in 1446.[41][42] King Ladislaus bestowed the title of Perpetual Count of Beszterce (present-day Bistrița, Romania) upon John Hunyadi after he resigned the governorship in 1452.[38][43] This was the first example of a grant of a hereditary title in the Kingdom of Hungary.[38][43] John Hunyadi had by that time become the richest landowner in the Kingdom of Hungary, holding about 25 fortresses, 30 towns, and more than 1,000 villages.[44] He died on 11 August 1456, shortly after his greatest victory over the Ottomans at the Siege of Belgrade.[45]

John Hunyadi, Jr.Edit

John the Younger was the younger of Voyk's two sons that shared the name John, and was first mentioned in a charter issued to four members of his family on 12 February 1419.[16] King Albert of Hungary appointed him Ban of Szörény together with his brother, John the Elder, in 1439.[46] He died fighting against the Ottomans in 1441.[46] His brother wrote of him as "the valiant of the valiant", showing that John the Younger was regarded a brave soldier.[46]

Ladislaus HunyadiEdit

Ladislaus Hunyadi was the older of the two sons of John Hunyadi the elder by Elizabeth Szilágyi.[3] He was born around 1432.[3][2] At the age of 20, he was appointed ispán, or count, of Pozsony County, which made him a "true baron".[47] He became Ban of Croatia in 1453 and master of the horse in 1456.[47]

With his father's death, Ladislaus inherited an enormous domain in 1456.[47] The ambitious Ladislaus had his father's main opponent, Ulrich II, Count of Celje, captured and murdered on 9 November.[48][49] The King, who promised amnesty to Ladislaus under duress, had him arrested in next year.[50] Ladislaus was sentenced to death for high treason.[51] He was executed on 16 March 1457.[50]

Matthias CorvinusEdit

A contemporaneous sculpture of Matthias Corvinus

Matthias, the younger son of John Hunyadi the elder and Elizabeth Szilágyi, was born on 23 February 1443.[52] He was arrested upon the orders of King Ladislaus V of Hungary on 14 March 1457, together with his elder brother Ladislaus.[51] Matthias's brother was executed two days after having been arrested.[51] Fearing a revolt, the King fled to Prague and took Matthias with him.[51][50]

The childless Ladislaus V died on 23 November 1457.[51] A Diet was convened to elect the new monarch.[53] Matthias' maternal uncle, Michael Szilágyi, arrived with more than 10,000 armed noblemen under his command, and the Diet proclaimed Matthias king on 24 January 1458.[53][54] Matthias returned from Prague, but was only crowned with the Holy Crown of Hungary on 29 March 1464, because he had spent the previous years with fighting against his opponents.[55][56]

Urged by Pope Paul II, Matthias led a crusade against the Czech Hussites and occupied great parts of Moravia and Silesia in 1468.[57][58] The Catholic Estates of Moravia proclaimed him King of Bohemia on 3 May 1469.[59][58] Matthias' reign was also recognized in Lusatia and Silesia, but Bohemia proper remained under the rule of his opponents, Kings George of Poděbrady (till 1471) and Vladislaus II Jagiellon.[58] Through a series of wars, Matthias occupied Lower Austria and Styria between 1480 and 1487.[60] He officially adopted the title of Duke of Austria in 1487.[61]

Matthias married his first wife, Catherine of Poděbrady, in 1461.[62] She died in childbirth in 1464.[63][64] His second wife, Beatrice of Naples, whom he married in 1476, was infertile.[65][66] In the last decade of his life, Matthias tried to ensure the succession of his illegitimate son, John Corvinus, to the throne of Hungary.[67] Matthias died on 6 April 1490.[68]

John CorvinusEdit

John Corvinus was the illegitimate son of King Matthias and his mistress, Barbara Edelpöck.[69] John Corvinus was born on 2 April 1473.[69] Matthias recognized in public that John is his son and granted him the title of Duke of Liptó (present-day Liptov, Slovakia) in 1481.[70][71] John Corvinus received a number of land grants from his father in the subsequent years.[70][72] King Matthias granted him the Duchy of Troppau and five further Silesian duchiesBeuthen, Leobschütz, Loslau, Ratibor, and Tost—in 1485.[73][74]

King Matthias' all attempts to secure his son's succession to the throne proved to be useless shortly after his death.[75] The prelates and the barons elected Vladislaus II Jagiellon king on 15 July 1490.[76][77] He retained his domains and the Duchy of Troppau. The new monarch bestowed the title of Duke of Slavonia upon him, but he renounced of it in 1495.[78] He also renounced of the Duchy of Troppau in 1501.[79]

John Corvinus married Beatrice de Frangepan in 1496.[80] She gave birth to two children, Elizabeth and Christopher.[80] John Corvinus died on 12 October 1504.[80] His son died at the age of six, his daughter at the age of twelve.[80]

Family treeEdit

The following family tree depicts the known members of the Hunyadi family:[3][80][81][82]

(* = born; = died; = wife or husband; b. = before; c. = in about; m. = mentioned)

Costea (?)[note 1]
b. 1409
Radol (?)[note 2]
(m. in 1409)
(m. 1409–1414)
b. 1419
∞(Elizabeth) Morzsinai (?)[note 3]
(m. in 1409)
(m. 1409–1419)
b. 1429
∞Ankó Branicskai
John Hunyadi, Sr. (?)[note 4]
* c. 1405
Elizabeth Szilágyi
John Hunyadi, Jr.
(m. 1419–1441)
(m. in 1419)
John Székely of Szentgyörgy
Clara (?)[note 5]
(m. 1450–1467)
∞George Pongrác of Dengeleg
Marina (?)[note 6]
∞Manzilla of Argeș
Ladislaus Hunyadi
* c. 1432
Matthias Corvinus
* 1443

1∞Elizabeth of Celje

2∞Catherine of Poděbrady

3∞Beatrice of Naples
John Corvinus
(illegitimate son)
* 1473
Beatrice de Frangepan
Elisabeth Corvinus
* 1496
Christopher Corvinus
* 1499

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Costea was Serbe's father, according to historian Ion-Aurel Pop.
  2. ^ Radol was either the brother or the nephew of Serbe.
  3. ^ The chronicler Gáspár Heltai writes that John Hunyadi's mother was the unnamed daughter of a boyar of Morzsina. On the other hand, the chronicler Antonio Bonfini says that John Hunyadi was born to a distinguished Greek woman.
  4. ^ According to a popular legend, John Hunyadi the elder was King Sigismund of Hungary's illegitimate son.
  5. ^ A charter from April 1456 (source: Teleki József. Hunyadiak kora Magyarországon p.495) mentions Clara as John Hunyadi's maternal sister. However, taking into account the uncertainty of medieval terminology, she may well have been his full sister, according to historian András Kubinyi. Her second son, Andrew Pongrác of Dengeleg was King Matthias Corvinus's Master of the cupbearers, and his younger brother, John Pongrác of Dengeleg served the King as Voivode of Transylvania for eight years.
  6. ^ Nicolaus Olahus writes, in his Hungaria, that his grandmother, Marina was John Hunyadi's sister who married a member of the Basarab dynasty. According to Kubinyi and Mureşanu, she must have rather been a distant relative (paternal aunt or niece) of Hunyadi.


  1. ^ a b c Makkai 1994, p. 227.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Kubinyi 2008, p. 7.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Pop 2005, p. 294.
  4. ^ Bolovan et al. 1997, p. 111.
  5. ^ a b c d e Engel 2001, p. 283.
  6. ^ a b c Rásonyi 1982, p. 419–428.
  7. ^ a b Bonfini, Antonio (1995). "A magyar történelem tizedei [=History of Hungary in Ten Volumes]". Balassi Kiadó. Retrieved 2014-04-20.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kubinyi 2008, p. 9.
  9. ^ Armbruster 1972, p. 58.
  10. ^ Pop 2012, p. 14.
  11. ^ a b c E. Kovács 1990, p. 7.
  12. ^ a b Teke 1980, p. 80.
  13. ^ The Annals of Jan Długosz (A.D. 1440), p. 484.
  14. ^ Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini: Europe (ch. 1.7.), p. 59.
  15. ^ a b Thuróczy János: Magyar krónika (ch. 30), p. 42.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Kubinyi 2008, p. 8.
  17. ^ a b Dümmerth 1985, p. 52.
  18. ^ Heltai, Gáspár (2000). "Krónika a magyarok dolgairól [=Chronicle of the Deeds of the Hungarians]". Régi magyar irodalmi szöveggyűjtemény II (szerkesztette Jankovics József, Kőszeghy Péter és Szentmártoni Szabó Géza [Collection of Ancient Hungarian Literary Texts (Edited by József Jankovics, Péter Kőszeghy and Géza Szentmártoni Szabó)]. Balassi Kiadó. Retrieved 2014-04-20.
  19. ^ Lendvai 2003, p. 80.
  20. ^ a b E. Kovács 1990, p. 8.
  21. ^ Teke 1980, p. 82.
  22. ^ Teke 1980, pp. 82–83.
  23. ^ Scoble, Andrew Richard. The Memoirs of Philippe De Commynes, Lord of Argenton (Volume 2); Containing the Histories of Louis Xi and Charles Viii, Kings of France. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-150-90258-1.
  24. ^ Bak 1994, pp. 63–64.
  25. ^ a b Lendvai 2003, p. 75.
  26. ^ Mureşanu 2001, p. 42.
  27. ^ Mureşanu 2001, p. 43.
  28. ^ Dümmerth 1985, pp. 51–52.
  29. ^ Molnár 2001, p. 61.
  30. ^ a b Boros-Kazai 2005, p. 339.
  31. ^ The genetic legacy of the Hunyadi descendants 2022.
  32. ^ Engel 2001, p. 203.
  33. ^ Kubinyi 2008, pp. 8, 203.
  34. ^ Pop 2005, p. 295.
  35. ^ a b Dümmerth 1985, p. 51.
  36. ^ Teke 1980, p. 84.
  37. ^ a b c Cartledge 2011, p. 54.
  38. ^ a b c d Kubinyi 2008, p. 15.
  39. ^ Kubinyi 2008, p. 13.
  40. ^ a b Boros-Kazai 2005, p. 340.
  41. ^ Engel 2001, p. 288.
  42. ^ Fine 1994, p. 551.
  43. ^ a b Engel 2001, p. 293.
  44. ^ Bak 1994, p. 64.
  45. ^ Pop 2005, p. 296.
  46. ^ a b c Kubinyi 2008, p. 11.
  47. ^ a b c Kubinyi 2008, p. 25.
  48. ^ Engel 2001, pp. 292, 296–297.
  49. ^ Molnár 2001, pp. 66–67.
  50. ^ a b c Bak 1994, p. 70.
  51. ^ a b c d e Engel 2001, p. 297.
  52. ^ Kubinyi 2008, p. 23.
  53. ^ a b Engel 2001, p. 298.
  54. ^ Fine 1994, p. 553.
  55. ^ Bak 1994, pp. 70–71.
  56. ^ Engel 2001, pp. 298–299.
  57. ^ Engel 2001, pp. 303–304.
  58. ^ a b c Agnew 2004, p. 52.
  59. ^ Engel 2001, p. 304.
  60. ^ Engel 2001, p. 306.
  61. ^ Kubinyi 2008, p. 103.
  62. ^ Engel 2001, p. 303.
  63. ^ Cartledge 2011, p. 520.
  64. ^ Kubinyi 2008, p. 67.
  65. ^ Kubinyi 2008, pp. 136, 140.
  66. ^ Molnár 2001, pp. 73, 80.
  67. ^ Kubinyi 2008, p. 140.
  68. ^ Bak 1994, p. 73.
  69. ^ a b Kubinyi 2008, p. 134.
  70. ^ a b Engel 2001, p. 317.
  71. ^ Kubinyi 2008, p. 141.
  72. ^ Kubinyi 2008, pp. 140–141.
  73. ^ Kubinyi 2008, p. 143.
  74. ^ Schönherr, Gyula (1894). "Hunyadi Corvin János, 1473–1504 [=John Corvinus of Hunyadi, 1473–1504]". Magyar Történelmi Társulat. Retrieved 2014-04-22.
  75. ^ Bak 1994, p. 76.
  76. ^ Kubinyi 2008, p. 155.
  77. ^ Engel 2001, p. 345.
  78. ^ Markó 2000, pp. 304–305.
  79. ^ Markó 2000, p. 305.
  80. ^ a b c d e Markó 2000, p. 304.
  81. ^ Kubinyi 2008, pp. 8–9, 10–12, 203.
  82. ^ Mureşanu 2001, p. 44.


Primary sourcesEdit

Secondary sourcesEdit